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 18, 2005

Relatives of some troops killed in Iraq seek hearings on Downing Street memo

From Stars and Stripes:

Relatives of some troops killed in Iraq seek hearings on Downing Street memo

By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, June 17, 2005

Leo Shane III / S&S
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., left, speaks to members of Military Families Speak Out about his experience at a soldier’s funeral last month. With him are, from left, Dianne Davis Santorello, Celeste Zappala and Bill Mitchell. All three had a son killed serving in Iraq.

Leo Shane III / S&S
Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., listens to members of Military Families Speak Out.

WASHINGTON — Several parents of soldiers killed in Iraq visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday to ask for congressional hearings on the Downing Street memo, which one mother called President Bush’s “Watergate.”

Critics say the document, which contains minutes from a meeting in July 2002 between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and top aides, shows that Bush was determined to go to war with Iraq and ignored evidence that showed the country had no weapons of mass destruction.

“Military action was now seen as inevitable,” the memo reads. “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.”

The memo was first revealed by the Sunday Times of London in May. Earlier this month, both Bush and Blair dismissed the accusations, saying that the war in Iraq was justified because Saddam Hussein was ignoring international law.

But members of Military Families Speak Out, whose members are relatives of troops killed in Iraq, said Congress must investigate whether the president lied to the country to justify military action.

“This war was based on lies and deception,” said Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose son was killed in April 2004 while providing security for investigators searching for WMD. “The only way we can understand how we’ve come to this disastrous position is to find out what the truth is.”

The group, which has frequently criticized the administration, met with congressmen and left flyers petitioning for a full investigation at the offices of Republican House leaders.

“I envy the parents who support this war, because if I did I’d sleep better,” said Dianne Davis Santorello, a Pennsylvania resident whose son was killed in August 2004. “But I don’t sleep well. My son died for a lie.”

She said the Downing Street memo would “bring down the house of cards” if lawmakers choose to investigate it, and compared it to the Watergate scandal which eventually forced President Richard Nixon from office.

Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said if true the allegations in the memo are “shameful” and told the parents, “Those who are responsible should be held accountable.”

“This clearly wasn’t a war of necessity; it was a war of choice,” he said.

The group also petitioned lawmakers to set a specific date for the full withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and other Republicans who last month supported an unsuccessful measure to mandate an exit date were presented with a certificate of thanks from the group.

Jones, who plans to introduce similar legislation on Thursday, said he was “heartsick” at the families’ loss and pledged to help them in their efforts.

Also on Thursday, Democrats have planned a meeting concerning the memo, to be followed by a rally outside the White House.

Memos Show British Fretting Over Iraq War

Memos Show British Fretting Over Iraq War

By THOMAS WAGNER, Associated Press Writer 27 minutes ago

When Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief foreign policy adviser dined with Condoleezza Rice six months after Sept. 11, the then-U.S. national security adviser didn't want to discuss Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida. She wanted to talk about "regime change" in Iraq, setting the stage for the U.S.-led invasion more than a year later.

President Bush wanted Blair's support, but British officials worried the White House was rushing to war, according to a series of leaked secret Downing Street memos that have renewed questions and debate about Washington's motives for ousting Saddam Hussein.

In one of the memos, British Foreign Office political director Peter Ricketts openly asks whether the Bush administration had a clear and compelling military reason for war.

"U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing," Ricketts says in the memo. "For Iraq, `regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."

The documents confirm Blair was genuinely concerned about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction, but also indicate he was determined to go to war as America's top ally, even though his government thought a pre-emptive attack may be illegal under international law.

"The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programs, but our tolerance of them post-11 September," said a typed copy of a March 22, 2002 memo obtained Thursday by The Associated Press and written to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

"But even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW (chemical or biological weapons) fronts: the programs are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up."

Details from Rice's dinner conversation also are included in one of the secret memos from 2002, which reveal British concerns about both the invasion and poor postwar planning by the Bush administration, which critics say has allowed the Iraqi insurgency to rage.

The eight memos — all labeled "secret" or "confidential" — were first obtained by British reporter Michael Smith, who has written about them in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times.

Smith told AP he protected the identity of the source he had obtained the documents from by typing copies of them on plain paper and destroying the originals.

The AP obtained copies of six of the memos (the other two have circulated widely). A senior British official who reviewed the copies said their content appeared authentic. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the material.

The Sunday Times this week reported that lawyers told the British government that U.S. and British bombing of Iraq in the months before the war was illegal under international law. That report, also by Smith, noted that almost a year before the war started, they began to strike more frequently.

The newspaper quoted Lord Goodhart, vice president of the International Commission of Jurists, as backing the Foreign Office lawyers' view that aircraft could only patrol the no-fly zones to deter attacks by Saddam's forces.

Goodhart said that if "the purpose was to soften up Iraq for a future invasion or even to intimidate Iraq, the coalition forces were acting without lawful authority," the Sunday Times reported.

The eight documents reported earlier total 36 pages and range from 10-page and eight-page studies on military and legal options in Iraq, to brief memorandums from British officials and the minutes of a private meeting held by Blair and his top advisers.

Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert who teaches at Queen Mary College, University of London, said the documents confirmed what post-invasion investigations have found.

"The documents show what official inquiries in Britain already have, that the case of weapons of mass destruction was based on thin intelligence and was used to inflate the evidence to the level of mendacity," Dodge said. "In going to war with Bush, Blair defended the special relationship between the two countries, like other British leaders have. But he knew he was taking a huge political risk at home. He knew the war's legality was questionable and its unpopularity was never in doubt."

Dodge said the memos also show Blair was aware of the postwar instability that was likely among Iraq's complex mix of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds once Saddam was defeated.

The British documents confirm, as well, that "soon after 9/11 happened, the starting gun was fired for the invasion of Iraq," Dodge said.

Speculation about if and when that would happen ran throughout 2002.

On Jan. 29, Bush called Iraq, Iran and North Korea "an axis of evil." U.S. newspapers began reporting soon afterward that a U.S.-led war with Iraq was possible.

On Oct. 16, the U.S. Congress voted to authorize Bush to go to war against Iraq. On Feb. 5, 2003, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented the Bush administration's case about Iraq's weapons to the U.N. Security Council. On March 19-20, the U.S.-led invasion began.

Bush and Blair both have been criticized at home since their WMD claims about Iraq proved false. But both have been re-elected, defending the conflict for removing a brutal dictator and promoting democracy in Iraq. Both administrations have dismissed the memos as old news.

Details of the memos appeared in papers early last month but the news in Britain quickly turned to the election that returned Blair to power. In the United States, however, details of the memos' contents reignited a firestorm, especially among Democratic critics of Bush.

It was in a March 14, 2002, memo that Blair's chief foreign policy adviser, David Manning, told the prime minister about the dinner he had just had with Rice in Washington.

"We spent a long time at dinner on Iraq," wrote Manning, who's now British ambassador to the United States. Rice is now Bush's secretary of state.

"It is clear that Bush is grateful for your (Blair's) support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. And you would not budge either in your insistence that, if we pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result. Failure was not an option."

Manning said, "Condi's enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed." But he also said there were signs of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks.

Blair was to meet with Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on April 8, and Manning told his boss: "No doubt we need to keep a sense of perspective. But my talks with Condi convinced me that Bush wants to hear your views on Iraq before taking decisions. He also wants your support. He is still smarting from the comments by other European leaders on his Iraq policy."

A July 21 briefing paper given to officials preparing for a July 23 meeting with Blair says officials must "ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks."

"In particular we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective... A postwar occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point."

The British worried that, "Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden. Further work is required to define more precisely the means by which the desired end state would be created, in particular what form of government might replace Saddam Hussein's regime and the time scale within which it would be possible to identify a successor."

In the March 22 memo from Foreign Office political director Ricketts to Foreign Secretary Straw, Ricketts outlined how to win public and parliamentary support for a war in Britain: "We have to be convincing that: the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for; it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran)."

Blair's government has been criticized for releasing an intelligence dossier on Iraq before the war that warned Saddam could launch chemical or biological weapons on 45 minutes' notice.

On March 25 Straw wrote a memo to Blair, saying he would have a tough time convincing the governing Labour Party that a pre-emptive strike against Iraq was legal under international law.

"If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the U.S. would now be considering military action against Iraq," Straw wrote. "In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with OBL (Osama bin Laden) and al-Qaida."

He also questioned stability in a post-Saddam Iraq: "We have also to answer the big question — what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole in this than on anything."


