January 06, 2006

LNS Articles of Impeachment Jan. '06 Pt. 4

IN PRESIDENT BUSH'S first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security — including vital decisions about postwar Iraq — were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. When I first discussed this group in a speech last week at the New America Foundation in Washington, my comments caused a significant stir because I had been chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell between 2002 and 2005. But it's absolutely true. I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. More often than not, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal.
Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift — not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and "guardians of the turf."
But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions and virtually ensured that the agencies charged with implementing them would not or could not execute them well.
I watched these dual decision-making processes operate for four years at the State Department. As chief of staff for 27 months, I had a door adjoining the secretary of State's office. I read virtually every document he read. I read the intelligence briefings and spoke daily with people from all across government.
I knew that what I was observing was not what Congress intended when it passed the 1947 National Security Act. The law created the National Security Council — consisting of the president, vice president and the secretaries of State and Defense — to make sure the nation's vital national security decisions were thoroughly vetted. The NSC has often been expanded, depending on the president in office, to include the CIA director, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Treasury secretary and others, and it has accumulated a staff of sometimes more than 100 people.
But many of the most crucial decisions from 2001 to 2005 were not made within the traditional NSC process…
From managing the environment to securing sufficient energy resources, from dealing with trafficking in human beings to performing peacekeeping missions abroad, governing is vastly more complicated than ever before in human history.
Further, the crises the U.S. government confronts today are so multifaceted, so complex, so fast-breaking — and almost always with such incredible potential for regional and global ripple effects — that to depart from the systematic decision-making process laid out in the 1947 statute invites disaster.
Discounting the professional experience available within the federal bureaucracy — and ignoring entirely the inevitable but often frustrating dissent that often arises therein — makes for quick and painless decisions. But when government agencies are confronted with decisions in which they did not participate and with which they frequently disagree, their implementation of those decisions is fractured, uncoordinated and inefficient. This is particularly the case if the bureaucracies called upon to execute the decisions are in strong competition with one another over scarce money, talented people, "turf" or power.
It takes firm leadership to preside over the bureaucracy. But it also takes a willingness to listen to dissenting opinions. It requires leaders who can analyze, synthesize, ponder and decide…
Today, we have a president whose approval rating is 38% and a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces. We have a secretary of Defense presiding over the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of our overstretched armed forces (no surprise to ignored dissenters such as former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki or former Army Secretary Thomas White).
It's a disaster. Given the choice, I'd choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, The White House cabal, L.A. Times, 10-25-05

One early turning point in the switch from “skeptical” journalism to “patriotic” journalism occurred in 1976 with the blocking of Rep. Otis Pike’s congressional report on CIA misdeeds. CIA Director Bush had lobbied behind the scenes to convince Congress that suppressing the report was important for national security.
But CBS news correspondent Daniel Schorr got hold of the full document and decided that he couldn’t join in keeping the facts from the public. He leaked the report to the Village Voice – and was fired by CBS amid charges of reckless journalism.
“The media’s shift in attention from the report’s charges to their premature disclosure was skillfully encouraged by the Executive Branch,” wrote Kathryn Olmstead in her book on the media battles of the 1970s, Challenging the Secret Government.
“[Mitchell] Rogovin, the CIA’s counsel, later admitted that the Executive Branch’s ‘concern’ over the report’s damage to national security was less than genuine,” Olmstead wrote. But the Schorr case had laid down an important marker.
The counterattack against the “skeptical journalists” had begun.
In the late 1970s, conservative leaders began a concerted drive to finance a media infrastructure of their own along with attack groups that would target mainstream reporters who were viewed as too liberal or insufficiently patriotic.
Richard Nixon’s former Treasury Secretary Bill Simon took the lead. Simon, who headed the conservative Olin Foundation, rallied like-minded foundations – associated with Lynde and Harry Bradley, Smith Richardson, the Scaife family and the Coors family – to invest their resources in advancing the conservative cause.
Money went to fund conservative magazines taking the fight to the liberals and to finance attack groups, like Accuracy in Media, that hammered away at the supposed “liberal bias” of the national news media…
While the Plame case has become a major embarrassment for the Bush administration – and now for the New York Times – it has not stopped many of Miller’s colleagues from continuing their old roles as “patriotic” journalists opposing the disclosure of too many secrets to the American people.
For instance, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen – who hailed George H.W. Bush’s pardons that destroyed the Iran-Contra investigation in 1992 – adopted a similar stance against Fitzgerald’s investigation.
“The best thing Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington, return to Chicago and prosecute some real criminals,” Cohen wrote in a column entitled “Let This Leak Go.”
“As it is, all he has done so far is send Judith Miller of the New York Times to jail and repeatedly haul this or that administration high official before a grand jury, investigating a crime that probably wasn’t one in the first place but that now, as is often the case, might have metastasized into some sort of cover-up – but again, of nothing much,” Cohen wrote. “Go home, Pat.” [Washington Post, Oct. 13, 2005]
If Fitzgerald does as Cohen wishes and closes down the investigation without indictments, the result could well be the continuation of the status quo in Washington. The Bush administration would get to keep control of the secrets and reward friendly “patriotic” journalists with selective leaks – and protected careers.
It is that cozy status quo that is now endangered by the Plame case. But the stakes of the case are even bigger than that, going to the future of American democracy and to two questions in particular:
Will journalists return to the standard of an earlier time when disclosing important facts to the electorate was the goal, rather than Cohen’s notion of putting the comfortable relationships between Washington journalists and government officials first?
Put differently, will journalists decide that confronting the powerful with tough questions is the true patriotic test of a journalist?
Robert Parry, Rise of the 'Patriotic Journalist,' www.consortiumnews.com, 10-20-05

