Saturday, July 02, 2005

Terror Policies Draw Outrage at Home and Abroad

Terror Policies Draw Outrage at Home and Abroad

Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS, (IPS) - The George W. Bush administration's policies on indefinite detention and ”extraordinary rendition” are coming under heavy fire from a number of institutions and organisations, including the United Nations, Amnesty International, and members of the U.S. Congress itself.

”The prohibition of torture is non-negotiable,” said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, held annually on Jun. 26.

Without naming the United States, he added: ”That includes an absolute ban on transferring anybody to another jurisdiction where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person is at risk of torture.”

Currently, the U.S. administration is pursuing a policy of what it calls ”extraordinary rendition,” which involves seizing suspects and taking them to a third country without court approval.

Human rights groups have documented a number of cases in which U.S. authorities secretly transferred individuals to countries where they were held without charge and routinely tortured.

One such case that came to the media's attention last weekend is now testing diplomatic relations between the United States and Italy, with the issuance of arrest warrants for 13 agents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) accused of abducting an Egyptian cleric on the streets of Milan and sending him to Egypt.

Hassan Mustafa Nasr, 42, also known as Abu Omar, was seized from the streets of Milan in February 2003 while he was on his way from his home to a mosque. His abductors sprayed his eyes with a chemical substance and threw him into a van. He was first flown to a U.S. base in Germany and from there to Egypt.

Published reports say last year Nasr was briefly released from prison. That was when he telephoned his family and friends and told them that he had been subjected to electric shocks to his genitals and had lost hearing in one hear. He has since disappeared again.

The prosecution of CIA agents in Italy is the first-ever such action against U.S. officials in connection with the ”war on terrorism.” Officials in both countries are tightlipped about the case, but human rights groups and prosecutors in Europe are growing increasingly angry over the U.S. practice of renditions.

They are also upset over Washington's refusal to let independent observers visit its military prisons. On Jun. 24 in a statement, Amnesty International demanded the United States open up all of its detention centres around the world to United Nations experts who specialise in monitoring prisoner abuse and torture.

”Not only is the U.S. failing to investigate itself fully,” said the world's largest human rights group, ”it's failing to allow external independent scrutiny by human rights experts.”

The group endorsed U.N. human rights experts' criticism of the United States last week for not letting them visit the U.S. military-run prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where hundreds of people are behind bars on suspicion of having links to terrorist groups.

”No country is above the law,” said a team of U.N. experts on Jun. 23, as they tried to remind the U.S. of its legal obligations under international human rights law.

Annan said torture, in all its forms and contexts, is ”unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.” He emphasised Article 3 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which entails an absolute ban on transferring people to other jurisdictions where they could face torture.

The U.S. had ratified the treaty in 1994. Before the attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, the U.S. followed the treaty against torture and the Geneva Conventions on rules of war. But the Bush administration now argues that the U.S. faces an unprecedented situation in which it finds itself confronted with an enemy that violates the rules of war.

Describing independent scrutiny by human right groups as essential, Amnesty said the less contact detainees have with the outside world, the greater risk of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The group is also urging the U.S. Congress to set up an independent commission to investigate U.S. detention and interrogation policies and practices in the ”war on terror” and seek U.N. experts' advice to ensure impartiality in the eyes of the world.

”Torture does not stop terror,” it said. ”Torture is terror.”

Last weekend, a delegation of U.S. lawmakers visited Guantanamo Bay prison. While some of them see the military-run prison as ”an international embarrassment to our nation and our ideals,” others continue to defend its existence.

Asked at a recent Senate judiciary committee hearing about the legal status of the prisoners at Guantanamo, Gen. Michael Wiggins, deputy associate attorney general, responded: ”It's our position that, legally, they can be held perpetually.”

originally published Jun 28, 2005


Are Two Shadowy Characters Holding US Hostage in Iraq?

Arab News
The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily

Are Two Shadowy Characters Holding US Hostage in Iraq?
Sarah Whalen

US Vice President Dick Cheney claims Iraq’s insurgency’s in its “last throes.” But Tuesday night, Cheney’s boss, President George W. Bush, all but said that a mere two insurgent leaders were stronger than ever, and all but running the whole Middle East show. US troops must stay in Iraq, declared Bush, or else “abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and....yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden.”

Is the world’s mightiest army being held hostage in Iraq by two men who move almost wholly in shadows? Two men who are little more than a whispy, raspy, barely discernable voice on the airwaves, or a taunting message on the Internet ether? Two men so diabolically clever that they have evaded being killed or captured — for almost four years now — by the world’s mightiest army?

The strongest, best-armed fighting force in the world cannot find these two men. How strange, then, is Bush’s rationale? What then is the rest of our mission? Why, to train the Iraqi “security forces” to “continue to hunt down the terrorists and insurgents” and “to prevent Al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taleban: A safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends.”

Run this by me again — the two bad guys we’ve been hunting down since Sept. 11, 2001, to absolutely no avail, are plunging the entire Middle East into a reign of terror, and we now expect the Iraqi “security forces” to round them up?

Eventually. After we tutor the Iraqis in the arts of war.

As though Iraq never had an army. As though through the millennia, Iraqis have had absolutely no idea about how to defend themselves, or engage in offensive war.

But back to rounding up Zarqawi and Bin Laden.

Well, maybe the Iraqis can do that. At least, their “security forces” have enough native Arabic speakers to figure out what Zarqawi and Bin Laden are actually saying. Because one thing we in the US don’t really know a lot about is this alleged “murderous ideology” that Bush claims drives the general Middle East terrorists’ agenda. Bush describes it as “a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent.” Well, not to belittle that description, but it sounds a lot like what American Democrats say about Republicans. Sounds like a Kerry-Bush debate. And it also sounds like how neocons and Israelis now speak of Islam.

To explain why we must run Zarqawi and Bin Laden to ground and, in the event we don’t, for whatever reasons, then to teach the Iraqis to do this, Bush, citing no evidence whatsoever, claims the Sept.11 terrorists and those now terrorizing US troops in Iraq are one and the same: “Many of the terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. There’s only one course of action against them: To defeat them abroad before they attack us at home.”

Strange. What exactly do Baathists and Al-Qaeda followers have in common? Bush should enlighten us, if he really knows something. Surely MEMRI, the Israeli-based Middle East Media Research Institute run by retired Israeli Army intelligence officers, has sent Bush a memo by now. And as for “defeating them abroad before they attack us at home,” well, the last time Osama Bin Laden purportedly said anything coherent, he particularly said he had sent “them” — his terrorists — there — to America — because we were in Saudi Arabia.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but...haven’t “they” already “attacked us at home?” Wasn’t that what 9/11 was all about?

And then there’s that mysterious reference to “murderous ideology” again.

Some Americans were hoping for Bush to name a departure date for getting out of Iraq. This he refused to do, saying that it would discourage the Iraqi people, and give advantage to Bin Laden and Zarqawi, allowing them to simply wait out US troops. But by definition, the Bin Ladens and Zarqawis can always wait it out. Because despite all our best intentions and efforts, Americans are not at home in the Middle East. We are “away” while there, whereas the Bin Ladens, Zarqawis and their followers are all at home. So Bush’s departure date may be as early as the approaching interim US Senate and Congressional elections.

Bush has, oh, about a year and a half to make something happen in the Middle East. That’s a departure date of sorts. Or at least a date where he will have to make a much better, more convincing speech than the one he gave Tuesday night.


Friday, July 01, 2005

Memos Show British Fretting Over Iraq War

Yahoo! News
Memos Show British Fretting Over Iraq War

By THOMAS WAGNER, Associated Press Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


On the Net:,,2089-1648758,00.html,,2087-1593607,00.html

originally published Jun 19,2005


Bush's Iraq Speech: Long On Assertion, Short On Facts
Bush's Iraq Speech: Long On Assertion, Short On Facts

Bush says "progress is uneven" in Iraq, but accentuates positive evidence and mostly ignores the negative.