Los Angeles Times: Land Study on Grazing Denounced

Los Angeles Times: Land Study on Grazing Denounced

Two retired specialists say Interior excised their warnings on the effects on wildlife and water.
By Julie Cart
Times Staff Writer

June 18, 2005

The Bush administration altered critical portions of a scientific analysis of the environmental impact of cattle grazing on public lands before announcing Thursday that it would relax regulations limiting grazing on those lands, according to scientists involved in the study.

A government biologist and a hydrologist, who both retired this year from the Bureau of Land Management, said their conclusions that the proposed new rules might adversely affect water quality and wildlife, including endangered species, were excised and replaced with language justifying less stringent regulations favored by cattle ranchers.

Grazing regulations, which affect 160 million acres of public land in the Western U.S., set the conditions under which ranchers may use that land, and guide government managers in determining how many cattle may graze, where and for how long without harming natural resources.

The original draft of the environmental analysis warned that the new rules would have a "significant adverse impact" on wildlife, but that phrase was removed. The bureau now concludes that the grazing regulations are "beneficial to animals."

Eliminated from the final draft was another conclusion that read: "The Proposed Action will have a slow, long-term adverse impact on wildlife and biological diversity in general."

Also removed was language saying how a number of the rule changes could adversely affect endangered species.

"This is a whitewash. They took all of our science and reversed it 180 degrees," said Erick Campbell, a former BLM state biologist in Nevada and a 30-year bureau employee who retired this year. He was the author of sections of the report pertaining to the effect on wildlife and threatened and endangered species.

"They rewrote everything," Campbell said in an interview this week. "It's a crime."

Campbell and the other retired bureau scientist who criticized the rules were among more than a dozen BLM specialists who contributed to the environmental impact statement. Others who worked on the original draft could not be reached or did not return calls seeking comment.

A bureau official acknowledged that changes were made in the analysis and said they were part of a standard editing and review process. Ranchers hailed the regulations as a signal of new openness from the administration.

"We're hopeful that some of the provisions will strengthen the public lands grazing industry and give our members certainty in their business," said Jenni Beck of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. "We are encouraged that this [environmental impact statement] demonstrates the benefits of grazing on public lands."

Livestock graze on public land in 11 Western states, including 8 million acres in California. The vast acreage is needed to support a comparatively small number of livestock because in the arid region topsoil is thin and grass is generally sparse.

About 2% of the nation's beef is produced from cattle on public lands.

The new rules, published Friday by the BLM, a division of the Department of Interior, ensures ranchers expanded access to public land and requires federal land managers to conduct protracted studies before taking action to limit that access.

The rules reverse a long-standing agency policy that gave BLM experts the authority to quickly determine whether livestock grazing was inflicting damage.

The regulations also eliminate the agency's obligation to seek public input on some grazing decisions. Public comment will be allowed but not required.

In recent years, concerns about the condition of much Western grazing land has been heightened by drought, which has denuded pastures in the most arid areas, causing bureau managers to close some pastures and prompting ranchers to sell their herds.

The new rules mark a departure from grazing regulations adopted in 1995 under President Clinton and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. Those regulations reflected the view of range scientists that a legacy of overgrazing in the West had degraded scarce water resources, damaged native plant communities and imperiled wildlife.

Babbitt ordered the bureau to establish standards that spelled out when public lands were open for grazing, and for the first time required range specialists to assess each pasture to ensure it held enough vegetation to support wildlife and livestock. It was the first time in about 50 years that the federal government had tried sweeping overhauls of how Western ranchers operated on public lands.

By 1994, studies from scientists at the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture convinced government land managers that livestock grazing was the most pervasive threat to plant and animals in the arid West.

Some conservation groups seized on the studies to mount a campaign to eliminate grazing on public land altogether, prompting a backlash that accused environmentalists of engaging in "rural cleansing" that would drive families off the land, some of whom had been there since the 19th century.

This week, environmentalists were sharply critical of the new rules.

"It's an explicit rollback," said Thomas Lustig, staff lawyer for the National Wildlife Federation in Boulder, Colo. "What [Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton] did was take Babbitt's regs and found parts where they could put a hurdle in to undermine the reforms."

Bureau officials said the new rules represented a step forward in improving its management of livestock grazing on federal land.

Bud Cribley, the agency's manager for rangeland resources, said the report was written by a number of specialists from different offices within the BLM. When it was finished, in November 2003, the agency believed it "needed a lot of work," Cribley said.

"We disagreed with the impact analysis that was originally put forward. There were definitely changes made in the area of impact analysis. We adjusted it.

"The draft that we published we felt adequately addressed the impacts. We felt the changes we did make were based on good science."

Most of the changes came in sections analyzing projected impact of the rules on fisheries, plant and animal health as well as water quality and quantity.

Bill Brookes, a former hydrologist with the bureau who assessed the regulations' effect on water resources, said in the original draft the proposed rule change was "an abrogation of [the agency's] responsibility under the Clean Water Act."

"Everything I wrote was totally rewritten and watered down," Brookes said in an interview Thursday.

"Everything in the report that was purported to be negative was watered down. Instead of saying, in the long term, this will create problems, it now says, in the long term, grazing is the best thing since sliced bread."

Brookes said work that the bureau's original specialists required more than a year and a half to finish was changed in a matter of weeks. He and Campbell said officials in Washington said the document did not support the new rules so they called in a new team to redo it.

According to the agency officials, the new grazing regulations were meant to give land managers and ranchers more flexibility in making decisions about whether to allow grazing on a particular parcel.

Though an array of conservation and environmental groups decried the new rules, Cribley said changes were minor but necessary.

"We don't look at this as a significant change from the current regulations," he said. "This is fine-tuning and making adjustment in existing rules. We came out with some significant changes in the grazing rule in '95, and we have been implementing changes since that time. We needed to make corrections after almost 10 years of experience."

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A government biologist and a hydrologist, who both retired this year from the Bureau of Land Management, said their conclusions that the proposed new rules might adversely affect water quality and wildlife, including endangered species, were excised and replaced with language justifying less stringent regulations favored by cattle ranchers.

Grazing regulations, which affect 160 million acres of public land in the Western U.S., set the conditions under which ranchers may use that land, and guide government managers in determining how many cattle may graze, where and for how long without harming natural resources.

The original draft of the environmental analysis warned that the new rules would have a 'significant adverse impact' on wildlife, but that phrase was removed. The bureau now concludes that the grazing regulations are 'beneficial to animals.'

Eliminated from the final draft was another conclusion that read: 'The Proposed Action will have a slow, long-term adverse impact on wildlife and biological diversity in general.'

Also removed was language saying how a number of the rule changes could adversely affect endangered species.

'This is a whitewash. They took all of our science and reversed it 180 degrees,' said Erick Campbell, a former BLM state biologist in Nevada and a 30-year bureau employee who retired "

The Bush Administration’s Creeping Siege Mentality

The Huffington Post | The Blog
"Arianna Huffington
The Bush Administration’s Creeping Siege Mentality

Where you’ve got a siege, there you shall find a siege mentality. And the White House is definitely under siege -- from undeniable, incontrovertible facts.

Here at the Huff Post we plan to chronicle the Bush administration’s deeper and deeper descent into siege mentality. What are the hallmarks? Denial, defensiveness, doubletalk, robotic reiterations of stale talking points, wild counterattacks, a pathological fear of admitting mistakes, and an utter inability to change course -- even when the current course is taking us right over the cliff. Practically reads like an employee manual for Bush administration staffers, doesn’t it?

There’s plenty of evidence to work with. Let’s start with denial and robotic reiteration. They were both on display at a Pentagon press conference this week.

When asked about how they’re defining success, Pentagon spokesperson Larry DiRita replied: “There is no military definition of success.” Then how is the military expected to deliver a non-military definition of success?

Denial? Check.

And here is some robotic reiteration from Lt. General James Conway, Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We have a plan for growing the force. We are on track with projection of numbers… I’m confident that the trends are moving in the right direction.” Robotic reiteration? Check.

And here is an exchange that shows definite signs of CSM (Creeping Siege Mentality):

Conway: The actual mission, I suppose, is classified but I can paraphrase it to say that it’s a safe and secure Iraq that we’re able to turn back over to the Iraqis.

Reporter: Can you give us a better sense of what that means, "safe and secure"?

Conway: There are metrics associated with it. And, again, I think we'll know it when we see it.

Kinda like porno, eh General? In other words, you have no idea.