Patrick Fitzgerald has before him the most important criminal case in American history. Watergate, by comparison, was a random burglary in an age of innocence. The investigator’s prosecutorial authority in this present case is not constrained by any regulation. If he finds a thread connecting the leak to something greater, Fitzgerald has the legal power to follow it to the web in search of the spider. It seems unlikely, then, that he would simply go after the leakers and the people who sought to cover up the leak when it was merely a secondary consequence of the much greater crime of forging evidence to foment war. Fitzgerald did not earn his reputation as an Irish alligator by going after the little guy. Presumably, he is trying to find evidence that Karl Rove launched a covert operation to create the forged documents and then conspired to out Valerie Plame when he learned the fraud was being uncovered by Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. As much as this sounds like the plot of a John le Carre novel, it also comports with the profile of the Karl Rove I have known, watched, traveled with and written about for the past 25 years.
We may stand witness to a definitive American moment of democracy. The son of a New York doorman probably has in his hands, in many ways, the fate of the republic. Because far too many of us know and are aware of the crimes committed by our government in our name, we are unlikely to settle for a handful of minor indictments of bureaucrats. The last thing most of us believe in is the rule of law. We do not trust our government or the people we have elected but our constitution is still very much alive and we choose to believe that destiny has placed Patrick Fitzgerald at this time and this place in our history to save us from the people we elected. If the law cannot get to the truth of what has happened to the American people under the Bush administration, then we all may begin to hear the early death rattles of history’s greatest democracy
Fortunately, there are good signs. Fitzgerald has reportedly asked for a copy of the Italian government’s investigation into the break-in of the Niger embassy in Rome and the source of the forged documents. The blatantly fake papers, which purported to show that Saddam Hussein had cut a deal to get yellowcake uranium from Niger, turned up after a December 2001 meeting in Rome involving neo-con Michael Ledeen, Larry Franklin, Harold Rhodes, and Niccolo Pollari, the head of Italy’s intelligence agency SISMI, and Antonio Martino, the Italian defense minister.
If Fitzgerald is examining the possibility that Ledeen was executing a plan to help his friend Karl Rove build a case for invading Iraq? Ledeen has long ties to Italian intelligence agency operatives and has spanned the globe to bring the world the constant variety of what he calls “creative destruction” to build democracies. He makes the other neo-cons appear passive. He brought the Reagan administration together with the Iranian arms dealer who dragged the country through Iran-Contra and shares with his close friend Karl Rove a personal obsession with Machiavelli. Ledeen, who is almost rabidly anti-Arab, famously told the Washington Post that Karl Rove told him, “Any time you have a good idea, tell me.” The federal grand jury has to at least consider whether Ledeen called Rove with an idea to use his contacts with the Italian CIA to hatch a plan to create the rationale for war..
James Moore, The Most Important Criminal Case in American History, Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-moore/the-most-important-crimin_b_9183.html

Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government's foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday. In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. "Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences."
Mr Wilkerson said such secret decision-making was responsible for mistakes such as the long refusal to engage with North Korea or to back European efforts on Iran..Among his other charges: The detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere was "a concrete example" of the decision-making problem, with the president and other top officials in effect giving the green light to soldiers to abuse detainees. "You don't have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you've condoned it." Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser and now secretary of state, was "part of the problem". Instead of ensuring that Mr Bush received the best possible advice, "she would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president.”
Edward Alden, Cheney 'Cabal' Hijacked Foreign Policy, Financial Times, 10-20-05

Face it, America. You've been punk'd. It is now quite clear that the outing of Valerie Plame was part of a broader White House effort to mislead and manipulate U.S. public opinion as part of an orchestrated effort to take us to war. The unraveling of the Valerie Plame affair has exposed their scam-and it extends well beyond compromising the identity of a CIA officer. In short, the Bush administration organized and executed a classic "covert action" program against the citizens of the United States. Covert action refers to behind-the-scenes efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies to plant stories, manipulate information and shape public opinion. In other words, you write stories that reporters will publish as their own, you create media events that tout a particular theme, and you demonize your opponent…Americans have died because of the Bush deceit. The unmasking of Valerie Plame was not an odd occurrence. It was part of a pattern of deliberate manipulation and disinformation. At the end of the day, American men and women have died because of this lie. It is up to the American people to hold the Bush administration accountable for these actions…Larry Johnson worked as a CIA intelligence analyst and State Department counter-terrorism official. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Larry C. Johnson, Dick Cheney's Covert Action, www.commondreams.org, 10-19-05

Drunk on power, the Republican oligarchs overreached. Now their entire project could be doomed. For 30 years, beginning with the Nixon presidency, advanced under Reagan, stalled with the elder Bush, a new political economy struggled to be born. The idea was pure and simple: centralization of power in the hands of the Republican Party would ensure that it never lost it again. Under George W. Bush, this new system reached its apotheosis. It is a radically novel social, political and economic formation that deserves study alongside capitalism and socialism. Neither Adam Smith nor Vladimir Lenin captures its essence, though it has far more elements of Leninist democratic-centralism than Smithian free markets. Some have referred to this model as crony capitalism; others compare the waste, extravagance and greed to the Gilded Age. Call it 21st century Republicanism. At its heart the system is plagued by corruption, an often unpleasant peripheral expense that greases its wheels. But now multiple scandals engulfing Republicans - from suspended House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff to White House political overlord Karl Rove - threaten to upend the system. Because it is organized by politics it can be undone by politics. Politics has been the greatest strength of Republicanism, but it has become its greatest vulnerability. The party runs the state. Politics drives economics. Important party officials are also economic operators. They thrive off their connections and rise in the party apparatus as a result of their self-enrichment. The past three chairmen of the Republican National Committee have all been Washington lobbyists. An oligarchy atop the party allocates favors. Behind the ideological slogans about the "free market" and "liberty," the oligarchy creates oligopolies. Businesses must pay to play. They must kick back contributions to the party, hire its key people and support its program. Only if they give do they receive tax breaks, loosening of regulations and helpful treatment from government professionals. Those professionals in the agencies and departments who insist on adhering to standards other than those imposed by the party are fired, demoted and blackballed. The oligarchy wars against these professionals to bend government purely into an instrument of oligopolies. Corporations pay fixed costs in the form of legal graft to the party in order to suppress the market, drastically limiting competitive pressure. Then they collude to control prices, create cartels and reduce planning primarily to the political game.
Sidney Blumenthal, Fall of the Rovean Empire?, Salon, 10-6-05,

I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse ... I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions. ..Our Founders, probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason. Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry.…And then one day, a smart young political consultant turned to an older elected official and succinctly described a new reality in America's public discourse: "If it's not on television, it doesn't exist." But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been pushed to the sidelines ... And the most prominent casualty has been the "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so carefully protected by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists. It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition. And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation. Whether it is called a Public Forum, or a "Public Sphere," or a marketplace of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy in America's earliest decades…The liberating force of this new American reality was thrilling to all humankind. Thomas Jefferson declared, "I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." It ennobled the individual and unleashed the creativity of the human spirit. It inspired people everywhere to dream of what they could yet become. And it emboldened Americans to bravely explore the farther frontiers of freedom - for African Americans, for women, and eventually, we still dream, for all…The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters. Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, "the manufacture of consent ... was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy ... but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique ... under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy." Like you, I recoil at Lippman's cynical dismissal of America's gift to human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth…The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet… It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls "time shifting" and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America's democracy is at grave risk. The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen. We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy's future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom. -------
Al Gore, The Threat to American Democracy, The Media Center, 10-05-05