Standing before a crowd of uniformed soldiers, President Bush addressed the nation on June 27 to reaffirm America's commitment to the global war on terrorism. But throughout the speech Bush continually stated his opinions and conclusions as though they were facts, and he offered little specific evidence to support his assertions.

Here we provide some additional context, both facts that support Bush's case that "we have made significant progress" in Iraq, as well as some of the negative evidence he omitted.


Bush's prime-time speech at Fort Bragg, NC coincided with the one-year anniversary of the handover of soverignty to Iraqi authorities. It was designed to lay out America's role in Iraq amid sinking public support for the war and calls by some lawmakers to withdraw troops.

The Bloodshed

Bush acknowledged the high level of violence in Iraq as he sought to reassure the public.

Bush: The work in Iraq is difficult and dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it?

What Bush did not mention is that by most measures the violence is getting worse. Both April and May were record months in Iraq for car bombings, for example, with more than 135 of them being set off each month. And the bombings are getting more deadly. May was a record month for deaths from bombings, with 381 persons killed in "multiple casualty" bombings that took two or more lives, according to figures collected by the Brookings Institution in its "Iraq Index." The Brookings index is compiled from a variety of sources including official government statistics, where those are available, and other public sources such as news accounts and statements of Iraqi government officials.

The number of Iraqi police and military who have been killed is also rising, reaching 296 so far in June, nearly triple the 109 recorded in January and 103 in Febrary, according to a tally of public information by the website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a private group that documents each fatality from public statements and news reports. Estimates of the total number of Iraqi civilians killed each month as a result of "acts of war" have been rising as well, according to the Brookings index.

The trend is also evident in year-to-year figures. In the past twelve months, there have been 25% more U.S. troop fatalities and nearly double the average number of insurgent attacks per day as there were in the preceeding 12 months.

Reconstruction Progress

In talking about Iraqi reconstruction, Bush highlighted the positive and omitted the negative:

Bush: We continued our efforts to help them rebuild their country. . . . Our progress has been uneven but progress is being made. We are improving roads and schools and health clinics and working to improve basic services like sanitation, electricity and water. And together with our allies, we will help the new Iraqi government deliver a better life for its citizens.

Indeed, the State Department's most recent Iraq Weekly Status Report shows progress is uneven. Education is a positive; official figures show 3,056 schools have been rehabilitated and millions of "student kits" have been distributed to primary and secondary schools. School enrollments are increasing. And there are also 145 new primary healthcare centers currently under construction. The official figures show 78 water treatment projects underway, nearly half of them completed, and water utility operators are regularly trained in two-week courses.

On the negative side, however, State Department figures show overall electricity production is barely above pre-war levels. Iraqis still have power only 12 hours daily on average.

Iraqis are almost universally unhappy about that. Fully 96 percent of urban Iraqis said they were dissatisfied when asked about "the availability of electricity in your neighborhood." That poll was conducted in February for the U.S. military, and results are reported in Brookings' "Iraq Index." The same poll also showed that 20 percent of Iraqi city-dwellers still report being without water to their homes.

Conclusions or Facts?

The President repeatedly stated his upbeat conclusions as though they were facts. For example, he said of "the terrorists:"

Bush: They failed to break our coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war.

In fact, there have been withdrawals by allies. Spain pulled out its 1,300 soldiers in April, and Honduras brought home its 370 troops at the same time. The Philippines withdrew its 51 troops last summer to save the life of a Filipino hostage held captive for eight months in Iraq. Ukraine has already begun a phased pullout of its 1,650-person contingent, which the Defense Ministry intends to complete by the end of the year. Both the Netherlands and Italy have announced plans to withdraw their troops, and the Bulgarian parliament recently granted approval to bring home its 450 soldiers. Poland, supplying the third-largest contingent in the coalition after Italy's departure, has backed off a plan for full withdrawal of troops due to the success of Iraqi elections and talks with Condoleezza Rice, but the Polish Press Agency announced in June that the next troop rotation will have 200 fewer soldiers.

Bush is of course entitled to argue that these withdrawals don't constitute a "mass" withdrawal, but an argument isn't equivalent to a fact.

The same goes for Bush's statement there's no "civil war" going on. In fact, some believe that what's commonly called the "insurgency" already is a "civil war" or something very close to it. For example, in an April 30 piece, the Times of London quotes Colonel Salem Zajay, a police commander in Southern Baghdad, as saying, "The war is not between the Iraqis and the Americans. It is between the Shia and the Sunni." Again, Bush is entitled to state his opinion to the contrary, but stating a thing doesn't make it so.


Similarly, Bush equated Iraqi insurgents with terrorists who would attack the US if they could.

Bush: There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home. . . . Our mission in Iraq is clear. We are hunting down the terrorists .

Despite a few public claims to the contrary, however, no solid evidence has surfaced linking Iraq to attacks on the United States, and Bush offered none in his speech. The 9/11 Commission issued a staff report more than a year ago saying "so far we have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." It said Osama bin Laden made a request in 1994 to establish training camps in Iraq, but "but Iraq apparently never responded." That was before bin Laden was ejected from Sudan and moved his operation to Afghanistan.

Bush laid stress on the "foreign" or non-Iraqi elements in the insurgency as evidence that fighting in Iraq might prevent future attacks on the US:

Bush: I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country . And tonight I will explain the reasons why.
Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and other nations.

But Bush didn't mention that the large majority of insurgents are Iraqis, not foreigners. The overall strength of the insurgency has been estimated at about 16,000 persons. The number of foreign fighters in Iraq is only about 1,000, according to estimates reported by the Brookings Institution. The exact number is of course impossible to know. However, over the course of one week during the major battle for Fallujah in November of 2004, a Marine official said that only about 2% of those detained were foreigners. To be sure, Brookings notes that "U.S. military believe foreign fighters are responsible for the majority of suicide bombings in Iraq," with perhaps as many as 70 percent of bombers coming from Saudi Arabia alone. It is anyone's guess how many of those Saudi suicide bombers might have attempted attacks on US soil, but a look at the map shows that a Saudi jihadist can drive across the border to Baghdad much more easily than getting nearly halfway around the world to to the US.

Osama bin Laden

Bush quoted a recent tape-recorded message by bin Laden as evidence that the Iraq conflict is "a central front in the war on terror":

Bush: Hear the words of Osama bin Laden: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq..."The whole world is watching this war." He says it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation."

However, Bush passed over the fact that the relationship between bin Laden and the Iraqi insurgents – to the extent one existed at all before – grew much closer after the US invaded Iraq. Insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did not announce his formal allegiance with bin Laden until October, 2004. It was only then that Zarqawi changed the name of his group from "Unification and Holy War Group" to "al Qaeda in Iraq."

In summary, we found nothing false in what Bush said, only that his facts were few and selective.

--by Brooks Jackson & Jennifer L. Ernst

Researched by Matthew Barge, Kevin Collins & Jordan Grossman

Paul Richter, “No ‘Timetables’ for Iraq Pullout, Bush Promises Visiting Premier,” Los Angeles Times, 25 June 2005: A1.

Michael E. O’Hanlon, Adriana Lins de Albuquerque, "Iraq Index; Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq," Brookings Institution, 27 June 2005.

US Department of State, " Iraq Weekly Status Report ," 22 June 2005.

National Commission On Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States, " Overview of the Enemy ," staff statement No. 15 released at Twelfth Public Hearing, Wednesday, June 16, 2004.

BBC News, "US chides Spain for Iraq pull-out," 20 April 2005.

Robin Wright, “European Bitterness Over Iraq Dissipates,” Washington Post 5 Feb. 2005: A21.

PAP Polish Press Agency, “Next Rotation of Polish Soldiers In Iraq Smaller,” 25 May 2005.

