Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Disaster of Failed Policy

Los Angeles Times
June 27, 2004

In its scale and intent, President Bush's war against Iraq was something new and radical: a premeditated decision to invade, occupy and topple the government of a country that was no imminent threat to the United States. This was not a handful of GIs sent to overthrow Panamanian thug Manuel Noriega or to oust a new Marxist government in tiny Grenada. It was the dispatch of more than 100,000 U.S. troops to implement Bush's post-Sept. 11 doctrine of preemption, one whose dangers President John Quincy Adams understood when he said the United States "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy."

In the case of Vietnam, the U.S. began by assisting a friendly government resisting communist takeover in a civil war, though the conflict disintegrated into a failure that still haunts this country. The 1991 Persian Gulf War, under Bush's father, was a successful response to Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait — and Bush's father deliberately stopped short of toppling Saddam Hussein and occupying Iraq.

The current president outlined a far more aggressive policy in a speech to the West Point graduating class in 2002, declaring that in the war on terror "we must take the battle to the enemy" and confront threats before they emerge. The Iraq war was intended as a monument to his new Bush Doctrine, which also posited that the U.S. would take what help was available from allies but would not be held back by them. It now stands as a monument to folly.

The planned transfer Wednesday of limited sovereignty from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to an interim Iraqi government occurs with U.S. influence around the world at a low point and insurgent violence in Iraq reaching new heights of deadliness and coordination. Important Arab leaders this month rejected a U.S. invitation to attend a summit with leaders of industrialized nations. The enmity between Israelis and Palestinians is fiercer than ever, their hope for peace dimmer. Residents of the Middle East see the U.S. not as a friend but as an imperial power bent on securing a guaranteed oil supply and a base for U.S. forces. Much of the rest of the world sees a bully.

To read the rest of this editorial, see Los Angeles Times

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Errors on Terror

The New York Times
June 25, 2004

"Tonight, I am instructing the leaders of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to develop a Terrorist Threat Integration Center, to merge and analyze all threat information in a single location. Our government must have the very best information possible." Thus spoke President Bush in the 2003 State of the Union address. A White House fact sheet called the center "the next phase in the dramatic enhancement of the government's counterterrorism effort."

Among other things, the center took over the job of preparing the government's annual report on "Patterns of Global Terrorism." The latest report, released in April, claimed to document a sharp fall in terrorism. "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage declared. But this week the government admitted making major errors. In fact, in 2003 the number of significant terrorist attacks reached a 20-year peak.

How could they get it so wrong? The answer tells you a lot about the state of the "war on terror."

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

State Dept. Doubles Its Calculation on '03 Terrorism Casualties

International Herald Tribune
June 22, 2004

WASHINGTON, June 22 — The State Department said today that global terrorism in 2003 killed or wounded more than twice as many people as the department had reported earlier.

The department said the earlier report was based on flawed calculations.

In revising its annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report, the department listed 625 deaths last year from terror-related causes, down from the 725 in 2002, but well above the 307 originally declared in April. It also reported an increase in total terror attacks, to 208, up from the 190 listed in the original report and the 205 in 2002.

The revised report said that 3,646 people were wounded in terror attacks last year, more than double the 1,593 cited in April, and a substantial increase from the 2,013 in 2002.

To read the rest of this story, see The New York Times

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Plain Truth
New York Times
June 17, 2004

Blog editor's note: Far from apologizing as called for in the editorial that follows, President Bush and other members of his administration continued to insist today (Thursday, June 17) despite staff findings of the independent 9-11 Commission that there was a link between Hussein and Al Qaeda, although he now claims that his administration never said there was a connection between Iraq and the events of 9-11. As someone once observed, the literal truth in art and in politics is the most doubtful truth of all. To suggest that a majority of Americans came to assume a link between Iraq and 9-11entirely on their own is to raise this Administration's cynicism to new heights.

It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.

Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different.

Of all the ways Mr. Bush persuaded Americans to back the invasion of Iraq last year, the most plainly dishonest was his effort to link his war of choice with the battle against terrorists worldwide. While it's possible that Mr. Bush and his top advisers really believed that there were chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq, they should have known all along that there was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. No serious intelligence analyst believed the connection existed; Richard Clarke, the former antiterrorism chief, wrote in his book that Mr. Bush had been told just that.

Nevertheless, the Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/11. And since the invasion, administration officials, especially Vice President Dick Cheney, have continued to declare such a connection. Last September, Mr. Bush had to grudgingly correct Mr. Cheney for going too far in spinning a Hussein-bin Laden conspiracy. But the claim has crept back into view as the president has made the war on terror a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.

On Monday, Mr. Cheney said Mr. Hussein "had long-established ties with Al Qaeda." Mr. Bush later backed up Mr. Cheney, claiming that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist who may be operating in Baghdad, is "the best evidence" of a Qaeda link. This was particularly astonishing because the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, told the Senate earlier this year that Mr. Zarqawi did not work with the Hussein regime.

