Saturday, September 03, 2005

Vacation is Over... an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush

Vacation is Over... an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush:

Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag.

Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers are? We could really use them right now for the type of thing they signed up to do like helping with national disasters. How come they weren't there to begin with?

Last Thursday I was in south Florida and sat outside while the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over my head. It was only a Category 1 then but it was pretty nasty. Eleven people died and, as of today, there were still homes without power. That night the weatherman said this storm was on its way to New Orleans. That was Thursday! Did anybody tell you? I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fundraisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. You sure showed her!

I especially like how, the day after the hurricane, instead of flying to Louisiana, you flew to San Diego to party with your business peeps. Don't let people criticize you for this -- after all, the hurricane was over and what the heck could you do, put your finger in the dike?

And don't listen to those who, in the coming days, will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer for the third year in a row. You just tell them that even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees, there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix them anyway because you had a much more important construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ!

On Day 3, when you finally left your vacation home, I have to say I was moved by how you had your Air Force One pilot descend from the clouds as you flew over New Orleans so you could catch a quick look of the disaster. Hey, I know you couldn't stop and grab a bullhorn and stand on some rubble and act like a commander in chief. Been there done that.

There will be those who will try to politicize this tragedy and try to use it against you. Just have your people keep pointing that out. Respond to nothing. Even those pesky scientists who predicted this would happen because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is getting hotter and hotter making a storm like this inevitable. Ignore them and all their global warming Chicken Littles. There is nothing unusual about a hurricane that was so wide it would be like having one F-4 tornado that stretched from New York to Cleveland.

No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!

You hang in there, Mr. Bush. Just try to find a few of our Army helicopters and send them there. Pretend the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are near Tikrit.


Michael Moore

P.S. That annoying mother, Cindy Sheehan, is no longer at your ranch. She and dozens of other relatives of the Iraqi War dead are now driving across the country, stopping in many cities along the way. Maybe you can catch up with them
before they get to DC on September 21st.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Politicians Failed Storm Victims
Politicians Failed Storm Victims

AP Political Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- At every turn, political leaders failed Katrina's victims. They didn't strengthen the levees. They ceded the streets to marauding looters. They left dead bodies to rot or bloat. Thousands suffered or died for lack of water, food and hope. Who's at fault?

There's plenty of blame to go around - the White House, Congress, federal agencies, local governments, police and even residents of the Gulf Coast who refused orders to evacuate. But all the finger-pointing misses the point: Politicians and the people they lead too often ignore danger signs until a crisis hits.

It wasn't a secret that levees built to keep New Orleans from flooding could not withstand a major hurricane, but government leaders never found the money to fully shore up the network of earthen, steel and concrete barriers.

Both the Bush and Clinton administrations proposed budgets that low-balled the needs. Local politicians grabbed whatever money they could and declared victory. And the public didn't exactly demand tax increases to pay for flood-control and hurricane-protection projects.

Just last year, the Army Corps of Engineers sought $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans. The White House slashed the request to about $40 million. Congress finally approved $42.2 million, less than half of the agency's request.

Yet the lawmakers and Bush agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-laden highway bill that included more than 6,000 pet projects for lawmakers. Congress spent money on dust control for Arkansas roads, a warehouse on the Erie Canal and a $231 million bridge to a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

How could Washington spend $231 million on a bridge to nowhere - and not find $42 million for hurricane and flood projects in New Orleans? It's a matter of power and politics.

Alaska is represented by Republican Rep. Don Young, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, a senior member of the all-important Senate Appropriations Committee. Louisiana's delegation holds far less sway.

Once the hurricane hit, relief trickled into the Gulf Coast. Even Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown, whose agency is in charge of disaster response, pronounced the initial results unacceptable.

The hurricane was the first major test of FEMA since it became part of the Homeland Security Department, a massive new bureaucracy that many feared would make the well-respected FEMA another sluggish federal agency.

Looting soon broke out as local police stood by. Some police didn't want to stop people from getting badly needed food and water. Others seemed to be overwhelmed. Thousands of National Guard troops were ordered to the Gulf Coast, but their ranks have been drastically thinned by the war in Iraq.

On top of all this, Katrina is one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the United States. The best leaders running the most efficient agencies would have been sharply challenged.

"Look at all they've had to deal with," former President Clinton told CNN. "I'm telling you, nobody every thought it would happen like this."

That's not true. Experts had predicted for years that a major hurricane would eventually hit New Orleans, swamping the levees and filling the bowl-shaped city with polluted water. Yet even Bush insisted that nobody anticipated the breach of the levees in a serious storm.

The politicians are doing what they do in time of crisis - shifting the blame.

"The truth will speak for itself," Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said of potential lapses by government. Later, her office blamed the White House for budget cuts.

If it's not the Republicans' fault, perhaps some in Washington would like to blame New Orleans itself. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., questioned whether a city that lies below sea level should be rebuilt. "That doesn't make sense to me," he said.

But for anybody living - or dying - in the devastated region, there are far too many villains to name.

"We're out here like pure animals. We don't have help," the Rev. Issac Clark, 68, said outside the New Orleans Convention Center.

Robin Lovin, ethics professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said it's too convenient to blame one branch of government when they are all, at some level, failing people. From Watergate to Clinton's impeachment, governmental institutions have disappointed the public.

"Bush, Congress, the mayor - each of them are symptoms of a bigger problem, that we don't have accountability for disasters or challenges of this scale," Lovin said. "That's all the public wants in trying times - accountability."

Thus, Americans are doing what people do when government lets them down - they're turning to each other. Donations are pouring into charities. Internet sites are being used to find relatives. Residents of far-off states are opening their homes to victims.

The community spirit is reminiscent of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. So is the second-guessing. It will happen again after the next crisis. You've heard the warnings: a cataclysmic California earthquake, another terrorist strike, a flu pandemic, a nuclear plant meltdown, a tsunami, the failure to address mounting U.S. debt - and on and on.

Will the public and its leaders be better prepared next time?


Bush faces new challenge amid flood of bad news


Bush faces new challenge amid flood of bad news

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The devastation of Hurricane Katrina is a dangerous political challenge for President George W. Bush even as he grapples with a string of bad news on the Iraq war, soaring gas prices and slumping approval ratings.

The widespread destruction on the Gulf Coast, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, threatens to hit all Americans in the pocketbook by wreaking havoc on gas prices and the U.S. economy.

The result, analysts say, could be new questions about Bush's leadership and priorities, particularly his decisions to push for big tax cuts and pour billions of dollars into an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.

"This is a supreme test of Bush's leadership at a time when resources are thin and his approval ratings are perilously low," pollster John Zogby said.

The hurricane's aftermath also could be more bad news for Republicans already worried about the political fallout in the 2006 congressional elections from the Iraq war. Republicans counting on domestic issues to trump Iraq in the minds of voters could find little solace there.

"The U.S. economy in the hurricane's aftermath is going to be a lot more important to a lot more voters than Iraq, no matter how well or poorly it's going over there," said California-based Republican consultant Dan Schnur.

"If the situation in Iraq has not improved, and if the hurricane causes an economic downturn, then Republican candidates have something to worry about," Schnur said.

Bush cut short a month-long vacation by two days to return to Washington on Wednesday, swooping low over the flooded coast for a first-hand view on the way back. He then headed a meeting of emergency officials and made a short public statement from the White House Rose Garden.

The New York Times, in an editorial on Thursday, called his statement "one of the worst speeches of his life."

On Thursday Bush called Katrina a temporary setback for the economy and appeared in public with former Presidents George Bush, his father, and Bill Clinton. He asked them to head a drive for disaster relief similar to the one they conducted after the Asian tsunami.

Some Democrats were quick to attack Bush for a feeble and late response, and drew links between the administration's focus on Iraq while domestic priorities like flood prevention were starved for funds.

"We are watching this devastation unfold on our televisions for days and you have to ask: where is the federal government?" Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey said. "We should have had a significant amount of troops and supplies there on the ground Monday."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, noting gas prices were rocketing past $3 a gallon in many parts of the country, said everyday Americans had made sacrifices while Bush's "pals in big oil" reaped record profits.

"While he's asking ordinary Americans to do more, he ought to show some real leadership and call on his friends in Big Oil to join in the sacrifice and stop gouging American families at the gas pump," Dean said in a statement.

Critics asked why there were not better plans for emergency disaster relief and why decades of repeated warnings about the potential for disaster on the levees were ignored. They accused the administration of diverting funds for maintenance of the levee system to homeland security programs and the Iraq war.

"Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice," The New York Times said.

Bush brushed off the charges and said this was no time for politics.

"What we need to do as a nation is come together to solve the problem and not play politics, and there will be ample time for politics," Bush said in an ABC television interview.

Bush, criticized as slow to respond in the hours after the September 11 attacks, later won plaudits for his leadership, including his appearance with a bullhorn in the rubble of New York's World Trade Center to speak to rescue workers. He plans a visit to the devastated hurricane region on Friday.

