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, April 21, 2007

Birth of the Christian Soldier: How Evangelicals Infiltrated the American Military

Birth of the Christian Soldier: How Evangelicals Infiltrated the American Military
By Michael L. Weinstein and David Seay, Thomas Dunne Books
Posted on April 21, 2007, Printed on April 21, 2007

The following is an excerpt from With God On Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military by Michael L. Weinstein and Davin Seay (Thomas Dunne, 2007).

Despite the church-state scandals that have plagued the US military in recent years, religious practice in the armed forces is hardly a new phenomenon. In the 1846 Mexican War, Roman Catholics were incorporated into the hitherto all-Protestant chaplaincy for the first time, as much to blunt implications of a sectarian war with Catholic Mexico as for any effort to address the actual religious demographics of the fighting force.

In 1862, President Lincoln, at the request of the Board of Delegates of American Israelites, struck the word Christian from all regulations relating to the chaplaincy appointments, and during World War II, Greek Orthodox chaplains were allowed to minister to their flock in uniform for the first time. The Buddhist Churches of America were registered as an official endorsing agency for the first time in 1987, and six years later the Army saw its first Muslim chaplain.

These earnest attempts at pluralism were often contrasted with unsanctioned attempts to bring sanctity to the armed forces, from the revivalist fervor that swept both Union and Confederate camps during the Civil War, to various hectoring attempts to stiffen the moral fiber of troops during and immediately after World War II. GIs were returning from combat, according to a 1946 report from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, "physical, mental, moral and social wrecks, having been infected with venereal disease" and "coddled by a complacent service attitude which encourages promiscuity."

The situation was subsequently exacerbated at the dawn of the Cold War when, in 1945, President Truman proposed a one-year program of universal military training for all males over eighteen, a move vigorously resisted by evangelical churches. "We began to wonder what might happen to our youth removed from home and church influences," fretted the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), "and subjected to the temptations for which military training camps are notorious."

The proliferating paranoia of the Red Scare, however, radically altered such attitudes by the early fifties, when the world, according to literature distributed by the Nazarene Service Men's Commission, was neatly divided between "the Communist dictatorships and the Christian democracies." The Nazarenes concluded, "The stricken nations are looking to the free world ... we are our 'brother's keeper.'"

Aside from being a bulwark against godless communism, the military was perceived as a target-rich environment for missionary outreach. In 1959, the NAE asserted, "Fifty percent of all who pass through the military service have no religious background or church connection." The implication was clear. "This is the ripe harvest field in which our chaplains are working."

They weren't the only ones intent on reaping the souls of unsuspecting soldiers. Early in the decade, mainline Protestant denominations aggressively promoted annual "preaching missions" on U.S. military bases, and in 1952, the year the campaign was initiated, nearly a hundred weeklong events were launched around the theme "Christ Is the Answer."

Competition between liberal Protestantism and fundamentalist evangelicals for influence within the military was fierce, focused primarily on inserting as many chaplains as possible into all available postings. A battle quickly shaped up between the rival commissioning arms of various denominations, with the evangelicals fighting on two fronts against both mainline Protestants and Catholics. "Evangelicals must not fail the proportionately large number of men in the armed forces who are anxious that the New Testament gospel be preached," warned the NAE. "... Real evangelistic work must be carried on by our chaplains."

Evangelicals were also at the forefront of what author Anne C. Loveland in her pioneering study, American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military, 1942-1993, calls "an unprecedented religious and moral welfare program" instituted by the Truman administration, largely in response to a widespread outcry against drunkenness and immorality among Korean War conscripts. Dubbed Character Guidance, the program was in force throughout the fifties, and while ostensibly nonsectarian, the curriculum reveals a rigorous religious agenda, bristling with exhortations that "service to the nation is most effective only when religion becomes part of individual life," and that in the "covenant nation" of America, "public institutions and official thinking reflect a faith in the existence and importance of divine providence," with God as "the final source of authority."

The most effective wedge for the insertion of evangelicals into every rung of military life was the NAE and its influential chaplain-endorsing agency, the Commission on Chaplains, which worked tirelessly as a liaison for a wide array of fundamentalist denominations, from the Assemblies of God to the Southern Baptist Convention to the full index of offshoot and splinter congregations. Notwithstanding the military's policy of allotting chaplaincies on a quota system designed to roughly reflect the religious affiliations of society as a whole, by the late '60s evangelical denominations were regularly exceeding their allotments.

The phenomenon mirrored, in part, the explosive growth of fundamentalist Christianity in America and, in part, the assiduous efforts of the NAE and its Commission on Chaplains to fill posts left empty by the Catholics, Jews, Orthodox, and others who were regularly failing to meet their allocations. In what Loveland terms a "quota juggling act," the NAE and others aggressively lobbied to fill chaplaincies left vacant by other denominations, resulting in a marked shift in the selection process weighted more and more to religious demographics within the military itself, where evangelical numbers continued to swell. This consolidation of power would result, by the late eighties, in the NAE Chaplains Commission's acting as the endorsing agent not only for established denominations but for hundreds of nonaligned individual churches.

By the mid sixties nearly all the forty evangelical denominations listed by the Armed Forces Chaplains Board had met or exceeded their assigned postings. This influx of evangelizing chaplains would have an extraordinary effect on the spiritual tenor of the armed forces, especially in the wake of such mandatory programs as Character Guidance, which had imbued chaplains with hitherto unimagined authority. Loveland cites a glowing article in a 1952 issue of Chaplain, the official publication of the Navy Chaplaincy, that focuses on religious instruction at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, where recruits regularly attended lectures designed to "reinforce the moral and spiritual strength of Navy men during the most impressionable period of their Naval career."

The "thorough, dynamic program of evangelism," concluded the story, presented "a vital religion that may never have been available to them in civilian life." "Faith," another article in Chaplain asserted, "is an integral part of being a good solider," and it was to that end that chaplains were provided extensive contact and increased influence at every level of the military hierarchy.

Career considerations were another contributing factor to the flood of evangelicals into the chaplaincy. "Pastors are taking a new look at their military counterparts," wrote one observer, "and a significant number are leaving their civilian pastorate for service as a chaplain." The subsequent rush by pastors into the armed forces was hardly surprising, considering the steady paycheck, generous benefits, and comfortable pensions provided by the government.

But it wasn't only individuals who were taking a "new look" at the military mission field. Evangelical church support organizations began to bring their considerable proselytizing prowess to bear on the armed services, spearheaded by such entrenched outreaches as the Colorado Springs-based Navigators, the Officer's Christian Fellowship, the Overseas Christian Servicemen's Centers, the Christian Military Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Full Gospel Businessmen.

As the most established among them, the Navigators had, by the mid eighties, a staff of over seventy dedicated solely to missionary work within the military, operating active chapters in and around far-flung bases from Turkey to West Germany to Spain. In the literature of their Military Ministry branch, the Navigators singled out the Air Force Academy for special attention with an ominous-sounding (if syntactically muddled) goal to "impact eternity by multiplying disciples through spiritual generations."

It was inevitable, considering the concerted effort by evangelicals to penetrate every echelon of the service, from the lowliest barracks to the loftiest policy-making aerie, that there would eventually emerge a cadre of Christian officers emboldened to openly profess their faith and use the full influence of their rank to bolster the cause.

Among them were such high-profile figures as Army general William Harrison, dubbed the Two Star Evangelist by the press in recognition of his status as one of the nation's first bona fide born-again celebrities. While he worked at the Pentagon in the early 1950s, Harrison's exhortations could regularly be heard on the Word of Life radio program, sponsored by the Officer's Christian Union, an organization he would later head. Steadfastly promoting an end-time doctrine, Harrison, while still in uniform, declared, "The second advent of Christ will include great wars with terrible suffering," a leading indicator that "the course of civilization is toward self-destruction." It was, to say the least, a peculiar conviction from a man sworn to uphold the peace and preserve civilization.

Another front-and-center fundamentalist was John C. Broger, whose more than two decades at the helm of Armed Forces Information and education (AFIE) from 1961 to 1984 provided him, according to Anne Loveland, "a central role in the ideological indoctrination of armed forces personnel." A former radio evangelist, Broger was hired by the Defense Department at the height of the Cold War to provide what his mentor, Admiral Arthur Radford, called "Spiritual stiffening" of the troops in their battle against atheistic communism. Broger's view of that battle was quickly made clear: it was a fight that could not be won on the basis of "military manpower and production potential" alone.

What was needed was "godly precepts and principles," and "strength and inspiration in godly righteousness." To that end he created the Militant Liberty program, consisting of what some observers at the time dismissed as "pseudo-scientific jargon and high-sounding clichés." It was nevertheless relentlessly promoted by the Defense Department, with Broger delivering briefings on its provocative precepts to war colleges and service schools around the country. The eventual refusal of the Pentagon to fully implement Militant Liberty hardly slowed the peripatetic evangelist's military career track: he was subsequently appointed director of AFIE, from which perch he delivered such pronouncements as "If the government is to be ordained of God, then spiritual and moral concepts must under-gird and relate to all political, economic, educational and cultural areas of national life."

