Saturday, January 31, 2004

At Height of Vietnam, Bush Picks Guard

By George Lardner Jr. and Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writers

Wednesday, July 28, 1999; Page A1

Two weeks before he was to graduate from Yale, George Walker Bush stepped into the offices of the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington Field outside Houston and announced that he wanted to sign up for pilot training.

It was May 27, 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. Bush was 12 days away from losing his student deferment from the draft at a time when Americans were dying in combat at the rate of 350 a week. The unit Bush wanted to join offered him the chance to fulfill his military commitment at a base in Texas. It was seen as an escape route from Vietnam by many men his age, and usually had a long waiting list.

Bush had scored only 25 percent on a "pilot aptitude" test, the lowest acceptable grade. But his father was then a congressman from Houston, and the commanders of the Texas Guard clearly had an appreciation of politics.

For the rest of this account of Bush's service during Vietnam, see Washington Post

What Did You Do During the War, Daddy? President Bush's National Guard Career

Documentary film maker Michael Moore ("Roger and Me" and "Bowling For Columbine") recently called President Bush a "deserter," earning the displeasure of a number of well-known establishment journalists. Columnist James Ridgeway thinks Moore's description of the President's service record isn't so farfetched. For a consideration of Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam years, see Village Voice

McCain Wants WMD Inquiry

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2004

Parting company with many of his fellow Republicans, Sen. John McCain said Thursday he wants an independent commission to take a sweeping look at recent intelligence failures.

The White House has dismissed the proposal, saying the CIA is committed to reviewing the intelligence behind claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration also argues that the weapons search is not yet complete.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has expressed frustration with those who suggest an outside investigation is needed before his committee has a chance to complete an inquiry now underway. Senate Armed Service Chairman John Warner, R-Va., supports letting the committee finish its work.

In an interview with The Associated Press, McCain said he believes the public needs an assessment that won't be clouded by partisan division. The Arizona senator said he is seeking a full-scale look not only at apparently botched intelligence on Iraq's weapons capabilities, but also flawed estimations of Iraq, North Korea and Libya and the faulty assessments from other Western intelligence services.

For the rest of the McCain story, see CBS

Iraq War Questions Gain Momentum

Democratic candidates step up attacks on Bush, and GOP lawmakers urge a frank response. Analysts see a risk to the president's credibility

By Janet Hook
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 30, 2004
WASHINGTON — Mounting questions about the White House's rationale for invading Iraq are giving Democratic presidential candidates fresh ammunition for attacking President Bush's credibility and challenging a foreign policy record that has been the cornerstone of Bush's 2004 reelection campaign.
Bush administration officials have been thrown on the defensive by reports from former chief weapons inspector David Kay that Iraq had no stockpiled weapons of mass destruction at the start of the war last March, as U.S. intelligence had indicated.
But the administration has not acknowledged an intelligence failure, insisting that more time is needed to continue inspections.
Some analysts see a potential political risk if Bush refuses to accept Kay's conclusion that prewar intelligence was faulty, because it could keep the issue alive deep into the election season.

For the rest of this news analysis, see Los Angeles Times


Where's the Apology?

The New York Times
January 30, 2004

George Bush promised to bring honor and integrity back to the White House. Instead, he got rid of accountability.

Surely even supporters of the Iraq war must be dismayed by the administration's reaction to David Kay's recent statements. Iraq, he now admits, didn't have W.M.D., or even active programs to produce such weapons. Those much-ridiculed U.N. inspectors were right. (But Hans Blix appears to have gone down the memory hole. On Tuesday Mr. Bush declared that the war was justified — under U.N. Resolution 1441, no less — because Saddam "did not let us in.")

So where are the apologies? Where are the resignations? Where is the investigation of this intelligence debacle? All we have is bluster from Dick Cheney, evasive W.M.D.-related-program-activity language from Mr. Bush — and a determined effort to prevent an independent inquiry.