As for when U.S. troops might be coming home, the administration party line is clearly set. In the words of Gen. Conway: “If we have a deadline [the insurgents] can wait us out.”

Won’t they wait us out anyway?

The press conference closed with a few questions about the drop in public support for the war, at which point the General trotted out this whopper:

Conway: Obviously, the public support of these kinds of operations is critical, which is why we spend a lot of time trying to make sure that the public has full access to all the information.

Add to the signs of CSM the telling of comically unbelievable lies. Check."

Official Had Aide Send Data to White House - New York Times

Official Had Aide Send Data to White House - New York Times
"The New York Times
June 18, 2005
Official Had Aide Send Data to White House

WASHINGTON, June 17 - E-mail messages obtained by investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting show that its chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, extensively consulted a White House official shortly before she joined the corporation about creating an ombudsman's office to monitor the balance and objectivity of public television and radio programs.

Mr. Tomlinson said in an interview three months ago that he did not think he had instructed a subordinate to send material on the ombudsman project to Mary C. Andrews at her White House office in her final days as director of global communications, a political appointment.

But the e-mail messages show that a month before the interview, he directed Kathleen Cox, then president of the corporation, to send material to Ms. Andrews at her White House e-mail address. They show that Ms. Andrews worked on a variety of ombudsman issues before joining the corporation, while still on the White House payroll. And they show that the White House instructed the corporation on Ms. Andrews's job title in her new post.

A senior corporation executive who is concerned about its direction under Mr. Tomlinson provided copies of the e-mail messages to The New York Times. Fearing retribution, the executive insisted on anonymity as a condition for providing the copies.

The e-mail messages are part of the evidence being collected in a broad inquiry by the inspector general of the corporation into whether Mr. Tomlinson violated any rules that require that the corporation act as a buffer between politics and programming.

Investigators are examining the role played by the White House in the creation of the ombudsman's office at the corporation, an office Mr. Tomlinson said he advanced as part of a broader effort to ensure balance and objectivity in programming. Executives in public television and radio have said his actions threatened their editorial independence.

Under investigation are $14,170 in contracts signed by Mr. Tomlinson with an Indiana man who monitored the political leanings of the guests on "Now" when Bill Moyers was its host. And the investigators are looking at $15,000 in payments to two Republican lobbyists last year at the direction of Mr. Tomlinson and his Republican predecessor, who remains a board member.

Mr. Tomlinson declined to respond to questions about the investigation or anything else. "We decline comment during the inspector general's review and await their report clarifying these and all related circumstances," he said by e-mail on Friday. "We are confident that the report will conclude that all of these actions were taken in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations."

In a little-noticed speech on the floor of the Senate this week, Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said that in response to his request for the reports on the "Now" program, Mr. Tomlinson provided him with the raw data from reports.

Mr. Dorgan said that Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, was classified in the data as a "liberal" for an appearance on a segment of a show that questioned the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq. Mr. Hagel is considered a mainstream conservative with a maverick streak and a willingness to criticize the White House.

Another segment about financial waste at the Pentagon was classified as "anti-Defense," Mr. Dorgan said. He criticized Mr. Tomlinson for spending taxpayer money for studies to examine programs "to see if something is being said that might be critical about a president or Congress."

On Friday, Mr. Dorgan and two Democratic colleagues, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, sent Mr. Tomlinson a letter urging him to postpone his plans to urge the board to appoint Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, to be the corporation's next president. Ms. Cox resigned in April after her contract was not renewed.

"Press reports have noted that you requested a review of the program 'Now With Bill Moyers,' made payments to Republican lobbyists, and did not disclose these actions to the board of the CPB," the letter said. "We are greatly troubled by these allegations, and if they prove true, we believe your conduct as chairman of the board has been highly inappropriate."

Ms. Andrews's role in the creation of the ombudsman's office and other steps taken by Mr. Tomlinson over the last few months, which he says are meant to ensure balance and objectivity in programming, have prompted criticism by public television and radio executives. They say the corporation is threatening their editorial independence.

While Ms. Andrews was in her final days at her old job and had already accepted a job with the corporation, Mr. Tomlinson instructed its president, Ms. Cox, to send to Ms. Andrews's White House office "anything you have on ombudsmen" as well as the "bios" of the two candidates for the post, according to an e-mail message dated Thursday, March 17.

"She's promised to help me produce something by Tuesday," Mr. Tomlinson said of Ms. Andrews.

On March 22, Mr. Tomlinson sent Ms. Cox another piece of e-mail. "By the way MC did terrific job (in my opinion) on press release and talking points on ombudsmen," it said. "She will give you material at lunch and don't hesitate to suggest changes."

In a third e-mail message the next day, March 23, Mr. Tomlinson told Ms. Cox that White House officials were insisting that Ms. Andrews's title would be "senior advisor to the president" when she began working at the corporation a few days later.

"Maybe you missed but when I phoned you," he wrote in a follow-up message, "I specifically mentioned the title issue and if I didn't mention the white house I was trying not to drop names. I promise you she will be worth her weight in gold to you."

Ms. Andrews's first day on the corporation's payroll was March 25.

In an interview in April, Mr. Tomlinson was asked if he had instructed anyone to send material to Ms. Andrews while at the White House.

"I don't think so," he replied. Asked also if Ms. Andrews had done any work on the ombudsmen project while she was at the White House, he said, "I don't think so."

"She was on her way to this job," he then added. "Whether there was a two- or three-day period that overlapped, I don't know."

Ms. Andrews has said that she was making a transition from the White House to the corporation when she worked on a minimal amount of material on the ombudsman project, and that any work she did was out of her White House office and on her own time. Is worst yet to come in Iraq?

Is worst yet to come in Iraq?

Senior Bush official says insurgents likely to step up attacks as terrorists try to derail constitution, elections

STAFF WRITERS; Phelps is Washington bureau chief. The story was supplemen- ted with wire service reports.

June 17, 2005

WASHINGTON -- During a terrible week for violence in Iraq, a senior administration official yesterday warned that the worst is yet to come.

Five Marines and a sailor were killed Wednesday in attacks west of Baghdad, the U.S. military announced yesterday, a day that also brought news of a suicide bomber in Baghdad who killed at least eight police officers and wounded 25 others.

"I think you'll see it continuing up, because the terrorists know what's coming," said the official, speaking as peace demonstrators chanted outside the White House.

He said that militants are "once again trying to derail" progress in Iraq, in this case the writing of a constitution and holding of elections tentatively scheduled for later this year.

"We have a rough road ahead of us," the official said in an unusual moment of openness by the Bush administration on the war. His comments appeared aimed at preparing a public - that polls show is increasingly disillusioned by the war - for even more bad news.

The official spoke after one of the bloodiest weeks in the war, in which at least 17 U.S. servicemen and 155 Iraqis have been reported killed.

The violence comes just four months after U.S. generals had begun to predict the beginning of a U.S. pullout from Iraq early next year. Such predictions have completely stopped.

Now, in addition to Gallup and Washington Post/ABC News polls showing a decrease in public support for the war, there are signs of restlessness on Capitol Hill as well. Yesterday, four U.S. lawmakers, including two Republicans from the South, announced they would introduce legislation requiring President George W. Bush to submit a timetable for a U.S. pullout.

The senior official yesterday rejected any deadlines, saying they would either increase attacks or give the insurgents reason to wait for the pullout.

He said the administration remains convinced that its strategy is working, with progress on the political front as well as in training and equipping Iraqi soldiers to take over the fight themselves.

"There is a timeline, and we're still on it," he said.

But he came back to the new, realistic tone about Iraq.

"Nobody denies the loss of life and the carnage that is being wreaked on the Iraqi people and on us by the terrorists," he said.

Amid the violence, Iraqi lawmakers yesterday celebrated a political breakthrough: After weeks of back-and-forth, Shia politicians reached a compromise that will include Sunni Arabs, who largely boycotted January's elections, in drafting Iraq's new constitution. The stalemate over who should be allowed to draft it had threatened Iraq's political process as it was entering its final stretch, with two key nationwide votes planned for later this year: a referendum on the constitution in October and, if it passes, a general election in December.

Under the compromise announced yesterday, the new panel will include the existing members, 15 additional Sunni Arabs with full voting rights and 10 more Sunnis in an advisory, nonvoting role.

Adnan Janabi, head of a subcommittee that has been negotiating for weeks to involve more Sunnis in the process, called the compromise "the best we could reach. It was unanimously agreed upon by both sides."