Yet of all the emergent Christian cold warriors in the years before and during the Vietnam War, none wielded more influence and authority than Army general Harold Johnson. A survivor of the Bataan Death March and a Korean War combat veteran, Johnson was appointed Army chief of staff in 1964, four years after he had declared in an interview for the American Tract Society that "Christianity is the very foundation of military leadership." The four-star general would regularly deliver addresses with titles such as "Turn to God," proclaiming, "There is a special need for the soldier to understand the strength and purpose that can be provided by a deep and abiding faith in our Father through His son, Jesus." Only Christ, according to Johnson, could provide "the inner strength that is essential to meet the wide variety of conditions encountered in the environment of the warrior."

Johnson, in fact, considered the "environment of the warrior" to be his unique purview, as witnessed by his efforts to protect and preserve the explicitly Christian content of the Character Guidance program, in place since the end of World War II. In 1962, the American Civil Liberties Union had first lodged a complaint about the "religious indoctrination" inherent in the curriculum and succeeded in removing some of its more egregious First Amendment violations, such as the "One Nation Under God" lesson plan, with its stated objective of "leading the individual to a recognition of the importance of the spiritual element in his training."

Six years later, under Johnson's watch, Character Guidance once again came under attack from the ACLU, and the Army chief of staff took personal charge of the Pentagon's response. According to historian Anne Loveland, Johnson "saw nothing wrong with using the Bible in support of the program," and, more significantly, took a staunch stand in opposition to many mainline denominations, united in their criticism of the program's coercive character. Suffice it to say, Johnson at the same time aligned himself resolutely with the evangelical political forces, still smarting from recent Supreme Court decisions banning school prayer and for whom the attack on Character Guidance was another attempt to excise God from every social sphere.

The cumulative effect of men like Harrison, Broger, and Johnson on the prevailing military mind-set was ultimately to move evangelicals from the fringes of America's fighting forces squarely into the councils of power. Yet, for all their personal charisma and crusading zeal, it was implacable historical forces that best served to consolidate fundamentalist influence within the armed services. "It was Vietnam," remarks Anne Loveland, "which really turned the tide.

As the war progressed, more and more mainline denominations spoke out against it and, in fact, became centers of organized resistance. That never really happened with evangelicals." Perhaps largely due to their stark view of human events as a titanic struggle between the forces of good and evil, evangelicals often subscribed to official rationales of the war as a necessary stand against the domino-tipping strategies of a godless opponent.

Fundamentalist John Rice, editor of the fire-breathing Sword of the Lord, neatly summed up the bellicose attitude when he wrote that, in Vietnam, America was "carrying out the command of God." The sentiment was echoed by preacher Carl McIntire, who thundered, "It is the message of the infallible Bible that gives men the right to participate in such conflicts, and to do it with the realization that God is for them, that God will help them, and that if they believe in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and die in the field of battle, they will be received into the highest heaven."

As the war continued to grind away at American conscience and consensus and the military increasingly became the object of the swelling antiwar movement's fury, a siege mentality took hold. In the us-against-them polarization that was splitting the nation, the armed services looked within itself to single out and promote those who would wholeheartedly support the savagely decisive conflict, and none were more vociferously vocal in their allegiance than the evangelicals, who had spent much of the last two decades securing positions within the ranks. "Should a follower of Jesus participate at all in the messy military business of killing people?" asked evangelical author Randolph Klassen. "Would Jesus? Would Christ carry a draft card? I am convinced He would. Does He want me to carry one? Of this I have no doubt."

But there was more at play than simple knee-jerk jingoism or even evangelical opportunism. Setting aside for a moment the fatalistic complexities of premillennial theology -- in which Christ's return is delayed until man's cup of iniquity is filled to overflowing, and the death and destruction of war becomes a precursor to paradise -- the interface of the military's historical identity and fundamentalist Christian rhetoric reaches much deeper.

The Bible, of course, is rife with martial imagery, from the scorched-earth conquest of Canaan, to David's stalwart stand against Goliath, to Paul's familiar Ephesians metaphors for the well-equipped Christian: "the breastplate of righteousness," "the shield of faith," "the helmet of salvation," and "the sword of the Spirit."

Together they comprised "the whole armor of God," in which believers would sally forth to do battle against "the rulers of darkness of this world and against spiritual wickedness in high places." The Church Militant has been one of Christianity's most resonant and effective self-conceptions, from the time of the Crusades to the military orders of the Salvation Army, and of course, the Christian Soldier in the durable old hymn, forever marching as to war, the cross of Jesus going before, their royal master leading against the foe. With the possible exception of athletic similes, it is the serried imagery of combat that is most often evoked from the pulpit, and while the warrior archetype may not answer to the often diffuse and inchoate longings that bring seekers to the foot of the cross, it seems especially well suited to the evangelical aesthetic of conquest and conversion.

Given this potent affinity, it's hardly surprising that fundamentalists found a familiar context for their exalted concepts of authority, duty, and sacrifice within the military and all but inevitable that the methods of war would be deployed in the Great Commission: to reach the whole world for Jesus in preparation for his promised return.

It is a convergence that would, in turn, reach its apotheosis in You the Warrior Leader, a gung ho handbook for "applying military strategy in victorious spiritual leadership," published at the same time Weinstein was beginning to gird himself for a different kind of battle. Written by former Green Beret and current Southern Baptist Convention president Bobby Welch, You the Warrior Leader is as unequivocal a statement of evangelical militarism as could be imagined, an unabashed tactical manual on storming the barricades of unbelief with rousing rhetoric that evokes a kind of holy bloodlust for the trophies of triumphalism.

"Fix bayonets" commands the first chapter, broken into subheads variously titled "Scratching, Biting, Ear-Ripping-Off War Fighting," "Jesus the Warrior Leader," and "Making Hell Gun-Shy." In "The Quick and the Dead," a section dealing with battle-hardened evangelism, Welch seamlessly melds the urgency of conversion with a military leader's motivational role: "The Warrior Leader knows he must not only exemplify personal evangelism, he must never stop trying to get every Christian man, woman, boy, and girl to perform evangelism. Leaders must not allow those whom they lead to become disoriented and thereby fail to rescue family and friends from the devil and hell."

In the chapter "Attack! Attack! Attack!" Welch asks, "Remember the Warrior Leader's Mission-Vision?" as he hammers home with steely-eyed determination his grand strategy for winning souls: "To develop victorious spiritual-war fighters who form a force-multiplying army that accomplishes the Great Commission."

Michael L. Weinstein and Davin Seay are the authors of With God On Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military (Thomas Dunne, 2007).

Joel Bleifuss - The Fraudulence of Voter Fraud

The Fraudulence of Voter Fraud
By Joel Bleifuss
In These Times

Wednesday 18 April 2007

The Bush administration purged US attorneys for failing to prosecute crimes that didn't occur.

On April 6, 2006, in Washington, D.C., Karl Rove gave a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association and issued this dire warning:

We are, in some parts of the country, I'm afraid to say, beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are, you know, colonels in mirrored sunglasses. I mean, it's a real problem, and I appreciate all that you're doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the ballot - the integrity of the ballot - is protected, because it's important to our democracy.

When Rove talks about protecting "ballot integrity," that is shorthand for disenfranchising Democratic Party voters. Over the last several years, the Justice Department, with the help of White House operatives, has sought to boost GOP electoral fortunes by orchestrating a national campaign against voter fraud. But the administration overreached on Dec. 7, when President George W. Bush fired eight U.S. attorneys, a political scandal that some say could become this president's Watergate.

When Republicans talk about voter fraud they are referring to illegal voting by individuals, as opposed to vote fraud - systematic attempts to steal an election by an organized group of partisans. This emphasis on voter fraud has convinced eight states to pass laws requiring voters to present official photo identification in order to cast a ballot - laws that studies have shown suppress Democratic turnout among voters who are poor, black, Latino, Asian-American or disabled.

Understanding that one way to win closely contested elections is to keep Democratic voters away from the polls, the Republican Party has tried to stoke public fears of voter fraud. On Feb. 15, 2005, the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee issued a report, "Putting an End to Voter Fraud," which said, "Voter fraud continues to plague our nation's federal elections, diluting and canceling out the lawful votes of the vast majority of Americans." To remedy the situation, the Senate Republicans advised Congress to "require that voters at the polls show photo identification."

But voting experts maintain that voter fraud is not a national problem. In March, Lorraine C. Minnite, a professor of political science at Columbia University, released "The Politics of Voter Fraud," a report she prepared for Project Vote, an advocacy group based in Arkansas. She writes:

The claim that voter fraud threatens the integrity of American elections is itself a fraud. It is being used to persuade the public that deceitful and criminal voters are manipulating the electoral system.... The exaggerated fear of voter fraud has a long history of scuttling efforts to make voting easier and more inclusive, especially for marginalized groups in American society. With renewed partisan vigor, fantasies of fraud are being spun again to undo some of the progress America has made lowering barriers to vote.

This is borne out by a study from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, which found that in the 2004 election, voters in states that required documentation of identity were 2.7 percent less likely to vote than voters in states where documentation was not required. Specifically, the study, commissioned by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, found that Latinos were 10 percent less likely to vote, Asian-Americans 8.5 percent less likely to vote and blacks 5.7 percent less likely to vote.

