Saturday, October 23, 2004

Fact Check: $8 Million Worth Of Distortions

$8 Million Worth Of Distortions

Two Bush ads full of misleading and false statements ran more than 9,000 times in 45 cities last week.


Two misleading Bush ads accusing Kerry of supporting tax increases on gasoline and middle-class parents were running heavily last week. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group of TNS Media Intelligence, which tracks TV ads in the top 100 markets, the two Bush ads accounted for nearly half of the estimated $16 million spent by Bush and the Republican National Committee during that week alone.

Both ads repeat claims we've repeatedly disputed here. They both attempt to portray Kerry as eager to raise taxes on middle-income taxpayers, which Kerry has said consistently he won't do. One ad characterizes Kerry's votes against proposed tax cuts as votes to "raise taxes," an outright falsehood.


A Bush ad called "Thinking Mom" ran at saturation levels last week in 42 cities at an estimated cost of $2.5 million. A parallel ad called "Clockwork" ran even more heavily, in 44 cities at an estimated cost of $5.4 million. Together the two ads aired 9,118 times on stations monitored by TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG.


Bush-Cheney '04 Ad "Thinking Mom"

Announcer: And we'll be checking traffic on . . .

Woman: 5:30, gotta get groceries, we're gonna be late.

Announcer: John Kerry and the liberals in Congress have voted to raise gas taxes ten times.

Woman: Ten times? Gas prices are high enough already.

Announcer: They've also raised taxes on senior's Social Security benefits. And raised taxes on middle class parents 18 times. No relief there from the Marriage Penalty.

Woman: More taxes because I'm married? What were they thinking?

Announcer: . . . 350 times. Higher taxes from the liberals in Congress and John Kerry.

Bush: I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.


Two Ads, Several Distortions

Both ads make statements about Kerry that are misleading or downright false on several counts:

Gasoline taxes: It's false to say Kerry voted "to raise gas taxes ten times" as stated in the "Thinking Mom" ad. Even the Bush campaign's own list of votes doesn't back that up. There has been only one increase -- more than a decade ago -- when the federal gasoline tax went up just over four cents per gallon as part of Clinton's 1993 package of tax increases and spending cuts.

The Bush campaign lists ten votes Kerry cast, five of them on the measure that resulted in that 1993 increase. Four others were against Republican proposals to repeal that same 4.3-cent increase after it was already in place -- so it's false to say those were votes to "raise" the tax. The same goes for the tenth vote, which was against temporarily suspending the 18.4-cent federal gasoline gas tax altogether during a spike in prices in 2000.

Social Security benefits: Kerry did vote to increase the amount of Social Security benefits subject to taxation, as stated in both ads, but not for all seniors. That was also as a part of the 1993 Clinton economic package. The increase was only for those with over $44,000 a year for a married couple. That increase currently affects just over 8 million taxpayers, a fraction of the 47 million who get Social Security benefits. And all the proceeds from the increase go to shore up the Medicare Trust Fund, something the ad fails to mention.


Bush Ad "Clockwork"

Announcer: They voted to raise our gas taxes ten times. And raised taxes on Social Security benefits. Higher taxes on middle class parents 18 times. John Kerry and the liberals in Congress's record on the economy: higher taxes 350 times. An average of once every three weeks for 20 years. Like clockwork. John Kerry and the liberals in Congress on the economy. Troubling.

Bush: I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.


Middle Class Parents: Another falsehood in the "Mom" ad is the claim that Kerry has "raised taxes on middle-class parents 18 times. No relief there from the marriage penalty." It's true Kerry often opposed Republican proposals in the past, usually on grounds that they granted more relief to upper-income taxpayers than he would like. And some of those proposals included giving married couples a break, as well as granting or increasing tax credits for dependent children. But those votes wouldn't have resulted in raising taxes above what they were at the time.

Furthermore, during the Democratic primary contests Kerry fiercely defended keeping the so-called "marriage penalty" relief and increased child tax credits when other Democratic candidates would have repealed them along with the rest of Bush's cuts. Kerry also would retain Bush's lower rates for low- and middle-income taxpayers.

Kerry said consistently he wouldn't raise taxes on anyone making less than $200,000 a year. In an interview on the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer Kerry stated:

Kerry: I don't want to roll back the marriage penalty, I don't want to roll back the child-care (sic) credit, I don't want to punish people who got a $300 break at the 10 percent and 15 percent (rate), so I don't take that back.

That was more than a year ago -- July 14, 2003 -- and Kerry's position hasn't changed since.

The "Clockwork" ad falls short of an outright falsehood on this point. It says Kerry supported "higher taxes on middle class parents 18 times." Bush officials argue that voting against a tax cut is voting for "higher" taxes -- meaning higher than the alternative, not higher than people are actually paying. Still, we find the "Clockwork" ad to be misleading.

350 times: Both these ads repeat the misleading claim that Kerry has voted for "higher taxes" 350 times. See our original article from last March for details on why that's wrong.


US Department of Health and Human Services, "2004 Annual Report of the Boards of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds," Table I.C1.-Medicare Data for Calendar Year 2003 Washington DC 24 March 2004: p3.

MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," transcript #7663, 2 July 2003.


Fact Check: Would Kerry Throw Us To The Wolves?

Would Kerry Throw Us To The Wolves?

A misleading Bush ad criticizes Kerry for proposing to cut intelligence
spending -- a decade ago, by 4%, when some Republicans also proposed


A new Bush ad claims Kerry supported cuts in intelligence “so deep they
would have weakened America ’s defenses” against terrorists, and shows
a pack of hungry-looking wolves preparing to attack. Actually, the cut
Kerry proposed in 1994 amounted to less than 4 percent, as part of a
proposal to cut many programs to reduce the deficit.

And in 1995 Porter Goss, who is now Bush’s CIA Director, co-sponsored
an even strong deficit-elimination measure that would have cut CIA
personnel by 20 percent over five years. When asked about that at his
confirmation hearings he didn't disavow it.


The Bush ad released Oct. 22 is called “wolves,” and is a direct appeal to fear.

Bush Cheney ‘04


Announcer: In an increasingly dangerous world… Even after the first terrorist attack on America … John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America ’s intelligence operations. By 6 billion dollars… Cuts so deep they would have weakened America ’s defenses. And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm..

(On Screen: Several wolves eye the camera, as if preparing to attack.)

Bush: I’m George W Bush and I approve this message.


Speak Softly But Use Scary Words and Pictures

Using a soft-spoken female announcer to deliver the harsh message, the ad shows blurry images of a dark forest and a pack of hungry-looking wolves eying the camera and apparently contemplating an attack.

The announcer says that “after the first terrorist attack on America ” Kerry “voted to slash America ’s intelligence operations.” The ad is misleading in several ways, some of which we went over last March when President Bush first accused Kerry of trying to “gut” the intelligence budget.

Here are the ways this ad misleads voters:

•Old news: The “first terrorist attack” the ad refers to didn't happen September 11, 2001, as some listeners assume. It actually was more than a decade ago, in 1993, when a truck bomb went off in the parking garage under one of the World Trade Center towers. In fact, Kerry was supporting regular increases in intelligence spending for several years prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

•Exaggerated Wording: Kerry never proposed a single $6-billion cut in intelligence spending. He did propose S.1826 (see "supporting documents" at right) which included a $1-billion cut in 1994. That measure also would have frozen intelligence spending at that reduced level through 1998, allowing it to rise only by the rate of inflation. That could fairly be called a $5-billion cut spread over five years.

Total intelligence spending is a classified figure, but was estimated at the time to be $27 billion per year. So, the cut Kerry proposed amounted to an estimated 3.7 percent -- hardly a proposal to "slash" expenditures. That measure was debated on the Senate floor and on Feb 10,1994 it was defeated 75-20 with 38 Democratic Senators voting against it.

The following year Kerry introduced another deficit-reduction package, S.1290 (see "supporting documents, at right). This one would have lowered the ceiling for intelligence spending by $300 million for five years starting in 1996. That would have amounted to a reduction of just over 1 percent of estimated intelligence spending.

Not only was this proposed reduction a small one, it came at a time when it had just become known that one intelligence agency had been hoarding $1 billion in unspent funds from its secret appropriations. Kerry's proposal died without a hearing, but a similar Republican-sponsored measure eventually became law (see below).

Saying that either of these proposals would “slash” spending is an exaggeration. Saying that a 4 percent or 1 percent cut would have “weakened America ’s defenses” is an opinion which the Bush campaign has a perfect right to state, but it is not a fact.

•Missing Context: The ad doesn’t tell the whole story. Some Republicans also supported similar cuts in intelligence spending at the time, including Bush’s current CIA Director Porter Goss.

Goss co-sponsored a draconian, deficit-elimination bill in 1995 (see "supporting documents" at right) that would have cut the number of CIA employees by 20 percent or more over five years. Goss wasn't the main author -- he signed onto an 1,188-page bill authored by Gerald Solomon, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, of which Goss was a member. The measure died without a hearing and had no prospect of passage, as it called for elimination of the Departments of Education, Energy and Commerce among other things. When questioned about his co-sponsorship of the bill during his confirmation hearings in September Goss said only, "the record speaks for the record."

Another Republican-sponsored cut similar to Kerry's proposed 1995 measure actually became law. On the same day Kerry proposed his $1.5-billion cut spread over five years, the Senate passed by voice vote an amendment to eliminate $1 billion in intelligence funds for fiscal year 1996. That measure was proposed by Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. and a companion measure was co-sponsored by Kerry and Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. The cut eventually became law as part of a House-Senate package endorsed by the Republican leadership. Specter explained at the time that the $1-billion cut was intended to recapture funds that had been appropriated for spy satellites, but which had gone unspent by the National Reconnaissance Office.


