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, November 04, 2006

Digby - Children's Crusade

Children's Crusade

by digby

I suppose a lot of people have already written about this at length, but it's so stunning I have to highlight it here.

When it was revealed yesterday that the internet document dump to the "Army of Davids" contained plans for building nuclear weapons in arabic, I knew that the 101st Keyboarders and Pete Hoekstra and Rick Santorum had been agitating for it for some time. I also knew that Stephen Hayes had been saying that the "proof" of Saddam's huge cache of weapons and terrorist ties was in those documents and that the braindead intelligence agencies were either incapable or were liberal hippies and could therefore, not be trusted to do it right.

What I didn't know was that George W. Bush himself considered this a personal project and specifically ordered the program.

March, 2006

Pence framed his response as a question, quoting Abraham Lincoln: "One of your Republican predecessors said, 'Give the people the facts and the Republic will be saved.' There are 3,000 hours of Saddam tapes and millions of pages of other documents that we captured after the war. When will the American public get to see this information?"

Bush replied that he wanted the documents released. He turned to Hadley and asked for an update. Hadley explained that John Negroponte, Bush's Director of National Intelligence, "owns the documents" and that DNI lawyers were deciding how they might be handled.

Bush extended his arms in exasperation and worried aloud that people who see the documents in 10 years will wonder why they weren't released sooner. "If
I knew then what I know now," Bush said in the voice of a war skeptic, "I would have been more supportive of the war."

Bush told Hadley to expedite the release of the Iraq documents. "This stuff ought to be out. Put this stuff out." The president would reiterate this point before the meeting adjourned. And as the briefing ended, he approached Pence, poked a finger in the congressman's chest, and thanked him for raising the issue. When Pence began to restate his view that the documents should be released, Bush put his hand up, as if to say, "I hear you. It will be taken care of."

It was not the first time Bush has made clear his desire to see the Iraq documents released. On November 30, 2005, he gave a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy. Four members of Congress attended: Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee; Sen. John Warner, the Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee; Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona; and Pence. After his speech, Bush visited with the lawmakers for 10 minutes in a holding room to the side of the stage. Hoekstra asked Bush about the documents and the president said he was pressing to have them released.

Says Pence: "I left both meetings with the unambiguous impression that the president of the United States wants these documents to reach the American people."

Negroponte never got the message. Or he is choosing to ignore it. He has done nothing to expedite the exploitation of the documents. And he continues to block the growing congressional effort, led by Hoekstra, to have the documents released.

Negroponte caved, as we know, and the atomic secrets landed on the internet.

This isn't just another instance of "the buck stops here" accountability. This is an instance of direct, personal intervention by the president who countermanded the advice of his experts and ordered something to be done that resulted in nuclear secrets, written in arabic, landing on the internet.

He did this because he listened to the crew of childlike idiots, both in the congress and on the radio and internet, who comprise the heart of his political movement. It illustrates something I don't think I've ever fully understood before. Bush listens to the 101st keyboarders and believes their delusionary drivel. In essence, the nation is being led by Limbaugh, Powerline and Michele Malkin.

If that doesn't scare the hell out of you, I don't know what will.


Q Mr. President, thank you, sir. Are you going to order a leaks investigation into the disclosure of the NSA surveillance program? And why did you skip the basic safeguard of asking courts for permission for these intercepts?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me start with the first question. There is a process that goes on inside the Justice Department about leaks, and I presume that process is moving forward. My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy.

You've got to understand -- and I hope the American people understand -- there is still an enemy that would like to strike the United States of America, and they're very dangerous. And the discussion about how we try to find them will enable them to adjust. Now, I can understand you asking these questions and if I were you, I'd be asking me these questions, too. But it is a shameful act by somebody who has got secrets of the United States government and feels like they need to disclose them publicly.

It's almost unfathomable to me how anyone can suggest that this man should be allowed these extra-judicial powers in light of what he has done. When the FISA debate comes up again, I would hope that the congress will hang this 101st Keyboarder fuck-up around George W. Bush's neck.

Scott Ritter - The Case for Engagement

The Case for Engagement


[from the November 20, 2006 issue of The Nation]

The distance between the northern suburbs of the Iranian capital of Tehran and the nuclear enrichment facility of Natanz is roughly 180 miles. What transpires on the ground between these two geographical points has seized the attention of the international community, and in particular the government of the United States, as the world wrestles with how best to respond to the issues surrounding Iran's decision to pursue indigenous enrichment of uranium in defiance of the United Nations Security Council's resolution demanding that all such activity cease.

I recently returned from a trip to Iran, where over the course of a week I made the journey from the northern suburbs of Tehran to the gates of the Natanz enrichment facility, and in doing so had my eyes opened. The Iran that I witnessed was far removed from the one caricatured in the US media. I left with the frustrating realization that, as had been the case with Iraq, America was stumbling toward a conflict, blinded by the prejudice and fear born of our collective ignorance.

The first thing that becomes apparent upon arrival in Tehran is that Iran is nothing like Iraq. I spent more than seven years in Iraq and know firsthand what a totalitarian dictatorship looks and acts like. Iran is not such a nation. Once I cleared passport control, I was thrust into a vibrant society that operates free of an oppressive security apparatus such as the one that dominated Iraqi daily life in the time of Saddam Hussein. This does not mean there is no internal security apparatus in Iran--far from it. A visit to the cable cars operating in the mountains north of Tehran puts you next to a major communications station of the ministry, where cellphone conversations can be monitored using advanced software procured from the United States. Iran has a functioning domestic security apparatus, but it most definitely is not an all-seeing, all-controlling police state, any more than the United States is in the post-9/11 era, when the FBI and the National Security Agency use similar software to selectively monitor the conversations of American citizens.

Iran is certainly not an open society that operates on a par with the West. I recently had the honor of spending some time with Shirin Ebadi, who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, and have heard her account of the intense repression meted out to those who challenge the political system. The theocrats who govern in Tehran have a history of shutting down media that are not obedient to the state, and the Iranian prison system is notorious for the jailing, beating and even execution of those who dare to protest publicly the rule of the mullahs.

In spite of these abuses of human rights and civil liberties, Iran is not a closed society. There is a ban on satellite television dishes, but many Iranians get their news from the BBC, CNN and other international television services simply by flouting the rules, which seem not to be too widely enforced. Some, like the Revolutionary Guards I became acquainted with, disguise their dish as a flower planter. The government has tried to censor the Internet, and has targeted online journalists and blocked thousands of websites. But the Internet is heavily used by Iranians, who continue to find ways to evade government controls. And cellphones are as ubiquitous as they are here in the West.

The point is that while the Iranian government often cracks down on organized public displays of dissent, the free flow of information that is vital to any dynamic society exists despite the efforts of the government to contain or control it. Ebadi is permitted to travel abroad, speaking and publishing words harshly critical of the Iranian theocracy. She has been harassed by the government but still operates freely, unlike her fellow Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Peace Prize in 1991 and is again under house arrest in Myanmar.

During my visit to the northern suburbs of Tehran, I was struck by the presence of wealth. Many ideologues in the United States, including those who currently occupy the corridors of power in Washington, conclude that this segment of society not only awaits US intervention to overthrow the regime but would actually cooperate with and facilitate any such effort. There is certainly a circle of Iranian secular intellectuals who chafe under Islamic law. Many of them are drawn from the ranks of the "old rich," those who made their fortunes during the time of the Shah and who yearn for the return of a Westernized, secular society. In conversation, these intellectuals often speculate about the possibility of US intervention, but more and more the hope of such liberation has been tempered by the ever-deepening disaster in Iraq. While most Iranians welcomed the elimination of Saddam, the horrors inflicted and unleashed by US military forces next door have left many of the old rich in Tehran with the realization that the dream of American intervention may turn into a nightmare. My trip convinced me that support for US intervention does not exist to any significant degree but rather resides solely in the minds of those in the West who have had their impressions of Iran shaped by pro-Shah expatriates who have been absent from the country for more than a quarter-century.