What's more, despite GOP claims to the contrary, voter fraud is a very rare occurrence. In 2002 the Justice Department established the Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative to ferret out fraudulent voters. On Oct. 4, 2005, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, with great fanfare, proclaimed, "We've made enforcement of election fraud and corrupting offenses a top priority." Yet according to an April 12 New York Times article, only 120 people have been charged with the crime over the past five years, leading to 86 convictions. Furthermore, the Times noted, federal attorneys say that most of the transgressions have been mistakes by immigrants and felons who simply misunderstood eligibility requirements.

The extent of voter fraud is further complicated by the fact that earlier this year the Election Assistance Commission changed the conclusions of a report it had commissioned. The original report by outside election experts concluded, "There is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud." The commission deleted that sentence and replaced it with, "There is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud."

Rep. José Serrano (D.-N.Y.), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the commission, is disturbed by this apparently politically motivated substitution. He told In These Times:

This possibly could be another Watergate. We have to ask the questions, "Why was this report doctored, and how does this play into the larger picture of voter suppression and intimidation?" By directing public attention to voter fraud you divert attention from the fact that Americans in certain communities are not able to cast their votes properly and that their votes are not being counted. Is this something that this small new agency thought of by themselves or did they get marching orders from somewhere else, perhaps as far up as the White House?

Firing Prosecutors

It appears that, under Rove's direction the White House has been planning to use U.S. attorneys to fan national fears of voter fraud. In his speech to the GOP lawyers, Rove listed 11 states that would play a pivotal role in the 2008 elections. Since 2005, Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of those states: Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Arkansas and New Mexico.

What's more, the firings of U.S. attorneys in New Mexico, Arkansas and Washington appear directly related to this Republican plan to exploit the issue of voter fraud and suppress Democratic turnout.

In Arkansas, Bush fired a sitting U.S. attorney in order to appoint Rove protégé Tim Griffin. (See "The Talented Mr. Griffin" by Greg Palast on page 31.)

In Washington, fired U.S. Attorney John McKay had refused to prosecute alleged voter fraud in the 2004 Washington governor's race, in which Democrat Chris Gregoire beat Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes.

On March 6, McKay testified before the Senate that after the election Republicans pressured him to open an investigation. He said his office had examined the allegations of voter fraud and decided there was not enough evidence to pursue a case.

"Had anyone at the Justice Department or the White House ordered me to pursue any matter criminally in the 2004 governor's election, I would have resigned," McKay told the Seattle Times. "There was no evidence, and I am not going to drag innocent people in front of a grand jury."

In New Mexico, David C. Iglesias was equally suspect in the eyes of the GOP. Recall that in 2000, Gore beat Bush by 377 votes in New Mexico. Consequently, in 2004, Democrat-affiliated groups initiated voter registration campaigns in New Mexico. As a result, two boys, age 13 and 15, received voter cards in the mail. Iglesias responded by setting up a bipartisan task force to investigate. This didn't satisfy attorney Mickey D. Barnett, who represented the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign in New Mexico. He told Iglesias he should bring federal charges against a canvasser who forged their signatures, which he refused to do.

In a New York Times op-ed, Iglesias wrote:

What the critics, who don't have any experience as prosecutors, have asserted is reprehensible - namely that I should have proceeded without having proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The public has a right to believe that prosecution decisions are made on legal, not political grounds.

Manufacturing Voter Fraud

The issue of fraudulent voters undermining American democracy did not spontaneously erupt. To promote national concern about voter fraud, in March 2005 GOP operatives with ties to the White House established a 501(c)4 organization called the American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund (ACVR). The group went public by establishing a Web site, (The site has since been taken down for unknown reasons.)

According to its 990 tax forms, ACVR is based in Midlothian, Va., and its executive director is Robin DeJarnette, who is also the founder and executive director of the Virginia Conservative Action PAC. However, according to the registration form for its Internet domain name, the group's address is a mailbox at a UPS Store in Dallas. The chairman of ACVR is Brian Lunde, a former Democratic National Committee official from Texas, who in 2004 was head of Democrats for Bush.

ACVR specializes in issuing studies that purport to document a host of voter fraud cases, like the report titled: "Democrat operatives far more involved in voter intimidation and suppression in 2004 than Republicans."

On March 21, 2005, four days after ACVR went public, Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), then chair of the Committee on House Administration, opened hearings on 2004 election irregularities. One person who testified was ACVR National Counsel Mark "Thor" Hearne II, who described himself as "a longtime advocate of voter rights and an attorney experienced in election law." In the aftermath of the 2000 presidential campaign, Hearne was dispatched to Florida as a Republican observer in Broward County's manual recount, and in 2004 he worked as the national general counsel for Bush/Cheney '04 Inc.

In his testimony, Hearne described ACVR as "committed to defending the rights of voters and working to increase public confidence in the fairness of the outcome of elections." And he submitted to the committee a copy of the ACVR's "Ohio Election Report," of which he was the lead author. That report read in part:

This [Democratic] voter registration effort was not limited to registration of legal voters but, criminal investigations and news reports suggest, that this voter registration effort also involved the registration of thousands of fictional voters such as the now infamous Jive F. Turkey, Sr., Dick Tracy and Mary Poppins. Those individuals registering these fictional voters were reportedly paid not just money to do but were, in at least one instance, paid in crack cocaine.

And in testimony on Dec. 7, 2006, the same day the prosecutors were fired, Hearne told the Election Assistance Commission: "Recent press reports suggest that voter registration fraud remains a significant issue in the recent mid-term elections."

The press contact for ACVR is Jim Dyke, who was the communications director of the Republican National Committee during the 2004 election. In the fall of 2005 he was working in the White House trying to get Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court, before moving on to work in Vice President Dick Cheney's office. Brad Friedman of reported that according to internet records, Dyke registered the ACVR Internet domain name,, in December 2004. Those records have since disappeared from public view. (The source of ACVR's funding is also mysterious. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "When asked to name any contributors to his nonprofit, Hearne claimed he did not know but said Lunde did. When Lunde was asked, he claimed he did not know but said Hearne did.")

Dyke is a good friend of his fellow Arkansan Tim Griffin, the new U.S. attorney in Arkansas. In 2004, both worked at the Republican National Committee helping Bush get re-elected. Dyke has been a vocal defender of Griffin's appointment as U.S. Attorney. "He has a real passion for the law," Dyke told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Rounding out the GOP operatives is Pat Rogers, who sits on the board of ACVR. An attorney for the Republican Party in New Mexico, he has been a vocal critic of fired U.S. Attorney Iglesias. According to the Albuquerque Tribune, Rogers is on the short list to replace Iglesias.

Rove's Role

Minnite, who did the study on voter fraud, has read through the reports prepared by ACVR and presented by Hearne at various official hearings. She noticed that the claims follow a predictable script. "It all starts to look the same," she says. "There is a pattern in the way the documents that claim to show voter fraud are put together. It is usually a compilation of news reports on allegations. There is no follow up, no research done, no analysis."

"As I delved into it, I was faced with the question: 'Why do people think there is a lot of fraud when there isn't any real evidence?' I think people are being manipulated by politics, which takes the form of these reports that are dumped on the public. It is as if you get a big enough pile maybe you will convince people that the volume of fraud is quite large and that we have a serious problem."

Wisconsin provides a case in point. At a March 13 press conference, White House Counsel Dan Bartlett identified Wisconsin as one of the states from which the White House had "received complaints about U.S. attorneys."

In 2005, U.S. Attorney Steve Biskup, who was appointed by Bush, investigated these allegations of voter fraud and reported that he found no evidence on which to press charges.

It turns out that early in 2005, Republican officials in Wisconsin prepared a report titled "Fraud in Wisconsin 2004: A Timeline/Summary." The document, which was found in White House and Justice Department records released by the House Judiciary Committee, was written by Chris Lato, the former communications director for the state Republican Party, on orders from Rick Wiley, the party's executive director. The 30-page report, which covers Aug. 31, 2004 to April 1, 2005, contains 65 entries detailing voter fraud. The final example is titled: "RPW [Republican Party of Wisconsin] News Release: Evidence of Election Fraud Piles Up."

The information contained in this Wisconsin compilation, made its way into a 78-page report released on July 21, 2005, by ACVR: "Vote Fraud, Intimidation & Suppression in the 2004 Presidential Election." In the introduction, the ACVR's Hearne and Lunde wrote that the report "documents hundreds of incidents and allegations from around the country.... [T]housands of Americans were disenfranchised by illegal votes cast on Election Day 2004 ... [P]aid Democrat operatives were far more involved in voter intimidation and suppression activities than were their Republican counterparts.... [R]equiring government-issued photo ID at the polls ... will help assure ... that no American is disenfranchised by illegal votes."

And who was behind this trail of misinformation? On April 7, Daniel Bice, a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reported that a source familiar with the document told him, "The report was prepared for Karl Rove. Rick [Wiley] wanted it so he could give it to Karl Rove."

On April 6, 2006, in Washington, at the aforementioned speech to Republican Party attorneys, Rove began with a joke: "I ran into [AVCR's] Thor Hearne as I was coming in. He was leaving; he was smart, and he was leaving to go out and enjoy the day." Rove then told the assembled party lawyers, "We have, as you know, an enormous and growing problem with elections in certain parts of America today."