Dana Milbank, “Goss Backed '95 Bill to Slash Intelligence; Plan Would Have Cut Personnel 20%,” Washington Post, 24 Aug 2004 : A3.

"Hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee: Nomination of Rep. Porter J. Goss to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency," transcript, The Federal News Service, Inc., 14 Sep 2004.

103d Congress, 2d Session, S. 1826, "To reduce the deficit for fiscal years 1994 through 1998," 3 Feb. 1994.

104th Congress, 1st Session, S.1290, "To reduce the deficit," 25 Sep 1995.

104th Congress, 1st Sessikon H.R. 1923, "To balance the budget of the United States Government by restructuring Government, reducing Federal spending, eliminating the deficit, limiting bureaucracy, and restoring federalism," 25 Jun 2004.

Related Articles
Bush Strains Facts Re: Kerry's Plan To Cut Intelligence Funding in '90's

President claims 1995 Kerry plan would "gut" the intelligence services. It was a 1% cut, and key Republicans approved something similar.


Divide seen in voter knowledge

The Boston Globe
Divide seen in voter knowledge

By Alan Wirzbicki, Globe Correspondent | October 22, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Supporters of President Bush are less knowledgeable about the president's foreign policy positions and are more likely to be mistaken about factual issues in world affairs than voters who back John F. Kerry, a survey released yesterday indicated.

A large majority of self-identified Bush voters polled believe Saddam Hussein provided "substantial support" to Al Qaeda, and 47 percent believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the US invasion. Among the president's supporters, 57 percent queried think international public opinion favors Bush's reelection, and 51 percent believe that most Islamic countries support "US-led efforts to fight terrorism."

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, the Sept. 11 Commission found no evidence of substantial Iraqi support for Al Qaeda, and international public opinion polls have shown widespread opposition to Bush's reelection.

In contrast, among Kerry supporters polled only 26 percent think Iraq had such weapons, 30 percent say Iraq was linked to Al Qaeda, and 1 percent said foreign public opinion favors Bush.

The polls results, said Steven Kull, the head of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, which conducted the survey, showed that Americans are so polarized two weeks before the election that many lack even a common understanding of the facts.

"It is rather unique the extent to which we have different perceptions of reality," Kull said.

On other international issues, the survey found that around 70 percent of Bush supporters responding believe that the president supports participation in the land mine treaty and the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, and a narrower majority believes he supports the International Criminal Court and Kyoto Accords. In fact, Bush opposes all four treaties.

Kerry supporters correctly identified their candidate's position on every foreign policy issue in the survey except defense spending. Only 43 percent of the Democrat's supporters know he wants to keep the Pentagon budget at the same level rather than cut or expand it.

The survey was conducted in three waves, Sept. 3-7, Sept. 8-12, and Oct. 12-18, by the polling firm Knowledge Networks. The poll's margin of error is between 3.2 and 4 percent.

Kull said it is common for voters to tailor their views on particular issues to those of the candidate they favor overall, but the extent to which Bush supporters are filtering out news from Iraq that might reflect poorly on the president is unprecedented.

According to the survey, the difference doesn't reflect lack of access to information about Iraq.

The poll found that perceptions did not vary significantly by level of education among those who plan to vote for Bush.

And many of the Bush voters surveyed knew that the Duelfer report said Hussein had no WMDs, but continue to believe that he did regardless.

Kull suggested the dissonance among Bush voters reflects the country's difficulty coming to grips with the discrediting of the rationale for the Iraq war.

"This period will really stand out as when the US went to war on assumptions that turned out to be incorrect," he said. "The body politic is still struggling to come to terms with that."


Bush's Blinkers

The New York Times
October 22, 2004

Bush's Blinkers

Does President Bush even tip his hat to reality as he goes breezing by?

He often behaves as if he sees - or is in touch with - things that are inaccessible to those who are grounded in the reality most of us have come to know. For example, with more than 1,000 American troops and more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians dead, many people see the ongoing war in Iraq as a disaster, if not a catastrophe. Mr. Bush sees freedom on the march.

Many thoughtful analysts see a fiscal disaster developing here at home, with the president's tax cuts being the primary contributor to the radical transformation of a $236 billion budget surplus into a $415 billion deficit. The president sees, incredibly, a need for still more tax cuts.

The United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The president responded by turning most of the nation's firepower on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. When Mr. Bush was asked by the journalist Bob Woodward if he had consulted with former President Bush about the decision to invade Iraq, the president replied: "He is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."

Last week the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University said in a report:

"During the past year Iraq has become a major distraction from the global war on terrorism. Iraq has now become a convenient arena for jihad, which has helped Al Qaeda to recover from the setback it suffered as a result of the war in Afghanistan. With the growing phenomenon of suicide bombing, the U.S. presence in Iraq now demands more and more assets that might have otherwise been deployed against various dimensions of the global terrorist threat."

There are consequences, often powerful consequences, to turning one's back on reality. The president may believe that freedom's on the march, and that freedom is God's gift to every man and woman in the world, and perhaps even that he is the vessel through which that gift is transmitted. But when he is crafting policy decisions that put people by the hundreds of thousands into harm's way, he needs to rely on more than the perceived good wishes of the Almighty. He needs to submit those policy decisions to a good hard reality check.

Here's one good reason why:

Dr. Gene Bolles spent two years as the chief of neurosurgery at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, which is where most of the soldiers wounded in Iraq are taken. Among his patients was Pfc. Jessica Lynch. In an interview posted this week on the Web site, Dr. Bolles was asked: "What kind of cases did you treat in Landstuhl? And these were mostly kids, right?"

He said: "Well, I call them that since I'm 62 years old. And they were 18, 19, maybe 21. They all seemed young. Certainly younger than my children. As a neurosurgeon I mostly dealt with injuries to the brain, the spinal cord, or the spine itself. The injuries were all fairly horrific, anywhere from the loss of extremities, multiple extremities, to severe burns. It just goes on and on and on. ... As a doctor myself who has seen trauma throughout his career, I've never seen it to this degree. The numbers, the degree of injuries. It really kind of caught me off guard."

If you're the president and you're contemplating a war in which thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of these kinds of injuries will take place, you have an obligation to seek out the best sources of information and the wisest advice from the widest possible array of counselors. And you have an absolute obligation to exercise sound judgment based upon facts, and not simply faith.

In a disturbing article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, the writer Ron Suskind told of a meeting he'd had with a senior adviser to the president. The White House at the time was unhappy about an article Mr. Suskind had written.

According to Mr. Suskind, "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' " The aide told Mr. Suskind, "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality."

Got that? We may think there are real-world consequences to the policies of the president, real pain and real grief for real people. But to the White House, that kind of thinking is passé. The White House doesn't even recognize that kind of reality.


Voting and Counting

The New York Times
October 22, 2004

Voting and Counting

If the election were held today and the votes were counted fairly, Senator John Kerry would probably win. But the votes won't be counted fairly, and the disenfranchisement of minority voters may determine the outcome.

Recent national poll results range from a three-percentage-point Kerry lead in the A.P.-Ipsos poll released yesterday to an eight-point Bush lead in the Gallup poll. But if you line up the polls released this week from the most to the least favorable to President Bush, the polls in the middle show a tie at about 47 percent.

This is bad news for Mr. Bush because undecided voters usually break against the incumbent - not always, but we're talking about probabilities. Those middle-of-the-road polls also show Mr. Bush with job approval around 47 percent, putting him very much in the danger zone.

Electoral College projections based on state polls also show a dead heat. Projections assuming that undecided voters will break for the challenger in typical proportions give Mr. Kerry more than 300 electoral votes.

But if you get your political news from cable TV, you probably have a very different sense of where things stand. CNN, which co-sponsored that Gallup poll, rarely informs its viewers that other polls tell a very different story. The same is true of Fox News, which has its own very Bush-friendly poll. As a result, there is a widespread public impression that Mr. Bush holds a commanding lead.

By the way, why does the Gallup poll, which is influential because of its illustrious history, report a large Bush lead when many other polls show a dead heat? It's mostly because of how Gallup determines "likely voters": the poll shows only a three-point Bush lead among registered voters. And as the Democratic poll expert Ruy Teixeira points out (using data obtained by Steve Soto, a liberal blogger), Gallup's sample of supposedly likely voters contains a much smaller proportion of both minority and young voters than the actual proportions of these voters in the 2000 election.

A broad view of the polls, then, suggests that Mr. Bush is in trouble. But he is likely to benefit from a distorted vote count.

Florida is the prime, but not the only, example. Recent Florida polls suggest a tight race, which could be tipped by a failure to count all the votes. And votes for Mr. Kerry will be systematically undercounted.

Last week I described Greg Palast's work on the 2000 election, reported recently in Harper's, which conclusively shows that Florida was thrown to Mr. Bush by a combination of factors that disenfranchised black voters. These included a defective felon list, which wrongly struck thousands of people from the voter rolls, and defective voting machines, which disproportionately failed to record votes in poor, black districts.

One might have expected Florida's government to fix these problems during the intervening four years. But most of those wrongly denied voting rights in 2000 still haven't had those rights restored - and the replacement of punch-card machines has created new problems.

After the 2000 debacle, a task force appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush recommended that the state adopt a robust voting technology that would greatly reduce the number of spoiled ballots and provide a paper trail for recounts: paper ballots read by optical scanners that alert voters to problems. This system is in use in some affluent, mainly white Florida counties.

