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, August 27, 2005

Frank Rich - The Vietnamization of Bush's Vacation


August 28, 2005
The Vietnamization of Bush's Vacation
By FRANK RICH
ANOTHER week in Iraq, another light at the end of the tunnel. On Monday President Bush saluted the Iraqis for "completing work on a democratic constitution" even as the process was breaking down yet again. But was anyone even listening to his latest premature celebration?
We have long since lost count of all the historic turning points and fast-evaporating victories hyped by this president. The toppling of Saddam's statue, "Mission Accomplished," the transfer of sovereignty and the purple fingers all blur into a hallucinatory loop of delusion. One such red-letter day, some may dimly recall, was the adoption of the previous, interim constitution in March 2004, also proclaimed a "historic milestone" by Mr. Bush. Within a month after that fabulous victory, the insurgency boiled over into the war we have today, taking, among many others, the life of Casey Sheehan.
It's Casey Sheehan's mother, not those haggling in Baghdad's Green Zone, who really changed the landscape in the war this month. Not because of her bumper-sticker politics or the slick left-wing political operatives who have turned her into a circus, but because the original, stubborn fact of her grief brought back the dead the administration had tried for so long to lock out of sight. With a shove from Pat Robertson, her 15 minutes are now up, but even Mr. Robertson's antics revealed buyer's remorse about Iraq; his stated motivation for taking out Hugo Chávez by assassination was to avoid "another $200 billion war" to remove a dictator.
In the wake of Ms. Sheehan's protest, the facts on the ground in America have changed almost everywhere. The president, for one, has been forced to make what for him is the ultimate sacrifice: jettisoning chunks of vacation to defend the war in any bunker he can find in Utah or Idaho. In the first speech of this offensive, he even felt compelled to take the uncharacteristic step of citing the number of American dead in public (though the number was already out of date by at least five casualties by day's end). For the second, the White House recruited its own mom, Tammy Pruett, for the president to showcase as an antidote to Ms. Sheehan. But in a reversion to the president's hide-the-fallen habit, the chosen mother was not one who had lost a child in Iraq.
It isn't just Mr. Bush who is in a tight corner now. Ms. Sheehan's protest was the catalyst for a new national argument about the war that managed to expose both the intellectual bankruptcy of its remaining supporters on the right and the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place.
When the war's die-hard cheerleaders attacked the Middle East policy of a mother from Vacaville, Calif., instead of defending the president's policy in Iraq, it was definitive proof that there is little cogent defense left to be made. When the Democrats offered no alternative to either Mr. Bush's policy or Ms. Sheehan's plea for an immediate withdrawal, it was proof that they have no standing in the debate.
Instead, two conservative Republicans - actually talking about Iraq instead of Ms. Sheehan, unlike the rest of their breed - stepped up to fill this enormous vacuum: Chuck Hagel and Henry Kissinger. Both pointedly invoked Vietnam, the war that forged their political careers. Their timing, like Ms. Sheehan's, was impeccable. Last week Mr. Bush started saying that the best way to honor the dead would be to "finish the task they gave their lives for" - a dangerous rationale that, as David Halberstam points out, was heard as early as 1963 in Vietnam, when American casualties in that fiasco were still inching toward 100.
And what exactly is our task? Mr. Bush's current definition - "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" - could not be a better formula for quagmire. Twenty-eight months after the fall of Saddam, only "a small number" of Iraqi troops are capable of fighting without American assistance, according to the Pentagon - a figure that Joseph Biden puts at "fewer than 3,000." At this rate, our 138,000 troops will be replaced by self-sufficient locals in roughly 100 years.
For his part, Mr. Hagel backed up his assertion that we are bogged down in a new Vietnam with an irrefutable litany of failure: "more dead, more wounded, less electricity in Iraq, less oil being pumped in Iraq, more insurgency attacks, more insurgents coming across the border, more corruption in the government." Mr. Kissinger no doubt counts himself a firm supporter of Mr. Bush, but in Washington Post this month, he drew a damning lesson from Vietnam: "Military success is difficult to sustain unless buttressed by domestic support." Anyone who can read a poll knows that support is gone and is not coming back. The president's approval rating dropped to 36 percent in one survey last week.
What's left is the option stated bluntly by Mr. Hagel: "We should start figuring out how we get out of there."
He didn't say how we might do that. John McCain has talked about sending more troops to rectify our disastrous failure to secure the country, but he'll have to round them up himself door to door. As the retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey reported to the Senate, the National Guard is "in the stage of meltdown and in 24 months we'll be coming apart." At the Army, according to The Los Angeles Times, officials are now predicting an even worse shortfall of recruits in 2006 than in 2005. The Leo Burnett advertising agency has been handed $350 million for a recruitment campaign that avoids any mention of Iraq.
Among Washington's Democrats, the only one with a clue seems to be Russell Feingold, the Wisconsin senator who this month proposed setting a "target date" (as opposed to a deadline) for getting out. Mr. Feingold also made the crucial observation that "the president has presented us with a false choice": either "stay the course" or "cut and run." That false choice, in which Mr. Bush pretends that the only alternative to his reckless conduct of the war is Ms. Sheehan's equally apocalyptic retreat, is used to snuff out any legitimate debate. There are in fact plenty of other choices echoing about, from variations on Mr. Feingold's timetable theme to buying off the Sunni insurgents.
But don't expect any of Mr. Feingold's peers to join him or Mr. Hagel in fashioning an exit strategy that might work. If there's a moment that could stand for the Democrats' irrelevance it came on July 14, the day Americans woke up to learn of the suicide bomber in Baghdad who killed as many as 27 people, nearly all of them children gathered around American troops. In Washington that day, the presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a press conference vowing to protect American children from the fantasy violence of video games.
The Democrats are hoping that if they do nothing, they might inherit the earth as the Bush administration goes down the tubes. Whatever the dubious merits of this Kerryesque course as a political strategy, as a moral strategy it's unpatriotic. The earth may not be worth inheriting if Iraq continues to sabotage America's ability to take on Iran and North Korea, let alone Al Qaeda.
As another politician from the Vietnam era, Gary Hart, observed last week, the Democrats are too cowardly to admit they made a mistake three years ago, when fear of midterm elections drove them to surrender to the administration's rushed and manipulative Iraq-war sales pitch. So now they are compounding the original error as the same hucksters frantically try to repackage the old damaged goods.
IN the new pitch there are no mushroom clouds. Instead we get McCarthyesque rhetoric accusing critics of being soft on the war on terrorism, which the Iraq adventure has itself undermined. Before anyone dare say Vietnam, the president, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld drag in the historian David McCullough and liken 2005 in Iraq to 1776 in America - and, by implication, the original George W. to ours. Before you know it, Ahmad Chalabi will be rehabilitated as Ben Franklin.
The marketing campaign will crescendo in two weeks, on the anniversary of 9/11, when a Defense Department "Freedom Walk" will trek from the site of the Pentagon attack through Arlington National Cemetery to a country music concert on the Mall. There the false linkage of Iraq to 9/11 will be hammered in once more, this time with a beat: Clint Black will sing "I Raq and Roll," a ditty whose lyrics focus on Saddam, not the Islamic radicals who actually attacked America. Lest any propaganda opportunity be missed, Arlington's gravestones are being branded with the Pentagon's slogans for military campaigns, like Operation Iraqi Freedom, The Associated Press reported last week - a historic first. If only the administration had thought of doing the same on the fallen's coffins, it might have allowed photographs.
Even though their own poll numbers are in a race to the bottom with the president's, don't expect the Democrats to make a peep. Republicans, their minds increasingly focused on November 2006, may well blink first. In yet another echo of Vietnam, it's millions of voters beyond the capital who will force the timetable for our inexorable exit from Iraq.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/28/opinion/28rich.html?ei=5090&en=91d8ac1acc31102c&ex=1282881600&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=print

WaPo - The War's Momentum

The War's Momentum

Saturday, August 27, 2005; A16



THE LONGER Iraqi political leaders struggled this week to reach a compromise on a draft constitution, the worse the violence around the country seemed to grow. That was grimly logical: Not only are Islamic extremists such as Abu Musab Zarqawi dedicated to disrupting the U.S.-backed construction of a new Iraqi political order, but the prospective losers in that process have new reason to rebel. Iraq's novel principles of democracy and federalism stand to disempower the Sunni minority that ruled under Saddam Hussein, and to disadvantage the Baghdad-based Shiite movement led by Moqtada Sadr, which once again threatens to take up arms. Fear that the constitution would escalate rather than ease a war still mostly fought by U.S. troops prompted American envoys, and finally President Bush himself, to intervene in an attempt to catalyze compromise. Negotiations continued through yesterday; the result, at best, may be a flawed but somewhat more flexible charter that will allow future democratic parliaments to work out crucial details of federalism and the role of religion in government.

The probability remains that the military conflict in Iraq, which was temporarily eased by last January's elections, will feed on a continuing political struggle. A scheduled referendum on the constitution in October could alter that momentum, either by providing the constitution with a strong popular mandate or by defeating it, which opponents can accomplish by winning a two-thirds majority in three of Iraq's 18 provinces. Yet the growing violence of recent weeks, combined with constitutional provisions that should be troubling for supporters of a secular Iraqi democracy as well as for Iraqi minorities, places the U.S. mission in the most precarious position it has experienced since the transition to Iraqi sovereignty 14 months ago.