Rove should know. He helped grow the problem.

Joel Bleifuss is the editor of In These Times, where he has worked as an investigative reporter, columnist and editor since 1986. Bleifuss has had more stories on Project Censored's annual list of the "10 Most Censored Stories" than any other journalist.

William Rivers Pitt - What Gonzales Really Told Us

What Gonzales Really Told Us
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Columnist

Friday 20 April 2007

The testimony given Thursday by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing to investigate the firing of eight United States attorneys deserves a place of high honor in the Gibberish Hall of Fame. It was astonishing in its vapidity, almost to a point beyond description. The emptiness of Gonzales's answers, after several hours, became the political version of a Zen koan. They simply stopped my mind.

It was, in the main, an unspeakably gruesome performance. The aspect most commentators immediately seized on was the amazing number of questions Mr. Gonzales answered with either "I don't recall," or some permutation thereof. Estimates put the final count somewhere between 74 and 100 "dunno" replies, an amount truly Reaganesqe in stature.

There was no bristling give-and-take during this hearing, no fiery debate, no "Have you no sense of decency" moment when the rogue official is brought snarling to bay. Indeed, the only time tempers flared was when exasperated senators became fed up with Gonzales's inability to answer virtually any of the questions put to him. The annoyed senators, Republican and Democratic alike, at several points rained condescendingly rhetorical questions upon him in extremis, expecting no answers because they knew none were ever going to come.

Judiciary Committee member Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican senator from Oklahoma, dropped one of the more devastating bricks of the day after slogging through Gonzales's feeble display. "It was handled incompetently," said Coburn of the firings that inspired this hearing, if not of the testimony he'd just endured. "The communication was atrocious, it was inconsistent. It's generous to say that there were misstatements; that's a generous statement. And I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered. And I believe the best way to put this behind us is your resignation."

The sentiment was repeated in the waning moments of the hearing by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who said: "Mr. Attorney General, at the beginning of the hearing, we laid out the burden of proof for you to meet, to answer questions directly and fully, to show that you were truly in charge of the Justice Department, and most of all, to convincingly explain who, when and why the eight US attorneys were fired. You've answered 'I don't know' or 'I can't recall' to close to a hundred questions."

"You're not familiar with much of the workings of your own department," continued Schumer. "And we still don't have convincing explanations of the who, when and why in regard to the firing of the majority of the eight US attorneys. Thus, you haven't met any of these three tests. I don't see any point in another round of questions. And I urge you to re-examine your performance and, for the good of the department and the good of the country, step down."

Dana Bash of CNN reported comments made by appalled Republicans during breaks in the hearing. "Loyal Republican after loyal Republican in this hearing room," said Bash, "and more specifically in private to CNN today, have made it clear that they are frankly flabbergasted by how poorly they think the attorney general has done in this hearing. During the lunch break, in private, several very loyal Republicans made it clear to CNN that they were really dripping with disappointment."

Another CNN reporter, Suzanne Malveaux, offered other Republican statements of dismay. "Two senior White House aides here," reported Malveaux, "described the situation, Gonzales's testimony, as 'going down in flames.' That he was 'not doing himself any favors.' One prominent Republican described watching his testimony as 'clubbing a baby seal.'"


So what is to be made of this? As attorney general, Gonzales is the top official in the Department of Justice. The list of DOJ-related agencies that Gonzales is expected to oversee is nearly 60 items long. Among these are the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the Civil Rights division, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the US Marshals Service, the Office of the Solicitor General and, of course, all the US attorneys spread across the 50 states. The DOJ's own web site explains that, "Since the 1870 Act that established the Department of Justice as an executive department of the government of the United States, the attorney general has guided the world's largest law office and the central agency for enforcement of federal laws."

Is it possible that the man charged with such awesome responsibilities is, in fact, a blithering idiot? Nothing in Thursday's hearing served to disabuse anyone of this notion, and in the final analysis that may be the whole point of the exercise ... and the tip of a very dangerous iceberg.

Allegations have been raised that the Bush administration sought to use the US attorneys' offices within key battleground states, along with political appointees within the DOJ's Civil Rights division, as a hammer to break apart voting protections for minorities. "For six years," reported Greg Gordon in the Baltimore Sun, "the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates, according to former department lawyers and a review of written records. The administration intensified its efforts last year as President Bush's popularity and Republican support eroded heading into a midterm battle for control of Congress, which the Democrats won."

"Questions about the administration's campaign against alleged voter fraud," continued Gordon, "have helped fuel the political tempest over the firings last year of eight US attorneys, several of whom were ousted in part because they failed to bring voter fraud cases important to Republican politicians.... On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division's Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans, notably in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Washington, and other states where recent elections have been decided by narrow margins."

Beyond that is the specific case of California US Attorney Carol Lam, who prosecuted and convicted Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham in a massive Congressional bribery scandal. Lam was later fired from her position, supposedly because she was failing to effectively prosecute immigration cases, or something to that effect. (Mr. Gonzales could not actually recall exactly why Lam was sacked, to nobody's great surprise.)

However, allegations have been raised that she was actually removed because her investigations into Cunningham were leading her closer to the centers of Republican power. Back in March, none other than Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania raised the issue on the Senate floor. Specter openly questioned whether Lam had been removed because she was "about to investigate other people who were politically powerful."

On the surface, yesterday's hearing and the galaxy of un-recollections offered by Gonzales may seem to have been a waste of time. In fact, this was a revelatory moment of grave import. Decisions to disrupt elections and voting rights, decisions to derail investigations into Republicans, are made for political reasons by political people. In this administration, the political people all work in the White House.

There can be little doubt, after yesterday, that Alberto Gonzales was elevated to his position by Bush to affect a political takeover of the Justice Department. The muscular legal arm of federal power became just another tool to establish Karl Rove's dream of a permanent Republican majority in government by disrupting the vote and by obscuring GOP corruption. Thus, it doesn't matter if the attorney general is a pudding, because there were other chefs in the kitchen at Justice.

It can be easily argued that Gonzales couldn't answer simple questions, not because he is especially dumb, but because he truly didn't know how. He wasn't there to run the place, but to open doors for, and get out of the way of, Bush's political hatchetmen. Any appointees who weren't going along with the program, including those fired US attorneys, were swept aside.

It can just as easily be argued that he was able to answer those questions, but avoided doing so for tactical reasons. The New York Times's editorial on Friday raised this line of thinking by stating: "At the end of the day, we were left wondering why the nation's chief law-enforcement officer would paint himself as a bumbling fool. Perhaps it's because the alternative is that he is not telling the truth. There is strong evidence that this purge was directed from the White House, and that Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, were deeply involved."

Either way, subpoenas need to be delivered to the hatchetman-in-chief, Karl Rove, as well as to members of his crew, to gather their sworn public testimony on the matter. It was made clear Thursday that Gonzales wasn't in charge at Justice, and Rove appears likely to have been the man who stood in his stead. Why? That's why we ask questions.

For the record, decisions to disrupt elections and voting rights, and decisions to derail investigations into Republicans, are flatly illegal. The first is fraud, the second is obstruction of justice, and both are felony crimes. The exposure of Gonzales on Thursday represents a long step towards pinning legal accountability to the door of a certain Pennsylvania Avenue house, and to the lapels of those persons within who are, at last, running out of excuses.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Glenn Greenwald - Charles Krauthammer -- taking rank hypocrisy to new lows

Charles Krauthammer -- taking rank hypocrisy to new lows

In his Washington Post column today, Charles Krauthammer delivers a solemn lecture on how terribly inappropriate it is to exploit tragedies like the Virginia Tech shootings to make a political point. The headline on the Post's front page for Krauthammer's column is "Using Grief for Political Gain," and Krauthammer begins:

What can be said about the Virginia Tech massacre? Very little. What should be said? Even less.

The lives of 32 innocents, chosen randomly and without purpose, are extinguished most brutally by a deeply disturbed gunman. With an event such as this, consisting of nothing but suffering and tragedy, the only important questions are those of theodicy, of divine justice. Unfortunately, in today's supercharged political atmosphere, there is the inevitable rush to get ideological mileage out of the carnage.

Krauthammer concludes with the same point:

Perhaps in the spirit of Obama's much-heralded post-ideological politics we can agree to observe a decent interval of respectful silence before turning ineffable evil and unfathomable grief into political fodder.

Very moving. Very elevated and moral. Good people do not use human tragedies to make political points -- certainly not without waiting "to observe a decent interval of respectful silence."

On Wednesday -- less than 48 hours after the shootings -- the same Charles Krauthammer went on Fox News to explain why the Virginia Tech shootings and the killer's "manifesto" are connected to Al Jazeera, the Palestinians and other Muslim Enemies who dominate Krauthammer's political agenda:

KRAUTHAMMER: What you can say, just -- not as a psychiatrist, but as somebody who's lived through the a past seven or eight years, is that if you look at that picture, it draws its inspiration from the manifestos, the iconic photographs of the Islamic suicide bombers over the last half decade in Palestine, in Iraq and elsewhere.