"It's time for symbolic gestures," Zogby said. "The president is going to have to do a lot more than a 25-minute flyover."

Comparing his responses to the September 11 attacks and to the hurricane, the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader in Manchester blasted the president.

"The cool, confident, intuitive leadership Bush exhibited in his first term, particularly in the months immediately following September 11, 2001, has vanished," the paper said. "In its place is a diffident detachment unsuitable for the leader of a nation facing war, natural disaster and economic uncertainty."


Three more assert Pentagon knew of 9/11 ringleader


Three more assert Pentagon knew of 9/11 ringleader

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three more people associated with a secret U.S. military intelligence team have asserted that the program identified September 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta as an Al Qaeda suspect inside the United States more than a year before the 2001 attacks, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The Pentagon said a three-week review had turned up no documents to back up the assertion, but did not rule out that such documents relating to the classified operation had been destroyed.

Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott and Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer last month came forward with statements that a secret intelligence program code-named "Able Danger" had identified Atta, the lead hijacker in the attacks that killed 3,000 people, in early 2000. Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Curt Weldon, vice chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, also went public with the allegations.

Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst in the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told reporters that as part of the review, the Pentagon interviewed 80 people.

Downs said that three more people, as well as Phillpott and Shaffer, recalled the existence of an intelligence chart identifying Atta by name. Four of the five recalled a photo of Atta accompanying the chart, Downs said.

Pentagon officials declined to identify the three by name, but said they were an analyst with the military's Special Operations Command, an analyst with the Land Information Warfare Assessment Center and a contractor who supported the center.

Downs said all five were considered "credible people."

But officials said an exhaustive search of tens of thousands of documents and electronic files related to Able Danger failed to find the chart or other documents corroborating the identification of Atta. Phillpott has said Atta was identified by Able Danger by January or February of 2000.

"We have not discovered that chart," Downs said.

Asked whether it ever existed, she said, "We don't know. We don't have it at the moment." Downs said it was possible that the chart and any other document that might have referred to Atta were destroyed by the military.

"Able Danger," now disbanded, was a small, classified military operation engaged in data-mining analysis of information including media reports and public records through the use of powerful computer systems.

"There are strict regulations about collection, dissemination and destruction procedures for this type of information. And we know that did happen in the case of Able Danger documentation," Downs said.

But Navy Cmdr. Christopher Chope of the Special Operations Command said that "we have negative indications" that destruction of such a chart was advised by military lawyers.

When Shaffer, currently on paid leave as an employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency, went public, he said analysts involved in Able Danger were blocked by military lawyers when they sought to provide the team's findings to the FBI in 2000 in an effort to find Al Qaeda suspects.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the review turned up no evidence that the Pentagon prevented the disclosure of Atta's name to other agencies of the U.S. government.

Shaffer also has said Able Danger identified some of Atta's fellow hijackers, Marwan al-Shehhi, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, as part of an al Qaeda cell inside the United States.


Budget cuts delayed New Orleans flood control work


Budget cuts delayed New Orleans flood control work

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bush administration funding cuts forced federal engineers to delay improvements on the levees, floodgates and pumping stations that failed to protect New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters, agency documents showed on Thursday.

The former head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that handles the infrastructure of the nation's waterways, said the damage in New Orleans probably would have been much less extensive had flood-control efforts been fully funded over the years.

"Levees would have been higher, levees would have been bigger, there would have been other pumps put in," said Mike Parker, a former Mississippi congressman who headed the engineering agency from 2001 to 2002.

"I'm not saying it would have been totally alleviated but it would have been less than the damage that we have got now."

Eighty percent of New Orleans was under water after Katrina blew through with much of the flooding coming after two levees broke.

A May 2005 Corps memo said that funding levels for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 would not be enough to pay for new construction on the levees.

Agency officials said on Thursday in a conference call that delayed work was not related to the breakdown in the levee system and Parker told Reuters the funding problems could not be blamed on the Bush administration alone.

Parker said a project dating to 1965 remains unfinished and that any recent projects would not have been in place by the time the hurricane struck even if they had been fully funded.

"If we do stuff now it's not going to have an effect tomorrow," Parker said. "These projects are huge, they're expensive and they're not sexy."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration had funded flood control efforts adequately.

Tensions over funding for the New Orleans levees emerged more than a year ago when a local official asserted money had been diverted to pay for the Iraq war. In early 2002, Parker told the U.S. Congress that the war on terrorism required spending cuts elsewhere in government.

Situated below sea level, New Orleans relied on a 300-mile

network of levees, floodgates and pumps to hold back the waters of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain.

Levees were fortified after floods in 1927 and 1965, and Congress approved another ambitious upgrade after a 1995 flood killed six people.

Since 2001, the Army Corps has requested $496 million for that project but the Bush administration only budgeted $166 million, according to figures provided by the office of Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Congress ultimately approved $250 million for the project during that time period.

Another project designed to shore up defenses along Lake Pontchartrain was similarly underfunded, as the administration budgeted $22 million of the $99 million requested by the Corps between 2001 and 2005. Congress boosted spending on that project to $42.5 million, according to Landrieu's office.

"It's clear that we didn't do everything we could to safeguard ourselves from this hurricane or from a natural disaster such as Katrina but hopefully we will learn and be more prepared next time," said Landrieu spokesman Brian Richardson.

The levee defenses had been designed to withstand a milder Category Three hurricane and simply were overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina, said senior project manager Al Naomi.

"The design was not adequate to protect against a storm of this nature because we were not authorized to provide a Category Four or Five protection design," he said.

A study examining a possible upgrade is under way, he said.


Bush's Emergency Responses

Jonathan Larsen's blog on

Bush's Emergency Responses

Bush says no one could have predicted that the levees would break.

Not only COULD his administration predict it -- his administration DID predict it. So did Republican members of Congress.

FEMA itself predicted in 2001 that the three most likely, most catastrophic disasters facing America were a terrorist attack on New York (check), a New Orleans flood (check) and a major San Francisco earthquake.

We've seen how Pres. Bush responded. (A quick look at how Pres. Bush responded to the earthquake threat can be found here.)

The point is that his response to these warnings has been a political response. That's not a slur, that's a valueless, definitional label. Of course it's politics, it's in the realm of politicians. So, his decision to use national resources to wage war on Iraq was also a political decision. His mortgaging of America's future to fund tax cuts and shortchange current funding levels was a political decision. So when the right-wing accuses us of politicizing his response, don't believe it.

His response is entirely political. Preparing for a disaster is the JOB of politicians. Responding to a disaster is the JOB of politicians. This is inherently political and we're both entitled and patriotic to criticize the politicians involved.

If you still think that's a leftie position to take, check out what the notoriously conservative Manchester Union-Leader had to say about it:

Bush and Katrina:
A time for action, not aloofness

AS THE EXTENT of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation became clearer on Tuesday — millions without power, tens of thousands homeless, a death toll unknowable because rescue crews can’t reach some regions — President Bush carried on with his plans to speak in San Diego, as if nothing important had happened the day before.

Katrina already is measured as one of the worst storms in American history. And yet, President Bush decided that his plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VJ Day with a speech were more pressing than responding to the carnage.

A better leader would have flown straight to the disaster zone and announced the immediate mobilization of every available resource to rescue the stranded, find and bury the dead, and keep the survivors fed, clothed, sheltered and free of disease.

The cool, confident, intuitive leadership Bush exhibited in his first term, particularly in the months immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, has vanished. In its place is a diffident detachment unsuitable for the leader of a nation facing war, natural disaster and economic uncertainty.

Wherever the old George W. Bush went, we sure wish we had him back.


A Half-true Attack on McCain

A Half-true Attack on McCain

The anti-tax Club for Growth runs an ad in New Hampshire claiming McCain would “keep the death tax.” Actually, McCain favors a big reduction.


The conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth targeted 2008 presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain with a TV ad in New Hampshire. It contains a half-true claim that McCain would "keep the death tax." In fact, McCain has long advocated reducing the number subject to the tax, so that it falls only on the estates of multi-millionaires.

The ad also misleads viewers by saying, "when you die, the IRS can tax you again. Taking as much as 55 percent of everything you've saved for your children." In fact, only estates exceeding $1.5 million currently pay any tax on that wealth. It fell on fewer than 1 percent of all Americans who died in 2004.


Club for Growth (CFG) announced Aug. 29 that it was running a new round of ads supporting total repeal of the estate tax, including one aimed at Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona. The ad is airing in New Hampshire, where McCain could be running in the first presidential primary election of 2008.


Club for Growth Ad "McCain"

Announcer: You're born. You go to school. You work hard. You raise a family. You pay your taxes.

And when you die, the IRS can tax you again. Taking as much as 55 percent of everything you've saved for your children. It's called the death tax and it's wrong.