There is no cause for despair, or for abandoning the basic U.S. strategy in Iraq, which is to support the election of a permanent national government and train security forces capable of defending it with continuing help from American troops. But it is dispiriting, and damaging to the chances for success, that President Bush still refuses to speak honestly to the country about the challenges the United States now faces, or how he intends to address them. In two major speeches on national security this week, Mr. Bush simply repeated the misleading description of Iraq he offered during his national television address in June, conflating the war with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and describing the enemy as terrorists akin to al Qaeda.

While it is true that Islamic extremist movements have made Iraq a battleground, and failure to defeat them would be a catastrophe for U.S. security, the main challenge remains the nationalist and mostly secular Sunni insurgency, which is fighting for control of Iraq, not of Islam. Mr. Bush breezily praised the constitutional process as if it were the antithesis of the military conflict, rather than a political expression of the same Iraqi power struggle. He boasted that Iraq will have a constitution that "honors women's rights" and "the rights of minorities" even though the prevailing draft raises serious questions about both.

In fact, depending on the future balance of power in the Iraqi parliament, the constitution as it stood late this week could allow the emergence of a Shiite mini-state in Iraq's south closely allied to Iran, with de facto rule by clerics and a continuation of the oppression of women and non-Shiites already widely reported in the region. American military defense of such an entity would be hard to justify. Mr. Bush seems to understand this danger, among others: hence his timely phone call on Thursday to Abdul Aziz Hakim, the powerful Shiite leader who has pressed for that radical "federal" solution. No doubt the president frankly shared his thinking with the Iraqi cleric, whose movement appeared to offer some concessions yesterday. If the president would be as candid with the American public, he would improve his chances of gaining the support he will need during the critical and trying months ahead.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

They die in vain: Lincoln, Bush, and perversion

They die in vain: Lincoln, Bush, and perversion

Many of us remember the opening of the Gettysburg address, 'four score and seven years ago,' (it's how I learned how many years are in a score). But, unless one is a history buff or has a mind free of celebrity media trash, one has likely forgotten the rest of the speech. Here's a portion:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain --

In Tarrying with the Negative, [the philosopher Slavoj] Zizek reads the Gettysburg in the context of an explication of the loop of perversion. In so doing, he sets out the difference between self-legitimation and perversion.
In his comments on Lincoln's address, Zizek writes:

by dedicating ourselves to the task of successfully bringing to an end the work of those who sacrificed their lives, we will make sure that their sacrifice was not in vain, that they will continue to live in our memory; in this way, we will effectively commemorate them; if we do not accomplish this task of ours, they will be forgotten, they will have died in vain. So, by dedicating the place to their memory, what we actually do is dedicate, legitimize ourselves as the continuators of their work--we legitimize our own role. This gesture of self-legitimization through the other is ideology in its purest: the dead are our redeemers, and by dedicating ourselves to continuing their work we redeem the redeemers.

The question today is whether this structure of redeeming the redeemers, of self-legitimization, is exactly what we see in Bush's stance toward Iraq. Must the war be continued to insure that the soldiers' sacrifice was not in vain? The answer is no--there is a difference between the ideological circle of legitimization and perversion. What, then, is the difference?

In brief, the perverse sacrifice involves destruction for the sake of being able to redeem, to justify, to carry on. One destroys in order to have the opportunity to prove one's mettle. The destruction demonstrates our courage, our willingness to keep going, to carry out the task, no matter what. It would be like beginning a civil war so that we can have the experience of sacrificing ourselves for the good of the union.

And, so to Iraq: we have a war started for the sake of proving our willingness to go to war, our willingness to go to the end. We have an effort to create terrorists or an enemy in order to fight and kill them. Americans should not be deceived. The soldiers in Iraq have died in vain. They did not die for a cause and their deaths cannot be redeemed through continued war. In fact, that would be the most perverse response of all: a sacrifice of more people for the sake of redeeming those whose lives were lost unjustifiably. We would be using them to redeem us, when in fact what needs to be redeemed is meaningless, pointless killing. And is this not the very structure of Bush's rhetoric and of that of the military families who support him? That they cannot bear, cannot confront the abyss of meaningless death and so choose perversion?

Maureen Dowd - Bike-Deep in the Big Muddy

Bike-Deep in the Big Muddy
By MAUREEN DOWD
WASHINGTON

W. has jumped the couch.

Not fallen off the couch, as he did when he choked on that pretzel.
Jumped it.

According to UrbanDictionary.com, "jump the couch" has now become slang for "a defining moment when you know someone has gone off the deep end. Inspired by Tom Cruise's recent behavior on 'Oprah.' Also see 'jump the shark.' "
The former stateside National Guardsman who was sometimes M.I.A. jumped the shark by landing on that "Mission Accomplished" carrier. (With Tom Cruise cockiness.)

Then, as president, he jumped the couch by pedaling through the guns of August - the growing carnage and chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He did do a few minutes of work this month, calling a Shiite leader in Baghdad a few days ago to lobby him to reach a consensus with the Sunnis, so Iraq doesn't crack apart. But the Shiites and Kurds ignored the president and skewered the Sunnis.

Iraq, it turns out, is the one branch of American government that the Republicans don't control.

W. had a barbecue for the press on Thursday night. (If only the press had grilled him instead.) He mingled over catfish and potato salad with the reporters, who had to ride past Cindy Sheehan's antiwar encampment to get to the poolside party.

Dan Froomkin wrote on the Washington Post Web site that many of the reporters "fawned over Bush, following him around in packs every time he moved." W. chatted about sports and the twins, still oblivious to the cultural shift that is turning 2005 into 1968.

As the news correspondent Dan Harris noted on ABC on Wednesday, the mood is much different now from what it was when the Dixie Chicks got pilloried for criticizing the president just before the war began.

The No. 1 music video requested on MTV is Green Day's antiwar song, "Wake Me Up When September Ends," about the pain of soldiers and their families. On Sunday, Joan Baez sang peace anthems at Camp Casey, including "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" The N.F.L. did not cancel its sponsorship of the Rolling Stones tour, even though the band has a new song critical of Mr. Bush and the war.

Gary Hart began his Washington Post op-ed piece this week by quoting from an anti-Vietnam War song, "Waist-deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on."

The former campaign manager for George McGovern's antiwar campaign in 1972 wrote: "We've stumbled into a hornet's nest. We've weakened ourselves at home and in the world. We are less secure today than before this war began. Who now has the courage to say this?"

Anxiety is growing among politicians on both sides of the aisle. More and more Americans don't want to stay-the-course on stay-the-course.

You'd think that by now, watching the meshugas in Iraq, the Bush crowd would have learned some lessons about twisting facts to suit ideology, and punishing those who try to tell the truth. But they're still behaving like Cinderella's evil stepsisters, who cut their feet to fit them into the glass slipper: butchering reality to make the fairy tale come out their way.

Eric Lichtblau reported in The Times this week that the administration was dumping the highly respected Lawrence Greenfeld, appointed by President Bush in 2001 to head the Bureau of Justice Statistics, because he refused superiors' orders to delete from a press release an account of how black and Hispanic drivers were treated more aggressively by the police after traffic stops. The Justice Department study showed markedly higher rates of searches and use of force for black and Hispanic drivers, compared with white drivers.
Fearing that the survey would give ammunition to members of Congress who object to using racial and ethnic data in terrorism and law enforcement investigations, Mr. Greenfeld's supervisors buried it online with no press release or briefing for Congress.

Mr. Lichtblau wrote that when Mr. Greenfeld sent the planned press release to the office of his supervisor, Tracy Henke, then an acting assistant attorney general, the section on the treatment of black and Hispanic drivers was crossed out with a notation: "Do we need this?" Ms. Henke herself had added a note: "Make the changes."

Like Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley, John Bolton and others who helped spin reality to suit political ends, Ms. Henke was rewarded by the president. She has been nominated for a senior post in the Homeland Security Department.
I feel safer already.

E-mail: liberties@nytimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/27/opinion/27dowd.html?pagewanted=print

Friday, August 26, 2005

RollingStone.com: Bush vs. the Mother : Politics

Bush vs. the Mother
On the president's doorstep -- a dead soldier, an aggrieved housewife and the start of something big
By MATT TAIBBI

Crawford, the home of President George W. Bush, is a sun-scorched hole of a backwater Texas town -- a single dreary railroad crossing surrounded on all sides by roasted earth the color of dried dog shit. There are scattered clumps of trees and brush, but all the foliage seems bent from the sun's rays and ready at any moment to burst into flames.

The moaning cattle along the lonely roads sound like they're begging for their lives. The downtown streets are empty. Just as the earth is home to natural bridges, this place is a natural dead end -- the perfect place to drink a bottle of Lysol, wind up in a bad marriage, have your neck ripped out by a vulture.

It is a very unlikely place for a peace movement to be born. But that's exactly what happened a few weeks ago, when an aggrieved war mom named Cindy Sheehan set up camp along the road to the president's ranch and demanded a meeting with the commander in chief.

Sheehan's vigil began on Saturday, August 6th, and was originally a solitary affair. Her twenty-four-year-old son, Casey Sheehan, was killed way back in April 2004, when he was one of eight Marines struck down in an ambush in Baghdad's Sadr City.

Sheehan's demand was that Bush meet with her and explain to her what, exactly, her son had died for. The demand, and the accompanying solitary vigil, began as a simple, powerful, unequivocal political statement -- the unarguably genuine protest of a single grieving individual. It was a quest that began on a moral territory almost beyond argument: How could anyone quibble with a mother who'd lost her son?