True, Mr. Kay still claims that this was a pure intelligence failure. I don't buy it: the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has issued a damning report on how the threat from Iraq was hyped, and former officials warned of politicized intelligence during the war buildup. (Yes, the Hutton report gave Tony Blair a clean bill of health, but many people — including a majority of the British public, according to polls — regard that report as a whitewash.)

To read the rest of Krugman's column, see The New York Times

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Editorials Question Bush's Role in 'Cooking' Up a War

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher
January 28, 2004

NEW YORK In the wake of the latest revelations from weapons inspector David Kay, many of the largest U.S. newspapers are belatedly pressing the Bush administration for an explanation of how it could have gotten the question of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq so wrong in the march to war last year. A growing number are raising the possibility that Bush and his team may have "cooked" the intelligence to support their case for war.

An E&P survey of the top 20 newspapers by circulation found that as of Wednesday, 13 had run editorials on Kay's resignation as chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq last Friday, and his statement that no WMDs exist in Iraq, and likely did not exist in Iraq during the U.S. run-up to war.

For the rest of this story, see Editor & Publisher

Monday, January 26, 2004

The State of the Union Address
Annotated by James Fallows, an Atlantic national correspondent and a former presidential speechwriter

January 22, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
America this evening is a nation called to great responsibilities. And we are rising to meet them. [The speech gets off to a mildly unusual start. Last year, the president opened with the one-two introductory combo that is standard for SOTU addresses. First, he reminded the audience of the historic importance of a president's annual report to Congress; then, he revealed his judgment about how the "state of the union" stands. Last year, as a reminder, he said in the second paragraph of his speech that "our union is strong." This year, the verdict doesn't come until the sixth paragraph, below, where the union is now "confident and strong."]

For the rest of this interesting analysis of the State of the Union speech by one of this country's leading magazine and book journalists, see The Atlantic Online

Too late to use rights to justify Iraq war-group

By Andrew Cawthorne
26 Jan 2004

LONDON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - U.S. and British leaders George W. Bush and Tony Blair are wrong to retroactively justify the invasion of Iraq on humanitarian grounds, a global rights group said on Monday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch criticised the West for turning a blind eye to Saddam Hussein's atrocities -- such as the 1988 massacre of Kurds -- at a time when the level of slaughter could have justified armed intervention.

"Only mass slaughter might permit the deliberate taking of life involved in using military force for humanitarian purposes," the group's head Kenneth Roth said in its annual report.

"Brutal as Saddam Hussein's reign had been, the scope of the Iraq government's killing in March 2003 was not of the exceptional and dire magnitude that would justifiy humanitarian intervention," he wrote in one of the report's 15 essays.

To read the rest of this report, see Reuters

Powell Voices Doubts About Iraqi Weapons

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 25, 2004; Page A14

TBILISI, Georgia. Jan. 24 -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who urged the United Nations to endorse a preemptive war to strip Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, conceded Saturday that Saddam Hussein's government may have no longer had such munitions.

One day after David Kay, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, said he believes Hussein had not stockpiled unconventional weapons for years, Powell told reporters that his prominent Feb. 5 argument was based on "what our intelligence community believed was credible."

"What is the open question is how many stocks they had, if any, and if they had any, where did they go? And if they didn't have any, then why wasn't that known beforehand?" Powell told reporters aboard his plane en route to Sunday's presidential inauguration of Mikheil Saakashvili.

For the rest of this report, see

Thursday, January 22, 2004

War of Ideas, Part 5

The New York times
January 22, 2004

(Blog editor's note: Friedman has supported the Iraq war but been highly critical of the Bush administration's conduct during the "reconstruction" period. In this column, he most clearly states his views that the war was necessary to send a message to "Islamic fundamentalists" who threaten open societies. In other words, the war was a sort of demonstration project. This remains a highly controversial notion among Middle East and foreign policy scholars, given that (1) Iraq was not an "Islamic fundamenmtalist" state, but now may well become one, and (2) there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any connection whatsoever with Osma bin Laden. Moreover, his contention that the war was not a distraction in the campaign against terrorism is in direct contradiction to a recent report published by the Army War College [see Jan. 14, 2004 post below]).

