Friday, February 25, 2005

Pentagon Seeking Leeway Overseas
Operations Could Bypass Envoys

By Ann Scott Tyson and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
February 24, 2005; Page A01

The Pentagon is promoting a global counterterrorism plan that would allow Special Operations forces to enter a foreign country to conduct military operations without explicit concurrence from the U.S. ambassador there, administration officials familiar with the plan said.

The plan would weaken the long-standing "chief of mission" authority under which the U.S. ambassador, as the president's top representative in a foreign country, decides whether to grant entry to U.S. government personnel based on political and diplomatic considerations.

The Special Operations missions envisioned in the plan would largely be secret, known to only a handful of officials from the foreign country, if any.

To read the full text, see

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

   Bush Says Talk of Attacking Iran 'Ridiculous'

22 February 2005

    BRUSSELS - President Bush said on Tuesday the idea that he was preparing to bomb Iran was "ridiculous" but he failed to satisfy European calls to offer Tehran incentives to curtail its nuclear program.

    "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous," Bush told a news conference after talks with European Union leaders.

    "Having said that, all options are on the table," he added, drawing laughter at a clear reference to military action.

To read the full text, see

Bush threatens reprisals over EU arms sales to China

By Stephen Castle
The Independent (London)
23 February 2005

Divisions over Iran, the future of Nato and EU plans to lift an arms embargo against China yesterday cast a shadow over carefully stage-managed efforts to heal the transatlantic rift.

At the end of a two-day visit to Brussels by George Bush, the EU and the US parted with pledges to work more closely together but without resolving a number of key disagreements.

Speaking after talks with the 25 EU heads of government, Mr Bush sent mixed messages over US thinking on diplomatic moves to dissuade Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The US president argued: "This notion that the US is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table."

Mr Bush's visit to Brussels had been billed as a symbolic gesture from Washington, underlining the willingness of the US president to take Europe's views on board. But despite the snow and freezing temperatures around 1000 protesters turned out to demonstrate against Mr Bush, prompting the Belgian police to deploy water cannon.

Thorny issues intruded on the pre-scripted declarations of reconciliation, as the US president stated his opposition to European plans to end a 15-year-old arms embargo against Beijing.

Hinting that the US Congress might retaliate by curbing technology exchanges with the EU, Mr Bush argued that there is "deep concern in our country that the transfer of weapons would be a transfer of technology to China, which would change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan."

To read the full text, see The Independent

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

    Chirac Backs German Call for Revamp of NATO

22 February 2005

    Brussels - French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday endorsed a controversial call by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for a revamp of NATO, which the United States has rebuffed.

    "Europe and the United States are real partners. So we need to dialogue and listen to each other more," Chirac told a NATO summit with President Bush, according to speaking notes released by Chirac's staff.

    "We must also, as the German chancellor has underlined, continue to take account of the changes that have occurred on the European continent," Chirac said, referring to the end of the Cold War and the rise of an enlarged and increasingly integrated European Union.

    Schroeder said in a speech delivered to a Munich security conference 10 days ago that NATO was "no longer the primary venue where transatlantic partners discuss and coordinate strategies" and suggested a high-level panel should recommend how it could be reformed.

    Some analysts interpreted Schroeder's call as implying that the EU, rather than NATO, should be the main partner in future transatlantic cooperation.

To read the full text, see

Bush fails to convince EU chief

Alec Russell and David Rennie
The Daily Telegraph
February 22, 2005

BRUSSELS - The European Union's foreign policy chief cast public doubt on the health of the transatlantic partnership yesterday, puncturing the euphoric claims by European and American officials that President George W. Bush had opened a new era in relations.

Javier Solana disputed the American view that last month's elections in Iraq had vindicated the U.S. decision to invade and questioned whether the Bush administration's promises of a new era in relations with Europe meant anything.

The comments by Mr. Solana, EU's high representative for common foreign and security policy, struck a discordant note with the upbeat tone adopted by Mr. Bush and European leaders as the U.S. President embarked on a four-day reconciliation tour.

To read the full text, see National Post

Wag-the-Dog Protection


The New York Times
February 22, 2005

The campaign against Social Security is going so badly that longtime critics of President Bush, accustomed to seeing their efforts to point out flaws in administration initiatives brushed aside, are pinching themselves. But they shouldn't relax: if the past is any guide, the Bush administration will soon change the subject back to national security.

The political landscape today reminds me of the spring of 2002, after the big revelations of corporate fraud. Then, as now, the administration was on the defensive, and Democrats expected to do well in midterm elections.

Then, suddenly, it was all Iraq, all the time, and Harken Energy and Halliburton vanished from the headlines.