That's what they end up leaving behind, either on al Jazeera or Palestinian TV. And he, it seems, as if his inspiration for leaving the message behind in that way, might have been this kind of suicide attack, which, of course, his was. And he did leave the return address return "Ismail Ax." "Ismail Ax." I suspect it has some more to do with Islamic terror and the inspiration than it does with the opening line of Moby Dick.

What can one even say about a person this dishonest? While many individuals on both sides of the gun control issue quickly sought to depict these shootings as evidence of the rightness of their views, at least that issue has a clear connection to this incident.

But I don't think that anyone exploited these shootings as crassly or as manipulatively -- or as quickly -- as Krauthammer did in order to link it to their own personal political agenda transparently remote from the actual incident. Is there a single individual anywhere who exploited these shootings more shamelessly for political gain than the person who ran on television before any facts were known to blame it on Al Jazeera, the Palestinians and the whole slew of Arab enemies that have long been his primary obsession?

I really always wonder in such cases -- when Krauthammer went to write his column sternly lecturing all of us about how wrong it is to try to use the VT shootings to make political points, does he (a) somehow block out of his brain that, the very day before, he engaged in that exact behavior more extremely than virtually anyone else on the planet, or, does he (b) realize that he is stridently condemning the very behavior he engaged in most flamboyantly but proceed with the lecture anyway?

Shouldn't the most minimal amounts of shame and basic self-awareness (if nothing else) prevent such transparent dishonesty? Then again, Krauthammer is one of our most revered pundits, with perches in the Post, Time Magazine, and Fox News. So why should he believe there is anything wrong with rank dishonesty of this sort? He has been lavishly rewarded for it.

Even in the Post column itself today, sandwiched between the opening paragraph and the conclusion -- both of which solemnly condemn political exploitation of these shootings -- is one paragraph after the next in which Krauthammer does exactly that.

First he notes that "stricter [gun] controls could also keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens using them in self-defense." Then he proceeds to blame the shootings on our refusal to lock up huge numbers of individuals whom we deem in advance to be "crazy" (a policy Krauthammer says is a "humane decision, but with the inevitable consequence that some who really need quarantine are allowed to roam the streets").

Then he spends the next several paragraphs attacking Barack Obama's speech on the Virginia Tech shootings by citing the selected excerpts churned out earlier this week by The Politico's Ben Smith and Matt Drudge. You see, according to Charles "The-Palestinians-and-Al-Jazeera-Inspired-the-VT-Shooter" Krauthammer, "it is simply dismaying that a serious presidential candidate should use [the shootings] as the ideological frame for his set-piece issues."

Among our media stars, few pundits command as much respect and admiration as Charles Krauthammer does. And behavior like this -- which is far from new for him -- does absolutely nothing to change that in any way.

Top Iraq general seeks tighter control of info

Top Iraq general seeks tighter control of info
Critics: Change opens way for propaganda

By Julian E. Barnes
Los Angeles Times
Apr 19, 2007

Since the end of the Vietnam War, the military's public-affairs officials have tried to rebuild the Defense Department's credibility by putting distance between themselves and Pentagon efforts that use deception, propaganda and other methods to influence foreign populations.

A 2004 memo by Gen. Richard Myers, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, codified the separation between public affairs, which communicates with the media and the public, and "information operations," which attempts to sway people in other countries.

But Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has asked for changes that would allow the two branches to work more closely together. His request has unleashed a debate inside the Pentagon between those who say the separation has made the Defense Department less agile and those who believe that restructuring the relationship would threaten to turn military spokesmen into propagandists.

A senior military officer close to Petraeus said the memo now in place prevents coordination between the information-operations officers and public-affairs officers.

"The way it is written, it puts a firewall between information operations and public affairs," the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "You shut down things that need to be done."
Petraeus, who is considered adept at handling the U.S. media, asked in mid-March that the 2004 memo be rescinded or revised. A Defense official said yesterday that Myers's memo would not be revoked but that the Pentagon would begin work on a new policy outlining the relationship and interaction between information operations and public affairs.

Pentagon officials have told Petraeus's aides that, while the new policy is being developed, they should not interpret the Myers memo as a prohibition against coordination between public affairs and information operations.

The proposed rules would have stressed the need for coordination between public-affairs officials and information-operations officers.

"Conflicting efforts could impede operational success," the proposed new wording warned, emphasizing the need for the two branches to "be aware of each other's activities."

Although the proposed guidelines would not take the place of the 2004 memo, they could form the basis of a new policy. However, such policies typically take months to develop because they must be widely reviewed and vetted within the military.

During the Vietnam War, military news conferences were derided as the "five o'clock follies" because of misleading or irrelevant information provided to the news media. Since then, Army public-affairs officers adopted practices that disavowed the use of misleading or deceptive information.

The military instituted its formal Information Operations effort in the 1990s, bringing together an array of activities including deception, psychological operations and electronic warfare.

The changes proposed by Petraeus have reignited a wider debate within the Pentagon regarding the use of information during the Iraq war.

In one highly controversial information-operations undertaking, the U.S. military used the Lincoln Group, a Washington defense contractor, to pay Iraqi editors to publish articles casting the American military in a favorable light. Although the articles, written by U.S. troops, were truthful, some public-affairs officers criticized the practice after it was revealed in the Los Angeles Times in 2005, because it appeared as if the military was peddling propaganda to journalists.

Advocates of lowering the wall between public affairs and information operations point to one missed opportunity last month. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero revealed at a Pentagon news conference that insurgents had placed two children in the back seat of a car laden with bombs as decoys to get past a military checkpoint. Once through, the bombers tripped the explosives, killing the children and three bystanders.

The incident was widely reported. But some officers said the story would have had greater influence if released in a more dramatized way to underscore the barbarism of the insurgents.

Those who favor more aggressive information management say public-affairs officials should work for information-operations offices.

Military officials in Baghdad said Petraeus did not want to manage the news. Under the Petraeus plan, public-affairs officials would continue to work directly for unit commanders, but they would coordinate extensively with information officers.

Many brigades in Iraq already have public affairs and information officers in adjoining offices. The senior military official close to Petraeus said public-affairs and information-operations officers should work out of the same planning cell. That would ensure that messages spread by information-operations officers and public affairs would not conflict and "work at cross purposes," the official said.

Although many of the military's public-affairs officials trust Petraeus, some fear that other commanders could use Petraeus' policy request to subordinate public-affairs officials to information-operations officers.

Information operations may encompass what the military calls psychological operations - a range of persuasion techniques to influence local populations in foreign countries. Operations can be as simple as spreading truthful information via a loudspeaker truck or giving deliberately false information on a televised broadcast.

In 2004, for instance, a Marine public-affairs officer announced the start of a U.S.-led effort in Fallujah on CNN; the assault did not begin until three weeks later. The false announcement was intended to gauge insurgents' reaction.

The senior officer close to Petraeus said that information-operations officers in Baghdad were not engaging in deception and that there was little risk to military credibility.

"Public-affairs officers will not be involved in deception operations," the officer said. "There are red lines public affairs will not cross. They will not jeopardize their credibility."

Others are more skeptical of Petraeus' request, believing that information-operations officers engage in deception at times and that military press agents must steer well clear.

"They will tell you (the use of psychological operations) is always truthful. But you know how the game works," a senior defense official said.

Those who favor rescinding or altering the Myers memo argue that it is better for public-affairs officers to know what information officers are up to, so as to better prevent misleading information from filtering to the American public.

Other Pentagon officials expressed concern that as soon as information operations and public affairs started working together regularly, reporters would start questioning the information they received.

"You will start asking constantly, 'Am I being spun?' " the senior official said. "The audience will lose trust and confidence in the commander's message."

Back Bush's war strategy? Then bring back the draft

Back Bush's war strategy? Then bring back the draft

McClatchy Newspapers

Here's a question for those who still support President Bush's strategy to stretch out the Iraq War until after he's left office, and for those who think we should be prepared to continue our bloody occupation of Iraq for five or 10 more years:

Are you ready to support reinstating Selective Service - the draft - even if that means your sons and daughters or your grandchildren will have to put on the uniform and go hold the cities and towns of a nation in the middle of a civil war?

Until now, the burden and sacrifices of military service in Afghanistan and Iraq have been borne by volunteers - young men and women who in large part hail from small towns and counties of our nation.

But the volunteer military, especially the Army and the Marine Corps, has been ground down by endless combat deployments that began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and may continue for years.

The president's "surge strategy" of adding 30,000 or more troops in Iraq may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. There weren't 30,000 extra troops sitting around doing nothing when the call came.

The surge is being manned by extending the combat tour for Army troops to 15 months, with a "guarantee" of 12 months at home before going back. Soldiers who've been yanked back into combat after seven or eight or 10 months at home - resting, refitting, retraining and getting to know their children - know better than to believe such a promise.

The administration's new plan to add 95,000 new recruits to the force over the next five years is too little, too late, and it can't be achieved without big increases in the cash enlistment bonuses that recruiters wave in front of youngsters whose choices are already limited by who they are and where they live.

The demands of the wars on our troops and their aging, worn-out equipment already have pushed the annual cost of enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses above $1 billion and of recruitment advertising to $120 million annually.

It's becoming clear that the current pace of deployments cannot continue unchecked. All the cheap fixes have been used. Peter has been robbed so often to pay Paul that he has nothing left in his pockets.

