"I'm telling you, I always thought the mortician did a great job with John Kerry. But I didn't know that Botox could mix with embalming fluid. Frankly, I like just the embalming fluid. It gives a nicer look. You know, John Kerry used to look like Keith Richard's square brother who went to business school. He used to look like Andrew Jackson on the old $20 bill. But now, now he looks like Andrew Jackson on the new $20 bill," Mr Quinn concluded. "Oh, the wonders of science." - Comedy Central's Colin Quinn.
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said during last night's Democratic presidential debate that the threat of terrorism has been exaggerated.
"I think there has been an exaggeration," Mr. Kerry said when asked whether President Bush has overstated the threat of terrorism. "They are misleading all Americans in a profound way."
Exaggerated? Just one quick event two years ago took the lives of almost 3,000 Americans, but John Kerry thinks that the threat of terrorism is “exaggerated.”
One expects a presidential candidate to make statements designed to ignite their constituency more than to reflect reality, but Kerry calling the threat of terrorism “exaggerated” truly exemplifies why he should not be president, especially considering his Congressional record hindering our intelligence community.
Even Kerry’s fellow Democrats were quick to take advantage of such a silly sentiment:
"It's just hard for me to see how you can say there's an exaggeration when thousands of people lost their lives on September 11," Mr. Edwards said.
Perhaps Mr. Kerry mistakes a lack of another attack on American soil for a lack of a threat. But if so, the only reason there hasn’t been another attack is because Bush made the decision after 9-11 that the US would no longer be reactive, but proactive. Since we toppled the Taliban we’ve killed or captured two-thirds of the al Qaeda upper command, including the three individuals most responsible for the attacks, Khalid Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi.
“But it's [the war on terror] primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world -- the very thing this administration is worst at. And most importantly, the war on terror is also an engagement in the Middle East economically, socially, culturally, in a way that we haven't embraced, because otherwise we're inviting a clash of civilizations.” – Senator John Kerry, in Thursday night’s debate
Approaching the war on terror as a law enforcement operation or some sort of massive manhunt is exactly how we got into this mess to begin with. Bill Clinton did just that – approached terrorism in the 1990s as a law enforcement operation or a criminal court proceeding; yet we had the 1993 WTC bombing, numerous bombings of barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, the US embassy bombings in 1998, the attempted Millennium attacks and the 2000 USS Cole attack. The Clinton team even refused an extradition offer for Osama bin Laden by the Sudanese government because they fretted over legal issues. And how much cooperation does Kerry think Iran, Syria or Sudan is going to give us without them first knowing that the guy in the Oval Office might remove them from power if they don’t cooperate? The fact of the matter is that Kerry’s strategy has already been tried... and failed.
And the hits keep on coming – Here’s an exchange between NBC’s Tom Brokaw and General Wesley Clark. First he tap dances around issuing any responsibility to the former president, whose people are currently working on his campaign, and then he, like Kerry, tells the American public he’d go back to the September 10 way of fighting terror:
BROKAW: General Clark, you've been quite outspoken in blaming the Bush administration for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. You better...
CLARK: No, no, no, Tom, no, I didn't blame the Bush administration for the attacks. We know who did the attacks. It was Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida. But what I have said is that the president did not do all he could have done to have prevented that attack.
BROKAW: That's the premise of my question. The fact of the matter is that I said I think that you know better than anyone is that we were under attack in this country by Osama bin Laden well before George Bush took office: the original attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole in the Arabian Sea, the attack on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which happened during the Clinton administration.
Was there an inadequate response to terrorism during President Clinton's term?
CLARK: Well, I have not been on the inside of the Clinton administration, in terms of how they responded to terror.
BROKAW: You don't have to be on the inside. We know what happened.
CLARK: I will tell you this, Tom. Here's what we did. We always recognized that there was a threat of terrorism. And we began in 1996, with Khobar Towers, to really work on the defensive, the anti-terrorism measures. And as the commander in Europe, we really strengthened our security. And that was my focus, the security of the military forces over there.
Amazing! Is he really touting that even after a major terror attack in 1996 he and the Clinton team tried “to really work on the defensive”? On the defensive… THAT’S THE FRIGGIN PROBLEM, WES!
Did the Clinton team’s “defensive” work after Khobar stop terrorism? It didn’t even curb it – our embassies and warships were still destroyed, and the 9-11 plotters were hanging out in Germany plotting the mother of all terrorist attacks.
In '98, when Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa against the United States, there should have been, at that point, measures to go and get Osama bin Laden. I'm told that there were such measures that were attempted to be undertaken. Why they didn't work, what they are, and so forth, I don't know.
He doesn’t know? He was the head of NATO! Why doesn’t he know? And he wants to be president? More dancing: tap-a-tap-a-tip-a-tap-a-tap
But I will say this: that when the Bush administration came to office, the Bush administration was told the greatest threat to America is Osama bin Laden, and yet almost nine months later, when the United States was struck, there was still no plan as to what to do with Osama bin Laden.
But we had worked really hard with Vladimir Putin to do something about national missile defense and get out of the ABM Treaty, and a lot of other things had been done.
This administration did not have its priorities right, and the president, not the intelligence community, and not the previous administration, President George W. Bush must be held accountable for that. That's the job of the president of the United States: to focus attention, to set the priorities, to take the actions to keep America safe.
Eight years on the job and with no definitive action against terror Clark gives Clinton a pass. But Clark says Bush, just eight months into the job and with an FBI director who took over one week before September 11, gets all the blame. Not some, not even most – all.