God bless the Democratic Party's primary voters in Iowa. They may have rescued our chances of succeeding in Iraq and even winning the war of ideas within the Arab-Muslim world. Go Hawkeyes!

How so? Well, it seems to me that Iowa Democrats, in opting for John Kerry and John Edwards over Howard Dean, signaled (among other things) that they want a presidential candidate who is serious about fighting the war against the Islamist totalitarianism threatening open societies.

"It was a good night for the [Tony] Blair Democrats in Iowa," said Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute. By "Blair Democrats," Mr. Marshall was referring to those Democrats who voted for the Iraq war, and conveyed "a toughness and resolve to face down America's enemies," but who believe the Bush team has mismanaged the project. This is so important because there has been no credible opposition to the Bush foreign policy since the Iraq war. Democrats have been intimidated either by Mr. Bush or by Mr. Dean.

Mr. Bush's lightning victory in Iraq intimidated those who favored the war but had reservations about the Bush approach. And then, when things started to go sour in Iraq, Mr. Dean's outspoken opposition to the war — and the eager reception it received from some Democratic activists — got those Democrats who did vote for the war tied into pretzels, trying to simultaneously justify their war vote and distance themselves from it.

For the rest of the Friedman column, see The New York Times

Riding the Crazy Train

The New York Times
January 22, 2004

(Blog editor's note: In this column by the Times' Dowd, she makes an interesting comparison between Bush's performance delivering the State of the Union address and the one by Howard Dean on the night of the Iowa primary)

WASHINGTON — Whoa! That was quite the steroid-infused performance. Who's the guy's political consultant — Russell Crowe? He was so in-your-face, smirking his trademark smirk, it was disturbing to think of him in charge of the military. It's a good thing he stopped drinking and started talking about God.

You wonder how many votes he scared off with that testosterone festival: the taunting message, the self-righteous geographic litany of support? The Philippines. Thailand. Italy. Spain. Poland. Denmark. Bulgaria. Ukraine. Romania. The Netherlands. Norway. El Salvador.

Can you believe President Bush is still pushing the cockamamie claim that we went to war in Iraq with a real coalition rather than a gaggle of poodles and lackeys?

His State of the Union address took his swaggering sheriff routine to new heights. "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country," he vowed.

To read the rest of Dowd's column, see The New York Times

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Arms Issue Seen as Hurting U.S. Credibility Abroad

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 19, 2004; Page A01

The Bush administration's inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- after public statements declaring an imminent threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- has begun to harm the credibility abroad of the United States and of American intelligence, according to foreign policy experts in both parties.

In last year's State of the Union address, President Bush used stark imagery to make the case that military action was necessary. Among other claims, Bush said that Hussein had enough anthrax to "kill several million people," enough botulinum toxin to "subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure" and enough chemical agents to "kill untold thousands."

Now, as the president prepares for this State of the Union address Tuesday, those frightening images of death and destruction have been replaced by a different reality: Few of the many claims made by the administration have been confirmed after months of searching by weapons inspectors.

For the rest of this analysis, see The Washington Post

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Coalition uses 1918 British report on tribal system

By David Usborne in New York and Glen Rangwala

The Independent
18 January 2004

As the United States scrambles to end a dispute with Shia leaders over plans to elect an interim government in Iraq before July, it has emerged that American commanders are seeking to reach out to tribal leaders by relying on a report devised in 1918 by Britain, the country's then ruler.

Lieutenant-Colonel Alan King, head of the Tribal Affairs Bureau set up by the US-led coalition last month, admitted last week that he had been referring to the pages of the British report to fathom Iraq's network of tribal sheikhs - regardless of the fact that it dates back to the First World War.