Our nation for the first time in many years has no strategic reserve available to respond to a crisis elsewhere in the world. The Army division that was the tripwire in Korea has dwindled down to a brigade of 3,000 troops. The Ready Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division is standing down after decades of being ready to parachute into a trouble spot on 12 hours' notice so that it, too, can shuffle in and out of Iraq or Afghanistan.

The brigades and divisions home from a deployment cannot be counted on in a major crisis. Most are immediately whittled down to 65 percent or 70 percent of their authorized strength upon their return home as hundreds and thousands of troops complete involuntary extensions of their enlistment or are assigned to military schools to study or teach. Most of their combat equipment, including armored vehicles, is left behind in the war zone to be used by their replacements.

The barrel has been scraped so hard and so often that it no longer even has a bottom.

On Capitol Hill this week, the subject of restoring the draft after more than three decades of the all-volunteer force was gingerly raised in a House subcommittee hearing in the face of near-unanimous opposition by the Bush administration, the military chiefs in the Pentagon and politicians afraid of the consequences of embracing an unpopular solution even if it's the only one left.

All of them know that a fairly administered Selective Service system that distributed the burden of military service to rich and poor alike, with deferments limited to physical and mental disqualifiers, would ensure that 99.5 percent of Americans would suddenly have a huge investment in any suggestion that going to war is a quick and easy solution to a foreign problem.

Does anyone really believe that the war in Iraq would have dragged on for four-plus years if draftees from all over the country were doing the fighting and dying and suffering quietly absorbed by today's volunteer troops and their families?

If you aren't prepared to invest your son or daughter in continuing this war, then it's time for you to give some serious thought to how and when it can be ended, and what the candidates for president in 2008 are saying about an open-ended commitment of other Americans' sons and daughters to a war we can't afford and can't win.

A marriage made in corruption.

A marriage made in corruption.

“Two Bush administration officials who have been linked in scandal are now linked in wedlock.” Former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles and former Justice Department lawyer Sue Ellen Wooldridge “were married March 26, three days after Griles pleaded guilty to lying to Congress” about his relationship with Jack Abramoff. “Legal experts note that people can refuse to testify against their spouses, and that in some cases, people can prevent their spouse from testifying against them.”

Differing Tales of a White House Encounter

Differing Tales of a White House Encounter

By Michael Abramowitz and Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 20, 2007; A29

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told colleagues yesterday that she was incredulous after President Bush pulled her aside at the end of a meeting Wednesday and told her he did not criticize her recent trip to Syria.

After all, Bush and other senior administration officials and top Republicans had slammed the speaker publicly for meeting in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But in a private meeting with Democratic lawmakers yesterday, Pelosi said Bush told her in an unsolicited comment that it was actually the State Department that criticized her.

According to two people who were at the meeting, the speaker said she told the president that she wanted to come back to the White House and give him an official briefing on the Syria trip and Bush quickly motioned for his staff to set up a meeting.

Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino, who was at the White House meeting Wednesday, took issue with Pelosi's account of the conversation in the Cabinet Room, which came at the end of talks largely devoted to funding the Iraq war. Perino said that Pelosi started the conversation about the Syria trip and that she never heard Bush back off his criticism.

"I was there the whole time. I don't recall him saying that," Perino said. "I know that he is critical of the trip, and what he says in private is the same as in public."

Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said the conversation took place privately, as an aside.

At a news conference earlier this month, Bush was asked about Pelosi's trip. He said high-level visits to Syria, whether by Democrats or Republicans, send "mixed signals" to Damascus.

Vice President Cheney took a tougher line in comments about Assad. "This is an evil man. He's a prime state sponsor of terror," he told a Chicago radio station last week. "So for the speaker to go to Damascus and meet with this guy and treat him with the respect and dignity ordinarily accorded the head of a foreign state -- we think it is just directly contrary to our national interest."

Gonzales v. Gonzales

NY Times Editorial
Gonzales v. Gonzales

If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had gone to the Senate yesterday to convince the world that he ought to be fired, it’s hard to imagine how he could have done a better job, short of simply admitting the obvious: that the firing of eight United States attorneys was a partisan purge.

Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch.

He had no trouble remembering complaints from his bosses and Republican lawmakers about federal prosecutors who were not playing ball with the Republican Party’s efforts to drum up election fraud charges against Democratic politicians and Democratic voters. But he had no idea whether any of the 93 United States attorneys working for him — let alone the ones he fired — were doing a good job prosecuting real crimes.

He delegated responsibility for purging their ranks to an inexperienced and incompetent assistant who, if that’s possible, was even more of a plodding apparatchik. Mr. Gonzales failed to create the most rudimentary standards for judging the prosecutors’ work, except for political fealty. And when it came time to explain his inept decision making to the public, he gave a false account that was instantly and repeatedly contradicted by sworn testimony.

Even the most loyal Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee found it impossible to throw Mr. Gonzales a lifeline. The best Orrin Hatch of Utah could do was to mutter that “I think that you’ll agree that this was poorly handled” and to suggest that Mr. Gonzales should just be forgiven. Senator Sam Brownback led Mr. Gonzales through the names of the fired attorneys, evidently hoping he would offer cogent reasons for their dismissal.

Some of his answers were merely laughable. Mr. Gonzales said one prosecutor deserved to be fired because he wrote a letter that annoyed the deputy attorney general. Another prosecutor had the gall to ask Mr. Gonzales to reconsider a decision to seek the death penalty. (Mr. Gonzales, of course, is famous for never reconsidering a death penalty case, no matter how powerful the arguments are.)

Mr. Gonzales criticized other fired prosecutors for “poor management,” for losing the confidence of career prosecutors and for “not having total control of the office.” With those criticisms, Mr. Gonzales was really describing his own record: he has been a poor manager who has had no control over his department and has lost the confidence of his professional staff and all Americans.

Mr. Gonzales was even unable to say who compiled the list of federal attorneys slated for firing. The man he appointed to conduct the purge, Kyle Sampson, said he had not created the list. The former head of the office that supervises the federal prosecutors, Michael Battle, said he didn’t do it, as did William Mercer, the acting associate attorney general.

Mr. Gonzales said he did not know why the eight had been on the list when it was given to him, that it had not been accompanied by any written analysis and that he had just assumed it reflected a consensus of the senior leaders of his department. At one point, Mr. Gonzales even claimed that he could not remember how the Justice Department had come to submit an amendment to the Patriot Act that allowed him to fire United States attorneys and replace them without Senate confirmation. The Senate voted to revoke that power after the current scandal broke.

At the end of the day, we were left wondering why the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer would paint himself as a bumbling fool. Perhaps it’s because the alternative is that he is not telling the truth. There is strong evidence that this purge was directed from the White House, and that Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s top political adviser, and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, were deeply involved.

Yesterday, Mr. Gonzales admitted that he had not been surprised by five of the names on the list because he had heard complaints about them — from Republican senators and Mr. Rove.

In another telling moment, Mr. Gonzales was asked when he had lost confidence in David Iglesias, who was fired as federal prosecutor in New Mexico. His answer was an inadvertent slip of truth.

“Mr. Iglesias lost the confidence of Senator Domenici, as I recall, in the fall of 2005,” Mr. Gonzales said. It was Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, of course, who made a wildly inappropriate phone call to Mr. Iglesias in 2006, not 2005, to ask whether charges would be filed before the election in a corruption inquiry focused on Democrats. When Mr. Iglesias said he did not think so, Mr. Domenici hung up and complained to the White House. Shortly after, Mr. Iglesias’s name was added to the firing list.

We don’t yet know whether Mr. Gonzales is merely so incompetent that he should be fired immediately, or whether he is covering something up.

But if we believe the testimony that neither he nor any other senior Justice Department official was calling the shots on the purge, then the public needs to know who was. That is why the Judiciary Committee must stick to its insistence that Mr. Rove, Ms. Miers and other White House officials testify in public and under oath and that all documents be turned over to Congress, including e-mail messages by Mr. Rove that the Republican Party has yet to produce.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rove's Right: Bush is Following bin Laden's Plan

Rove's Right: Bush is Following bin Laden's Plan
by mcjoan (dailykos)

Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 08:36:40 PM CDT

Think Progress has these statements from Rove regarding the war in Iraq:

"I wish the war were over," Rove said. "I wish the war never existed... History has given us a challenge."
In a question-and-answer period after his speech, Rove was asked whose idea it was to start a pre-emptive war in Iraq.

"I think it was Osama bin Laden’s," Rove replied.

While this is obviously part of the crazy Cheney/Rove effort to continue to tie September 11th to Iraq, a connection that Bush himself has denied, there's an element of truth in the idea that war in the mideast was bin Laden's idea. And the surge is playing right into it.

Or if not his idea, a goal. Consider this analysis gleaned from the writings of bin Laden expert Abdel Bar Atwan, editor in chief of Al-Quds Al Arabi, a London-based daily newspaper:

According to Atwan's analysis of al-Qaida's "20-year plan," the organization aimed to bring about the fall of the American empire by first provoking -- with the September 11 attacks -- Washington into irrationally invading Muslim lands in pursuit of revenge. Al-Qaida's grand strategists calculated that the invasion would propel the umma, the Muslim community, into joining the jihad. Following the fall of the secular socialist Hussein regime, Iraq has indeed become a training ground for limitless waves of foreign jihadis.