I don't know which foreign threat the administration will start playing up this time, but Bush critics should be prepared for the shift. They must curb their natural inclination to focus almost exclusively on domestic issues, and challenge the administration on national security policy, too.

To read the full text, see The New York Times

Monday, February 21, 2005

Why Bush will fail in Europe
The President has an enormous political gulf to bridge. The trouble is, he doesn't even know it's there

William Pfaff
February 20, 2005

Blog editor's note: Pfaff is a veteran observer of U.S.-Europe relations.

President George W Bush arrives in Europe this week in the belief that the European Nato allies can be persuaded to 'turn away from the disagreements of the past' and open 'a new chapter' in transatlantic relations, as Condoleezza Rice, on her European trip, advised them to do. He is likely to go home without the concessions he wants.

He wants more help from the Europeans in Iraq, Afghanistan, and probably in other places yet to be announced; European backing for American policy on Iran (and Syria and Israel/Palestine); and no European arms sales to China. Those are Washington's priorities. There is a further list of secondary issues, commercial as well as political.

His trip will fail because he and his administration do not understand what really divides most continental European governments from the United States today. At the same time, Europeans are mostly unwilling to confront these issues, because of the trouble with Washington they imply. But, unacknowledged or not, they count.

To read the full text, see Guardian

Friday, February 18, 2005

 Negroponte Picked for Intelligence Post

from the
Los Angeles Times
17 February 2005

    Washington - President Bush today named John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq who built a 40-year diplomatic career in some of the world's most troubled corners, to be the first director of national intelligence. The nomination, announced at a news conference, fills the final, major vacancy in the administration's second term national security team.

Blog editor's note: The mainstream news media, so far as my quick survey can discover, has not made much if anything at all of Negroponte's controversial history in U.S. foreign relations. Readers might find of interest a consideration of this background in a 2001 article in The National Catholic Reporter

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Senator Urges U.S. to Join European Effort on Iran

Feb 13, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States must join Europe's effort to persuade Iran to abandon nuclear ambitions or face either Tehran as a nuclear power or the need to invade the country to prevent it, a leading Democratic lawmaker said on Sunday.

"We're at odds with our European friends, and it doesn't leave many options," Sen. Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told "Fox News Sunday."

Biden said the effort of Britain, France and Germany, on behalf of the European Union, only had the chance to succeed if the nations were willing to invoke economic sanctions, including on Iranian oil sales.

To read the full text, see

Memo: Clark Warned Rice on Al Qaeda
The National Security Archives
13 February 2005

Blog editor's note: The National Security Archives specializes in searching out and making public declassified documents regarding foreign and defense policy. You can read the original document, which is a cover memo explaining two attachments, including a detailed plan for dealing with al-Qaeda, by following the link provided by given below

[t r u t h o u t transcript of Richard Clarke memo to Condoleezza Rice]


January 25, 2001




SUBJECT:     Presidential Policy Initiative/Review -- The Al-Qida Network

Steve asked today that we propose major Presidential policy reviews or initiatives. We urgently need such a Principals level review on the al Qida network.

Just some Terrorist Group?

To read the full text, see

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Rumsfeld Comes Out Against German Proposal For NATO Rival

JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer
February 12, 2005

MUNICH, Germany (AP) --Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Saturday came out against a German proposal that would create a trans-Atlantic rival to NATO to coordinate and develop policy among alliance nations.

Rumsfeld described the 26-country alliance, created in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union's military strength in the Cold War, as still energetic and vital.

He also said the U.S.-European alliance can withstand its current differences, caused chiefly by opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq. In urging unified efforts to defeat terrorism and deter weapons proliferation, Rumsfeld took a conciliatory note toward America's allies in Europe and even made light of his "old Europe" characterization of nations such as France and Germany that opposed U.S. policy in Iraq.

To read the full text, see

'01 Memo to Rice Warned of Qaeda and Offered Plan

New York Times
February 12, 2005

Blog editor's note: Close students of this whole issue will remember that the Bush Administration in general and Secretary Rice in particular have consistently maintained that they had no serious warning about such as 9/11 and were given no plan of action by the Clinton Administration.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 - A strategy document outlining proposals for eliminating the threat from Al Qaeda, given to Condoleezza Rice as she assumed the post of national security adviser in January 2001, warned that the terror network had cells in the United States and 40 other countries and sought unconventional weapons, according to a declassified version of the document.

The 13-page proposal presented to Dr. Rice by her top counterterrorism adviser, Richard A. Clarke, laid out ways to step up the fight against Al Qaeda, focusing on Osama bin Laden's headquarters in Afghanistan. The ideas included giving "massive support" to anti-Taliban groups "to keep Islamic extremist fighters tied down"; destroying terrorist training camps "while classes are in session" and then sending in teams to gather intelligence on terrorist cells; deploying armed drone aircraft against known terrorists; more aggressively tracking Qaeda money; and accelerating the F.B.I.'s translation and analysis of material from surveillance of terrorism suspects in American cities.