Iran today is a fully functioning capitalist society, and in addition to the old rich, there is a larger population of wealthy Iranians who made their fortunes after the Islamic revolution and who owe their ability to sustain their wealth to the continued governance of the Islamic Republic. Likewise, those in the West who believe that the youth of Iran (more than two-thirds of the population today is under 30) share the same aspirations as the Western-oriented moneyed class will be disappointed. Those under 30 have no memory of the Iran that existed pre-theocracy and seem more willing to support a moderating change from within than a drastic change imposed from without.

The vast majority of Tehran's citizens are working- and lower middle class. These people reside in the urban sprawl of southern Tehran, where out-of-control population growth strains the resources of municipal government and the Islamic Republic as a whole. The province of Tehran has expanded from 6.8 million people a decade ago to a current official count of 10.5 million; the actual population may be closer to 12 million, with more arriving every day. Unemployment is rampant (the official figure for the country is 12.4 percent, but it's probably closer to 20 percent), and there is a growing level of dissatisfaction that has manifested itself politically in recent years.

The political center of Iran used to rest in northern Tehran. However, the 2005 presidential election saw a dramatic shift to the southern neighborhoods, whose voters helped elect one of their own, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Western media have for the most part depicted his victory as evidence of a resurgent religious fundamentalism, but anyone who walks the streets of southern Tehran (where most Western journalists are loath to wander) and visits the workshops and markets will find a much more nuanced reality. In the motorcycle repair shop I walked into I found the owner and customers evenly divided between Ahmadinejad and his principal rival, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani actually won the most votes in the first round, but in the runoff Ahmadinejad shocked everyone by bringing over to his conservative platform the supporters of the reformist candidates. The key factor in his stunning victory was not religious fundamentalism but widespread disillusionment over the state of the economy, coupled with charges of nepotism and corruption surrounding Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad was, more than anything, a reform candidate. This is what swept him into office, and it is on this issue that he continues to be judged today, with decidedly mixed results, by the people of Iran.

For all the attention the Western media give to Ahmadinejad's foreign policy pronouncements, the reality is that his effective influence is limited to domestic issues. The citizens of Tehran I spoke with, from every walk of life, understood this and were genuinely perplexed as to why we in the West treat Ahmadinejad as if he were a genuine head of state. "The man has no real power," a former Revolutionary Guard member told me. "The true power in Iran resides with the Supreme Leader." The real authority is indeed the Ayatollah Sayeed Ali Khamenei, successor to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

According to the Iranian Constitution, the Supreme Leader has absolute authority over all matters pertaining to national security, including the armed forces, the police and the Revolutionary Guard. Only the Supreme Leader can declare war. In this regard, all aspects of Iran's nuclear program are controlled by Khamenei, and Ahmadinejad has no bearing on the issue. Curiously, while the Western media have replayed Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel statements repeatedly, very little attention has been paid to the Supreme Leader's pronouncement--in the form of a fatwa, or religious edict--that Iran rejects outright the acquisition of nuclear weapons, or to the efforts made by the Supreme Leader in 2003 to reach an accommodation with the United States that offered peace with Israel. While Ahmadinejad plays to the Iranian street with his inflammatory rhetoric, the true authority in Iran has been attempting to navigate a path of moderation.

The Supreme Leader's powers are impressive, but they are not absolute. Iran has a system of checks and balances that is played out through two primary bodies: the Guardian Council and the Expediency Council. Until recently the Guardian Council had absolute veto power over parliamentary legislation and was unchecked in the exercise of its oversight responsibilities. However, in 1997 Khamenei beefed up the role and responsibility of the Expediency Council, and it was further strengthened last year; now the decisions of the Guardian Council, if challenged by the Iranian Parliament, can be overturned by the Expediency Council. The Guardian Council is still a dauntingly authoritative body, especially when one considers that the Supreme Leader has the power to appoint half its members (and all of the Expediency Council's). Iran, after all, remains an Islamic republic, which means that the political pulse is generated not in Tehran but some fifty-five miles to the south, in the holy city of Qom.

It is in Qom where many of the religious figures on the two councils reside. They teach at religious schools and have developed their own followings, comprising religious, civil and military officials who have an enormous effect on day-to-day policy. Qom is a very conservative city, and the religious figures who study there reflect this. However, this conservatism does not directly translate into the embrace of strict religious fundamentalism. There is a growing recognition among the ayatollahs who serve on the councils of the need to seek compromise on matters of religion not only to dilute internal dissent but also to better tend to the needs of the country. The greatest reform pressure on these figures comes not from religious students but rather from the traditional watchdog of the Islamic Republic, the Revolutionary Guard.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps remains very much an enigmatic entity to most Western observers. Born from the tumult of the revolution that swept the Shah from power in 1979, the Revolutionary Guard was the primary defender of the Islamic Republic during its infancy, serving as the country's first line of defense after the 1980 Iraqi invasion and against anti-regime forces, in particular the guerrillas of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen (MEK). The Revolutionary Guard also served as defender of the Shiite faith abroad, playing a pivotal role in the formation of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon after the 1982 Israeli invasion.

Many of the actions of the guard have been cited by the United States as evidence that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. The guard members I spoke with reject this characterization. "We did some pretty terrible things in our early years, but we were fighting for our national survival," one veteran member told me. "The MEK was waging a war in our cities, ambushing our forces, assassinating our politicians and killing our citizens with car bombs. We had to crush them, either in Iran or out. But if we kill an MEK operative in France or Germany, we become terrorists. If America kills an Al Qaeda operative in another country, you are counterterrorists. This makes no sense. We have never targeted or attacked Americans or American interests. We condemned the 9/11 attacks as a crime against Islam and a crime against humanity. And yet we are reviled as terrorists, or even worse, co-conspirators with Al Qaeda. Doesn't America understand that we oppose Al Qaeda and all it stands for? Do you not know that the teachings of Sunni Wahhabism are anathema to the teachings of the Shia faith?"

In our haste to lash out at those who attacked us on September 11, 2001, we forget that Iran not only condemned the attacks, as did its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon, but that it nearly fought a war against Afghanistan's Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies in the late 1990s. There is no greater potential ally in the struggle against Sunni extremism than Shiite Iran, a point made over and over by everyone I talked to, especially those affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard. As one veteran told me, "Iraq is our neighbor, and of course we have a vested interest in its stability. We fought an eight-year war with Iraq, so we understand the realities of that country. We are very glad the United States got rid of Saddam. But now what America is doing only makes the region more insecure. We could help America in Iraq if only they would let us."

Moving south from Qom, along modern highways interspersed with rest stops that would meet with the approval of any traveler on the New York State Thruway, I was struck by the long lines of cars at gas stations. For all its oil wealth, Iran has an energy crisis. With its economy focused on the cash business of oil export, little attention has been paid to the needs of the domestic consumer. Iran is woefully lacking in domestic refining capacity, so much so that it spends billions every year importing gasoline at world market prices, which it then discounts so that the Iranian consumer pays only some 40 cents a gallon. This makes no economic sense, but Iran's oil is already fully leveraged in the export market. With reserves shrinking and new discoveries waning, Iran faces a serious energy crisis in the coming decades unless alternative sources are developed.

Some 180 miles south of Tehran lies the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. Tucked away on the side of the road, surrounded by a makeshift berm and numerous antiaircraft artillery emplacements, the facility has the outward appearance of something dark and ominous. But the secrets concerning what lies within are well-known to the world as a result of inspections carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency. What the inspectors say is crystal clear: There is no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Furthermore, the enrichment program is plagued with technical problems that prevent any rapid progress. There is no imminent nuclear weapons threat from Iran, which hasn't mastered the technologies and methodologies of enrichment needed to sustain a nuclear energy program, let alone a nuclear weapons effort.

The Bush Administration speaks of the need to move quickly on the issue of Iran's nuclear ambition and to roll back the forces of terror represented by the Islamic Republic. The repeated and explicit demand of the Administration is for regime change, as evidenced in the March 2006 "National Security Strategy of the United States," where Iran is named repeatedly as the number-one threat to the United States. The alleged Iranian threat espoused by Bush is based on fear, and arises from a combination of ignorance and ideological inflexibility. The path that the United States is currently embarked on regarding Iran is a path that will lead to war. (Indeed, there are numerous unconfirmed reports that the United States has already begun covert military operations inside Iran, including overflights by pilotless drones and recruitment and training of MEK, Kurdish and Azeri guerrillas.) Such a course of action would make even the historic blunder of the Iraq invasion pale by comparison. When we talk of war, we must never forget that we are talking about the lives of the men and women who serve us in the armed forces. We have a duty and responsibility to insure that all options short of war are exhausted before any decision to enter into conflict is made. On the issue of Iran, the United States hasn't even come close to exhausting the available options.

