Sunday, October 30, 2005

One Step Closer to the Big Enchilada

By Frank Rich
The New York Times

To believe that the Bush-Cheney scandals will be behind us anytime soon you'd have to believe that the Nixon-Agnew scandals peaked when G. Gordon Liddy and his bumbling band were nailed for the Watergate break-in. But Watergate played out for nearly two years after the gang that burglarized Democratic headquarters was indicted by a federal grand jury; it even dragged on for more than a year after Nixon took "responsibility" for the scandal, sacrificed his two top aides and weathered the indictments of two first-term cabinet members. In those ensuing months, America would come to see that the original petty crime was merely the leading edge of thematically related but wildly disparate abuses of power that Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, would name "the White House horrors."

In our current imperial presidency, as in its antecedent, what may look like a narrow case involving a second banana with a child's name contains the DNA of the White House, and that DNA offers a road map to the duplicitous culture of the whole. The coming prosecution of Lewis (Scooter) Libby in the Wilson affair is hardly the end of the story. That "Cheney's Cheney," as Mr. Libby is known, would allegedly go to such lengths to obscure his role in punishing a man who challenged the administration's W.M.D. propaganda is just one very big window into the genesis of the smoke screen (or, more accurately, mushroom cloud) that the White House used to sell the war in Iraq.

After the heat of last week's drama, we can forget just how effective the administration's cover-up of that con job had been until very recently. Before Patrick Fitzgerald's leak investigation, there were two separate official investigations into the failure of prewar intelligence. With great fanfare and to great acclaim, both found that our information about Saddam's W.M.D.'s was dead wrong. But wittingly or unwittingly, both of these supposedly thorough inquiries actually protected the White House by avoiding, in Watergate lingo, "the big enchilada."

The 601-page report from the special presidential commission led by Laurence Silberman and Charles Robb, hailed at its March release as a "sharp critique" by Mr. Bush, contains only a passing mention of Dick Cheney. It has no mention whatsoever of Mr. Libby or Karl Rove or their semicovert propaganda operation (the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG) created to push all that dead-wrong intel. Nor does it mention Douglas Feith, the first-term under secretary of defense for policy, whose rogue intelligence operation in the Pentagon supplied the vice president with the disinformation that bamboozled the nation.

(Click title to continue reading this piece)

Oh, Yes it is About the War

The posthumous Purple Heart rested near the folded American flag on the modest dining-room table of his parents' home in Cleveland. Edward (Augie) Schroeder, a Boy Scout turned Marine, was killed along with 13 other soldiers on their fifth trip into Al Hadithah, Iraq, to clean out insurgents. Their fifth trip. "When you do something over and over again expecting a different result," Augie's grieving father, Paul, told me, "that is the definition of insanity." As the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq reached 2,000 last week, Paul Schroeder concluded that the military had not sent enough troops to Iraq to do the job properly and that the president was incompetent: "My son's life was thrown away, his death was a waste." Then, noting that he shared a birthday with his boy, he broke down and said he would not be able to celebrate his own birthday anymore.

The Schroeders were on my mind as I watched Patrick Fitzgerald's skillful press conference. He laid out the seriousness of blowing the cover of CIA operatives. He explained clearly why Scooter Libby had been indicted. He even struck a blow against rogue prosecutors (like Kenneth Starr, though he didn't mention him) whose staffs routinely leak to the media in violation of the law. But Fitzgerald was wrong on one count, at least metaphorically. "This indictment is not about the war," he said. Oh, yes, it is.

According to Fitzgerald, Libby had conversations with at least seven other government officials about Joseph and Valerie Wilson that he did not disclose to the grand jury. Why were top White House officials and Vice President Cheney so concerned about an obscure former diplomat like Wilson? Because he had the temerity to offer public dissent. By showing how evidence of Saddam's WMDs had been cooked, Wilson undermined the very reason Augie Schroeder and the rest of the U.S. military went to war. He was more than "fair game," as Karl Rove called him. He was a mortal threat.

Italian PM Says He Warned Bush Against Iraq War

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, on the eve of a trip to Washington, said he repeatedly tried to persuade U.S. President George W. Bush against invading Iraq.

The Italian leader voiced his unease with the military operation to remove Saddam Hussein in a television interview to be broadcast on Monday, the day he meets Bush.

Berlusconi is one of Washington's strongest allies but he did not send troops to join the invasion, preferring to despatch forces only after the fall of Baghdad.

``I tried many times to convince the American president not to go to war,'' Berlusconi was quoted as saying by the La7 television network, which recorded the interview.

Bush Approval Ratings Fall to 39%

President Bush's descent from the euphoria of an against-the-odds reelection victory one year ago this week to the current reality of a White House in crisis has been as rapid as it has been unexpected. Presidential advisers and outside analysts say the route back to genuine recovery is likely to be slow and difficult -- and without a clear blueprint for success.\

Friday's indictment of Vice President Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby dealt another big blow to public confidence in the administration, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Bush's approval rating fell to 39 percent -- the lowest recorded by this poll in his presidency -- and a majority of Americans said the charges signal broader ethical problems in the administration. By a ratio of 3 to 1, those surveyed said the level of honesty in government has declined during Bush's tenure.

With its ability to command public attention and frame the national agenda, the presidency is a supremely resilient institution, and such recent occupants as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have bounced back from adversity. But Bush faces such a complex set of problems -- an unpopular war in Iraq, high energy prices, the costly challenge of rebuilding New Orleans, a fractured party, disaffected independent voters and little goodwill on Capitol Hill -- that his prospects are particularly daunting.

Beyond that is the question of whether Bush needs to make fundamental adjustments to a governing and political style that has given him electoral success but also left the country deeply polarized. With his Republican base showing signs of discontent and independent voters more disaffected than ever, Bush faces a potential tradeoff on every important decision ahead of him that could cause him to lose as much ground with one part of the public as he gains with another.

Dark Days at the White House

The mood in the White House last Friday afternoon was grim, but eerily quiet. Dick Cheney was gone, off in Georgia giving yet another apocalyptic terrorism speech to yet another military crowd. The president, just back from his own rally-the-troops address, was eager to chopper to Camp David for the weekend. But, in the small dining room adjoining the Oval Office, he was doing something uncharacteristic: watching live news on TV.

"I don't read books, I read people," George W. Bush once said, half in jest, and so the figure on the screen spoke volumes to him: the Irish-American altar-boy visage; the off-the-rack attire; the meticulous, yet colloquial speech, a blend of the U.S. Code, Jimmy Stewart and baseball. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Bush said to his aides, "is a very serious guy." And so was the charge he laid out: that I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the vice president's right-hand man, had lied repeatedly under oath about what might well have been a White House effort to vindictively tip reporters about the identity of a CIA agent whose husband was a critic of the Iraq war. Libby has denied wrongdoing, and his lawyer vowed a vigorous defense. But Bush, an aide indicated, was as impressed by Fitzgerald's case as by the man who brought it. "The indictment speaks for itself," said the aide, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the situation.