Senator John McCain wants to keep the death tax. Isn't a lifetime of taxes enough?


McCain: Target of Conservatives

The ad says, "Senator John McCain wants to keep the death tax," but that's misleading. In fact, McCain does not favor keeping the estate tax in its present form. He has long sought to narrow the tax to apply only to the estates of the wealthiest multi-millionaires. During his primary race against George W. Bush in 2000, McCain proposed excluding all estates under $5 million.

The Club for Growth made clear it hopes to damage McCain's presidential prospects. In its press release, the group's president Pat Toomey said, "we hope that politicians have finally learned the lesson that the Death Tax is both bad for the economy and bad for their careers."

It is true that McCain opposes permanent repeal of the estate tax, which under terms of the tax cuts enacted in Bush's first term expires for one year in 2010 and then returns the following year. Many conservatives are pushing to make repeal permanent, but a McCain spokeswoman confirmed that the senator stands in "opposition to full repeal of the estate tax" due to its "long-term fiscal implications." Immediate repeal of the estate tax in 2006 would cost the government almost $290 billion in tax revenue through 2015, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

But McCain's spokeswoman said he is currently backing efforts of bipartisan Senate negotiators to reach a compromise that would retain the estate tax in a much-reduced form. Sen. Jon Kyl, McCain's fellow Arizona Republican, plans to introduce an alternative proposal that would put the exemption level anywhere from $7 million to upwards of $10 million. Kyl has held talks with ranking Finance Committee Democrat Max Baucus, but no agreement has been reached on the exemption level or the tax rate. The Capitol Hill publication CongressDaily reported Aug. 16 that Kyl is "likely" to reduce the estate tax rate to 20 percent to match the capital-gains rate in 2010. The current top rate is 47 percent.

McCain's spokeswoman said he "remains confident" that Kyl and Baucus will strike a deal he can support. Regardless, McCain clearly supports repealing the tax for most Americans and would "keep" it only for the wealthiest multi-millionaires – a position distorted by the Club for Growth's ad.

A Wider Effort - Also Misleading

The misleading attack on McCain is part of a wider effort by the Club for Growth aimed at repealing the tax. The Senate is expected to take up the issue upon return from the August recess. Other Club for Growth ads targeted moderate Democratic senators viewed as swing votes. Repeal advocates need 60 votes to block a filibuster.

Club for Growth Ad, "Cantwell" Version

Announcer: You're born. You go to school. You work hard. You raise a family. You pay your taxes.

And when you die, the IRS can tax you again. Taking as much as 55 percent of everything you've saved for your children. It's called the death tax and it's wrong.

With her vote, Sen. Maria Cantwell can eliminate the death tax. Isn't a lifetime of taxes enough?
The latest targets include Baucus, the leading Democrat on the Finance Committee, as well as Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

The ad creates the misleading impression that all those who see the ad will face a 55 percent tax their estates. As we've said before, "you" only pay if you have an estate worth over $1.5 million, under current law. So the ad is untrue for 99 percent of those viewing the ad – their estates would pay zero tax at the levels that apply this year. And as we've already noted, even the top rate is no longer 55 percent – it has come down to 47 percent this year and is scheduled to go to 45 percent in 2007. Under the Bush tax cut the top rate would come back to 55 percent in 2011 – after the one-year "repeal" in 2010.

Many affluent families escape the estate tax by making systematic gifts to their heirs before they die, and by using legal but expensive estate-planning maneuvers. But the fact is that those who actually pay are relatively few and wealthy. In 2003 2.4 million adults died, and just 28,600 left estates that were liable for any tax, according to the Tax Policy Center. So the tax fell on only the richest 1.2 percent that year. That was when the tax fell on estates of $1 million or more. For 2004 the threshold was increased to $1.5 million, so the tax currently falls on something below 1 percent of all estates, and would fall on even fewer under the $5-million threshold McCain proposed five years ago.

-- By Brooks Jackson and Jennifer L. Ernst


Joint Committee on Taxation, " Estimated Revenue effects of H.R. 8, 'The Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act 2005'" 13 April 2005.

Leonard Burman, William Gale, and Jeffrey Rohaly, " Options to Reform the Estate Tax," Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, Tax Policy Issues and Options No. 10, March 2005.

Martin Vaughan, "Kyl Mapping An Alternative Strategy For Estate Tax Measure," CongressDaily, 16 August 2005.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Islam’s Torture of Lebanon

Islam’s Torture of Lebanon
By Jamie Glazov

Frontpage Interview guest today is Brigitte Gabriel, a survivor of Islam's Jihad against Lebanese Christians. She is now an expert on the Middle East conflict who lectures nationally and internationally on the subject. She's the former news anchor of World News for Middle East television and the founder of

FP: Brigitte Gabriel, thank you for joining us today.

Gabriel: Thank you for inviting me. I'm delighted to join you.

FP: First things first, tell us a bit about your background.

Gabriel: I was raised in the only Christian country in the Middle East, Lebanon. A lot of people think the Middle East has always been made up of Moslem countries. That is not true. There once were two non-Muslim countries in the Middle East. One is a Jewish state called Israel which is under attack for its existence today and the other was a Christian country called Lebanon now under a Moslem majority controlling influence.

When Lebanon got its independence from France in the 40's the majority of the population was Christian. We didn't have any enemies. We were merchant, descendents of the Phoenicians, strong in commerce in which we prospered. In no time Lebanon became the Paris of the Middle East the banking capital of the Middle East. We were the only westernized Arabic speaking country in the region.

I was an only child to older parents. My parents were married for twenty-two years before I came into their lives. They were unable to have any children. My mother was 55 years old and my father was 60 when I was born. I had the ideal childhood, the love, adoration and attention of two mature adults who looked at me as a miracle in their lives, and were thankful for god for blessing them with a child.

Even though I was raised in a Christian country, it was still an Arabic country trying to please its neighbors, the Arab Muslims. Even the Christian private school I went to was effected. When we studied the Bible, we only studied the New Testament. I never saw the Old Testament or heard anything about it, because it was considered the enemy's bible. All I heard was Israel is Satan, Israel the devil, Israelis are demons, and they are the source of the problem in the Middle East. The Jews are evil, they are unstoppable and they want to control the world. I heard nothing but hatred toward the Jews.

FP: Can you expand a bit on some of the tragedy that befell your family? I am sorry that this is painful territory.

Gabriel: The Christians in Lebanon always had problems with the Moslems, but we never thought our neighbors would turn on us. That situation was aggravated by the influx of the Palestinians coming from Jordan after King Hussein kicked them out in Black September. That's what tipped the scale in Lebanon. Not only had Moslems become the majority but they now also felt empowered by the presence of the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat wanting to attack the Christians, take over Lebanon and use it as a base from which to attack Israel.

When the Moslems and Palestinians declared Jihad on the Christians in 1975 we didn't even know what that word meant. We had taken them into our country, allowed them to study side by side with us, in our schools and universities. We gave them jobs, shared with them our way of life. We didn't realize the depth of their hatred to us as infidels. They looked at us as the enemy not as neighbors, friends, employers and colleagues.

A lot of Muslims pored in from other Muslim countries like Iran -- the founder and supporter of Hezbollah, one of the leading terrorist organizations in the world today. They came from Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The Lebanese civil war was not between the Lebanese, it was a holly war declared on the Christians by the Muslims of the Middle East.

They started massacring the Christians, city after city. Horrific events the western media seldom reported. One of the most ghastly acts was the massacre in the Christian City of Damour where thousands of Christians were slaughtered like sheep. The Muslims would enter a bomb shelter, see a mother and a father hiding with a little baby. They would tie one leg of the baby to the mother and one leg to the father and pulled the parents apart splitting the child in half. A close friend of mine was mentally disturbed because they made her slaughter her own son in a chair. They tied her to a chair, tied a knife to her hand and holding her hand forcing her to cut her own son’s throat. They would urinate and defecate on the altars of churches using the pages of the bible as toilet paper. They did so many things I don't need to go into any more detail. You get the picture.

Americans just don’t realize the viciousness of the Militant Islamic fundamentalist. I think the biggest disservice for the American people was the denial by the networks to air the beheading video of Daniel Pearl. I think we as a society need to see what type of enemy we are fighting. People have been so sheltered in this country they have not paid attention to what was going on in the last 20 some years. They were more interested in watching a documentary about Madonna than paying attention to world events.

The majority of the Lebanese army was Muslims. Christians went to universities, not to the military. The Muslims began taking over military bases across Lebanon. They combined their forces with the Palestinians and formed what they called the Arab Lebanese Army and started attacking the Christians. I lived 50 yards below the last military base left in the hands of the Christians. While attempting to bombard the military base their shells missed landing directly on my home bringing it down and burying me under the rubble. I was 10 years old.