The solution to this problem is clear. The most logical course would be to put Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a flight to Tehran, where she could negotiate directly with the principal players on the Iranian side, including Supreme Leader Khamenei. If Administration officials actually engaged with the Iranians, they would have an eye-opening experience. Of course, Rice would need to come with a revamped US policy, one that rejects regime change, provides security guarantees for Iran as it is currently governed and would be willing to recognize Iran's legitimate right to enrich uranium under Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (although under stringent UN inspections, and perhaps limited to the operation of a single 164-centrifuge cascade).

Rice would undoubtedly be surprised at the degree of moderation (and pro-American sentiment) that exists in Iran today. She might also be shocked to find out that the Iranians are more than ready to sit down with the United States and work out a program for stability in Iraq, as well as a reduction of tensions between Israel and Hezbollah. In addition to significantly reducing the risk of a disastrous conflict, such a visit would do more to encourage moderation and peace in the region than any amount of saber-rattling could ever hope to accomplish. And it would do more to help America prevail in the so-called Global War on Terror than any war plan the Pentagon could assemble. In the end, that is what defines good policy--something sadly lacking in Washington today.

U.S. Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons

U.S. Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons
Court Is Asked to Bar Detainees From Talking About Interrogations

By Carol D. Leonnig and Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 4, 2006; A01

The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors used to get them to talk.

The government says in new court filings that those interrogation methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets and that their release -- even to the detainees' own attorneys -- "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage." Terrorists could use the information to train in counter-interrogation techniques and foil government efforts to elicit information about their methods and plots, according to government documents submitted to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Oct. 26.

The battle over legal rights for terrorism suspects detained for years in CIA prisons centers on Majid Khan, a 26-year-old former Catonsville resident who was one of 14 high-value detainees transferred in September from the "black" sites to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents many detainees at Guantanamo, is seeking emergency access to him.

The government, in trying to block lawyers' access to the 14 detainees, effectively asserts that the detainees' experiences are a secret that should never be shared with the public.

Because Khan "was detained by CIA in this program, he may have come into possession of information, including locations of detention, conditions of detention, and alternative interrogation techniques that is classified at the TOP SECRET//SCI level," an affidavit from CIA Information Review Officer Marilyn A. Dorn states, using the acronym for "sensitive compartmented information."

Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney for Khan's family, responded in a court document yesterday that there is no evidence that Khan had top-secret information. "Rather," she said, "the executive is attempting to misuse its classification authority . . . to conceal illegal or embarrassing executive conduct."

Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor who has represented several detainees at Guantanamo, said the prisoners "can't even say what our government did to these guys to elicit the statements that are the basis for them being held. Kafka-esque doesn't do it justice. This is 'Alice in Wonderland.' "

Kathleen Blomquist, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said yesterday that details of the CIA program must be protected from disclosure. She said the lawyer's proposal for talking with Khan "is inadequate to protect unique and potentially highly classified information that is vital to our country's ability to fight terrorism."

Government lawyers also argue in court papers that detainees such as Khan previously held in CIA sites have no automatic right to speak to lawyers because the new Military Commissions Act, signed by President Bush last month, stripped them of access to U.S. courts. That law established separate military trials for terrorism suspects.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is considering whether Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts. The government urged Walton to defer any decision on access to lawyers until the higher court rules.

The government filing expresses concern that detainee attorneys will provide their clients with information about the outside world and relay information about detainees to others. In an affidavit, Guantanamo's staff judge advocate, Cmdr. Patrick M. McCarthy, said that in one case a detainee's attorney took questions from a BBC reporter with him into a meeting with a detainee at the camp. Such indirect interviews are "inconsistent with the purpose of counsel access" at the prison, McCarthy wrote.

Dorn said in the court papers that for lawyers to speak to former CIA detainees under the security protocol used for other Guantanamo detainees "poses an unacceptable risk of disclosure." But detainee attorneys said they have followed the protocol to the letter, and none has been accused of releasing information without government clearance.

Captives who have spent time in the secret prisons, and their advocates, have said the detainees were sometimes treated harshly with techniques that included "waterboarding," which simulates drowning. Bush has declared that the administration will not tolerate the use of torture but has pressed to retain the use of unspecified "alternative" interrogation methods.

The government argues that once rules are set for the new military commissions, the high-value detainees will have military lawyers and "unprecedented" rights to challenge charges against them in that venue.

U.S. officials say Khan, a Pakistani national who lived in the United States for seven years, took orders from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the man accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammed allegedly asked Khan to research poisoning U.S. reservoirs and considered him for an operation to assassinate the Pakistani president.

In a separate court document filed last night, Khan's attorneys offered declarations from Khaled al-Masri, a released detainee who said he was held with Khan in a dingy CIA prison called "the salt pit" in Afghanistan. There, prisoners slept on the floor, wore diapers and were given tainted water that made them vomit, Masri said. American interrogators treated him roughly, he said, and told him he "was in a land where there were no laws."

Khan's family did not learn of his whereabouts until Bush announced his transfer in September, more than three years after he was seized in Pakistan.

The family said Khan was staying with a brother in Karachi, Pakistan, in March 2003 when men, who were not in uniform, burst into the apartment late one night and put hoods over the heads of Khan, his brother Mohammad and his brother's wife. The couple's 1-month-old son was also seized.

Another brother, Mahmood Khan, who has lived in the United States since 1989, said in an interview this week that the four were hustled into police vehicles and taken to an undisclosed location, where they were separated and held in windowless rooms. His sister-in-law and her baby remained together, he said.

According to Mahmood, Mohammad said they were questioned repeatedly by men who identified themselves as members of Pakistan's intelligence service and others who identified themselves as U.S. officials. Mohammad's wife was released after seven days, and he was released after three months, without charge. He was left on a street corner without explanation, Mahmood said.

Periodically, he said, people who identified themselves as Pakistani officials contacted Mohammad and assured him that his brother would soon be released and that they ought not contact a lawyer or speak with the news media.

"We had no way of knowing who had him or where he was," Mahmood Khan said this week at the family home outside Baltimore. He said they complied with the requests because they believed anything else could delay his brother's release.

In Maryland, Khan's family was under constant FBI surveillance from the moment of his arrest, his brother said. The FBI raided their house the day after the arrest , removing computer equipment, papers and videos. Each family member was questioned extensively and shown photographs of terrorism suspects that Mahmood Khan said none of them recognized. For much of the next year, he said, they were followed everywhere.

"Pretty much we were scared," he said. "We live in this country. We have everything here."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Military Times -- Rumsfeld Must Go

Time for Rumsfeld to go

"So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth."

That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.

But until recently, the "hard bruising" truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "mission accomplished," the insurgency is "in its last throes," and "back off," we know what we're doing, are a few choice examples.

Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors.

Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee in September: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war."

Last week, someone leaked to The New York Times a Central Command briefing slide showing an assessment that the civil conflict in Iraq now borders on "critical" and has been sliding toward "chaos" for most of the past year. The strategy in Iraq has been to train an Iraqi army and police force that could gradually take over for U.S. troops in providing for the security of their new government and their nation.

But despite the best efforts of American trainers, the problem of molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a force for national unity has become a losing proposition.

For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don't show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake.

It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many privately feared would fail. They have kept their counsel private, adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of subordination of the military to civilian authority.

And although that tradition, and the officers' deep sense of honor, prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe it.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Publications catering to the military will call Monday for secretary’s ouster

Text of editorial calling for Rumsfeld to go
Publications catering to the military will call Monday for secretary’s ouster

CT Nov 3, 2006

This editorial will appear in the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times on Monday under the headline “Time for Rumsfeld to go”:

"So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth."