In a capital that fashions its gallows out of court papers, Fitzgerald also made news for what he didn't do—and for whom he didn't propose to try to hang. Importantly, he did not indict Libby for disclosing the identity of the agent, Valerie Plame, to reporters. In a tour-de-force press conference (Bush saw the initial 20 minutes), the prosecutor said that he couldn't conclude whether to take that step in part because Libby had covered his motives in lies. Nor, as of last Friday, had Fitzgerald decided whether to indict Karl Rove, the top presidential aide and close friend, who also talked to journalists about Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. There was relief but no joy inside the White House at these dodged bullets. "This is a White House in turmoil right now," said a senior aide, one of many who declined to speak on the record at a time of peril and paranoia. As for Rove, the aide said, some insiders believed that he had "behaved, if not criminally, then certainly unethically."

Bush Seeks to Steady Course

After weeks of political turmoil, capped by the indictment of a senior administration official, President Bush will try to give his second term a fresh start by naming a new conservative nominee to the Supreme Court and intensifying his drive to cut government spending, White House officials and other Republicans said.

But he appears to see little need for the wholesale housecleaning that previous administrations tried in times of upheaval to rebuild credibility, those officials said.

The administration's goal, they said, is to reassure its divided and demoralized conservative base, chalk up a few victories on Capitol Hill and set the stage for a more robust comeback next year after months of experiencing one misstep and setback after another.

But some supporters of the administration acknowledged that it was harder to get out of political trouble than into it and that with the leak investigation continuing, American troops still dying in Iraq and the Republican Party divided over a number of issues, the Bush strategy faces extraordinary challenges.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

U.S. Quietly Issues Estimate of Iraqi Civilian Casualties

In the first public disclosure that the United States military is tracking some of the deaths of Iraqi civilians, the military has released rough figures for Iraqis who have been killed or wounded by insurgents since Jan. 1 last year.

The estimate of dead and wounded Iraqi civilians and security forces was provided by the Pentagon in a report to Congress this month.

It appeared without fanfare in a single bar graph on Page 23 of the document. But it was significant because the military had previously avoided virtually all public discussion of the issue.

The count is incomplete - it provides daily partial averages of deaths and injuries of Iraqis at the hands of insurgents, in attacks like bombings and suicide strikes. Still, it shows that the military appears to have a far more accurate picture of the toll of the war than it has been willing to acknowledge.

Bush Looks to Bounce Back From Bad News

George W. Bush hopes to find the path to recovery from a week of bad news that staggered his presidency in a nuts-and-bolts focus on governing.

The week that was: conservatives in the president's own party hounded him into withdrawing Harriet Miers' Supreme Court nomination; the U.S. death toll in Iraq, Dick Cheney's chief ofstaff was indicted by a federal grand jury.

The aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, is accused of lying about his role in blowing the CIA Cover of an Iraq war critic's wife. The charges grew out of an investigation that was the product of the fierce debate two years ago over Bush's contention that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Cheney and Libby were two of the administration's leading lobbyists for the U.S.-led invasion, and the indictment could remind Americans increasingly unhappy with the war that the president's primary justification for it turned out to be false. A Libby trial could see the famously secretive vice president called as a witness and asked to answer embarrassing questions.

Caption This Photo

Joseph Wilson Speaks

Joseph C. Wilson IV
LA Times

After the two-year smear campaign orchestrated by senior officials in the Bush White House against my wife and me, it is tempting to feel vindicated by Friday's indictment of the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Between us, Valerie and I have served the United States for nearly 43 years. I was President George H. W. Bush's acting ambassador to Iraq in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War, and I served as ambassador to two African nations for him and President Clinton. Valerie worked undercover for the CIA in several overseas assignments and in areas related to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

But on July 14, 2003, our lives were irrevocably changed. That was the day columnist Robert Novak identified Valerie as an operative, divulging a secret that had been known only to me, her parents and her brother.

Valerie told me later that it was like being hit in the stomach. Twenty years of service had gone down the drain. She immediately started jotting down a checklist of things she needed to do to limit the damage to people she knew and to projects she was working on. She wondered how her friends would feel when they learned that what they thought they knew about her was a lie.

It was payback - cheap political payback by the administration for an article I had written contradicting an assertion President Bush made in his 2003 State of the Union address. Payback not just to punish me but to intimidate other critics as well.

Why did I write the article? Because I believe that citizens in a democracy are responsible for what government does and says in their name. I knew that the statement in Bush's speech - that Iraq had attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium in Africa - was not true. I knew it was false from my own investigative trip to Africa (at the request of the CIA) and from two other similar intelligence reports. And I knew that the White House knew it.

Howard University Students Greet Laura Bush With Protest

Today hundreds of Howard University students greeted Laura Bush with a militant protest against the war in Iraq, the criminally negligent and racist conduct of the federal government in response to Hurricane Katrina and cuts in education.

Holding signs that read, "2000 Dead, End Occupation: Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti…, Money for Education Not War," the students began their demonstration at 11am in advance of Laura Bush's arrival to the Howard University campus.

The demonstration was called by Youth and Student A.N.S.W.E.R. and Cimarrones, a progressive Black Student Union of Caribbeans, Central and South Americans. The demonstration was supported by various other campus organizations such as Howard University Student Association (HUSA), Howard Amnesty International and Ubiquity.

The demonstration turned into a confrontation as university officials working with Secret Service and DC Police threatening to arrest the students unless they moved. "They are trying to force us to disperse or at least move back 30 feet, but we in the Black community have been told to move for 300 years," said Eugene Puryear, a coordinator of Youth and Student A.N.S.W.E.R and Howard sophomore.

See Entire Photo Album

Conservative Groups Warn Bush About Court Nominee

As the White House turns its attention to finding a new Supreme Court nominee, conservative activists relieved at Harriet Miers' withdrawal are vowing to oppose President Bush's next nominee unless the candidate has solid conservative credentials.

"I think [conservative groups] will swing into action again" if they disagree with his next pick, said Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum. "The judicial issue was a major issue in the 2004 elections, and it was a reason why many people voted for Bush even though they might have been unhappy [with him] for other reasons."

No announcement concerning a new nominee was expected Friday.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby Indicted on Five Charges

I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and one of the most powerful figures in the Bush administration, was formally accused today of lying and obstruction of justice in an inquiry into the unmasking of a covert C.I.A. officer.

A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Libby on one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and two of making false statements in the course of an investigation that raised questions about the administration's rationale for going to war against Iraq, how it treats critics and political opponents and whether high White House officials shaded the truth. The charges are felonies.

Mr. Libby was not charged directly with revealing the identity of a C.I.A. undercover operative, the accusation that brought about the investigation in the first place.