I woke up from a dream life into a nightmare. My eyes were blinded by the bright light of the explosions. But the light faded quickly as a hot liquid started poring into my eyes burning and shutting them closed like glue. I was wounded by shrapnel, which cut the artery in my arm that was twisted on top of my face. Blood was poring over my face and into my mouth. By the time I was rescued by my parents and taken to a hospital the next morning at 8:00 AM I was on my last breath. I was put on a bench in the emergency room and operated on without anesthesia. As the nurses held me down the doctors cut my flesh with scissors and sawed into my bone to get out the embedded shrapnel. As I faded in and out of consciousness, between my screams I prayed to God to stop my torture. I ended up in the hospital for two and half months.

While there, I would ask my parents why this happened to us, they would say because we were Christians and the Moslems want to kill us. So I knew ever since I was 10 that I was wanted dead simply because I was born a Christian.

When I returned home my new home was no longer the one that I knew. We ended up living in a bomb shelter under ground without electrify, water and very little food. Little did I know that this would become my life for the next seven years. Our bomb shelter was an eight by 10 feet cinderblock room buried underground, that my father used as a storage room for our restaurant.

FP: What is life like under the threat of Islamic terror?

Gabriel: We borrowed life one day at a time. After sleeping in cardboard boxes for a month that had been stored in the bomb shelter, thinking this will be over soon, we realized this situation is getting worse and worse. We finally furnished the bomb shelter with two old mattresses from our garage. My mom and I slept on one and my dad on the other. To get food my mother and I would go out and find different types of grass and dandelions to eat around the shelter in between the bombing. My mother would soak chickpeas, rice, lentils and beans over night so we can eat something during the day. My father couldn’t get out because in the bombing of our house, he lost his hearing and he wouldn’t hear the sniper’s bullets nor the bombs coming so he can hide. He had to stay put while my mother and I got out. To get water we would crawl in a ditch under snipers bullets to a near by spring. Every time we’d leave we would say our last good-byes because we didn’t know if we would come back alive. My mother would use her stocking on top of the bottle to filter all the worms and the debris so we can drink it. Then we would crawl back with bullets flying over our heads. Sometimes it would take us hours just to crawl 100 feet back into the bomb shelter.

One day when I was 13 one of our soldiers warned us that we are no longer able to fight and we are going to be attacked viciously that night. He wished us a merciful death as he left. Knowing we were going to be slaughtered that night I put on my Easter dress because I wanted to look pretty when I was dead, knowing that there would be nobody to prepare me for burial. I stood in my dress in front of the mirror crying as my mother combed my long hair and tied a white ribbon in it. I told her: “please I don't want to die I’m only 13.”

FP: Discuss your intellectual journey about your view of Jews and Israelis, from what you were told in your childhood to when you started questioning whether it was true, to what you think today.

Gabriel: My town was 2 and half miles from the Israeli boarder. We in our Christian town were faced with the combined Muslim and Palestinian forces waiting to slaughter us. We knew our fate, knowing what they have done to other Christian towns and cities in the rest of Lebanon. To our back was Israel. The enemy, Satan, the demon possessed Jews. We had no where to turn but one way, to the devil Israel. After all we knew the Jews wouldn’t slaughter us because we had more shared values with them than we had with the Moslems. Under the cover of darkness, few men from our town went to the border, flagged down an Israeli boarder patrol, explained the situation and begged for help.

Israel agreed to help the Christians. Israel became our lifeline. The Israeli military would come during the night and bring food and ammunition to the military and milk for the children. They would take the Christian men anyone from age 13 to 70 and train them to fight; most of them have never held a rifle before. Most of the Christian men had degrees that decorated their walls, but all the degrees in the world can not defend you when an enemy is facing you with a gun, wanting to kill you by what your enemy believes is an order from God.

The only reason we stayed alive is because Israel came into Lebanon and drove the Muslims away from the surrounding hills and set up positions in our town to protect us. Things got worse as Syrian, Libyans, Iranians Egyptians became enraged and flocked into Lebanon to fight the infidel Christians and Jews.

The Muslims had one vision, to take control of the only Christian country in the Middle East and than attack Israel. Syria, with its military already suffocating the Christians, Iran with its militia Hezbollah, The PLO with the number one world terrorist Yasser Arafat, and all the other Muslim zealots on a holly mission, were using Lebanon as a terrorist breeding ground exporting terrorism into the rest of the world. Under the auspices of a peacekeeping force in Lebanon Syria shelled Israel along with Hezbollah the Iranian financed holly warriors. The world press which was getting its information from the Muslim controlled areas in Beirut were saying that Israel is occupying Lebanon and the poor Lebanese were fighting back to kick the Israelis out.

By 1982 Israel was fed up with Syria’s repeated attacks on its northern boarder. They invaded Lebanon declaring war on the terrorist infrastructure, going all the way into Beirut. During the first two days of the invasion as the Muslims were retreating they shelled us frantically. In their last artillery barrage, they scored a direct hit on the front of our bomb shelter. My mother was seriously wounded and would die without immediate medical attention. My father was too old and weak to take her to the hospital, the responsibility fell on my shoulder. We had to take her to Israel for treatment. For her it was a life saving experience. For me it was a life changing experience. It was my first lesson in the difference between the Arabs and the western world particularly the Jews.

Before we left my father gave me $60 dollars in case I needed some money since we were going to Israel for treatment. We took her first, to the Lebanese hospital in town which was vacant and bombed out. There was an Israeli doctor on duty for first aid situations. He gave my mother first aid and we put her in an Israeli ambulance and drove her under the bombs to the border. It was about a ten-minute drive, the driver was a friend of the family. When we got to the border we changed ambulances. The Lebanese driver asked me if I had any money for the ambulance fee. Like an innocent teenager who never handled money I took it out of my pocket and handed it to him and asked him how much did he want. He said: give me 30 dollars, which was half the money I had. I thanked him for driving us with tears dripping down my face and got in the Israeli ambulance and we drove off.

The drive to the hospital inside Israel was an hour long. The driver was a middle-aged soldier. He treated me like his own daughter with such respect and compassion. He listened to the radio and explained to me how the war was going in Lebanon. I felt alone and afraid. My mother was fading in and out of consciousness and moaning from pain. We got to the hospital and I walked around the ambulance to pay him the fee. I took the money out of my pocket thinking (God I’m sure this is not going to be enough for this man) If the 10 minute drive cost me 30 dollars I’m sure this is going to be much more. I extended my hand with the money asking him how much I owed him. He looked at me surprised and said: “you don’t owe me anything. The ambulance ride is a free service from us to you. Keep your money, I wish everything goes well with you. I wish your mother, health, and speedy recovery.”

I thanked him from the bottom of my heart and thought to myself: what an honest man!!! What an ethical man! He could have taken my money and partied all night and I would have not known the difference. Yet he didn’t. And all of a sudden I felt this anger towards the Lebanese driver who was supposedly a friend of the family. I realized that he actually stole my money. I didn’t have to pay a fee for the ambulance, he basically robbed me. I felt violated. I thanked the Israeli driver from the bottom of my heart for his honesty and help.

We went into the emergency room and I was shocked at such a scene. There were many wounded people lying all over the place. Israeli soldiers, Lebanese Muslims, Christians and even Palestinians brought in from Lebanon! I was stunned at such a scene. I thought to myself why the heck are the Israelis helping the Muslims and the Palestinians? I am a Christian, I am their friend, but why are they helping the Palestinian and the Moslems? Little did I know about the principles and values of the Israeli people? The doctors treated everyone according to their injury. The doctor treated my mother before he treated the Israeli soldier lying next to her because her injury was more severe. They did not see religion, they didn’t see political affiliation, they did not see nationality, they saw people in need and they helped.

They took my mother to the 4th floor of the hospital and put her in a room with two other Lebanese ladies one Muslim and one Druze. We were in the room for 5 minutes and we heard this loud commotion outside our balcony. People were walking through our room to go out and look. I went out to see what was going on. Two Israeli helicopters had just landed to deliver wounded Israeli soldiers. I stood at that balcony feeling sick to my stomach. I felt Ashamed, Humiliated, Embarrassed, Broken hearted. After all these people are wounded because of the war with my country. I didn’t even look at any one around me I kept my eyes down. I was surrounded by mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children of wounded soldiers. I felt out of place, I felt uncertain I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone because I didn’t know how they would react to me.

While I was standing there, I felt someone tapping on my shoulder. I looked up to see a nurse standing next to me. She asked me: “You are new here aren’t you?” I said yes they just brought my mother to this room. She put her arm around me and looked into my face and said don’t worry we’ll take good care of her, everything will be fine.”

I broke out crying, I never felt such compassion and love. For the first time in my life I experienced a human quality that I know my culture would not have shown to their enemy. I experienced the values of the Israelis who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments. That nurse didn’t even know if I was a Christian, a Moslem or a Palestinian. I spent 22 days at that hospital, those days changed my life and the way I believe information, the way I listen to the radio or to television. I realized I was sold a fabricated lie by my government about the Jews and Israel that was so far from reality. I knew for fact that if I was a Jew standing in an Arab hospital I would be lynched and thrown over to the grounds as shouts of joy of Allahu Akbar, God is great would echo through the hospital and the surrounding streets.

