Highlights of This Page
Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff exposed as a fount of corruption.
See my Update Information page for an explanation of why this and other pages between September 2004 and September 2006 are not yet complete.
- Spring: John Maguire, the former CIA station chief in Baghdad after the invasion, and the leader of Operation Anabasis (see earlier items), reflects on the situation in Iraq after returning from that wartorn country. Maguire has retired from the CIA, and is a business consultant. "It's so f*cked up," he says of Iraq. "We have everything working against itself. It's chaos there." Iraqis can't get to work even if they have jobs, Maguire says. Government ministries are not functioning. US security consultants and bodyguards, retained by various US military and civilian agencies, are too high profile. Scores of Iraqi civilians die every day in sectarian violence. The entire fabric of society has been shredded. "There are young guys living like they're in a Mad Max movie," Maguire says. "How do you come back from complete chaos and lawlessness?"
- The White House grudgingly admits to a few tactical blunders in Iraq, but, Maguire says, they are responsible for a lot more. "The White House says we made tactical mistakes." But is is more: "We made huge strategic errors." De-Ba'athification, demobilizing the army, refusing to recognize the immediacy of the insurgency, refusing to prepare postinvasion plans for running a government and maintaining the critical infrastructure, all should be laid directly at the Bush administration's feet. "People led us into the abyss," Maguire says. As for Bush, "he was totally responsible. He's the guy. His team has failed him. ...[N]obody was sitting in the driver's seat."
- Maguire is no antiwar liberal; during his tenure at the CIA, he spent more than ten years working on a way to remove Saddam Hussein from power. He believes in the idea of regime change in Iraq sparking change throughout the Middle East. But he says trumping up charges of bogus WMDs in Iraq as a justification for war was a terrible misjudgment. He argued before the war that such a rationale would be, in the long run, counterproductive. "It seemed very risky to base a war on an issue that you would have to prove the minute you entered the country," he says. "We believed there would be a ton of WMDs. But we thought, 'I hope we find a sh*tload when we come in. If we don't find a warehouse of weapons, it will be ugly as hell.'" An equally huge mistake, Maguire says, was conflating Iraq with al-Qaeda. "We never had anything that said that," he says flatly. The Iraqi intelligence services had indeed tracked al-Qaeda, like any intelligence service would. And there had indeed been occasional meetings. That's what intelligence agencies do. But "the way this was cast [by the White House] created a picture that was different than reality."
- He still seethes with anger when he recalls meetings at the Pentagon to discuss postinvasion problems. Of one meeting in particular, at the end of 2002 or the beginning of 2003, he remembers joining 40 to 50 people to discuss the various issues. How could Baghdad be secured? he and others asked. How could the US respond to an insurgency if one emerges? How could the American occupiers make sure the power grid and water system worked? "The Pentagon people" -- Douglas Feith, William Luti, and others -- "said, 'We've got it covered.'" After that, Maguire and his CIA colleagues were not invited to subsequent meetings. "This was the part that interested them the least," Maguire recalls. "And it was the most important part, the hardest part. There was no question we'd get to Baghdad in no time. We better have a plan for when we get there. But we had nothing but four PowerPoint pages. It was arrogant. We used to joke about the Ph.D club -- Wolfowitz, Feith. They knew best."
- Iraq is indeed now a haven for terrorism, he says, "and we set the conditions for how that happened. This is a self-inflicted mess."
- While Maguire still believes the situation can be rescued and Iraq given a democratic society, he says the situation will become much, much worse before it gets better. "Baghdad will be on fire," he predicts.