On its front page Tuesday, The New York Times published a photo of new U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers going over a briefing paper with President George W. Bush at his Crawford ranch “in August 2001,” the caption reads. USA Today and the Boston Globe carried the photo labeled simply “2001,” but many other newspapers ran the picture in print or on the Web with a more precise date: Aug. 6, 2001. Does that date sound familiar? Indeed, that was the date, a little over a month before 9/11, that President Bush was briefed on the now-famous “PDB” that declared that Osama Bin Laden was “determined” to attack the U.S. homeland, perhaps with hijacked planes. But does that mean that Miers had anything to do with that briefing? As it turns out, yes, according to Tuesday's Los Angeles Times. An article by Richard A. Serrano and Scott Gold observes that early in the Bush presidency “Miers assumed such an insider role that in 2001 it was she who handed Bush the crucial 'presidential daily briefing' hinting at terrorist plots against America just a month before the Sept. 11 attacks.” So the Aug. 6 photo may show this historic moment, though quite possibly not. In any case, some newspapers failed to include the exact date with the widely used Miers photo today. A New York Times spokesman told E&P: "The wording of the caption occurred in the course of routine editing and has no broader significance." The photo that ran in so many papers and on their Web sites originally came from the White House but was moved by the Associated Press, clearly marked as an “Aug. 6, 2001” file photo. It shows Miers with a document or documents in her right hand, as her left hand points to something in another paper balanced on the president's right leg. Two others in the background are Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin and Steve Biegun of the national security staff. The PDB was headed “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” and notes, among other things, FBI information indicating “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks.” E&P Staff
Miers Briefed Bush on Famous Bin Laden Memo, But Newspapers Handle the AP Photo Quite Differently By E&P Staff Published: October 04, 2005 10:45 AM ET NEW YORK

Where do we get the money? I mean, we, as in "We, the People." We, as in, we, the taxpayers of the United States. I mean we, as in, how do we pay back our share of the national debt that stood at $7,924,890,927,754.51 as of Friday. Where do we get the money to pay for the Iraq war, Katrina, Rita, tax cuts, ongoing federal entitlements, programs and on and on? This ought to be a national security question, a flashing red alert. "There is a looming crisis. American leaders of both political parties can and should act to avert that crisis," writes economist Menzie Chinn in a new report, "Getting Serious About the Twin Deficits." The report was published last week by the Council on Foreign Relations. The source of this looming crisis is the enduring federal budget deficit and the trade or current accounts deficit…"Failure to take the initiative to reduce the twin deficits will cede to foreign governments increasing influence over the nation's fate," the report says. "Perhaps equally alarming, it will lead to slower growth, escalating trade friction and reduced American influence in political and economic spheres."…Chinn's report says there is a small chance for a "disorderly adjustment," economic-speak for a complete collapse and "the potential consequences are so troubling that the possibility of economic disruption cannot be ignored. In addition to the threat of rising unemployment and declining income, sharp movements in asset prices and interest rates could also threaten the stability of our financial system." He says it's time to "aggressively attack" the budget deficit (too much federal spending exacerbates the trade deficit). "Stemming the rapid rise of government debt can only be accomplished by two means," Chinn writes. "Reducing expenditures or increasing revenues."…
Sunday, October 2, 2005 Our cash -- it's a national security issue.

Tony Blair risks a "historic" humiliation over the British Army's continued presence in Iraq, a former colonel said last night. Tim Collins: 'The Army could be chased over the border into Iran' Tim Collins, whose eve-of-battle address during the Iraq war has been praised as among the greatest in British military history, raised the spectre of the Army being defeated by insurgents and chased out of the country. He called on the Prime Minister to "fall on his sword" after presiding over what he termed a "right rollicking cock-up". Ministers are likely to try to shrug off his attack as a politically motivated move by a Conservative Party supporter, but the former soldier's credentials add weight to his comments. His starkest warning was that Britain, which has about 9,000 troops in Iraq, could pay an unthinkable price for its political leaders' "incompetence and lack of direction". He told Channel 4's Morgan and Platell programme: "The danger is that we could face defeat in the field. We could be overwhelmed. The Army could be chased over the border into Iran."
Patrick Hennessy, Army 'risks being chased from Iraq,’ Telegraph, 10-02-05