In this context, George W. Bush was a great boon to their efforts. Not only did he invade Iraq, which did not have a thing to do with 9/11, but he did almost everything possible to isolate America from its allies. This policy gave bin Laden ample room to target unpopular pro-American regimes from Madrid to Riyadh. Compared to the Southwest Asian battleground of Afghanistan, Iraq is a more congenial base for al-Qaida, since the language, culture, and terrain are more familiar to most Arabs. The jihadis' strategy is to get America to throw all of its resources into fighting a losing battle against Iraq's lethal patchwork of warring factions.

Bush's "surge" only throws more meat to the jackals, who gain strength and popularity with each web-broadcasted beheading or roadside bomb explosion. Like Afghanistan, Iraq gives would-be jihadis watching the conflict from their computer screens the hope of destroying the military might of the West. The jihadis also hope to expand the conflict to create what Atwan calls a "Triangle of Horror" connecting Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria.

Juan Cole concurs: hoped to draw the U.S. into a debilitating guerrilla war in Afghanistan and do to the U.S. military what they had earlier done to the Soviets. Al-Zawahiri's recent message shows that he still has faith in that strategy.

The U.S. cleverly outfoxed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, using air power and local Afghan allies (the Northern Alliance) to destroy the Taliban without many American boots on the ground.

Ironically, however, the Bush administration then went on to invade Iraq for no good reason, where Americans faced the kind of wearing guerrilla war they had avoided in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda has succeeded in several of its main goals. It had been trying to convince Muslims that the United States wanted to invade Muslim lands, humiliate Muslim men, and rape Muslim women. Most Muslims found this charge hard to accept. The Bush administration's Iraq invasion, along with the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, was perceived by many Muslims to validate bin Laden's wisdom and foresight.

After the Iraq War, bin Laden is more popular than George W. Bush even in a significantly secular Muslim country such as Turkey. This is a bizarre finding, a weird turn of events. Turks didn't start out with such an attitude. It grew up in reaction against U.S. policies.

The point is, bin Laden has succeeded in provoking the United States into working against its own interests, in goading us into becoming mired in a war in the mideast much like the one that ultimately helped destroy the Soviet Union. Bringing bin Laden's goal of a single mideast Muslim state. But you don't have to believe me, or Cole, or Atwan. Here's bin Laden himself:

All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.

So, yeah, Karl this war was bin Laden's idea. You and the rest of the Bush administration were just dumb enough to fall for it.

Glenn Greenwald - Alberto Gonzales testifies

Alberto Gonzales testifies

(updated below, post-hearing)

I will provide ongoing commentary to the Gonzales testimony here (assuming there are matters worth commenting upon). Feel free to use the comment section for ongoing discussion. The hearings can be watched here.

* * * * *

There is a pleasantly surprising and appropriately hostile tone to the beginning of this hearing, which I think is due to two factors --

(1) Gonzales showed up with the obvious intent of being combative towards (at least thus far) both Leahy and Specter, likely because he is confident that the President will not fire him no matter what the Senators think; and,

(2) all of the extremely evasive, nonresponsive, mantra-like testimonial tactics that Gonzales has been using for years with this Committee are not going to work today, as even the ultimate Committee Bush loyalist (this side of Orrin Hatch), Jeff Sessions, warned in advance.

* * * * *

Having watched this specific Committee rather carefully over the course of the last couple of years with regard to various executive power scandals, one important fact to keep in mind is that the particular Republicans on this Committee are among the most slavish Bush loyalists anywhere in the Congress. They have defended the most egregious abuses and have justified the most blatant falsehoods on every issue from warrantless surveillance to signing statements to war powers claims.

The reason some of them are being hostile to Gonzales here, and the reason some Congressional Republicans beyond this Committee have called for Gonzales' resignation, is not because they suddenly decided that it is important that the Justice Department act ethically or that lying to Congress is a bad thing. Instead, it is because they have long disliked Gonzales because they perceive that he has been insufficiently aggressive in enforcing immigration laws -- they see him as a symbol of all that they dislike in what they perceive to be the Bush administration's lax enforcement efforts. Some of them are dissatisfied because they perceive he has been insufficiently aggressive in enforcing obscenity laws.

Republican hostility towards Gonzales and even calls for his resignation are, in most (though not all) cases, motivated by pre-existing dissatisfaction that has nothing to do with the scandal in question. That is one of the ironies here -- that a Republican administration that never wanted aggressive enforcement of immigration laws (and therefore defended its U.S. attorneys from complaints voiced by Congressional Republicans about lax enforcement) is now attempting to pretend that it fired some of these U.S. attorneys because they did not enforce the immigration laws aggressively enough.

* * * * *

I fixed the C-SPAN link above. The front page will take you to the video.

For some reason, I have had technical difficulty watching the last hour or so. I will try to fix the problem for the afternoon session, but either way, both Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake as well as by Paul Kiel and others at TPM have excellent running commentary and, in the case of TPM, video clips as well.

* * * * *

I was able to watch the afternoon session only in isolated segments, so until I'm able to watch the entire session and/or read a transcript, I will leave the line-by-line dissection of Gonzales' testimony to others. But I did see enough of the testimony and read enough reactions to warrant the following two points:

(1) Although Gonzales began with a combative tone, he quickly abandoned it, because it is not his natural approach. He has neither the instincts nor the abilities to engage in a full day of verbal combat with anyone. He is far more comfortable with highly practiced, slippery, evasive buzzphrases which he simply repeats -- with a psuedo-respectful and borderline-smug tone -- over and over and over. And he quickly reverted to form.

It was apparent by the end that most of the Committee members, even including traditionally stalwart Bush-supporting Republicans (other than the blindly loyal Hatch and Cornyn), did not believe what Gonzales was saying and were not going to defend him vigorously (in fact, Coburn expressly called for him to resign and Graham all but accused Gonzales of being untruthful, labelling his key explanations a "stretch"). And the Judiciary Committee Democrats were far more emboldened and aggressive than they ever were before at one of these Gonzales hearings. So those are all encouraging signs, I suppose.

But it is hard not to have some mixed feelings over all of that, because what Alberto Gonzales did today -- and what he has done in this scandal since its inception -- is what he has been doing for the last six years, and particularly, during the last two years during his tenure as Attorney General. He has repeatedly lied to Congress, evaded their questions, concealed wrongdoing, expressed contempt for oversight and checks, particularly when it comes to the actions of the Leader, whom -- even as Attorney General -- he still plainly sees as his client and whose interests are his paramount, really his only, priority.

That is what Alberto Gonzales is -- he is a supremely loyal servant of George Bush and he was installed as the nation's chief law enforcement officer precisely because of that attribute. There really is very little he would not do, if there is anything, in service to the White House. And that has been evident for quite some time.

Nor is there anything unique about Gonzales himself. His conduct is the conduct of this administration, and his mindset is its mindset. The U.S. Attorneys scandal is merely illustrative, not unique in any way -- except that Bush's weakened state and subpoena power in the hands of Democrats have combined to produce slightly more oversight and scrutiny than before.

So it was gratifying, I suppose, to watch Alberto Gonzales finally be held accountable (at least rhetorically) and aggressively cornered due to his transparent evasions and untruths. But it is also difficult to avoid lamenting how many other times over the last several years he has done all of that with complete impunity. And it is far from clear whether there will be real accountablity even now.

Gonzales is a mere symbol -- really just an instrument -- of an entire Presidency guided for years by exactly these behaviors. And, at least thus far, they have engaged in that conduct with very, very few consequences.

(2) With any other president, Gonzales' departure would be a fait accompli. Even National Review's Byron York called Gonzales' morning testimony "disastrous," while CNN reported all sorts of extreme criticisms coming from unnamed White House aides.

But -- historically at least -- this President does not fire people under pressure. When political pressures are exerted on Bush, he does the opposite of what is demanded of him -- for no reason except to defy the requests of others. As but one example, the endless and years-long demands from many circles that Donald Rumsfeld be fired by itself ensured that Rumsfeld remained, until he was days away from becoming the longest-serving Defense Secretary in our nation's history.

Bush fires those who are disloyal. Those who are subservient and loyal are never fired, no matter their level of incompetence or corruption. Roughly a month ago, Chuck Schumer went on CNN's Late Edition and called for Gonzales' resignation and, in response, Lindsey Graham said: "I think the fact that Senator Schumer asked for him to step down means he won't."

That is how Bush works. If someone demands that Bush take action, he will petulantly refuse simply to demonstrate that he does not comply with anyone else's will. He is The Decider, nobody else, and nothing is more important than for him to demonstrate that. And loyalty to the Leader is valued infinitely higher than either integrity or competence, which are not remotely required for positions in the administration.

Consider the 2006 midterm elections -- a truly crushing blow to Bush's party and a resounding repudiation of his policies. The natural reaction for a normal person would be to re-assess what they did to lead them so astray. But in response to that election, Bush did the exact opposite -- he purged his administration still further of "dissidents," of anyone who demonstrated any independence, precisely in order to demonstrate that he would never listen to anyone else and to re-emphasize just how right he has been.