That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.

But until recently, the "hard bruising" truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "mission accomplished," the insurgency is "in its last throes," and "back off," we know what we're doing, are a few choice examples.

Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors.

Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee in September: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war."

Last week, someone leaked to The New York Times a Central Command briefing slide showing an assessment that the civil conflict in Iraq now borders on "critical" and has been sliding toward "chaos" for most of the past year. The strategy in Iraq has been to train an Iraqi army and police force that could gradually take over for U.S. troops in providing for the security of their new government and their nation.

But despite the best efforts of American trainers, the problem of molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a force for national unity has become a losing proposition.

For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don't show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake.

It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many privately feared would fail. They have kept their counsel private, adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of subordination of the military to civilian authority.

And although that tradition, and the officers' deep sense of honor, prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe it.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

Neo Culpa

Neo Culpa

As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war's neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence. In a series of exclusive interviews, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, and others play the blame game with shocking frankness. Target No. 1: the president himself.

by David Rose VF.COM November 3, 2006

I remember sitting with Richard Perle in his suite at London's Grosvenor House hotel and receiving a private lecture on the importance of securing victory in Iraq. "Iraq is a very good candidate for democratic reform," he said. "It won't be Westminster overnight, but the great democracies of the world didn't achieve the full, rich structure of democratic governance overnight. The Iraqis have a decent chance of succeeding." Perle seemed to exude the scent of liberation, as well as a whiff of gunpowder. It was February 2003, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the culmination of his long campaign on behalf of regime change in Iraq, was less than a month away.

Three years later, Perle and I meet again at his home outside Washington, D.C. It is October, the worst month for U.S. casualties in Iraq in almost two years, and Republicans are bracing for losses in the upcoming midterm elections. As he looks into my eyes, speaking slowly and with obvious deliberation, Perle is unrecognizable as the confident hawk who, as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, had invited the exiled Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi to its first meeting after 9/11. "The levels of brutality that we've seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity," Perle says now, adding that total defeat—an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic "failed state"—is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely. "And then," says Perle, "you'll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating."

According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says, "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.… I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty."

Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."

Having spoken with Perle, I wonder: What do the rest of the pro-war neoconservatives think? If the much caricatured "Prince of Darkness" is now plagued with doubt, how do his comrades-in-arms feel? I am particularly interested in finding out because I interviewed many neocons before the invasion and, like many people, found much to admire in their vision of spreading democracy in the Middle East.

I expect to encounter disappointment. What I find instead is despair, and fury at the incompetence of the Bush administration the neoconservatives once saw as their brightest hope.

To David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who co-wrote Bush's 2002 State of the Union address that accused Iraq of being part of an "axis of evil," it now looks as if defeat may be inescapable, because "the insurgency has proven it can kill anyone who cooperates, and the United States and its friends have failed to prove that it can protect them." This situation, he says, must ultimately be blamed on "failure at the center"—starting with President Bush.

Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Now he says, "I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."

Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself—what he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"—is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he says, "it's not going to sell." And if he, too, had his time over, Adelman says, "I would write an article that would be skeptical over whether there would be a performance that would be good enough to implement our policy. The policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but if you can't execute it, it's useless, just useless. I guess that's what I would have said: that Bush's arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked can't do. And that's very different from let's go."

I spend the better part of two weeks in conversations with some of the most respected voices among the neoconservative elite. What I discover is that none of them is optimistic. All of them have regrets, not only about what has happened but also, in many cases, about the roles they played. Their dismay extends beyond the tactical issues of whether America did right or wrong, to the underlying question of whether exporting democracy is something America knows how to do.

I will present my findings in full in the January issue of Vanity Fair, which will reach newsstands in New York and L.A. on December 6 and nationally by December 12. In the meantime, here is a brief survey of some of what I heard from the war's remorseful proponents.

Richard Perle: "In the administration that I served [Perle was an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan], there was a one-sentence description of the decision-making process when consensus could not be reached among disputatious departments: 'The president makes the decision.' [Bush] did not make decisions, in part because the machinery of government that he nominally ran was actually running him. The National Security Council was not serving [Bush] properly. He regarded [then National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] as part of the family."

Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute freedom scholar: "Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes."

Frank Gaffney, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan and founder of the Center for Security Policy: "[Bush] doesn't in fact seem to be a man of principle who's steadfastly pursuing what he thinks is the right course. He talks about it, but the policy doesn't track with the rhetoric, and that's what creates the incoherence that causes us problems around the world and at home. It also creates the sense that you can take him on with impunity."

Kenneth Adelman: "The most dispiriting and awful moment of the whole administration was the day that Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to [former C.I.A. director] George Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and [Coalition Provisional Authority chief] Jerry [Paul] Bremer—three of the most incompetent people who've ever served in such key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can bestow on anyone! That was the day I checked out of this administration. It was then I thought, There's no seriousness here, these are not serious people. If he had been serious, the president would have realized that those three are each directly responsible for the disaster of Iraq."

David Frum: "I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything."

Michael Rubin, former Pentagon Office of Special Plans and Coalition Provisional Authority staffer: "Where I most blame George Bush is that through his rhetoric people trusted him, people believed him. Reformists came out of the woodwork and exposed themselves." By failing to match his rhetoric with action, Rubin adds, Bush has betrayed Iraqi reformers in a way that is "not much different from what his father did on February 15, 1991, when he called the Iraqi people to rise up, and then had second thoughts and didn't do anything once they did."

Richard Perle: "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had no responsibility for that."

Kenneth Adelman: "The problem here is not a selling job. The problem is a performance job.… Rumsfeld has said that the war could never be lost in Iraq, it could only be lost in Washington. I don't think that's true at all. We're losing in Iraq.… I've worked with [Rumsfeld] three times in my life. I've been to each of his houses, in Chicago, Taos, Santa Fe, Santo Domingo, and Las Vegas. I'm very, very fond of him, but I'm crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don't know. He certainly fooled me."

Eliot Cohen, director of the strategic-studies program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and member of the Defense Policy Board: "I wouldn't be surprised if what we end up drifting toward is some sort of withdrawal on some sort of timetable and leaving the place in a pretty ghastly mess.… I do think it's going to end up encouraging various strands of Islamism, both Shia and Sunni, and probably will bring de-stabilization of some regimes of a more traditional kind, which already have their problems.… The best news is that the United States remains a healthy, vibrant, vigorous society. So in a real pinch, we can still pull ourselves together. Unfortunately, it will probably take another big hit. And a very different quality of leadership. Maybe we'll get it."

David Rose is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.¤tPage=all

RNC Accepts Money From Army Porn Movie Distributor

RNC Accepts Money From Army Porn Movie Distributor

November 03, 2006 11:35 AM

Maddy Sauer Reports:

Despite running an attack ad accusing a Democratic senatorial candidate of accepting money from "porn movie producers," the Republican National Committee itself has accepted several donations over the past few years from the president of a large pornographic movie distribution company.

Marina Pacific Distributors calls itself "the leader in adult video distribution." Included in the movies for sale on their Web site are videos made by "Active Duty Productions." Active Duty, as their name suggests, has cast active duty soldiers in some of their films but not without serious consequences for the soldiers.

Three Fort Bragg soldiers were found guilty and sentenced to prison in separate courts-martial earlier this year for appearing in pornographic videos made by Active Duty. The charges included sodomy and conduct detrimental to the Army. Four other soldiers accused of appearing in Active Duty videos were also punished outside of the military court system.

Active Duty's films, however, continue to be sold by large pornographic video distributors, including Marina Pacific.

The president of Marina Pacific, Nicholas Boyias, has personally contributed to the Republican party several times over the last few years, six times to the Republican National Committee. The donations range from $200 to $500 and total around $2,000, according to a search of federal election records.

The RNC would not comment on the donations from Boyias or from the porn industry in general.

A Marina Pacific spokesman said Boyias is a moderate Republican who supports candidates and causes on both sides of the aisle, though no contributions to Democrats were found in a search of federal election records. The company continues to sell Active Duty's films, which include "Fire in the Hole," "Platoon Party" and "Thrill Sergeant."

