The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Memo: U.S. Lacked Full Iraq Plan

NOTE THE POSITION OF THIS STORY ON TOMORROW'S WASHINGTON POST -- A1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


washingtonpost.com
Memo: U.S. Lacked Full Iraq Plan
Advisers to Blair Predicted Instability

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 12, 2005; A01

A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted a
nd costly" postwar occupation of that country.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.

In its introduction, the memo "Iraq: Conditions for Military Action" notes that U.S. "military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace," but adds that "little thought" has been given to, among other things, "the aftermath and how to shape it."

The July 21 memo was produced by Blair's staff in preparation for a meeting with his national security team two days later that has become controversial on both sides of the Atlantic since last month's disclosure of official notes summarizing the session.

In those meeting minutes -- which have come to be known as the Downing Street Memo -- British officials who had just returned from Washington said Bush and his aides believed war was inevitable and were determined to use intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his relations with terrorists to justify invasion of Iraq.

The "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," said the memo -- an assertion attributed to the then-chief of British intelligence, and denied by U.S. officials and by Blair at a news conference with Bush last week in Washington. Democrats in Congress led by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), however, have scheduled an unofficial hearing on the matter for Thursday.

Now, disclosure of the memo written in advance of that meeting -- and other British documents recently made public -- show that Blair's aides were not just concerned about Washington's justifications for invasion but also believed the Bush team lacked understanding of what could happen in the aftermath.

In a section titled "Benefits/Risks," the July 21 memo states, "Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks."

Saying that "we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective," the memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." The authors add, "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden."

That memo and other internal British government documents were originally obtained by Michael Smith, who writes for the London Sunday Times. Excerpts were made available to The Washington Post, and the material was confirmed as authentic by British sources who sought anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter.

The Bush administration's failure to plan adequately for the postwar period has been well-documented. The Pentagon, for example, ignored extensive State Department studies of how to achieve stability after an invasion, administer a postwar government and rebuild the country. And administration officials have acknowledged the mistake of dismantling the Iraqi army and canceling pensions to its veteran officers -- which many say hindered security, enhanced anti-U.S. feeling and aided what would later become a violent insurgency.

Testimony by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of Iraq policy, before a House subcommittee on Feb. 28, 2003, just weeks before the invasion, illustrated the optimistic view the administration had of postwar Iraq. He said containment of Hussein the previous 12 years had cost "slightly over $30 billion," adding, "I can't imagine anyone here wanting to spend another $30 billion to be there for another 12 years." As of May, the Congressional Research Service estimated that Congress has approved $208 billion for the war in Iraq since 2003.

The British, however, had begun focusing on doubts about a postwar Iraq in early 2002, according to internal memos.

A March 14 memo to Blair from David Manning, then the prime minister's foreign policy adviser and now British ambassador in Washington, reported on talks with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Among the "big questions" coming out of his sessions, Manning reported, was that the president "has yet to find the answers . . . [and] what happens on the morning after."

About 10 days later, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wrote a memo to prepare Blair for a meeting in Crawford, Tex., on April 8. Straw said "the big question" about military action against Hussein was, "how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be any better," as "Iraq has no history of democracy."

Straw said the U.S. assessments "assumed regime change as a means of eliminating Iraq's WMD [weapons of mass destruction] threat. But none has satisfactorily answered how that regime change is to be secured and how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be any better."

Later in the summer, the postwar doubts would be raised again, at the July 23 meeting memorialized in the Downing Street Memo. Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, the British intelligence service, reported on his meetings with senior Bush officials. At one point, Dearlove said, "There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman, appearing June 5 on "Meet the Press," disagreed with Dearlove's remark. "I think that there was clearly planning that occurred."

The Blair government, unlike its U.S. counterparts, always doubted that coalition troops would be uniformly welcomed, and sought U.N. participation in the invasion in part to set the stage for an international occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, said British officials interviewed recently. London was aware that the State Department had studied how to deal with an invasion's aftermath. But the British government was "shocked," in the words of one official, "when we discovered that in the postwar period the Defense Department would still be running the show."

The Downing Street Memo has been the subject of debate since the London Sunday Times first published it May 1. Opponents of the war say it proved the Bush administration was determined to invade months before the president said he made that decision.

Neither Bush nor Blair has publicly challenged the authenticity of the July 23 memo, nor has Dearlove spoken publicly about it. One British diplomat said there are different interpretations.

Last week, it was the subject of questions posed to Blair and Bush during the former's visit to Washington.

Asked about Dearlove being quoted as saying that in the United States, intelligence was being "fixed around the policy" of removing Hussein by military action, Blair said, "No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all." He then went on to discuss the British plan, outlined in the memo, to go to the United Nations to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq.

Bush said he had read "characterizations of the memo," pointing out that it was released in the middle of Blair's reelection campaign, and that the United States and Britain went to the United Nations to exhaust diplomatic options before the invasion.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/11/AR2005061100723_pf.html

The Rude Pundit: Why Neil Cavuto Ought To Be Buried Alive Under a Stack of Wall Street Journals

Why Neil Cavuto Ought To Be Buried Alive Under a Stack of Wall Street Journals:

Here's how you know you're a worthless fuck as a "news" anchor, an American, and a human being: you work for a "news" network that has been flogging the Michael Jackson trial endlessly, with quite literally hundreds of stories, updates, interviews, and commentaries on whether or not he's the king of poppin' cherries. Hell, today on your network's website is a report on Jackson's goddamn unregistered and/or broken down cars. Throughout it all - war in Iraq, genocide in the Sudan, constant leaks on the lies of the government - your "news" network has made sure to conflate the Jackson trial's worth with every other truly heartbreaking, stomach-churning, important event in the world.

And when you are given the opportunity to sit down with the President of the United States for an on-the-record interview, you never ask him about the war, the genocide, or the leaked lies. Instead, you actually say this: "But in the meantime, the news channels then hear what you're saying, and then later on, we have this Michael Jackson update. I mean, his trial and his ongoing saga has gripped the nation for the past four-and-a-half, five months as you've been on this campaign [to gut Social Security like a flopping carp]...Do you think that the focus on Michael Jackson has hurt you?"

Yes, that's right. Fox "news" host Neil Cavuto had the balls to ask if the "media" focus on the Michael Jackson trial has hurt the public's understanding of Bush's ideas for private accounts and Social Security reform. And he did it with a straight face, as if he had never heard that Bill O'Reilly and Greta Van Susterenenenen talk about Jackson every goddamn day. But that was par for the course for an interview that makes Larry King's style of prolonged oral gratification of his guests look positively brutal. Cavuto may as well have greeted Bush with, "Now, Mr. President, sir, I'm going to drop my pants and my panties and I want you to slap my ass as hard as you like. I want you to slap it 'til it's good and red, and then I want you to fuck me hard, right there in my sore, red ass."

As always when Bush gives an "interview," he reveals what a strange, sad little man he is. Cavuto asked him about Yale transcripts that showed Bush and Kerry with similar GPA's. Bush gave this bizarro answer: "You know, I've always tried to lower expectations, and I feel like if people say, well, you know, maybe, you know, I don't think you handle the tough job, and when you do, it impresses people even more." There you go, 35% of the country who still think the country is headed in the "right direction": Bush wants you to think the most powerful person on the planet is just a stupid fuckin' rube so that when he doesn't drool and fondle himself at debates or speeches, it's just overwhelming how great he is. Like clapping for a brain damaged hospital patient for staring at a moving balloon. Damn, no one ever expected him to follow that balloon. Yay.

And in one of those "whoa, whuh?" moments, Bush said about Gitmo's prisoners, "I first of all want to assure the American people that these prisoners are being treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. I say in accordance with because these weren't normal, you know, military-type fighters. They had no uniforms. They had no, you know, government structure. These were terrorists... I will tell you that we treat these prisoners in accordance with international standards." So they get they aren't prisoners under the Geneva Convention, but we're following the Geneva Convention for them? Or at least some of it? It's a bit like saying, "I don't worship Satan; I just like sacrificing animals and children inside a pentagram and drinking their blood." And what "international standards" are we following? 'Cause, like, Uzbekistan's standards are a wee bit different than, say, Canada's.

Otherwise, the rest of the interview was "Blah, blah, blah, me right, Congress bad, I are a leader, me solve problems"-type bullshit. Sure, there was the good ol' Bushism, of saying that "Baby Bombers like me are getting ready to retire," which, considering the civilian casualties in Iraq, is quite a true statement. (Both Fox and Nexis have the word "bomber" in their transcripts.)