Progressive Talking Points 10/28/05

Now that we now know Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald believes that crimes were committed in an effort to cover up the White House’s involvement in the outing of an undercover CIA officer. Its time to get out the broom at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and clean house.

  • At its core, this case is about the Adminstration’s manipulation of intelligence to sell the war in Iraq. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s continuing investigation may reveal more about the White House’s effort to cover up its missteps in the lead up to the war.

  • We should not have to wait for Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s findings for the President to take responsibility for what went on in the White House. The President has an opportunity to save his presidency by demanding the resignation of anyone involved in the leak.

  • In addition to Libby, we know senior Presidential aides; Deputy White House Chieg of Staff Karl Rove, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and Press Secretary Scott McClellan were either complicit in the leak and the cover up or grossly negligent in their duties. They should also resign.

NYT Slow in Correcting Coverage

New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said Friday that the newspaper was far too slow in correcting its reports indicating Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but the blame did not lie entirely with Judith Miller, the author of many of the stories.

In a speech to the Online News Association, Sulzberger also defended Miller's decision to go to jail to protect the identity of her source, vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Miller was released last month after agreeing to testify to the grand jury that indicted Libby on Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, making a false statement and perjury.

Sulzberger acknowledged the criticism of Miller, who in the wake of her release from jail has been described on the pages of the Times as untruthful to her editors and difficult to control.

"As the lawyers often say, not every case has a perfect fact pattern," he said.

More Bad News for Tom DeLay

Three indicted associates of Republican U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay are being asked to hand over to a Texas prosecutor all their e-mails from 2002 in an investigation into an alleged campaign finance scheme.

DeLay, meanwhile, railed against Democrats in a letter Thursday accusing them of engaging in "the politics of personal destruction."

The latest subpoenas issued by District Attorney Ronnie Earle request correspondence to and from e-mail addresses belonging to John Colyandro, Jim Ellis and Warren RoBold. He did not ask DeLay to provide e-mails.

Colyandro was executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee founded by DeLay. Ellis runs DeLay's national fund-raising committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, and RoBold is a Republican fund-raiser in Washington.

Bush Drag on Ticket in Virginia

Jerry Kilgore, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, was happy to have President George W. Bush at his side at a fundraiser last July. Kilgore won't be there today when the president makes a speech in Norfolk.

Kilgore, 44, is in a tight race with Democrat Tim Kaine in the Nov. 8 election, and Bush -- weighed down by the prolonged Iraq war, criticism of the government's response to hurricanes, high gasoline prices and the legal troubles of top Republican officials -- isn't an asset anymore.

``Bush is a drag, even in Virginia,'' said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics in Charlottesville.

The Virginia race may have other implications beyond deciding who will occupy the governor's mansion in Richmond: It might influence the presidential hopes of two other leading Virginians, Democratic Governor Mark Warner and Republican Senator George Allen, in 2008.

Press Documenting The Implosion of a Presidency

As the anticipation over possible indictments in the Valerie Plame case reaches excruciating levels, Watergate legend Carl Bernstein warns that comparisons to the case that made him famous more than 30 years ago must be viewed carefully.

Still, the former Washington Post reporter who shared a Pulitzer Prize for helping to expose the Nixon administration's wrongdoing says some parallels can be drawn between the two investigations, particularly the way both helped uncover extended dishonesty in the White House.

"We are obviously watching and the press is beginning to document the implosion of a presidency," Bernstein said Thursday, just hours before the Plame grand jury is set to expire. "How destructive that implosion is going to be, ultimately, we don't know yet.

"But what the Plame leak investigation has unveiled is what the press should have been focusing on long before and without let up--how we went to war, the dishonesty involved in that process in terms of what the president and vice-president told the American people and the Congress, and the routine smearing by members of the Bush administration of people who questioned their actions and motives."

A Weakened President Faces New Risks

President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers on Oct. 3 was made from a position of weakness by a White House beset by political problems and eager to avoid a fight over the Supreme Court. Twenty-four excruciating days later, the supposed safe choice crashed, exposing the president as even weaker than before.

Bush now has an opportunity to recover from one of the biggest political miscalculations of his term, the failure to anticipate the backlash Miers would cause with his own conservative base. But in repairing that breach, he risks a new confrontation with Democrats and further estrangement from the political center -- precisely the situation he hoped to avoid when he tapped his loyal and unassuming personal lawyer in the first place.

Few Republicans in Washington saw the timing of Miers's withdrawal as coincidental. With potential indictments of senior White House officials looming in the CIA leak case, the president could ill afford a sustained and increasingly raw rupture within the GOP coalition.

The Miers nomination was more than a humiliation for Bush, however. It was an episode that seemed wholly out of character with the president's style. No Republican president -- not even Ronald Reagan -- has catered to the right more methodically than Bush. But on a matter of first-order significance to many conservatives, the president let personal loyalty override what had been a central tenet of his political strategy.

Prosecutor to Seek Libby Indictment

Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe, plans to ask members of the grand jury to indict Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, a lawyer involved in the case told CNN Friday.

The attorney said that Fitzgerald believes Libby misled investigators.

Indictments in the case would be the first in a nearly two-year investigation into the public unmasking of an undercover CIA operative. Fitzgerald has scheduled a 2 p.m. ET news conference.

If he is indicted, Libby -- a major player in the Bush White House -- is expected to step down from his post.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Exxon Profits Up 75% to Nearly 10 Billion

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, on Thursday said quarterly profit surged 75 percent to nearly $10 billion, raking in a bonanza from record oil prices.

The profit was the highest in the company's history, surpassing the record it set in the 2004 fourth quarter. Revenue jumped 32 percent to just over $100 billion.

Two powerful hurricanes ripped through the Gulf of Mexico in the third quarter, disrupting energy operations in the region and sending oil prices and refining margins sharply higher.

Exxon Mobil said net income rose to $9.9 billion, or $1.58 a share, in the third quarter from $5.68 billion, or 88 cents a share, a year earlier.

Today's Featured Opinion Piece

Stan Goff

George W. Bush doesn't read many memos and he apparently doesn't read history. He should. Then he'd know more about the Pentagon Papers.

In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department employee then working at the Rand Corporation, had grown so restive over reports he had seen that proved a pattern of systematic lying to the public about America's war in Vietnam that he could no longer in good conscience remain silent. He leaked what would become "the Pentagon Papers" to the press. They showed that the government had lied about the war, and that many experts believed by 1968 that the war itself was unwinnable. More than 20,000 of our war deaths -- which eventually totaled 58,000 Americans (plus millions of Southeast Asians) -- occurred after 1968. After military and political experts told two administrations that the war would be lost.

We have now passed the much smaller empirical milestone in Iraq of 2,000 American dead. This figure does not include Afghanistan, it does not include more than 15,000 troops wounded, nor over 400 who have lost limbs, nor does it include the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead.