Back at Fort Bragg, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne said it's distressing to know that Active Duty's videos are still being sold.

"It's very frustrating for the leaders of the 82nd Airborne to know that people like this are out in the public who prey on our troops," said Major Thomas Earnhardt.

When asked about the soldiers who were sent to prison for appearing in the films, a spokesman for Marina Pacific said, "They made a choice, and they were of legal age."

Helen Thomas - Election a Referendum on War and on Administration's Credibility

Election a Referendum on War and on Administration's Credibility
by Helen Thomas

WASHINGTON - The war in Iraq is the issue in the critical Nov.7 election -- and it should be.

Voters surely will want to have a say on the national policy that has taken a huge human toll of casualties, both American and Iraqi, and is draining the U.S. Treasury.

Although they are not on the ballot, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are running scared, with Bush warning that the Democratic approach means that "the terrorists win and America loses."

It's a rare opportunity to weigh in on the nation's foreign policy and to send a message to the president who led the country into an unnecessary war.

This is also a chance for the voters to assess the political fate of the do-nothing rubber-stamp Congress, where lawmakers failed to question the president's motives in creating the Iraqi disaster.

The majority of Democrats on Capitol Hill went along with the October 2002 resolution that the administration took as the go-ahead for the invasion and occupation of the oil-rich country.

Democrats can't complain, but they can see the light and change their minds. They might even be able to propose an exit date and escape being accused by GOP opponents of not supporting the troops -- despite Bush's desperate rhetoric -- since some Republicans are looking for a way out of the quagmire, too.

Other Republican candidates seem to be shying away from the war issue as they put some distance between themselves and Bush. Many aren't eager for the traditional side-by-side public appearances with the president.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said last week that Republican candidates should steer clear of the war in Iraq and get Americans focusing on pocketbook issues.

Not all are taking that advice.

Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said in a recent column in the Christian Science Monitor that although "the struggle (meaning the war) is incredibly difficult, the Republican approach is working for America."

Karl Rove, White House political adviser, has been urging party candidates to stick with the tried-and-true emphasis on national security and the war on terrorism, promising it would play well at the polls.

The president also has thrown in a last-minute diatribe against gay marriage.

To take over Capitol Hill and turn Bush into a real lame duck, Democrats need to win 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate.

In a midterm correction to help beleaguered Republican candidates, Bush has now rejected the slogan "stay the course" that he and his top advisers had used to flay the Democrats, whom they accused of wanting to "cut and run."

The administration also has been talking loudly about benchmarks and timetables to assure voters that there is some movement toward an Iraq exit strategy.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki denies there is any deal on timing of withdrawal of American troops and dismissed such talk as a campaign ploy for U.S. domestic consumption.

Bush told ABC-TV's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" on Oct. 22: "We've never been 'stay the course,' " a claim that smoothly ignored repeated statements by the president and other administration officials over the past three years.

The election is not only a referendum on the war but also on the administration's waning credibility.

Commonly referred to as "The First Lady of the Press," former White House Bureau Chief Helen Thomas is a trailblazer, breaking through barriers for women reporters while covering every President since John F. Kennedy. For 57 years, Helen also served as White House correspondent for United Press International. She recently left this post and joined Hearst Newspapers as a syndicated columnist.

Paul Krugman - As Bechtel Goes

As Bechtel Goes


Bechtel, the giant engineering company, is leaving Iraq. Its mission — to rebuild power, water and sewage plants — wasn’t accomplished: Baghdad received less than six hours a day of electricity last month, and much of Iraq’s population lives with untreated sewage and without clean water. But Bechtel, having received $2.3 billion of taxpayers’ money and having lost the lives of 52 employees, has come to the end of its last government contract.

As Bechtel goes, so goes the whole reconstruction effort. Whatever our leaders may say about their determination to stay the course complete the mission, when it comes to rebuilding Iraq they’ve already cut and run. The $21 billion allocated for reconstruction over the last three years has been spent, much of it on security rather than its intended purpose, and there’s no more money in the pipeline.

The failure of reconstruction in Iraq raises three questions. First, how much did that failure contribute to the overall failure of the war? Second, how was it that America, the great can-do nation, in this case couldn’t and didn’t? Finally, if we’ve given up on rebuilding Iraq, what are our troops dying for?

There’s no definitive way to answer the first question. You can make a good case that the invasion of Iraq was doomed no matter what, because we never had enough military manpower to provide security. But the lack of electricity and clean water did a lot to dissipate any initial good will the Iraqis may have felt toward the occupation. And Iraqis are well aware that the billions squandered by American contractors included a lot of Iraqi oil revenue as well as U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

Consider the symbolism of Iraq’s new police academy, which Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has called “the most essential civil security project in the country.” It was built at a cost of $75 million by Parsons Corporation, which received a total of about $1 billion for Iraq reconstruction projects. But the academy was so badly built that feces and urine leak from the ceilings in the student barracks.

Think about it. We want the Iraqis to stand up so we can stand down. But if they do stand up, we’ll dump excrement on their heads.

As for how this could have happened, that’s easy: major contractors believed, correctly, that their political connections insulated them from accountability. Halliburton and other companies with huge Iraq contracts were basically in the same position as Donald Rumsfeld: they were so closely identified with President Bush and, especially, Vice President Cheney that firing or even disciplining them would have been seen as an admission of personal failure on the part of top elected officials.

As a result, the administration and its allies in Congress fought accountability all the way. Administration officials have made repeated backdoor efforts to close the office of Mr. Bowen, whose job is to oversee the use of reconstruction money. Just this past May, with the failed reconstruction already winding down, the White House arranged for the last $1.5 billion of reconstruction money to be placed outside Mr. Bowen’s jurisdiction. And now, finally, Congress has passed a bill whose provisions include the complete elimination of his agency next October.

The bottom line is that those charged with rebuilding Iraq had no incentive to do the job right, so they didn’t.

You can see, by the way, why a Democratic takeover of the House, if it happens next week, would be such a pivotal event: suddenly, committee chairmen with subpoena power would be in a position to investigate where all the Iraq money went.

But that’s all in the past. What about the future?

Back in June, after a photo-op trip to Iraq, Mr. Bush said something I agree with. “You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered,” he declared. “You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people.” But what those measures actually show is the absence of progress. By any material measure, Iraqis are worse off than they were under Saddam.

And we’re not planning to do anything about it: the U.S.-led reconstruction effort in Iraq is basically over. I don’t know whether the administration is afraid to ask U.S. voters for more money, or simply considers the situation hopeless. Either way, the United States has accepted defeat on reconstruction.

Yet Americans are still fighting and dying in Iraq. For what?

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment MSNBC 11/1/06

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment MSNBC 11/1/06

On the 22nd of May, 1856, as the deteriorating American political system veered towards the edge of the cliff, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, shuffled into the Senate of this nation, his leg stiff from an old dueling injury, supported by a cane. And he looked for the familiar figure of the prominent Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

Brooks found Sumner at his desk, mailing out copies of a speech he had delivered three days earlier — a speech against slavery.

The Congressman matter-of-factly raised his walking stick in mid-air, and smashed its metal point, across the Senator's head.

Congressman Brooks hit his victim repeatedly. Senator Sumner somehow got to his feet and tried to flee. Brooks chased him, and delivered untold blows to Sumner's head. Even though Sumner lay unconscious and bleeding, on the Senate floor, Brooks finally stopped beating him, only because his cane finally broke.

Others will cite John Brown's attack on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry as the exact point after which the Civil War became inevitable.

In point of fact, it might have been the moment — not when Brooks broke his cane over the prostrate body of Senator Sumner - but when voters in Brooks's district started sending him new canes.

Tonight, we almost wonder to whom President Bush will send the next new cane.

There is tonight no political division in this country that he and his party will not exploit, nor have not exploited; no anxiety that he and his party will not inflame.

There is no line this President has not crossed — nor will not cross — to keep one political party, in power.

He has spread any and every fear among us, in a desperate effort to avoid that which he most fears — some check, some balance against what has become not an imperial, but a unilateral presidency.

And now it is evident that it no longer matters to him, whether that effort to avoid the judgment of the people, is subtle and nuanced — or laughably transparent.