“Ukraine ’s Defence Minister Says His Troops Will Be Out Of Iraq By Year End,” BBC Monitoring International Reports 17 June 2005.

Nick Childs, “Iraq ’s Strained Coalition,” BBC News World Edition 16 March 2005.

Sara Toms, “Manila ’s Difficult Dilemna,” BBC News World Edition 20 July 2004.
"Poll shows dissatisfaction with Iraq War,", 21 June 2005.
Donna Miles, "Military Tops Public Confidence List in New Gallup Poll," American Forces Press Service, 3 June 2005.

"Few foreigners among rebels captured in Fallujah," Associated Press/USA Today, 15 November 2004.

Susan B. Glasser, "'Martyrs' in Iraq Mostly Saudis," Washington Post, 15 May 2005.

"President Addresses Nation, Discusses Iraq , War on Terror," Transcript, The White House 28 June 2005.


Suggestion Box

Suggestion Box


Quick to War, Slow to Fund
Quick to War, Slow to Fund

In just a few days, President Bush is likely to receive a bill passed
by both houses of Congress that will provide greater funding for
veterans' health care. But the ceremony won't tell the true story of an
administration and a congressional leadership that have repeatedly stood in
the way
of providing the needed resources to those who have put their lives on
the line for our country. The political games that the right-wing has
played with veterans' issues came to an encouraging end when the Senate
voted overwhelmingly yesterday to approve $1.5 billion
in emergency funds for VA health care programs.

HOW THE CRISIS CAME ABOUT: Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson
told Congress on Tuesday that the department had vastly underestimated
the number of wounded soldiers
who would need care because it based its estimates on 2002 numbers.
Either the VA forgot about the Iraq war (which began in 2003) or simply
disregarded the growing numbers of wounded soldiers returning from the
( .
The VA estimated only 23,000 soldiers returning from Iraq and
Afghanistan would need care; the number has been revised upwards to 103,000
( , leaving a
funding gap of $2.6 billion for the next fiscal year.

(D-TX), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees
veterans funding, said, " This problem did not just crop up overnight
( . One
would have to be Rip Van Winkle to pretend there haven't been cuts in
veterans services throughout the country over the last two years." In
fact, on the Senate side, Patty Murray (D-WA) warned more than two months
ago, " There is a train wreck coming in veterans health care
( ."
Meanwhile, Secretary Nicholson said, "I can assure you that VA does not
need emergency supplemental funds.

NOBODY LISTENED TO THE EXPERTS: Some members of Congress are now
claiming they were unaware of the funding shortfall. For example, Rep. Jeb
Hensarling (R-TX) said, " The shortfall has become known to everyone in
Congress only recently.
( " Sen.
Rick Santorum (R-PA) has issued a similar excuse
( . But, in
fact, veterans groups saw the train wreck coming and repeatedly signaled
the warning bells as loudly as they could. As Rep. Edwards said, "All
[the leadership] had to do was listen to VA employees and veterans
groups." Indeed, the chorus of veterans' voices rang out in February as soon
as Bush's budget was released. John Furgess, commander in chief of
Veterans of Foreign Wars, denounced Bush's VA budget as " especially
shameful during a time of war
( ." Paralyzed
Veterans of America's Richard Fuller predicted the problems, noting, "The
proposed increase in health spending is not sufficient at a time when
the number of patients is increasing... [Bush's budget] will not cover
the need
( ."
American Legion's Thomas Cadmus said, "This is the wrong message at the
wrong time to the wrong constituency
." James Sursely of the Disabled Veterans of America warned, "With an
inadequate appropriation in the President's budget for next year, the
situation is likely to get even worse.
( " And Thomas Corey
of the Vietnam Veterans of America said the budget did "not bode well
for those returning from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
( "

SANTORUM CAN'T RESIST PLAYING POLITICS: Santorum took the lead on the
amendment which passed the Senate yesterday. To explain why he was
chosen by the leadership to lead, Santorum explained, " Since I've had a
little bit more activity in this area than anybody else, I was asked to
take it on.
" Santorum's most recent activity has been to vote against veterans
funding. On April 12th, Santorum twice
against a bill that would have addressed the funding shortfall by
providing nearly $2 billion for veterans' health care. In March, he voted
against another bill
that would have provided over $2 billion for veterans. Despite his own
questionable record, Santorum couldn't resist playing a little more
politics by calling into question another senator's respect for veterans

IT'S THE SAME OLD SONG: The Bush administration has hardly been a
friend to veterans over the past five years. It has cut approximately
170,000 middle-income veterans out of the health care system
( ,
sought to increase prescription drug costs
and impose new enrollment fees
to obtain health care, closed down hospitals
( ,
and stopped trying to market services
( to veterans.
Underfunding the VA
has been a frequent tactic of the administration. In fact, it seems to
have been a secret part of their policy agenda
for quite some time.


Thursday, June 30, 2005

How to Get Mad Without Sounding Bonkers: A Primer

How to Get Mad Without Sounding Bonkers: A Primer
Adam McKay

If you're like me, George W. Bush's justification for the war that aired the other night made you a tad miffed or a smidge tweaked. Maybe even some of your "ill humors" were engaged. When he said he would listen to his Generals' advice concerning the number of troops deployed, you might have, if you're at all like me, thrown a ceramic T-Bird decanter at the TV and yelled "Why didn't you listen before you beady-eyed spoiled oil brat!" Or perhaps when he trotted out his paper-thin compassion for those who have suffered from the war you bit a TV Guide in half and shrieked "If you cared so much why didn't you spend ten honest minutes trying to avoid this frickin war rather than stroking yourself off to GI Joe Action figures with Rummy, Cheney, Wolfy and the rest of your mummified chicken hawk cronies!!!"

And if you did in fact react at all like me, you also realized that Democrats -- or "the not hypnotized," as I refer to anyone who gets that these bastards are dismantling our great Nation -- are not great at expressing anger.

Dick Durbin had a hard time with it recently when he expressed outrage over the basically above board torture that our government has been conducting in Gauntanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. This torture essentially makes the Geneva Convention null and void. This makes me so mad I want to kick Santa Claus in the nuts. Durbin did the political equivalent: he made a Nazi comparison.

Howard Dean too, still has much work to do when it comes to appropriately expressing the degree to which his dander is up. He called Republicans the party of the "white Christians." This basically ceded God to the very people who are warring and giving to the rich. Not a great chess move, but I get it Howard. I really do.

So here, in the spirit of constructive outrage, is a primer for Dems on how to get angry without sounding bonkers.

LESSON #1: Be very careful when making Hitler or Nazi comparisons.

Here's the bottom line: The Nazis killed like fifty-million people. They were the Babe Ruths of evil. W has screwed up Iraq and the EPA. So he's got a long, long way to go. He's more like the Dan Quisenberry of evil. Now that doesn't mean this group isn't ugly and dangerous -- they are -- but the Nazis were incredibly efficient and W and his band of goons are really, really incompetent. So the comparison gets sloppy.

So here's the Fix: Rather than saying Bush is like Hitler say that Bush is playing with "the seeds of fascism." And then you can go on to warn people about what kind of fruit these seeds bear. Or try comparing W to more appropriate fascist regimes like Nixon or the Shah of Iran or Matt Dillon in My Bodyguard.

LESSON #2 Don't lump all of Bush's 51% together.

This is the Dean mistake. "The party of white Christians" or "They don't earn an honest living." Whoah Deanie...whoah! Of the 51% who voted for W, how many did it because they were frightened or lied to? Probably 40% The rest were rich greedy people or religious zealots or mentally ill. But let's not throw out the forty percent. I sympathize with them. We all get caught up in hysteria. Remember the movie Independence Day? Try watching that now. Or what about Puddle of Mudd. Yikes. These Bush voters have been duped and played by a multibillion dollar media and PR machine that has them voting against themselves. Plus a lot of them are pretty cool and know where to find good pulled pork sandwiches and draft beer so let's not push them away too far.