But Governor Bush ignored this recommendation, just as he ignored state officials who urged him to "pull the plug" on a new felon list - which was quickly discredited once a judge forced the state to make it public - just days before he ordered the list put into effect. Instead, much of the state will vote using touch-screen machines that are unreliable and subject to hacking, and leave no paper trail. Mr. Palast estimates that this will disenfranchise 27,000 voters - disproportionately poor and black.

A lot can change in 11 days, and Mr. Bush may yet win convincingly. But we must not repeat the mistake of 2000 by refusing to acknowledge the possibility that a narrow Bush win, especially if it depends on Florida, rests on the systematic disenfranchisement of minority voters. And the media must not treat such a suspect win as a validation of skewed reporting that has consistently overstated Mr. Bush's popular support.


God and Sex

The New York Times
October 23, 2004

God and Sex

So when God made homosexuals who fall deeply, achingly in love with each other, did he goof?

That seems implicit in the measures opposing gay marriage on the ballots of 11 states. All may pass; Oregon is the only state where the outcome seems uncertain.

Over the last couple of months, I've been researching the question of how the Bible regards homosexuality. Social liberals tend to be uncomfortable with religious arguments, but that is the ground on which political battles are often decided in America - as when a Texas governor, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, barred the teaching of foreign languages about 80 years ago, saying, "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for us."

I think it's presumptuous of conservatives to assume that God is on their side. But since Americans are twice as likely to believe in the Devil as in evolution, I also think it's stupid of liberals to forfeit the religious field.

Some scholars, like Daniel Helminiak, author of "What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality," argue that the Bible is not anti-gay. I don't really buy that.

It's true that the story of Sodom is treated by both modern scholars and by ancient Ezekiel as about hospitality, rather than homosexuality. In Sodom, Lot puts up two male strangers for the night. When a lustful mob demands they be handed over, Lot offers his two virgin daughters instead. After some further unpleasantness, God destroys Sodom. As Mark Jordan notes in "The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology," it was only in the 11th century that theologians began to condemn homosexuality as sodomy.

In fact, the most obvious lesson from Sodom is that when you're attacked by an angry mob, the holy thing to do is to offer up your virgin daughters.

Still, the traditionalists seem to me basically correct that the Old Testament does condemn at least male anal sex (scholars disagree about whether the Hebrew phrasing encompasses other sexual contact). While homosexuality never made the Top 10 lists of commandments, a plain reading of the Book of Leviticus is that male anal sex is every bit as bad as other practices that the text condemns, like wearing a polyester-and-cotton shirt (Leviticus 19:19).

As for the New Testament, Jesus never said a word about gays, while he explicitly advised a wealthy man to give away all his assets and arguably warned against bank accounts ("do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth").

Likewise, Jesus praises those who make themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven, but conservative Christians rarely lead the way with self-castration.

Theologians point out that that the Bible is big enough to encompass gay relationships and tolerance - as well as episodic condemnations of gays. For example, 1 Samuel can be read as describing gay affairs between David and Jonathan.

In the New Testament, Matthew and Luke describe how Jesus cured the beloved servant of a centurion - and some scholars argue that the wording suggests that the pair were lovers, yet Jesus didn't blanch.

The religious right cites one part of the New Testament that clearly does condemn male homosexuality - not in Jesus' words, but in Paul's. The right has a tougher time explaining why lesbians shouldn't marry because the Bible has no unequivocal condemnation of lesbian sex.

A passage in Romans 1 objects to women engaging in "unnatural" sex, and this probably does mean lesbian sex, according to Bernadette Brooten, the author of a fascinating study of early Christian attitudes toward lesbians. But it's also possible that Paul was referring to sex during menstruation or to women who are aggressive during sex.

In any case, do we really want to make Paul our lawgiver? Will we enforce Paul's instruction that women veil themselves and keep their hair long? (Note to President Bush: If you want to obey Paul, why don't you start by veiling Laura and keeping her hair long, and only then move on to barring gay marriages.)

Given these ambiguities, is there any solution? One would be to emphasize the sentiment in Genesis that "it is not good for the human to be alone," and allow gay lovers to marry.

Or there's another solution. Paul disapproves of marriage except for the sex-obsessed, saying that it is best "to remain unmarried as I am." So if we're going to cherry-pick biblical phrases and ignore the central message of love, then perhaps we should just ban marriage altogether?


How to Skew Intelligence

The New York Times
October 23, 2004

How to Skew Intelligence

It's long been obvious that the allegations about Saddam Hussein's dangerous weapons and alliance with Osama bin Laden were false. But as the election draws closer, the remaining question is to what extent President Bush's team knew the allegations were wrong and used them anyway to persuade Americans to back the invasion of Iraq.

A report issued Thursday by the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin of Michigan, shows that on the question of an Iraqi-Qaeda axis, Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others offered an indictment that was essentially fabricated in the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy.

Mr. Levin's report does not prove that President Bush knew that the Hussein-bin Laden alliance was fiction. But officials like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz - as well as Mr. Cheney's chief of staff and the deputy national security adviser - knew that Mr. Feith's tailored conclusions were contrary to the views of the entire intelligence community. Mr. Cheney presented them to the public as confirmed truth about Iraq and Al Qaeda.

The Levin report is a primer on how intelligence can be cooked to fit a political agenda. It is another sad reminder of this administration's refusal to hold anyone accountable for the way the public was led into the war with Iraq.

It focuses on the intelligence operation set up by Mr. Rumsfeld, who had been advocating an invasion of Iraq long before Mr. Bush took office and wanted more damning evidence against Baghdad after 9/11 than the Central Intelligence Agency had.

This operation, run by Mr. Feith, tried to persuade the Pentagon's own espionage unit, the Defense Intelligence Agency, to change its conclusion that there was no alliance between Iraq and Al Qaeda. When the Defense Intelligence Agency rebuffed this blatant interference, Mr. Feith's team wrote its own report.

It took long-discredited raw intelligence and resurrected it to create the impression that there was new information supporting Mr. Feith's preordained conclusions. It misrepresented the C.I.A.'s reports and presented fifth-hand reports as authoritative, all to depict Iraq as an ally of Al Qaeda.

Bipartisan reports from the 9/11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the intelligence community had been right and Mr. Feith wrong: there was no operational relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and no link at all between Mr. Hussein and the 9/11 attacks.

For those who were confused before the war, and still are, by all the Bush administration's claims - that the hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi official shortly before 9/11, that a member of Al Qaeda set up a base in Iraq with the help of Mr. Hussein, that Iraq helped Al Qaeda learn to make bombs and provided it with explosives - the evidence is now clear. The Levin report, together with the 9/11 panel's findings and the Senate intelligence report, show that those claims were all cooked up by Mr. Feith's shop, which knew that the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency had already shown them to be false.

We don't know exactly how much of that the White House knew because Mr. Feith tried to confuse things. He eliminated points that the C.I.A. disputed when he showed the intelligence agency his report, and he put them back in when he sent it to the White House.

The Bush administration called Mr. Levin's report pre-election partisan sniping. It is far more than that, but voters, unfortunately, won't get final answers.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which has reported on the C.I.A.'s actions before the war, has delayed a review of the administration's behavior until after the election. We also will not see the C.I.A.'s own report because Mr. Bush's new intelligence chief, Porter Goss, has rebuffed a bipartisan request from Congress to release it.

Voters have to decide whether to hold Mr. Bush accountable for the skewed intelligence cooked up by his administration to justify the war.


Republicans making all-out effort to suppress Democratic votes on election day

The New York Times
October 23, 2004

Big G.O.P. Bid to Challenge Voters at Polls in Key State

Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.

Party officials say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections.

Election officials in other swing states, from Arizona to Wisconsin and Florida, say they are bracing for similar efforts by Republicans to challenge new voters at polling places, reflecting months of disputes over voting procedures and the anticipation of an election as close as the one in 2000.

Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarm and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote.

Ohio Democrats were struggling to match the Republicans' move, which had been rumored for weeks. Both parties had until 4 p.m. to register people they had recruited to monitor the election. Republicans said they had enlisted 3,600 by the deadline, many in heavily Democratic urban neighborhoods of Cleveland, Dayton and other cities. Each recruit was to be paid $100.

The Democrats, who tend to benefit more than Republicans from large turnouts, said they had registered more than 2,000 recruits to try to protect legitimate voters rather than weed out ineligible ones.

Republican officials said they had no intention of disrupting voting but were concerned about the possibility of fraud involving thousands of newly registered Democrats.

"The organized left's efforts to, quote unquote, register voters - I call them ringers - have created these problems," said James P. Trakas, a Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County.

Both parties have waged huge campaigns in the battleground states to register millions of new voters, and the developments in Ohio provided an early glimpse of how those efforts may play out on Election Day.

Ohio election officials said that by state law, the parties' challengers would have to show "reasonable" justification for doubting the qualifications of a voter before asking a poll worker to question that person. And, the officials said, challenges could be made on four main grounds: whether the voter is a citizen, is at least 18, is a resident of the county and has lived in Ohio for the previous 30 days.

Elections officials in Ohio said they hoped the criteria would minimize the potential for disruption. But Democrats worry that the challenges will inevitably delay the process and frustrate the voters.

"Our concern is Republicans will be challenging in large numbers for the purpose of slowing down voting, because challenging takes a long time,'' said David Sullivan, the voter protection coordinator for the national Democratic Party in Ohio. "And creating long lines causes our people to leave without voting.''

The Republican challenges in Ohio have already begun. Yesterday, party officials submitted a list of about 35,000 registered voters whose mailing addresses, the Republicans said, were questionable. After registering, they said, each of the voters was mailed a notice, and in each case the notice was returned to election officials as undeliverable.

