Highlights of This Page
Ties between Karl Rove and Islamic terrorist financiers shown. Judith Miller testifies before grand jury investigating Plame leak.
See my Update Information page for an explanation of why this and other pages between September 2004 and September 2006 are not yet complete.
- Fall: Former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, a confidant of the elder Bush, has a discussion with Republican senator John McCain about the foreign policy of the younger Bush. McCain, in telling Scowcroft that he has never been asked his opinion of Iraq by Bush, says that Bush once told him, "I don't want to be like my father, I want to be like Ronald Reagan." Scowcroft is angered and offended by the remark. He has concluded that the Bush administration is doing the unthinkable, repeating the mistakes of Vietnam. Scowcroft had become an unwilling expert on Vietnam, having worked in both the Nixon and Ford administrations. He feels there is even less of a chance of building an Iraqi army that can fight for itself than the US had in building a self-suffienct South Vietnamese army, which had existed as a powerful, nearly autonomous force in Vietnam in its own right. In Iraq, the armies are all connected in one way or another to the Shi'ites, the Sunnis, or the Kurds. It is a political catastrophe. Scowcroft has become very disappointed in the performances of Bush's national security staff, many of whom he worked with and in some cases mentored. He considers national security advisor Stephen Hadley a dear friend, but Hadley won't stand up to anyone -- not to Dick Cheney or Condoleezza Rice, and certainly not to Donald Rumsfeld. He wouldn't even stand up for his own opinions. Even the elder Bush confided to Scowcroft that he is unhappy with Rice. "Condi is a disappointment, isn't she?" the former president once said, adding, "She's not up to the job."
- And the prospects aren't looking any better in other areas of the administration. The incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, is pathetic, worse than the outgoing chairman, Richard Myers, whom Scowcroft considers a broken man, a puppy dog. And Cheney, Cheney is the worst, Scowcroft believes. All the old hands are demanding, "What's happened to Dick Cheney? We don't know this Dick Cheney." Scowcroft expected nothing less from Rumsfeld than what he gives, considering Rumsfeld "enigmatic, obstructionist, devious." Scowcroft considers Rumsfeld a wholly negative force.
- The administration had always believed that Saddam Hussein had run an efficient, modern state, and when it was overthrown, it would leave behind a functioning society that could easily be guided into a democratic nation. They hadn't foreseen the collapse of the society, and hadn't realized that by overthrowing Hussein, they would be, in essence, building a society from chaos. They hadn't seen the need for security. (Bob Woodward)
- September: Although security restrictions at US airports are high, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former chief of intelligence for Saudi Arabia, flies into Washington unquestioned (where he owns a million-dollar home), and soon meets with George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Turki's visit is notable because he has served as a liason between Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan's Taliban. Though the Taliban are widely seen in the US as enemies of the nation and terrorist supporters, the Bush administration, following in the footsteps of the CIA, has often supported the Taliban as part of the nation's strategy to secure access to the Caspian Sea oil fields. Robert Ebel, the former top CIA expert on oil strategies, wrote, "In the 1980s, Arab volunteers, financed by Saudi money...founded Wahabi schools...waged a campaign against Afghanistan's indigenous Islam...and destroyed Sufi sacred sites (zyarats). The Taliban are the final and most formidable product of this long-term strategy.... They are part of the post-1992 US strategy to maintain a high level of influence in the energy belt from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf.... The question of whether the United States actively supported the Taliban or, as one US ex-official put it, merely 'winked' as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia did the actual work, is controversial and difficult to resolve."