There is nothing special about the number 2,000, except what was special about each of the numerical increments along the way. Two thousand times now, a military sedan with two or three uniformed service members has pulled up in front of some home in the United States or Puerto Rico to deliver news that tore the hearts out of people and shattered their lives.

So this round number is just an opportunity to remind ourselves of what is going on -- and what is not.

The rate of terror attacks worldwide has tripled since 9/11, so the world is no safer. No one has "won the war but lost the peace" in Iraq -- one of the most Orwellian phrases imaginable, repeated like a drunken mantra to sustain denial about the reality of Iraq. The war has never been won. All that was accomplished was a bloody occupation. According to every poll, the majority of Iraqis want the occupation out, so the majority will is not being respected in this alleged attempt to build democracy at gunpoint.

3 American's Killed as Ethnic Violence Intensifies

Sunni Arab militants killed 14 Shiite militiamen and a policeman Thursday in a clash southeast of Baghdad — another sign of rising tensions among Iraq's rival ethnic and religious communities. The U.S. military reported three more American soldiers died in combat.

The Shiite-Sunni fighting occurred after police and militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr raided a house in Nahrawan, 15 miles southeast of the capital, to free a militiaman taken hostage by Sunni militants, according to Amer al-Husseini, an aide to al-Sadr.

After freeing the hostage and capturing two militants, the Shiite militiamen were ambushed by the Sunnis on their way out of the religiously mixed town, al-Husseini said. Police Lt. Thair Mahmoud said 14 others — 12 militiamen and two policemen — were wounded.

The incident underscores tensions among hard-line elements in Iraq's rival religious and ethnic communities at a time when the United States is struggling to promote a political process seen as key to calming the insurgency so that U.S. and other foreign troops can go home.

DeLay Fails To Disclose Contributions to Legal Defense Fund

Rep. Tom DeLay has notified House officials that he failed to disclose all contributions to his legal defense fund as required by congressional rules.

The fund is currently paying DeLay's legal bills in a campaign finance investigation in Texas, where DeLay has been indicted, and in a federal investigation of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The lobbyist arranged foreign travel for DeLay and had his clients pay some of the cost.

DeLay, R-Texas, has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

DeLay wrote House officials that he started an audit and it found that $20,850 contributed in 2000 and 2001 to the defense fund was not reported anywhere.

Bush Donor Indicted for Laundering Money Into Bush's Reelection Campaign

The Toledo Blade, which was first onto the so-called “Coingate” scandal in Ohio, broke another related story this afternoon, reporting that a federal grand jury has indicted the central figure in the coin scandal --Tom Noe, the former Maumee coin dealer suspected of laundering money into President Bush's reelection campaign--on three counts.

Noe's attorney, Jon Richardson, told The Blade he was called this afternoon and informed of the indictment.

The prosecutor later held a press conference in Toledo at 4:30 p.m.

“The U.S. Attorney's office announced in April that it was investigating Mr. Noe for possible violations of federal campaign finance laws,” the Blade wrote today.

GOP Senators Assert Independence

Some Republican senators sought to assert their independence from the administration today after Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers withdrew amid heavy pressure from conservative activists.

The battle over Miers had exacerbated a rift between the White House and the conservative Republican base, placing typically loyal GOP senators in between.

Several of them applauded her exit, which President Bush attributed to a desire to protect from Senate scrutiny internal White House deliberations during Miers's time as a top administration aide including, currently, White House counsel.

"I think she made the right decision, and I appreciate it," said Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), a possible 2008 presidential candidate who had been scheduled to meet with Miers this morning.

DeLay Says Conservative Politics Being Criminalized

Rep. Tom DeLay, under indictment on campaign finance violations, railed against Democrats in a letter Thursday, accusing them of engaging in "the politics of personal destruction."

The letter, sent to constituents and contributors, connected his case with investigations into possible misconduct by White House adviser Karl Rove and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

"What we're fighting is so much larger than a single court case or a single district attorney in Travis County," the Texas Republican wrote. "We are witnessing the criminalization of conservative politics."

DeLay stepped down as House majority leader after he was indicted Sept. 28 on charges he illegally funneled corporate campaign contributions to candidates for the Texas Legislature.

Cheney, Libby Blocked Papers to Senate Intelligence Panel

Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.

Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said

The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.

The disclosures also come as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wraps up the nearly two-year-old CIA leak investigation that has focused heavily on Libby's role in discussing covert intelligence operative Valerie Plame with reporters. Fitzgerald could announce as soon as tomorrow whether a federal grand jury is handing up indictments in the case.

BREAKING: Mier's Withdraws Nomination

In a striking defeat for President Bush, White House counsel Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to the Supreme Court on Thursday after three weeks of brutal criticism from fellow conservatives. The Senate's top Republican predicted a replacement candidate within days.

Miers said she abandoned her quest for confirmation because the Senate was demanding documents and information detailing her private advice to the president. "I am concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House," she wrote.

Senior lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee said they had requested no such documents. Instead, Republicans and Democrats said politics forced her to withdraw, particularly the demands of GOP conservatives who twice elected Bush and now seek to move the high court to the right on abortion and other issues.

"They had a litmus test and Harriet Miers failed that test," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Today's Quote

To save your world you asked this man to die; Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?

W. H. Auden

Featured Opinion Piece

One Time, One Night In America
James Moore

As our country anticipates the beginnings of what we hope will be justice for the leaders who betrayed us, I wanted to remember the soldiers and families who are the greatest victims of the Bush administration's lies. I do not want to lose focus on the fact that politics is more than a parlor game and real humans have died honoring their commitment to our country.

No matter what happens, we need to remember this is not simply about the deceptiveness of Karl Rove and the Bush cabal. Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation is primarily about bringing justice to the fallen soldiers of America. They are the reason we all ought to be demanding the truth.

Indictments Against Rove, Libby Lawyers Say

Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked the grand jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to indict Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, lawyers close to the investigation tell RAW STORY.

Fitzgerald has also asked the jury to indict Libby on a second charge: knowingly outing a covert operative, the lawyers said. They said the prosecutor believes that Libby violated a 1982 law that made it illegal to unmask an undercover CIA agent.

Libby’s attorney, Joseph A. Tate, did not return a call seeking comment

Aides To Be Indicted, Probe to Continue

Aides To Be Indicted, Probe to Continue

by Larry Johnson
Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 10:50:36 AM EDT

For your background, Richard was the first to tip me last year to the developing Larry Franklin spy scandal, which proved to be right. - LJ

Aides To Be Indicted, Probe to Continue

By Richard Sale, longtime Intelligence Correspondent for UPI

This comes to us courtesy of Pat Lang at I've found Richard to always be on target in my experience. -- Larry Johnson

Two top White House aides are expected to be indicted today on various charges related to the probe of CIA operative Valerie Plame whose classified identity was publicly breached in retaliation after her husband, Joe Wilson, challenged the administration's claim that Saddam Hussein had sought to buy enriched uranium from Niger, acording to federal law enforcement and senior U.S. intelligence officials.