But Salih Mutlak, who leads a Sunni coalition known as the National Dialogue Council, said: "We bitterly agreed on the decision. The country is in a critical situation, and if we don't agree, the political process will be delayed."

Nearly 1,100 people have died in violence since the Shia-led government took office seven weeks ago. The American deaths announced yesterday occurred in volatile Anbar province, a longtime hotspot. The Marines died after their vehicle was attacked near Ramadi, the military said. A sailor attached to the Marines' unit, the 2nd Marine Division's II Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed in Ramadi by gunfire, the military said.

In Baghdad yesterday, the suicide bomber plowed his black sedan into a truck carrying police officers on the road connecting Baghdad with its airport.

In other developments:

A judge and his bodyguard were killed by gunmen in eastern Mosul.

A roadside bomb in Mosul killed an Iraqi police officer, officials said.

Police found the bodies of 11 people in two towns in the so-called Triangle of Death area south of Baghdad, an official said.

Phelps is Washington bureau chief. The story was supplemen- ted with wire service reports.


U.S. casualties in Iraq

March 20, 2003

War begins

Jan. 17, 2004

500 killed

Sept. 7, 2004

1,000 killed

March 3, 2005

1,500 killed

To date

1,714 killed

This month

47 killed

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Drafting the troops as a rhetorical buffer

Drafting the troops as a rhetorical buffer
by jre (dailykos)

Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 23:20:10 PDT

It's a shame that President Bush, Senator Frist, and the Right-Wing Blogospheric Noise Machine can't summon the same level of outrage they've mustered over Durbin's comments over the FBI account he read in the paragraph before - or the countless others like it. You won't find that paragraph, unfortunately, in the news accounts of the latest from the GOP's manufactured outrage machine. And don't hold your breath for a word from Bush or Frist this week to condemn the use of starving and freezing as interrogation techniques.

Instead, they're accusing Senator Durbin of comparing all of America's servicemen and servicewomen to Nazis, a charge as willfully inaccurate as Frist's claim that Durbin called Guanatanamo a "death camp" (that's what happens when you get all of your news from the (Washington Times). While Durbin's phrasing is awkward, his plain meaning is clearly not that America is a Nazi state but rather that torture is a practice which better befits an oppressive regime than the United States. Leaving people restrained without water in oppressive heat to defecate on themselves, Durbin reminds us, is a violation of the values of this country. The obvious question, then, for Durbin's critics is this: Do you see leaving people restrained without water in oppressive heat to defecate on themselves as as expression of the values of this country. Only a truly perverse definition of patriotism would demand, when we see unamerican crimes perpetrated under the American flag, that we change our values as a country to justify our behavior rather than the other way around. There's no need to mention Nazis in order to make this point. But there's no justification for reading it as a smear of the US as Nazi Germany or men and women in the service as Nazis.

The latter - the accusation that Durbin attacked Americans in the military - is even more insidious than the accusation that he attacked America itself. The implication is that anyone who criticizes a policy military personnel carry out is expressing scorn, distrust, or murderous rage towards every American in the service (this is analagous to the strategy Thomas Frank documents in One Market Under God of dismissing criticisms of business as expressions of elitism towards the American consumer). It's a strategy we saw in the Presidential debates, as Bush implied that criticism of our Iraq policy showed a lack of faith in our troops in Iraq. It's a strikingly tendentious rhetorical move and a pox on a discourse we desperately need to be having as a nation.

Most of all, pretending to hear criticism of the policy as an attack on the troops is a show of incredible cowardice. Faced with much-deserved rhetorical volleys, George Bush is essentially dragging American soldiers in front of him as an unwitting buffer between himself and the rest of the American people. In this rhetorical draft, American soldiers are called to act as a symbolic first line of defense against justified outrage over the administration. Never mind the number of those soldiers and their families who share that outrage, or who have no interest in being drafted -voiceless - into ideological warfare on behalf of the chickenhawks and policies which lead to needless death. Critics of torture and critics of war are taking on our leaders, not our troops. That those leaders, rather than defending their choices, make a show of rising to defend the honor of the troops just shows how little shame they have."

Sidney Blumenthal - Tom DeLay's Broken Body

t r u t h o u t - Sidney Blumenthal | Tom DeLay's Broken Body
"A Broken Body
By Sidney Blumenthal

Thursday 16 June 2005

Under DeLay's leadership, the work of the House has become trivial, and corruption cannot be investigated, much less rebuked.

Under fire for allegedly taking pay-offs from lobbyist Jack Abramoff and other ethical abuses, House Minority Leader Tom DeLay begins to show the strain. So does the US House of Representatives.
(Photo: David J. Phillip / AP Photo)

The House of Representatives of the 109th Congress suffers the classic symptoms of a decadent ancien régime. It seems an eon ago that the Republicans swept into power in 1994, after 40 years in the wilderness, on a "Contract With America" whose preamble promised: "To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace."

Day by day, week by week, spectacles unfold in its august chambers revealing new incidents of corruption, unaccountability and chaos. The Republican clamor for "democratic deliberation" faded long ago, even as a distant echo, as the screws of centralized power constantly tightened. The Democrats have been prevented from debating legislation, attaching amendments and participating in conferences. Any gesture at dissent is gaveled out of order. Republican members too have been relegated to the sidelines, rubber-stamping what the leadership dictates.

"Gutless chicken shit," Tom DeLay shouted seven years ago at questions about his ethics violations. Today, the Republican majority leader frantically maneuvers to quash any investigation by the House ethics committee into three foreign trips paid for by his close friend, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is himself under a Department of Justice probe for fleecing Indian tribes of tens of millions of dollars. (It is illegal for members of Congress to accept foreign trips from lobbyists.)

Since the House has been in session this year, the ethics committee has met for exactly one day. On that day, in May, it decided under intense public pressure to reverse its fail-safe scheme to thwart any investigation of DeLay. The committee had announced rules by which a deadlock would lead to dismissal of any charge. Because the committee is the only one equally divided between majority and minority members, a deadlock was guaranteed, and so therefore was DeLay's escape.

But last week DeLay designed a new device to frustrate an investigation. The rules of the committee stipulate that its staff must be nonpartisan. However, another rule allows the chairman and the ranking minority member to each appoint a staff member without the other's approval. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the chairman, seized upon that rule to name his longtime chief of staff as director of the committee. With that he succeeded in throwing a monkey wrench into the works. Predictably, the Democrats protested, the process ground to a halt, and unless it is somehow unstuck, the investigation of DeLay has been stalled indefinitely.

Although it is DeLay's tactics that have paralyzed the ethics committee, he blames the Democrats for the consequences of his own actions. "They don't want an ethics committee," DeLay complained. "They would like to drag this out and have me and others before the ethics committee in an election year." Hastings, for his part, has been exposed as having his own web of relationships with Abramoff, who boasted to a client that his ties to Hastings were "excellent."

So long as the ethics committee is in effect defunct, it cannot investigate any new cases, such as that involving Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., which emerged in the last week. Cunningham, an influential member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, has helped a certain defense contractor named Mitchell Wade and his company, MZM Inc., win tens of millions of dollars in contracts. In 2003, Wade paid Cunningham $2.55 million for his house in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Wade resold it for a price that was $700,000 less than he paid Cunningham. The discrepancy suggested a neat and deliberate overpayment, having the appearance of a bribe. The real estate agent, however, stated that $2.55 million was a fair price. But then it developed that she and two of her family members had made 18 financial contributions to Cunningham's campaigns, totaling $11,500 since 1997. Under usual circumstances in the past, Cunningham's gamey situation would have been taken up by the ethics committee. But for all intents and purposes there is no ethics committee. Corruption cannot be acknowledged, much less investigated and rebuked.

While DeLay was orchestrating the latest plot turn in the ethics committee, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., continued his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee as circus act. On June 10, he presided over a morning's hearing on the PATRIOT Act of witnesses invited by the Democratic minority. It was the one occasion the Democrats were allowed under the rules to give critics an official forum on the bill up for renewal. Sensenbrenner, whose routine demeanor is peeved and bilious, was on a hair trigger. He did not permit the ranking Democrat, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to finish his opening statement. He refused to recognize Democrats on their points of order. Finally, he declared the hearings over. "Much of what has been stated is not irrelevant," he announced. "Point of order," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. "No, I will not yield," said Sensenbrenner. He cut off the microphones of Democrats as their words hung in the air: "Will the gentleman yield?" and "Point of order, Mr. Chairman." Sensenbrenner stormed out the door.