In Cuyahoga County alone, which includes the heavily Democratic neighborhoods of Cleveland, the Republican Party submitted more than 14,000 names of voters for county election officials to scrutinize for possible irregularities. The party said it had registered more than 1,400 people to challenge voters in that county.

Among the main swing states, only Ohio, Florida and Missouri require the parties to register poll watchers before Election Day; elsewhere, party observers can register on the day itself. In several states officials have alerted poll workers to expect a heightened interest by the parties in challenging voters. In some cases, poll workers, many of them elderly, have been given training to deal with any abusive challenging.

Mr. Trakas, the Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County, said the recruits would be equipped with lists of voters who the party suspects are not county residents or otherwise qualified to vote.

The recruits will be trained next week, said Mr. Trakas, who added that he had not decided whether to open the training sessions to the public or reporters. Among other things, he said, the recruits will be taught how to challenge mentally disabled voters who are assisted by anyone other than their legal guardians. In previous elections, he said, bus drivers who had taken group-home residents to polling places often helped them vote.

Reno Oradini, the Cuyahoga County election board attorney, said a challenge would in effect create impromptu courts at polling places as workers huddled to resolve a dispute and cause delays in voting. He said he was working with local election officials to find ways of preventing disruptions that could drive away impatient voters and reduce turnout.

State law varies widely on voter challenges. In Colorado, challenged voters can sign an oath that they are indeed qualified to vote; voters found to have lied could be prosecuted, but their votes would still be counted. In Wisconsin, it is the challenger who must sign an oath stating the grounds for a challenge.

"You need personal knowledge," said Kevin J. Kennedy, executive director of the Wisconsin State Elections Board. "You can't say they don't look American or don't speak English."

National election officials said yesterday that Election Day challenging had been done only sporadically by the parties over the years, mainly in highly contested races. In the bitterly contested 2000 presidential election, they said, challenges occurred mainly after Election Day.

The preparations for widespread challenging this year have alarmed some election officials.

"This creates chaos and confusion in the polling site," said R. Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center, an international association of election officials. But, he said, "most courts say it's permissible by state law and therefore can't be denied."

In Ohio, Republicans sought to play down any concern that their challenging would be disruptive.

"I suspect there will be challenges," said Robert T. Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. "But by and large, people will move through quickly. We want to make sure every eligible voter votes." He added, "99.9 percent will fly right by."

Challengers on both sides said they were uncertain about what to expect. Georgiana Nye, 56, a Dayton real estate broker who was registered by the Republicans as a challenger, said she wanted to help prevent fraud and would accept the $100 for the 13 hours of work and training.

For the Democrats in Dayton, Ronald Magoteaux, 57, a mechanical engineer, said he agreed to be a poll watcher out of concern for new voters. "I think it's sick that these Republicans are up to dirty tricks at the polls," Mr. Magoteaux said. "I believe thousands of votes were lost in 2000, and I want to make sure that doesn't happen in Ohio."

Democrats said they were racing to match the Republicans, precinct by precinct. In some cities, like Dayton, they registered more challengers than the Republicans, election officials said. But in Cuyahoga County, where the Republicans said they had registered 1,436 people to challenge voters, or one in every precinct, Democrats said they had signed up only about 300.

The parties are also preparing to battle over voter qualifications in Florida, where they had until last Tuesday to register challengers. In Fort Myers, Republicans named 100 watchers for the county's 171 precincts, up from 60 in 2000. But Democrats registered 300 watchers in the county, a sixfold increase.

Nader Loses Ohio Ballot Bid

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 22 (AP) - The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday rejected an effort by Ralph Nader to get his name on the ballot, most likely ending his chances in the state for the Nov. 2 election.

Mr. Nader wanted the court to force election boards to review their voter registration lists, a process he said could have led to the validation of petitions to place him on the ballot. The court ruled 6-1 against him.

James Dao contributed reporting from Ohio for this article, and Ford Fessenden and Anthony Smith from New York.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Illiterate Bush-Cheney website

This is verbatim. I did not edit this in any way.
This is from and is an attempt to target democrats into voting for Bush. Note the illiterate statement and also the spelling errors:

Responding to Terror Attacks.
Under President Bush's leadership, Democrats and Republicans worked together to important anti-terrorism funding, funds to support our troops, and finanical assistance for New York after 9/11.


Chiller Theater

The New York Times
October 21, 2004

Chiller Theater

As the election draws near, the Bush campaign grows ever more irresponsible in its effort to scare Americans into believing that voting for John Kerry will bring on another terrorist attack. In Ohio on Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney said Mr. Kerry was incapable of understanding, much less acting on, the specter of terrorists' creeping into our cities with nuclear bombs "to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans." Attorney General John Ashcroft was back in Washington, meanwhile, suggesting that God had spared America from an attack since 9/11 because President Bush's team was assisting "the hand of Providence."

Politicians like to tell scary tales about their opponents; the Republicans have been complaining that Mr. Kerry keeps accusing Mr. Bush of secretly planning to reinstate the draft. But what the Bush campaign is doing is far more serious and can't be dismissed as a particularly ridiculous bit of political theater. The Republicans' habit of suggesting that a vote for Mr. Kerry is a vote for the terrorists - a notion that drew an embarrassing endorsement from President Vladimir Putin this week - is a reminder of the reckless way this administration has squandered the public trust on public safety.

Mr. Ashcroft and Tom Ridge, the secretary of Homeland Security, have turned the business of keeping Americans informed about the threat of terrorism into a politically scripted series of color-coded scare sessions. And Mr. Cheney is even more discredited. The vice president hyped the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction long after it had been debunked within the government. He still draws a fictional link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and he was the first major figure in Mr. Bush's campaign to turn the fearmongering about Mr. Kerry into a campaign staple.

There is a real danger in having leaders so lacking in credibility on this vital issue: if they ever deliver a real warning, it could be discounted by a large segment of the population, and that could really put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.

We don't need Mr. Cheney to tell us what everyone, including Mr. Kerry, already knows: the threat of terrorism is real, including from nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, and defending against it is the government's gravest responsibility.

Part of that responsibility lies in taking action. Although Mr. Bush is running largely on this issue, his administration has not provided enough money for important security programs like safeguarding the nation's ports. And it has squandered resources on half-baked cases against people who posed no real threat and on a war in Iraq that has actually increased the risk of terrorism.

But another big part of the government's role is to maintain the highest possible level of credibility. Turning our fears about a terrorist attack into just another campaign commercial undermines this trust and make us all more vulnerable.


CATASTROPHIC SUCCESS: Debate Lingering on Decision to Dissolve the Iraqi Military

The New York Times
October 21, 2004

Debate Lingering on Decision to Dissolve the Iraqi Military

When Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus flew to Baghdad on June 14, 2003, he had a blunt message for the American-led occupation authority. As the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, General Petraeus had been working tirelessly to win the support of Iraqis in Mosul and the neighboring provinces in northern Iraq.

But the authority's decree to abolish the Iraqi Army and to forgo paying 350,000 soldiers had jolted much of Iraq. Riots had broken out in cities. Just the day before, 16 of General Petraeus's soldiers had been wounded trying to put down a violent demonstration.

Arriving at the huge Abu Ghraib North Palace for a ceremony, General Petraeus spied Walter B. Slocombe, an adviser to L. Paul Bremer III, who headed the authority. Sidling up to him, General Petraeus said that the decision to leave the soldiers without a livelihood had put American lives at risk.

More than a year later, Mr. Bremer's disbanding of the Iraqi Army still casts a shadow over the occupation of Iraq. The American military had been counting on using Iraqi soldiers to help rebuild the country and impose order along its borders. Instead, as a violent insurgency convulsed the nation, United States forces found themselves deprived of a way to put an Iraqi face on the occupation.

While Mr. Bremer soon reversed himself on paying salaries to the ex-soldiers, his decision to formally dissolve the Iraqi military and methodically build a new one, battalion by battalion, still ranks as one of the most contentious issues of the post-war.

Mr. Slocombe argues that the move was necessary to establish an Iraqi military that was not tainted by corruption and was acceptable to ethnic groups that had long been repressed by Saddam Hussein's military. He also says that it was the only possible course because so many Iraqi soldiers had fled their posts and drifted back into the population and military bases had been picked clean by looters.

But senior American generals were privately urging a much different approach, according to interviews with military and civilian officials. Top commanders were meeting secretly with former Iraqi officers to discuss the best way to rebuild the force and recall Iraqi soldiers back to duty when Mr. Bremer arrived in Baghdad with his plan.

"It was absolutely the wrong decision," said Col. Paul Hughes of the Army, who served as an aide to Jay Garner, a retired three-star general and the first civilian administrator of Iraq. "We changed from being a liberator to an occupier with that single decision,'' he said. "By abolishing the army, we destroyed in the Iraqi mind the last symbol of sovereignty they could recognize and as a result created a significant part of the resistance."

Drafting the Plan

When the Bush administration first began to plan for post-war Iraq in early 2003, disbanding the Iraqi military was not part of the strategy. Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense, outlined a policy for retaining and retraining the existing Iraqi military in a March 2003 meeting of the National Security Council that President Bush attended.

The idea, which was developed with General Garner, was to take existing units, remove high-level Baathists and supporters of Saddam Hussein, and put the soldiers to work. The Iraqi military, Pentagon officials reasoned, would have its own transport and could help with the reconstruction, functioning as a kind of modern day Civilian Conservation Corps. Units that proved themselves capable and politically reliable could help the American military maintain order.

At the White House meeting, Mr. Feith made another argument for using the existing army. Iraq was racked by unemployment and taking 350,000 armed men, cutting off their income and, in effect, throwing them out on the street could be disastrous.