If no action is taken today, it will take place on Friday, these sources said.

I. Scooter Libby, the chief of staff of Vice President Richard Cheney, and chief presidential advisor Karl Rove are expected to be named in indictments this morning by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

Others are to be named as well, these sources said. According to U.S. officials close to the case, a bill of indictment has been in existence before October 17 which named five people. Various names have surfaced such as National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, yet only one source would confirm that Hadley was on the list. Hadley could not be reached for comment.

BREAKING! Leak Probe Investigator Arrives at Couthouse

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday as a federal grand jury considers whether to bring criminal charges over the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity. Fitzgerald, accompanied by other prosecutors, had no comment as he entered the courthouse.

Today's Quote

I like power and I like to use it.

-Sam Rayburn

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

BREAKING! CBS News Reporting Indictments Will Come Tomorrow

CBS’ JOHN ROBERTS: Lawyers familiar with the case think Wednesday is when special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will make known his decision, and that there will be indictments. Supporters say Rove and the vice president’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, are in legal jeopardy. But they insisted today the two are secondary players, that it was an unidentified Mr. X who actually gave the name of CIA agent V alerie Plame to reporters. Fitzgerald knows who Mr. X is, they say, and if he isn’t indicted, there’s no way Rove or Libby should be. But charges may not focus on the leak at all. Obstruction of justice or perjury are real possibilities. Did Rove or Libby change statements made under oath? Did they deliberately leave critical facts out of their testimony or did they honestly forget? Some Republicans urged Rove to step down if indicted. Not a happy prospect for president Bush.

(Fitzmas Eve is finally here! I can't believe it. I won't be able to sleep tonight.)

CIA Leak Linked to Dispute Over Iraq Policy

The alleged leaking of a CIA operative's name had its roots in a clash over Iraq policy between White House insiders and their rivals in the permanent bureaucracy of Washington, especially in the State Department and the CIA.

As the investigation into the leak reaches its expected climax this week with the expiration of the grand jury's term, the internal disputes have been further amplified by a recent string of speeches and interviews criticizing the administration's handling of Iraq, including by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and State Department diplomats, and other officials involved in the early efforts to stabilize Iraq.

Scowcroft, a close friend of former president George H.W. Bush, revealed in interviews with the New Yorker a deep disdain for the administration's foreign policy, according to an article published this week. He said he had once considered Vice President Cheney "a good friend," but "Dick Cheney I don't know anymore." When Scowcroft was asked whether he could name the issues on which he agreed with President Bush, he replied "Afghanistan." He then paused for 12 seconds before adding only, "I think we're doing well on Europe."

A top State Department official involved in Iraq policy, former ambassador Robin Raphel, said the administration was "not prepared" when it invaded Iraq, but did so anyway in part because of "clear political pressure, election driven and calendar driven," according to an oral history interview posted on the Web site of the congressionally funded U.S. Institute of Peace.

U.S. Death Toll In Iraq Reaches 2,000

The U.S. military death toll in Iraq reached 2,000 Tuesday with the reports of three new deaths, and President Bush prepared the nation for more casualties, saying the "defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice."

"We've lost some of our nation's finest men and women in the war on terror," Bush said in a speech to military spouses at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington.

"Each loss of life is heartbreaking. And the best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission and lay the foundation of peace by spreading freedom."

(I wish the press would report the "REAL" numbers of U.S. military casualties. This number only reflects battle field deaths -- not those who die from their injuries at a later day. What is the point of reporting an inaccurate number? )

Military Asks Media Not to Make 2000th Death a Miletsone

CNN reported this morning that the U.S. death toll in Iraq had reached 2,000, and a little later The Associated Press confirmed this. AP said the 2,000th military fatality was an Army sergeant who was wounded by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad and died in Texas last weekend. He is Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander Jr., 34, of Killeen, Texas.

But the chief spokesman for the American-led multinational force has called on the media not to consider the 2,000 number as some kind of milestone.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the force's combined press center, wrote in an e-mail to reporters, "I ask that when you report on the events, take a moment to think about the effects on the families and those serving in Iraq. The 2,000 service members killed in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom is not a milestone. It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives."

Cheney Seeks Torture Loophole

The Bush administration has proposed exempting employees of the Central Intelligence Agency from a legislative measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody.

The proposal, which two sources said Vice President Cheney handed last Thursday to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the company of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, states that the measure barring inhumane treatment shall not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by "an element of the United States government" other than the Defense Department.

Although most detainees in U.S. custody in the war on terrorism are held by the U.S. military, the CIA is said by former intelligence officials and others to be holding several dozen detainees of particular intelligence interest at locations overseas -- including senior al Qaeda figures Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaida.

Cheney's proposal is drafted in such a way that the exemption from the rule barring ill treatment could require a presidential finding that "such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack." But the precise applicability of this section is not clear, and none of those involved in last week's discussions would discuss it openly yesterday.

The White House Cabal

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."

National Security Advisor Hadley Used Rejected Faulty Niger Intelligence to Support Iraq War

With Patrick Fitzgerald widely expected to announce indictments in the CIA leak investigation, questions are again being raised about the intelligence scandal that led to the appointment of the special counsel: namely, how the Bush White House obtained false Italian intelligence reports claiming that Iraq had tried to buy uranium "yellowcake" from Niger.

The key documents supposedly proving the Iraqi attempt later turned out to be crude forgeries, created on official stationery stolen from the African nation's Rome embassy. Among the most tantalizing aspects of the debate over the Iraq War is the origin of those fake documents -- and the role of the Italian intelligence services in disseminating them.

In an explosive series of articles appearing this week in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo report that Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, known as Sismi, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002. Sismi had reported to the CIA on October 15, 2001, that Iraq had sought yellowcake in Niger, a report it also plied on British intelligence, creating an echo that the Niger forgeries themselves purported to amplify before they were exposed as a hoax.

Today's exclusive report in La Repubblica reveals that Pollari met secretly in Washington on September 9, 2002, with then–Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Their secret meeting came at a critical moment in the White House campaign to convince Congress and the American public that war in Iraq was necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones confirmed the meeting to the Prospect on Tuesday.

Cheney ID'd CIA Operative to Aide

- I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.

Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

Oil Company Profits Up 50%

House Republicans, worried about political fallout from the high-profit figures that oil companies are expected to release later this week, will demand that companies pour those profits into refining more oil for the U.S. market in order to lower prices.
At a press conference today, Republicans led by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert will tell the companies to explain why they are making so much money and what they will do to bring down the cost of gasoline.
"Big Oil needs to do its part. Increasing capacity and improving refineries will do much to boost supplies so that consumers do not feel such a big pinch," Mr. Hastert said in prepared remarks obtained last night by The Washington Times.
"These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures. We expect oil companies to do their part to help ease the pain American families are feeling from high energy prices," he said.
Oil companies begin releasing figures on their third-quarter financial performances this week, and analysts expect the major corporations to show a nearly 50 percent increase in profits from the same period in 2004.