Sensenbrenner's highhandedness was hardly exceptional. This spring he barred Democrats from consultation on legislation that made drivers' licenses national identification cards -- in effect backdoor immigration legislation that could lead to sweeps against illegal immigrants with licenses. Indeed, no hearings whatsoever were held before the bill's passage.

At the same time, in April, Sensenbrenner rammed through a bill called the Child Interstate Notification Act, which applies federal criminal penalties to adults aiding and abetting minors who leave a state that imposes parental notification laws to get an abortion in another state. When Democrats on the Judiciary Committee submitted amendments, Sensenbrenner and his staff rewrote their captions in the official record without informing them. In every case, Sensenbrenner's language presented Democrats as defending "sexual predators." One caption of an amendment by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., for example, read: "Mr. Nadler offered an amendment that would have exempted sexual predators from prosecution under the bill if they were grandparents or adult siblings of a minor."

Right-wing Republicans like to posture as middle-class populists who are only reacting to the intrusions on individual liberty by liberal elites. But Sensenbrenner, poster child for Republican arrogance, is the pampered heir to the Kotex fortune, whose sense of entitlement is exceeded only by his rancor.

DeLay's system of centralization has Washington in its grip. Republican House members are factotums of the leadership group he dominates. The regular operation of House committees has been overthrown. Decisions are handed down by DeLay and his lieutenants. Lobbyists are convened in private to write legislation. What's more, lobbying firms are ordered to kick in campaign contributions and are under threat of losing preference if they hire Democrats. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, DeLay's sock puppet, opened the 109th Congress by declaring that legislation had to meet the approval of "the majority of the majority" -- DeLay's rule for right-wing control.

On about 80 percent of the bills before the House, amendments are prohibited as a result of what are called "closed rules." By manipulation of so-called suspension bills -- for example, those that name federal buildings and praise civic groups -- the business of the House has become a playpen of trivialities. Instead of substantive debate, two-thirds of all the time on the House floor is devoted to these meaningless measures. By this means, the leadership concentrates power and frustrates the House from acting as deliberative body. The schedule of the House has been reduced to something like that of a small state legislature of the 19th century, with many of its lollygagging members turning up for work on Tuesday and leaving on Thursday.

The efforts to suppress the proper workings of the House on inquiries of corruption and to quell uneasy questions about legislation from Democrats are only increasing the public pressure on the Republican leadership. Ever more rigid control is producing sharper and deeper fissures in its façade. The desperation for order fosters greater disorder. Such is the state of democracy in America that the rest of the world is encouraged to emulate.


Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of The Clinton Wars, is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian of London."

William Rivers Pitt - Nail It to the White House Door

t r u t h o u t - William Rivers Pitt | Nail It to the White House Door
"Nail It to the White House Door
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 15 June 2005

Almost five hundred years ago, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, initiating a sequence of events which forever altered the geometry of global religion, politics and power. Luther's Theses began with the words, "Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg."

Another document is going to be nailed to another door on Thursday, June 16th. This door opens not to a church, but to the White House. This document is freighted with hard truths, stern demands and nearly a million names. This document, once nailed up, likewise carries with it all the possibilities of change.

Very slowly, and after an embarrassing gap of silence from the news media, the American people have come to hear about the Downing Street Minutes. This document, once confidential but leaked by a British version of Deep Throat, describes in plain language the manner in which the Bush and Blair administrations planned to manipulate their way into an invasion of Iraq. The Minutes describe how intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of invasion, and that a pretense for war had to be manufactured in order to paint a veneer of legitimacy over what everyone involved knew was a patently illegal military action.

Subsequent secret documents have followed the release of the Downing Street Minutes, further exposing the lies, distortions and moral convolutions put forth by the offices of Bush and Blair in their rush to war. According to these documents, which have been verified as genuine by the British government, the decision to invade Iraq was made as early as April 2002, months before anyone in America or Britain became aware that such an act was even being considered.

This April 2002 decision was made between Bush and Blair at a summit in Crawford, Texas. The fact that the decision to invade had been made so early shatters all the mealy-mouthed protestations of Bush and his people, who spent those months before the attack preaching peace and international cooperation while sharpening their knives behind closed doors.

One document, a briefing paper partnered with the Downing Street Minutes, states bluntly that British officials knew an invasion would be illegal, but had no choice but to figure out a way to frame it as legal, because Bush was going into Iraq no matter what and would use British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia to do so. This would make Britain complicit in the invasion even if they decided not to send troops, and so it was "necessary to create the conditions" which would make it legal.

How does one go about creating the conditions for legality? By framing facts and intelligence around the policy, of course. The word "Lie" does not appear in any of the released documents, but the need to lie, the decision to lie, in order to justify war permeates every word.

This document also exposes the Bush administration's rhetorical nonsense about "supporting the troops" by describing how their war plans did anything but. In a section of this briefing paper titled "Benefits/Risks," the authors wrote, "Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks. A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point."

Virtually silent. 1,706 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq thanks to the virtual silence of the Bush administration, for a total of 1,891 "Coalition" soldiers dead. Multiply that number by at least ten to count the wounded and maimed. Twenty-five American soldiers have been killed in the last week alone. Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed and wounded, and the car bombs continue to explode on a daily basis.

The decision to make war at all costs, the decision to lie about the reasons for going to war, the massive trans-Atlantic effort to make an illegal act appear legal, and the astounding fact that more effort went into manufacturing a political pretext for invasion than went into planning for the invasion and aftermath, all of this led us into the horror-show that is this occupation.

The American military has all but conceded the fact that this war is lost. "I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, chief American military spokesman in Iraq, said last week. "It's going to be settled in the political process." There are no more viable military options. The war is lost. It is going to be settled in the political process.

So be it.

On Thursday, June 16th, Rep. John Conyers will hold a hearing to investigate and expose the facts revealed by the release of the Downing Street Minutes and the other documents. A variety of witnesses will be called to describe the contents of these documents, and to describe what has been done to Iraq, and to us all, by this administration. Lurking in the corners of the hearing will be a phrase - "High Crime" - that aptly describes what has taken place.

The Conyers hearing will be held on Thursday at 2:30pm EST in room HC-9 in the Capitol Building in Washington DC. This is a small room, so any overflow of public viewers will be directed to the Wasserman Room in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.

At 5:00pm EST, a rally will take place in Lafayette Park, at the gates of the White House. Rep. Conyers will speak, along with Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son Casey in Iraq in April 2003, as Bush was unfurling his "Mission Accomplished" banner. The hearing and rally have been organized by the After Downing Street coalition, a collection of more than 120 organizations and news outlets that came together for the purpose of nailing the facts of the Downing Street Minutes to the White House door.

That, just before the opening of the rally on Thursday, is exactly what will happen. Several weeks ago, Rep. Conyers published a letter demanding answers from the Bush administration regarding the Minutes. That letter has been signed by more than one hundred Congresspeople, and by nearly a million American citizens. Rep. Conyers will personally deliver this letter and all those signatures to the White House on Thursday.

Jawaharlal Nehru, who with Mahatma Gandhi successfully freed India from British colonial rule, once said, "A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the sound of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance."

Thursday, June 16th, may see such a moment come to pass. It has been a long time coming, and so much remains to be done if the terrible damage of these last years is to be repaired. But a moment is before us. Let us see where this moment takes us.

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."

Paul Loeb - More Damning Than Downing Street

t r u t h o u t - Paul Loeb | More Damning Than Downing Street
"More Damning Than Downing Street
By Paul Loeb
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 16 June 2005

If Iraq's smoking gun is bad, jumping the gun is even worse.

It's bad enough that the Bush administration had so little international support for the Iraqi war that their "coalition of the willing" meant the US, Britain, and the equivalent of a child's imaginary friends. It's even worse that, as the Downing Street memo confirms, they had so little evidence of real threats that they knew from the start that they were going to have manufacture excuses to go to war. What's more damning still is that they effectively began this war even before the congressional vote.

With Congressman John Conyers about to hold hearings, coverage of the Downing Street memo is finally beginning to leak into the media. In contrast, we've heard almost nothing about the degree to which this administration began actively fighting the Iraq war well in advance of the March 2003 official attack - before both the October 2002 US Congressional authorization and the November United Nations resolution requiring that Saddam Hussein open the country up to inspectors.

I follow Iraq pretty closely, but was taken aback when Charlie Clements, now head of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, described driving in a Baghdad neighborhood six months before the war "and a building would just explode, hit by a missile from 30,000 feet - 'What is that building?'" Clements would ask. "'Oh, that's a telephone exchange.'" Later, at a conference at Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base, Clements heard a US General boast "that he began taking out assets that could help in resisting an invasion at least six months before war was declared."