- Maguire remembers watching the news with his wife a few days ago. A reporter was talking about a war council meeting at Camp David with his top advisors. Bush and his senior aides had left the meeting room and walked outside so Bush could field a few questions from the assembled reporters. As Bush declared it was "important that we succeed in Iraq," he was flanked by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice. Looking at the scene, Maguire's wife says, "Do you see any of the faces besides the same old faces that got us into this mess?" (Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- Early May: Condoleezza Rice's informal advisor, her friend and former colleague Philip Zelikow, is sent back to Iraq to focus on how the US is training Iraqi police, the local solution to the security problems of the country. She had fired the bureau head in the State Department responsible for the training; the process is broken. Zelikow travels extensively outside the Green Zone, to cities such as Mosul. The training process is superficial at best: the recruits are given a gun, a uniform, a little training, and sent out to be policemen. Nothing has changed. The sole metric of progress is numbers trained. No one even bothered to track whether the new policemen even show up for their assignments. There is no follow-up training in the field, as critical for police as for military soldiers. Zelikow's findings echo those of the NSC's Frank Miller from over a year before. He recommends that the three disparate threats of police training, by State, by the program overseen by General David Petraeus, and by the basic US military divisions, be combined and in essence be turned over to the US battalions and brigades running the military operations and the foot patrols in particular regions. All politics is local, as the saying goes, and the solutions must be locally based. And someone -- not several someones -- needs to be in charge. (Bob Woodward)
- May 2: A secretive miniseries purporting to document the events of 9/11 is in production in Toronto, Canada. ABC and Disney are producing the two-night miniseries, slated to star Harvey Keitel as FBI counterterrorism agent John O'Neill, and with actors portraying a number of Clinton and Bush administration officials. The title offered on call sheets for actors is "The Untitled ABC History Project;" the film, later titled The Path to 9/11, is called by the unrevealing acronym "UHP." While the film claims to be based on the PBS documentary of O'Neill titled "The Man Who Knew," and more publicly on the 9/11 Commission's final report, judging from its writer, producer, and financing, it has a powerfully conservative propagandistic slant. Cyrus Nowrasteh, the screenwriter, is not only an alumnus of the prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest, but co-wrote the film The Day Reagan Was Shot, considered by many a love-letter to the former president. Nowrasteh is an avowed conservative who has written polemics about how to force Hollywood to produce more conservative content. Producer David Cunningham's father, Loren Cunningham, is the founder and leader of the Christian extremist group Youth With a Mission (YWAM), which has attempted to flood Hollywood with young, ideologically conservative actors, screenwriters, and technicians.
- The film will air on September 10-11, 2006, bracketing a speech by President Bush commemorating the 9/11 tragedies and making his pitch for continued efforts in Iraq. The film garners low ratings and creates a firestorm of protest, with liberals and conservatives alike damning the film for its incorrect and revisionist history (placing the blame for 9/11 squarely on the Clinton administration, portraying Bush and his officials in a heroic light, and making a number of long-disproven claims such as connections between Iraq and the al-Qaeda attackers), hundreds of thousands vowing to boycott ABC and Disney, and possible lawsuits from slandered Clinton officials and businesses in the works. (Fox News)
"I think younger workers -- first of all, younger workers have been promised benefits the government -- promises that have been promised, benefits that we can't keep. That's just the way it is." -- George W. Bush, May 4, 2005
- May 8: Conservative televangelist and former presidential candidate Pat Robertson says that God has told him the American coastline will be struck by horrendous storms and perhaps a tsunami. Robertson makes the predictions several more times, all on his news-and-talk show The 700 Club, aired on Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. "If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," he says. On May 9, he adds, "There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest." Robertson has come under intense criticism in recent months for suggesting that American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip. Robertson has, over time, proclaimed that God would ensure his election as president, that God had told him Senator Jay Rockefeller would become president in 1996, that Russia would invade Israel in 1982, and that the world's economy would collapse in 1985. (CBS News, MediaMatters)
- May 11: Bush signs into law the third major installment of US funds for Iraqi reconstruction and aid, totaling $5.4 billion. Almost all of the monies are slated for training and equipping Iraqi security forces. (T. Christian Miller)
Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff exposed as a fount of corruption
- May 13: The Washington Post reports on the astounding profits made by GOP-affiliated lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a Tom DeLay crony, from "representing" Native American tribes interested in having legislation favorable to their gambling enterprises passed in state and national legislatures. Abramoff has made $82 million from bilking various Native American tribes, often playing one off against the other while taking money from both. Abramoff and his partner, former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon, scammed a number of Native American tribes, and, judging from their e-mail exchanges later secured and made public by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee (chaired by Republican John McCain), seemed to take inordinate pleasure in their rampant thievery and display a certain degree of disrespect for their "clients." "We need to get $ from these monkeys," Abramoff wrote Scanlon on February 7, 2002, in regard to a Choctaw tribe in Mississippi. On April 11, 2002, Abramoff wrote in regard to the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan, "These mofos are the stupidest idiots in the land for sure." On December 17 and 18, 2001, Abramoff and Scanlon gloated over the amount of money they were bilking from the Chippewa, in the process calling them "f-ing troglodytes" and "a lower form of existence."