But Sheehan quickly became more than just the Next Big Media Thing, a successor to Kobe, Laci and Michael. Her campsite became the epicenter of a national anti-war movement that until recently had been largely forgotten. And by the end of a full week of media insanity, it seemed fit to ask if anything was left of that original simple message -- or if something else had taken its place.

I arrived in Crawford early in the afternoon on Thursday, August 11th, the sixth day of Sheehan's vigil. The campsite, dubbed "Camp Casey," was a small row of tents lining the side of a road cutting through a bleak stretch of singed ranch land, some three miles from the president's compound. There were about a hundred people there when I showed up, a large chunk of them reporters -- whose presence, clearly, the protesters had already adjusted to. Along one row of tents, a small group of sunbathing young activists was trying out a new cheer for KCEN, the local NBC affiliate:

"C! I! N-D-Y! She deserves a reason why!"

On the other side of the camp was Sheehan herself, a tall, deliberate, sad-looking woman with sun-lightened hair and a face red from the afternoon heat. I didn't get within ten feet of her before I was intercepted by a pair of young women from the feminist anti-war organization CodePink. Alicia and Tiffany had apparently assumed the role of press secretaries; Sheehan was already operating on a rigid media schedule.

Throughout my stay in Texas I would run into a steady stream of young volunteers who seemed to consider it a great honor to be able to announce that "Cindy is too busy to talk with you right now." A solemn code of Cindy-reverence quickly became a leitmotif of the scene; preserving the sanctity of Sheehan's naps, meals and Internet time became a principle that the whole compound worked together to uphold.

On my first night at the camp, a protester parked too close to a gully, and her car slipped into a ditch. While a bunch of us tried to extricate it, pushing the car as its wheels spun, one protester leaned over to another.

"Blame George fucking Bush!" he said, pushing.

"I blame George fucking Bush for everything!" was the answer.

They were kidding, but we still didn't get the car out of the ditch that night. If the pre-Sheehan anti-war movement had a problem, it was stuff like this. The movement likes to think of itself as open and inclusive, but in practice it often comes off like a bunch of nerds whose favored recreation is coming up with clever passwords for their secret treehouse. The ostensible political purpose may be ending the war, but the immediate occupation for a sizable percentage of these people always seemed to be a kind of rolling adult tourist attraction called Hating George Bush. Marches become Hate Bush Cruises; vigils, Hate Bush Resorts. Hence the astonishingly wide variety of anti-Bush tees (Camp Casey featured a rare film-fantasy matched set, home at various times to BUSH IS SAURON and DARTH INVADER); the unstoppable flow of Bush-themed folk songs. If you spend any amount of time involved with peace protests, as I have, you very quickly start to notice that Hating the President just seems like a little too much of a fun thing for too many of your brothers-in-arms.

Then again, here as in the rest of America, there's no shortage of folks who spend too much time sick with the opposite disease, Loving the President. In downtown Crawford, the two groups are separated by a Mason-Dixon line. While the anti-Bush protesters congregate at a Zonker Harris-style commune called the Crawford Peace House, the pro-Bush crowd has a meeting place in a giant gift shop called the Yellow Rose.

It's a striking visual scene: On one side of the railroad tracks running through town there's a creaky old house, bedecked with peace signs, that looks like the home of the Partridge family. A few hundred yards away, across the tracks, is the Yellow Rose -- a patriotic storefront drenched in red, white and blue whose entrance is obscured by a Liberty Bell, flanked by two huge stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments. Together, the two places look like a pair of rides in a Crossfire theme park.

Early on my third day I was browsing in the hat section of the Yellow Rose when a clerk approached me.

"Excuse me," I said, holding up two Old Glory mesh hats. "Which of these do you think looks more American?"

She smiled and walked away. A friendly feeling welled up inside me. Within five minutes I was talking to store owner Bill Johnson, a fanatical Bush devotee with a striking resemblance to frozen-sausage king Jimmy Dean. I introduced myself as a Fox TV booker named Larry Weinblatt and told Bill I wanted to bring Sean Hannity down to do a whole show with Sean standing between the Ten Commandments tablets. Bill was all over the idea.

"We want to have that kind of godlike effect," I said.

"Right," Bill said, nodding.

"Secondly, Sean, when he travels," I said, "he brings his own Nautilus equipment. He pumps iron before he goes on."

"Does he really?"

"Yeah," I said. "We get a lot of demonstrators when Sean does his show, and so what he likes to do, when he finishes the broadcast, he takes his shirt off and flexes his muscles for the crowd. You know, rrrr. . ."

"Is he really built like that?"

"Oh, man, he's huge," I said.

We went on like this for a while. Fifteen minutes later, we wrapped up the negotiations.

"Again," I said, "we'd like to use the bell, the Ten Commandments, that backdrop, some horses, and if you have those good-looking Christian girls, we'll take them, too."

"Whatever you want, we'll do it," Bill said.

We shook hands. From there, I went to the inevitable conservative counterdemonstration, which was organized by Dallas right-wing talk-show reptile Darrell Ankarlo. Sheehan's transformation in the right-wing media from anonymous war mom to the great horned pinko Satan was unusually rapid, even by their standards.

The chief talking points were established within four days after her vigil started: Sheehan was a fame-seeking narcissist, an anti-American traitor who dishonored her dead son (Bill O'Reilly questioned her motives and suggested people might see her actions as treasonous) and a stooge for Michael Moore. This Dallas jock Ankarlo chipped in with a claim that he'd received a series of death threats, some of which, he implied, had come from Sheehan's peaceniks.

There are times when American politics seems like little more than two groups in a fever to prevent each other from trespassing upon their respective soothing versions of unreality. At one point at Camp Casey, an informal poll taken around a campfire revealed that six out of a group of ten protesters, selected at random, believed that the United States government was directly involved in planning the 9/11 bombings. Flabbergasted, I tried to press the issue.

"Do you know how many people would have to be involved in that conspiracy?" I said. "I mean, start with the pilots . . ."

"The planes were flown by remote control," a girl sitting across from me snapped.

But things were no better at Ankarlo's counterdemonstration. Aaron Martin, 31, had never heard the administration say that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but Martin did remember one thing about Iraq that he said he'd heard "prior to 9/11."

"They had a fuselage," he said. "It was like a 747 fuselage that they use for training purposes for terrorism."

Was there any other reason he believed Iraq was connected to 9/11?

"It's just a general feeling," he said.

Another group I spoke with asked me why I believed Iraq wasn't connected to 9/11. I answered that Saddam Hussein's secular government was a political enemy of the Islamic fundamentalists.

"Well," said Raymond Smith, 42, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

He laughed, and the group nodded at me triumphantly.

It was like a scene from Spinal Tap. Three seconds passed.

"But," I said finally, "that doesn't make any sense, does it?"

Everyone shrugged impatiently. Who gives a fuck? We believe what we believe -- and fuck you if you don't like it. The Iraq war is like the sun: No one wants to stare at it too long.

By the time I finally sat down with Sheehan, I was deeply frustrated with all of this, and I was ready to blame her for what had become, in my mind, a noisome exercise in blind chest-puffing on both sides. By the eighth day of her vigil, practically every anti-Bush movement under the sun had wiggled into Crawford to get a piece of the action, and it seemed to me that all had been lost and that Sheehan had allowed the illogic of a media hurricane -- noise for noise's sake -- to take over her protest. Particularly irritating was the sight of a giant school bus bearing the inscription "Free the Cuban Five" parked in front of the Peace House. Jesus, I thought. The Mumia people can't be far behind.

"What's the Cuban Five?" Sheehan asked when we finally sat down, alone.

"They're on the front lawn here . . ."

She shook her head helplessly. She had no idea who they were.

We met in a trailer parked outside the Peace House that someone had volunteered for her use. The trailer-sanctuary added to the movie-star vibe that followed Sheehan around everywhere in Crawford; I half expected to see a director's chair marked MS. SHEEHAN parked out front.

But for all this, Sheehan seemed a very lonely woman. Tall, lanky and clunkily built, with the most common and therefore most tragic of faces -- the forgotten housewife whom life, with all its best joys, has long ago passed by -- Sheehan had begun to move around the compound with a preternatural slowness, like a ghost. She floated, rather than walked, into the trailer. After a week of media madness, she was like a superhero unable to return home after falling into a vat of disfiguring acid. Her past -- the middle-class family life in Vacaville, California, with her four kids and the yellow station wagon they nicknamed the BananaMobile -- all that was gone.

She had been through so much in the past week. In still more proof that red-blue politics often comes before family in this country, her in-laws had released a statement cruelly denouncing her. Her estranged husband, perhaps a coward and perhaps unable to handle the stress, filed for divorce. Revelations about her personal life were spilling into print, and all around the country, heartless creeps like Drudge and Ankarlo were casting themselves as friends and protectors of her fallen son and criticizing her for dishonoring him.

In return for all that, what Sheehan got was this: her own trailer, a couple of weeks' worth of airtime and a bunch of people who called themselves her friends but were really just humping the latest cause. They would probably be moving on soon, and Sheehan would be left with nothing. And meeting her now, I was struck by one more thing: At the end, when it was all over, her son would still be gone. I felt very sorry for her.

"I never knew," she said, sighing. "Not only that I would become the face of the anti-war movement but also that I would become the sacrificial lamb of the anti-war movement."

I asked her if she was referring to all the personal attacks. She nodded.

"But I'd still do it again," she said. "Because it's so important."

Sheehan's political sincerity has been questioned, and in almost every case the charges against her have proved monstrous, calculating and untrue. An example of the kind of thing that's been pinned to her: Matt Drudge blasted her for being a flip-flopper after digging up seemingly pro-Bush Sheehan quotes from a California newspaper after she and other war parents met with the president.