Senator John Kerry called him out Monday.

He did it two years too late.

He had been too cordial — just as Vice President Gore had been too cordial in 2000 — just as millions of us, have been too cordial ever since.

Senator Kerry, as you well know, spoke at a college in Southern California. With bitter humor, he told the students that he had been in Texas the day before, that President Bush used to live in that state, but that now he lives in the state of denial.

He said the trip had reminded him about the value of education — that quote "if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you can get stuck in Iraq."

The Senator, in essence, called Mr. Bush stupid.

The context was unmistakable: Texas;the state of denial;stuck in Iraq. No interpretation required.

And Mr. Bush and his minions responded, by appearing to be too stupid to realize that they had been called stupid.

They demanded Kerry apologize — to the troops in Iraq.

And so he now has.

That phrase "appearing to be too stupid" is used deliberately, Mr. Bush.

Because there are only three possibilities here:

One, sir, is that you are far more stupid than the worst of your critics have suggested; that you could not follow the construction of a simple sentence; that you could not recognize your own life story when it was deftly summarized; that you could not perceive it was the sad ledger of your presidency that was being recounted.

This, of course, compliments you, Mr. Bush, because even those who do not "make the most of it," who do not "study hard," who do not "do their homework," and who do not "make an effort to be smart" might still just be stupid — but honest.

No; the first option, sir, is, at best, improbable. You are not honest.

The second option is that you and those who work for you deliberately twisted what Senator Kerry said to fit your political template. That you decided to take advantage of it, to once again pretend that the attacks, solely about your own incompetence, were in fact attacks on the troops — or even on the nation itself.

The third possibility is, obviously, the nightmare scenario; that the first two options are in some way conflated.

That it is both politically convenient for you, and personally satisfying to you, to confuse yourself with the country for which, sir, you work.

A brief reminder, Mr. Bush: You are not the United States of America.

You are merely a politician whose entire legacy will have been a willingness to make anything political — to have, in this case, refused to acknowledge that the insult wasn't about the troops, and that the insult was not even truly about you either — that the insult, in fact, is you.

So now John Kerry has apologized to the troops; apologized for the Republicans' deliberate distortions.

Thus the President will now begin the apologies he owes our troops, right?

This President must apologize to the troops — for having suggested, six weeks ago, that the chaos in Iraq, the death and the carnage, the slaughtered Iraqi civilians and the dead American service personnel, will, to history, quote "look like just a comma."

This President must apologize to the troops — because the intelligence he claims led us into Iraq proved to be undeniably and irredeemably wrong.

This President must apologize to the troops — for having laughed about the failure of that intelligence, at a banquet, while our troops were in harm's way.

This President must apologize to the troops — because the streets of Iraq were not strewn with flowers and its residents did not greet them as liberators.

This President must apologize to the troops — because his administration ran out of "plan" after barely two months.

This President must apologize to the troops — for getting 2,815 of them killed.

This President must apologize to the troops — for getting this country into a war without a clue.

And Mr. Bush owes us an apology… for this destructive and omnivorous presidency.

We will not receive them, of course.

This President never apologizes.

Not to the troops.

Not to the people.

Nor will those henchmen who have echoed him.

In calling him a "stuffed suit," Senator Kerry was wrong about the Press Secretary.

Mr. Snow's words and conduct — falsely earnest and earnestly false — suggest he is not "stuffed" - he is inflated.

And in leaving him out of the equation, Senator Kerry gave an unwarranted pass to his old friend Senator McCain, who should be ashamed of himself tonight.

He rolled over and pretended Kerry had said what he obviously had not.

Only, the symbolic stick he broke over Kerry's head came in a context, even more disturbing: Mr. McCain demanded the apology, while electioneering for a Republican congressional candidate in Illinois.

He was speaking of how often he had been to Walter Reed Hospital to see the wounded Iraq veterans, of how, quote "many of the have lost limbs." He said all this while demanding that the voters of Illinois reject a candidate who is not only a wounded Iraq veteran, but who lost two limbs there: Tammy Duckworth.

Support some of the wounded veterans. But bad-mouth the Democratic one.

And exploit all the veterans, and all the still-serving personnel, in a cheap and tawdry political trick, to try to bury the truth: that John Kerry said the President had been stupid.

And to continue this slander as late as this morning — as biased, or gullible, or lazy newscasters, nodded in sleep-walking assent.

Senator McCain became a front man in a collective lie to break sticks over the heads of Democrats — one of them his friend; another his fellow veteran, leg-less, for whom he should weep and applaud, or at minimum about whom, he should stay quiet.

That was beneath the Senator from Arizona.

And it was all because of an imaginary insult to the troops that his party cynically manufactured — out of a desperation, and a futility, as deep as that of Congressman Brooks, when he went hunting for Senator Sumner.

This, is our beloved country now, as you have re-defined it, Mr. Bush.

Get a tortured Vietnam veteran to attack a decorated Vietnam veteran, in defense of military personnel, whom that decorated veteran did not insult.

Or, get your henchmen to take advantage of the evil lingering dregs of the fear of miscegenation in Tennessee, in your party's advertisements against Harold Ford.

Or, get the satellites who orbit around you, like Rush Limbaugh, to exploit the illness — and the bi-partisanship — of Michael J. Fox — yes, get someone to make fun of the cripple.

Oh, and sir, don't forget to drag your own wife into it.

"It's always easy," she said of Mr. Fox's commercials — and she used this phrase twice — "to manipulate people's feelings."

Where on earth might the First Lady have gotten that idea, Mr. President?

From your endless manipulation of people's feelings about terrorism?

"How ever they put it," you said Monday of the Democrats, on the subject of Iraq , "their approach comes down to this: the terrorists win and America loses."

No manipulation of feelings there.

No manipulation of the charlatans of your administration into the only truth-tellers.

No shocked outrage at the Kerry insult that wasn't; no subtle smile as the First Lady silently sticks the knife in Michael J. Fox's back; no attempt on the campaign trail to bury the reality that you have already assured that the terrorists are winning.

Winning in Iraq, sir.

Winning in America, sir.

There, we have chaos: joint U.S./Iraqi checkpoints at Sadr City, the base of the radical Shiite militias — and the Americans have been ordered out by the Prime Minister of Iraq… and our Secretary of Defense doesn't even know about it!

And here — we have deliberate, systematic, institutionalized lying and smearing and terrorizing — a code of deceit, that somehow permits a President to say, quote, "If you listen carefully for a Democrat plan for success, they don't have one."

Permits him to say this while his plan in Iraq has amounted to a twisted version of the advice once offered to Lyndon Johnson about his Iraq, called Vietnam.

Instead of "declare victory — and get out"… we now have "declare victory — and stay, indefinitely."

And also here, we have institutionalized the terrorizing of the opposition. True domestic terror:

– Critics of your administration in the media receive letters filled with fake anthrax.

– Braying newspapers applaud, or laugh, or reveal details the FBI wished kept quiet, and thus impede or ruin the investigation.

– A series of reactionary columnists encourages treason charges against a newspaper that published "national security information" — that was openly available on the internet.

– One radio critic receives a letter, threatening the revelation of as much personal information about her as can be obtained — and expressing the hope that someone will then shoot her with an AK-47 machine gun.

– And finally, a critic of an incumbent Republican Senator, a critic armed with nothing but words, is attacked by the Senator's supporters, and thrown to the floor, in full view of television cameras, as if someone really did want to re-enact the intent and the rage of the day Preston Brooks found Senator Charles Sumner.

Of course, Mr. President, you did none of these things.

You instructed no one to mail the fake anthrax. Nor undermine the FBI's case. Nor call for the execution of the editors of the New York Times. Nor threaten to assassinate Stephanie Miller. Nor beat up a man yelling at Senator Allen. Nor have the first lady knife Michael J. Fox. Nor tell John McCain to lie about John Kerry.

No, you did not.

And the genius of the thing, is the same, as in King Henry's rhetorical question about Archbishop Thomas Becket: "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

All you have to do, sir… is hand out enough new canes.

U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Guide

U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Guide

Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”

Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.

The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.