Relief efforts to combat Hurricane Katrina suffered near catastrophic failures due to endemic corruption, divisions within the military and troop shortages caused by the Iraq war, an official American inquiry into the disaster has revealed. The confidential report, which has been seen by The Independent, details how funds for flood control were diverted to other projects, desperately needed National Guards were stuck in Iraq and how military personnel had to "sneak off post" to help with relief efforts because their commander had refused permission. The shortcomings in dealing with Katrina have rocked George Bush's administration. Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has resigned from his post and polls show that a majority of Americans feel the President showed inadequate leadership. The report was commissioned by the Office of Secretary of Defence as an "independent and critical review" of what went so wrong. In a hard-hitting analysis, it says: "The US military has long planned for war on two fronts. This is as close as we have come to [that] reality since the Second World War; the results have been disastrous." The document was compiled by Stephen Henthorne, a former professor of the US Army's War College and an adviser to the Pentagon who was a deputy-director in the Louisiana relief efforts…The report concludes: "The one thing this disaster has demonstrated [is] the lack of coordinated, in-depth planning and training on all levels of Government, for any/all types of emergency contingencies. 9/11 was an exception because the geographical area was small and contained, but these two hurricanes have clearly demonstrated a national response weakness ... Failure to plan, and train properly has plagued US efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and now that failure has come home to roost in the United States."
Kim Sengupta , Americas Iraq war delayed Katrina relief effort, inquiry finds, Indepdent/UK 10-03-05

When Sibel Edmonds was a young girl, her father, a physician in Iran, was asked to falsify an autopsy finding. Angrily, he refused, daring the authorities to retaliate. At home, he told his family: "Things like this do not happen in truly democratic civil societies - like America." Sibel still clings to her father's words, but her Kafka-esque encounter with the U.S. government is challenging her faith. She wanders a wonderland of classified documents and covert hearings, waiting to see if the Supreme Court will take her case and lift the curtain of secrecy that the Bush administration has self-protectively wrapped around it. Sibel's offense? She was a patriot who blew the whistle on incompetence, security breaches and alleged wrongdoing in the U.S. government's counter-terror operations. For that, she was fired. When Sibel challenged her dismissal in court, she became one of several Americans to be penalized in recent months by the government's "very broad and radical use" of an old legal rule known as the "state secrets privilege," says her attorney, Ann Beeson, an associate legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. The administration, which is supposed to cite the rarely-invoked rule only to protect national security interests, has been "invoking the privilege to cover up its own negligence," Beeson says…
john aloysius farrell, denverpostbloghouse.com, 10-02-05

The administration of President George W. Bush broke the law as it resorted to illegal "covert propaganda" in trying to sell its key education initiative to the public, US congressional investigators have found. The finding, made public by the Government Accountability Office, added to a plethora of big and small ethics scandals besetting the administration and its top Republican allies and putting them on the defensive one year before congressional elections. The investigation was ordered by Democratic Senators Edward Kennedy and Frank Lautenberg earlier this year, in the wake of reports the Education Department had paid newspaper columnist and television commentator Armstrong Williams thousands of dollars to help promote the No Child Left Behind Law…Under the deal, Williams produced a series of radio and television shows as well as wrote newspaper columns under his own name highlighting what he saw as the benefits of the law. But in doing so, he failed to disclose the government paid him for these activities 186,000 dollars (150,000 euros) through Ketchum Inc., a public relations firm, according to the GAO report. "This qualifies as the production or distribution of covert propaganda," said the investigative arm of Congress. "In our view, the department violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition when it issued task orders... without requiring Ketchum to ensure that Mr Williams disclosed to his audiences his relationship with the department."
Bush Administration Found Involved in Illegal 'Covert Propaganda,' Agence France Presse, 10-01-05