Earlier this month, Jeremy Scahill wrote a powerful piece on The Nation's website, describing a huge air assault in September 2002,

"Approximately 100 US and British planes flew from Kuwait into Iraqi airspace," Scahill writes. "At least seven types of aircraft were part of this massive operation, including US F-15 Strike Eagles and Royal Air Force Tornado ground-attack planes. They dropped precision-guided munitions on Saddam Hussein's major western air-defense facility, clearing the path for Special Forces helicopters that lay in wait in Jordan. Earlier attacks had been carried out against Iraqi command and control centers, radar detection systems, Revolutionary Guard units, communication centers and mobile air-defense systems. The Pentagon's goal was clear: Destroy Iraq's ability to resist."

Why aren't we talking about this? As Scahill points out, this was a month before the Congressional vote, and two before the UN resolution. Supposedly part of enforcing "no fly zones," the bombings were actually systematic assaults on Iraq's capacity to defend itself. The US had never declared war. Bush had no authorization, not even a fig leaf. He was simply attacking another nation because he'd decided to do so. This preemptive war preempted our own Congress, as well as international law.

I don't think most Americans know these prewar attacks ever happened, aside from those who've read Scahill's recent piece, or heard him on Democracy Now. I recall no mainline media coverage at the time, and little in the alternative press. The bombings that destroyed Iraq's air defenses were under the radar for both the American media and public.

If coverage of the Downing Street memo continues to increase, I suspect the administration will try to dismiss it as mere diplomatic talk, just inside baseball. But they weren't just manipulating intelligence so they could attack no matter how Saddam Hussein responded. They weren't only bribing would-be allies into participation. They were fighting a war they'd planned long before. They just didn't bother to tell the American public.

Paul Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books), named the #3 political book of Fall 2004 by the History Channel and American Book Association.


Americans Sour on Iraq, Block Bush Domestic Goals

t r u t h o u t - Americans Sour on Iraq, Block Bush Domestic Goals
"Bush Policies Blocked as US Mood on Iraq Sours
By Rupert Cornwell
The Independent UK

Friday 17 June 2005

As American and Iraqi casualties on the ground mount relentlessly, President George Bush is in growing political trouble, with Republicans as well as Democrats questioning his handling of a war that has never been less popular here.

In the most visible protest, the veteran Democratic congressman John Conyers organised a forum on the so-called "Downing Street Memo", the July 2002 British Government document indicating that the Bush administration had already made up its mind to invade Iraq, and that intelligence was being "fixed" to fit that policy.

Six weeks after it was leaked in the British press, the memo has belatedly become a hot topic in Washington. Mr Conyers was to present a petition from more than 100 of his Democratic colleagues in the House, signed by 500,000 people, demanding that Mr Bush explain himself.

The White House has haughtily brushed aside this criticism, saying the memo contains nothing new, and again dismissing charges that the intelligence process was politically manipulated. But the administration may find it more difficult to deal with bipartisan demands for an exit timetable for the 140,000 US troops in Iraq.

One of the sponsors of the congressional resolution is Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat and staunch opponent of the war, who ran for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. More worrying for the White House, another sponsor is the North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, a strong backer of the invasion (and an author of the 2003 "freedom fries" campaign against France in Capitol Hill cafeterias).

"I just feel the reason of going in for weapons of mass destruction, the ability of the Iraqis to make a nuclear weapon, that's all been proven it was never there," Mr Jones said. "I feel that we've done about as much as we can do."

The day before, six more US servicemen died in Iraq, bringing the combat casualty total to at least 1,706, with 12,000 wounded. And countless thousands of Iraqis have been killed or wounded in daily suicide bombings.

There is an increasingly sour mood in America, much disillusioned with Mr Bush, and inclined to share Mr Conyers' belief that "we got into a secret war we hadn't planned, and now we're in it we can't get out".

In June 2002, a month before the British memo was written, 61 per cent of Americans favoured the forcible removal of Saddam Hussein, as the next stage of Mr Bush's "war on terror". Today, polls show that only 42 per cent say the war was worthwhile.

Mr Bush's approval ratings have tumbled further, to just 41 per cent, the lowest level of his presidency. One reason is dissatisfaction with the economy, most notably the soaring cost of petrol. But the biggest reason is Iraq, which threatens to undermine his second-term strategy.

The White House had hoped that Iraq would fade as an issue after January's elections. This, it believed, would allow it to focus on Mr Bush's domestic goals of social security and tax reform.

But in the past month alone, 80 US soldiers and more than 700 Iraqis have died and the Pentagon admits that the violence is as bad as a year ago. Even some of its allies blame the White House for not telling the truth about the extent of the insurgency. "We always accentuated the positive and never prepared the public for the worst," Senator Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said.

The President's signature policy - the campaign to part-privatise social security - has hit a brick wall. "Exit Policy on Social Security is Sought," was a Washington Post headline, above a report explaining how senior Republicans were urging the White House to quietly drop the measure, since it had no hope of passing.

Other Bush policies are also under attack. In a rare act of defiance, the Republican-led House voted by 238 to 187 to scrap a provision of the Patriot Act, which allows the FBI to check library and bookstore records in anti-terrorism inquiries. The President vows to veto any such change, just as he promises to "stay the course" on Iraq, and to press ahead with social security reform. But the line is growing more difficult to hold.

Last night, Senate Democrats planned to block for a second time a floor vote to confirm John Bolton as the next US ambassador to the United Nations, until the White House releases more information on its embattled nominee.Other Republicans are demanding closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, although the White House says it is vital for security."

Molly Ivins - The Definition of Insanity

AlterNet: The Definition of Insanity
The Definition of Insanity
By Molly Ivins, AlterNet
Posted on June 15, 2005, Printed on June 17, 2005

Zalmay Khalilzad for U.S. ambassador to Iraq? Why not just send Richard Perle? Khalilzad is a second-rank neo-con with all the same credentials as the rest of those bozos -- pre-emptive war, world hegemony, Project for a New American Century... the whole stinking lot of it. Plus, he's been a big booster for Iran's ayatollahs, the Afghani Mujahideen and the Taliban, not to mention an oil company consultant. Isn't that just jim-dandy?

What this tells us is that the administration has learned exactly nothing from the past three years of insurgency in Iraq. The 1,700-dead, $1 billion-a-week mistake will continue to be run in exactly the same way we have already proved doesn't work. We'll keep trying to put out a growing insurgency with too small an army as the country drifts ever-closer to civil war. It's like Ben Franklin's definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

As one who has long argued that George W. Bush is not stupid, I must admit that not learning from your mistakes is a prime signal of stupidity. But of course, in order to learn from your mistakes, you have to recognize you made them. The president assured us just last week he is "heartened" by what is happening in Iraq and, "I am pleased with the progress." The vice president says there is "major progress" and the insurgency is in its "last throes." These folks are in such deep denial.

Chris Cox, now there's an appointment of near-genius level. Hey, is this the man you would put in charge of the Securities and Exchange Commission to protect investors from greedy, capitalist crooks? Cox, a Republican from Orange County, Calif., helped produce the Enron mess and subsequent scandals in the first place. Just the guy for the job!

Cox led the fight in 1995 to pass the "Private Securities and Litigation Reform Act," which provided extensive legal protections to corporate executives, accountants and lawyers who make misleading statements. The law paved the way for corporate executives to lie without fear of being sued -- it's the Ken Lay Protection Act.

In 2002, Cox said he "rejected the notion that Enron's meltdown should cause Congress to rethink deregulation." The guy's home state was ripped off for $10 billion by Enron. Here's another one who can't learn from his mistakes.

Of course, the fact that he's gotten more than $640,000 in campaign money from the very people he will now be regulating has nothing to do with his views.

Cox, according to The New York Times, is a devotee of Ayn Rand, the high priestess of unregulated capitalism. On announcing the Cox appointment, Bush said, "As a champion of the free-enterprise system in Congress, Chris Cox knows that a free economy is built on trust." Trust? How about trust but verify?

While working for the law firm of Latham & Watkins, Cox himself was sued, according to the Los Angeles Times, for work that involved him in a business scheme that robbed nearly 8,000 investors of approximately $136 million. The scheme cheated customers out of their retirement nest eggs by enticing them to invest in phony mortgages. High-level officers of the company pled guilty.

The charge against Cox was that he helped write a deceptive plan to sell mutual fund shares. Cox claimed ignorance and said he was only distantly involved, but The Associated Press later uncovered documents that showed him to be more involved with the convicted dealer than he previously let on.