- According to BBC journalist Greg Palast, the aim of the US was to stop Iran from supplanting Saudi Arabia's control over OPEC; when the Shi'a religious government of Iran failed in its aim to foment revolution in Saudi Arabia, topple the House of Saud, and bring that country into an alliance with Iran, they turned their attention to their Shi'a brethren in Afghanistan. Palast writes, "Had Iran controlled the Afghan corridor to the Caspian, this combine of Shi'a states could have created an oil colossus rivaling the Saudis', thereby making Iran 'swing' producer and controller of OPEC. The United States, the Saudis -- and bin Laden -- could not let that happen. Here was something the USA, Saudi Arabia, and al-Qaeda could all agree on: No 'Shi'a dogs' (the Iranians, in Qaeda terminology) were going to control a new oil caliphate from Kazakhstan to the Tigris." The US worked with Pakistan to arm the Taliban and counter the pro-Iranian Shi'a in Afghanistan. The Saudis funded the Taliban under the direction of Turki al-Faisal. Bin Laden's terrorists not only murdered the Iranians stationed in the Afghan embassy, but armed the Taliban's most effective fighting unit, Arab Battalion 055. "To block the Iranians, the US winked, blinked, and nodded at the blood-bathed birthing of the Taliban terror state, demanding solely the arrest of Osama himself." (Greg Palast)
- Early September: White House speechwriter Michael Gerson meets with Henry Kissinger, Bush's ad hoc foreign policy advisor, and asks, "Why did you support the Iraq war?" Kissinger answers, "Because Afghanistan wasn't enough." In the conflict with radical Islam, he says, they want to humiliate the US. "And we need to humiliate them." The American response to 9/11 has to be beyond proportionate, more than merely invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban. Something more had to be done. The invasion of Iraq sent a larger message, Kissinger insists, "in order to make a point that we're not going to live in this world that they want for us." It isn't a universally popular viewpoint, he acknowledges. Kissinger is all about power politics, Gerson knows, and not ideology. Kissinger doesn't seem interested in Bush's grand vision of spreading democracy. In fact, Kissinger says of Bush's second inaugural speech, where Bush and Gerson had outlined this vision of worldwide democracy, "At first I was appalled." But now he believes the speech served the purpose of placing the war on terrorism and overall US foreign policy in the context of American values. That will help sustain a long campaign.
Bush must resist any pressure to begin withdrawing troops, Kissinger says, repeating his axiom about victory as the only exit strategy. "The president can't be talking about troop reductions as a centerpiece," he says. While troop reductions might be desirable sometime in the future, they are not the objective, "not where you put the emphasis."
- Kissinger gives Gerson a copy of his "salted peanuts" memo from the first year of the Nixon administration, where he counseled Nixon that withdrawing US forces from Vietnam "will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more US troops come home, the more will be demanded."
- On Iran, it is absolutely essential that the US not allow that country to build or obtain nuclear weapons, Kissinger says. If Iran goes nuclear, so, eventually, will Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and everyone else in the region. "That would be one of the worst strategic nightmares that America could imagine," he says. (Bob Woodward)
- September 2: The recent transportation bill passed last month ensures the construction of a lavish, $223 million bridge, the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," for Alaska's Gravina Island, which only houses 50 people. The funding is part of a $1.04 billion treasure trove engineered by Republican House member Don Young, the head of the House Transportation Committee. He has bragged to voters that he not only got that bridge, but a second, 2-mile bridge in Anchorage to be named for him, at a taxpayer cost of $229 million. Now other Northwestern states are beginning to look at Young's "accomplishments" in hopes of securing such earmarks for themselves. The Gravina Island bridge, 6,300 long, will cross the Tongass Narrows to Ketchikan, a popular stop for cruise ships. It will replace a ferry that locals and tourists use to reach Gravina Island's tiny airport. The bridge is one of about 6,500 projects included in the $286.5 billion transportation bill. Critics such as Senator John McCain, a Republican, say the bill included too much funding for local projects. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based group that tracks government spending, first called the Gravina project "the Bridge to Nowhere" in a report on its Web site. It estimates the bridge will attract 1,000 vehicles a day, at an average cost of $43 per trip. That compares with 500,000 vehicles a day, at a cost of $4 each trip, that use Boston's $14.6 billion Big Dig underground highway system. Keith Ashdown, vice president of policy at Taxpayers for Common Sense, says the project amounts to a political payoff for residents of Ketchikan. "Write everyone a check -- it's cheaper," he says. Young is proud of his pork-barrelling: "I'd be silly if I didn't take advantage of my chairmanship," he recently told the Anchorage Daily News. "I think I did a pretty good job." (Bloomberg)
- September 8: Prince Bandar pays a farewell visit to Bush in the White House. Bandar has been the Saudi ambassador to the US for 22 years; age and infirmity are finally catching up with him. The Saudi rulers are going to create a National Security Council modeled after the US version, and Bandar will be the secretary general of the Saudi NSC, the equivalent of the US national security advisor. (Bob Woodward)
- September 19: The lawyers for New York Times reporter Judith Miller, serving her second month of her jail sentence for contempt regarding her refusal to testify to a grand jury about her source in the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson, and for White House chief of staff Lewis Libby, arrange a conference call with their clients. Miller is ensconced in the same Alexandria, Virginia jail that houses 9/11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui, sleeping on a mat in a tiny cell and brushing her hair with a toothbrush. She is angling for a job in the prison laundry. Her lawyer, Robert Bennett, has repeatedly told reporters that Miller is not being treated differently from any other inmate, which is largely true except for the unusual number of journalistic and political luminaries who consistently visit her in her cell. She worries that the media is not sufficiently covering her incarceration as a supposed prisoner of conscience. More worrisome is the likelihood that she will spend a lot longer in jail than she had first anticipated. While special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury is due to expire at the end of October, Bennett is convinced that Fitzgerald will immediately convene another grand jury, and thusly Miller will stay in jail for another eighteen months. Also, Bennett believes Miller is vulnerable to criminal contempt charges that might extend her stay for years. Miller wants out. She and Bennett believe that obtaining a waiver of confidentiality from her source, Lewis Libby, might do the trick, though the Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, would rather see Miller in jail and protecting her source, as is the lawyer for the Times, Floyd Abrams. But Miller is willing to use a waiver as a means of springing her from prison, and the hell with journalistic integrity and protecting sources.