Mr. Clarke was seeking a high-level meeting to decide on a plan of action. Dr. Rice and other administration officials have said that Mr. Clarke's ideas did not constitute an adequate plan, but they took them into consideration as they worked toward a more effective strategy against the terrorist threat.

To read the full text, see The New York Times

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Fraud and corruption
Forget the UN. The US occupation regime helped itself to $8.8 bn of mostly Iraqi money in just 14 months

George Monbiot
The Guardian
February 8, 2005

The Republican senators who have devoted their careers to mauling the United Nations are seldom accused of shyness. But they went strangely quiet on Thursday. Henry Hyde became Henry Jekyll. Norm Coleman's mustard turned to honey. Convinced that the UN is a conspiracy against the sovereignty of the United States, they had been ready to launch the attack which would have toppled the hated Kofi Annan and destroyed his organisation. A report by Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the US federal reserve, was meant to have proved that, as a result of corruption within the UN's oil-for-food programme, Saddam Hussein was able to sustain his regime by diverting oil revenues into his own hands. But Volcker came up with something else.

"The major source of external financial resources to the Iraqi regime," he reported, "resulted from sanctions violations outside the [oil-for-food] programme's framework." These violations consisted of "illicit sales" of oil by the Iraqi regime to Turkey and Jordan. The members of the UN security council, including the United States, knew about them but did nothing. "United States law requires that assistance programmes to countries in violation of UN sanctions be ended unless continuation is determined to be in the national interest. Such determinations were provided by successive United States administrations."

To read the full text, see The

Monday, February 07, 2005

Let's Not Make the Same Mistakes in Iran

By David Kay
Washington Post Opinion
February 7, 2005; Page A21

Blog editor's note: Kay was the first leader of the Iraq Survey Group searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He resigned a year ago.

One year ago I told the Senate Armed Services Committee that I had concluded "we were almost all wrong" at the time of the Iraq war about that country's activities with regard to weapons of mass destruction -- and never more wrong than in the assessment that Iraq had a resurgent program on the verge of producing nuclear weapons. I testified about what I saw as the major reasons we got it so wrong, and I urged the establishment of an independent commission to examine this failure and begin the long-overdue process of adjusting our intelligence capabilities to the new national security environment we face. It is an environment dominated by too-easy access to weapons of mass destruction capabilities and to the means of concealing such capabilities from international inspection and national intelligence agencies.

A year later we are still awaiting the independent commission's report. The discussion of intelligence reform has focused on reordering and adding structure on top of an eroded intelligence foundation. And now we hear the drumrolls again, this time announcing an accelerating nuclear weapons program in Iran.

To read the full text, see

$2.5 Trillion Budget Plan Cuts Many Programs
Domestic Spending Falls; Defense, Security Rise

By Mike Allen and Peter Baker
Washington Post
February 7, 2005; Page A01

President Bush plans to unveil a $2.5 trillion budget today eliminating dozens of politically sensitive domestic programs, including funding for education, environmental protection and business development, while proposing significant increases for the military and international spending, according to White House documents.

Overall, discretionary spending other than defense and homeland security would fall by nearly 1 percent, the first time in many years that funding for the major part of the budget controlled by Congress would actually go down in real terms, according to officials with access to the budget. The cuts are scattered across a wide swath of the government, affecting a cross-section of constituents, from migrant workers to train passengers to local police departments, according to officials who read portions of the documents to The Washington Post.

To read the full text, see

Why U.N. won't call it genocide

Jonathan Curiel,
San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
February 6, 2005

A man's eyeballs are gouged out. A classroom of school girls is violated in public. Babies are tossed into fires as their mothers watch. Other victims are crucified, dragged on the ground by horses and shot in the head. The United Nations' report -- 176 pages in all -- is filled with many more such horrible details of rapes, killings, assaults and plundering. All of these are crimes -- but do they constitute "genocide"?

No, according to the U.N. report, which examined the extent of atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan, where government-backed militia called the Janjaweed ("devils on horseback") and government soldiers have terrorized civilians for more than a year. Released last week, the finding became an immediate point of contention for those who want the United Nations to do more to halt atrocities in Darfur. Avoiding the g-word is significant because if the United Nations officially labels the Darfur violence "genocide," it's required by its own charter to intervene more forcefully. Critics lashed out at the U.N. commission for soft-pedaling the suffering in Darfur.

To read the full text, see