(Perhaps I'm missing something but won't more refineries just enable the oil companies to gouge us faster? Seems to me if there is shortage of refineries -- the places where oil is turned into gasoline -- then there would be a glut of oil out there because we can't refine it fast enough. Its a simple law of economics that a glut causes the prices to fall - so the price for oil should be free falling and gasoline should be cheaper than $2.50 a gallon. But I'm not an oil man like those calling the shots - what do I know?)

Dobson, Bauer Face Questioning

Top Nine Plamegate Lies

Top Nine Plamegate Lies
Josh Kalven, Media Matters for America

As U.S. attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald's two-year investigation into the CIA leak case reportedly draws to a close, the long-standing debate over the origins of the scandal, the merits of the federal investigation, and the legal authority of the prosecutor has intensified greatly. At issue is the disclosure to the press of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, which first appeared in syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak's July 14, 2003, column. Bush administration officials allegedly leaked her identity in order to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a vocal critic of the White House's decision to go to war with Iraq.

In this rhetorical environment characterized by limited information and boundless speculation, those defending the officials at the center of Fitzgerald's probe have advanced numerous falsehoods and distortions. As Media Matters for America documents below, the media have not only failed to challenge many of these claims, but also repeated them.

Falsehood: It is legally significant whether the leakers disclosed Plame's name in their conversations with reporters

Shortly after Newsweek published an email by Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to Time Washington bureau chief Mike Duffy saying that, according to White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, "Wilson's wife" worked at the CIA, Rove's lawyer responded by noting that his client had not stated her actual name. Several news outlets went on to report Rove's response as if his reported omission of Plame's name was relevant to whether he violated the law. Simultaneously, commentators such as former presidential adviser David Gergen and Washington Times chief political correspondent Donald Lambro, as well as the Republican National Committee (RNC), began to advance the argument that because Rove didn't specifically name her, he did not reveal her identity.

But whether leakers identified Plame as "Valerie Plame," "Valerie Wilson," or "Wilson's wife" is irrelevant, both as a practical matter and likely as a legal matter. Practically speaking, a quick Google search of Joseph Wilson at the time would have produced Plame's actual name. As such, administration defenders have declared that whether her name was mentioned to reporters likely has no bearing on whether there was a violation of the law. Despite having previously implied that there is a meaningful distinction between disclosing her name and her identity before, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, later conceded that drawing such a line was "too legalistic." Similarly, Victoria Toensing, the Republican lawyer who helped draft the potentially applicable 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), agreed that the use of her name is "not an important part of whether this is a crime or not."

Nonetheless, numerous media figures recently revived this claim in the wake of New York Times reporter Judith Miller's revelation that the source who told her that Plame worked at the CIA, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, also never disclosed her actual name.

Falsehood: Wilson said that Cheney sent him to Niger

An RNC talking points memo made public on July 12 accused Wilson of falsely claiming "that it was Vice President Cheney who sent him to Niger." The allegation that Wilson had lied about the genesis of his trip was soon repeated by RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, who argued that this fact justified the purported leaking of Plame's identity to the press and that the White House had simply been attempting to set the record straight.

New York Times columnist David Brooks made this argument at least twice (here and here). And a string of journalists and commentators -- including CNN's Dana Bash, the Washington Post's Mike Allen, Newsweek's Jon Meacham, and U.S. News and World Report's Michael Barone -- parroted the allegation during news reports and media appearances in the following weeks. NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell recently repeated the claim as a guest on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews.

But Wilson never said that Cheney sent him to Niger. To support this accusation, the RNC had misrepresented his July 6, 2003, op-ed in the New York Times and distorted a remark he made in an August 3, 2003, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. Contrary to their allegation, Wilson clearly stated in the op-ed that "agency officials" had requested he travel to Niger. Further, in the CNN appearance, he stated it was "absolutely true" that Cheney was unaware he went on the trip.

(Click Title to see entire list)

Progressive Talking Points - October 25th 2005

Involvement at the Highest Levels

October 25, 2005

The outing of Valerie Plame is not about the White House “smearing political foes.” It is about the White House manipulating intelligence to sell the war in Iraq and then lying to cover it up. With today’s disclosure that the Vice President was the original source of Lewis Libby’s information on Valerie Plame, we know that Cheney played a key role in the effort to discredit Wilson. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will determine if any criminal wrongdoing occurred. Independent of his findings, the White House has some very serious questions to answer:

  • If the Vice President has nothing to hide, why wasn’t his conversation with Libby disclosed two years ago? If the Vice President has nothing to hide, why did he say on Meet the Press – three months after his conversation with Libby about Plame – that he that he didn’t know “who sent Joe Wilson” and that he had “no idea who hired him”?

  • Why did Lewis Libby lie to the grand jury about where he learned of Plame's identity? Did the Vice President instruct Mr. Libby to lie to the grand jury? Did the Vice President instruct Libby to disclose Plame’s identity in an effort to discredit Wilson? Was the Vice President also Karl Rove’s source?

  • Finally, what discussions did the President and the Vice President have about Wilson's report? President Bush has already said that the two spoke of the matter. The President must explain to the nation what role he had in the effort to discredit Wilson and answer for the actions of his Vice President and his White House.

Bring Them Home

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
The War in Iraq
Senate Floor

Tuesday 25 October 2005

Following is Sen. Patrick Leahy's address on Iraq, delivered Tuesday morning on the Senate floor. Leahy (D-Vt.) is the ranking member of the Appropriations panel that handles the Senate's work in funding the State Department and US foreign operations and aid, and he also is a senior member of the Appropriations panel with jurisdiction over the annual defense budget bill. Leahy was one of 23 senators who voted against the resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Leahy: Three years ago when the Congress and the country debated the resolution to give President Bush the authority to launch a preemptive war against Iraq, reference was often made to the lessons of Vietnam.

Unheeded Lessons

There are many lessons, both of that war and of the efforts to end it. But one that made a deep impression on me came from former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the architect of that war, who said our greatest mistake was not understanding our enemy.

Vietnam was a relatively simple country that had changed little in the preceding 3,000 years. It was, for the most part, racially, ethnically, linguistically and religiously homogenous. One would have thought it would have been easy for U.S. military and political leaders to understand.

Apparently it was not. The White House and the Pentagon, convinced that no country, particularly not a tiny impoverished land of rice farmers, could withstand the military might of the United States, never bothered to study and understand the history or culture of Vietnam, and they made tragic miscalculations. They lacked the most basic knowledge of the motivation, the capabilities and the resolve of the people they were fighting.