Cavuto, who later in his show, Your World, would admit that he's a fat fuck, stayed bent over when Bush was done with him. Bush walked out quickly and the sound girl asked Cavuto if he wanted a towel to dry his sticky ass. Cavuto signaled for her to be quiet as he remembered fondly the grunts and thrusts of the President, hoping that it had been as good for the Commander-in-Chief as it had been for him.

http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/

William Rivers Pitt - After Downing Street

After Downing Street
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 09 June 2005

As to US assertions that Iraq possessed bombs, rockets and shells for poison agents, unmanned aerial vehicles for delivering biological and chemical weapons, nuclear weapon materials, sarin, tabun, mustard agent, precursor chemicals, VX nerve agent, anthrax, aflotoxins, ricin and surface-to-surface Al Hussein missiles, not one has so far been found. One vial of Strain B Botulinum toxin is found in the domestic refrigerator of an Iraqi scientist. It is ten years old. Hans Blix comments, "They wanted to come to the conclusion that there were weapons. Like the former days of the witch hunt, they are convinced that they exist. And if you see a black cat, well, that's evidence of the witch."

-- From David Hare's new play, Stuff Happens

Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. Bush had already made the decision to invade. That's what the leaked secret British intelligence document now known as the Downing Street Minutes tells us from back in time to July of 2002, before discussion of an Iraq invasion had made its way anywhere near public discussion. The decision to invade Iraq had already been made in the summer of 2002, and in order to make that decision a reality, intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of invasion.

It is interesting. The occupation of Iraq has lasted more than 800 days, and debate over the invasion has been going on for more than a thousand days. In that time, revelation after revelation has been put forth exposing the lies and manipulation used by the Bush administration to make this war happen. The first accusations of Bush administration mendacity on this issue were revealed six months before the invasion took place, in an October 8, 2002, article by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay titled "Some Administration Officials Expressing Misgivings on Iraq."

"While President Bush marshals congressional and international support for invading Iraq," reads the article, "a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war. These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses - including distorting his links to the al-Qaida terrorist network - have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East."

"They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views," continues the article, "and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary. 'Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books,' said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. A dozen other officials echoed his views in interviews. No one who was interviewed disagreed. None of the dissenting officials, who work in a number of different agencies, would agree to speak publicly, out of fear of retribution. But many of them have long experience in the Middle East and South Asia, and all spoke in similar terms about their unease with the way US political leaders are dealing with Iraq."

Since the publication of that article, we have learned about the Project for the New American Century, about its powerful advocates in Washington - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Bolton among them - and about their plans from 2000 that centered around an invasion and occupation of Iraq, based upon whatever pretext was available, to establish a permanent military presence in the Mideast and to gain ultimate control of petroleum management in the region.

We have learned about the secretive Office of Special Plans and its deliberate manipulation of Iraq weapons intelligence, about deliberate pressure put on analysts in the CIA by powerful men like Dick Cheney to manufacture reports of an Iraqi threat that did not match the facts, we have heard the details of this deliberate manipulation from government insiders like Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, Tom Maertens, Roger Cressey, Donald Kerrick, Greg Thielmann, Karen Kwiatkowski, Rand Beers and Joseph Wilson, whose wife's CIA career was shattered by the White House through the very breed of retribution those anonymous sources from the October 2002 article were worried about.

We have watched our government use the attacks of September 11 to terrorize the American people into supporting the invasion of Iraq, we wrapped ourselves in plastic sheeting and duct tape while handling our mail with oven mitts so as not to be infected with the anthrax we were told was in the hands of Saddam Hussein, we were told that they knew the weapons were there, that they knew where the weapons were, we were told by Bush himself his January 2003 State of the Union address that the 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, one million pounds of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 munitions to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program were waiting in Iraq to be given to terrorists for use against us, and that this was the main reason, the central reason, the absolute fact which required immediate action.

We have seen all this and more, we have seen torture, we have seen murder, we have seen the grinding of a civilian population in Iraq that was no threat to us or anyone else, we have seen hundreds of billions of dollars funneled into the bank accounts of administration cronies under the camouflage of this "War on Terror," we have seen one thousand six hundred and eighty-four American soldiers die and be returned home in transfer tubes, we have seen ten times that number wounded grievously, and we have seen more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed in their homes and on their streets, the uncounted dead whose innocent blood stains us all.

And now, after all that, it comes down to these Downing Street Minutes, to this small document released at the beginning of May by a British official looking to throw sand in Tony Blair's election hopes. After a roomful of Deep Throats and a dozen different kinds of Pentagon Papers were exposed before withering on the media vine, the Minutes now stand as irrefutable proof that the road to war in Iraq was paved, with absolute intent, with lies and deceit and misdirection and fraud.

For a time, it seemed as though these Minutes would join the rest of the Iraq revelations, discarded in the media gutter, run off the road by earth-shattering stories about Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton and Robert Blake and Martha Stewart and American Idol. Lately, and with a concerted push by activists and a number of members of the House of Representatives, the Downing Street Minutes are beginning to garner deserved and focused attention.

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post wrote on June 8th that "After six weeks in the political wilderness, the Downing Street Memo yesterday finally burst into the White House - and into the headlines." USA Today reported on the same day that, "A simmering controversy over whether American media have ignored a secret British memo about how President Bush built his case for war with Iraq bubbled over into the White House on Tuesday."

Descriptions and condemnations of the Minutes have begun appearing in most of the major newspapers, and the document has become contentious fodder for debate on the cable and network news stations. White House apologists are out in force, and the spinners are spinning, but the simple facts of the matter dwarf the flaccid excuses and explanations petering out of the administration.

The Minutes were thrown into the faces of Bush and Blair during a joint press conference on June 7th. The two leaders were asked, "On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?"

Bush replied, "Well, I - you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I'm not sure who 'they dropped it out' is, but - I'm not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth." The rest of his answer was a lame rehash of the old lies, that the decision wasn't made before the facts were in, that the facts weren't manipulated, that war was the last option. Bush was visibly angered by the question, and not long after, brought the press conference to an abrupt end.

The record is clear, the evidence piled before us, treachery after stacked treachery. Plenty of powerful people would like this document to go away, not excepting the folks in the news media, because the document provides a capstone exposure of just how flawed, biased, shabby and ultimately deadly their coverage of this issue has been. Don't doubt for a second that the scions of our journalistic realm would like the Minutes to fade, because as long as the document stands in the light, their complicity in this catastrophe is all too clear.

It isn't going away. A massive coalition of activist groups have come together to form the After Downing Street Coalition, which seeks coverage of this issue in the media and accountability on this issue from Congress and the administration. Rep. John Conyers and 88 other House members have delivered a letter to Bush demanding answers, and nearly 200,000 Americans have signed their support for this letter. The number of signatures grows by the day.

This moment is described as the tipping point. Large majorities of Americans, in every poll, believe the Iraq invasion was unnecessary and the casualties thus far inflicted to be unacceptable. For the first time, the poll numbers show that a clear majority of the American people no longer believe that George W. Bush is keeping them safe. Bi-partisan coalitions are forming in Congress to demand that the US withdraw from Iraq and give that nation back to the people who live there, and those coalitions are edging towards majority-sized numbers. Legislation has been presented demanding withdrawal, and more is in the offing.

And now, the Minutes. Tomorrow, the Minutes. Every day, the Minutes, until there is a reckoning.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/060905X.shtml

Juan Cole - The Revenge of Baghdad Bob

The Revenge of Baghdad Bob
By Juan Cole
Salon.com

Thursday 09 June 2005

Bush's ludicrous statements about Iraq are increasingly reminiscent of the propaganda spouted by the former spokesman for the Iraqi regime - except that they're not funny.

The sheer dishonesty of the Bush administration whenever it speaks about the situation in Iraq was on display again during Bush's Tuesday press conference with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In recent weeks Bush has repeatedly expressed wild optimism, utterly unfounded in reality, about the political process in Iraq and about the ability of the new Iraqi government and army to win the guerrilla war. He has if anything been outdone in this rhetoric by Vice President Dick Cheney. This pie-in-the-sky attitude, which increasingly few believe, degrades our civic discourse, and it endangers the national security of the United States.

With Blair at his side, Bush trotted out his usual talking points on Iraq, speaking of freedom and remarking, "This is the vision chosen by Iraqis in elections in January." Bush added, "We'll support Iraqis as they take the lead in providing their own security. Our strategy is clear: We're training Iraqi forces so they can take the fight to the enemy, so they can defend their country, and then our troops will come home with the honor they have earned." He again trumpeted his alleged policy of spreading democracy in the region as a way of combating the "bitterness and hatred" that "feed the ideology of terror."