When Israelis heard there were Lebanese wounded in the hospitals they came barring presents, they brought chocolates, they asked people what they wanted and what they needed. They said our home is your home if you need anything let us know. They came extending a peaceful hand. I became friends with Israeli mothers staying at the hospital with their wounded sons. One in particular Rina, her only child was wounded in his eyes. One day I was visiting with her and the Israeli army band came to play national songs to lift the spirits of the wounded soldiers. As they surrounded his bed playing a song about Jerusalem Rina and I started crying. I felt out of place and started waking out of the room, and this mother holds my hand and pulls me back in without even looking at me. She holds me crying and says: “it is not your fault”. We just stood there crying holding each other’s hands.

I thought: "What a contrast between her, a mother looking at her deformed 19 year old only child, and still able to love me the Arab, and between a Moslem mother who sends her son to blow himself up to smithereens just to kill a few Jews or Christians."

The Moslem woman who was in the room with my mother stayed in the hospital for about 12 days. And even after 10 days the doctors would come and change her bandages and check on her in their morning tour, as they would be leaving the room she would have the evil look on her face and say: "I hate you all. I wish you were all dead." For the first time in my life I saw evil. I realized that this Muslim couldn’t love the Jews even after they saved her life. And when you are unable to be grateful to the people that saved your life there is no hope.

I had to go back to Lebanon because I had to take care of my parents but I vowed that one day I would return to Israel. That one day I will live among those people. These are the types of people I want to be like. These are the types of values I want to adopt. I knew they had something even I did not. They were able to love the Palestinians and forgive them much more than I was able to, and I was a Christian who was supposed to love like Jesus taught.

FP: What hope is there? I doubt that if the Palestinians get their own state that they will suddenly love the Jews and that the whole Islamic-Arab world will put anti-Semitism on the backburner. What do you think?

Gabriel: Israel is stepping out in “good faith” again to do whatever it takes to achieve peace with its neighbors. As if Hamas is going to appreciate the goodness of the Jews and re-write its charter accepting Israel as neighbor and a friend. Hamas has only one goal and that is to eradicate Israel one piece at a time until it becomes vulnerable to Arab military aggression and conquest.

As one who knows what's in the hearts and minds of Arabs, let me repeat what seems to be the hardest thing for world opinion to accept: The Arabs have no intention of having peace with the Jews period, exclamation point, end of discussion. No Jews can exist free and unencumbered in the Middle East. "What an outrage. Jews are dhimmis, how dare they come back and live in our midst, make the desert blossom and create a country more advanced than any other in the Middle East. And they don't have any oil?"

So far all territory concessions made by Israel have been an illusion of land for peace. In Egypt, who was given the Sinai Peninsula back in 1979, or Jordan, who signed a peace treaty with Israel, the phone books go from Ireland to Italy as if Israel never existed? What type of peace is this without full acknowledgement of statehood? What type of peace is it when Egyptian government, run and controlled television, airs the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion?"

Intelligence sources say there are plans to create a terrorist state in Gaza where world terrorist operations will be planned and carried out. This is equivalent to Somalia & Afghanistan terrorist controlled societies, but within striking distance of Israel proper. The mini Hamas Terror State would have an airport and port facilities from which to export terror to the rest of the world.

U.S. security officials have received multiple confirmations of a meeting in March [2003] between al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah figures. Most alarming is Hamas' move towards embracing global jihad as evidenced by its publishing the messages of Osama bin Laden mentor Abdullah Azzam-Palestinian, originally from Jenin. Hamas openly publicizes its support and alliance with al-Qaeda organizations jihad action in Chechnya, Kashmir the Balkans and Afghanistan. As Al Qaeda associate Jordanian terrorist al- Zarqawi firmed up his relationship with bin Laden in Iraq, it is only a matter of time for Hamas to follow suit under the sovereignty of an independent mini-terror state free from the demands of the weakened PA leadership under Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah..

They will form an instant terror base from which to attack every corner of Israel bent on jihad and revenge for al Nakbah-the catastrophe of their defeat in the 1948 War of Independence. Israel is engaged in an existential crisis of Armageddon-like proportions. Another piece for a peace? You have to be kidding, right?

FP: It is interesting that most people think of Hamas as an Israeli problem. Which it is of course. But it is also an American problem. And it will become a great American problem. Can you comment on this?

Gabriel: Many terrorist organizations have already set up shop here in America. The three most threatening ones are Hamas, Al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad. Some of their operatives and supporters have entered the country illegally using visa fraud.

Of all the Islamic militant groups in the US. Hamas has developed the most sophisticated American infrastructure. Under our liberal un-restrictive environment of the United States these people are operating and were able to set up a whole array of cells that spread across the US from sea to shining sea. According to intelligence information they have cells in the top 31 cities in the US. Right in many of our towns and cities. Right in our back yard. And it’s our lazy government officials and lax laws that allowed them to come here to plan our destruction. Many are still blind in this country to the threat that we face. When are we going to wake up? Yes, we now have enacted Homeland security but without all Americans supporting the war on terrorism today our success will be limited.

What we need is to know our enemy better. And I’m not just talking about Al Qaida. How many Americans have read the Hamas charter published August 1988. Excerpts for the charter of the Hamas, the charter of Allah, the platform of the Islamic resistance movement Hamas: Article 22: "Our enemies have planned from time immemorial in order to reach the position they’ve obtained now. They strive to collect enormous material riches to be used in the realization of their dream. With money, they’ve gained control of the international media beginning with news agencies, newspapers and publishing houses, broadcasting stations. They also used this wealth to stir revolutions in different parts of the world in order to fulfill their interests and reap their fruits. With their money they created secret organizations that spread around the world in order to destroy societies and carry out Zionist interests. Such organizations are: the freemasons, rotary clubs, lions clubs, b’nai b’rith and the like. All of them are destructive espionage organizations. With their money they’ve taken control of the imperialist states and pushed them to occupy many countries in order to exploit the wealth of those countries and spread corruption there."

How many rotary club members, Lions club members know they are mentioned in the Hamas charter the largest militant Muslim infrastructure in the United states that they are considered the enemy to be destroyed.?

We really need to realize…All Americans need to realize that these people hate us and want nothing but to eliminate us because as far as they are concerned we are the infidels. These are religiously motivated fanatics who you cannot negotiate with. These are people who are convinced that god has ordered them to kill us. Their motivation is tremendous. They believe that the minute they die, at the first drop of blood, a crown of pearl will be placed on their head and they will be carried by the angels to heaven and placed at the right side of god and 72 virgins are offered to them. We cannot drop our guard for a minute. We must be more vigilant than ever before. Wake up America.

FP: Brigitte Gabriel, you are an incredible person with an extraordinary, inspiring and vital story to tell. Thank you, it was an honor to speak with you.

Gabriel: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to join you today. Organizations like yours make it possible for people like me to get the word out. Together we can make a difference.

Also see "A Survivor of Palestinian Tyranny Defends Israel"
Brigitte Gabriel's speech delivered at the Duke University Counter Terrorism Speak-Out, held Thursday, October 14, 2004.


Waiting for a Leader

The New York Times

Waiting for a Leader

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.


Banished Whistle-Blowers

The New York Times

Banished Whistle-Blowers

The Bush administration is making no secret of its determination to punish whistle-blowers and other federal workers who object to the doctoring of facts that clash with policy and spin. The blatant retaliation includes the Army general sidelined for questioning the administration's projections about needed troop strength in Iraq, the Medicare expert muted when he tried to inform Congress about the true cost of the new prescription subsidies and the White House specialist on climate change who was booted after complaining that global warming statistics were being massaged by political tacticians.

We agree with critics like Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat, who has tracked a long list of abused federal workers who should be applauded, not penalized, for their dedication. The latest victims include Bunnatine Greenhouse, a career civilian manager at the Pentagon. She was demoted from her job as the top contract overseer of the Army Corps of Engineers after she complained of irregularities in the awarding of a multibillion-dollar no-bid Iraq contract to a subsidiary of Halliburton, the Texas-based oil services company run by Dick Cheney before he became vice president.

Ms. Greenhouse made complaints internally, then publicly, describing the contract as "the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed." Recently, Ms. Greenhouse was ordered removed for "poor performance," just as unfairly as the administration forced out Lawrence Greenfeld as director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Mr. Greenfeld's sin was to stand fast against senior political appointees intent on watering down a study's finding that blacks and Hispanics were subject to more searches and force in police traffic stops.

Damage control is a political hallmark of any administration. But the Bush team is taking it to the most destructive extreme.