The revelation is not likely to improve confidence in the ability of the US to sort out the deepening muddle over how it means to relinquish political power to the Iraqi people by this summer. The plan to create an interim government before a 30 June deadline has been in doubt since objections were raised last week by the powerful Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. His words set off mass demonstrations against the proposal in southern Iraq on Thursday.

For the rest of this troubling story, see The Independent

Spies, Lies, and Weapons:
What Went Wrong

The Atlantic Monthly
January/February 2004

How could we have been so far off in our estimates of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs? A leading Iraq expert and intelligence analyst in the Clinton Administration—whose book The Threatening Storm proved deeply influential in the run-up to the war—gives a detailed account of how and why we erred
by Kenneth M. Pollack
Let's start with one truth: last March, when the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq, the American public and much of the rest of the world believed that after Saddam Hussein's regime sank, a vast flotsam of weapons of mass destruction would bob to the surface. That, of course, has not been the case. In the words of David Kay, the principal adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), an organization created late last spring to search for prohibited weaponry, "I think all of us who entered Iraq expected the job of actually discovering deployed weapons to be easier than it has turned out to be." Many people are now asking very reasonable questions about why they were misled.

For the rest of this lengthy analysis by an observer who originally was in favor of the invasion of Iraq, see The Atlantic Monthly

Willful Ignorance, Not Lack of Planning, Preceded Iraq Invasion

James Fallows, a widely published and respected author and magazine journalist, has written a lengthy article for the Atlantic Monthly of January/February 2004 entitled "Blind Into Baghdad." The synopsis says: "The U.S. occupation of Iraq is a debacle not because the government did no planning but because a vast amount of expert planning was willfully ignored by the people in charge. The inside story of a historic failure." Fallows is one of the few journalist to date who has looked at the pre-war preparatory studies on Iraq done at the State Dept. Fallows concludes that this and other preparatory work identified most of the "surprises" in Iraq long in advance and that it was unwisely dismissed by the Bush administration.

Cheney's grim vision: decades of war
Vice president says Bush policy aimed at long-term world threat

James Sterngold,
S.F. Chronicle Staff Writer
January 15, 2004

Los Angeles -- In a forceful preview of the Bush administration's expansionist military policies in this election year, Vice President Dick Cheney Wednesday painted a grim picture of what he said was the growing threat of a catastrophic terrorist attack in the United States and warned that the battle, like the Cold War, could last generations.

The vice president's tone, in a major address to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, was sobering, unlike many other comments recently by senior administration officials that have stressed successes in the war on terrorism.

For the rest of this account of Cheney's remarks, see San Francisco Chronicle

The real State of the Union: judging the Bush Doctrine on Iraq performance

By Ronald Bruce St John

DUNLAP, Ill—President Bush had no grand strategy for the Middle East when he took office, but that changed after September 11, when he defined U.S. policy in the simplest of terms: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
The Bush Doctrine was then outlined further in a series of speeches beginning with his January 2002 State of the Union address, which introduced a new “axis of evil” as a threat to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush subsequently rounded out his doctrine, adding themes of American hegemony, unilateralism and “preemptive” action. By February 2003, he was telling the world that a free Iraq would serve as a democratic catalyst for that region, setting “in motion progress toward a truly democratic Palestinian state.”

When he campaigned for the presidency, there was no hint of any of this—in fact, he stated the reverse. Candidate Bush scoffed at the notion of nation-building, promising an administration that would lead without arrogance. Instead, President Bush has pursued a narrow, ideological and bullying foreign policy, alienating much of the world. Globally, U.S. foreign policy today is seen as reminiscent of George Orwell’s Animal Farm where “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

For the rest of this provocative analysis, see Global Beat Syndicate

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

9:15am (UK)
New Blow to Blair over Iraq

By James Lyons, Political Correspondent, PA News
Tue 13 Jan 2004

Prime Minister Tony Blair was dealt a fresh blow over Iraq today when a second senior Washington insider said intelligence was misrepresented.