- Shortly before the September 19 conference call, Miller receives a strange, flowery letter from Libby, after Bennett contacted Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, reminding him that it might appear to Fitzgerald that Libby would prefer Miller stay quiet behind bars and not testify against him. Libby's letter includes the personal waiver of confidentiality, but with some odd literary flourishes. Libby writes, in part, "Your reporting, and you, are missed. Like many Americans, I admire your principled stand. But, like many of your friends and readers, I would welcome you back among the rest of us, doing what you do best -- reporting." He writes that he will grant her a "waiver of confidentiality," and notes that "every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me," a clear lie. Then Libby, a onetime novelist, pens the most unusual part of the letter: "You went to jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover -- Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will be already turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work -- and life."
- Is Libby just writing purple prose? Or is he trying to suggest that, like the aspens, he and Miller are connected under the surface? Is he trying to shape her testimony to the grand jury? (Miller later gives a bizarre explanation to the "aspens" reference in her October 16 Times article, saying that the last time she had seen Libby, at a rodeo in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Libby had been wearing jeans and a cowboy hat.)
- The conference call goes awkwardly. Libby says he wants to "encourage" Miller to testify to "help both of us...get this matter behind us." (The account of the phone call comes from later statements by Tate.) Libby says ingenuously that he "hadn't fully understood" that Miller had gone to jail to protect him, and says he thought she had other sources she was also protecting. "Do you really want me to testify?" she asks, and he replies, "Absolutely. Believe it. I mean it."
- The phone conversation is all the waiver Miller needs. She agrees to testify, and arrangements are made for Miller to leave jail. (Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
Ties between Karl Rove and Islamic terrorist financiers shown
- September 21: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has traced some interesting and possibly criminal connections between conservative Republican operatives and Islamist terrorist groups, and possibly reaches into the office of Karl Rove. The connection is in the person of Grover Norquist, the Republican lobbyist and power broker.
- In 1998, Norquist lobbied for the Islamist front group, the American Muslim Council (AMC), and particularly two of AMC's leaders, Abdurahman Alamoudi and Sami al-Arian. Another of al-Arian's groups, the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom (NCPPF), which awarded Norquist a service award in 2001, has been proven to be a financial front group for a number of terrorist organizations, from the Weather Underground, the IRA, and Peru's Shining Path to Islamist terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Both Alamoudi and al-Arian are now in jail on terrorism-related charges. Alamoudi is serving a 23-year sentence, having pled guilty to conspiring with Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi to kill Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. In August 2005, the US Treasury Department announced, "The September 2003 arrest of Alamoudi was a severe blow to al-Qaeda, as Alamoudi had a close relationship with al-Qaeda and had raised money for al-Qaeda in the United States."
- Then, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a close colleague of Norquist's, contracted to lobby for a consortium of banks that operate under Islamic law, or sharia. The bank consortium was created after 9/11 in response to the Bush crackdown on terrorist financing. Abramoff's job was to spread the word about Islamic banking practices and to refute claims that Islamic banks sheltered money used for terrorist networks. One of Abramoff's clients was the chairman of the General Council for Islamic Banks, Saudi businessman Saleh Abdullah Kamel, estimated to be worth at least $2.6 billion, and the subject of investigation over his ties to Islamist terror groups. Kamel is also the chairmal of Dallah al Baraka Group (DBG), which is suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. He was also the co-founder and a large shareholder of Al Shamal Bank in Sudan, Osama bin Laden's bank of choice from 1983 onward. Kamel was listed as being one of the seven "main individual sponsors of terrorism" in a report by French researcher Jean-Charles Brisard submitted to the UN Security Council in December 2002. Omar al-Bayoumi, who befriended and provided money to two of the 9/11 hijackers, was once an assistant to the Director of Finance for Dallah Avco, a DBG company that works with the Saudi aviation authority. The US government believes the Dallah al-Baraka Bank, another DBG company, was also used by al-Qaeda. Kamel is on a list called the "Golden Chain," a roster seized by Bosnian authorities in Sarajevo in March 2002 listing Saudi donors to bin Laden and his associates. He was named as a defendant in two 9/11-related lawsuits, one filed by the victims' families in 2003 and another filed by Cantor Fitzgerald in September 2004.