Roberts Poked at Congress As Reagan Lawyer

ABC News
Roberts Poked at Congress As Reagan Lawyer
Supreme Court Nominee John Roberts Took Shots at Congress While a Reagan Administration Lawyer
By JESSE J. HOLLAND Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

Sep. 1, 2005 - Supreme Court nominee John Roberts took shots at Congress while a Reagan administration lawyer, saying in documents released Wednesday that a congressman killed in connection with cult leader Jim Jones' massacre could be viewed as a "publicity hound" and that what Congress does best is "nothing."

Those two documents were among 420 Roberts papers released by the National Archives that originally had been withheld from Congress for privacy and security reasons. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library re-reviewed the papers and released them a week before Roberts' confirmation hearing after blacking out much material for privacy and national security reasons.

Two of the released documents show Roberts, then an assistant to White House counsel Fred Fielding, taking the then-Democratic Congress to task.

Congress voted to give California Rep. Leo Ryan, a Democrat, a Congressional Gold Medal after he was killed near the Jonestown commune in Guyana in 1978. Ryan had gone down to Guyana to investigate whether cult leader Jones was holding people against their will.

Some cult members chose to leave with Ryan but the party was ambushed; Ryan and four others were killed.

Jones ordered a mass suicide, and more than 900 members of the People's Temple cult committed mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced punch while others were shot by guards loyal to Jones.

Roberts told Fielding in a Nov. 18, 1983, memo he was not certain he would have voted to give Ryan a congressional medal.

"The distinction of his service in the House is certainly subject to debate, and his actions leading to his murder can be viewed as those of a publicity hound," Roberts said.

Roberts, however, said he saw no legal objections to Reagan signing off on legislation for the medal.

In an Oct. 11, 1983, letter to U.S. Appeals Judge Henry Friendly of New York, Roberts complained about Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger's plan to set up a new appeals-level court to cut down on the Supreme Court's workload.

The White House counsel's office was fighting against it, Roberts wrote, but the chief justice, congressional leaders and the Justice Department were all for the idea.

"Our only hope is that Congress will continue to do what is does best nothing," said Roberts, who used to be one of Friendly's clerks.

Those statements could come back to haunt Roberts on Tuesday, when he faces the Senate Judiciary Committee in his attempt to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. He will be introduced by Indiana Sens. Richard Lugar, a Republican, and Evan Bayh, a Democrat, as well as Virginia GOP Sen. John Warner.

"Of course, it's a matter of courtesy," Bayh said at a Democratic fundraiser in South Carolina. "Like many of my colleagues, I'm interested in what he has to say, and we won't know that until he's asked and answers the questions."

Warner introduced Roberts at his successful appeals courts hearing, while the nominee spent his childhood in Indiana. A Bayh spokesman said that his introduction of Roberts doesn't mean the Democrat's going to vote for him.

"He's following a long-standing tradition of senators introducing nominees from their home state," spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said. Bayh has not decided how he'll vote, Pfeiffer said.

Democrats say they need more Roberts documents to judge his candidacy to the Supreme Court. The Senate's Democratic leadership on Wednesday told the White House that not releasing key Roberts documents was "a failure to respect the role of Congress in our constitutional system."

Archives officials announced on Tuesday they had found a "large volume" of unreviewed and unreleased Roberts documents. At least one file of Roberts documents on affirmative action has gone missing, and the White House is refusing to let Democrats see Roberts' documents from his time in the solicitor general's office during the George H.W. Bush administration.

"They should be made available to senators as they decide whether Judge Roberts deserves confirmation," said a letter signed by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Charles Schumer of New York.

Several groups announced their opposition to Roberts on Wednesday, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and the National Womens Law Center. Groups announcing their support of Roberts included the National Black Republican Association.

Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.


Poll: Bush Approval at a Career Low

ABC News
Poll: Bush Approval at a Career Low
ABC News/Washington Post Poll Finds Iraq Ratings Negative, but Stable
Analysis by GARY LANGER

Jul. 29, 2005 - George W. Bush's job approval rating slipped to a career low 45 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, damaged both by discontent with the war in Iraq and broad unhappiness with the price of gasoline at home.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

Views on Iraq, while stable, are not good: Fifty-three percent of Americans say the war was not worth fighting, 57 percent disapprove of the way Bush is handling it and 68 percent call the level of U.S. casualties unacceptable. The public only divides, 49-49 percent, on whether the war has improved long-term U.S. security, its basic rationale.

At home, opinions on gasoline prices are even more dire. Just 22 percent approve of Bush's work on the problem, while a whopping 73 percent disapprove. Two-thirds say gas prices are causing them financial hardship -- back up after a dip last week -- and six in 10 think the Bush administration could take measures to cut the price of gas.

That view seems to run contrary to Bush's comment Monday: "I wish I could snap my fingers and lower the price of gasoline for you. The markets don't work that way. I'd be snappin' if I could do it."

Views on Iraq, while negative, have been at least as sour in the past as they are now. Disapproval of Bush's handling of the war has been essentially steady since December, and a majority hasn't approved since January 2004. Similarly, consistent majorities since December 2004 have said the war was not worth fighting, and since July 2003 have called the level of casualties unacceptable.

In another bottom-line view, a bare majority, 51 percent, says the United States is winning the war in Iraq -- hardly an expression of broad confidence, albeit more than the 38 percent who say the United States is losing the war. Eight percent call it a draw.

Separately, in a result that could embolden Bush's critics, a majority of Americans -- including more than three-quarters of Democrats and nearly six in 10 independents -- say the Democrats in Congress have not gone far enough in opposing the war, or, for that matter, in opposing Bush's policies more generally.

The Sheehan Effect

Bush's overall rating, while a new low, also is not much worse than it's been. Forty-five percent approve of his work in office, compared with a previous low of 47 percent; 53 percent disapprove, a scant one point more than the previous high.

A better result for Bush is a little gain in ratings of his handling of terrorism more broadly, the primary underpinning of his popularity. Fifty-six percent approve, up from 50 percent in early June, which tied the post-9/11 low.

Intensity of sentiment, however, remains against Bush. People who "strongly" disapprove of his work in office overall outnumber strong approvers by 14 points, 41 percent to 27 percent. But this has been steady, too, since spring.

Indeed, it may come as a surprise that Bush hasn't fared worse despite the difficult August -- suggesting that views on his presidency overall, and Iraq in particular, are by now firmly rooted and slow to move. U.S. military fatalities in Iraq have averaged about three a day in August, making it among the deadliest months since the war began. And anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan has been a persistent voice opposing the president for the last three weeks.

Sheehan's received broad exposure -- three-quarters of Americans have heard or read about her -- and gets majority sympathy; 53 percent support what she's doing and 52 percent think Bush should meet with her again, as she's requested. Her supporters are very predominantly those who, like her, oppose the war.

All the same, Sheehan does not appear to have changed the basic equation -- or many minds. Nearly eight in 10 Americans say she hasn't changed their view of the war; among the rest, about as many say they're more likely to support the war because of Sheehan as say they're more likely to oppose it, 10 percent vs. nine percent, respectively.

Neither has Sheehan ratcheted up emotional responses to the Bush administration's work on the war. Fifty-three percent are dissatisfied, about the same as in late June. That includes 27 percent who are "angry" about it, again quite similar to the level of anger two months ago, pre-Sheehan.

Sheehan, whose son was killed while serving in Iraq, also raises the question of the views of military families. Ten percent in this survey say they or a member of their household are serving in the military, either on active duty or in the reserves. In general, the views these people hold on the war are very similar to those of people in non-military households.

Household Support of War
Military Non-military
More likely to support war 22% 8%
More likely to oppose it 17 9
No effect on views 59 81

Similarly, basic views of Sheehan are no different among people in military families than in non-military households -- a little more than half in both groups support her, and about half in both groups think Bush should meet with her.

Still, Sheehan looks to have touched more of a nerve in military households; such people are more apt to say she's affected their opinions, about equally in both directions. Twenty-two percent say she's made them more apt to support the war, 17 percent say she's made them more apt to oppose it. That compares to eight and nine percent, respectively, in non-military households.


Views on what to do now in Iraq are in some ways conflicted. On one hand, the number of Americans who say U.S. forces should remain until civil order is restored, even if that means sustaining continued casualties, has slipped slightly to 54 percent, compared with 57 to 58 percent the past year. That likely reflects the obvious difficulties that restoring civil order there entails.

At the same time, the public continues to divide about evenly on whether the United States is or is not making significant progress restoring order in Iraq -- no change there. And support for increasing the number of U.S. forces actually has increased slightly, albeit just to 21 percent, up from 15 or 16 percent in March and June polls.

About twice as many, 41 percent, say U.S. troop levels should be decreased. But that remains under a majority, and many fewer -- 13 percent -- call for an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces in Iraq. That's been steady since spring. And even among people who strongly oppose the war, fewer than three in 10 want a complete, immediate withdrawal.