“For the U.S. to toss a match into this flammable area is very irresponsible,” said A. Bryan Siebert, a former director of classification at the federal Department of Energy, which runs the nation’s nuclear arms program. “There’s a lot of things about nuclear weapons that are secret and should remain so.”

The government had received earlier warnings about the contents of the Web site. Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure.

The campaign for the online archive was mounted by conservative publications and politicians, who said that the nation’s spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized since the March 2003 invasion. With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents — most of them in Arabic — would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence.

The director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, had resisted setting up the Web site, which some intelligence officials felt implicitly raised questions about the competence and judgment of government analysts. But President Bush approved the site’s creation after Congressional Republicans proposed legislation to force the documents’ release.

In his statement last night, Mr. Negroponte’s spokesman, Chad Kolton, said, “While strict criteria had already been established to govern posted documents, the material currently on the Web site, as well as the procedures used to post new documents, will be carefully reviewed before the site becomes available again.”

A spokesman for the National Security Council, Gordon D. Johndroe, said, “We’re confident the D.N.I. is taking the appropriate steps to maintain the balance between public information and national security.”

The Web site, “Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal,” was a constantly expanding portrait of prewar Iraq. Its many thousands of documents included everything from a collection of religious and nationalistic poetry to instructions for the repair of parachutes to handwritten notes from Mr. Hussein’s intelligence service. It became a popular quarry for a legion of bloggers, translators and amateur historians.

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

European diplomats said this week that some of those nuclear documents on the Web site were identical to the ones presented to the United Nations Security Council in late 2002, as America got ready to invade Iraq. But unlike those on the Web site, the papers given to the Security Council had been extensively edited, to remove sensitive information on unconventional arms.

The deletions, the diplomats said, had been done in consultation with the United States and other nuclear-weapons nations. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which ran the nuclear part of the inspections, told the Security Council in late 2002 that the deletions were “consistent with the principle that proliferation-sensitive information should not be released.”

In Europe, a senior diplomat said atomic experts there had studied the nuclear documents on the Web site and judged their public release as potentially dangerous. “It’s a cookbook,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of his agency’s rules. “If you had this, it would short-circuit a lot of things.”

The New York Times had examined dozens of the documents and asked a half dozen nuclear experts to evaluate some of them.

Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former United States government arms scientist now at the war studies department of King’s College, London, called the posted material “very sensitive, much of it undoubtedly secret restricted data.”

Ray E. Kidder, a senior nuclear physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, an arms design center, said “some things in these documents would be helpful” to nations aspiring to develop nuclear weapons and should have remained secret.

A senior American intelligence official who deals routinely with atomic issues said the documents showed “where the Iraqis failed and how to get around the failures.” The documents, he added, could perhaps help Iran or other nations making a serious effort to develop nuclear arms, but probably not terrorists or poorly equipped states. The official, who requested anonymity because of his agency’s rules against public comment, called the papers “a road map that helps you get from point A to point B, but only if you already have a car.”

Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private group at George Washington University that tracks federal secrecy decisions, said the impetus for the Web site’s creation came from an array of sources — private conservative groups, Congressional Republicans and some figures in the Bush administration — who clung to the belief that close examination of the captured documents would show that Mr. Hussein’s government had clandestinely reconstituted an unconventional arms programs.

“There were hundreds of people who said, ‘There’s got to be gold in them thar hills,’ ” Mr. Blanton said.

The campaign for the Web site was led by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan. Last November, he and his Senate counterpart, Pat Roberts of Kansas, wrote to Mr. Negroponte, asking him to post the Iraqi material. The sheer volume of the documents, they argued, had overwhelmed the intelligence community.

Some intelligence officials feared that individual documents, translated and interpreted by amateurs, would be used out of context to second-guess the intelligence agencies’ view that Mr. Hussein did not have unconventional weapons or substantive ties to Al Qaeda. Reviewing the documents for release would add an unnecessary burden on busy intelligence analysts, they argued.

On March 16, after the documents’ release was approved, Mr. Negroponte’s office issued a terse public announcement including a disclaimer that remained on the Web site: “The U.S. government has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein, or the quality of any translations, when available.”

On April 18, about a month after the first documents were made public, Mr. Hoekstra issued a news release acknowledging “minimal risks,” but saying the site “will enable us to better understand information such as Saddam’s links to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and violence against the Iraqi people.” He added: “It will allow us to leverage the Internet to enable a mass examination as opposed to limiting it to a few exclusive elites.”

Yesterday, before the site was shut down, Jamal Ware, a spokesman for Mr. Hoekstra, said the government had “developed a sound process to review the documents to ensure sensitive or dangerous information is not posted.” Later, he said the complaints about the site “didn’t sound like a big deal,” adding, “We were a little surprised when they pulled the plug.”

The precise review process that led to the posting of the nuclear and chemical-weapons documents is unclear. But in testimony before Congress last spring, a senior official from Mr. Negroponte’s office, Daniel Butler, described a “triage” system used to sort out material that should remain classified. Even so, he said, the policy was to “be biased towards release if at all possible.“ Government officials say all the documents in Arabic have received at least a quick review by Arabic linguists.

Some of the first posted documents dealt with Iraq’s program to make germ weapons, followed by a wave of papers on chemical arms.

At the United Nations in New York, the chemical papers raised alarms at the Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, which had been in charge of searching Iraq for all unconventional arms, save the nuclear ones.

In April, diplomats said, the commission’s acting chief weapons inspector, Demetrius Perricos, lodged an objection with the United States mission to the United Nations over the document that dealt with the nerve agents tabun and sarin.

Soon, the document vanished from the Web site. On June 8, diplomats said, Mr. Perricos told the Security Council of how risky arms information had shown up on a public Web site and how his agency appreciated the American cooperation in resolving the matter.

In September, the Web site began posting the nuclear documents, and some soon raised concerns. On Sept. 12, it posted a document it called “Progress of Iraqi nuclear program circa 1995.” That description is potentially misleading since the research occurred years earlier.

The Iraqi document is marked “Draft FFCD Version 3 (20.12.95),” meaning it was preparatory for the “Full, Final, Complete Disclosure” that Iraq made to United Nations inspectors in March 1996. The document carries three diagrams showing cross sections of bomb cores, and their diameters.

On Sept. 20, the site posted a much larger document, “Summary of technical achievements of Iraq’s former nuclear program.” It runs to 51 pages, 18 focusing on the development of Iraq’s bomb design. Topics included physical theory, the atomic core and high-explosive experiments. By early October, diplomats and officials said, United Nations arms inspectors in New York and their counterparts in Vienna were alarmed and discussing what to do.

Last week in Vienna, Olli J. Heinonen, head of safeguards at the international atomic agency, expressed concern about the documents to the American ambassador, Gregory L. Schulte, diplomats said.

Calls to Mr. Schulte’s spokesman yesterday were not returned.

Scott Shane contributed reporting.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sidney Blumenthal - It's Rove's midterm to lose

It's Rove's midterm to lose

His tactical successes have laid the groundwork for the GOP's strategic failure and could cost his party control of Congress.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Nov. 01, 2006 | Karl Rove remains supremely confident, assuring fretful party leaders that Congress will continue to be under their control despite the stream of new polls revealing previously impregnable Republican incumbents suddenly vulnerable. "I believe Karl Rove," President Bush's chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, proclaimed in a faith-based confessional. While hardly any Republican candidates are running on the Bush record, many are airing TV commercials separating themselves from Bush, and few will even appear on a public platform with him, Republicans cling to Rove's Svengali-like reputation like a life raft. Only Rove stands between the president and the deep blue sea.

Now, however, it is apparent that Rove's short-term ploys have undermined long-term Republican possibilities. His tactical successes have laid the groundwork for strategic failure. His polarizing and paranoid politics have been an intrinsic aspect of Bush's consistently radical presidency, which may be checked and balanced for the first time with the election of the 110th Congress. Rove's legacy may be to leave Republicans with a regional Southern party whose constrictive conservatism fosters a solid Democratic North.

Rove's dismissal of the very notion of a political center was enabled by Sept. 11, which provided him with dramatic material to stigmatize the opposition as dangerously soft and to turbo-charge inflammatory social issues such as gay marriage. By defending hearth and home from enemies at the door and behind closed doors, Rove maximized turnout of the galvanized hardcore.