American commanders also backed that approach. In a March 2003 meeting with a team of visiting Pentagon officials, General John P. Abizaid, then Gen. Tommy Franks's deputy, expressed concerns that the Americans would arouse resentment if they enforced security in Iraq largely by themselves. He favored a quick turnover of power to an interim Iraqi authority and the use of Iraqi forces to complement and eventually replace the Americans.

"We must in all things be modest," General Abizaid said, according to notes taken by a Pentagon official. "We are an antibody in their culture."

There was a military imperative as well. The American commanders knew they might have sufficient forces to oust Mr. Hussein, but it would be difficult to control a large nation with 25 million people and porous borders with Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait. The V Corps, which oversaw United States Army forces in Iraq, wanted Iraqi Army units to patrol the borders to block terrorists, jihadists and Iranian- sponsored groups from sneaking into the country and to prevent loyalists and possible caches of unconventional weapons from getting out, a former V Corps officer said.

The Bush administration did not just discuss keeping the old army. General Garner's team found contractors to retrain it. MPRI, a consulting company based in Alexandria, Va., and run by Carl Vuono, a retired general and former Army chief of staff, received an initial contract for $625,000. The company sent a nine-member team to Kuwait to begin creating a program to involve former Iraqi soldiers in reconstruction.

RONCO, a Washington consulting company, developed a proposal to screen Iraqi soldiers so they could join a new fighting force or be retrained for other duties. The company drew up a detailed plan for three screening centers in northern, central and southern Iraq.

Civilian and military planners had been actively encouraging Iraqi Army units to surrender en masse or to flee and not fight for Mr. Hussein. There were indications the Iraqis would do just that. Faced with advancing American and British troops and a furious barrage from the air, most of the enemy soldiers fled in the first days of the war instead of surrendering. Still, the American generals decided it was vital to use the Iraqi forces, who many officers figured had done what they had been asked.

The New Iraqi Military

On April 17, little more than a week after American troops first entered Baghdad, General Abizaid joined in a satellite video conference with senior officials, including Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary. General Abizaid noted that no Iraqi units were still in place but urged that the United States form a three-division interim Iraqi military using units that had "self-demobilized" as well as members of opposition groups, who would be invited to appear at processing centers.

In Iraq, the American generals were trying to field a new Iraqi military. On May 9, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan and other senior officers met with Faris Naima, a former Iraqi officer, in a meeting coordinated by a C.I.A. official in Baghdad.

Mr. Naima had the professional bearing of a soldier and spoke fluent English. He had been the commander of Al Bakr Military College, a training ground for Iraq's top officers. Suspect politically, but still valued by Mr. Hussein's government, he was appointed as the Iraqi ambassador to the Philippines and then Austria. According to a report by Kuna, the Kuwaiti news agency, Mr. Hussein's son Qusay ordered him and his wife to return to Baghdad after their tour in Vienna, but Mr. Naima refused.

Wearing a frayed business suit at the meeting with the American generals, Mr. Naima pulled out a folded piece of paper from his jacket that outlined his plan for how to proceed.

Because looting had broken out in Baghdad and crime was rampant, he said a show of power was needed. The most important thing, he said, was security. He also said the Americans had to act fast to get the Iraqi noncommissioned officers and the police back to work, according to an officer who was present.

Mr. Naima urged the Americans to establish three- Iraqi military divisions, which would be deployed in northern, central and southern Iraq. An army company would be stationed in each major town to back up the police. Mr. Naima said there were plenty of potential military leaders who were not committed Baathists. The idea, he said, would be to start at the top, create a new Iraqi Ministry of Defense, and then work down. All the officers would be required to denounce the Baath Party.

When the Americans wondered where they would find the officers, Mr. Naima had an answer. I can bring them to you, he told the generals.

He also offered some political advice. The Americans should announce a departure plan so Iraqis did not view them as occupiers. And they had to pay the military, the police and the bureaucrats. Iraq was a nation of civil servants, he said, and they needed their salaries to survive.

The Americans were impressed. They thought they could work from the top down as well from the bottom up to summon Iraqi soldiers to duty, screen them and quickly install a new force.

While the American generals and the C.I.A. were working on reviving the army, General Garner's occupation authority was making parallel efforts. Soon after arriving in Baghdad, one of his top planners, Colonel Hughes of the Army, heard from an officer in the 101st Airborne Division, whose troops were patrolling Baghdad. Some former Iraqi officers had told the Americans they wanted to receive their salaries.

After securing approval from senior officers, Colonel Hughes met with the group at the officers' club of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The men, calling themselves the Independent Military Gathering, said they wanted to cooperate with the Americans. Though many wanted to work outside the military, they were willing to supply names of potential recruits, including lower ranking noncommissioned officials. Before the war, they had had removed computers containing military personnel records from the Iraqi Defense Ministry. Eventually, they gave the Americans a list of some 50,000 to 70,000 names, including the military police.

In Washington, though, Mr. Bremer was developing a dramatically different approach. A boyish-looking former diplomat, Mr. Bremer was to replace General Garner in May. He would become known in Baghdad for his take-charge personality and his trademark desert boots worn with Brooks Brothers suits.

He believed that many of the problems with violence and crime that the United States faced in Iraq stemmed from Iraqi fears that Mr. Hussein and his Baathist supporters might outlast the American occupiers and claw their way back to power. He wanted to take bold action to demonstrate that the Baathists were through, once and for all.

In a memo to the Pentagon, Mr. Bremer , noted his desire that "my arrival in Iraq be marked by clear, public and decisive steps to reassure Iraqis that we are determined to eradicate Saddamism." While his main purpose was to promote the de-Baathification of Iraq, plans to abolish Mr. Hussein's army soon became part of the initiative. Mr. Slocombe, who was under secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, recommended that the Iraqi military and the Ministry of Defense be formally eliminated.

As he saw it, the Iraqi Army had gone AWOL. There were no longer intact divisions, and many military vehicles and bases had been looted. Moreover, Mr. Slocombe thought the force was corrupt and dominated by Sunni officers. He did not believe it was feasible to recall the existing army and felt there was no choice but to build a new one from scratch.

After he arrived in Iraq, Mr. Slocombe met with Mr. Naima, former Iraqi officers and General McKiernan. Mr. Slocombe thanked the Iraqi officers but made it clear that he did not view them as the nucleus of a new Iraqi command, a participant said. It was a blow not only to the Iraqis but to the American military officers who thought they were identifying senior officers to help remake the army.

Mr. Feith, the senior deputy to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said in an interview that Mr. Bremer's thinking represented a necessary shift. Mr. Feith said that using the Iraqi Army had seemed sensible because the value of putting an intact army to use outweighed the disadvantages of using a potentially corrupt force.

"It made sense at first to say we are going to use them," Mr. Feith said. "When we saw that the Army did not remain in units, that the people disappeared, that looters had stripped all of the infrastructure, all of the various pros that weighed in favor of using the army had been negated by events. And we were left with the cons, a bad, corrupt, cruel and undemocratic army."

After arriving in Iraq, Mr. Bremer formally issued Order No. 2, The Dissolution of Entities, which abolished the army.

The order, dated May 23, noted that the occupation authority planned to create in the near future the New Iraqi Corps as the first step in forming a national self-defense capability for a free Iraq. But the schedule for building that force was methodical and no one who had served in the Iraqi military at the rank of colonel and above was to be recruited without thorough vetting. There were provisions for making a termination payment to officers who were mustered out, but salaries would no longer be paid. There was no mention of a program to retrain the troops for other tasks.

The Administration's Role

The role of top Bush administration officials in approving the plan is unclear. Mr. Slocombe said the decision was the subject of extensive consultations with senior Defense Department officials in Washington. A draft of Mr. Bremer's decree abolishing the army, he said, was sent to Mr. Rumsfeld before it was issued.

Lawrence Di Rita, Mr. Rumsfeld's spokesman, said in an e-mail message that the issue was not taken up by cabinet-level officials and was "definitely not one that the secretary of defense decided."

General Peter Pace of the Marines, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Joint Chiefs were not consulted about the decision.

Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, indicated that the idea did not originate in the National Security Council but acknowledged that the White House did not object.

"I don't think that anybody thought it was wildly out of context with what we were trying to achieve and the whole structure had been set up so that some of those decisions could be made in the field or through the Pentagon chain," she said in an interview.

In the field, however, the plan was more contentious than many in Washington realized. Much of the debate did not concern the abolition of the army but the subsequent plan overseen by Mr. Slocombe to establish a new army from the ground up.

Under his schedule, which Mr. Slocombe said was worked out with military planners, it would take a year to field the first division of infantry - about 12,000 Iraqi troops - and two years to train and equip a three-division force. To avoid the taint of Baathism, no one from the rank of colonel and above could join without vetting.

The military did not like that approach. The commanders did not care whether the army was formally disbanded as long as a new one was quickly assembled to take its place. But General Abizaid wanted Iraqi soldiers available in several months, not several years, planners at his command said.

When Col. John Agoglia, the liaison between the occupation authority and General Franks of the Central Command, learned of the plan, he quickly called the military headquarters in Qatar.

"There was a debate, which was not whether to formally disband the old army and not primarily about whether to recall old units," Mr. Slocombe said in an interview. "It was whether to put the process to train, equip and mold an Iraqi army under the command of select former Iraqi generals."

Mr. Slocombe said that his approach was no slower than that advocated by American commanders, because the extensive looting of the bases would have hindered retraining. He argued that his plan would produce a more reliable ally, not a Sunni-led force that would not be accepted by the Shiites and other ethnic group.