Indeed, given pro and con arguments (avoiding further casualties vs. encouraging anti-government insurgents), Americans by a substantial 20-point margin, 59 to 39 percent, oppose setting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. (Those who favor a deadline divide about evenly on whether the end of 2006, as suggested by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., is about right, or too late.)

The Big Picture

While Bush's 45-percent approval rating is weak -- majority disapproval is never a good thing -- it's by no means out of the ordinary. Among the more-popular recent presidents, Bill Clinton saw lows of 43 percent in the summer of 1993 and 44 percent in 1994, and Ronald Reagan hit 42 percent in early 1983 and 44 percent in early 1987. (The latter was Iran-Contra inspired; the others, largely economic.)

But the mid- to low-40s are kind of a break point; presidents who've gone lower are those who tend to be remembered as less popular. Bush's father, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, all one-termers, bottomed out at 33, 28 and 37 percent, respectively. Richard Nixon saw a scandal-induced 23 percent in a Gallup poll in January 1974.

What seem to be different are the factors driving majority disapproval of Bush -- not the more usual culprits of the economy or scandal, but, at least in good measure, a less-than-popular war (although gas prices certainly are not helping). The possible parallel there is with Lyndon B. Johnson, who spent most of 1968 in the low 40s, bottoming out at 35 percent approval that August. (In Gallup polling in the summer of '68, 53 percent called the Vietnam War a mistake, as many as now view the Iraq war critically.)

The Public Agenda
Even though Bush's ratings on Iraq haven't worsened, the war has gained some ground on the public's agenda: Twenty-nine percent call it the highest priority for Bush and Congress, compared with 26 percent who cite the economy. That puts Iraq numerically (albeit not significantly) ahead of the economy for the first time this year; mentions of Iraq have gained seven points since spring, while the economy's lost six. Seventeen percent mention terrorism as the top priority, up from 12 percent in April.

Handling terrorism is the only issue of seven tested in this poll on which Bush gets majority approval. Still, some others also show gains. While 52 percent disapprove of his work on Social Security, that's down from 62 percent in early June; the 40 percent who now approve is the most since April 2004. It may have helped that there's been less focus lately on Bush's less-than-popular Social Security reform plan.

Fifty-four percent disapprove of Bush's work on the economy; this peaked at 59 percent in March 2004. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of his work on immigration, not good, but essentially stable since January 2004. On Bush's approach to abortion, of interest given his nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, the public divides evenly, 44-44 percent. As noted, Bush's rating on gas prices is particularly severe.

Beyond job performance, Bush has difficulty on personal empathy as well. Forty percent of Americans think he understands the problems of people like them; 59 percent say he doesn't. But this, too, has been quite stable, in this case since early 2004.

In only a few pro-Bush groups do majorities (and not always big majorities) say he understands their problems -- 76 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of conservatives, 52 percent of evangelical white Protestants and 51 percent of people with household incomes over $75,000.

Bush can take some solace, though, in ratings of Congress: Just 37 percent of Americans approve of its work, while 59 percent disapprove -- the institution's worst rating in ABC/Post polls since October 1997.

The difference is that Republicans, while remaining behind Bush (87 percent approve of his work) are much less enamored of the Republican-controlled Congress; 49 percent approve, while 48 percent disapprove. And Democrats and independents disapprove of Congress lopsidedly.

The Sexes

In addition to the customary partisanship in many of these views, there's a notable difference between the sexes. Compared with men, women are more apt to oppose the Iraq war and less apt to say it's improved U.S. security. They're 17 points more likely to favor setting a deadline for withdrawal, and 16 points less apt to say the United States is winning the war. And they're 10 points more apt to support Cindy Sheehan.

Much of this reflects the fact that women are more likely than men to be Democrats. But not all of it: Republican women are 17 points more apt than Republican men to call the level of casualties unacceptable and 11 points more likely to favor withdrawing from Iraq even if civil order is not restored.

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 25-28, 2005, among a random national sample of 1,006 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.

Click below for full questionnaire and results.


Four Indicted in Alleged U.S. Terror Plot

ABC News
Four Indicted in Alleged U.S. Terror Plot
Four Indicted in Alleged Terrorist Plot Against Los Angeles-Area Targets
The Associated Press

Aug. 31, 2005 - The head of a militant Islamic prison gang and three others were indicted Wednesday on federal charges of planning terrorist attacks against National Guard facilities, the Israeli Consulate and other Los Angeles-area targets.

The four conspired to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism, kill armed service members and murder foreign officials, among other charges, according to the indictment.

Named in the indictment were Levar Haley Washington, 25, Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21, Hammad Riaz Samana, 21, and Kevin James, 29.

Prosecutors contend the plot was orchestrated by Washington, Patterson and Samana at the behest of James, an inmate at the California State Prison-Sacramento who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh.

Washington converted to Islam while serving three years in the prison for a robbery conviction.

According to the indictment, Washington pledged his loyalty to James "until death by martyrdom" and sought to establish a JIS cell outside prison with members with bomb expertise.

Washington, Patterson and Samana who attended the same Inglewood mosque allegedly conducted surveillance of National Guard facilities, the Israeli Consulate and several synagogues in the Los Angeles area as well as Internet research on Jewish holidays.

The attacks were to be carried out with firearms and other weapons on Jewish holidays, according to the indictment.

Patterson allegedly bought a .223-caliber rifle in July.

To finance the attacks, prosecutors said, the three robbed a string of gas stations in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The case arose after Washington and Patterson were arrested July 5 by police in Torrance, a suburb southwest of Los Angeles, for investigation of robbing the gas stations.

Federal and local counterterrorism officials began investigating after police who searched Washington's apartment in the robbery case said they found a possible target list. Samana, a student originally from Pakistan who lived in Inglewood, was taken into federal custody Aug. 2.

Attorneys representing Washington, Patterson and Samana did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

James known as Shakyh Shahaab Murshid, among other aliases founded JIS in 1997 while imprisoned for an attempted-robbery conviction in Los Angeles County, prosecutors said. He preached that the duty of JIS members was to attack enemies of Islam.

Washington was paroled in November 2004, around the time authorities say he joined James' group.

James then instructed Washington to recruit five members with felony convictions and train them to conduct covert operations; acquire firearms with silencers; and appoint a group member to help produce remotely activated explosives, prosecutors claim.

The FBI recently ordered its agents nationwide to conduct "threat assessments" of inmates who may have become radicalized in prison and could commit extremist violence upon their release.


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Cindy Sheehan to Congress: It's Time to Do Your Job
Arianna Huffington
Cindy Sheehan to Congress: It's Time to Do Your Job

By any measure, Cindy Sheehan's Crawford vigil has been a triumph, capturing the attention of the nation and finally making Iraq the focus of a much-needed national debate. Not bad for a plain-spoken mom in a floppy hat.

Now she is taking her protest to the next level, helping to organize a bus tour of key congressional districts and sending letters to every member of Congress, asking them to meet with her and her fellow grieving parents -- and to hold the president accountable for his disastrous policies in Iraq.

As she puts it in her letter: "The President has not been willing to meet with me, but he must meet and listen to you."

It seems like an obvious reminder -- "Hey, guys... you've got the power!" -- but it's a message our elected representatives apparently need to be hit over the head with. They've abdicated their constitutional power -- and responsibility -- for far too long, and its time for them to flex those underused oversight muscles again.

Sheehan's timing couldn't be better. Lawmakers have gotten an earful from their constituents over the August recess -- increasing numbers of whom are deeply frustrated with the lack of progress in Iraq and fed up with the president's "stay the course" mantra. With a majority of Americans now against the war -- and 56 percent saying they favor the withdrawal of some or all U.S. troops from Iraq -- things could be nearing a tipping point.

Now, I'm not saying that members of Congress are going to return to D.C. next week and suddenly vote to end the war. But they might be ready to at least start doing their job.

Sen. John Warner has announced plans to grill Don Rumsfeld about the lack of progress in Iraq. Rep. Walter Jones and his 45 co-sponsors are still trying to get their "Homeward Bound" withdrawal from Iraq resolution out of committee. And Sen. Byron Dorgan is still pushing for a new Truman-style Commission to investigate wasteful spending in Iraq. He plans to attach a Truman Commission amendment to the defense authorization bill that Congress will take up upon its return, along with a defense appropriations bill that includes an additional $45.3 billion in funds for Iraq and Afghanistan.

This, of course, is the critical power that Congress possesses -- the power of the purse strings. That was ultimately what precipitated the end of the war in Vietnam -- a 1973 vote cutting off the funds for the bombing of Cambodia over the objections of Henry Kissinger, who warned that lack of congressional support would make it impossible to negotiate a lasting settlement. Sound familiar? The words of then Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield should be required reading for all current members of Congress: "The only way to face up to our responsibilities, the only way to do it effectively, is to cut the purse strings."