The two leaders were finally confronted by the press corps with the leaked Downing Street memo, which reported that Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the British intelligence agency MI6, had returned from Washington in July 2002 convinced that Bush had already decided on war. The notes of his report to Blair and British Cabinet members say, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Bush dealt with the memo by denying Dearlove's observations. "My conversations with the prime minister was how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently it took place in London, happened before we even went to the United Nations - or I went to the United Nations."

It has gotten so that on the subject of Iraq, the way you can tell when Bush is lying is that his mouth is moving.

Bush is trying to give the impression that his going to the United Nations showed his administration's good faith in trying to disarm Saddam by peaceful means. It does nothing of the sort. In fact, the memo contains key evidence that the entire UN strategy was a ploy, dreamed up by the British, to justify a war that Bush had decided to wage long ago. It was the British who wanted Bush to go to the United Nations seeking an ultimatum that Saddam allow the weapons inspectors to return, in hopes that the Iraqi dictator would refuse. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as saying at the July 2002, meeting, "We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force." (Emphasis added.) Among the main fears of the British Cabinet members was that a war against Iraq might be considered illegal by the Hague tribunal, leaving them open to war-crimes charges. They felt that going to the United Nations would provide a legal basis for the war if Saddam rejected the inspectors.

So, his going to the United Nations does not prove that Bush did not want a war, and it does not refute the charges in the memo, since the memo accepts that it would be a good thing to go to the UN and a better thing if Saddam rejected the ultimatum. In the event, Bush did not give the inspectors time to do their jobs. They examined 100 of 600 suspected weapons sites and found nothing. Bush rushed to war anyway.

The docile White House press corps, which until the press conference had never asked the president about the Downing Street memo, predictably neglected to press Bush and Blair on those issues, allowing them to get away with mere obfuscation and meaningless non-answers. At the end of his response to the question about the memo, Bush simply repeated his mantra, "The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power." For his part, Blair managed to assert with a straight face, "No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all."

The Bush administration's empty prevarications about the reasons they went to war are matched by their increasingly surreal pronouncements on the situation in Iraq. In an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday, May 30, Cheney said, "The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." He went on to insist that America was safer as a result. As has become the Bush administration's modus operandi on a wide variety of subjects, Cheney simply made the assertion, giving no evidence to back it up. In fact, the guerrilla war in Iraq is far more active, professional and effective now than it has ever been. It routinely assassinates important government officials and has killed nearly 900 Iraqis in the past two months. May was as deadly for US troops as last January had been, and it was the worst month ever for casualties among reservists.

Asked at a May 31 press conference about the wave of bombings that have bedeviled Iraq daily since the new government was formed in April, Bush said, "I think the Iraq government will be up to the task of defeating the insurgents." He said he was pleased with the progress and was heartened by the Iraqi government's Operation Lightning, which involved sweeps of Sunni Arab neighborhoods. But that operation has been plagued by charges that the new army ethnically profiled young Sunni Arab men, arresting them en masse rather than focusing on actual terrorists. As a result, it has increased Sunni Arab radicalism and anti-Americanism. And during the sweep of some Baghdad neighborhoods, violence exploded in other parts of the country, and bombings have not ceased in the capital itself.

The American public, according to a just-released Washington Post/ABC News poll, has not been taken in by the administration's Panglossian pronouncements. Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the US military is bogged down in Iraq. Nearly 60 percent said that the Iraq war was not worth fighting. More than 40 percent thought the Iraq war had made that country "a new Vietnam." And 52 percent maintained that the Iraq war has not made the United States safer.

It is always dangerous to democratic values for there to be such a large gap between what the president maintains and what the people know to be the case. More urgently, the Bush administration's delusional state about the progress of its war suggests that it is incompetent to safeguard the nation's security.

Bush and Cheney declare that the guerrillas are losing and their numbers and activities are falling. This sunny position may temporarily help prevent Bush's falling poll numbers from sinking into the gutter, but it bears no resemblance to reality. The guerrilla war is threatening the entire American project in Iraq. The northern city of Mosul, with a population of over a million, had been quiet and relatively pro-American until November 2004. After the US military launched its attack on the city of Fallujah, maintaining that it was a guerrilla center, enmity toward the United States spread rapidly across Iraq, and Mosul changed radically. Some 4,000 policemen resigned in fear of their lives, and Mosul became unstable and a site of continual guerrilla attacks.

Bush also misunderstands the significance of the Jan. 30 elections. Contrary to his hollow claims that the elections signaled the triumph of Iraqi unity, they were in fact a victory for sectarianism of a sort that did not exist in Iraq before the invasion. The Sunni Arabs, who largely did not vote, have only 17 members in the 275-seat parliament. They therefore are grossly underrepresented among the voting delegates on the committee charged with writing a new constitution, a situation that has contributed to the ongoing insurgency and threatens Iraq's future. The Shiites and Kurds both voted enthusiastically. The Shiite religious parties that had been close to Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian hard-liners swept to power in the Legislature.

And a highly dangerous phase lies ahead, as the new Iraqi government must decide how much independence to grant the Kurdish north. The future of the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, with its vast oil reserves, is a particularly volatile subject. If Iraqi Arabs and Kurds - whose peshmerga are the most potent Iraqi militia - are not able to reach agreement, the possibility of major clashes, even a civil war, cannot be ruled out.

And there is scant evidence to support Bush's claim that the war in Iraq is helping spread democracy in the Middle East, and no evidence whatsoever that the war is making America safer. The Egyptian elections are not going to be substantially more democratic. When democratic elections have been held, the results are hardly those that Bush and his neocon brain trust were hoping for. Elections in Lebanon, in which the militant Shiite group Hezbollah won overwhelmingly in the south, revealed the deep religious and ethnic fissures in that country. The postponed Palestinian elections are likely to increase the power of Hamas. The one-sidedly pro-Israel Bush administration has shown no willingness to deal realistically with either of those militant groups, and it has only recently and reluctantly adopted even a passive stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a result, the single issue that most fuels anti-Americanism throughout the region remains incendiary.

Meanwhile, reports of Quran desecration and mistreatment of Muslim prisoners, including brutal killings, have brought rage at America to all-time highs throughout the Muslim world, including the strategically crucial nations of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Bush administration is so hated that the very idea of American-style democracy is now tainted in the eyes of many Muslims eyes - and not just radicals. It is difficult to see how this is making America safer. As journalist Sarah Whalen pointed out in the Arab News, the increasingly effective guerrilla war has vindicated Baghdad Bob. "Baghdad Bob" (his real name was Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf) was the spokesman for the Iraqi regime who issued an endless stream of ludicrous pronouncements about how the mighty Iraq army was turning Baghdad into a mass grave for Americans, and so on. Today, many of his predictions, such as the one that the Iraqis would hurl "bullets and shoes" at the invading US military, not bouquets of roses, have come true. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Sahhaf has been honored on a higher plane. His rhetorical, of simply denying reality, has now been taken over by his arch-nemesis, George W. Bush.

Juan Cole is a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and the author of Sacred Space and Holy War (IB Tauris, 2002).

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/printer_060905M.shtml


Steve Soto: Critical Issues For Conyers To Explore At Next Week's DSM Hearing

From The Left-Coaster:

Critical Issues For Conyers To Explore At Next Week's DSM Hearing

As you can see from Eriposte’s fine piece below, even though the corporate conservative media has largely failed to cover the Downing Street Memo here in this country, the memo is finally getting the attention it deserves. The British media has been all over this story, to the point that Tony Blair will soon be sued by Military Families Against the War to demand an independent public inquiry into the background behind the decisions taken by Blair and Bush to take the two nations into war. Here in this country, several groups, spearheaded by AfterDowningStreet.org have focused on getting more congressional and media attention to the memo and what it portends, namely that Bush and Blair had plans in place in the Summer of 2002 to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein regardless of what happened subsequently at the United Nations, which is contrary to what Bush told Congress and the American people.

The leading congressional Democrat who has taken up the charge to push the Downing Street Memo into public view has been Michigan Democratic congressman John Conyers, who with the support of the House Democratic leadership has scheduled a Democratic policy committee hearing for next Thursday, June 16 to take testimony and hear from witnesses on the issues of whether or not Bush planned to go to war anyway and whether or not the Bush Administration “fixed” the collection of intelligence to support a decision that had already been made in the Summer of 2002 to go to war, even if Saddam totally capitulated to Bush’s demands. Blog coordination work is being done by the BigBrassAlliance.