A former planner from General Franks's command strongly disagreed. "We wanted to rapidly call the soldiers back, get them on our side and then sort out who could and could not be trusted," said the planner, who did not want to be identified because he did want to be publicly caught up in the controversy. "It would have been a lot faster than building one battalion at a time. And we wanted to send a psychological message that they were going to be part of the new Iraq, to prevent them from turning against us."

General Garner, who was winding up his service in Iraq at that time, was also opposed. He said he had not been given advance notice of the plan. "What was happening was that hundreds of Iraqi soldiers were just beginning to come back," Mr. Garner said. "We could have brought back and paired them up in former units. Instead, we just shut the door on them."

General Franks and his commanders were in an awkward position, trying to influence a decision that already had been made. In late May, Rear Admiral James A. Robb, the Central Command's chief planning officer, told Mr. Slocombe that General Abizaid believed that former senior Iraqi officers should not be disqualified and that the training should be accelerated. General Franks followed up in a video conference on June 2 with Mr. Bremer.

"I think the velocity of doing it can be characterized as a miscalculation," General Franks said about the plan in an interview.

He also urged Mr. Bremer to pay the demobilized soldiers, who had few job prospects in a nation with soaring unemployment rates. General Petraeus reinforced that message when he ran into Mr. Slocombe at the military ceremony in Baghdhad two weeks later.

In a compromise, Mr. Slocombe agreed that senior Iraqi officers could serve on an advisory board, but without the prospect of command, the idea soon withered.

Soon after Mr. Bremer issued his order abolishing the army, the occupation authority made a discovery. He had initially decided to bar officers from the rank of colonel and above unless they could prove they were not high-ranking Baathists. But an examination of personnel records showed that important Baathists did not appear in large numbers until the rank of major general. Even then, only 50 per cent of those officers were affected. That was the point Mr. Naima had made with General McKiernan.

There was another problem with the plans for the Iraqi Army. The acronym for the New Iraqi Corps turned out to be a profanity in Arabic, so the name had to be changed.

Stretching the Military

As the insurgency took root in the volatile Sunni Triangle and in other Iraqi cities, the United States military was finding itself increasingly stretched thin. At the same time General Abizaid was pressing Mr. Bremer and Mr. Slocombe to speed up the training of the military, he also urged that a militia be established to help fill the security gap. But members of the new Iraqi Civil Defense Corps lived at home and were not a national force.

Mr. Slocombe and Maj. General Paul D. Eaton, who was brought in to oversee the training of the army, drafted a new plan to accelerate it, taking advantage of an agreement to train Iraqi officers in Jordan.

When fighting erupted in Falluja earlier this year, however, the newly trained Iraqi security forces did not acquit themselves well. An Iraqi Army unit showed little stomach for battle. When ordered to join American marines in combat, the soldiers refused to board a helicopter to take them to the town, saying they would not bear arms against fellow Iraqis.

In June, almost a year after he voiced his concerns about the initial decision not to pay the army, General Petraeus was appointed to a new post: training the new Iraqi Army.

In recognition of Iraq's new sovereignty, a veteran Iraqi general is serving as the army chief of staff, and some senior officers have been recruited. General Petraeus has trained one brigade of a new intervention force to fight insurgents and another brigade of regular army troops. He intends to have a division of each by January

But he - and his military and civilian bosses - have a larger goal in mind. By having an Iraqi army that can defeat the insurgency and secure the peace, they know, the Americans eventually can go home. "I know where this ends," General Petraeus said when he took on his new post. "It ends with the Iraqis in charge of their country."


Casualties of Faith

The New York Times
October 21, 2004

Casualties of Faith


When I was little, I was very good at leaps of faith.

A nun would tape up a picture of a snow-covered mountain peak on the blackboard and say that the first child to discern the face of Christ in the melting snow was the holiest. I was soon smugly showing the rest of the class the "miraculous" outline of that soulful, bearded face.

But I never thought I'd see the day when leaps of faith would be national policy, when the fortunes of America hung on the possibility of a miracle.

What does it tell you about a president that his grounds for war are so weak that the only way he can justify it is by believing God wants it? Or that his only Iraq policy now - as our troops fight a vicious insurgency and the dream of a stable democracy falls apart - is a belief in miracles?

Miracles make the incurious even more incurious. People who live by religious certainties don't have to waste time with recalcitrant facts or moral doubts. They do not need to torture themselves, for example, about dispatching American kids into a sand trap with ghostly enemies and without the proper backup, armor, expectations or cultural training.

Any president relying more on facts than faith could have seen that his troops would be sitting ducks: Donald Rumsfeld's experiment - sending in a light, agile force (more a Vin Diesel vehicle than a smart plan for Iraq) - was in direct conflict with the overwhelming force needed to attempt the neocons' grandiose scheme to turn Iraq into a model democracy.

J.F.K. had to fight the anti-papist expectation that his Oval Office would take orders from heaven. For W., it's a selling point. Some right-wing Catholics want John Kerry excommunicated, while evangelicals call the president a messenger of God. "God's blessing is on him," the TV evangelist Pat Robertson says, adding, "It's the blessing of heaven on the emperor."

Mr. Bush has shown all the evangelical voters who didn't like his daddy that he gets, as Mr. Robertson puts it, "his direction from the Lord."

When Paula Zahn asked the televangelist Tuesday whether Mr. Bush, as a Christian, should admit his mistakes, Mr. Robertson said he'd warned a self-satisfied Bush about Iraq: "The Lord told me it was going to be (a) a disaster, and (b) messy."

Mr. Robertson said, "He was the most self-assured man I ever met." Paraphrasing Mark Twain, he said Mr. Bush was "like a contented Christian with four aces. He was just sitting there, like, I'm on top of the world, and I warned him about this war. ... And I was trying to say, Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties. 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.' "

W., it seems, really believes he's the one. President Neo. (And his advisers are disciples. That's why Condi Rice so willingly puts aside her national security duties to spread the Bush gospel in swing states, and why Karen Hughes raced to impugn Mr. Robertson's veracity after he described his chilling encounter with W.)

W.'s willful blindness comes from mistakenly assuming that his desires are God's, as if he knows where God stands on everything from democracy in Iraq to capital-gains tax cuts.

As Lincoln noted in his Second Inaugural Address about the Civil War, one can't speak for God: "The Almighty has His own purposes."

Mr. Bush didn't just ignore Mr. Robertson's warning - he ignored his own intelligence experts, who warned before the war that an invasion of Iraq would spur more support for political Islam and trigger violent conflict, including an insurgency that would drive Baathists and terrorists together in a toxic combination.

As Michael Gordon wrote in his Times series this week on blind spots in the strategy to secure Iraq, the Bush crew engaged in an astonishing series of delusions: assuming they could begin a withdrawal of troops 60 days after taking Baghdad; enabling the insurgency to flourish; abolishing the Iraqi military and putting American lives at risk; misreading the obvious reaction to an American occupation of a Muslim country.

C.I.A. officials were so clueless they wanted to sneak hundreds of small American flags into Iraq before the war started so grateful Iraqis could wave them at their liberators. The agency planned to film that and triumphantly beam it to the Arab world.

The president has this strange notion that his belief in God means detailed and perfect knowledge of everything that God wants. He may wish to keep his head stuck in the Iraqi sand, but he may discover that the Almighty has His own purposes.


Robertson Says Bush Predicted No Iraq Toll

The New York Times
October 21, 2004
Robertson Says Bush Predicted No Iraq Toll

The evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson has set off a partisan fight by telling a television interviewer that President Bush serenely assured him just before the invasion of Iraq, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."

Mr. Robertson, offering that account in an interview televised Tuesday night on CNN, said Mr. Bush made the comment when they met in Nashville in early 2003. At that meeting, he said, he warned the president to prepare the public for casualties.

Mr. Robertson, a former marine who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, said that he had had "deep misgivings" about the war. But, he said, closely paraphrasing Mark Twain, the president looked "like a contented Christian with four aces.''

"I mean, he was just sitting there like 'I am on top of the world,' " Mr. Robertson said.

"The Lord told me it was going to be a), a disaster, and b), messy," he continued, adding that he wished Mr. Bush would acknowledge his mistake.

As the White House disputed Mr. Robertson's recollection, Democrats pounced yesterday on the chance to make Mr. Bush contradict a prominent supporter.

"Is Pat Robertson telling the truth when he said you didn't think there'd be any casualties, or is Pat Robertson lying?" Mike McCurry, a spokesman for Senator John Kerry, asked at a campaign stop in Waterloo, Iowa.

"I think given the prominence of Reverend Robertson's remarks today, it would be important for the president to indicate whether in fact he told Pat Robertson that he didn't believe there'd be casualties in Iraq," Mr. McCurry said.

White House officials denied that Mr. Bush had ever uttered the remark. Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and Scott McClellan all told reporters in Eau Claire, Wis., that Mr. Robertson was mistaken.

"Of course the president never made such a comment," said Mr. McClellan, the White House press secretary. "The president both publicly and privately was preparing the American people for the possibility of a military conflict and the possibility that sacrifices may be necessary."

Mr. Rove, the president's chief political adviser, said he had attended the Nashville meeting and had not heard such a remark. "I was right there," Mr. Rove said.

Sometime political and theological allies of Mr. Robertson quickly dismissed his account.

"I think he speaks for an ever diminishing group of evangelicals on most issues," said Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Mr. Robertson, who has frequently recounted what he says God has told him on matters of public interest, is out of step with most evangelicals in his doubts about the war, Dr. Land said.