Republican leaders, increasingly concerned that Iraq could become the losing issue in 2006 (you know they're getting nervous when even Rick Santorum admits to "concerns" over the administration's handling of the war), would also be well advised to study the words and deeds of another Vietnam era figure, Sen. William Fulbright. As the powerful Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright took on LBJ, holding nationally televised hearings to debate war. The hearings, in the words of historian Barton Bernstein, "legitimized dissent" and galvanized public opposition to the Vietnam war.

Here's Fulbright on the purpose of the hearings: "Under our system Congress, and especially the Senate, shares responsibility with the President for making our nation's foreign policy. This war, however, started and continues as a Presidential war in which the Congress, since the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin episode, has not played a significant role… The purpose of these hearings is to develop the best advice and greater public understanding of the policy alternatives available and positive congressional action to end American participation in the war." Substitute "WMD claims" for the Gulf of Tonkin episode and some courageous GOP senator has a ready-made opening for the modern equivalent of the Fulbright hearings.

So who will be the Fulbright of Iraq? Warner? Not likely, given that he's still dismissing parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. John McCain? Sadly not, since he wants to send 15,000 to 20,000 more troops to Iraq.

The Boston Globe's Derrick Jackson makes a strong case that it could be Sen. Chuck Hagel, whom Jackson calls "the principled face of revulsion from within." It's a comparison that Hagel himself seems to be embracing, quoting Fulbright about the hearings in a speech earlier this year. And unlike Warner, Hagel, a Purple Heart Vietnam vet, sees the parallels between the two wars. ''I watched 58,000 Americans get chewed up," he said on Meet the Press last month, "during a time when in fact we had a policy that was losing. And the members of Congress were interestingly silent and absent in asking tough questions. As long as I'm a United States senator, I will do everything I can to ensure that we have a policy worthy of these brave young men and women who are sacrificing their lives and doing the things that they do for this country. I don't think that policy is there today."

Sounds like a man ready for his close-up -- and fed up with an administration that has treated Congress "like a nuisance." He's already said that President Bush should have met with Cindy Sheehan. Maybe he, like Cindy, will now take it to the next level.


Poll: Fewer See Dems As Religion-Friendly

Poll: Fewer See Dems As Religion-Friendly

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats' efforts to improve their image with religious voters after the 2004 presidential election appear to be getting off to a bumpy start.

Fewer people see Democrats as friendly to religion now than felt that way a year ago, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

That number has dropped from 40 percent in August 2004 who thought the Democrats were friendly to religion to 29 percent now.

"The change is seen across all groups," said Scott Keeter, director of survey research for the Pew Research Center, which conducted the poll for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

After Democrats fared poorly with religious voters in the 2004 election, the Democratic National Committee initiated numerous efforts to strengthen its standing with religious voters.

The DNC hired someone to coordinate religious outreach, encouraged state parties to work more closely with the religious community, and had Chairman Howard Dean meet with clergy and others in the religious community during his travels around the country.

"We're at the beginning," said Democratic spokeswoman Karen Finney, who said religious voters share many of the values of the Democratic Party. "But we know we need to do a better job of talking about our values in a way that people see we share their values."

More than half of those polled, 55 percent, said the Republican Party is friendly to religion.

A majority of political independents, 54 percent, said religious conservatives have too much influence over the GOP. Fewer than half of independents said those who are not religious have too much impact on the Democratic Party.

The poll of 2,000 adults was conducted July 7-17 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.


On the Net:

Pew Research Center -


Both sides step up battle over US court nominee


Both sides step up battle over US court nominee

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dueling special interest groups stepped up their respective efforts on Tuesday in the battle over U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, whose U.S. Senate confirmation hearing begins next week.

Progress for America, a conservative organization, unveiled a $400,000, nationwide television ad campaign, set to begin on Wednesday, in support of U.S. President George W. Bush's nomination of Roberts, while the liberal Alliance for Justice announced its opposition.

At the same time, a flap over Roberts' records mounted when the National Archives announced that more documents stemming from his work as a lawyer in the Reagan administration had been discovered and would be released as soon as possible.

The Alliance for Justice, in a 105-page report, blasted Roberts, based largely on a review of thousands of pages of documents already made public.

It said Roberts' record "suggests that he would limit Congress' long-standing ability to address nationwide problems, restrict the court's historic authority to vindicate individual rights and legal protections, expand the powers of the president and law enforcement and lower the wall separating church and state."

Chris Myers, executive director of Progress for America, dismissed the opposition by the alliance, an association of more than 70 civil rights and public interest groups, and said Roberts appeared well positioned to win Senate confirmation.

"But he is not confirmed yet and we must remain vigilant," Myers said. "We must help make the case."

Senate Democrats are anxious to grill Roberts on many issues, particularly to see if he supports the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. If confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, Roberts would be in a position to vote to overturn the ruling.

In its 60-second TV ad, Progress for America declared, "Justice depends on fair judges -- who do not prejudge cases."


It noted that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nominated to the high court by Democratic President Bill Clinton, won Senate confirmation in 1993 on a vote of 96-3 after refusing to answer questions that could come before the court.

"As with Ginsburg, Judge Roberts should not answer questions that force him to pre-judge cases," the announcer says. "Some senators will object solely for partisan reasons."

Bush's nomination of Roberts to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor appears to enjoy broad support among Republicans who control the Senate, holding 55 of 100 seats.

Key Senate Republicans have hailed Roberts, a federal appeals court judge for the past two years, as "a mainstream conservative" with impeccable credentials.

No Senate Democrat has announced opposition, but several have voiced concerns.

The confirmation hearing is set to begin next Tuesday and is expected to last at least five days.

The National Archives said the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, which has released about 51,000 pages of documents related to Roberts' work the Reagan administration, had found even more.

The library is part of the National Archives, which said in a statement that Roberts' records were initially searched by the standard procedure of using his name. But it said that on Monday the library found "a large volume" that were entered by a code. It said some will duplicate previously released files.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee who has pushed for more records, complained that the "handling of information relating to this important nomination is extremely disappointing."


Bush appeals to public to support him on Iraq


Bush appeals to public to support him on Iraq

By Adam Entous

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - President George W. Bush, facing waning support for his Iraq policy, appealed on Tuesday to Americans not to waver because of the rising death toll and again rejected protesters' calls for a troop withdrawal.

With Americans already worried about sharply rising oil prices, Bush said a pull-out would allow al Qaeda to take hold of Iraq's oil fields to fund new attacks, as well as damage America's credibility.

With nearly 1,900 U.S. troops killed in Iraq and anti-war protesters trailing him from his secluded Texas ranch to California, Bush has seen his job approval ratings plummet to the lowest levels of his presidency.

In a speech in which he sought to cast the conflict as the modern day equivalent of America's World War Two struggle against Japan, which ended 60 years ago this month, Bush said Americans "once again" had a stark choice to make.

"Now as then our enemies have made their fight a test of American credibility and resolve. Now as then they are trying to intimidate free people and break our will," Bush said.

"This is the choice we face: Do we return to the pre-September 11 mind-set of isolation and retreat? Or do we continue to take the fight to the enemy and support our allies in the broader Middle East?" Bush said.

"I've made my decision. We will stay on the offensive. We will stand with the people of Iraq and we will prevail," Bush said.

While Bush invoked World War Two to try to boost public support for staying in Iraq, critics, including some Republicans, say Iraq looks increasingly like another Vietnam.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean also challenged administration comparisons, saying unlike U.S. presidents during World War Two, "Bush has failed to put together a plan, so despite the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, we are not making the progress that we should."

Bush made his appeal at the same San Diego naval air station where, on May 1, 2003, he boarded a Navy plane for a short flight to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to give a speech to the nation under a "Mission Accomplished" banner. He declared "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

On his return to the naval station more than two years later, Bush had a different message: urging the American public not to show what he called a lack of "courage and character to defend themselves against a determined enemy."

If Osama bin Laden and the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, gain control of the country, Bush warned, "they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks. They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They can recruit more terrorists by claiming an historic victory over the United States and our coalition."

"America will not run in defeat and we will not forget our responsibilities," Bush said. "A free Iraq will show that when America gives its word, America keeps its word."

Though it has been rejected by Sunni Arabs, Bush seized on Iraq's draft constitution as a step toward full democracy and "the result of democratic debate and compromise."

But Bush's personal -- and ultimately unsuccessful -- appeal last week to the Shi'ites to cut a deal with the Sunnis underscored U.S. concerns that the referendum could turn into a sectarian showdown.

But anti-war protesters led by Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, say they are emboldened by polls showing growing doubts about Bush's policies.

Later this week Sheehan, who has been camped out near Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, will launch a bus tour seeking support for a troop withdrawal. The tour will start in Austin, Texas on Wednesday and end in Washington late next month.

The White House said Bush's speech was to mark the 60 years since Tokyo's surrender ended World War II. The actual anniversary of Emperor Hirohito's declaration of surrender was August 15.