The Fix: Refer to the modern Republican party as a party led by an elite few which it is. Call it "the party of CEOs" or "the corporate right" or "that party with the rich dickheads." It's true and it's inclusive. And if you must call out the disgusting rubes who use religion to gain power call them what they are: "Pat Robertson."

LESSON #3: It's okay to raise your voice.

Howard Dean scared Dems off of yelling for fifty years after that one much over-hyped night in Iowa. But it's okay to raise your voice. Really it is. Joe Biden is good at it. And so is Green Day. And Joe Biden and Green Day aren't demagogic lunatics. And here's a good phrase to yell at the President after he's evoked the memory of 9/11 for the hundredth time for political gain: shame on you! What ever happened to shame on you? I'm guessing Barbara Bush used to say it to George W. when he'd laugh at another kid for not wearing six hundred dollar cowboy boots or when he'd lie about hitting a homerun in a game he was actually a cheerleader for (by the way, I know it's old info but this is downplayed... our President was a Let's try trotting it out when these creeps wheel out wedge issues to distract us from the war or try and use Jesus to distract from Corporate looting of taxpayers' dollars... Shame on you Senator Frist! Shame on you Vice President Cheaney! Shame! Man that feels old fashioned good. After we master this maybe we can lead Rumsfeld by the ear to the Outhouse to drink castor oil.

Lesson #4: Don't beat others up when they do sound bonkers.

Seeing Dems descending on Dean for his comments was like seeing cops making fun of a mugging victim because he yelled "Help, Police!" in a weird high pitched voice. Dean didn't start a bogus war based on lies and Dean didn't dismantle the regulatory system and try and flood the courts with Nazis, uh...pardon me, fledgling fascists. So lay off! He'll get the hang of it.

And the worse this gets with this traitorous administration the more people we're going to see getting righteously angry for the first time in their lives. And some of them will say poorly chosen words and others will say things in too high pitched a voice. But we all have to remember, practice makes perfect.


Ex-U.S. hostages: Iran's new president one of their captors


Ex-U.S. hostages: Iran's new president one of their captors

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A quarter-century after they were taken captive in Iran, five former American hostages say they got an unexpected reminder of their 444-day ordeal in the bearded face of Iran's new president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Watching coverage of Iran's presidential election on television dredged up 25-year-old memories that prompted four of the former hostages to exchange e-mails. And those four realized they shared the same conclusion — the firm belief that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been one of their Iranian captors.

"This is the guy. There's no question about it," said former hostage Chuck Scott, a retired Army colonel who lives in Jonesboro, Ga. "You could make him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot suit and I'd still spot him."

Scott and former hostages David Roeder, William J. Daugherty and Don A. Sharer told The Associated Press on Wednesday they have no doubt Ahmadinejad, 49, was one of the hostage-takers. A fifth ex-hostage, Kevin Hermening, said he reached the same conclusion after looking at photos.

Not everyone agrees. Former hostage and retired Air Force Col. Thomas E. Schaefer said he doesn't recognize Ahmadinejad, by face or name, as one of his captors.

Several former students among the hostage-takers also said Ahmadinejad did not participate. And a close aide to Ahmadinejad denied the president-elect took part in the seizure of the embassy or in holding Americans hostage.

Militant students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days to protest Washington's refusal to hand over the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for trial. The shah fled Iran earlier that year after he was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution.

The aide, Meisan Rowhani, told the AP from Tehran that Ahmadinejad was asked during recent private meetings if he had a role in the hostage taking. Rowhani said he replied, "No. I believed that if we do that the world will swallow us."

Scott and Roeder both said they were sure Ahmadinejad was present while they were interrogated.

"I can absolutely guarantee you he was not only one of the hostage-takers, he was present at my personal interrogation," Roeder said in an interview from his home in Pinehurst, N.C.

Daugherty, who worked for the CIA in Iran and now lives in Savannah, said a man he's convinced was Ahmadinejad was among a group of ringleaders escorting a Vatican representative during a visit in the early days of the hostage crisis.

"It's impossible to forget a guy like that," Daugherty said. "Clearly the way he acted, the fact he gave orders, that he was older, most certainly he was one of the ringleaders."

Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran, was declared winner Wednesday of Iran's presidential runoff election, defeating one of Iran's best-known statesmen, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani. The stunning upset put conservatives firmly in control of all branches of power in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Scott, Roeder, Daugherty and Sharer said they have been exchanging e-mails since seeing Ahmadinejad emerge as a serious contender in Iran's elections.

"He was extremely cruel," said Sharer, of Bedford, Ind. "He's one of the hard-liners. So that tells you where their government's going to stand for the next four to five years."

After seeing recent newspaper photos, Sharer said, "I don't have any doubts" that Ahmadinejad was a hostage-taker.

A memory expert cautioned that people who discuss their recollections can influence one another in reinforcing false memories. Also, it's harder to identify from memory someone of a different race or ethnicity, said psychologist Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California, Irvine.

"Twenty-five years is an awfully long time," Loftus said. "Of course we can't say this is false, but these things can lead people down the path of having a false memory."

Schaefer, of Peoria, Ariz., didn't recognize Ahmadinejad and said allegations that he had been a hostage-taker don't concern him as much as knowing hard-liners are back in power in Iran.

Scott gave a detailed account of the man he recalled as Ahmadinejad, saying he appeared to be a security chief among the hostage-takers.

"He kind of stayed in the background most of the time," Scott said. "But he was in on some of the interrogations. And he was in on my interrogation at the time they were working me over."

Scott also recalled an incident while he was held in the Evin prison in north Tehran in the summer of 1980.

One of the guards, whom Scott called Akbar, would sometimes let Scott and Sharer out to walk the narrow, 20-foot hallway outside their cells, he said. One day, Scott said, the man he believes was Ahmadinejad saw them walking and chastised the guard.

"He was the security chief, supposedly," Scott said. "When he found out Akbar had let us out of our cells at all, he chewed out Akbar. I speak Farsi. He said, 'These guys are dogs they're pigs, they're animals. They don't deserve to be let out of their cells.'"

Scott recalled responding to the man's stare by openly cursing his captor in Farsi. "He looked a little flustered like he didn't know what to do. He just walked out."

Roeder said he's sure Ahmadinejad was present during one of his interrogations when the hostage-takers threatened to kidnap his son in the U.S. and "start sending pieces — toes and fingers of my son — to my wife."

"It was almost like he was checking on the interrogation techniques they were using in a sort of adviser capacity," Roeder said.

Hermening, of Mosinee, Wis., the youngest of the hostages, said that after he looked at photos and did research on the Internet, he came to the conclusion that Ahmadinejad was one of his questioners.

Hermening had been Marine guard at the embassy, and he recalled the man he believes was Ahmadinejad asking him for the combination to a safe.

"His English would have been fairly strong. I couldn't say that about all the guards," Hermening said. "I remember that he was certainly direct, threatening, very unfriendly."

Rowhani, the aide to Ahmadinejad, said Ahmadinejad said during the recent meeting that he stopped opposing the embassy seizure after the revolution's leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, expressed support for it. But the president-elect said he never took part.

"Definitely he was not among the students who took part in the seizure," said Abbas Abdi, the leader of the hostage-takers. Abdi has since become a leading supporter of reform and sharply opposed Ahmadinejad. "He was not part of us. He played no role in the seizure, let alone being responsible for security" for the students.

Another of the hostage-takers, Bijan Abidi, said Ahmadinejad "was not involved. There was no one by that name among the students who took part in the U.S. Embassy seizure."


Jury Convicts Five in Federal Vote Fraud

ABC News
Jury Convicts Five in Federal Vote Fraud
Federal Jury Convicts Five People in Federal Vote Fraud Trial in East St. Louis, Ill.
The Associated Press

Jun. 29, 2005 - The chairman of the city's Democratic Party and four others were convicted Wednesday of scheming to buy votes with cash, cigarettes and liquor last November.