- And on September 21, 2005, Bush administration official David Safavian, arrested for his criminal ties to Jack Abramoff, refused to disclose lobbying work he had done for a number of foreign clients when he was confirmed by a Senate panel for his position as chief of the White House's federal procurement office. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held up Safavian's nomination for more than a year, in part because of lawmakers' concerns about lobbying work for two men later accused of links to suspected terrorist organizations. Safavian did not disclose his firm's representation of the men until questioned in writing by the committee's staff, and initially failed to tell the panel he had registered as a foreign agent for two controversial African regimes. Safavian is a former lobbying partner of Norquist.
- Dana Rohrbacher, a Republican congressman, has long been suspected of having financial ties to groups that fund and support Islamist terrorism. Rohrabacher, a longtime Abramoff friend, agreed to be a personal reference for Abramoff's bid to borrow $60 million to purchase the SunCruz casinos in 2000. Last week, Rohrabacher defended his relationship with Abramoff in a statement, while also making clear that he is not yet ready to renounce Abramoff. "There was no reason for me or anyone else to doubt Jack Abramoff's integrity at the time" of the SunCruz deal, Rohrabacher said in a statement. "I still think he's getting a raw deal on most of what is being said about him." And several Republicans in Rohrbacher's home state of California say they have long been worried about Rohrbacher's ties to Islamic fundamentalist groups. "Before 9-11, Dana's views seemed idiosyncratic," says Arnold Steinberg, a political consultant whose ties to Rohrabacher go back to Youth for Goldwater in 1964. "We rationalized that he wasn't fully informed or had a blind spot" to the Islamists, who were contributing to his re-election campaigns, hanging around his office, and sponsoring trips by Rohrabacher and his staff to the Arab Middle East. Some of Rohbacher's Muslim donors are currently in federal prison awaiting trial on terrorism-related charges.
- The connection to Karl Rove comes in the person of Rove's former assistant, Susan Ralston. Ralston used to work for Abramoff, and had what the White House ethics lawyers call a "preexisting relationship" with Norquist, to the point where, as one Republican lobbyist says, "susan took a message for Rove, and then called Grover to ask if she should put the caller through to Rove. If Grover didn't approve, your call didn't go through." Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and arguably one of the two or three most powerful people in the Bush administration, clearly uses Norquist to keep Republican lobbyists in line. Using Norquist, whose connections to Islamic terrorist financiers is alarming, as his "enforcer" for lobbyist access is cause for investigation and possible criminal charges. (The Stakeholder, The Reality-Based Community)
- September 26: Condoleezza Rice's informal advisor on Iraq, Philip Zelikow, delivers a second report on the Iraq situation to rice. (See the February page of this site for information on Zelilkow's February 10 report.) Like the first one, the report is classified secret and not for distribution. Zelikow notes that while security arrangements in Iraq have improved, the insurgents have adapted, improving their own tactics and using more efficient improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They have also improved their target selection, wreaking more havoc among US forces and Iraqi citizens alike. The insurgents are operating freely through most of the country, while American forces are spread thin. The momentum from the successful January 10 elections has dissipated, and the transitional government under Prime Minister al-Jafari is underperforming. One of the most disturbing findings that Zelikow made is that the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the police forces, is operating what Zelikow calls "a shadowy system of extrajudicial detentions and killings."
- On the two fronts that Rice's State Department are responsible for, economic progress and governance, the outlook is grim: "Not visibly advanced and some areas had moved backwards," he writes. It is costing the US a huge effort just to stay in the same place in the areas of electricity, oil, and water. Zelikow sums up: "Iraqis had exaggerated hopes about what we would do in their country and the general failure of public service has hurtled [them] into profound disillusionment about America."