To read the rest of the editorial, New York Times

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

9/11 Panel Disputes Iraq Link to Attacks


Associated Press Writer
June 16, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rebuffing Bush administration claims, the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks said Wednesday no evidence exists that al-Qaida had strong ties to Saddam Hussein. In hair-raising detail, the commission said the terror network had envisioned a much larger attack and is working hard to strike again.

Although Osama bin Laden asked for help from Iraq in the mid-1990s, Saddam's government never responded, according to a report by the commission staff based on interviews with government intelligence and law enforcement officials. The report asserted ``no credible evidence'' has emerged that Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 strikes.

To read the rest of this story, see The Guardian

The two minds of Bernard Lewis

The New Yorker
Issue of 2004-06-14 and 21

Blog editor's note: In this review-essay, Buruma examines the work of Bernard Lewis, one of the preeminent scholars of Middle Eastern history in the U.S. and, it is reputed, a significant intellectual influence on those advising the Bush administration about how best to approach the region. In my view, Buruma draws a number of extremely important distinctions about Islam, Arab peoples and their motives and the so-called "clash of civilizations," distinctions that are completely missing in the work of Lewis and others who have supported U.S. policy of late.

In the course of a distinguished academic career at the University of London and at Princeton, Bernard Lewis has never been afraid to dip his scholarly hands in the muck of current affairs. A mentor to Henry (Scoop) Jackson in the early nineteen-seventies, and a friend to several Israeli Prime Ministers, Lewis has been especially sought after in Washington since September 11th. Karl Rove invited him to speak at the White House. Richard Perle and Dick Cheney are among his admirers. Lewis has championed his friend Ahmad Chalabi for a leading role in Iraq. And his best-selling book “What Went Wrong?,” about the decline of Muslim civilization, is regarded in some circles as a kind of handbook in the war against Islamist terrorism. Lewis, in short, is a thoroughly political don, and if anyone can be said to have provided the intellectual muscle for recent United States policy toward the Middle East it would have to be him.

Lewis’s latest book, “From Babel to Dragomans” (Oxford; $28), collects essays written over the past half century, on topics ranging from medieval interpreters (dragomans) and Jews in ancient Persia to what to do with Saddam Hussein. Yet, for a man who inspired the neoconservative firebrands, some of Lewis’s ideas are surprisingly cautious. In 1957, he argued that the West should take as little action as possible in the Middle East, since “we of the West . . . should beware of proposing solutions that, however good, are discredited by the very fact of our having suggested them.” In 1991, he wrote about the “age-old autocratic traditions” in the Arab world, and warned that there is “no guarantee” that efforts to democratize “will succeed, and even if they do, after how long and at what price.” As late as 2002, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, he struck yet another note of prudence. “Democracy is dangerous anywhere,” he said. “We talk sometimes as if democracy were the natural human condition, as if any deviation from it is a crime to be punished or a disease to be cured. That is not true. Democracy, or what we call democracy nowadays, is the parochial custom of the English-speaking peoples for the conduct of their public affairs, which may or may not be suitable for others.”

To read the rest of this essay, see The New Yorker

Monday, June 14, 2004


Appointee's Role in Halliburton Pact Told
Waxman asks Cheney for facts on the award of a controversial Iraq oil field contract

By T. Christian Miller
Times Staff Writer
June 14, 2004

WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials have acknowledged that a political appointee was behind the controversial decision to have Halliburton Inc. plan for the postwar recovery of Iraq's oil sector and had informed Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff before finalizing the deal, a Democratic lawmaker said Sunday.

The decision, overruling the advice of an Army lawyer, eventually resulted in the awarding of a $7-billion, no-bid contract to Halliburton, which Cheney ran for five years before he was nominated for vice president.

To read the rest of the story, see Los Angeles Times

Retired Officials Say Bush Must Go
The 26 ex-diplomats and military leaders say his foreign policy has harmed national security. Several served under Republicans

By Ronald Brownstein
Los Angeles Times Staff
June 13, 2004

WASHINGTON — A group of 26 former senior diplomats and military officials, several appointed to key positions by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, plans to issue a joint statement this week arguing that President George W. Bush has damaged America's national security and should be defeated in November.

The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, will explicitly condemn Bush's foreign policy, according to several of those who signed the document.

"It is clear that the statement calls for the defeat of the administration," said William C. Harrop, the ambassador to Israel under President Bush's father and one of the group's principal organizers.

Those signing the document, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, include 20 former U.S. ambassadors, appointed by presidents of both parties, to countries including Israel, the former Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia.

Others are senior State Department officials from the Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations and former military leaders, including retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East under President Bush's father. Hoar is a prominent critic of the war in Iraq.

To read the rest of the story, see Los Angeles Times

Sunday, June 13, 2004

U.S. Wrongly Reported Drop in World Terrorism in 2003

June 11, 2004

WASHINGTON, June 10 - The State Department acknowledged Thursday that it was wrong in reporting that terrorism declined worldwide last year, a finding the Bush administration had pointed to as evidence of its success in countering terror.