Charles Powell Jr., 61, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit vote fraud, along with the city's former director of regulatory affairs and three Democratic precinct committee members.

Prosecutors relied largely on secretly recorded audiotapes in which they say the accused could be heard talking about paying $5 per vote to get key Democrats elected.

State records showed that tens of thousands of dollars were transferred from the St. Clair County Democratic party to committee members in East St. Louis days before the Nov. 2 election. Party leaders said it was for legitimate expenses, including rides to the polls for people without cars.

The defense had argued that the government's case was flimsy because of unreliable witnesses whose testimony often contradicted one another and, at times, was recanted.

A date for sentencing was not immediately set. Each count carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In March, three other precinct committee members and a precinct worker each pleaded guilty to a related count of vote buying. They are also awaiting sentencing.

East St. Louis is a struggling former industrial center of 31,500 directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Mo.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Senate approves emergency vets health care funds


Senate approves emergency vets health care funds

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved $1.5 billion in emergency funds for veterans health care to pay for the rising cost of Iraq war injuries and illnesses of aging veterans from past wars.

The money, approved by a 96-0 vote, was attached to an unrelated spending bill for domestic environmental programs.

Republicans, who shot down Democrats' attempts to add money for veterans health care earlier this year, embraced the measure after Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson on Tuesday acknowledged a severe shortage of funds.

His congressional testimony contrasted with statements he made in April that veterans' health programs were adequately funded.

The House of Representatives is expected to pass similar legislation this summer.

"I just find it appalling that the VA, the VA secretary and those who are required to giving us honest numbers failed to look up past their own desks" and seek adequate funding, said Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat.

Earlier this year, Murray and Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, tried repeatedly to win additional money for VA health care programs, saying the inadequate budgeting was widely known among veterans' organizations and others.

Estimates from the Bush administration and congressional committees this week put the overall veterans health care funding shortage in the range of $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

In his testimony on Tuesday, Nicholson told a House Appropriations panel that his agency had used 2002 projections to estimate the number of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that would need health care. That figure was 23,553 patients. Nicholson said the number had been revised to 103,000.

Overall health care costs, Nicholson said, were rising this year at a pace of 5.2 percent over last year, far beyond the 2.3 percent annual growth rate originally projected.

Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican who has a party leadership position, said Republicans voted against more funding earlier this year because of assurances by the VA that it had enough money. "We were in error. Sen. Murray was right," Santorum said.

He said he was "dismayed at what is apparently bad management, bad forecasting at the Department of Veterans Affairs."

Nicholson testified that he had kept Congress informed of the changing budget picture, although he acknowledged he could have been more forceful.

During much of Wednesday's debate, senators attempted to put a bipartisan face on this latest attempt to fund veterans health care, but tempers flared as the day wore on.

After Santorum accused Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada of launching a "partisan attack" against Nicholson's qualifications, an angry Reid shot back.

Referring to Santorum, Reid said, "Three times he opposed funding for veterans -- votes in committee and here and on the Senate floor." Reid added, "Now with an election cycle upon us, he supports, under pressure, voting for veterans. Talk about crass politics."

Santorum is thought to face a tough re-election bid next year.


House Passes Bill Easing Rules on 'Junk' Faxes
House Passes Bill Easing Rules on 'Junk' Faxes
From Reuters

June 29, 2005

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure Tuesday easing restrictions on unsolicited, or "junk," faxes after some businesses said the rules were too expensive to follow.

Lawmakers passed by voice vote a bill that maintains an overall ban on unsolicited faxes but removes a requirement that senders must get written consent before faxing people with whom they already have an established business relationship.

The measure would also require senders to provide recipients a clear, cost-free way to opt out of receiving faxes.

It also would let the Federal Communications Commission limit the duration of an established business relationship and let the FCC exempt nonprofit groups from the rules.

The FCC initially adopted regulations requiring written consent for sending fax advertisements in 2003.

The stricter rules were set to take effect Friday but the FCC on Monday delayed implementation until 2006, in part because of potential action by Congress.

"The cost of complying with the FCC's new rules will be enormous, and it will severely hamper legitimate fax communications between businesses and their customers and between associations and their members," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the telecommunications subcommittee.


Panel Affirms Radiation Link to Cancer

Yahoo! News
Panel Affirms Radiation Link to Cancer

By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 29 minutes ago

The preponderance of scientific evidence shows that even very low doses of radiation pose a risk of cancer or other health problems and there is no threshold below which exposure can be viewed as harmless, a panel of prominent scientists concluded Wednesday.

The finding by the National Academy of Sciences panel is viewed as critical because it is likely to significantly influence what radiation levels government agencies will allow at abandoned nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons production facilities and elsewhere.

The nuclear industry,, as well as some independent scientists, have argued that there is a threshold of very low level radiation where exposure is not harmful, or possibly even beneficial. They said current risk modeling may exaggerate the health impact.

The panel, after five years of study, rejected that claim.

"The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionized radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial," said Richard R. Monson, the panel chairman and a professor of epidemiology at Harvard's School of Public Health.

The committee gave support to the so-called "linear, no threshold" model that is currently the generally acceptable approach to radiation risk assessment. This approach assumes that the health risks from radiation exposure declines as the dose levels decline, but that each unit of radiation — no matter how small — still is assumed to cause cancer.

The panel, formally known as the Committee on Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiaton, or BEIR, generally supported previous cancer risk estimates — the last one by an earlier BEIR group in 1990.

Contrary to assertions that risks from exposure from low-level radiation may have been overstated, the panel said "the availability of new and more extensive data have strengthened confidence in these (earlier) estimates."

The committee examined doses of radiation of up to 100 millisievert, a measurement of accumulated radiation to an individual over a year. By comparison, a single chest X-ray accounts for 0.1 millisievert and average background radiation 3 millisievert.

The committee estmated that 1 out of 100 people would likely develop solid cancer or leukemia from an exposure of 100 millisievert of radiation over a lifetime.


Bush Criticized for Linking 9/11 and Iraq

Yahoo! News
Bush Criticized for Linking 9/11 and Iraq

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer 32 minutes ago

Congressional critics of President Bush's stay-the-course commitment to the war in Iraq argued Wednesday that the administration lacks sufficient troops on the ground to mount a successful counterinsurgency.

Democrats in particular criticized Bush for again raising the Sept. 11 attacks as a justification for the protracted fight in Iraq after the president proclaimed anew that he plans to keep U.S. forces there as long as necessary to ensure peace.

Urging patience on an American public showing doubts about his Iraq policy, Bush mentioned the deadly 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington five times during a 28-minute address Tuesday night at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Some Democrats quickly accused him of reviving a questionable link to the war in Iraq — a rationale that Bush originally used to help justify launching strikes against Baghdad in the spring of 2003.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accused Bush of demonstrating a willingness "exploit the sacred ground of 9/11, knowing that there is no connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq."

Bush first mentioned the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center at the beginning of his speech, delivered at an Army base that has 9,300 troops in Iraq. He acknowledged that Americans are disturbed by frequent deaths of U.S. troops, but tried to persuade an increasingly skeptical public to stick with the mission.

"The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001," Bush told a national television audience and 750 soldiers and airmen in dress uniform who mostly listened quietly as they had been asked to do.

"Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war," he continued.

Bush said he understands the public concerns about a 27-month-old war that has killed more than 1,700 Americans and 12,000 Iraqi civilians and cost $200 billion. But he argued that the sacrifice "is worth it."

"We fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we will fight them there, we will fight them across the world and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won."

He offered no shift in course in Iraq and said he did not believe it necessary to send more troops. U.S. forces in Iraq total just under about 140,000 and they constitute the bulk of the coalition fighting force.

Appearing on television news shows Wednesday, some key lawmakers took issue with that position.