A recurring theme in the e-mails responding to our articles, such as “What to Do About the Bush Problem” and “Frog-Marching Bush to the Hague,” was that it’s naïve – or even delusional – to envision the Democratic Party ever standing up to the Republicans.
Some e-mailers went on to conclude that either there’s no political answer, period, or that the answer rests in some long-range radical transformation of the system. In other words, there’s no practical way of ousting Bush or imposing any accountability, short-term.
If recent history is any guide, one would have trouble countering those e-mail arguments.
It is hard to envision the Democratic Party charting a high-risk national strategy for Election 2006 with accountability at the center. It’s difficult, too, to foresee wealthy liberals finally recognizing the need to invest heavily in media outlets and content. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Left’s Media Miscalculation.”]
More likely, the Democrats will want to cobble together some hodge-podge of domestic proposals while tacking on a critique of Bush’s Iraq War that faults him for not sending in more troops and not “fighting to win.” New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and some other presidential hopefuls already are staking out this “right-flank” option on Iraq.
There is, however, another scenario that could make accountability the key issue in Election 2006 and put rank-and-file Americans in a position of leadership.
What If?
What if the voters acted independently to defeat as many Republicans as possible, not just to put more Democrats in office, but to send a message to both parties that the extremism, the trickery and the corruption personified by the neoconservatives now in charge of the Republican Party will no longer be tolerated?
What if the result of this popular uprising against Bush is not just some marginal Democratic gains, but a landslide repudiation of recent government policies?
Would a solid Democratic majority in both houses represent a mandate for accountability, an imperative so strong that even the timid Democratic leadership couldn’t ignore it?
Might the top Democrats calculate that shirking their duty again represented more of a political risk than holding Bush accountable through investigations and possible impeachment? Is it possible that out of such a changed climate a worthy political leader – and a reformed Republican Party – might arise?
Without doubt, these questions don’t fit within today’s conventional wisdom. They don’t reflect the tendency toward modern spectator-sport politics where citizens root for a candidate the way fans cheer for a football team, albeit with a lot more passion for the football team.
But for those readers who have e-mailed us with suggestions about the need for deeper change in the American political system, is it a fair question to ask: If a movement can’t organize to repudiate a leader who has bungled so many policies back-to-back-to-back, how can that movement expect to accomplish something bigger?
While it may make little sense to cast a yes vote for Democrats as they currently present themselves, is there a case to be made for a no vote on Bush’s form of Republicanism?
Robert Parry, Can Bush Be Ousted?, www.consortiumnews.com, 10-01-05

The invasion of Iraq was the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history,” a retired Army general said yesterday, strengthening an effort in Congress to force an American withdrawal beginning next year. Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, a Vietnam veteran, said the invasion of Iraq alienated America's Middle East allies, making it harder to prosecute a war against terrorists. The U.S. should withdraw from Iraq, he said, and reposition its military forces along the Afghan-Pakistani border to capture Osama bin Laden and crush al Qaeda cells. “The invasion of Iraq I believe will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history,” said Odom, now a scholar with the Hudson Institute.
EVAN LEHMANN Lowell Sun, Retired general: Iraq invasion was ‘strategic disaster,’ 9-30-05

Gertz is a right-wing national security reporter for the Rev. Sun Yung Moon's neo-fascist newspaper, The Washington Times. He's also a spigot from which flows much classified information illegally leaked by like-minded "patriots" seeking to advance their hawkish agenda in the military-industrial-congressional complex. And, frankly speaking, that's the only reason I pay any attention to him.

So I was hardly surprised when, on September 16, 2005, Gertz reported on the Bush administration's "computer slide presentation." which was aimed at persuading whoever would listen that Iran is working feverishly to build nuclear weapons…Unlike the Washington Post's article on the subject two days earlier, Gertz predictably failed to mention that the slide show "dismisses ambiguities in the evidence…and omits alternative explanations under debate among intelligence analysts." He also failed to mention that several diplomats "said the slide show reminded them of the flawed presentation on Iraq's weapons programs made by then-secretary of state Colin L. Powell to the UN Security Council in February 2003" ["US Deploys Slide Show to Press Case Against Iran," Washington Post, 14 September 2005]…But much more disconcerting than Gertz's piece was one written by Claude Salhani on 22 September 2005 for the same loony "Moonie" scandal sheet. Salhani shamelessly reintroduced the tactics, which proved so successful in inflaming a frightened American public about the threat posed by Iraq. He invoked the words of an Iranian dissident (today's Ahmad Chalabi), as well as former U.S. government officials (seeking to "empower resistance" inside Iran), to make the claim the Iran is, in fact, "gearing for war" with the United States.
No, notwithstanding the inflammatory title that the Moonie editors attached to Salhani's article—"Is Iran Geared For War?"—Iran is not planning to attack the United States. Instead, it is merely taking very prudent measures to defend itself against a possible illegal preventive war instigated by the "war party" in the Bush administration …Just a few days ago, on September 26, 2005, The Telegraph of Calcutta, India issued an astounding report that has yet to cause a ripple within America's mainstream news media. In the fifth paragraph of the article, "Gulf factor key to PM's Iran vote decision," were the following words: "Top-ranking Americans have told equally top-ranking Indians in recent weeks that THE US HAS PLANS TO INVADE IRAN BEFORE BUSH'S TERM ENDS" (author's emphasis).
Thoughtful, decent, moral citizens of these United States: I urge you to write to the editors of your local and national news outlets to insist that they authenticate or repudiate the information reported by The Telegraph. And I further urge you to write your congressman (or congresswoman) to inquire about their knowledge concerning this assertion. Finally, I urge you to write to President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and/or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to inquire about their plans to invade Iran before they leave office.
We simply cannot permit the Bush "war party" to run roughshod over America's democracy once again.
Walter C. Uhler, The U.S. Has Plans to Invade Iran Before Bush's Term Ends, 9-28-05

Pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison must be released despite government claims that they could damage America's image, a federal judge ruled Thursday. U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven they "do not need pretexts for their barbarism." The American Civil Liberties Union sought the release of 87 photographs and four videotapes as part of an October 2003 lawsuit demanding information on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. The ACLU contends that prisoner abuse is systemic. Brutal images of the abuse at the prison have already been widely distributed, but the lawsuit covers additional photos not yet seen by the public…The ruling was expected to be appealed, which could delay a release for months. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called it historic. "While no one wants to see what's on the photos or videos, they will play an essential role in holding our government leaders accountable for the torture that's happened on their watch," he said.
LARRY NEUMEISTER, Judge Orders Release of Abu Ghraib Photos, Associated Press, 9-28-05

The battle between a grieving family and the U.S. military justice system is on display in thousands of pages of documents strewn across Mary Tillman’s dining room table in suburban San Jose. As she pores through testimony from three previous Army investigations into the killing of her son, former football star Pat Tillman, by his fellow Army Rangers last year in Afghanistan, she hopes that a new inquiry launched in August by the Pentagon’s inspector general finally will answer the family’s questions: Were witnesses allowed to change their testimony on key details, as alleged by one investigator? Why did internal documents on the case, such as the initial casualty report, include false information? When did top Pentagon officials know that Tillman’s death was caused by friendly fire, and why did they delay for five weeks before informing his family? “There have been so many discrepancies so far that it’s hard to know what to believe,” Mary Tillman said. “There are too many murky details.” The files the family received from the Army in March are heavily censored, with nearly every page containing blacked-out sections; most names have been deleted. (Names for this story were provided by sources close to the investigation.) At least one volume was withheld altogether from the family, and even an Army press release given to the media has deletions…A Chronicle review of more than 2,000 pages of testimony, as well as interviews with Pat Tillman’s family members and soldiers who served with him, found contradictions, inaccuracies and what appears to be the military’s attempt at self-protection. For example, the documents contain testimony of the first investigating officer alleging that Army officials allowed witnesses to change key details in their sworn statements so his finding that certain soldiers committed “gross negligence” could be softened. Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests ranged from history books on World War II and Winston Churchill to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite author. Unlike Cindy Sheehan — who has protested against President Bush because of the death of her son Casey in combat in Baghdad — Mary Tillman, 49, who teaches learning-disabled students in a San Jose public junior high school, and her ex-husband, Patrick Tillman, 50, a San Jose lawyer, have avoided association with the anti-war movement. Their main public allies are Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who have lobbied on their behalf. Yet the case has high stakes because of Pat Tillman’s status as an all-American hero…Moved in part by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Tillman decided to give up his career, saying he wanted to fight al Qaeda and help find Osama bin Laden. He spurned the Cardinals’ offer of a three year, $3.6 million contract extension and joined the Army in June 2002 along with his brother Kevin, who was playing minor-league baseball for the Cleveland Indians organization. Pat Tillman’s enlistment grabbed the attention of the nation — and the highest levels of the Bush administration. A personal letter from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, thanking him for serving his country, now resides in a storage box, put away by Pat’s widow, Marie. Instead of going to Afghanistan, as the brothers expected, their Ranger battalion was sent to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The Tillmans saw combat several times on their way to Baghdad. In early 2004, they finally were assigned to Afghanistan…
FAMILY DEMANDS THE TRUTH New inquiry may expose events that led to Pat Tillman’s death Robert Collier, S.F. Chronicle, 9-25-05
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/ c/a/2005/09/25/MNGD7ETMNM1.DTL

Posted by richard at January 6, 2006 06:54 PM