Among those were "That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together." Drudge implied that Sheehan was referring to the meeting with the president. In fact, what Sheehan was saying was that the real gift Bush gave the families was the opportunity to meet each other, not the president.

Things like this are what Sheehan's detractors are using to describe what they call "Cindy's Political Agenda," but I didn't observe any agenda from Sheehan, just a very tired woman. Like everyone else in anti-war circles, Sheehan does sometimes speak in the clubby language of Camp Bush Hater -- but when she does this, she sounds like a follower, not a leader. In the end, the movement might overtake her, but while she is still at its center she seems genuinely to be trying to do the right thing.

"This thing," she said, "it's bigger than me now."

Sheehan believes that no matter what happens, one thing she accomplished was the returning of the Iraq war to its rightful place at the forefront of the national consciousness. She describes an experience earlier in the week when a TV producer offhandedly mentioned to her that her timing was perfect, that Sheehan had been lucky to hold her vigil on what was otherwise a slow news week.

"And I said to her, 'A slow news week? Didn't thirty soldiers die in the war this month?'" She shook her head. "It's crazy. Iraq should be the lead story every day."

Late that night, a car pulled up at the campsite. There was a woman at the wheel, and she was crying.

She was a Bush supporter who lives in the area, but her son was about to be shipped off to Iraq. She had made a special trip out here to complain about the long row of white crosses the protesters had planted along the side of the road -- each cross bearing the name of a fallen soldier. "Y'all are breaking my heart!" she cried. "My son hasn't gone yet, and I have to see those crosses every morning." She collected herself, wailed, and cried again, "You've broken one woman's heart!"

She drove off.

In the Sixties, the anti-war movement was part of a cultural revolution: If you opposed Vietnam, you were also rejecting the whole rigid worldview that said life meant going to war, fighting the Commies, then coming back to work for the man, buying two cars and dying with plenty of insurance. That life blueprint was the inflexible expectation of the time, and so ending the war of that era required a visionary movement.

Iraq isn't like that. Iraq is an insane blunder committed by a bunch of criminal incompetents who have managed so far to avoid the lash and the rack only because the machinery for avoiding reality is so advanced in this country. We don't watch the fighting, we don't see the bodies come home and we don't hear anyone screaming when a house in Baghdad burns down or a child steps on a mine.

The only movement we're going to need to end this fiasco is a more regular exposure to consequence. It needs to feel its own pain. Cindy Sheehan didn't bring us folk songs, but she did put pain on the front pages. And along a lonely Texas road late at night, I saw it spread.
(Posted Aug 25, 2005)

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/_/id/7581585?pageid=rs.Home&pageregion=single7&rnd=1125094905140&has-player=true&version=6.0.12.1059

Before It's Too Late in Iraq

Before It's Too Late in Iraq

By Wesley K. Clark
Friday, August 26, 2005; A21

In the old, familiar fashion, mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq have mobilized increasing public doubts about the war. More than half the American people now believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They're right. But it would also be a mistake to pull out now, or to start pulling out or to set a date certain for pulling out. Instead we need a strategy to create a stable, democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq -- a strategy the administration has failed to develop and articulate.

From the outset of the U.S. post-invasion efforts, we needed a three-pronged strategy: diplomatic, political and military. Iraq sits geographically on the fault line between Shiite and Sunni Islam; for the mission to succeed we will have to be the catalyst for regional cooperation, not regional conflict.

Unfortunately, the administration didn't see the need for a diplomatic track, and its scattershot diplomacy in the region -- threats, grandiose pronouncements and truncated communications -- has been ill-advised and counterproductive. The U.S. diplomatic failure has magnified the difficulties facing the political and military elements of strategy by contributing to the increasing infiltration of jihadists and the surprising resiliency of the insurgency.

On the political track, aiming for a legitimate, democratic Iraqi government was essential, but the United States was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action. A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces. Months went by without a U.S. ambassador in Iraq, and today political development among the Iraqis is hampered by the lack not only of security but also of a stable infrastructure program that can reliably deliver gas, electricity and jobs.

Meanwhile, on the military track, security on the ground remains poor at best. U.S. armed forces still haven't received resources, restructuring and guidance adequate for the magnitude of the task. Only in June, over two years into the mission of training Iraqi forces, did the president announce such "new steps" as partnering with Iraqi units, establishing "transition teams" to work with Iraqi units and training Iraqi ministries to conduct antiterrorist operations. But there is nothing new about any of this; it is the same nation-building doctrine that we used in Vietnam. Where are the thousands of trained linguists? Where are the flexible, well-

resourced, military-led infrastructure development programs to win "hearts and minds?" Where are the smart operations and adequate numbers of forces -- U.S., coalition or Iraqi -- to strengthen control over the borders?

With each passing month the difficulties are compounded and the chances for a successful outcome are reduced. Urgent modification of the strategy is required before it is too late to do anything other than simply withdraw our forces.

Adding a diplomatic track to the strategy is a must. The United States should form a standing conference of Iraq's neighbors, complete with committees dealing with all the regional economic and political issues, including trade, travel, cross-border infrastructure projects and, of course, cutting off the infiltration of jihadists. The United States should tone down its raw rhetoric and instead listen more carefully to the many voices within the region. In addition, a public U.S. declaration forswearing permanent bases in Iraq would be a helpful step in engaging both regional and Iraqi support as we implement our plans.

On the political side, the timeline for the agreements on the Constitution is less important than the substance of the document. It is up to American leadership to help engineer, implement and sustain a compromise that will avoid the "red lines" of the respective factions and leave in place a state that both we and Iraq's neighbors can support. So no Kurdish vote on independence, a restricted role for Islam and limited autonomy in the south. And no private militias.

In addition, the United States needs a legal mandate from the government to provide additional civil assistance and advice, along with additional U.S. civilian personnel, to help strengthen the institutions of government. Key ministries must be reinforced, provincial governments made functional, a system of justice established (and its personnel trained) and the rule of law promoted at the local level. There will be a continuing need for assistance in institutional development, leadership training and international monitoring for years to come, and all of this must be made palatable to Iraqis concerned with their nation's sovereignty. Monies promised for reconstruction simply must be committed and projects moved forward, especially in those areas along the border and where the insurgency has the greatest potential.

On the military side, the vast effort underway to train an army must be matched by efforts to train police and local justices. Canada, France and Germany should be engaged to assist. Neighboring states should also provide observers and technical assistance. In military terms, striking at insurgents and terrorists is necessary but insufficient. Military and security operations must return primarily to the tried-and-true methods of counterinsurgency: winning the hearts and minds of the populace through civic action, small-scale economic development and positive daily interactions. Ten thousand Arab Americans with full language proficiency should be recruited to assist as interpreters. A better effort must be made to control jihadist infiltration into the country by a combination of outposts, patrols and reaction forces reinforced by high technology. Over time U.S. forces should be pulled back into reserve roles and phased out.

The growing chorus of voices demanding a pullout should seriously alarm the Bush administration, because President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam: failing to craft a realistic and effective policy and instead simply demanding that the American people show resolve. Resolve isn't enough to mend a flawed approach -- or to save the lives of our troops. If the administration won't adopt a winning strategy, then the American people will be justified in demanding that it bring our troops home.

The writer, a retired Army general, was supreme allied commander in Europe during the war in Kosovo. He was a candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, and will answer questions

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/25/AR2005082501623_pf.html

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Meet Five Congressman Who Never Met A Lobbyist They Didn't Like | Fired Up! America

Meet Five Congressman Who Never Met A Lobbyist They Didn't Like
Submitted by Roy Temple on Thu, 08/25/2005 - 6:11am. House Corruption Scandals

The August 25th issue of Rolling Stone names five "Waterboys", congressmen who never met a lobbyist they didn't like.

The congressmen named are:

Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA)

Mike Oxley (R-OH)

Bill Thomas (R-CA)

Roy Blunt (R-K Street)

Billy Tauzin (Ex-Congressman R-LA)

Here's what Rolling Stone says about Roy Blunt:

Blunt is the patriarch of a lobbying family: Blunt's wife is a lobbyist for the firm Altria, which donated $270,000 to Blunt-related committees. Meanwhile, Blunt's son lobbies for a number of companies with financial relationships to Blunt committees. [He is] the leading candidate to succeed Tom DeLay someday.


http://www.firedupamerica.com/trackback/101

Blunt Scrambling to Avoid Fate of Bob Taft; Changes His Ethics Reports a Third Time in Last Ditch Attempt to Avoid Justice

Blunt Scrambling to Avoid Fate of Bob Taft; Changes His Ethics Reports a Third Time in Last Ditch Attempt to Avoid Justice

By Timahoe
Created 08/24/2005 - 11:17pm

After watching GOP Governor Bob Taft plead guilty to ethics charges last week, Matt Blunt is scrambling to cover his own lawbreaking tracks.

Readers of Fired Up Missouri will recall that ethics charges against Blunt and his Highway Commissioner, Mike Kehoe, have been referred to the Attorney General for the filing of an enforcement action. The Missouri Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe that Blunt accepted and did not report an illegal in-kind contribution from Kehoe. The probable cause finding centered on Blunt’s extensive use of Kehoe’s tour bus during the 2004 campaign. In addition, the in-kind contribution of the bus greatly exceeded the $1,200 limit on campaign contributions. The tour bus use has been independently valued at over $20,000.

On April 15th, the day the ethics charges were initially filed, Blunt made his first attempt to amend his ethics reports to account for the tour bus--- he reported that he had paid $1 for the bus.