Sen. John McCain, interviewed on CBS's "The Early Show," maintained that "one of the very big mistakes early on was that he didn't have enough troops on the ground, particularly after the initial victory, and that's still the case."

Sen. John Kerry, Bush's Democratic opponent in last year's presidential election, told NBC's "Today" show that the borders of Iraq "are porous" and said "we don't have enough troops" there.

Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America," disputed Bush's notion that sufficient troops are in place.

"I'm going to send him the phone numbers of the very generals and flag officers that I met on Memorial Day when I was in Iraq," the Delaware Democrat said. "There's not enough force on the ground now to mount a real counterinsurgency."

Biden argued, "The course that we are on now is not a course of success. He (Bush) has to get more folks involved. He has to stand up that army more quickly."

McCain, R-Ariz., defended Bush's call to stop terrorism abroad before it reaches the U.S. shore. Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" program, McCain said that those spreading violence in Iraq "are the same guys who would be in New York if we don't win in Iraq."

Bush's speech marked the first anniversary of the transfer of power from the U.S.-led coalition to Iraq's interim government. The president cited advances in the past year, including the January elections, infrastructure improvements and training of Iraqi security forces.

Democrats also criticized Bush for not offering more specifics about how to achieve success in Iraq along with his frequent mention of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The president's numerous references to September 11 did not provide a way forward in Iraq," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said. "They only served to remind the American people that our most dangerous enemy, namely Osama bin Laden, is still on the loose and al-Qaida remains capable of doing this nation great harm nearly four years after it attacked America."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said some of the president's critics are mischaracterizing his remarks. Bush has said there were no ties between al-Qaida and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but McClellan said Wednesday that "September 11th changed the equation in terms of how we confront the threats that we face in the 21st century."

Bush urged Americans to remember the lessons of Sept. 11 and protect "the future of the Middle East" from men like bin Laden. He repeatedly referred to the insurgents in Iraq as terrorists and said they were killing innocent people to try to "shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001."

Beyond their criticism, Some Democrats said they thought Bush strengthened his credibility. "I think he told the American people why it's important," said Biden.

Said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.: "The president needs to do more of what he did last evening. This is a beginning."


House Agrees to $3,100 Pay Raise for 2006

House Agrees to $3,100 Pay Raise for 2006

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House on Tuesday agreed to a $3,100 pay raise for Congress next year - to $165,200 - after defeating an effort to roll it back.

In a 263-152 vote, the House blocked a bid by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to force an up-or-down vote on the pay raise. Instead, lawmakers will automatically receive the raise - officially a cost of living adjustment - as provided for in a 1989 law that barred them from pocketing big speaking fees in exchange for an annual COLA.

Matheson was the only one of 434 House members to speak out against the 1.9 percent COLA, which will raise members' salaries in January.

"Now is not the time for members of Congress to be voting themselves a pay raise. We need to be willing to make sacrifices," he said.

The vote came as the House debated a spending bill containing a provision to guarantee a 3.1 percent pay increase for federal civilian workers. The bill, which funds transportation and housing programs and Treasury Department agencies, was scheduled for a final vote later Wednesday.

A similar effort to block the raise could occur when the Senate considers its version of the bill. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., has tried in the past to block it but has had no more success than Matheson did.

In a House riven by partisanship, raising members' pay is one of the few things Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agree on.

The annual debate on the members' COLA resembles kabuki theater: Both Democratic and Republican leaders guarantee sizable majorities of their members to block the effort, and they make sure there is not a clear-cut vote on the measure. None of the party campaign committees uses the pay-raise issue in campaigns.

"Each side put up their required quota" of votes, said Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House.

Republican leaders - who succumbed to pressure to block the COLA for three of the first four years their party controlled Congress - now are strong advocates of it. The last time it was rejected was in 1998.

"It's not a pay raise," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "It's an adjustment so that they're not losing their purchasing power."


White House to accept most WMD report recommendations


White House to accept most WMD report recommendations

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has accepted 70 of 74 recommendations from a presidential commission on weapons of mass destruction, including creating a new counterproliferation center and lumping the FBI counterterrorism and intelligence operations into a new unit, sources briefed on Tuesday said.

The WMD commission issued a 600-page report on March 31 that sharply criticized U.S. intelligence efforts on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as "dead wrong" and made recommendations on how to improve intelligence collection and information sharing at the spy agencies.

The White House on Wednesday plans to make public the results of a three-month review of the report, and issue an executive order aimed at targeting the assets of companies believed to be helping North Korea, Iran and Syria acquire technology for use in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The White House will accept 70 of the 74 commission recommendations, three will be studied further and one was changed from the way it was recommended, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

U.S. intelligence agencies have come under fire for faulty intelligence since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and legislation was enacted last year to overhaul the system, including the creation of a director of national intelligence to oversee the 15 spy agencies.

The report of The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction was the latest in a series of reviews of U.S. intelligence.

The White House will advocate keeping the CIA in charge of human spying operations among the intelligence agencies. It also supports the creation of a National Security Service at the FBI to meld its counterterrorism and intelligence functions, the sources said.

The CIA has been sharply criticized for prewar judgments that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. None have been found. The Bush administration cited the threat from weapons of mass destruction as a key justification for invading Iraq in March 2003.

The White House had no comment on the WMD report review conducted by Bush's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend.

The WMD commission, led by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Virginia Democratic Sen. Charles Robb, called for a broad overhaul in the intelligence community to increase information sharing among the 15 agencies and foster dissenting views.

It recommended that the president establish a National Counter Proliferation Center to coordinate intelligence on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons among the 15 spy agencies.

The commission echoed other post-Sept. 11 reviews and reports that said the intelligence agencies must improve information sharing with each other, and the panel called for taking action to end the turf war between the FBI and CIA.


Reid suggests Republican lawmakers for high court


Reid suggests Republican lawmakers for high court

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid suggested on Tuesday that four of his Republican colleagues be considered by President Bush if a vacancy occurs on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seeking a possible consensus nominee, Reid recommended Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mel Martinez of Florida, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Mike Crapo of Idaho.

Reid described them all as bright and able lawyers who would be strong additions to the nation's highest court.

"We have had approximately 10 members of the Supreme Court that came from the United States Senate over the years," Reid told reporters.

"There are people who serve in the Senate now who are Republicans who I think would be outstanding Supreme Court members," Reid said.

There had been widespread speculation that a resignation could come soon on the Supreme Court. But uncertainty rose on Monday when the court ended its term for the year without any announced departures.

Still, court observers say there could be a resignation on the aging federal bench in the days, weeks or months ahead.

Reid, who has conferred with Senate Republican leader Bill Frist on the possibility of a Supreme Court opening, said he has made his suggestions to "anyone who will listen."

Reid and fellow Democrats have urged Bush to consult with them before making a nomination, which the Senate would then be asked to confirm.

Earlier on Tuesday, Frist said, "I've made some suggestions" to the White House on potential nominees, but declined to disclose names.

"They are reaching out for suggestions," Frist said after giving a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group. He added, "I don't have any inside information" about who the nominee could be.

Another senator who has been mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee is Republican John Cornyn of Texas, a former member of the Texas Supreme Court and the only senator with appellate court experience.

Asked if Bush should consider Cornyn, Reid shrugged and said, "I've told you (the ones) I think he should consider."

Graham and DeWine were among seven Senate Republicans who joined seven Senate Democrats in reaching a compromise last month on Bush's most contentious appeals court nominees.

The accord cleared the way for the confirmation of a number of Bush's nominees, but preserved the right of Democrats to block others "under extraordinary circumstances."

Cornyn was among those who have criticized the accord, which could face a major test with a Supreme Court nomination.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Halliburton's Iraq deals described as contract abuse


Halliburton's Iraq deals described as contract abuse

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top U.S. Army procurement official said on Monday Halliburton's deals in Iraq were the worst example of contract abuse she had seen as Pentagon auditors flagged over $1 billion of potential overcharges by the Texas-based firm.