The White House, as might be expected, is brushing off the memo, and hiding behind Blair himself who is trying to downplay it without denying its authenticity. As usual with the White House and Bush, they will either say things like “conspiracy theories,” or “this has been answered and dealt with before”, or “numerous investigations have been done and have shown that ….” without ever directly answering the charges themselves. And the corporate conservative media lets it go at that. However, Conyers is going to force the media to pay attention to the memo by staging a news event that will package evidence for them, doing the work for a lazy and disinterested media.

The White House to date has dismissed one of the memo’s basic conclusions, that the intelligence was “fixed around the policy”, and Conyers can expect the same treatment in response next week. One way to make it more difficult for the White House to slither away this time would be for Conyers to not only focus on the intelligence, for which the administration holds many corrupted cards in its favor, but to build an argument of related events around and leading up to the period addressed by the memo to prove that in the context of other developments in the run up to the war, the memo’s contentions are quite plausible and invulnerable from White House challenge. Namely, if Conyers can build a strong argument that goes beyond the intelligence and deals with the issue of whether or not the decision had already been made to go to war, then the White House is in a more precarious position.

I’d like to suggest that Conyers focus on three issues and call these individuals as possible witnesses next week in his efforts to build a case that the decision had already been made in the summer of 2002. All three of these supporting arguments have already been covered here at the Left Coaster:

First and most damaging to me, as we first reported back in October 2003, why would the White House see a need to build a strategic information campaign using White House staff to manipulate media coverage in favor of a war months in advance of going to the UN, Congress, and the American people if the issue and decision had not already been made? Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner wrote a little-noticed but never disputed paper that outlined the steps the Bush Administration took to build what in essence was a strategic influence and disinformation campaign to manipulate the media and sway public opinion in favor of a war that Bush says he hadn’t yet decided upon. These efforts started with the creation of the Coalition Information Office by none other than Karen Hughes at about the same time the Downing Street Memo said that Bush had made up his mind. Colonel Gardiner feels that the organization was in fact put together at the time of the memo, and that the “marketing” of the war began in September when Congress returned from summer recess. Since his study came out, Colonel Gardiner has received confirmation from a number of sources including sources inside the Bush Administration that almost all of his initial conclusions were correct. Even though the whole study is chilling, pay particular attention to his material from Page 50 onward to see how the Downing Street Memo can be supported with Gardiner’s work. Perhaps Congressman Conyers can call Colonel Gardiner as a witness next week to lay out the involvement of the White House and outside GOP public relations firms in selling a war to the Congress and the American people through an intimidated and spoon-fed media, a campaign that actually commenced around the same time that the Downing Street Memo indicated a decision had already been made. And yes, I've talked with Gardiner today, and Colonel Gardiner is willing to share his information with Conyers.

Second, none other than Bob Woodward himself in his wet-kiss book “Bush at War” reported that Bush authorized Rumsfeld to move approximately $700 million from Afghanistan reconstruction to the establishment of a logistical infrastructure to support an Iraq invasion, without the required congressional notice and authority. When did this happen, as Woodward notes with a great deal of risk of legal problems for the White House? It happened in July 2002, at about the same time as the Downing Street Memo was written saying the decision had already been made by Bush, within a month of the Downing Street Memo. Perhaps Conyers can call Bob Woodward as a witness to testify about what he found in researching his book on this congressionally-unauthorized transfer of funds from Afghan reconstruction to Iraq war planning during the Summer of 2002.

And lastly, it has been reported that Bush dropped in on a White House meeting in Condi Rice’s office in March 2002, and blurted to the three startled US senators Rice was meeting with “Fuck Saddam, we’re going to take him out.” Perhaps Conyers can call the three senators as well as Michael Elliott and James Carney of Time Magazine to confirm what Bush said and did, three months before the Downing Street Memo said that a decision had already been made.

Again, the key for Conyers is not to get trapped into building his case primarily upon the fixed intelligence claim in the memo, but to build also a circumstantial case as well that supports the bigger claim that the decision had already been made by the White House to go to war in the Summer of 2002, despite what was being told to Congress and the American people.

http://www.theleftcoaster.com/archives/004611.php

Frank Rich - Don't Follow the Money

The New York Times
June 12, 2005
Don't Follow the Money
By FRANK RICH

THE morning the Deep Throat story broke, the voice on my answering machine was as raspy as Hal Holbrook's. "I just want you to remember that I wrote 'Follow the money,' " said my caller. "I want to know if anybody will give me credit. Watch for the accuracy of the media!"

The voice belonged to my friend William Goldman, who wrote the movie "All the President's Men." His words proved more than a little prescient. As if on cue, journalists everywhere - from The New York Times to The Economist to The Washington Post itself - would soon start attributing this classic line of dialogue to the newly unmasked Deep Throat, W. Mark Felt. But the line was not in Woodward and Bernstein's book or in The Post's Watergate reportage or in Bob Woodward's contemporaneous notes. It was the invention of the author of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Marathon Man" and "The Princess Bride."

This confusion of Hollywood's version of history with the genuine article would quickly prove symptomatic of the overall unreality of the Deep Throat coverage. Was Mr. Felt a hero or a villain? Should he "follow the money" into a book deal, and if so, how would a 91-year-old showing signs of dementia either write a book or schmooze about it with Larry King? How did Vanity Fair scoop The Post? How does Robert Redford feel about it all? Such were the questions that killed time for a nation awaiting the much-heralded feature mediathon, the Michael Jackson verdict.

Richard Nixon and Watergate itself, meanwhile, were often reduced to footnotes. Three years ago, on Watergate's 30th anniversary, an ABC News poll found that two-thirds of Americans couldn't explain what the scandal was, and no one was racing to enlighten them this time around. Vanity Fair may have taken the trouble to remind us that Watergate was a web of crime yielding the convictions and guilty pleas of more than 30 White House and Nixon campaign officials, but few others did. Watergate has gone back to being the "third-rate burglary" of Nixon administration spin. It is once again being covered up.

Not without reason. Had the scandal been vividly resuscitated as the long national nightmare it actually was, it would dampen all the Felt fun by casting harsh light on our own present nightmare. "The fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before" was how the former Nixon speech writer William Safire put it on this page almost nine months ago. The current administration, a second-term imperial presidency that outstrips Nixon's in hubris by the day, leads the attack, trying to intimidate and snuff out any Woodwards or Bernsteins that might challenge it, any media proprietor like Katharine Graham or editor like Ben Bradlee who might support them and any anonymous source like Deep Throat who might enable them to find what Carl Bernstein calls "the best obtainable version of the truth."

The attacks continue to be so successful that even now, long after many news organizations, including The Times, have been found guilty of failing to puncture the administration's prewar W.M.D. hype, new details on that same story are still being ignored or left uninvestigated. The July 2002 "Downing Street memo," the minutes of a meeting in which Tony Blair and his advisers learned of a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq, was published by The London Sunday Times on May 1. Yet in the 19 daily Scott McClellan briefings that followed, the memo was the subject of only 2 out of the approximately 940 questions asked by the White House press corps, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon.

This is the kind of lapdog news media the Nixon White House cherished. To foster it, Nixon's special counsel, Charles W. Colson, embarked on a ruthless program of intimidation that included threatening antitrust action against the networks if they didn't run pro-Nixon stories. Watergate tapes and memos make Mr. Colson, who boasted of "destroying the old establishment," sound like the founding father of today's blogging lynch mobs. He exulted in bullying CBS to cut back its Watergate reports before the '72 election. He enlisted NBC in pro-administration propaganda by browbeating it to repackage 10-day-old coverage of Tricia Nixon's wedding as a prime-time special. It was the Colson office as well that compiled a White House enemies list that included journalists who had the audacity to question administration policies.

Such is the equivalently supine state of much of the news media today that Mr. Colson was repeatedly trotted out, without irony, to pass moral judgment on Mr. Felt - and not just on Fox News, the cable channel that is actually run by the former Nixon media maven, Roger Ailes. "I want kids to look up to heroes," Mr. Colson said, oh so sorrowfully, on NBC's "Today" show, condemning Mr. Felt for dishonoring "the confidence of the president of the United States." Never mind that Mr. Colson dishonored the law, proposed bombing the Brookings Institution and went to prison for his role in the break-in to steal the psychiatric records of The Times's Deep Throat on Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg. The "Today" host, Matt Lauer, didn't mention any of this - or even that his guest had done jail time. None of the other TV anchors who interviewed Mr. Colson - and he was ubiquitous - ever specified his criminal actions in the Nixon years. Some identified him onscreen only as a "former White House counsel."