And a new development in the most ludicrous nomination yet, John Bolton, Mr. Diplomacy, for ambassador to the United Nations. It turns out that in addition to trying to get American intelligence analysts who disagreed with him fired, Bolton axed an international civil servant for having the temerity to do his job.

In 2001, Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), says Bolton "telephoned me to try to interfere, in a menacing tone, in decisions that are the exclusive responsibility of the director-general." Bolton was opposed to Bustani's effort to get Iraq and other Arab countries involved in the OPCW.

Bustani aide Bob Rigg of New Zealand said: "Why did they not want OPCW involved in Iraq? They felt they couldn't rely on OPCW to come up with the findings the U.S. wanted."

Bolton then arranged to have Bustani fired in a way a U.N. tribunal has since said was "unlawful." I'll bet they just can't wait to see Bolton's moustache up at the United Nations. How could we possibly make more friends there?

As I'm sure Chris Cox can tell us, in business, "goodwill" is considered an asset.

Molly Ivins writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.

© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Friday, June 17, 2005

What's the Matter With Ohio? - New York Times

What's the Matter With Ohio? - New York Times
"The New York Times
June 17, 2005
What's the Matter With Ohio?

The Toledo Blade's reports on Coingate - the unfolding tale of how Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation misused funds - deserve much more national attention than they have received so far. For one thing, it's an entertaining story that seems to get weirder by the week. More important, it's an object lesson in what happens when you have one-party rule untrammeled by any quaint notions of independent oversight.

In April, The Blade reported that the bureau, which provides financial support for workers injured on the job, had invested $50 million in Capital Coin, a rare-coin trading operation run by Tom Noe, an influential Republican fund-raiser.

At first, state officials angrily insisted that this unusual use of state funds was a good investment that had nothing to do with Mr. Noe's political connections. An accounting investigation revealed, however, that Mr. Noe's claims to be running a profitable business were fictitious: he had lost millions, and 121 valuable coins were missing.

On June 3, police raided the Colorado home of Michael Storeim, Mr. Noe's business associate, and seized hundreds of rare coins. After changing the locks, they left 3,500 bottles of wine, valued at several hundred thousand dollars, in the home's basement.

On Monday, Mr. Storeim told police that someone had broken into his house over the weekend and stolen much of the wine, along with artwork, guns, jewelry and cars. As I said, this story keeps getting weirder.

Meanwhile, The Blade uncovered an even bigger story: the Bureau of Workers' Compensation invested $225 million in a hedge fund managed by MDL Capital, whose chairman had strong political connections. When this investment started to go sour, the bureau's chief financial officer told another top agency official that he had been told to "give MDL a break."

By October 2004, state officials knew that MDL had lost almost the entire investment, but they kept the loss hidden until this month.

How could such things happen? The answer, it has become clear, lies in a web of financial connections between state officials and the businessmen who got to play with state funds.

We're not just talking about campaign contributions, although Mr. Noe's contributions ranged so widely that five of the state's seven Supreme Court justices had to recuse themselves from cases associated with the scandal. (He's also under suspicion of using intermediaries to contribute large sums, illegally, to the Bush campaign.) We're talking about personal payoffs: bargain vacations for the governor's chief of staff at Mr. Noe's Florida home, the fact that MDL Capital employs the daughter of one of the members of the workers' compensation oversight board, and more.

Now, politicians and businessmen are always in a position to do each other lucrative favors. Government is relatively clean when politicians are sufficiently afraid of scandal to resist temptation. But when a political machine controls all branches of government, and those officials charged with oversight are also reliably partisan, politicians feel safe from investigation. Their inhibitions dissolve, and they take full advantage of their position, until the scandals become too big to hide.

In other words, Ohio's state government today is a lot like Boss Tweed's New York. Unfortunately, a lot of other state governments look similar - and so does Washington.

Since their 1994 takeover of Congress, and even more so since the 2000 election, Republican leaders have sought to make their political dominance permanent. They redistricted Texas to lock in their control of the House. Through the "K Street Project" they have put lobbying firms under partisan control, starving the Democrats of campaign funds. And they are, of course, trying to pack the courts with partisan loyalists.

In effect, they're trying to turn America into a giant version of the elder Richard Daley's Chicago.

These efforts have already created an environment in which politicians from the right party and businessmen with the right connections believe, with good reason, that they have immunity.

And politicians who feel that they can exploit their position tend to do just that. It's a likely bet that the scandals we already know about, from Coingate to Tom DeLay's dealings with the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, are just the tip of the iceberg.

The message from Ohio is that long-term dominance by a political machine leads to corruption, regardless of the policies that machine follows or the ideology it claims to represent.


WAR, RIGHTS AND SECURITY: Answers needed on Downing Street memo

The Detroit Free Press:

"WAR, RIGHTS AND SECURITY: Answers needed on Downing Street memo

June 17, 2005

The White House is surely hoping that U.S. Rep. John Conyers will just go away. But he shouldn't, not while Americans are dying in Iraq.

The country deserves better answers than President George W. Bush has provided to date about his justification for the Iraq war, and Conyers is at least trying to get them.

As a member of the minority party from a state Bush didn't carry, he's not likely to succeed on his own. But the Detroit Democrat can raise public awareness of the so-called "Downing Street memo" to a point where more of the president's fellow Republicans, some of whom already are trying to distance themselves from the war, can join the chorus calling for answers. Perhaps former Secretary of State Colin Powell will add his voice, too, since he was the one who took the president's case for war to the United Nations, making quite a show of evidence that turned out to be false about Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat.

The Downing Street memo, named for the residence of the British prime minister, surfaced in May. It summarizes a meeting eight months before the war in which British officials just back from Washington said Bush already had decided to invade Iraq and that intelligence and facts were being "fixed" to justify the move.

American officials and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have denied that assertion, although it is attributed in the memo to the chief of British intelligence.

The Sunday Times of London also has reported on an eight-page briefing paper prepared for Blair that concludes the U.S. military gave "little thought" to the aftermath of a war in Iraq. The briefing paper of July 21, 2002, says that a postwar occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise and that "as already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point."

That memo appears prescient, given the unfolding of events since the toppling of the Hussein regime and the continuing casualties among U.S. forces and Iraqis.

While the Iraq war cannot be undone, it also is being held up as a manifestation of Bush administration policy that calls for preemptive action against imminent threats. Before that policy is invoked again, it's not unreasonable for members of Congress -- and the families of America's armed forces -- to ask for a more thorough accounting of the assessment of Iraq as a threat.

The war has proven that assessment wrong. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Conyers is asking how the United States could have been so wrong about something so important. The Downing Street memo offers an answer. Does the White House have a better one?

May, 1999

Daily Kos
"May, 1999
by Hunter
Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 19:21:48 PDT

"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade... if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."

From an October 2004 Geurilla News Network article, via

Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father's shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. "Suddenly, he's at 91 percent in the polls, and he'd barely crawled out of the bunker."

That President Bush and his advisers had Iraq on their minds long before weapons inspectors had finished their work -- and long before alleged Iraqi ties with terrorists became a central rationale for war -- has been raised elsewhere, including in a book based on recollections of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. However, Herskowitz was in a unique position to hear Bush's unguarded and unfiltered views on Iraq, war and other matters -- well before he became president.

In 1999, Herskowitz struck a deal with the campaign of George W. Bush about a ghost-written autobiography, which was ultimately titled A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House [here], and he and Bush signed a contract in which the two would split the proceeds. The publisher was William Morrow. Herskowitz was given unimpeded access to Bush, and the two met approximately 20 times so Bush could share his thoughts. Herskowitz began working on the book in May, 1999, and says that within two months he had completed and submitted some 10 chapters, with a remaining 4-6 chapters still on his computer. Herskowitz was replaced as Bush's ghostwriter after Bush's handlers concluded that the candidate's views and life experiences were not being cast in a sufficiently positive light.

According to Herskowitz, who has authored more than 30 books, many of them jointly written autobiographies of famous Americans in politics, sports and media (including that of Reagan adviser Michael Deaver), Bush and his advisers were sold on the idea that it was difficult for a president to accomplish an electoral agenda without the record-high approval numbers that accompany successful if modest wars.

The revelations on Bush's attitude toward Iraq emerged recently during two taped interviews of Herskowitz, which included a discussion of a variety of matters, including his continued closeness with the Bush family, indicated by his subsequent selection to pen an authorized biography of Bush's grandfather, written and published last year with the assistance and blessing of the Bush family.