In the CNN interview, Mr. Robertson reversed himself on one prophecy. On his "700 Club" television program in January, he declared that Mr. Bush would win re-election "in a walk," and added, "I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be a blowout election in 2004."

On Tuesday, however, he conceded, "I thought it was going to be a blowout, but I think it's razor thin now."

Still, he said, he believes that Mr. Bush will win in the Electoral College.

Pollsters say Mr. Robertson's views of the war are a mirror of a growing skepticism among evangelical Protestants about the invasion of Iraq, though they still support both the invasion and the president much more strongly than do other groups.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in mid-September - after the conventions but before the debates - a majority of evangelical Protestants said they thought Mr. Bush was not being entirely honest about the way things were going in Iraq: 48 percent said Mr. Bush was mostly telling the truth but hiding something, and an additional 15 percent said he was lying. Only 34 percent said he was telling the entire truth.

Still, in a Pew Research poll released yesterday, 67 percent of white evangelicals said the United States had made the right decision in using force in Iraq, as against only 24 percent who said the decision had been wrong and 10 percent who did not know or declined to answer. Seventy percent said they planned to vote for Mr. Bush, and 22 percent for Mr. Kerry.

Jodi Wilgoren contributed reporting from Waterloo, Iowa, for this article, and Elisabeth Bumiller from Eau Claire, Wis.




The art of stealing elections

The Boston Globe

The art of stealing elections

By Robert Kuttner | October 20, 2004

THE REPUBLICANS are out to steal the 2004 election -- before, during, and after Election Day. Before Election Day, they are employing such dirty tricks as improper purges of voter rolls, use of dummy registration groups that tear up Democratic registrations, and the suppression of Democratic efforts to sign up voters, especially blacks and students.

On Election Day, Republicans will attempt to intimidate minority voters by having poll watchers threaten criminal prosecution if something is technically amiss with their ID, and they will again use technical mishaps to partisan advantage.

But the most serious assault on democracy itself is likely to come after Election Day.

Here is a flat prediction: If neither candidate wins decisively, the Bush campaign will contrive enough court challenges in enough states so that we won't know the winner election night.

The right stumbled on a gambit in 2000, which could become standard operating procedure in close elections: If the election ends up in the courts, all courts eventually lead to the Supreme Court, which, as we learned, can overrule state courts -- and pick the president.

This year is even more ripe for abuse, because the 2002 Help America Vote Act, a "reform" written substantially to Republican specifications, toughened ID requirements. It also gave voters a right to cast "provisional" ballots if their names are missing from the rolls. Good impulse, but someone, ultimately a court, must decide whether they should have been permitted to vote, and that's almost impossible to resolve on Election Day.

In addition, states are experimenting with a variety of new voting systems, to avoid a repeat of the technical glitches that made it easy for Republicans to steal Florida in 2000. And experiment is the right word; much of this technology isn't ready for prime time.

In our voting systems, we now have a witches' brew of 19th-century local amateurism married to 21st-century technology that is not yet reliable. The technical mess functions as an enabler of the assault on voting.

There was a time when Democrats were the party that occasionally stole elections. Lyndon Johnson very likely stole his 1948 victory in the Texas Democratic primary, which launched his Senate career. President Kennedy actually joked about the notorious vote rigging in Chicago, which quite possibly tipped Illinois to him in 1960. (He would have won the Electoral College very narrowly without Illinois.)

It was Richard Nixon, that scoundrel's scoundrel, who resisted the temptation to mount a court challenge to the Illinois result because he felt the country couldn't take it. Imagine longing for the days when we had Republican leadership as principled as Nixon's.

But the days of urban Democratic machines that voted dead people are long gone. The press has reported isolated abuses, such as a few Florida snowbirds trying to register in more than one state. But any fair comparison of election abuses this year will reveal that one party is expending energy to register as many supporters as possible and assure that that their votes will be counted, while the other one is registering its supporters but also systematically trying to keep the opposition's votes from being cast. There is simply no comparable Democratic program of ballot suppression.

Maybe we should invite election observers from Afghanistan and Iraq.

We may not know the winner until the Electoral College meets in December, and perhaps not even then if contested elections are still tied up in court. It's not even clear whether the ultimate arbiter would be the Supreme Court or the House of Representatives.

If the courts took away the people's right to choose the president, and George Bush in effect stole two elections in a row, this would surely produce a constitutional crisis and a crisis of legitimacy.

But what if they gave a constitutional crisis and nobody came? The most ominous outcome of all would be public passivity, echoing 2000. That would confirm that the theft of our democracy was real.

Call me partisan, but the best insurance against this horrific outcome would be a Kerry win big enough so that even Karl Rove would not dare to mount this maneuver. A razor-thin race virtually invites it. And if Bush wins handily, our democracy will have other problems.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.





Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Flu Vaccine Problem

From the NY Times:

Experts are pondering ways to induce more companies to make flu vaccine for the American market. The issue is not that manufacturers are worried about lawsuits over liability, as President Bush has suggested. Litigation is seldom, if ever, cited in authoritative analyses of vaccine shortages. The main problem is that influenza vaccine needs to be reformulated every year, and companies suffer huge losses if they overestimate the amount that will be needed because they end up having to destroy millions of doses. The administration needs to find a way to expand and stabilize the vaccine manufacturing base. The lesson of the Chiron debacle is that a diversity of supply is critical.


Broadcaster Plans to Show Only Parts of Film

The New York Times
October 20, 2004

Broadcaster Plans to Show Only Parts of Film

The Sinclair Broadcast Group, facing increasing pressure from shareholders and advertisers over its plans to broadcast a documentary critical of John Kerry's antiwar activities more than 30 years ago, said yesterday it would not show the film in its entirety.

Instead the company announced it would use excerpts from the film, "Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal,'' as part of an hourlong news program examining how this and other politically charged documentaries seek to influence voters and how the news media reported on their content. It was unclear how much of the 42-minute film Sinclair plans to use in its program, "A P.O.W. Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media.''

Sinclair, the nation's largest television station group, also said the special would appear Friday night on 40 of the 62 stations it owns or operates, many of them in swing states including Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. Originally, Sinclair planned to broadcast the program on most if not all of the stations over several nights this week, depending on the city, according to spokesmen for three of the broadcast networks who will be affected by the pre-emptions.

In a news release yesterday, Sinclair said that contrary to numerous reports, it had never announced it would show the film in full. The company declined further comment.

Last week, a company spokesman, Mark Hyman, who also serves as a conservative commentator on newscasts on Sinclair stations, defended the company's intention to use the film. "Clearly John Kerry has made his Vietnam service the foundation of his presidential run,'' Mr. Hyman told The New York Times. "This is an issue that is certainly topical.''

But since Sinclair's decision to use the documentary became public, the company has been caught in a hornet's nest of protest involving shareholders, advertisers and consumer interest groups vowing to contest the company's license renewals with the Federal Communications Commission. The company, already suffering from a sluggish advertising climate, has had its stock price fall by almost 17 percent and its market capitalization drop by $140 million in the last week and a half.

The protest grew yesterday. The Burger King Company announced that it would pull all its commercials from Sinclair stations all day on the date the program is broadcast. "Burger King wants to maintain neutrality during this election," said Eric Anderson, a spokesman.

The Kerry campaign had already filed a complaint with the F.C.C. asking for equal time. Chad Clanton, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry, said: "Sinclair Broadcasting has been all over the map on this issue. One thing that is certain is that they have a partisan agenda."

A group of shareholders, represented by the prominent lawyer William S. Lerach, announced it would file suit against Sinclair's management, charging it with damaging the company financially by pursuing the partisan political interests of its owners and with insider trading.

Alan G. Hevesi, the New York state comptroller and the sole trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which owns more than 250,000 shares of Sinclair stock, wrote a letter to David D. Smith, Sinclair's chief executive, detailing his concerns about what he called "recent actions that have brought a great deal of publicity to our company." Mr. Hevesi also demanded that Mr. Smith explain why critics who have accused the company of pursuing "partisan political views" rather than "protecting shareholder value" are wrong.

Sinclair executives have been among the largest media contributors to President Bush and the Republican Party. And the company has made a number of polarizing news judgments in the past. In April, its eight ABC affiliates pre-empted the "Nightline'' program in which the names of American soldiers killed in Iraq were read aloud. Sinclair declared the program "unpatriotic'' and harmful to the war effort.

Mr. Lerach, who has represented the shareholders of Enron and R. J. Reynolds in successful shareholder lawsuits, said in a telephone news conference that he had been approached by "three or four" big shareholders in Sinclair. He would name only the Service Employees International Union, which represents New York hospital workers and which he described as a "large debt holder" in Sinclair.

Mr. Lerach accused three members of the Smith family, which has owned and run Sinclair since its inception, of selling much or nearly all of their shares in the company late last year and early this year when they had reason to know the stock price was about to plummet.

He said he was not saying these actions were tied to the controversy over the film, but he discovered the irregularities because clients asked him to look into how the shareholders were suffering because of the political agenda of the management.

"It shows again the peril of engulfing a publicly held company in a controversy," Mr. Lerach said.

The company did not return phone calls yesterday seeking comment. But in a statement, Mr. Smith, the chief executive, said: "The experience of preparing to air this news special has been trying for many of those involved. The company and many of its executives have endured personal attacks of the vilest nature, as well as calls on our advertisers and our viewers to boycott our stations and on our shareholders to sell their stock. In addition, and more shockingly, we have received threats of retribution from a member of Senator John Kerry's campaign and have seen attempts by leading members of Congress to influence the Federal Communications Commission to stop Sinclair from broadcasting this news special."

He added, "We cannot in a free America yield to the misguided attempts by a small but vocal minority to influence behavior and trample on the First Amendment rights of those with whom they might not agree.''