- The e-mails show a bit more restraint from Scanlon than Abramoff, possibly because Scanlon has been burned before by public revelation of his e-mails. In 1998, the following e-mail from Scanlon, about the Clinton investigation centered in his then-boss DeLay's office, caused a stir when it was made public: "This whole thing about not kicking someone when they are down is BS -- Not only do you kick him -- You kick him until he passes out -- then beat him over the head with a baseball bat -- then roll him up in an old rug -- and throw him off a cliff into the pounding surf below!!!" Shortly thereafter, Scanlon leaves DeLay's office and moves down the street to join the lobbying and law firm of Preston Gates, recruited by, and working directly with, Abramoff.
- In 1999, then-Governor George W. Bush of Texas targeted the Speaking Rock Casino near El Paso as part of his political campaign against Native American casinos. The casino is operated by the tiny, impoverished Tigua tribe, who uses the profits garnered from the casino to pay for education, health care, and housing for its members. Bush targets the Tigua largely at the request of his friend and colleague Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition. Reed has a $4.2 million contract with Louisiana's Coushatta tribe, who operates a casino along the Texas border and wants to eliminate the Tigua competition.
- Reed had been steered to the Coushatta by Abramoff; the two had worked together before with the Mississippi Choctaw, who wanted to block a lottery and video-gaming proposal from passing the Alabama legislature. Reed produced radio ads featuring Focus on the Family's James Dobson that aired in Alabama blasting the "immorality" of gambling; he also organized phone banks and printed inserts for church bulletins. Reed had to be especially careful about the inserts; Alabama pastors would not have appreciated knowing the inserts were funded by casino money from Mississippi. So Abramoff and Reed went to great lengths to obscure the money's origin. They used Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform organization to launder the Choctaw money, which in turn funded groups like the Alabama Christian Coalition, whose website says it wants nothing to do with money even indirectly related to gambling. Of course Abramoff and his partner Scanlon padded the accounts, soaking the Choctaw for millions.
- In Texas, Reed made millions by flogging the moral outrage against Indian gambling in Texas, on behalf of Indian gambling interests in Louisiana. Along with Norquist's ATR, Abramoff and Reed set up a nonprofit think tank called the American International Center. The AIC's single function is to hide the source of Reed's money from his church associates in Texas, though its website tells visitors that the organization was founded to "influence global paradigms in an increasingly complex world." The AIC was headed by two uniquely qualified individuals, yoga instructor Brian Mann and former lifeguard David Grosh, both childhood friends of Scanlon's. Grosh later testifies to the Senate that Scanlon asked him if he wanted "to be the head of an international corporation," and Grosh replied, "sure." He asked Scanlon what he would have to do; the reply was, "Nothing." "That sounded pretty good to me," Grosh recalls. For his trouble, Scanlon gave Grosh $2500 and hockey tickets. Grosh tells the Senate that he is "embarrassed and disgusted" to have been involved.