At the start of the Iraq war, those who drew some analogies to Vietnam were ridiculed by the Pentagon and the White House. Iraq is not Vietnam, they insisted. Our troops would be greeted as liberators. Troop strength was not a concern. Our mission would be quickly accomplished. Democracy would spread throughout the Middle East. Freedom was on the march.

It is true that Vietnam and Iraq are vastly different societies. But the point was not that they are similar, but that some of the same lessons apply. We did not understand Vietnam - a simple country - and we paid a huge price for our ignorance and our arrogance.

Iraq - a complex country comprised of rival clans, tribes and ethic and religious factions who have fought each other for centuries - we understand even less.

If this were not apparent to many at the start of this ill-conceived and politically motivated war - a war I opposed from the beginning - it should be obvious today. Yet to listen to the Secretary of Defense, or to the President or the Vice President, one would never know it.

Misled into War

We know today that President Bush decided to invade Iraq without evidence to support the use of force and well before Congress passed the resolution giving him the authority to do so - authority he did not even believe he needed - despite the Constitution which invests in the Congress the power to declare war. Twenty-three Senators voted against that resolution, and I was proud to be one of them.

We know today that the motivation for a plan to attack Iraq, hatched by a handful of political operatives, had taken hold within the White House even before 9/11, and without any connection to the war on terrorism that came later.

We know that the key public justifications for the war - to stop Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons and supporting al Qaeda - were based on faulty intelligence and outright distortions and have been thoroughly discredited. United Nations weapons inspectors, who were dismissed by the White House as naïve and ineffective, turned out to have gathered far better information with a tiny fraction of the budget than our own intelligence agencies.

And we know that the insurgency is continuing to grow along with American casualties - 1,999 killed and at least 15,220 wounded, as of yesterday - despite the same old light at the end of the tunnel assertions and clichés by the White House and top officials in the Pentagon.

The sad but inescapable truth, which the President either does not see or refuses to believe or admit, is that the Iraqi insurgency has steadily grown, in part because of our presence there.

(Click title to read statement in entirety)

FAIR Action Alert

Are 2,000 U.S. Deaths "Negligible"?
Fox's Brit Hume downplays U.S. deaths in Iraq


Imagine a major mainstream media figure stating that the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq are not really a big deal. You would expect that pundits across the political spectrum would attack such a statement as an affront to the troops and a belittling of their sacrifices.

But you don't have to imagine; this scenario has already happened, with hardly a peep from other commentators. The journalist in question is Fox News Channel anchor Brit Hume. On the October 13 broadcast of Special Report, the show he regularly hosts, Hume said of U.S deaths in Iraq, "by historic standards, these casualties are negligible."

What history is Hume referring to? It's true that U.S. deaths were substantially higher in World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam--major wars fought either against major world powers or against well-armed states backed by superpowers. Deaths were also much higher in the U.S. Civil War.

But when compared to other conflicts in its category--wars and counterinsurgency operations against comparatively weak, isolated nations and guerrilla movements--the death toll in Iraq is strikingly high. Of all the other U.S. military interventions over the past 30 years--which include Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, the 1991 Gulf War, Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo and Afghanistan--none have come close to 1,000 U.S. deaths, let alone 2,000. By those "historical standards," the Iraq War has been remarkably deadly.

Hume's October 13 comment wasn't the first time he has tried to downplay the number of U.S. deaths in Iraq. On August 4, following a day in which 18 U.S. troops were killed in combat, Hume stated that "of course, by historical standards, these casualties, even after this attack this week, are minor, I mean, militarily minor." Hume did add the deaths were "a terrible tragedy for everybody involved, and the families and all, but they're not large casualties by historical military standards." Weeks later, Hume repeated that position (8/24/05): "By historic standards, military standards, these casualties in Iraq are quite low."

When the U.S. military death toll passed the 1,000 mark last year, Hume posed this question to retired Army Gen. Robert Scales (9/7/04): "The question is, how important a milestone is this? Is it militarily significant or psychologically important, both, neither?" Scales gave an answer that sounded very much like Hume's opinion: "It's very low casualties when you compare it to something like Vietnam. I mean, at the height of the Tet Offensive, which lasted, what, nine days, there were well over 1,000 American dead. So in terms of the rate, obviously it's much lower."

On August 26, 2003, Hume conjured up a bizarre mathematical formula to show that U.S. casualties were not a big deal:

"Two hundred seventy-seven U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, which means that statistically speaking U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California, which is roughly the same geographical size. The most recent statistics indicate California has more than 2,300 homicides each year, which means about 6.6 murders each day. Meanwhile, U.S. troops have been in Iraq for 160 days, which means they're incurring about 1.7 deaths, including illness and accidents each day."

Hume's geographic comparison was meaningless, since the total population of California is far greater than the number of U.S. troops in Iraq--approximately 240 times greater. If Californians were being killed at the same rate that Hume cited for U.S. soldiers, there would be more than 400 murders per day, not six. When Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz (9/8/03) asked Hume about that, Hume said: "Admittedly it was a crude comparison, but it was illustrative of something."

Perhaps "crude" is the best way to describe Hume's attitude towards U.S. fatalities in Iraq.


Please contact Fox News Channel and share your thoughts about Brit Hume minimizing U.S. deaths in Iraq.

Fox News Channel
Special Report with Brit Hume

Rosa Parks Dead at 92

Nearly 50 years ago, Rosa Parks made a simple decision that sparked a revolution. When a white man demanded she give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, the then 42-year-old seamstress said no.

At the time, she couldn't have known it would secure her a revered place in American history. But her one small act of defiance galvanized a generation of activists, including a young Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and earned her the title "mother of the civil rights movement."

Mrs. Parks died Monday evening at her home of natural causes, with close friends by her side, said Gregory Reed, an attorney who represented her for the past 15 years. She was 92.

66% of Americans Think Bush Doing Poor or "Only Fair" Job

A new Harris Interactive poll shows American sentiment about the situation in Iraq remains generally gloomy, with fewer than a quarter of Americans saying they are confident U.S. policies in Iraq will be successful.

For the first time, a majority of Americans (53%) feels that military action in Iraq was the wrong thing to do, according to the survey of 1,833 U.S. adults, compared with 34% who feel it was right.

At the same time, 66% of U.S. adults now say President Bush is doing a "poor" or "only fair" job of handling Iraq, while 32% say he is doing an "excellent" or "pretty good" job. That's little change from a September Harris poll that found 65% rated Mr. Bush negatively and 34% rated him positively.

(I am really, Really, REALLY blown away by the 32% who say he is doing an excellent or pretty good job. HUH? What exactly is he good at?)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Featured Opinion Piece

The Bunker Mentality
William Rivers Pitt

I wrote to Ambassador Joseph Wilson last week to ask how he and his wife were bearing up, and to remind them that they had a lot of friends. "The outpouring of support has been of great comfort to us these past two years," he wrote back. "The stakes are enormous. This is all about whether our government can take us to war on lies without any fear of being held to account, and whether our democracy can survive the coalition of fascist forces that have seized control of the levers of power."