On July 15th, Blunt filed a second ethics amendment--- he reported a $6,178.80 payment to Kehoe. The payment was far less than the $20,000 fair market value for the tour bus.

Unimpressed by the "wait until I get caught before paying too little" approach of Blunt, the Ethics Commission referred his case to the Attorney General for enforcement on July 25th.

Since that time, Blunt has watched Ohio GOP Governor Bob Taft plead no-contest to charges he took a few hundred dollars in golf outings without reporting them. The case has drawn national attention and speculation about Taft's potential impeachment.

And so, just yesterday, Blunt quietly amended his ethics reports for a third time and made another $6,692.18 payment to Kehoe.

Law enforcement should treat Blunt's third amendment as the admission of guilt that it is and hold him accountable for his lawbreaking.

As a collective refresher, here is the sad chronology of this entire case:

* Fall 2004: Blunt racks up nearly 8,000 miles traveling the state on a specially painted tour bus owned by Kehoe.

* April 13, 2005: Blunt closes the books on his 2004 Governor’s Race Campaign Committee and formally terminates its existence [1] with the Missouri Ethics Commission. He never pays for the use of the Kehoe bus.

* April 14, 2005: Blunt appoints Mike Kehoe to the powerful Missouri Highway Commission;

* April 15, 2005: The Missouri Democratic Party files a formal ethics charge against Blunt and Kehoe. Blunt Spokesperson Spence Jackson declares that the MDP “is in a desperate search for contrived issues and will, of course, lose this stupid complaint”.

* April 15, 2005: At 2:34 PM, Blunt hurriedly files a report “un-terminating” his 2004 Committee and amends his report to show that he paid Kehoe $1 for the use of the charter bus.

* April 16, 2005: GOP Senator John Cauthorn tells the Hannibal paper that he believe the Kehoe appointment was a “political payback” by Blunt.

* May 4, 2005: Democratic Senators confront Kehoe on the illegal contribution at his Highway Commission confirmation hearing.

* July 15, 2005: In an apparent effort to payback the illegal contribution before the Ethics Commission acts, Blunt amends his reports a second time and reports a $6,158.70 payment to Kehoe for the bus. Inexplicably, Blunt also reports a $1,203.30 expenditure for bus fuel to Jefferson City Oil Company--- a second example of trying to repay a previously unreported illegal in-kind contribution. [2] Blunt again formally terminates his committee.

* July 25, 2005: The Missouri Ethics Commission finds probable cause to believe that Blunt and Kehoe broke the law; it refers the case to the Attorney General for the filing of a formal enforcement action.

* August 23, 2005: Desperate to avoid the fate of his collegue Bob Taft, Blunt “un-terminates” his committee again and amends his reports for a third time to show an additional $6,692.18 payment to Kehoe for the tour bus; the payment is labeled “rental vehicle” [3]. Blunt terminates his 2004 campaign committee for the third time. [4]

Source URL:
http://www.firedupmissouri.com/node/2393

Links:
[1] http://www.moethics.state.mo.us/Ethics/CampaignFinance/CFCommitteeInfo1.aspx?MECID=C000426&Year=2005
[2] http://www.moethics.state.mo.us/CampaignFinanceReports/CFFilerHTML/ReportMenu/SummaryCD3.asp?CDRCP_id=4737&MECID=C000426&MyYear=2005&Com=MISSOURIANS%20FOR%20MATT%20BLUNT
[3] http://www.moethics.state.mo.us/CampaignFinanceReports/CFFilerHTML/ReportMenu/SummaryCD3.asp?CDRCP_id=5360&MECID=C000426&MyYear=2005&Com=MISSOURIANS%20FOR%20MATT%20BLUNT
[4] http://www.moethics.state.mo.us/Ethics/CampaignFinance/CFCommitteeInfo1.aspx?MECID=C000426&Year=2005

Scientific Standards and Intelligent Design

Commentor Matt on the "Through the Looking Glass" blog:

Karl Popper is probably howling in his grave.

Dr Ray Scott Percival's essay on Popper clearly helps inform one of the laughbable nature of the "science" behind "Intelligent Design" and "Creationism."

...Thus the term "immunizing stratagem" arose in connection with Popper's attempt to solve the problem of distinguishing scientific from pseudo-scientific theories - the so-called demarcation problem. Popper's solution was the methodological rule to allow into science only empirically falsifiable hypotheses, and subject these to severe criticism. In addition, theory development was to proceed from less to more testable, i.e., more informative theories. If a theory is refuted and an alternative sought, it had to be more testable, not less, and the more testable the better. For to reduce testability is to reduce knowledge, but in science we desire the growth of knowledge. An immunizing stratagem is a development in theory that reduces testability.

In other words, ID and Creationism invoke "God" to systematically plug up their untestable logical and theoretical holes, which are all over their ideas; this invoking of God to replace testable (and hence possibly refutable) ideas is clearly an example of Popper's idea of an immunizing stratagem.

Any scientist worth his or her salt knows and understands this basic epistemological principle of science that Popper proposed, and THIS is why ID and Creationsim are a joke the scientific community.

Troops' Gravestones Have Pentagon Slogans

Troops' Gravestones Have Pentagon Slogans
Aug 23, 3:27 PM (ET)

By DAVID PACE

(AP) The gravestones of fallen Americans buried at Arlington National Cemetery during the Iraq war era...
Full Image

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - Unlike earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the slogan-like operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts.

Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom" at no extra charge, whether they are buried in Arlington or elsewhere. A mock-up shown to many families includes the operation names.

The vast majority of military gravestones from other eras are inscribed with just the basic, required information: name, rank, military branch, date of death and, if applicable, the war and foreign country in which the person served.

Families are supposed to have final approval over what goes on the tombstones. That hasn't always happened.

(AP) The gravestones of fallen Americans buried at Arlington National Cemetery during the Iraq war era...
Full Image
Nadia and Robert McCaffrey, whose son Patrick was killed in Iraq in June 2004, said "Operation Iraqi Freedom" ended up on his government-supplied headstone in Oceanside, Calif., without family approval.

"I was a little taken aback," Robert McCaffrey said, describing his reaction when he first saw the operation name on Patrick's tombstone. "They certainly didn't ask my wife; they didn't ask me." He said Patrick's widow told him she had not been asked either.

"In one way, I feel it's taking advantage to a small degree," McCaffrey said. "Patrick did not want to be there, that is a definite fact."

The owner of the company that has been making gravestones for Arlington and other national cemeteries for nearly two decades is uncomfortable, too.

"It just seems a little brazen that that's put on stones," said Jeff Martell, owner of Granite Industries of Vermont. "It seems like it might be connected to politics."

(AP) A groundskeeper attends to the gravestones of fallen Americans from the Iraq war era who are buried...
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The Department of Veterans Affairs says it isn't. "The headstone is not a PR purpose. It is to let the country know and the people that visit the cemetery know who served this country and made the country free for us," VA official Steve Muro said.

Since 1997, the government has been paying for virtually everything inscribed on the gravestones. Before that, families had to pay the gravestone makers separately for any inscription beyond the basics.

It wasn't until the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 that the department instructed national cemetery directors and funeral homes across the country to advise families of fallen soldiers and Marines that they could have operation names like "Enduring Freedom" or "Iraqi Freedom" included on the headstones.

VA officials say neither the Pentagon nor White House exerted any pressure to get families to include the operation names. They say families always had the option of including information like battle or operation names, but didn't always know it.

"It's just the right thing to do and it always has been, but it hasn't always been followed," said Dave Schettler, director of the VA's memorial programs service.

(AP) The grave of a fallen American soldier is adorned with flowers and birthday balloons at Arlington...
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VA officials say they don't know how many families of the nearly 2,000 soldiers and Marines who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan have opted to include the operation names.

At Arlington, the nation's most prestigious national cemetery, all but a few of the 193 gravestones of Iraq and Afghanistan dead carry the operation names. War casualties are also buried in many of the 121 other national cemeteries and numerous state and private graveyards.

The interment service supervisor at Arlington, Vicki Tanner, said cemetery representatives show families a mock-up of the headstone with "Operation Iraqi Freedom" or "Operation Enduring Freedom" already included, and ask their approval.

Former Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam and headed the Veterans Administration under President Carter, called the practice "a little bit of glorified advertising."

"I think it's a little bit of gilding the lily," Cleland said, while insisting that he's not criticizing families who want that information included.

"Most of the headstones out there at Arlington and around the nation just say World War II or Korea or Vietnam, one simple statement," he said. "It's not, shall we say, a designated theme or a designated operation by somebody in the Pentagon. It is what it is. And I think there's power in simplicity."

The Pentagon in the late 1980s began selecting operation names with themes that would help generate public support for conflicts.

Gregory C. Sieminski, an Army officer writing in a 1995 Army War College publication, said the Pentagon decision to call the 1989 invasion of Panama "Operation Just Cause" initiated a trend of naming operations "with an eye toward shaping domestic and international perceptions about the activities they describe."

Mainline veterans groups are taking the change in stride. American Legion spokesman Donald Mooney said the organization hasn't heard any complaints from its members.

"I'm concerned that we do what the families want," said Bob Wallace, executive director of Veterans of Foreign Wars. "I don't think there's any critical motivation behind this."

---

On the Net:

Arlington National Cemetery: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.or

Daily Kos: New Report: Southerners Losing Most From War


New report reveals Southern region most tied to, impacted by, U.S. military and foreign policy

DURHAM, N.C. - As national debate grows over the Iraq war and the course of U.S. foreign policy, a new report shows that the U.S. South - more than any other region of the country - is the most tied to and impacted by the nation's military and foreign wars.