Bunny Greenhouse, the Army Corps of Engineers' top contracting official-turned whistle-blower, said in testimony at a hearing by Democrats on Capitol Hill that "every aspect" of Halliburton's oil contract in Iraq had been under the control of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

"I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR (Kellogg Brown and Root) represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career," said Greenhouse, a procurement veteran of more than 20 years.

Her blistering criticism came as Democrats released a new report including Pentagon audits that identified more than $1.03 billion in "questioned" costs and $422 million in "unsupported" costs for Halliburton's work in Iraq.

Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col Rose-Ann Lynch said the Pentagon had received the report but had not had a chance yet to fully review it.

"The department is committed to an integrated, well-managed contracting process in Iraq," said Lynch, adding that just because costs were questioned by auditors this did not mean a company had overcharged the military.

Halliburton's subsidiary KBR is the U.S. military's biggest contractor in Iraq and has been accused by Democrats of getting lucrative work there because of its ties to Vice President Dick Cheney who headed Halliburton company from 1995-2000.

Pressed by lawmakers whether she thought the defense secretary's office was involved in the handout and running of contracts to KBR, Greenhouse replied: "That is true."

"I observed, first hand, that essentially every aspect of the RIO (Restore Iraqi Oil) contract remained under the control of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This troubled me and was wrong," said Greenhouse.

Halliburton issued a statement strongly rejecting comments by Greenhouse and others at the hearing, including a former KBR employee who accused the company of overcharging for food services provided to troops under a logistics deal.

"The only thing that's been inflated is the political rhetoric which is mostly a rehash of last year's elections," spokeswoman Cathy Mann said of the hearing.


Regarding claims of political influence because of Cheney, Mann said it was easier to "assign devious motives than to take the time to learn the truth."

Both the Pentagon and the Corps, which was in charge of a sole-source oil contract given to KBR in Iraq, have denied any special treatment for KBR. The Corps did not immediately respond to questions.

Democrats called for an urgent hearing and an investigation into what they called contracting abuses involving KBR.

"This testimony doesn't just call for Congressional oversight -- it screams for it," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota.

What concerned Greenhouse most was that the oil contract, which had a top value of $7 billion, was given to KBR without competitive bidding. She irked her bosses by writing her concerns by hand in official documents but said these were overlooked.

In one instance, she said Army Corps officials bypassed getting her signature to grant a waiver for KBR to be relieved of its obligation to provide cost and pricing data for bringing fuel into Iraq.

That waiver was granted after a draft Army audit said KBR may have overcharged the military by at least $61 million to bring in fuel to Iraq to ease a shortage of refined oil.

Greenhouse acknowledged she had become a thorn in the side of the Army Corps and said she had been advised not to attend the hearing because of its partisan nature.

Rory Mayberry, a former food production manager at a U.S. military base for KBR from February-April 2004, said the company charged for meals it did not serve to troops and had dished up spoiled food.

KBR's Mann dismissed his taped testimony and said issues regarding billing over food services had been resolved.


Experts say US complacent on nuclear terror threat


Experts say US complacent on nuclear terror threat

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress are showing signs of complacency about the threat of a terrorist nuclear attack that could cripple a major city and shatter the economy, nuclear security experts said on Monday.

At a public forum sponsored by the former Sept. 11 commission, the experts said the government must do more to secure bomb-making materials worldwide, prevent proliferation, and promote international cooperation on security.

"We said on the 9/11 commission that there needed to be maximum effort and a sense of urgency. The sense of urgency is more a mood of complacency today," said former commissioner Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana.

"Rather than a brisk pace of activity, we are more seeing a business-as-usual approach," he said.

Panel members including former Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat who once chaired the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, worried about the pace of efforts to secure nuclear stockpiles that are often poorly guarded in 40 countries, including former Soviet states.

"From my perspective, the terrorists are racing and we are somewhere between a walk and a crawl," said Nunn, who now leads a nonproliferation group called the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

He called on President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to accelerate U.S.-assisted nuclear security efforts in Russia and to overcome bureaucratic entanglements that have retarded progress in the effort.

Security has been upgraded for only about 26 percent of an estimated 600 tons (tonnes) of weapons-useable nuclear material in Russia that exists outside nuclear weapons.


CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate in February that enough nuclear material to build a weapon is missing from Russian storage sites.

"Unless we greatly elevate our effort and the speed of our response, we could face disaster," Nunn added.

Monday's forum was sponsored by the 9/11 Public Discussion Project, a nonprofit group founded by the bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on Washington and New York.

Many of the commission's recommendations for reforming U.S. intelligence have been embraced by the Bush administration or were formulated into law last year by Congress.

Former commissioners are holding a series of forums this summer to look at how the administration and Congress have implemented those recommendations. They intend to issue a "report card" around the anniversary of the attacks.

Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and allied militant groups hope to buy or steal nuclear material for a weapon that could be used in an attack that would dwarf Sept. 11, intelligence officials have said.

"A terrorist nuclear attack on one of our cities could kill hundreds of thousands of people. It could shatter our economy, erode our civil liberties, give blackmail power to the terrorist group that carried out the attack," Nunn said.

Former Energy Department official Leonard Spector said the United States was likely to see an attack with a so-called dirty bomb that could spew radioactive material across an entire city neighborhood.

The nuclear security experts criticized the Bush administration for moving slowly to establish a new intelligence center on weapons proliferation. They said Congress has also withheld funds to secure highly enriched uranium, which can be used to build nuclear weapons.


Senators seek rules for Gitmo detainees
Senators seek rules for Gitmo detainees

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two Democratic senators, just back from Guantanamo Bay, said Monday that Congress should come up with concrete rules for handling detainees at the U.S. prison there.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Ben Nelson of Nebraska said more precise rules would help ensure that prisoners would not be abused and that the United States would not suffer further embarrassments because of the way detainees were treated.

Wyden and Nelson made the comments after a three-day trip to Cuba that included a tour of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and extensive meetings with top U.S. officials and rank-and-file soldiers and sailors. The lawmakers also met with a top Cuban agriculture official in an effort to promote trade of cherries, peas and other crops grown in their states.

"The Bush administration is correct when they say these are unique circumstances" at Guantanamo, Wyden said at a Capitol news conference. "We are in a war. These are not your garden-variety criminal defendants."

But that "does not mean there should not be any concrete rules" for prisoner treatment, Wyden said. "Even in a war, reasonable Democrats and Republicans on a bipartisan basis ought to be able to ... establish a precise legal status for these and future prisoners."

Wyden and Nelson declined to offer specifics, but they said they hoped to work with Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter and other Republicans to draft language clarifying the rights and legal status of more than 500 terrorism suspects being held at Guantanamo.

Critics, including Amnesty International, have condemned conditions there as inhumane and complained that some prisoners have been held for more than three years without criminal charges.

Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, scolded the GOP-run Congress earlier his month for not doing more to clarify the rights of detainees.

"It may be that it's too hot to handle for Congress, may be that it's too complex ... or it may be that Congress wants to sit back as we customarily do. But at any rate, Congress hasn't acted," Specter said.

Wyden, a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Nelson, of the Armed Services Committee, said they were impressed with Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, commander of the joint task force at Guantanamo Bay. They came away from their visit convinced that prisoners are being treated fairly, the senators said.

"There was not torture, not deprivation," Nelson said, adding that he based on his comments on his own observations and on conversations with troops from Nebraska.

"I know I can trust Nebraskans to tell me the truth," he said. "I'm comfortable that the mistakes of the past have been corrected."

Wyden agreed, but he said Congress still has a responsibility to set standards for prisoner treatment into law.


Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this story.


On the Net:

Joint Task Force Guantanamo:


Web site makes gov't. reports available
Web site makes gov't. reports available

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new Web site aims to make widely available to the public certain government reports about topics from terrorism to Social Security that congressional researchers prepare and distribute now only to lawmakers.