Heavy stuff. Yet if the desperation we are seeing on the part of defenders of this administration offers any clue, the fascists are running out of explanations. Take Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's performance on this past Sunday's version of Meet the Press. "I certainly hope," she said when asked about the Fitzgerald investigation into the deliberate outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, "that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars."

Some perjury technicality, eh? Waste of time and dollars?

Funny the difference almost seven years and two broken elections can make. Back on February 12, 1999, when Ms. Hutchison cast her vote to impeach a sitting president of the United States, she was of a different mind when it came to perjury. Her statement in Congress practically peeled the paint off the wall, so laden was it with outrage at the violation of an oath taken before the delivery of sworn testimony.

Iraqi War Vet Enters Ohio Senate Race

Paul Hackett, the Democratic veteran of the Iraq war who narrowly lost a special election in a heavily Republican congressional district in August, made his official entry into a U.S. Senate race Monday.

He faces a tough Democratic primary with Rep. Sherrod Brown in the race for the nomination to challenge second-term Republican incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine next year.

"I'm asking all the people of this great state, regardless of political affiliation, to consider my message and to consider joining me in the fight to take back our government from the career politicians and their special interest support groups who have hijacked our government," he said as he announced his campaign at his home in suburban Indian Hill.

Hackett decided to run for Congress earlier this year after completing a seven-month tour of duty in Iraq as a Marine reservist. That special election in southern Ohio's seven-county 2nd District was to replace Rep. Rob Portman, who left his seat to become the U.S. trade representative.

Progressive Talking Points 10/24/05

  • In 2003 – and again in 2004 – President Bush said he would fire anyone found to be involved in the leak of Valerie Plame’s name. He didn’t say he would fire anyone who “committed a crime.” He said we would fire anyone found to be involved in the leak. [Bush Media Availability, 9/30/03]

  • The president called the leak of Plame’s identity “a serious charge,” and “a criminal action.” [President Bush, 10/6/03] He said the “the special prosecutor is conducting a very serious investigation – he’s doing it in a very dignified way…” [10/11/05]

  • The Department of Justice directed Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald to investigate whether any crimes were committed as part of the “alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity.” He was not told to determine whether there was a violation of the “Intelligence Identities Act of 1992,” as conservative talkers assert. He was charged with investigating whether any crimes were committed in connection with the leak. Period. [].

  • Perjury is a crime. Perjury is a felony. Obstruction of justice is a felony.

  • Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald will determine if any crimes were committed. But there is no disputing the fact that Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby were involved in the leak. These men undertook a campaign to discredit Wilson and his wife and then they lied about it. Regardless of what Fitzgerald finds, the president must purge the White House of Karl Rove, I. Lewis Libby and all staff involved in the leak.

  • This investigation is not a simple case of the White House “smearing political foes.” Ultimately, it is case about the White House manipulating intelligence to sell the war in Iraq and then lying to cover it up. The president owes the country an answer on the larger and far more troubling question of why the White House manipulated intelligence to make the case for a war that has made our country less safe and cost nearly 2,000 American lives.

Defending the Indefensible

LOWERING THE BAR: Last week, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff "Scooter" Libby were "advised that they are in serious legal jeopardy." As a result, "allies of the White House have quietly been circulating talking points in recent days among Republicans sympathetic to the administration, seeking to help them make the case that bringing charges like perjury mean the prosecutor does not have a strong case." (For a full list of rebuttals to right-wing myths, click here). Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said, "It seems to me quite possible--dare I say probable?--that no indictments would be the just and appropriate resolution to this inquiry." Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) dismissed the leak inquiry as a subject the American people don't care about. And on Meet the Press yesterday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said a possible perjury charge against any White House staffer is nothing more than a mere "technicality." But on Feb. 5, 1999, when considering articles of impeachment against President Clinton, Hutchison stated that it was important to prosecute for perjury because she was concerned that "grand juries across America are going to start asking questions about what is obstruction of justice, what is perjury. And I don't want there to be any lessening of the standard. Because our system of criminal justice depends on people telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

See video of Sen Hutchison's outrageous performance at

Syria - The Next Iraq

By Robert Dreyfus

The news from Syria shows that the neoconservative
plan for the Middle East is still in play.

Three years ago, the U.S. invasion of Iraq was widely viewed as the first chapter of a region-wide strategy to remake the entire map of the Middle East. Following Iraq, Syria and Iran would be the next targets, after which the oil-rich states of the Arabian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, would follow. It was a policy driven by neoconservatives in and outside of the Bush administration, and they didn’t exactly make an effort to keep it secret. In April, 2003, in an article in The American Prospect titled “Just the Beginning ,” I wrote: “Those who think that U.S. armed forces can complete a tidy war in Iraq, without the battle spreading beyond Iraq's borders, are likely to be mistaken.” And the article quoted various neocon strategists to that effect:

"I think we're going to be obliged to fight a regional war, whether we want to or not," says Michael Ledeen, a former U.S. national security official and a key strategist among the ascendant flock of neoconservative hawks, many of whom have taken up perches inside the U.S. government. Asserting that the war against Iraq can't be contained, Ledeen says that the very logic of the global war on terrorism will drive the United States to confront an expanding network of enemies in the region. "As soon as we land in Iraq, we're going to face the whole terrorist network," he says, including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and a collection of militant splinter groups backed by nations—Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia—that he calls "the terror masters."

"It may turn out to be a war to remake the world," says Ledeen.

In the Middle East, impending "regime change" in Iraq is just the first step in a wholesale reordering of the entire region.

Read Alec Baldwin on Huffington Post

- My question for today is: Why are contemporary Republicans so full of shit? And a follow-up...How did the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and General Eisenhower get taken over by such lying, thieving, self-serving scoundrels?

Morning After Pill Denied To Rape Victim

- Although it is safe, effective and legal, emergency contraception - the "morning after" pill - can be hard to find in Tucson.

After a sexual assault one recent weekend, a young Tucson woman spent three frantic days trying to obtain the drug to prevent a pregnancy, knowing that each passing day lowered the chance the drug would work.
While calling dozens of Tucson pharmacies trying to fill a prescription for emergency contraception, she found that most did not stock the drug.
When she finally did find a pharmacy with it, she said she was told the pharmacist on duty would not dispense it because of religious and moral objections.

Iraqi's Support Attacks Against British Troops

- Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed.

The poll, undertaken for the Ministry of Defence and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shows that up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.

It demonstrates for the first time the true strength of anti-Western feeling in Iraq after more than two and a half years of bloody occupation.

The nationwide survey also suggests that the coalition has lost the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, which Tony Blair and George W Bush believed was fundamental to creating a safe and secure country.