Herskowitz's continued close relationship with the Bush family resulted in a 2003 biography of Prescott Bush. See also this contemporaneous Salon article on Herskowitz's removal from the George W. autobiography.

More Evidence: Iraq War Planned Soon After 9/11

More Evidence: Iraq War Planned Soon After 9/11
by Muons (dailykos)

Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 17:20:00 PDT

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern tells PBS: Going "back to an earlier conversation, and this happened on the 20th of September, 2001, so nine days after 9/11. This involved Tony Blair, who was in Washington having dinner with the president. How do we know about this? We know this because Christopher Meyer, the UK ambassador, was there at the dinner, and he's written his memoirs.

"And what does he say? The conversation went like this. President Bush: Tony we're going to Afghanistan in a week or two, but that won't take long and we get out of there and go right into Iraq, are you with me Tony? Are you with me? And Christopher Meyer says my goodness, it was really, that Tony was sort of nonplused but he said yes sir, I'm with you, Mr. President.

British documents portray determined U.S. march to war

KRT Wire | 06/17/2005

"British documents portray determined U.S. march to war


Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - Highly classified documents leaked in Britain appear to provide new evidence that President Bush and his national security team decided to invade Iraq much earlier than they have acknowledged and marched to war without dwelling on the potential perils.

The half-dozen memos and option papers, written by top aides to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, buttress previous on-the-record accounts that portray Bush and his advisers as predisposed to oust Saddam Hussein when they took office - and determined to do it at all costs after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Blair is Bush's closest global partner, and the documents, startlingly frank at times, were never meant to become public.

Now they have rocketed around the Internet and been seized on by opponents of the Iraq war as evidence that the president and his administration were not leveling with the American people about their war preparations.

By mid-March 2002, a year before the invasion of Iraq, top British officials were already so resigned to a war that they seemed preoccupied mostly with building international support and finding a legal justification.

That was just six weeks after Bush declared Iraq a member of the "axis of evil."

But Blair's advisers repeatedly expressed concern that the case against Saddam was weak and that the White House wasn't giving nearly enough attention to what would happen after he was toppled.

"The U.S. government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it," stated a July 21, 2002, briefing paper prepared for a meeting of Blair's advisers two days later.

"A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise," it stated.

Bush and Blair forcefully denied in a news conference this month that they were fixated on war.

"There's nothing farther from the truth. My conversations with the prime minister were how can we do this peacefully," Bush said. "We worked hard to figure out how we could do this peacefully."

Neither the U.S. government nor the British government has disputed the memos' authenticity.

The release of the documents comes at a bad time for Bush. He faces growing congressional and public unease after 27 months of war in Iraq. Opinion polls show public support for the Iraq war at or near all-time lows.

"It's not collapsing. ... (But) there are signs people are becoming uneasy," said Christopher Gelpi, a Duke University political science professor who studies public opinion and the use of force.

Gelpi said the impact of the British memos is unclear, since they haven't received wide media attention until recently. "The notion that the public has been lied to could have a very toxic effect on public support," he said.

Precisely when Bush made an irrevocable decision to invade Iraq remains murky.

"We still don't know - and this is not unusual - exactly when the presidential decision was made," said journalist James Mann, author of "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet."

The White House maintains it tried to avert war almost until the last minute.

Despite the outcry over the British documents, which have come to be known as the "Downing Street memos," much of what they say was known - or knowable - at the time, Mann said.

It's well documented that Bush began looking at military options for overthrowing Saddam's regime as early as November 2001, with formal military planning beginning early in 2002.

Knight Ridder, for example, reported on Feb. 13, 2002, that the president had decided in principle on overthrowing the Iraqi leader and ordered "a combination of military, diplomatic and covert steps" to achieve that goal.

Six days later, then-Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., visited U.S. Central Command headquarters and, Graham said in a memoir, was told by Gen. Tommy Franks that despite ongoing operations in Afghanistan, "military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq." Franks denied making the comment.

Richard Haass, the State Department's director of policy planning, told an interviewer that in an early July 2002 chat with then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, he questioned putting Iraq at the center of the U.S. war against terrorism. He said Rice advised him "essentially, that that decision's been made, don't waste your breath."

The British memos document in crisp, sometimes wry, prose how advanced political preparations were even more than a year before the March 2003 invasion.

Moreover, they echo other accounts of Bush's determination to unseat Saddam, who once tried to assassinate his father.

In a March 22, 2002, letter to British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Blair political adviser Peter Ricketts advised steering the public rationale for war away from "regime change."

"'Regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam," Ricketts wrote.

Bush came into office with aides, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who believed that the United States erred gravely by allowing Saddam to remain in power after the 1991 Gulf War.

Four days after the Sept. 11 attacks, during a crisis meeting at Camp David, Wolfowitz argued for attacking Iraq in response, as first recounted in journalist Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack."

Later that month, Wolfowitz helped arrange a trip by former CIA Director James Woolsey to the United Kingdom to look for evidence of an Iraqi role in Sept. 11.

Richard Clarke, at the time a veteran White House counterterrorism official, has written that Bush ordered him to look for the same evidence the day after the attacks.

The search for evidence, along with claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, continued for more than a year.

No Iraqi link to Sept. 11 has been found, and most of the intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction has since proved to be bogus.

In that sense, the British memos seem almost prophetic.

"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," Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's MI-6 spy service, told Blair and his top advisers after talks in Washington, according to the first memo to be leaked. It was dated July 23, 2002.

"US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al (Qaida) is so far frankly unconvincing," Ricketts reported earlier in his March 2002 letter to Straw.

In his own letter to Blair three days later, Straw also seemed to question the scale of the threat. "In the documents so far presented, it has been hard to glean whether the threat from Iraq is so significantly different from that of Iran and North Korea as to justify military action," he wrote.

All of the documents leaked thus far - by persons unknown - date before Bush's August 2002 decision to take his case against Saddam to the United Nations, as recommended by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell.

While Bush continues to assert that he tried diplomacy, things looked different in the spring and summer of 2002, at least as seen through the prism of the British government.

Blair's advisers found a deep distrust of the United Nations in Washington.

The National Security Council, led by Rice, "has no patience with the U.N. route," according to Dearlove's report to Blair and his advisers at the July 23, 2002, meeting.

In yet another memo, Christopher Meyer, then Blair's ambassador to Washington, said he met with Wolfowitz on March 17, 2002, and discussed how to build support for military action. "I then went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors," Meyer reported to London.

The two governments discussed ways to craft an ultimatum to Saddam on U.N. weapons inspectors that he would be sure to reject, providing an excuse for war and a path to building international support.

Said Mann: "Going to the U.N. was always a box to be checked and a necessity for winning the support of the British government."


© 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services."

July, 2002

July, 2002
by Hunter (dailykos)
Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 15:52:19 PDT

Via The American Street, a Bob Woodward 60 Minutes interview from April, 2004:

Woodward reports that just five days after Sept. 11, President Bush indicated to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that while he had to do Afghanistan first, he was also determined to do something about Saddam Hussein.

"There's some pressure to go after Saddam Hussein. Don Rumsfeld has said, `This is an opportunity to take out Saddam Hussein, perhaps. We should consider it.' And the president says to Condi Rice meeting head to head, 'We won't do Iraq now.' But it is a question we're gonna have to return to,'" says Woodward.

"And there's this low boil on Iraq until the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 21, 2001. This is 72 days after 9/11. This is part of this secret history. President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically, and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door and says, 'What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq? What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.'"

Woodward says immediately after that, Rumsfeld told Gen. Tommy Franks to develop a war plan to invade Iraq and remove Saddam - and that Rumsfeld gave Franks a blank check.

"Rumsfeld and Franks work out a deal essentially where Franks can spend any money he needs. And so he starts building runways and pipelines and doing all the preparations in Kuwait, specifically to make war possible," says Woodward.

"Gets to a point where in July, the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. ...Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."

The Downing Street Minutes were written on July 23, 2002:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. 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. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

This isn't going away. It may be a slow build, but the danger to the Bush administration is that there really is a break in the dam, at this point -- on a wide variety of fronts, previous snippets and stories are being merged together to finally reveal the larger storyline. Bolton, the DSM, ElBaradei, the movement of funds and troops away from the active search for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in preparation for the Iraq action, the heightened bombings being carried out against Iraq in the period before the involvement of the U.N. -- rather than a collection of discrete stories, the overall plot is coming together. And it is damning.