Had anyone been so rude (or professional) as to recount Mr. Colson's sordid past, or to raise the question of whether he was a hero or a traitor, the genealogical line between his Watergate-era machinations and those of his present-day successors would have been all too painfully clear. The main difference is that in the Nixon White House, the president's men plotted behind closed doors. The current administration is now so brazen it does its dirty work in plain sight.

In the most recent example, all the president's men slimed and intimidated Newsweek by accusing it of being an accessory to 17 deaths for its errant Koran story; led by Scott McClellan, they said it was unthinkable that any American guard could be disrespectful of Islam's holy book. These neo-Colsons easily drowned out Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, both of whom said that the riots that led to the 17 deaths were unrelated to Newsweek. Then came the pièce de résistance of Nixon mimicry: a Pentagon report certifying desecrations of the Koran by American guards was released two weeks after the Newsweek imbroglio, at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, to assure it would miss the evening newscasts and be buried in the Memorial Day weekend's little-read papers.

At other times the new Colsons top the old one. Though Nixon aspired to punish public broadcasting by cutting its funding, he never imagined that his apparatchiks could seize the top executive positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Nor did he come up with the brilliant ideas of putting journalists covertly on the administration payroll and of hiring an outside P.R. firm (Ketchum) to codify an enemies list by ranking news organizations and individual reporters on the basis of how favorably they cover a specific administration policy (No Child Left Behind). President Bush has even succeeded in emasculating the post-Watergate reform that was supposed to help curb Nixonian secrecy, the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

THE journalists who do note the resonances of now with then rarely get to connect those dots on the news media's center stage of television. You are more likely to hear instead of how Watergate inspired too much "gotcha" journalism. That's a rather absurd premise given that no "gotcha" journalist got the goods on the biggest story of our time: the false intimations of incipient mushroom clouds peddled by American officials to sell a war that now threatens to match the unpopularity and marathon length of Vietnam.

Only once during the Deep Throat rollout did I see a palpable, if perhaps unconscious, effort to link the White House of 1972 with that of 2005. It occurred at the start, when ABC News, with the first comprehensive report on Vanity Fair's scoop, interrupted President Bush's post-Memorial Day Rose Garden news conference to break the story. Suddenly the image of the current president blathering on about how hunky-dory everything is in Iraq was usurped by repeated showings of the scene in which the newly resigned Nixon walked across the adjacent White House lawn to the helicopter that would carry him into exile.

But in the days that followed, Nixon and his history and the long shadows they cast largely vanished from the TV screen. In their place were constant nostalgic replays of young Redford and flinty Holbrook. Follow the bait-and-switch.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/12/opinion/12rich.html?hp=&pagewanted=print

Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse’

From the London Times Online

June 12, 2005

Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse’
Michael Smith

MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.

“US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia,” the briefing paper warned. This meant that issues of legality “would arise virtually whatever option ministers choose with regard to UK participation”.

The paper was circulated to those present at the meeting, among whom were Blair, Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of MI6. The full minutes of the meeting were published last month in The Sunday Times.

The document said the only way the allies could justify military action was to place Saddam Hussein in a position where he ignored or rejected a United Nations ultimatum ordering him to co-operate with the weapons inspectors. But it warned this would be difficult.

“It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the legal justification they needed.

The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war. The attack on Iraq finally began in March 2003.

The briefing paper is certain to add to the pressure, particularly on the American president, because of the damaging revelation that Bush and Blair agreed on regime change in April 2002 and then looked for a way to justify it.

There has been a growing storm of protest in America, created by last month’s publication of the minutes in The Sunday Times. A host of citizens, including many internet bloggers, have demanded to know why the Downing Street memo (often shortened to “the DSM” on websites) has been largely ignored by the US mainstream media.

The White House has declined to respond to a letter from 89 Democratic congressmen asking if it was true — as Dearlove told the July meeting — that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” in Washington.

The Downing Street memo burst into the mainstream American media only last week after it was raised at a joint Bush-Blair press conference, forcing the prime minister to insist that “the facts were not fixed in any shape or form at all”.

John Conyers, the Democratic congressman who drafted the letter to Bush, has now written to Dearlove asking him to say whether or not it was accurate that he believed the intelligence was being “fixed” around the policy. He also asked the former MI6 chief precisely when Bush and Blair had agreed to invade Iraq and whether it is true they agreed to “manufacture” the UN ultimatum in order to justify the war.

He and other Democratic congressmen plan to hold their own inquiry this Thursday with witnesses including Joe Wilson, the American former ambassador who went to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore for its nuclear weapons programme.

Frustrated at the refusal by the White House to respond to their letter, the congressmen have set up a website — www.downingstreetmemo.com — to collect signatures on a petition demanding the same answers.

Conyers promised to deliver it to Bush once it reached 250,000 signatures. By Friday morning it already had more than 500,000 with as many as 1m expected to have been obtained when he delivers it to the White House on Thursday.

AfterDowningStreet.org, another website set up as a result of the memo, is calling for a congressional committee to consider whether Bush’s actions as depicted in the memo constitute grounds for impeachment.

It has been flooded with visits from people angry at what they see as media self-censorship in ignoring the memo. It claims to have attracted more than 1m hits a day.

Democrats.com, another website, even offered $1,000 (about £550) to any journalist who quizzed Bush about the memo’s contents, although the Reuters reporter who asked the question last Tuesday was not aware of the reward and has no intention of claiming it.

The complaints of media self-censorship have been backed up by the ombudsmen of The Washington Post, The New York Times and National Public Radio, who have questioned the lack of attention the minutes have received from their organisations.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1650822,00.html

Friday, June 10, 2005

Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism

Once Again:

Fourteen Defining
Characteristics Of Fascism
By Dr. Lawrence Britt
Source Free Inquiry.co
5-28-3


Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread
domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

From Liberty Forum

http://www.libertyforum.org/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=news_constitution&Number=642
109&page=&view=&sb=&o=&vc=1&t=-1


The Russert Watch

The Russert Watch

By Arianna Huffington, AlterNet. Posted June 7, 2005.

During his 'Meet the Press' appearance, RNC chair Ken Mehlman was allowed to distort, twist, manipulate and obfuscate his way through every stop on the disinformation highway.

Sunday's Meet the Press, featuring RNC chair Ken Mehlman, was another classic example of why host Tim Russert is fast becoming journalism's answer to the "E-ZPass," those electronic tags that allow drivers to go through toll booths without having to stop. On the show today, Mehlman was allowed to distort, twist, manipulate, obfuscate and "disassemble" his way through every stop on the disinformation highway.

The key to the E-ZPass method is no follow-ups -- or lame follow-ups quickly abandoned. And Mehlman is a master at dealing with those. His technique? Just repeat or slightly rephrase his talking point, and trust that Russert will give up, wave him on and proceed to the next prepared question.

To see a master in action, let's go to the transcript:

Early in the interview, Russert asks Mehlman whether "the president has hit a wall with his domestic agenda? What's the problem?"

The RNC chair dances around the question so deftly his moves should be taught at Arthur Murray: "Tim, I don't think there's a problem," he responds, and then promptly changes the subject to Ronald Reagan before closing with an RNC commercial.

"Before we provided prescription drugs for Medicare, we were told it wasn't going to happen. Before the president was able to move forward with No Child Left Behind, we were told it was stalled. We just passed class-action reform for the first time in six years and that, too, was predicted not to happen."

If Russert were doing his job, he would have countered with some well-aired problems with these three accomplishments: the Medicare prescription drug plan was promised to cost under $400 billion over 10 years but now stands at $724 billion (and, in a stunning giveaway to the drug industry, the government gets no bulk-purchasing discount); the No Child Left Behind Act has been such a massively underfunded disaster that 12 states are considering legislation to get out of it; and the class-action "reform" will just make it harder for injured people to get a fair day in court.

But E-ZPass Russert mentions none of the above. Instead, he waves Mehlman through and moves on to stem cell research about which Mehlman says: "This is the first administration ever that has funded with federal dollars embryonic stem cell research."

Does Russert bother to point out that this is not much of claim, since this is the first administration ever to have had the chance to fund embryonic stem cell research? Of course not. Mehlman is in the GOP Express Lane. No need to slow down for little things like facts. Move right along.

Russert actually allows Mehlman to get away with saying, "So you have an administration that is unprecedented in our commitment to more scientific research," without offering a spit take, a rim shot, or a "Please, Ken, not even I can let you slide on that one!"