The study by the non-profit Institute for Southern Studies, "Missiles and Magnolias: The South at War 2005," analyzed which states provide the most military recruits, where troops are stationed, and which states attract the most defense contracts.

"Politically and economically, the South remains the heart of our country's military," said Desiree Evans, a co-author of the report and fellow at the non-profit Institute. "The South stands the most to gain - and the most to lose - from the fortunes and misfortunes of war."

Among the report's key findings:

* The South provides a disproportionate share of the nation's troops. An analysis of Department of Defense state reveals that 35% of the nation's active-duty military personnel come from 13 Southern states. Of the top 15 states where those serving in the military are born, the South accounts for seven.

* The South especially dominant in stationing troops. 51% of active-duty U.S. military personnel based in the continental U.S. are stationed in the South. Four of the top states for stationing troops are in the South: Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.

* The South has been the region most highly impacted by the loss of soldiers in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of the U.S. troops that have died in Iraq, 38% were based in the South. 47% of those killed in Afghanistan were based in Southern states.

* Southern states draw a substantial share of military contracting and production. An analysis of prime defense contracts reveals that 32% of the contracts granted in 2005 have gone to companies operating in Southern states, led by states rich in defense production such as Virginia, Texas and Florida.

* Southern leaders play a critical role in promoting a unilateral and aggressive foreign policy. An analysis of voting records reveals the critical role played by the South's Congressional delegation in promoting military investment and foreign wars. For example, in the latest scorecard by Peace Action, 58% of Southerners in the U.S. House and Senate scored in the bottom quarter of the peace group's ratings on key votes for the Iraq war, arms sales, and support for the United Nations.

The report singles out North Carolina as one state especially entangled with current military operations. Troops from Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne and other North Carolina units have been heavily involved in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly 12% of the casualties have been military personnel from what a new advertising campaign calls "the nation's most military-friendly state."

"This report drives home what most Southerners already know," says report co-author Chris Kromm, Executive Director of the Institute. "Almost everybody in the South knows someone in the service, who works at a base, or is otherwise connected to the military. That has a big impact on how Southerners view the military and foreign policy."

The study is an update of a 2002 report by the Institute about the South's military ties. The study three years ago found that 42% of the country's troops hailed from Southern states, 56% of continental troops were stationed in the South, and over 40% of military contracts went to companies based in the South or carrying out operations there.

"Clearly, the military's impact on the South hasn't changed over the last few years," said Kromm, who was also an author of the 2002 study.

The 2005 report also notes the impact of military base closures and realignments announced this past May. Although the Pentagon proposal recommended closing or trimming over 300 bases and a net cutting of 26,000 military and civilian personnel, the Institute's analysis found that the South stands to gain a net total of 15,500 positions at over 50 bases that would grow in stature under the plan - a huge shift of base strength southward. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission is now weighing the Pentagon's proposal and is slated to make final decisions by September 8, 2005.

The Institute for Southern Studies is a non-profit research and education center based in Durham, N.C. The Institute also publishes Southern Exposure magazine, winner of the National Magazine Award, John Hancock Award for Business and Financial Reporting, and most recently the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting.

For a copy of the full report, please email chris@southernstudies.org

Los Angeles Times: A CIA Cover Blown, a White House Exposed

l
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-leak25aug25,0,61238.story?page=1&coll=la-home-headlines
THE NATION
A CIA Cover Blown, a White House Exposed
By Tom Hamburger and Sonni Efron
Times Staff Writers

August 25, 2005

WASHINGTON — Toward the end of a steamy summer week in 2003, reporters were peppering the White House with phone calls and e-mails, looking for someone to defend the administration's claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

About to emerge as a key critic was Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who asserted that the administration had manipulated intelligence to justify the Iraq invasion.

At the White House, there wasn't much interest in responding to critics like Wilson that Fourth of July weekend. The communications staff faced more pressing concerns — the president's imminent trip to Africa, growing questions about the war and declining ratings in public opinion polls.

Wilson's accusations were based on an investigation he undertook for the CIA. But he was seen inside the White House as a "showboater" whose stature didn't warrant a high-level administration response. "Let him spout off solo on a holiday weekend," one White House official recalled saying. "Few will listen."

In fact, millions were riveted that Sunday as Wilson — on NBC's "Meet the Press" and in the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post — accused the administration of ignoring intelligence that didn't support its rationale for war.

Underestimating the impact of Wilson's allegations was one in a series of misjudgments by White House officials.

In the days that followed, they would cast doubt on Wilson's CIA mission to Africa by suggesting to reporters that his wife was responsible for his trip. In the process, her identity as a covert CIA agent was divulged — possibly illegally.

For the last 20 months, a tough-minded special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has been looking into how the media learned that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative.

Top administration officials, along with several influential journalists, have been questioned by prosecutors.

Beyond the whodunit, the affair raises questions about the credibility of the Bush White House, the tactics it employs against political opponents and the justification it used for going to war.

What motivated President Bush's political strategist, Karl Rove; Vice President Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; and others to counter Wilson so aggressively? How did their roles remain secret until after the president was reelected? Have they fully cooperated with the investigation?

The answers remain elusive. As Fitzgerald's team has moved ahead, few witnesses have been willing to speak publicly. White House officials declined to comment for this article, citing the ongoing inquiry.

But a close examination of events inside the White House two summers ago, and interviews with administration officials, offer new insights into the White House response, the people who shaped it, the deep disdain Cheney and other administration officials felt for the CIA, and the far-reaching consequences of the effort to manage the crisis.

July 6, 2003

Ten weeks after Bush landed aboard an aircraft carrier in front of a banner that proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, Wilson created his own media moment by questioning one of the central reasons for going to war.

He told how he was dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate the claim that Iraq had sought large quantities of uranium from the African nation of Niger. Wilson told "Meet the Press" that he and others had "effectively debunked" the claim — only to see it show up nearly a year later in the president's State of the Union speech.

Wilson appeared to be an eyewitness to administration dishonesty in the march to war.

The State of the Union speech had been a pillar of the administration's case for war, and Wilson was raising questions about one of its key elements: the claim that Iraq was a nuclear threat.

At the time of Wilson's disclosure, U.S. and United Nations officials had yet to turn up evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. A ragtag Iraqi insurgency had begun to strike back.

In public, the White House was predicting that weapons of mass destruction would be found. But behind the scenes, officials were worried about the failure to find those weapons and the possibility that the CIA would blame the White House for prewar intelligence failures.

Wilson seemed a credible critic: His diplomatic leadership as charge d'affaires in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq just before the 1991 bombing of Baghdad had earned him letters of praise from President George H.W. Bush.

That made him dangerous to the administration.

July 7, 2003

Within 24 hours, the White House reversed its view of the damage Wilson could do. He began to receive the attention of Rove, a man with a reputation for discrediting critics and disciplining political enemies, and of Libby, a longtime Cheney advisor and CIA critic.

There were grounds to challenge the former diplomat on the substance of his uranium findings: Wilson had no special training for that kind of mission; his conclusions about Niger were not definitive and were based on a few days of informal interviews; and they differed from the conclusions of British intelligence.

But it appears Rove was more focused on Wilson's background, politics and claims he ostensibly had made that his mission was initiated at the request of the vice president.

Rove mentioned to reporters that Wilson's wife had suggested or arranged the trip. The idea apparently was to undermine its import by suggesting that the mission was really "a boondoggle set up by his wife," as an administration official described the trip to a reporter, according to an account in the Washington Post.

This approach depended largely on a falsehood: that Wilson had claimed Cheney sent him to Niger. Wilson never made such a claim.

Libby reportedly told prosecutors that he did not know Plame's identity until a journalist told him. His lawyer did not return calls for comment.

Rove's lawyer has said his client did not know Plame's name or her undercover status when he first talked with reporters after Wilson's public statements.

"The one thing that's absolutely clear is that Karl was not the source for the leak and there's no basis for any additional speculation," attorney Robert Luskin said, adding that he was told Rove was not a target of the inquiry.

A Rove ally has said it was necessary for Rove to counter Wilson's exaggerated claims about the import of his mission.

However, some of Rove's colleagues say that he and others used poor judgment in talking about Wilson's wife.

"With the benefit of hindsight, it's clear our focus should have been on Wilson's facts, not his conclusions or his wife or his politics," said one official who was helping with White House strategy at the time.

In one White House conversation, investigators have learned, Rove was asked why he was focused so intently on discrediting the former diplomat.

"He's a Democrat," Rove said, citing Wilson's campaign contributions. By that time, Wilson had begun advising Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign.

Wilson's Mission

Joe Wilson's mission was launched in early 2002, after the Italian government came into possession of documents — later believed to have been forged — suggesting Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Cheney had been briefed about this, a Senate Intelligence Committee report said, and had asked for more information.

At CIA headquarters, agency officials cast about for ways to respond to the vice president's interest. An official recommended sending Wilson to Niger because of his experience there, including a previous mission for the CIA.

What role Plame played in securing the mission for her husband has become a noisy sideshow to the substantive questions his trip raised about prewar intelligence. It is not clear why Plame's role would have been relevant to Wilson's uranium findings. But it was very important in the campaign to discredit him.

Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper wrote that when he first asked Rove about Wilson on July 11, the presidential advisor told him Wilson's wife was "responsible" for her husband's trip.