Former US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has revealed he saw no evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed a chemical and biological arsenal.

George Bush was planning the invasion of Iraq from the moment he became US President, Mr O’Neill said.

His claims have been dismissed as the bitter attack of a sacked man by President Bush’s supporters.

But they were backed today by Greg Thielmann, director of the Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs Office at the US State Department until his retirement last year.

To read the rest of the story, see

War College Study Calls Iraq a 'Detour'
Institute's report warns anti-terror campaign may launch 'open-ended and gratuitous conflict.'

By Chuck Neubauer and Ken Silverstein
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
January 12, 2004

WASHINGTON — A report published by the Army War College criticizes the Bush administration's global war on terrorism as "unfocused" and contends that the war in Iraq is "unnecessary" and a "detour" that has diverted attention and resources from the threat posed by Al Qaeda.

The report warns that the administration's global war on terrorism may have set the United States "on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and non-state entities that pose no serious threat to the United States."

The report by Jeffrey Record, a visiting research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College, calls for downsizing the war on terrorism and focusing instead on the threat from Al Qaeda, the terror network responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as well as other sites around the world.

For the rest of this article, see Los Angeles Times To read the report in question (in pdf format), see Washington

Monday, January 12, 2004

The Barreling Bushes

Four generations of the dynasty have chased profits through cozy ties with Mideast leaders, spinning webs of conflicts of interest

By Kevin Phillips
The Los Angeles Times
January 11, 2004

[Kevin Phillips' new book, "American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush," has just been published by Viking Penguin. He is a widely published Republican theorist.]

WASHINGTON — Dynasties in American politics are dangerous. We saw it with the Kennedys, we may well see it with the Clintons and we're certainly seeing it with the Bushes. Between now and the November election, it's crucial that Americans come to understand how four generations of the current president's family have embroiled the United States in the Middle East through CIA connections, arms shipments, rogue banks, inherited war policies and personal financial links.

[Phillips concludes his piece with this paragraph]: "There is no evidence to suggest that the events of Sept. 11 could have been prevented or discovered ahead of time had someone other than a Bush been president. But there is certainly enough to suggest that the Bush dynasty's many decades of entanglement and money-hunting in the Middle East have created a major conflict of interest that deserves to be part of the 2004 political debate. No previous presidency has had anything remotely similar. Not one."

To read Phillips' entire analysis, see Los Angeles Times

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Powell Admits No Hard Proof in Linking Iraq to Al Qaeda

The New York Times
January 9, 2004

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell conceded Thursday that despite his assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no "smoking gun" proof of a link between the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and terrorists of Al Qaeda.

"I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection," Mr. Powell said, in response to a question at a news conference. "But I think the possibility of such connections did exist, and it was prudent to consider them at the time that we did."

Mr. Powell's remarks on Thursday were a stark admission that there is no definitive evidence to back up administration statements and insinuations that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda, the acknowledged authors of the Sept. 11 attacks. Although President Bush finally acknowledged in September that there was no known connection between Mr. Hussein and the attacks, the impression of a link in the public mind has become widely accepted — and something administration officials have done little to discourage.

For the rest of the article, see The New York Times

Monday, January 05, 2004

U.S. to Begin New Approach on Foreign Aid

January 4, 2004

[Blog editor's note: It will be interesting to see whether this new approach is sustained in those cases where a badly ruled state nevertheless is useful to U.S. foreign policy interests. The history of American foreign policy is littered with instances, past and present, where expediency has trumped moral scruple.]

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A revolution in U.S. foreign aid, rewarding countries for how they govern, is finally ready to get under way, almost two years after first promised by the Bush administration.

The program will favor countries whose governments are judged to be just rulers, welcoming hosts for foreign investment and promoters of projects to meet their people's basic health and education needs.

Corrupt police states need not apply.

Administration officials expect this year to inaugurate President Bush's plan, known as the Millennium Challenge Account, which he outlined in March 2002.

For the rest of the story, see New York Times