Instead, the number of incidents and the toll in victims increased sharply, the department said. Statements by senior administration officials claiming success were based "on the facts as we had them at the time; the facts that we had were wrong," Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said.

When the report was issued April 29, senior administration officials used it as evidence that the war was being won. J. Cofer Black, coordinator of the State Department's Counterterrorism Office, cited the 190 acts of terrorism in 2003, down from 198 in 2002, as "good news" and predicted the trend would continue. Richard L. Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, said at the time, "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight." His office did not respond Thursday to a request for a statement on disclosures that some of the findings were inaccurate. The erroneous report, titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism," said that attacks declined last year to the lowest level in 34 years and dropped 45 percent since 2001, Mr. Bush's first year as president, when 346 attacks occurred.

Among the mistakes, Mr. Boucher said, was that only part of 2003 was taken into account.

To read the rest of this story, see New York Times

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Roots of Abu Ghraib

The New York Times
June 9, 2004

n response to the outrages at Abu Ghraib, the Bush administration has repeatedly assured Americans that the president and his top officials did not say or do anything that could possibly be seen as approving the abuse or outright torture of prisoners. But disturbing disclosures keep coming. This week it's a legal argument by government lawyers who said the president was not bound by laws or treaties prohibiting torture.

Each new revelation makes it more clear that the inhumanity at Abu Ghraib grew out of a morally dubious culture of legal expediency and a disregard for normal behavior fostered at the top of this administration. It is part of the price the nation must pay for President Bush's decision to take the extraordinary mandate to fight terrorism that he was granted by a grieving nation after 9/11 and apply it without justification to Iraq.

To read the rest of the editorial, see New York times

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Word and Deed

Molly Ivins
Creator's Syndicate
June 8, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas -- As Lily Tomlin observed, "No matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up." But as Con Ed used to say, dig we must. Courtesy of David Sirota at the website, we find the following matches between word and deed:
        Just before Memorial Day, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi said, "Our active military respond better to Republicans" because of "the tremendous support that President Bush has provided for our military and our veterans." The same day, the White House announced plans for massive cuts in veterans' health care for 2006.
        Last January, Bush praised veterans during a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The same day, 164,000 veterans were told the White House was "immediately cutting off their access to the VA health care system."
        My favorite in this category was the short-lived plan to charge soldiers wounded in Iraq for their meals when they got to American military hospitals. The plan mercifully died a-borning after it hit the newspapers.
     To read the rest of the column, see The Free Press

Monday, June 07, 2004

Prime Minister Blair 'delusional' over Iraq WMD, says inspector

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor
The Observer
June 6, 2004

Tony Blair was branded 'delusional' yesterday over his continued insistence that weapons of mass destruction might still be found in Iraq. The charge was made by the man who headed the hunt.

Following claims by the Prime Minister on Friday that the search might still turn up illegal weapons in Iraq, David Kay, who led the Iraq Survey Group after the invasion, insisted that the weapons did not exist, and called on Blair to apologise for being wrong.

'Anyone out there holding - as I gather Prime Minister Blair has recently said - the prospect that ISG is going to unmask actual weapons of mass destruction is really delusional,' he told the BBC.

'It is amazing that occasionally they slip back into talking about it. The problem is the unwillingness to take the responsibility of saying a few simple words: "We were wrong".

To read the rest of the story, see The Observer

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Broken Engagement
The strategy that won the Cold War could help bring democracy to the Middle East-- if only the Bush hawks understood it

By Gen. Wesley Clark
Washington Monthly
May 2004

Blog editor's note: Gen. Wesley Clark, U.S.A. (Ret.), was Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, from 1997-2000, and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.

During 2002 and early 2003, Bush administration officials put forth a shifting series of arguments for why we needed to invade Iraq. Nearly every one of these has been belied by subsequent events. We have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; assuming that they exist at all, they obviously never presented an imminent threat. Saddam's alleged connections to al Qaeda turned out to be tenuous at best and clearly had nothing to do with September 11. The terrorists now in Iraq have largely arrived because we are there, and Saddam's security forces aren't. And peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which prominent hawks argued could be achieved "only through Baghdad," seems further away than ever.

Advocates of the invasion are now down to their last argument: that transforming Iraq from brutal tyranny to stable democracy will spark a wave of democratic reform throughout the Middle East, thereby alleviating the conditions that give rise to terrorism. This argument is still standing because not enough time has elapsed to test it definitively--though events in the year since Baghdad's fall do not inspire confidence. For every report of a growing conversation in the Arab world about the importance of democracy, there's another report of moderate Arabs feeling their position undercut by the backlash against our invasion. For every example of progress (Libya giving up its WMD program), there's an instance of backsliding (the Iranian mullahs purging reformist parliamentarians).

To read the rest of this article, see Washington Monthly