The site - - links more than a half-dozen existing collections of nearly 8,000 reports from the Congressional Research Service and centrally indexes them so visitors can find reports containing specific terms or phrases.

It also encourages visitors to ask their lawmakers to send them any reports not yet publicly available - and gives detailed instructions to do this - so these can be added to the collection. None of the reports is classified or otherwise restricted.

The site, announced Monday, is operated by the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based civil liberties group. The project is a response to years of rumbling and wrangling by open-government advocates over a lack of direct accessibility to reports from the policy research arm of Congress.

"This initiative ought to embarrass the Congress into changing its policy and making these documents universally available," said Steven Aftergood, director of the project on government secrecy for the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists. Aftergood has collected hundreds of CRS reports and distributes them from his group's own Web site.

The research service, with a staff of more than 700 and a nearly $100 million budget, does not object to public distribution of its reports, said Jill Brett, a spokeswoman for the Library of Congress, the service's parent organization.

"It's up to Congress when they're made public and how they're made public," Brett said. "The law says we only make them available to Congress."

Lawmakers often cite the reports during congressional debates, but the research is generally not available to the public. Congress does allow lawmakers to publish reports on their individual Web sites and send them to constituents who request them.


On the Net:

Congressional Research Service:

Federation of American Scientists:


Watchdog group files complaint vs. Frist
Watchdog group files complaint vs. Frist

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A watchdog group on Monday filed a complaint against Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that his campaign committees failed to adequately disclose a $1.4 million loan.

The complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said in 2000, the Tennessee Republican tried to recoup $1.2 million of a loan he made to his 1994 campaign committee.

But Frist 2000, Inc., the committee for his second senatorial campaign, had invested and lost money in the stock market, and did not have the funds to pay him back, the complaint said.

Both committees jointly took out a $1.4 million bank loan, but only the 1994 committee - Bill Frist for Senate, Inc. - reported the debt, according to the complaint. CREW claims both committees should have reported the loan.

"It looks like they were trying to hide it because people weren't looking at that committee," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director.

Linus Catignani, finance director of Frist 2000, said the committees followed FEC guidelines.

"The FEC's had the filings for years and, to my knowledge, they've had no questions about them. I believe that we filed consistent with all FEC regulations," he said. "If they have questions, I'm delighted to sit down and talk to them."

Frist has been mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 2008. He has said he does not plan to run for re-election to his Senate seat in 2006.
On the Net:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:

Federal Election Commission:


Monday, June 27, 2005

It’s time for Rumsfeld to follow his own advice
During Vietnam, Rumsfeld Criticized Administration For “Credibility Gap”

It wasn’t all that long ago when a young conservative congressman from Illinois named Donald Rumsfeld spoke eloquently on the floor of the House of Representatives during the Vietnam War about the need for the Johnson administration to speak more truthfully about that conflict.

A 1966 article in the Chicago Tribune quoted Rumsfeld as saying the following: “The administration should clarify its intent in Viet Nam,’ he said. ‘People lack confidence in the credibility of our government.’ Even our allies are beginning to suspect what we say, he charged. ‘It’s a difficult thing today to be informed about our government even without all the secrecy,’ he said. ‘With the secrecy, it’s impossible. The American people will do what’s right when they have the information they need.” [Chicago Tribune, 4/13/66]

Rusmfeld entered into the Congressional Record an article from the Chicago Sun-Times entitled “Why U.S. Viet Policy Lacks Friends—Our Credibility Destroyed” Rumsfeld stated: “I do, however, believe it is important to the future of our Nation to recognize that there is a problem of credibility today.” [Congressional Record, 89th Cong. Pg. A1454, 3/15/66; Chicago Sun-Times, 12/5/65]

In entering a New York Times editorial into the Congressional Record, Rumsfeld said, “I believe the following significant and timely editorial which appeared in today’s issue of the New York Times and which discusses our involvement in Vietnam merits wide attention. I concur in the conclusion expressed therein that the people of the United States must know not only how their country became involved but where we are heading.” [Congressional Record, 89th Cong. Pg. 21081, 8/19/65; New York Times, 8/19/65]

Rumsfeld said the following in a speech on the House floor: “Accurate judgment is predicated on accurate information. Government has an obligation to present information to the public promptly and accurately so that the public’s evaluation of Government activities is not distorted. Political pundits speak of the ‘credibility gap’ in the present administration. Indeed, this appellation is so widespread that it has become a household word.” [Congressional Record, 90th Cong. pg A792, 2/21/67]

Don’t look now Rumsfeld, but “credibility gap” is becoming a household word again, and it’s directly related to your actions.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey (Ret.), U.S. Army: “People are skeptical of what they’re hearing out of the Pentagon. I think Secretary Rumsfeld’s credibility has been damaged by serious misjudgments.” [MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 6/23/05]

“Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said it was obvious why public opinion polls were down. ‘We have a credibility gap here with the American people,’ he said.” [AP, 6/24/05]

Headline: “Bush’s Credibility Takes a Direct Hit From Friendly Fire” [LAT, 6/26/05]

Headline: “Bush’s Credibility on Iraq Undercut by Violence, Slow Progress” [Bloomberg, 6/27/05]

It’s time for Rumsfeld to follow his own advice.


With Media’s Help, Old Iraq Rhetoric is New Again
With Media’s Help, Old Iraq Rhetoric is New Again

The mainstream press continues to repeat the canard that the White House is honing a new message on Iraq — see here
, here,13319,FL_bush_062705,00.html
, here
, and here
. (As Dana Bash pointed out on CNN, “this is a communications strategy — even telling reporters that they are going to [shift their Iraq message] is part of that strategy.”)

Well, Secretary Rumsfeld “road-tested”
the purportedly new message this weekend, and it was the rhetorical equivalent of a 1980 Austin Princess:

old, tired, and unreliable.

Knight-Ridder laid out the three major planks of the “new” message:

1. “Progress is being made politically and economically” in Iraq
2. “Insurgency could go on for any number of years”
3. We have never miscalculated, erred, or misled you

Sound familiar? That’s because the White House has been repeating all of these points for months:

Progress in Iraq

“We’re making progress in Iraq.” — President Bush, 2/4/05

“We’re making progress in Iraq.” — President Bush, 10/16/04

“Today the Prime Minister and I discussed our coalition’s progress in Iraq.” — President Bush, 6/4/04

“President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld Discuss Progress in Iraq.” — White House website, 8/3/03

U.S. in Iraq for Years to Come

“Vice President Dick Cheney recently predicted on CNN that fighting in Iraq should end before the administration leaves in 2009.” — 6/6/05

“I believe it can be bloody and nasty and I believe it’s going to take a lot of hard work over a number of years.” — Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, 5/20/05

“The U.S. military could remain in Iraq for years, but with the passage of time it should be able to step back into more of a supporting role for Iraqi security forces, the Pentagon’s number two official [Paul Wolfowitz] said yesterday.” — 6/23/04

“U.S. expects troops in Iraq for years” — AP headline, 2/20/04

Never Miscalculated, Erred, or Misled

“On Meet the Press yesterday, Rumsfeld took no responsibility for the inadequate troop levels. Asked if, in hindsight, he wished he’d sent in more troops on the ground in Iraq in the first place, he replied, ‘The answer to your…question is no.‘” — 2/7/05

“President Bush and his Cabinet nominees have been sending a firm message as they kick off a second term: no mistakes, no regret, no comment.” — Washington Post, 1/20/05

“Anxious to crush any criticism of his Iraq strategy, especially since his own weapons inspector had just reported that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction before he rushed to war, Mr Bush admitted no mistakes to Linda or the millions of Americans watching.” — The Age, 10/11/04

“American President George Bush grimaced, sighed, rambled and chuckled under his breath on Tuesday, before saying he could not think of a single mistake he had made since the September 11 attacks.” — Reuters, 4/14/04