Plame was then working in Washington under "nonofficial cover," meaning she posed as a nongovernment employee. A review of official documents shows that she had mentioned her husband as a possible investigator, emphasizing his familiarity with Niger and later writing a note to the chief of the CIA's counterproliferation division.

"My husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity," she wrote. Wilson says his wife wrote that note at the request of her boss after he was suggested by others. There are contradictory accounts of Plame's role, but CIA officials have said she was not responsible for sending Wilson.

Wilson was not an intelligence officer or investigator, but his resume suggested he was a logical candidate. He had served as ambassador to Gabon and in U.S. embassies in Congo and Burundi; he had experience with the trade of strategic minerals; and he was senior director for Africa on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration.

On his trip, he interviewed Niger officials and citizens and talked with French mine managers. He also spoke with the U.S. ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, who recently had examined the Iraq uranium claim herself — as had a four-star general, Carlton W. Fulford Jr., deputy commander of the U.S. European Command.

Like Fulford and the ambassador, Wilson said, he concluded that there was little reason to believe Iraq had tried to purchase yellowcake from Niger. He did learn, however, that Iraqi officials had previously met with counterparts from Niger.

Back in the U.S., Wilson presented his report orally to CIA officers. They wrote up his findings, gave him a middling "good" rating for his performance and, on March 9, routinely sent a copy to other agencies — including the White House — without marking it for the attention of senior officials.

Wilson would write later that his trip led him to believe that the administration had lied about the reasons for going to war. But in reading his report, some analysts thought that evidence of previous Iraqi visits to Niger was a sign of interest in that country's most valuable export, uranium. Others thought Wilson's report put to rest a dubious claim. The Senate Intelligence Committee and top CIA officials said his report was inconclusive.

Cheney, Libby and the CIA

At the Pentagon and in Cheney's office, a profound skepticism of the CIA produced what one State Department veteran termed an ongoing "food fight" over prewar intelligence.

The atmosphere prevailed even though the CIA joined the White House and Pentagon in concluding, incorrectly, that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was making progress developing weapons of mass destruction.

An ingrained antipathy toward the CIA may help explain the hostile reaction to Wilson's public claim that he and others had debunked the reported Iraqi interest in uranium from Niger.

That skepticism was validated for Cheney and Libby by more than a decade of CIA blunders they had observed from their days at the Pentagon.

"It's part of the warp and woof and fabric of DOD not to like the intelligence community," said Larry Wilkerson, a 31-year military veteran who was former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's chief of staff.

When Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Cheney was secretary of Defense and Libby was a deputy to Paul D. Wolfowitz, then undersecretary of Defense for policy.

After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, U.N. inspectors discovered that Hussein had far greater capabilities in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons than the CIA had estimated.

For Cheney and Libby, this experience shaped their skepticism about the CIA and carried over to preparations for the war in Iraq, said a person who spoke with Libby about it years later.

"Libby's basic view of the world is that the CIA has blown it over and over again," said the source, who declined to be identified because he had spoken with Libby on a confidential basis. "Libby and Cheney were [angry] that we had not been prepared for the potential in the first Gulf War."

In the view of these officials, who would go on to form George W. Bush's war cabinet, the CIA had stumbled through the 1990s, starting with the failure to predict the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1995, Hussein's son-in-law defected and led U.N. inspectors to an previously unknown biological weapons cache. In 1998, the agency failed to anticipate a nuclear weapon test by India.

Later that year Rumsfeld — then a corporate chief executive who served on defense-related boards and commissions — wrote what Brookings Institution scholar Ivo H. Daalder called "one of the most critical reports in the history of intelligence," arguing that the ability for enemies to strike the United States with ballistic missiles had been grossly underestimated.

On the eve of the Iraq war, with Rumsfeld as Defense secretary, these men were fighting yet another battle with the CIA, this time over the credibility of Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi.

Rumsfeld, Libby and Wolfowitz were longtime supporters of Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress leader who was a key source of the now-discredited intelligence that Hussein had hidden huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The CIA viewed Chalabi as a "fake," said Daalder, a former Security Council staffer.

Rumsfeld's Pentagon established an independent intelligence operation, the Office of Special Plans, which essentially provided the Defense Department and White House with an alternative to CIA and State Department intelligence. The competing operations would create confusion in preparations for the invasion of Iraq.

When the disclosure of Wilson's CIA mission to Niger put the White House on the defensive, one administration official said it reminded a tightknit group of Bush neoconservatives of their longtime battles with the agency and underlined their determination to fight.

Many of those officials also were members of the White House Iraq Group, established to coordinate and promote administration policy. It included the most influential players who would represent two elements of the current scandal: a hardball approach to political critics and long-standing disdain for CIA views on intelligence matters.

The group consisted of Rove, Libby, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, and Mary Matalin, Cheney's media advisor. All are believed to have been questioned in the leak case; papers and e-mails about the group were subpoenaed.

Before the war, this Iraq group promoted the view that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was seeking more. In September 2002, the White House embraced a British report asserting that "Iraq has sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

But the CIA was skeptical. When White House speechwriters showed the CIA a draft of a presidential speech in October that made reference to Iraqi uranium acquisition, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet asked that the reference be removed. The White House pulled it.

While Tenet expressed skepticism, the national intelligence estimate he ordered up to assess Iraq's weapons programs before the war seemed to embrace a different view — perhaps because of a mistake in assembling the document.

The national intelligence estimate on "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction," released in October 2002, was meant to reflect a consensus of the nation's intelligence-gathering agencies. It included the consensus view that Iraq sought weapons of mass destruction and a description of Britain's account of the Niger deal.

The British information went unchallenged in that chapter of the intelligence estimate. But the State Department's intelligence arm, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, disagreed with much of the nuclear section of the estimate and decided to convey its views in text boxes to highlight the dissent.

However, the text box on the African uranium claim was "inadvertently separated" and moved into another chapter of the intelligence estimate, where it could be overlooked, the Senate Intelligence Committee said.

A couple of months later, a White House speechwriter consulted the estimate while preparing the State of the Union speech, according to one source familiar with the process.

The Speech

As the Jan. 28, 2003, speech — and the invasion of Iraq — drew near, CIA officials decided the uranium allegation was "overblown" and not backed by U.S. intelligence; they notified the White House. But the decision was made to leave it in the address, attributed to the British.

Wilson was at a Canadian television network's Washington studio that night, providing commentary on the speech and preparations for war. He remembers being puzzled on hearing the now-famous 16 words: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

At first, Wilson thought, "Either they are wrong, or I'm wrong and there is some additional evidence I don't know about from some other country in Africa."

When he learned later that the speech was based on the claims about Niger, his puzzlement turned to resolve to make the government correct the record. "The allegation was false but the U.S. went to war anyway after President Bush first deceived the nation and the world," he would later write in a book.

In coming months, he would talk to reporters and others to get the word out about his mission to Niger.

Powell at the U.N.

Two weeks later, on Feb. 5, Powell appeared before the U.N. and made the case for war. Although his much-anticipated speech was tough, he did not mention the British intelligence on African uranium. He did say, generally, that Iraq had sought weapons of mass destruction.

The original outline of the speech, given to Powell by Libby, had been much stronger.

The competing intelligence estimates created a nightmare for Powell's top aide, Wilkerson. His job was to make sure Powell got his facts right.

A week before the speech, Powell had walked into Wilkerson's office with the 48-page document provided by Libby that laid out the intelligence on the Iraqi weapons program.

Most of it was rejected because its facts could not be verified. Wilkerson believes that draft was based at least in part on data provided to Cheney by Rumsfeld's intelligence group.

"Where else did they get this 48-page document that came jam-packed with information that probably came first from the [Iraqi National Congress], Chalabi and other lousy sources?" Wilkerson asked.

To sort out the conflicting intelligence, Wilkerson convened a three-day meeting at CIA headquarters. Its rotating cast included the administration's major foreign policy players: Libby, Hadley, Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, Tenet, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin and Rice.

Wilkerson was told that Libby had said the 48-page document was designed to offer Powell "a Chinese menu" of intelligence highlights to draw from for his speech. Powell and his team were skeptical of most of it. Rice, Tenet and Hadley were trying to reinsert bits of intelligence they personally favored but that could not be corroborated. Hadley offered an unsubstantiated report of alleged meetings between Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague shortly before the attacks.

"The whole time, people were trying to reinsert their favorite … pet rocks back into the presentation, when their pet rocks weren't backed up by anything but hearsay, or Chalabi or the INC or both," Wilkerson said.

In the end, Powell agreed with Tenet to rely mainly on the national intelligence estimate on Iraq, which had been vetted by the CIA. Wilkerson came to believe that the Pentagon officials, and their allies in the White House, doubted what the intelligence community said because "it didn't fit their script" for going to war.

The day of Powell's speech, U.S. officials provided the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog arm, the International Atomic Energy Agency, with documents supporting the assertion that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium ore from Niger. Within weeks, the agency determined the documents were clumsy fakes. The episode has never been explained.

"It was very clear from our analysis that they were forgeries," Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the atomic energy agency, said in an interview. "We found 20 to 30 anomalies within a day."

But the British have stood by their claim that Hussein sought uranium from an unnamed African country as late as 2002.

Two weeks after the atomic energy agency report, Bush issued a statement saying Iraq continued "to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

Two days after that, on March 20, he sent troops into Iraq.

Wilson Goes Public

At first, Wilson worked behind the scenes to press his case.

He says he spoke to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and to New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof on a not-for-attribution basis, telling both about his mission and questioning why the administration would continue to cite the Niger connection.

As news reports proliferated about the CIA fact-finding trip to Niger, more people in the administration became familiar with Wilson as the unnamed source for these accounts.