Russert then switches to his pet interrogatory method: asking his guest for a reaction to a pointed quote from someone else -- in this case, former Republican Sen. John Danforth:

"By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around."

Mehlman bypasses the criticism altogether, leaving Danforth in his rear-view mirror with a condescending, "I think he's a good man. I would respectfully disagree with that." And Russert lets him get away without even attempting to answer a serious charge from a senior member of his own party.

And on and on Mehlman rolls, on issue after issue after issue:

On the deficit, he follows the administration's standard "In An Emergency Break Glass" procedure and seeks refuge in 9/11: "Well, Tim, I would say that what we've suffered, unfortunately, was an attack on this country."

When asked why, even after the president's 100-day tour, 56 percent of Americans continue to oppose his Social Security plan, Mehlman says he "would respectfully disagree with those numbers," then counters them with a bit of complete nonsense: "That same NBC News poll showed that a plurality of Americans believe that Congress is moving too slowly on the question of dealing with Social Security."

Now even if a plurality of Americans saying something actually meant anything, I read that poll three times from beginning to end -- yes, I did have a fun Sunday -- and it says nothing of the sort.

When asked about the latest Pentagon report that, in fact, several Korans were mishandled, Mehlman responds by calling this "unacceptable," but tries to minimize the unacceptability by putting it in "context": "We also need to remember it in the context, in the context of an America that is liberating Muslims."

Well, it's all fine and dandy if we want to look at it that way, but the question is not how we look at it, it's how Muslims look at it. And, unlike Russert, they're not buying Mehlman's "context."

When asked about the Downing Street Memo, which shows that Bush was determined to go to war almost a year before the invasion, and that the intelligence was accordingly "fixed," Mehlman falls back on an out-and-out fabrication: "Tim, that report has been discredited by everyone else who's looked at it since then."

Russert actually manages a follow up on this whopper: "I don't believe that the authenticity of this report has been discredited."

But Mehlman just flashes his E-ZPass again: "I believe that the findings of the report, the fact that the intelligence was somehow fixed, have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it."

And so he gets through. And, returning to form, Bulldog Russert just gives up.

They eventually make it to Pat Tillman, and the fact that Tillman's family was deeply offended by the Pentagon's lies regarding the circumstances of their son's death and its attempt to make Tillman a poster child to sell the war.

Mehlman's response is that he "respectfully disagrees" with Tillman's mother.

In fact, Mehlman said he "respectfully disagrees" a total of seven times over the course of the interview. Sometimes he respectfully disagrees with people, sometimes with a report, sometimes with numbers. Mostly, he "respectfully disagrees" with the truth.

But there's something about the way Mehlman says it that makes him come off like a prissy doorman. You know that when he says, "I respectfully disagree," he really means "Fuck off."

"Ken Mehlman," Russert intones in closing, "we hope you'll come back."

And given the obliging treatment he got, you know he will.

http://www.alternet.org/columnists/story/22178/

Find more Arianna at Ariannaonline.com.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. Home Page

Scroll down to Preserving Democracy: What went wrong in Ohio

You could read the whole 102 page report, however, the first couple of bold, italic print gives a really nice summary as to how this last election was won by Kerry.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. Home Page

Something Rotten in OhioSomething Rotten in Ohio

I'm going to find the link to Rep. Conyer's report on Ohio as well.

Something Rotten in Ohio

by Gore Vidal

06/10/05 "The Nation"
- - Outside the oil and gas junta that controls two and a half branches of our government (the half soon to be whole is the judiciary), there was a good deal of envy at the late British election among those Americans who are serious about politics. Little money was spent by the three parties and none for TV advertising. Results were achieved swiftly and cheaply. Best of all, the three party leaders were quizzed sharply and intelligently by ordinary citizens known quaintly as subjects, thanks to the ubiquitous phantom crown so unlike our nuclear-taloned predatory eagle. Although news of foreign countries seldom appears in our tightly censored media (and good news, never), those of us who are addicted to C-SPAN and find it the one truly, if unconsciously, subversive media outlet in these United States are able to observe British politics in full cry.

I say “subversive” not only because C-SPAN is apt to take interesting books seriously but also because of its live coverage of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the only look we are ever allowed at the mouthpieces of our masters up close and, at times, most reflective of a government more and more remote from us, unaccountable and repressive. To watch the righteous old prophet Byrd of West Virginia, the sunny hypocrisy of Biden of Delaware—as I write these hallowed names, I summon up their faces, hear their voices, and I am covered with C-SPAN goose bumps.

At any rate, wondrous C-SPAN has another string to its bow. While some executive was nodding, C-SPAN started showing us Britain’s House of Commons during Question Time. This is the only glimpse that most Americans will ever get of how democracy is supposed to work.

These party leaders are pitted against one another in often savage debate on subjects of war and peace, health and education. Then some 600 Members of Parliament are allowed to ask questions of their great chieftains. Years ago the incomparable Dwight Macdonald wrote that any letter to the London Times (the Brits are inveterate letter writers on substantive issues) is better written than any editorial in the New York Times.

In addition to Question Time, which allows Americans to see how political democracy works, as opposed to our two chambers of lobbyists for corporate America, C-SPAN also showed the three party leaders being interrogated by a cross section of, for the most part, youthful subjects of the phantom crown and presided over by an experienced po-lit-i-cal journalist. Blair was roughly accused of lying about the legal advice he had received apropos Britain’s right to go to war in Iraq for the US oil and gas junta. This BBC live audience asked far more informed and informative questions than the entire US press corps was allowed to ask Bush et al. in our recent election. But Americans are not used to challenging authority in what has been called wartime by a President who has ordered invasions of two countries that have done us no harm and is now planning future wars despite dwindling manpower and lack of money. Blair, for just going along, had to deal with savage, informed questions of a sort that Bush would never answer even if he were competent to do so.

So we have seen what democracy across the water can do. All in all a jarring experience for anyone foolish enough to believe that America is democratic in anything except furiously imprisoning the innocent and joyously electing the guilty. What to do? As a first step, I invite the radicals at C-SPAN who take seriously our Constitution and Bill of Rights to address their attention to the corruption of the presidential election of 2004, particularly in the state of Ohio.

One of the most useful members of the House—currently the most useful—is John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat who, in his capacity as ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, led the committee’s Democratic Congressmen and their staffers into the heart of the American heartland, the Western Reserve; specifically, into the not-so-red state of Ohio, once known as “the mother of Presidents.”

He had come to answer the question that the minority of Americans who care about the Republic have been asking since November 2004: “What went wrong in Ohio?” He is too modest to note the difficulties he must have undergone even to assemble this team in the face of the triumphalist Republican Congressional majority, not to mention the unlikely heir to himself, George W. Bush, whose original selection by the Supreme Court brought forth many reports on what went wrong in Florida in 2000.

These led to an apology from Associate Justice John Paul Stevens for the behavior of the 5-to-4 majority of the Court in the matter of Bush v. Gore. Loser Bush then brought on undeclared wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the greatest deficits in our history and the revelations that the policies of an Administration that—much as Count Dracula fled cloves of garlic—flees all accountability were responsible for the murder and torture of captive men, between 70 percent and 90 percent of whom, by the Pentagon’s estimate, had been swept up at random, earning us the hatred of a billion Muslims and the disgust of what is called the civilized world.

Asked to predict who would win in ’04, I said that, again, Bush would lose, but I was confident that in the four years between 2000 and 2004 creative propaganda and the fixing of election officials might very well be so perfected as to insure an official victory for Mr. Bush. As Representative Conyers’s report, Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio (www.house.gov/conyers), shows in great detail, the swing state of Ohio was carefully set up to deliver an apparent victory for Bush even though Kerry appears to have been the popular winner as well as the valedictorian-that-never-was of the Electoral College.

I urge would-be reformers of our politics as well as of such anachronisms as the Electoral College to read Conyers’s valuable guide on how to steal an election once you have in place the supervisor of the state’s electoral process: In this case, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who orchestrated a famous victory for those who hate democracy (a permanent but passionate minority). The Conyers Report states categorically, “With regard to our factual findings, in brief, we find that there were massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio. In many cases these irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State Kenneth J. Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio.” In other words, the Florida 2000 scenario redux, when the chair for Bush/Cheney was also the Secretary of State. Lesson? Always plan ahead for at least four more years.

It is well-known in the United States of Amnesia that not only did Ohio have a considerable number of first-time voters but that Blackwell and his gang, through “the misallocation of voting machines, led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters.”