In December, 2006, The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin reviewed the post-midterm election ouster of several key Bush officials and concluded that it was driven by a "purge of the unbelievers." Froomkin cited Harriet Miers as White House counsel ("never a true believer in Vice President Cheney's views of a nearly unrestrained executive branch"), Iraq Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad ("considered by Cheney to be too soft on the Sunnis"), John Negroponte as National Intelligence Director ("not alarmist enough about the Iranian nuclear threat)", and Generals George Casey and John Abaziad ("jettisoned for having shown a little backbone in their opposition to Cheney and Bush's politically-motivated insistence on throwing more troops into the Iraqi conflagration").

In Bush's mind, the greatest sin is admitting error, or capitulating in any way to the Enemy. Firing Gonzales because Chuck Schumer demands it or because editorialists insist that there was wrongdoing here is exactly the opposite of how Bush behaves.

Obviously, it is possible that he is now so weakened as to have no choice, or that Gonzales will truly resign voluntarily. But while these hearings conclusively demonstrated that this scandal involves serious wrongdoing and dishonesty on Gonzales' part, that was already known before today. But Gonzales clearly showed up today intending and expecting to keep his job.

And that expectation was almost certainly due to the fact that the person for whom he works values, above all else, slavish loyalty and a willingness to do anything to protect the Leader. Nobody exhibits those attributes more than Alberto Gonzales, which is precisely why he is Attorney General in the first place, and it is precisely why the Department of Justice behaves as it does -- not just in this scandal, but generally.

Sidney Blumenthal - Wolfowitz's girlfriend problem

Wolfowitz's girlfriend problem
Not only did the World Bank president find his companion Shaha Ali Riza a cushy job in the State Department, but she received a security clearance -- unprecedented for a foreign national.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Apr. 19, 2007 | Paul Wolfowitz's tenure as president of the World Bank has turned into yet another case study of neoconservative government in action. It bears resemblance to the military planning for the invasion of Iraq, during which Wolfowitz, as deputy secretary of defense, arrogantly humiliated Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki for suggesting that the U.S. force level was inadequate. It has similarities to the twisting of intelligence used to justify the war, in which Wolfowitz oversaw the construction of a parallel operation within the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans, to shunt disinformation directly to the White House, without its being vetted by CIA analysts, about Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to al-Qaida and his weapons of mass destruction, and sought to fire Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, for factually reporting before the invasion that Saddam had not revived his nuclear weapons program. Wolfowitz's regime also uncannily looks like the occupation of Iraq run by the Coalition Provisional Authority, from which Wolfowitz blackballed State Department professionals -- instead staffing it with inexperienced ideologues -- and to whom Wolfowitz sent daily orders.

Wolfowitz's World Bank scandal over his girlfriend reveals many of the same qualities that created the wreckage he left in his wake in Iraq: grandiosity, cronyism, self-dealing and lying -- followed by an energetic campaign to deflect accountability. As with the war, he has retreated behind his fervent profession of good intentions to excuse himself. The ginning up of the conservative propaganda mill that once disseminated Wolfowitz's disinformation on WMD to defend him as the innocent victim of a political smear only underlines his tried-and-true methods of operation. The hollowness of his defense echoes in the thunderous absurdity of Monday's Wall Street Journal editorial: "Paul Wolfowitz, meet the Duke lacrosse team."

Superficially, Wolfowitz's arrangement for his girlfriend of a job with a hefty increase in pay in violation of the ethics clauses of his contract and without informing the World Bank board might seem like an all-too-familiar story of a man seeking special favors for a romantic partner. Wolfowitz has tried to cast the scandal as a "painful personal dilemma," as he described it in an April 12 e-mail to outraged employees of the World Bank, who have taken to calling the neoconservative's girlfriend his "neoconcubine." He was, he says, just attempting to "navigate in uncharted waters." But the fall of Wolfowitz is the final act of a long drama -- and love or even self-love may not be the whole subject.

Wolfowitz's girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza, is a Libyan, raised in Saudi Arabia, educated at Oxford, who now has British citizenship. She is divorced; he is separated. Their discreet relationship became a problem only when he ascended to the World Bank presidency. Riza had floated through the neoconservative network -- working at the Free Iraq Foundation in the early 1990s and the National Endowment for Democracy -- until landing a position in the Middle East and African department of the World Bank. The ethics provisions of Wolfowitz's contract, however, stipulated that he could not maintain a sexual relationship with anyone over whom he had supervisory authority, even indirectly.

Back in 2003, Wolfowitz had taken care of Riza by directing his trusted Pentagon deputy, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith -- who had been in charge of the Office of Special Plans and had been Wolfowitz's partner in managing the CPA -- to arrange for a military contract for her from Science Applications International Corp. When the contract was exposed this week, SAIC issued a statement that it "had no role in the selection of the personnel." In other words, the firm with hundreds of millions in contracts at stake had been ordered to hire Riza.

Riza was unhappy about leaving the sinecure at the World Bank. But in 2006 Wolfowitz made a series of calls to his friends that landed her a job at a new think tank called Foundation for the Future that is funded by the State Department. She was the sole employee, at least in the beginning. The World Bank continued to pay her salary, which was raised by $60,000 to $193,590 annually, more than the $183,500 paid to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and all of it tax-free. Moreover, Wolfowitz got the State Department to agree that the ratings of her performance would automatically be "outstanding." Wolfowitz insisted on these terms himself and then misled the World Bank board about what he had done.

Exactly how this deal was made and with whom remains something of a mystery. The person who did work with Riza in her new position was Elizabeth Cheney, then the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. And Riza's assignment fell under the purview of Karen Hughes, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. But these facts raise more questions than they answer.

The documents released by the World Bank do not include any of the communications with the State Department. How did Elizabeth Cheney come to be involved? Did Wolfowitz speak with Vice President Dick Cheney, for whom he had been a deputy when Cheney was secretary of defense in the elder Bush's administration?

Riza, who is not a U.S. citizen, had to receive a security clearance in order to work at the State Department. Who intervened? It is not unusual to have British or French midlevel officers at the department on exchange programs, but they receive security clearances based on the clearances they already have with their host governments. Granting a foreign national who is detailed from an international organization a security clearance, however, is extraordinary, even unprecedented. So how could this clearance have been granted?

State Department officials familiar with the details of this matter confirmed to me that Shaha Ali Riza was detailed to the State Department and had unescorted access while working for Elizabeth Cheney. Access to the building requires a national security clearance or permanent escort by a person with such a clearance. But the State Department has no record of having issued a national security clearance to Riza.

State Department officials believe that Riza was issued such a clearance by the Defense Department after SAIC was forced by Wolfowitz and Feith to hire her. Then her clearance would have been recognized by the State Department through a credentials transmittal letter and Riza would have accessed the State Department on Pentagon credentials, using her Pentagon clearance to get a State Department building pass with a letter issued under instructions from Liz Cheney.

But State Department officials tell me that no such letter can be confirmed as received. And the officials stress that the department would never issue a clearance to a non-U.S. citizen as part of a contractual requisition. Issuing a national security clearance to a foreign national under instructions from a Pentagon official would constitute a violation of the executive orders governing clearances, they say.

Given these circumstances, the inspector general of the Defense Department should be ordered to investigate how Shaha Ali Riza was issued a Pentagon security clearance. And the inspector general of the State Department should investigate who ordered Riza's building pass and whether there was a Pentagon credentials transmittal letter.

Wolfowitz's willful behavior, as though no rules bound him or facts constrained his ideas, should not have surprised anyone. At the Pentagon, Wolfowitz was an insistent force behind an invasion of Iraq, bringing it up at the first National Security Council meeting of the Bush administration, months before Sept. 11. For years he had been a firm believer in the crackpot theories of Laurie Mylroie, a neoconservative writer, who argued that Saddam was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and even the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. After Sept. 11, Wolfowitz pursued his obsession by sending former CIA Director James Woolsey on a secret mission to attempt to confirm the theory. Woolsey came back with nothing, but Wolfowitz continued to believe. His beliefs are stronger than any evidence.

Surrounded by his Praetorian Guard, Wolfowitz insulated himself at the World Bank from the career staff. There, as at the Pentagon, Wolfowitz pushed aside the professionals and replaced them with a small band of politically reliable assistants. Wolfowitz rewarded them, too, on his own authority, with enormous tax-free salaries. Consider Kevin Kellems, his public affairs officer at the Pentagon, who had guided conservative media from that perch and is known as "keeper of the comb," for having been the person to hand Wolfowitz the infamous comb he licked before slicking down his hair in the Michael Moore film "Fahrenheit 9/11." Kellems was given a salary of $240,000, at least equal to what World Bank vice presidents with years of service earn.

Wolfowitz had spent his career staging neoconservative insurgencies against what he considered to be liberal establishments. But at the World Bank he tried to model himself after Robert McNamara, who had turned his presidency at the bank into his vehicle for redemption for his part in the Vietnam War. Wolfowitz, the chief intellectual and policy advocate for the Iraq war, no longer mentioned it. Now he pleads to the World Bank board that his corrupt dealings be overlooked for the greater good of his crusade against corruption. His refusal to resign discredits and paralyzes the institution he had hoped would vindicate him.