- On February 11, 2002, a federal judge ordered the Tigua's Speaking Rock Casino closed down. Abramoff e-mailed Reed: "I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out." But Reed wasn't aware of Abramoff's other machinations. He had indeed found a way to get his mitts on the Tigua's money. Fresh from working to get their casino shut down, Abramoff cut a deal with the unsuspecting Tigua to get their casino reopened. He e-mailed Scanlon: "I'm on the phone with Tigua. Fire up the jet, baby, we're going to El Paso!" Scanlon replied, "I want all their money!!" Abramoff: "Yawzah!"
- Abramoff promised the Tigua he could help rectify the "gross indignity perpetuated by the Texas state authorities" on the tribe, an indignity the Tigua do not know he had helped perpetuate. He agreed to represent the Tigua pro bono. However, he steered the Tigua to Scanlon's public relations firm for a fee of $4.2 million, a fee Scanlon split down the middle with Abramoff.
- Abramoff promised the Tigua that Republican House Appropriations Committee head Bob Ney would sneak in an amendment to an unrelated bill that would reopen Speaking Rock, if they paid Ney's PAC $32,000 and sent Ney and a group of friends to Scotland to play golf at St. Andrews. The Tigua paid over $100,000 to send Ney, Abramoff, and Reed on the golf outing. Abramoff had also told Ney that Democrat Christopher Dodd would handle the Senate side of the legislation, but when Ney asked Dodd about it on June 25, 2002, Dodd had no idea what Ney was talking about -- Abramoff had not discussed the matter with Dodd, and there was no way the legislation would go through the Senate. (Ney, Abramoff, and Reed took the golfing junket anyway.) The Tigua eventually sued Abramoff and got $2.1 million of their money back in a settlement. (Washington Post/Al Franken)
- May 15: As Condoleezza Rice flies to Baghdad to participate in ceremonies surrounding the new Iraqi government of Ibrahim al-Jafari, the process of convincing the ruling Shi'ites to include Sunnis in the new government is collapsing. For months, Jim Jeffrey, the NSC coordinator for Iraq policy, has been dunning the Shi'ites and Kurds in the government to include more Sunnis. Jeffrey has thought all along he had convinced them to let the Sunnis in, but as Rice comes into Baghdad, the process falls apart. The Shi'ites and Kurds had never intended to let in the Sunnis, wanting the former rulers of Iraq's government to understand that their place is at the bottom of the pecking order. Rice meets first with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, trying to convince him that it is critically important that all three of the major religious groups be represented in the government. She adds that the US is concerned about the influence of two enemies of the US, Syria and Iran, in Iraqi politics. They are both enemies, says Barzani, the stupid enemy, Syria, and the smart enemy, Iran, which is the long-term project. When Rice meets with al-Jafari, she toughens her stance, insisting that al-Jafari include Sunnis in the power structure. It is true that the Sunnis had all but boycotted the January 30 elections, but she is asking al-Jafari and his Shi'ites to be magnanimous and include the Sunnis anyway, in the interest of peace and inclusiveness. "[I]f they're not part of the political process," she warns, "they can destroy your ability to govern.
- She gives comforting interviews to a number of Arab and US media outlets, telling a reporter from NBC, "If you think about it, this government has been in power a very, very short time. In fact, it's been less than a year since they actually transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And so there are going to be ups and downs. Things are not going to happen overnight."
- After weeks of intensive negotiations, Jeffrey finally bangs out an agreement to include 15 full Sunni members and 10 Sunni advisors in the new government. (Bob Woodward)
"see, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." -- George W. Bush, May 24, 2005
- May 30: Dick Cheney tells CNN's Larry King that the Iraqi insurgency is in its "last throes." Weeks before, Donald Rumsfeld told Fox News that the Iraqi insurgency could last "five, six, eight, ten, twelve years." The overall total of insurgent attacks for April had been around 1,700, with 52 Americans dead; in May, the numbers spiked to over 2,000 attacks and 82 Americans dead. (CNN/Al Franken, Bob Woodward)