- Overall, Zelikow asks, "Are we on the right track? Success in Iraq is hard to define once you get past the platitudes. What does success mean?" Zelikow has some suggestions for hard, definable goals. The first is the breaking of the insurgency and the drawdown of American forces -- perhaps down to 40,000 or 50,000 by 2008. Secondly, the Iraqi government needs to stand up enough to ensure that Iraq does not become a haven for terrorism, nor a haven for "Iranian subversion and interference with world oil suppiles." Thirdly, the Iraqi government needs to make significant, measurable progress towards economic self-sufficiency, thus giving its populace economic hope. "Failure is a condition where you don't get that by the time the administration leaves office" in January 2008. "Catastrophic failure [will be] if the center doesn't hold and Iraq's experiment at truly national government has collapsed." (Bob Woodward)
- September 29: Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward interviews Carl Levin, the rumpled, 71-year old ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Levin is not shy about communicating his displeasure with the Bush administration's Iraq policies, saying that Bush and Cheney "showed the most willful and purposeful intent" to deceive the country about Iraq's purported WMDs. "I've never thought that Bush was dumb at all," Levin says. "But I think he's intellectually lazy and I think he wants people around him who will not challenge him but will give him the ammunition which he needs or wants in order to achieve some more general goal," such as invading and occupying Iraq. Woodward tells Levin that he believes former secretary of state Colin Powell is "in anguish" about Iraq, with 130,000 American troops stuck there facing an ever-growing insurgency. Levin nearly explodes in anger. "I don't want to hear about his anguish," he says. "I don't have the stomach to hear his anguish. He is so smart and his instincts are so decent and good that I can't just accept his anguish. I want more than anguish. I expected more than anguish." What do you expect, Woodward asks. An apology? "Honesty," Levin replies. "I wanted honesty. I don't want to read a year later or two years later saying that this is the worst moment of his life or something. He had problems with this along the way. ...Powell had the potential to change the course here. He's the only one who had potential to." How? Woodward asks. "If he told the president that this is the wrong course," Levin replies. "I don't think he ever realized what power lay in his hands, and that's an abdication. I think Powell has tremendous power. ...Can you imagine the power of that one person to change that course? I think he had it." (Bob Woodward)
Judith Miller testifies before grand jury investigating Plame leak
- September 30: Judith Miller testifies before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury. (See the September 19 item above, and other related items throughout this site, for more information.) Miller, a New York Times reporter who learned from White House official Lewis Libby that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA agent, gives a muddled and somewhat contradictory account of events. She recalls her July 8, 2003 meeting with Libby, where Libby savaged Plame's husband Joseph Wilson and told her, wrongly, that Plame worked with the CIA's WINPAC (Plame worked at the Counterproliferation Division). But Miller says she has "no clear memory of the context" of the conversation, essentially dodging the central issue -- that Libby, like his colleague Karl Rove, was engaged in attempts to smear Wilson by outing his wife as a covert CIA agent and accusing Plame, wrongly, of sending Wilson to Niger to investigate the claims that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from that country. She cannot explain why she misspelled the name of Wilson's wife as "Valerie Flame," and says she might have gotten Plame's name from another source, though she has no idea who that source might be. And she can't explain why, in her notes from a July 12, 2003 interview with Libby, she had written Plame's name as "Victoria Wilson."
- Miller returns to the New York Times building on October 5, but she does not receive the hero's welcome she expected. She had indeed served 85 days in jail in protecting her source, Libby, but she had eventually cracked and accepted the same deal as other reporters, obtaining waivers of confidentiality in order to testify. Her prewar reporting, riddled with errors, lies, and outright propaganda that benefited the White House, is an embarrassment to her colleagues. And her supposedly idealistic stand for the First Amendment is tainted by the realization that she had gone to jail to protect Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, both of whom are top proponents of the discredited intelligence she had championed. After entering the newsroom, she gives a brief speech lauding her case as a victory for First Amendment freedoms, but receives a reception that one reporter recalls as "quite frosty." Reporter Don Van Natta, one of the journalists assigned to write an exhaustive examination of the entire Plame case, later says, "A lot of people in the newsroom came up to me afterward and said they hoped I could explain to them what the great victory for the First Amendment was."
- Shortly thereafter, Miller discovers, or claims to discover, a notebook in her desk detailing her June 23, 2003 meeting with Libby, an interview she says she had forgotten to tell Fitzgerald about. She has to testify a second time before Fitzgerald's grand jury. The notebook contains entries from the discussion with Libby about Wilson and Plame, with the damning notation, "Wife works at bureau?" She claims she thought that "bureau" meant the FBI. It is the third entry about Plame in her notes that she says she can't explain.
- Fitzgerald gains little from Miller's confused testimony. Her memory is bad, her notes are muddled, and the jumble of poor recollections and contradictions actually benefits Libby more than anyone else. Still, her testimony confirms that Libby, contrary to what he himself told the grand jury, had spoken to Miller about Plame and her employment at the CIA. (Michael Isikoff and David Corn)