Yet Rove did not achieve his ambition of a grand realignment of American politics. In Bush's second term, Rove attempted to force privatization of Social Security, but Bush's plan never received even a single committee hearing in Congress. Hurricane Katrina exposed the corrupt political swamp of his government. And Iraq corroded the thin mandate Bush had left.

After having set the theme of the midterm elections campaign as "staying the course" in Iraq, Bush declared a week ago that he had never uttered the phrase he had used dozens of times. Nonetheless, on the stump, he follows the Rove script of politicizing terror, claiming that the opposition is unwilling to defend the country and is un-American. Speaking in the heavily Republican small towns where he is welcome to campaign, Bush turns torture and warrantless domestic surveillance into rhetorical points proving the Democrats' betrayal, whipping up crowds to shout, "Just say no." Bush: "When it comes to questioning terrorists, what's the Democrat answer?" "Just say no!" Bush: "Their approach comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses!"

Though Bush has abandoned his "staying the course" slogan, Rove explains that the administration's Iraq war policy is clear and simple: "The real plan is this: Fight, beat 'em, win." His formulation, in the spirit of the cheerleading squad at the University of Utah, which he attended, is aimed less at the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq, recalcitrant about disbanding murderous militias, than at the disillusioned Republican base, especially white evangelicals, whose support in recent polls has fallen one-third from what it was in 2004.

Frantic Republicans are reduced to raising the specters of racial and sexual panic. In Tennessee, where Harold Ford Jr., an African-American, is running even with the Republican candidate, a Republican National Committee TV ad produced by a Rove protégé features a blonde vixen beckoning in a sultry voice, "Call me, Harold." In Virginia, former Reagan Secretary of the Navy turned Democratic candidate James Webb, who is also an acclaimed novelist, is being attacked for sexually explicit passages in his books written decades ago based on his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam. On these time-honored tactics in the South that inevitably alienate the North, the balance of power in the Senate rests.

It is conjectural but conceivable that had Bush governed after Sept. 11 as he had campaigned in 2000, as a "uniter, not a divider," he might have been able to forge a durable center-right consensus. That would have required appointing prominent Democrats to his Cabinet, reining in his power-mad vice president and secretary of defense, making moderate court nominations, and listening to the voices of skeptical realism on invading Iraq. Imagining this parallel universe underscores how Rove's victories helped pave the way to losing the potential for a lasting majority.

Few people foresaw the consequences of Bush's radicalism, perhaps least of all Bush himself. Last week, I was in Austin for the Texas Book Festival, where I met a woman who had encountered then Gov. Bush immediately after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Bush v. Gore. "Can you believe I'm going to be the fucking president?" he said.

Scandals Alone Could Cost Republicans Their House Majority

Scandals Alone Could Cost Republicans Their House Majority

By Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 2, 2006; A01

Indictments, investigations and allegations of wrongdoing have helped put at least 15 Republican House seats in jeopardy, enough to swing control to the Democrats on Tuesday even before the larger issues of war, economic unease and President Bush are invoked.

With just five days left before Election Day, allegations are springing up like brushfires. Four GOP House seats have been tarred by lobbyist Jack Abramoff's influence-peddling scandal. Five have been adversely affected by then-Rep. Mark Foley's unseemly contacts with teenage male House pages. The remaining half a dozen or so could turn on controversies including offshore tax dodging, sexual misconduct and shady land deals.

Not since the House bank check-kiting scandal of the early 1990s have so many seats been affected by scandals, and not since the Abscam bribery cases of the 1970s have the charges been so serious. But this year's combination of breadth and severity may be unprecedented, suggested Julian E. Zelizer, a congressional historian at Boston University.

For more than a year, Democrats have tried to gain political advantage from what they called "a culture of corruption" in Republican-controlled Washington. Republican campaign officials insist the theme has not caught on with the public, but even they concede that many individual races have been hit hard.

"So many different kinds of scandals going on at the same time, that's pretty unique," Zelizer said. "There were scandals throughout the '70s, multiple scandals, but the number of stories now are almost overwhelming."

At least nine GOP seats have been affected by scandals and are highly vulnerable to Democratic takeover next week. Foley's abrupt resignation has jeopardized a Florida House district that had been on no one's radar screen. Under indictment and amid a swirl of ethics investigations, former House majority leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) resigned from Congress earlier this year, forcing Republicans to mount a long-shot write-in campaign for their chosen candidate. Rep. Robert W. Ney's guilty plea last month on corruption charges still hangs over the Ohio campaign of his would-be Republican successor, Joy Padgett, especially because Ney still has not resigned from Congress.

The GOP has all but abandoned longtime Rep. Curt Weldon (Pa.), as federal investigators examine charges that he steered lobbying contracts to his daughter. Weldon went on television yesterday with an ad featuring actors pleading, "Would you give a friend the benefit of the doubt? . . . Today, Curt Weldon needs our support."

Republican campaign strategists fear they have also lost the seat of Rep. Don Sherwood (Pa.), who has been dogged by the settlement of a lawsuit filed by a mistress who charged that Sherwood had throttled her.

Congress watchers once saw the swing seat of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) as a missed opportunity for Democrats. But now, as the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix examines his role in a land deal for a business partner and political benefactor, Renzi's race with political neophyte Ellen Simon (D) has tightened.

Farther west, Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) has had to contend with charges lodged last month by a longtime former aide, Jim Shepard, that the lawmaker made dozens of illegal fundraising calls from his congressional offices. And two reliably Republican districts in California are under assault by Democrats because Reps. Richard W. Pombo and John T. Doolittle have been linked to Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty in January to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials.

Beyond those nine jeopardized GOP seats, four other Republicans have been tainted by the Foley page scandal. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.) chose to issue a public apology after he admitted that he had known about inappropriate contact between Foley and a former page this spring. Democrats have repeatedly hit Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio), the House Republican Conference chairman, for inaction on the Foley matter. And Democrats have tried to hold two former members of the Page Board, Reps. Sue W. Kelly (N.Y.) and Heather A. Wilson (N.M.), accountable for Foley's actions.

Meanwhile, new allegations continue to spring up. Vern Buchanan, a Republican running for the Florida seat vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris (R), was the target of local media reports this week detailing his use of business entities in Caribbean tax havens to reduce levies on his auto dealerships. The Albany Times Union published an article yesterday charging that the wife of Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) called police late last year to report that her husband was "knocking her around" during a late-night argument.

And Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who made his name pushing campaign finance changes and governance reforms, was confronted with media reports alleging that a 2003 trip to Qatar -- partly funded by a group loosely tied to Abramoff -- had not been properly disclosed.

"The corruption issue plays in two ways: It contributes to the sour mood of the country and to the low job approval of Congress, and it particularly plays in races directly touched by allegations of scandal," said Republican pollster Whit Ayers. "And in those races, it plays a significant role."

House Democrats have had to deal with investigations of their own, involving Reps. William J. Jefferson (La.), Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.) and Jane Harman (Calif.), but none of those cases have put Democratic seats in jeopardy.

In the Senate, a federal inquiry into Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and his ties to a nonprofit community agency that paid him more than $300,000 in rent while receiving millions of dollars in federal assistance has provided his Republican challenger with a strong issue and has kept that race close. But the seat of Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) may be in even more jeopardy, primarily because of Burns's ties to Abramoff.

Recent polling suggests that the issue of corruption is beginning to stick. A CNN poll last month found that "half of all Americans believe most members of Congress are corrupt" and that "more than a third think their own representative is crooked."

And where the issue has hit directly, Democrats and their allies have been playing up charges to the hilt. Just yesterday, Christine Jennings, the Florida Democrat running for Harris's House seat, held a news conference to attack Buchanan's alleged offshore tax dodges.

Even the most peripheral contact with a scandal has not gone unnoticed. "Those that knew got to go," Albuquerque's Democratic mayor, Martin J. Chavez, thundered at a rally last month against New Mexico's Wilson, citing her role on the Page Board during Foley's misconduct. "Those that didn't know need to explain why they didn't."