For the past few years many of us have been warning about the electronic voting machines, first publicized on the Internet by investigator Bev Harris, for which she was much reviled by the officers of such companies as Diebold, Sequoia, Es & S, Triad; this last voting computer company “has essentially admitted that it engaged in a course of behavior during the recount in numerous counties to provide ‘cheat sheets’ to those counting the ballots. The cheat sheets informed election officials how many votes they should find for each candidate, and how many over and under votes they should calculate to match the machine count. In that way, they could avoid doing a full county-wide hand count mandated by state law.”

Yet despite all this manpower and money power, exit polls showed that Kerry would win Ohio. So, what happened?

I have told more than enough of this mystery story so thoroughly investigated by Conyers and his Congressional colleagues and their staffers. Not only were the crimes against democracy investigated, but the report on What Went Wrong in Ohio comes up with quite a number of ways to set things right.

Needless to say, this report was ignored when the Electoral College produced its unexamined tally of the votes state by state. Needless to say, no joint committee of the two houses of Congress was convened to consider the various crimes committed and to find ways and means to avoid their repetition in 2008, should we be allowed to hold an election once we have unilaterally, yet again, engaged in a war—this time with Iran. Anyway, thanks to Conyers, the writing is now high up there on the wall for us all to see clearly: “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.” Students of the Good Book will know what these words of God meant to Belshazzar and his cronies in old Babylon.

© 2005 The Nation

Will the Emasculated Stenographers of the Press Overlook Yet Another White House Deception?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Will the Emasculated Stenographers of the Press Overlook Yet Another White House Deception?

“A journalist,” observed George Bernard Shaw, “is someone who cannot distinguish between a bicycle accident and the end of civilization.” Yesterday, the New York Times reported that a high level White House official had deliberately and methodically altered taxpayer funded studies on global warming to lie to the public about its impacts and causes. The agent of this deception was Philip Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist, who apparently committed this treachery against America, humanity and civilization in order to safeguard oil industry profits.

And where is the press which recently tolerated the impeachment of the sitting president for lying about an extramarital tryst? My prediction: the emasculated stenographers who make up the White House press corps will ignore this latest outrage as they have prior Bush White House deceptions on critical public policy issues ranging from global warming, to the budget deficit, Medicaid and the war in Iraq.

In the past four years the White House has altered, suppressed, or attempted to discredit close to a dozen major reports on global warming. These include a 10-year peer-reviewed study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, commissioned by George Bush Sr. in 1993 in his own effort to dodge what was already a virtual scientific consensus blaming industrial emissions for global warming. The list also includes major long-term studies by the federal government’s National Academy of Sciences, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as a 2002 collaborative report by scientists at all three of those agencies.

Where are those self-righteous “moral” conservatives who branded Bill Clinton a liar based upon a single misdeed involving a personal matter and who now ignore this administration’s systematic deception of the public on grave matters of public policy?

stopglobalwarming.org

Building Iraq's Army: Mission Improbable

"Building Iraq's Army: Mission Improbable
Project in North Reveals Deep Divide Between U.S. and Iraqi Forces

By Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 10, 2005; A01

BAIJI, Iraq -- An hour before dawn, the sky still clouded by a dust storm, the soldiers of the Iraqi army's Charlie Company began their mission with a ballad to ousted president Saddam Hussein. "We have lived in humiliation since you left," one sang in Arabic, out of earshot of his U.S. counterparts. "We had hoped to spend our life with you."

But the Iraqi soldiers had no clue where they were going. They shrugged their shoulders when asked what they would do. The U.S. military had billed the mission as pivotal in the Iraqis' progress as a fighting force but had kept the destination and objectives secret out of fear the Iraqis would leak the information to insurgents.

"We can't tell these guys about a lot of this stuff, because we're not really sure who's good and who isn't," said Rick McGovern, a tough-talking 37-year-old platoon sergeant from Hershey, Pa., who heads the military training for Charlie Company.

The reconstruction of Iraq's security forces is the prerequisite for an American withdrawal from Iraq. But as the Bush administration extols the continuing progress of the new Iraqi army, the project in Baiji, a desolate oil town at a strategic crossroads in northern Iraq, demonstrates the immense challenges of building an army from scratch in the middle of a bloody insurgency.

Charlie Company disintegrated once after its commander was killed by a car bomb in December. And members of the unit were threatening to quit en masse this week over complaints that ranged from dismal living conditions to insurgent threats. Across a vast cultural divide, language is just one impediment. Young Iraqi soldiers, ill-equipped and drawn from a disenchanted Sunni Arab minority, say they are not even sure what they are fighting for. They complain bitterly that their American mentors don't respect them.

In fact, the Americans don't: Frustrated U.S. soldiers question the Iraqis' courage, discipline and dedication and wonder whether they will ever be able to fight on their own, much less reach the U.S. military's goal of operating independently by the fall.

"I know the party line. You know, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, five-star generals, four-star generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld: The Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period," said 1st Lt. Kenrick Cato, 34, of Long Island, N.Y., the executive officer of McGovern's company, who sold his share in a database firm to join the military full time after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "But from the ground, I can say with certainty they won't be ready before I leave. And I know I'll be back in Iraq, probably in three or four years. And I don't think they'll be ready then."

"We don't want to take responsibility; we don't want it," said Amar Mana, 27, an Iraqi private whose forehead was grazed by a bullet during an insurgent attack in November. "Here, no way. The way the situation is, we wouldn't be ready to take responsibility for a thousand years."

Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, commander of the 42nd Infantry Division, which oversees an area of north-central Iraq that includes Baiji and is the size of West Virginia, called the Iraqi forces "improved and improving." He acknowledged that the Iraqis suffered from a lack of equipment and manpower but predicted that, at least in his area of operation, the U.S. military would meet its goal of having battalion-level units operating independently by the fall.

"I can tell you, making assessments, I think we're on target," he said in an interview.

U.S. officers said the Iraqis had been particularly instrumental in obtaining intelligence that led to the detention of several suspected insurgent leaders in the region. They said it was unfair to evaluate the Iraqi forces by U.S. standards.

"We're not trying to make the 82nd Airborne here," Taluto said.

Overall, the number of Iraqi military and police trained and equipped is more than 169,000, according to the U.S. military, which has also said there are 107 operational military and special police battalions. As of last month, however, U.S. and Iraqi commanders had rated only three battalions capable of operating independently.

Two Washington Post reporters spent three days traveling with the Americans and the Iraqis, respectively. The unit was selected by the U.S. military. The journey revealed fundamental, perhaps irreconcilable differences over everything from the reluctance of Muslim soldiers to search mosques and homes to basic questions of lifestyle. Earlier this year, for instance, the Americans imported Western-style portable toilets that the Iraqis, accustomed to another style, found objectionable. In an attempt to bridge the difference, the U.S. military installed diagrams depicting proper use of the "port-a-johns."

The differences clash across a landscape that has grown increasingly violent since Iraq's Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, when U.S. commanders made the training of the Iraqi forces their top priority. In Taluto's region, insurgents set off five car bombs in February; there were 35 in May. Over that period, 1,150 roadside bombs were planted, according to division statistics.

Last week, U.S soldiers from 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, and Iraqis from 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, clambered into their vehicles to patrol the streets of Baiji. The Americans drove fully enclosed armored Humvees, the Iraqis open-backed Humvees with benches, the sides of which were protected by plating the equivalent of a flak jacket. The Americans were part of 1st Battalion, 103rd Armor Regiment of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

As an American reporter climbed in with the Iraqis, the U.S. soldiers watched in bemused horror.

"You might be riding home alone," one soldier said to the other reporter.

"Is he riding in the back of that?" asked another. "I'll be over here praying."
'Preschoolers With Guns'

The Iraqi soldiers were a grim lot, patrolling streets where they lived and mosques where they worshiped. As they entered their neighborhoods, some of them donned black balaclavas and green scarves to mask their identities. They passed graffiti on walls that, like the town, were colored in shades of brown. "Yes to the leader Saddam," one slogan read. "Long live the mujaheddin," said another. Nearly all the men had received leaflets warning them to quit; the houses of several had been attacked by insurgents.

"Don't you dare move!" shouted Cpl. Ahmed Zwayid, 26, pointing his gun at an approaching car.

The men spoke of the insurgents with a hint of awe, saying the fighters were willing to die and outgunned them with rocket-propelled grenades and, more fearsome, car bombs. Zwayid, a father of three, looked in disgust at his own AK-47 assault rifle, with a green shoelace for a strap.