By summer 2003, the stories were creating a problem for a White House trying to cope with the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Bush's poll ratings were beginning to take a hit. The Republican nominating convention was a year away, and the basis for the president's principal first-term act — going to war — was being undermined.

After a June 12 Washington Post story made reference to the Niger uranium inquiry, Armitage asked intelligence officers in the State Department for more information. He was forwarded a copy of a memo classified "Secret" that included a description of Wilson's trip for the CIA, his findings, a brief description of the origin of the trip and a reference to "Wilson's wife."

The memo was kept in a safe at the State Department along with notes from an analyst who attended the CIA meeting at which Wilson was suggested for the Niger assignment. Those with top security clearance at State, like their counterparts in the White House, had been trained in the rules about classified information. They could not be shared with anyone who did not have the same clearance.

Less than a month later, Wilson went public with his charges.

The next day, July 7, this memo and the notes were removed from the safe and forwarded to Powell via a secure fax line to Air Force One. Powell was on the way to Africa with the president, and his aides knew the secretary would be getting questions.

Fitzgerald has become interested in this memo, the earliest known document seen by administration officials revealing that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Powell told prosecutors that he circulated the memo among those traveling with him in the front section of Air Force One. It is believed that all officials in that part of the aircraft had high-level security clearance.

At first, White House personnel responding to Wilson's New York Times op-ed article July 6 made no reference to Wilson's wife. Then-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters the next day that the former diplomat's article contained nothing new — "zero, nada, nothing" — and that the vice president knew nothing about Wilson's trip to Africa. But Fleischer acknowledged that the president's State of the Union statement on African uranium may have relied on bad information.

That evening, as Air Force One streaked toward Africa, officials decided that to defuse the pressure, they would issue a formal acknowledgment to selected journalists that, as the New York Times reported the next morning, the White House "no longer stood behind Mr. Bush's statement about the uranium — the first such official concession on the sensitive issue of the intelligence that led to the war."

But that only fueled interest in Wilson's charges and the broader concern about the reliability of pre-war intelligence. Soon, however, the public's attention would turn away from Wilson's charges and toward him and his wife.

Enter Bob Novak

Early that week, someone in the administration told syndicated newspaper columnist Robert Novak that Wilson's CIA operative wife had instigated his trip to Niger. "I didn't dig it out; it was given to me," Novak said later about the leak. "They thought it was significant."

On July 9, according to a source close to Rove, Novak told Rove what he had heard.

"I heard that too," or words to that effect, Rove replied, according to the source. Rove said Novak told him Plame's name, the first time Rove had heard it, the person said.

The Blame Game

The delegation to Africa was distracted daily by reporters pressing Bush for his reply to Wilson's allegations and the mistake in the State of the Union address.

On July 11, the traveling White House launched a coordinated effort to end the controversy.

First, Rice told Tenet that she and the president planned to tell the media that Bush's speech "was cleared by intelligence services," as the president said that day in Uganda.

Hours later, Tenet — traveling in Idaho — released his own statement that at first appeared helpful to the White House. It took responsibility for allowing the uranium claim into the State of the Union.

"This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed," Tenet said. He also described Wilson's trip as inconclusive, and said it was authorized by lower-level CIA officials and was never flagged for review by top officials.

But Tenet added that the CIA had earlier provided cautions about using the Niger evidence to conclude Iraq had obtained uranium. In effect, he was pointing a finger at the White House for failing to heed previous warnings.

"We're screwed," said one White House official, reading the statement on his Blackberry. Blame-shifting intensified amid media speculation about how the words got into the speech.

That same day, Rove took the call from Time's Cooper and, in response to a question, told him that Wilson's wife was in the CIA and was responsible for her husband's mission. Cooper says that Rove did not use her name.

Afterward, Rove e-mailed Hadley to tell him he had the conversation and had "waved Cooper off" Wilson's Niger claims.

The next day, a Saturday, Libby, responding to a question, told Cooper that he had heard the same thing about Plame. Another official, whose identity is not publicly known, mentioned Wilson's wife in passing to Pincus, telling him that she had arranged the trip.

The message: Contrary to the image the White House said Wilson promoted, he was not a well-qualified analyst who was sent to Niger by the vice president. He went to Niger on a boondoggle arranged by his wife.

On Monday, July 14, Wilson was at his breakfast table in Georgetown when he saw Novak's column, which said in part: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counterproliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him."

Wilson later recalled that Plame suppressed her anger by compiling a list of the things she had to do to protect information and two decades' worth of contacts overseas. An entire career, she told her husband, had gone down the tubes, "and for no purpose."

Wilson says there was a purpose: to smear him, intimidate critics and distract the public from charges that prewar intelligence had been manipulated.

Novak's disclosure touched off a flood of questions about prewar intelligence, the State of the Union speech and the release of Plame's identity. The following week, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan denied any White House role in leaking Plame's name. "I'm telling you, flatly, that that is not the way this White House operates."

Later, he qualified the statement to deny any role in "illegally" leaking information. Months later, Bush said "yes" when asked whether he would fire whoever was responsible for the leak. He would also qualify this later to say he would take such action "if someone committed a crime."

But on July 21, according to Wilson, NBC's Chris Matthews said that Rove had told him Plame was "fair game." McClellan later called suggestions of Rove's involvement "ridiculous."

On July 30, the CIA notified the Justice Department that federal law might have been breached with the disclosure of Plame's identity. By the end of December 2003, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, a former client of Rove's, recused himself from the matter; the department named Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for Chicago, as a special prosecutor.

Those who knew Fitzgerald predicted he would charge hard and range far. Nonetheless, his investigative sweep startled the White House. He asked immediately for White House telephone logs, call sheets, attendance lists for meetings of the Iraq group, party invitation lists and even phone logs from Air Force One.

Fitzgerald also asked for something unusual: a generic waiver of confidentiality agreements from all White House employees for the journalists with whom they spoke during the period in dispute.

When most reporters made it clear that the generic waiver was unacceptable because it was viewed as coercive, the prosecutor worked with individual sources, reporters and their lawyers to get their testimony.

Pincus testified after being assured that he would not have to name his source, even though Fitzgerald knew who it was. Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler and NBC's Tim Russert also testified after getting assurances from Libby.

After reading about their testimony, Cooper approached Libby about a waiver for himself.

Without a personal waiver, Cooper and his editors believed they could not reveal the source — which meant that the news organization would join the New York Times in a losing court battle.

Cooper did not ask Rove for a waiver, in part because his lawyer advised against it. In addition, Time editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year.

Rove's attorney, meantime, took the view that contacting Cooper would have amounted to interfering with the ongoing court battle between reporter and prosecutor.

Although Fitzgerald said Cooper's testimony was necessary to conclude his investigation, he did not ask Rove to give the reporter a waiver, according to Rove's attorney, Luskin.

The result was that Cooper's testimony was delayed nearly a year, well after Bush's reelection. "The reason this resolution was delayed had nothing to do with anything Karl [Rove] did or failed to do," he said.

Rove granted the waiver this summer after Cooper's attorney called Luskin hours before Cooper was to be sent to jail; the reporter testified on July 13. Reporter Judith Miller of the New York Times, meanwhile, was jailed for refusing to testify.

Cooper wrote afterward that he told the jury he had called Rove in July 2003 and that, in response to his query about Wilson and his claims, Rove informed him that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and "she was responsible for sending Wilson."

Individuals close to the case say that Fitzgerald is likely to wrap up his inquiry this fall.

*

Times staff writers Douglas Frantz and Richard B. Schmitt contributed to this report.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Chronology

Events surrounding the White House's role in the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent:

2002

February: Vice President Dick Cheney asks whether Iraq sought uranium from Niger.

Feb. 12: The CIA sends Joseph Wilson to Niger.

March 9: Wilson says he finds little evidence for such claims, but notes a prior visit to Niger by Iraqi officials.

Aug. 26: Cheney says: "We now know that Saddam [Hussein] has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons."

Oct. 5-6: CIA Director George Tenet persuades the White House to remove the uranium claim from a Bush speech.



2003

Jan. 28: President Bush's State of the Union cites a British report that Iraq sought uranium.

March 7: A U.N. nuclear agency finds uranium documents are "not authentic."

March 20: The U.S. invades Iraq.

July 6: Wilson goes public on his Niger trip and findings.

July 7-8: Administration sources tell columnist Robert Novak about Wilson's CIA wife.

July 7: The White House admits to a mistake in citing the uranium claim.

July 11: Karl Rove tells Time's Matthew Cooper that Wilson's wife arranged the Niger trip.

July 14: A Novak column unmasks Valerie Plame.

July 30: The CIA asks the Justice Department to investigate the leak of the agent's identity.

Sept. 16: The White House says suggesting Rove leaked her identity is "ridiculous."

Sept. 29: A White House spokesman says the leaker will be fired.

Sept. 30: Wilson endorses John Kerry for president.

Dec. 30: Patrick Fitzgerald is named special prosecutor.



2004

Jan. 23: Weapons inspector David Kay says there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.



July 10: A Senate panel faults prewar intelligence and calls Wilson's report inconclusive.

Nov. 2: Bush is reelected.



2005

Feb. 15: A court orders journalists Judith Miller and Cooper to cooperate with a grand jury.

July 6: Miller refuses to testify and is jailed; Cooper agrees to testify after getting express permission from his source, Rove.

July 18: Bush says the leaker will be fired if a crime was committed.

Sources: Times reporting, media reports, White House and Senate documents

Los Angeles Times


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