Stuart Elliott contributed reporting for this article.

NOTE: What Mr. Smith fails to state is that the so-called documentary is not a documentary, and is not news. It is plain and simple an anti-Kerry smear campaign, which violates Sinclair's use of the public airwaves.


Kerry wins prophetic kids poll

Kerry wins prophetic kids poll

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- The kids have spoken, and it's Sen. John Kerry with a convincing victory over President Bush on Nov. 2.

An unusual opinion poll that has correctly predicted the winner of the last four presidential elections has given Democratic challenger Kerry 57 percent against 43 percent for Bush, according to results released Wednesday.

The Nickelodeon cable channel, better known for programs "SpongeBob Squarepants" and "Jimmy Neutron," conducted "Kids Vote," an online survey of almost 400,000 children Tuesday.

The latest Reuters/Zogby poll showed Bush and Kerry in a dead heat two weeks before the Nov. 2 election. Other polls also showed them in a statistical tie or Bush holding a slim lead.

Nickelodeon, a unit of Viacom Inc., has organized its poll every election since 1988, and has a 100 percent record of picking the winner.

"The 'Kids' Vote' seems to work as a good barometer of the actual presidential vote because, developmentally, kids between the ages of two and 11 share the same opinions and outlooks as their parents," said Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon Television.

The survey was the final step in a yearlong political awareness campaign on Nickelodeon.


Candidates Question Each Other's Leadership
Candidates Question Each Other's Leadership

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2004; 3:37 PM

Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, campaigning in the potentially crucial state of Iowa, charged today that the administration has failed to ensure the country's safety, and he questioned the leadership of President Bush, who was stumping about 80 miles away.

"This president likes to say he's a leader," Kerry said in a speech in Waterloo, Iowa, on national security. "Mr. President, look behind you. There's no one there. It's not leadership if no one follows."

Bush, in a campaign speech at the same time in Mason City, Iowa, struck the familiar themes of his standard stump speech, portraying the economy as steadily improving and branding Kerry as a "liberal" who would raise Americans' taxes.

"This economy is moving forward, and we're not going to go back to the days of tax and spend," Bush said. He asserted that despite Kerry's insistence that his plan would raise taxes only on Americans earning more than $200,000 a year, "there is a gap between what he has promised and what he can deliver," a gap that would inevitably be filled with more tax hikes.

"The good news is we're not going to let him tax you," Bush declared. "We're going to carry Iowa and win in November."

Bush also lit into Kerry on national security, describing his opponent's views on the war in Iraq as misguided.

A Kerry aide announced today that former president Bill Clinton, who is recovering from heart surgery, plans to hit the campaign trail on behalf of Kerry, appearing with the senator at a rally in Philadelphia Monday. Clinton, 58, underwent quadruple bypass surgery Sept. 6, derailing plans for him to take a more active role in helping Kerry.

The Kerry campaign hopes to use Clinton's appearance to generate wide national media coverage to remind voters of the economic prosperity of 1990s, as well as to rally the Democratic Party's core supporters, among whom Clinton remains highly popular, Washington Post staff writer Lois Romano reported.

It was no coincidence that the candidates were both in Iowa today. Although the state has voted Democratic in the past four presidential elections, Al Gore narrowly won Iowa in 2000 by about 4,000 votes, and Republicans feel they have a chance to break their losing streak this year. The latest statewide polls show the race in Iowa to be a statistical tie, and high voter turnout is expected on Election Day, Nov. 2.

With only seven electoral votes, the state is not much of a prize compared to more populous swing states, but those votes could determine the election if the race is anything like the 2000 contest, or as close as national polls indicate.

According to an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll conducted Oct. 16-18, Bush and Kerry are tied at 48 percent, with 3 percent undecided and independent candidate Ralph Nader drawing 1 percent.

A Reuters/Zogby International tracking poll issued today showed Bush and Kerry deadlocked at 46 percent, followed distantly by Nader at 1.2 percent.

The latest Washington Post tracking poll shows Bush leading Kerry by 51 percent to 46 percent, with Nader at 1 percent.

As the president and the challenger stumped in Iowa, the Kerry campaign opened a new line of attack, criticizing national security adviser Condoleezza Rice for her recent and planned speeches across the country in key battleground states. In recent weeks she has defended Bush administration national security policies against unnamed critics in speeches in Oregon, Washington, North Carolina and Ohio. In the next five days, she also plans to speak in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida.

The Kerry campaign called the appearances "an unprecedented series of campaign speeches in key battleground states" by a national security adviser in the final days of the campaign.

Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, said in a statement, "For all its fear mongering on the war on terror, this White House has a greater commitment to its political security than to our national security. The fact is that the violence in Iraq is spiraling out of control, Osama bin Laden remains at large, and North Korea and Iran have increased their nuclear capabilities. With all this going on, Condi Rice shouldn't take the time to go on a campaign trip for George Bush."

Edwards charged that Bush "will go to any length to cling to power, even if it means diverting his national security adviser from doing her job."

In today's speech in Waterloo, Kerry said Bush "has failed -- failed -- to make our country as safe and secure as it ought to be."

America now is fighting "two wars" -- the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq -- and Bush "likes to confuse the two," Kerry said.

"He claims that Iraq is the centerpiece of the war on terror," the senator said. "In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war. . . . It was a profound diversion from the focus on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and the other terrorists that threaten us."

Kerry added, "But now we are fighting two wars, and we will prevail in both."

He charged that Bush's "miscalculations have created a terrorist haven" in Iraq that did not exist before the March 2003 U.S. invasion. Iraq, in fact, was "a diminishing threat," with "no weapons of mass destruction and no programs to produce them," he said.

Kerry said the administration also has been "wrong" to claim that the presence in Iraq before the war of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi proves a connection between al Qaeda and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and validates the rationale that invading the country was part of the war on terrorism.

"In fact, Zarqawi was operating out of a no-man's-land in northeastern Iraq next to territory controlled by America's Kurdish allies, not by Saddam," Kerry said. There, Zarqawi and his allies were trying to make ricin, a biological weapon, he said.

"We could have, but did not, take them out," Kerry said. "That was a terrible mistake that this administration has never explained."

Kerry described Bush as "literally in denial" about evidence in the past couple of weeks that undermines his justification for the war and his insistence that the U.S. military had sufficient troop strength and equipment to manage the occupation of Iraq.

"You can't just be always certain and frequently wrong," Kerry said. "If the president cannot recognize the problems in Iraq, he will not fix them. I do recognize them, and I will fix them."

In his speech in Mason City, a farming community in northern Iowa, Bush said, "The next commander-in-chief must lead us to victory in this war, and you cannot win a war when you don't believe you're fighting one."

He said that in characterizing Iraq as a diversion from the war on terrorism, Kerry "also misunderstands our battle against insurgents and terrorists" in that country. Bush said Kerry's "fundamental misunderstanding of the war" amounts to "very dangerous thinking."

Citing the example of the Jordanian who is the U.S. military's most-wanted man in Iraq, Bush said, "If Zarqawi and his associates were not busy fighting American forces, does Senator Kerry think he would be leading a productive and useful life? Of course not. And that is why Iraq is no diversion."

With Kerry and Bush in Iowa, Edwards embarked on a daylong bus trip in Ohio, where he sought to highlight his ticket's commitment to restoring jobs, Washington Post staff writer John Wagner reported.

"Just to be perfectly blunt about this, it is impossible for me to imagine the people of Ohio are going to vote to rehire a guy as their president that's cost them over 230,000 jobs," Edwards told eight workers during a "roundtable" discussion of economic issues in Canton, where 10.1 percent of residents are unemployed.

Several of the workers were employed by Timken Co., a manufacturer of ball bearings and other steel products that the Kerry campaign has tried to turn into a metaphor for the Bush administration's alleged shortcomings on manufacturing.

Bush visited one of the company's facilities in 2003 and pledged that his tax cuts would create jobs. But this year, Timken announced plans to close three Canton-area plants that employ 1,300 workers.

After his speech in Mason City, Iowa, Bush headed to Minnesota and Wisconsin for campaign appearances.

Vice President Cheney, meanwhile, was in Michigan for meetings with community leaders in the town of Clio, followed by a rally in Traverse City.

Speaking at a diner in Clio outside Flint, Mich., Cheney sought to answer questions about lost jobs with an optimistic recounting of the administration policies on tax cuts and education, Washington Post staff writer Michael Laris reported.

"There's a lot being done. There's always more that needs to be done," Cheney said.

Newsstands carried the day's sour local news. "Pontiac GM plant to lose 900 jobs," read the banner headline in the Detroit Free Press. "GM idles 900 here," read the Detroit News. Inside the diner, Pastor Lonnie William Brown asked Cheney what he would do about "the absence of jobs, which creates the rise in crime, the jobs that are being shipped abroad, the factories that are closing down."

Cheney said the heart of the administration efforts has been taxes. "All together, about 111 million American taxpayers benefited from the changes we made in the tax code," he said.

The vice president also repeated warnings about the grave dangers of a non-conventional attack in America, and he added a twist to his standard attack on Kerry's vote against war funding following his vote authorizing force in Iraq. Cheney quoted three Democratic senators -- Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and Carl Levin of Michigan -- as saying that even though they voted against the war, they had voted for the funding to show support for the troops. "But not John Kerry. Not John Kerry," Cheney said.

Cheney sought to temper some of his tougher statements with an description of his faith. He said he believes in the separation of church and state, but opposes efforts to push religion from the public square.

"It's perfectly appropriate for us to recognize a divine being in the course of affairs of this nation," he said.