"We fire 10 bullets and it falls apart," he said. Zwayid patted a heavy machine gun mounted in the bed of the Humvee. "This jams," he said. "Are these the weapons worthy of a soldier?" He and others said it was a sign of the Americans' lack of confidence in them.

"We trust the Americans. We go everywhere with them, we do what they ask," he said. "But they don't trust us."

Up ahead, McGovern conducted his own tour of Baiji's panorama of violence. He pointed out "dead man's grove," a stand of trees the Americans recently bulldozed because it was used to conceal bombs, and "dead man's road," a dangerous stretch of highway. A nearby lot was strewn with jagged pieces of car bomb.

"Honestly, I don't think people in America understand how touchy the situation really is right now," McGovern said. "We have the military power, the military might, but we're handling everything with kid gloves because we're hoping the Iraqis are going to step up and start taking things on themselves. But they don't have a clue how to do it."

Asked when he thought the Iraqi soldiers might be ready to operate independently, McGovern said: "Honestly, there's part of me that says never. There's some cultural issues that I don't think they'll ever get through."

McGovern added that the Iraqis had "come a long way in a very short period of time" and predicted they would ultimately succeed. But he said the effort was still in its infancy.

"We like to refer to the Iraqi army as preschoolers with guns," he said.

An hour later, the men returned to Forward Operating Base Summerall, a sandy expanse behind concrete barricades and concertina wire a few miles outside town. They followed U.S. military protocol: Each soldier dismounted from the vehicle and cleared his weapon. Zwayid stayed in the truck, handed his gun to a friend and asked him to clear it.

"Get down and clear your own weapon!" Cpl. William Kozlowski shouted to Zwayid in English.

Zwayid answered in Arabic. "That's my weapon," he explained, pointing to his friend.

"Corporal, you're a leader!" Kozlowski shouted back. "Take charge!"

Zwayid smiled at him. "What's he saying to me?" he whispered.
Searching for Respect

Charlie Company collapsed at 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 5. A gray Chevrolet Caprice packed with explosives detonated among a crowd of Iraqi soldiers during a shift change. Among the five dead was Capt. Mohammed Jassim Rumayidh, the company commander. His death prompted all but 30 of the company's 250 soldiers to quit; many took their weapons with them.

The bombing coincided with the arrival of a battalion of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. The unit began rebuilding the Iraqi company from scratch. The Americans initially sent a small group of soldiers to work with the Iraqis. That changed after the Jan. 30 elections. Cato said the unit received a flurry of orders from commanders to make the training of Iraqi security forces "our main effort."

The battalion dispatched McGovern's platoon, about 35 soldiers, to work exclusively with the Iraqis. But the effort was immediately beset by problems. Due to a mixup in paperwork, dozens of Iraqi soldiers went without pay for three months. Many lacked proper uniforms, body armor and weapons. To meet the shortfall, U.S. forces gave the Iraqis rifles and ammunition confiscated during raids in Baiji. Of six interpreters assigned to the company, two quit and two others said they were preparing to.

"They've come a long way in a short period of time," Cato, the Alpha Company executive officer, said of the Iraqi soldiers. "When we first got here, soldiers were going to sleep on the objective. Soldiers were selling their weapons when they went out on patrol. I was on missions when soldiers would get tired, and they would just start dragging their weapons or using them as walking sticks."

The men are housed at what they call simply "the base," a place as sparse as the name. Most of the Iraqis sleep in two tents and a shed with a concrete floor and corrugated tin roof that is bereft of walls. Some have cots; others sleep on cardboard or pieces of plywood stacked with tattered and torn blankets. The air conditioners are broken. There is no electricity.

Drinking water comes from a sun-soaked camouflage tanker whose meager faucet also provides water for bathing.

"This is the shower of the National Guard, Baiji Division," said Tala Izba, 23, a corporal, as others laughed.

"Mines, car bombs and our duties, and then we have to come back to this?" said another soldier, Kamil Khalaf.

Pvt. Aziz Nawaf, 23, shook his head. "At night, I'm so hot I feel like my skin is going to peel off," he said.

Almost to a man, the soldiers said they joined for the money -- a relatively munificent $300 to $400 a month. The military and police forces offered some of the few job opportunities in town. Even then, the soldiers were irate: They wanted more time off, air-conditioned quarters like their American counterparts and, most important, respect. Most frustrating, they said, was the two- or three-hour wait to be searched at the base's gate when they returned from leave.

The soldiers said 17 colleagues had quit in the past few days.

"In 15 days, we're all going to leave," Nawaf declared.

The two-dozen soldiers gathered nodded their heads.

"All of us," Khalaf said. "We'll live by God, but we'll have our respect."

But the Americans said the Iraqis hadn't earned respect. "As Arab men, they want for us to think that they're just the same as us as soldiers, that they're just as brave," Cato said. "But they show cowardice. They'll say to me, 'I wasn't afraid.' But if you're running, then you were obviously not just afraid, you were running away."
Divided by Culture

Last month, three trucks filled with two dozen soldiers from Charlie Company were ambushed near a Tigris River bridge. Instead of meeting the attack, the Iraqis fled and radioed for help. The Americans said the Iraqis told them they had lost 20 men, had run out of ammunition and were completely surrounded.

When a U.S. quick reaction force arrived, the area was quiet and the Iraqi soldiers were huddled around their trucks. Four were missing; it was later learned that they had hailed taxis, gone home and changed into civilian clothes. One soldier, the company's senior noncommissioned officer, refused to come out for several hours, saying he continued to be surrounded by insurgents.

After the incident, McGovern said he summoned an interpreter, asked him to translate the soldier's words verbatim and "disgraced" the Iraqi soldiers.

"You are all cowards," he began. "My soldiers are over here, away from our families for a year. We are willing to die for you to have freedom. You should be willing to die for your own freedom. If you continue to run away from the enemy, the enemy will continue to chase you. You will never win."

McGovern asked the interpreter, Nabras Mohammed, if he had gone too far.

"Well, you shouldn't have called them women, and you shouldn't have called them" wimps, Mohammed told him.

"Of course they were scared," said Cpl. Idris Dhanoun, 30, a native of Baiji with two years in the security forces, who defended his colleagues. "The majority of them haven't seen fighting, they haven't seen war, they haven't been soldiers. The terrorists want to die. A hundred percent, they want to die. It's jihad. They want to kill themselves in the path of God."

Shortly after the ambush, a sniper shot a U.S. soldier standing on the roof of a police station, inflicting a severe head wound. The Americans suspected that the fire had come from the nearby Rahma mosque. American and Iraqi troops surrounded the building. Fearful of inflaming resentment, U.S. soldiers ordered their Iraqi counterparts to search the mosque. They initially refused, entering only after McGovern berated them.

"But I don't know if they searched it that well. They were still tip-toeing when they were in there," said Sgt. Cary Conner, 25, of Newport News, Va., who was among the first soldiers on the scene.

U.S. forces then ordered the Iraqis to arrest everyone inside the mosque, including the respected elderly prayer leader. The Iraqi platoon leader refused, U.S. soldiers recalled. The platoon leader and his men then sat down next to the mosque in protest.

"We wanted to tell the Americans they couldn't do this again," Dhanoun said.

In a measure of the shame they felt, the men insisted they had not entered the mosque.

"You can't enter the mosque with weapons. We have traditions, we have honor, and we're Muslims," Dhanoun said. "You enter the mosque to pray, you don't enter the mosque with guns."

At 4:30 a.m. Monday, the men of Charlie Company and the entire U.S. battalion -- some 800 soldiers -- set out in a convoy for west Baiji. The Americans used night-vision goggles to see in the dark. The Iraqis had glow sticks. Before the troops had left the base, an Iraqi driver plowed into a concrete barrier, momentarily delaying the convoy.

U.S. commanders said the involvement of the Iraqis on the mission -- a series of raids to crack a bomb-making cell -- was critical to its success. But the Americans clearly have lowered their expectations for the Iraqis' progress.

"Things are going to change according to their schedule, not our politics back home," said Sgt. Jonathan Flynn, 36, of Star Lake, N.Y. "You can't just put an artificial timetable on that."

Along dirt roads bisected by sewage canals, the men of Charlie Company crouched, their weapons ready. Before them was their home town, dilapidated and neglected. Cpl. Amir Omar, 19, gazed ahead.

"Look at the homes of the Iraqis," he said, a handkerchief concealing his face. "The people have been destroyed."

By whom? he was asked.

"Them," Omar said, pointing at the U.S. Humvees leading the patrol."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/09/AR2005060902245_pf.html