Clark has no leg to stand on with this. He’s protecting the Clinton team because they’re backing him for president instead of Kerry or Dean. So he’s not honest. He revises history and when confronted by a liberal news anchor he tapdances. Worst of all, he admits he go back to that same “defensive” strategy against terror that failed for 8 years.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone by Kerry’s foot-munching, or Clark’s championing of a failed strategy, candidate Howard Dean made an equally stupid comment in Thursday night’s debate by opining the clichéd dribble that “the terrorists have already won” because of actions by the Bush administration.
Howard Dean, the former front-runner who is struggling to regain the edge in his campaign, criticized the Bush administration for the Patriot Act, which he said has gone too far toward eroding individual liberties.
What eroded liberties would those be? Dean doesn’t say. And neither did the ACLU, but that won’t stop either from continuing the lies about the Patriot Act.
"I think in some ways, unfortunately, the terrorists have already won," he [Dean] said.
Yep, in Howard Dean’s mind, the toppled Taliban remnants are celebrating in wake of their Afghanistan defeat and loss of control; likewise several hundred al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, rotting in their Guantanamo cells, are praising Allah for the Patriot Act.
The two-day old story regarding Iraq war opponents taking bribes is beginning to sprout wings. longer has just an Iraqi newspaper published the documents seized from Saddam’s former oil ministry, but ABC News has also acquired evidence of bribery implicating some very important figures and antiwar proponents, such as Indonesia’s outspoken President, Megawati Sukarnoputri (10 million barrels of oil). The Iraqi Governing Council has begun an official investigation and it sounds like the US is going to follow suit.
ABCNEWS has obtained an extraordinary list that contains the names of prominent people around the world who supported Saddam Hussein's regime and were given oil contracts as a result.
All of the contracts were awarded from late 1997 until the U.S.-led war in March 2003. They were conducted under the aegis of the United Nations' oil-for-food program, which was designed to allow Iraq to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods.
The document was discovered several weeks ago in the files of the Iraqi Oil Ministry in Baghdad.
According to a copy obtained by ABCNEWS, some 270 prominent individuals, political parties or corporations in 47 countries were on a list of those given Iraq oil contracts instantly worth millions of dollars.
Among those named: Indonesia President Megawati Sukarnoputri, an outspoken opponent of U.S.-Iraq policy, who received a contract for 10 million barrels of oil — about a $5 million profit.
The son of the Syrian defense minister received 6 million barrels, according to the document, worth about $3 million.
George Galloway, a British member of Parliament, was also on the list to receive 19 million barrels of oil, a $90.5 million profit. A vocal critic of the Iraq war, Galloway denied any involvement to ABCNEWS earlier this year.
According to the document, France was the second-largest beneficiary, with tens of millions of barrels awarded to Patrick Maugein, a close political associate and financial backer of French President Jacques Chirac.
Maugein, individually and through companies connected to him, received contracts for some 36 million barrels. Chirac's office said it was unaware of Maugein's deals, which Maugein told ABCNEWS are perfectly legal.
The single biggest set of contracts were given to the Russian government and Russian political figures, more than 1.3 billion barrels in all — including 92 million barrels to individual officials in the office of President Vladimir Putin.
Another 1 million barrels were contracted to the Russian ambassador to Baghdad, 137 million barrels of oil were given to the Russian Communist Party, and 5 million barrels were contracted to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Also on the list are the names of prominent journalists, two Iraqi-Americans, and a French priest who organized a meeting between the pope and Tariq Aziz, Saddam's deputy prime minister.
The UK Independent first broke this story. The Arabic translation site MEMRI has published the original al-Mada news piece in English. We’ll see what happens from here.
Just a few days after this week’s unprecedented announcement by the US military to conduct a spring offensive against al Qaeda within Pakistan comes a statement from a military spokesman in Afghanistan that the US will capture Osama bin Laden by the end of the year.
It sounds encouraging and one would hope a Lt. Col. wouldn’t be shooting from the hip on such a serious subject.
Following last month's capture of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, American commanders in Afghanistan have expressed new optimism they will eventually find bin Laden. Spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said the military now believed it could seize him within months.
"We have a variety of intelligence and we're sure we're going to catch Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar this year," Hilferty said. "We've learned lessons from Iraq and we're getting improved intelligence from the Afghan people."
Hilferty declined to comment on where exactly bin Laden or Mullah Omar might be hiding, but his optimism coincides with comments from U.S. officials in Washington that the military is planning a spring offensive against Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts.
American forces are pinning hopes for better intelligence from locals on new security teams setting up in provincial capitals across a swath of troubled southern and eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border.
The spring offensive touted by U.S. defense officials Wednesday would come just when the new security teams are supposed to be up and running, and warmer weather opens the high passes through which insurgents slip.
Hilferty declined to comment on the proposed plans, saying he could not talk about future operations.
Pakistani officials said Thursday they would not allow American forces to use their territory for any new offensive.
"As a matter of fact they (the United States) have not contacted us for this purpose," said Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a senior Pakistani security official who coordinates with U.S. counterparts on counterterrorism.
An intelligence official said Pakistani authorities also had no specific information about bin Laden's whereabouts.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, would face withering criticism from political opponents, particularly Islamic hard-liners controlling two key border provinces, if American forces were deployed inside Pakistan.
Pakistan says it has arrested more than 500 al-Qaida men over the past two years and many of them have been handed over to the United States.
So, it sounds like the spring offensive into Pakistan isn’t official, or at least not enough for Pakistani officials to admit it to their population. That’s the thing about black ops, our soldiers could be in Pakistan and as long as Pervez Musharraf didn’t want his public to know it, they wouldn’t. But I guess after two assassination attempts since last month Musharraf figures he’s go nothing to lose – what are the Islamic factions going to do, kill him? They’re already trying with the US military presence.
Administration officials would not explain the precise reason for the discrepancy. White House spokesman Trent Duffy said putting a price tag on Medicare "is a terrifically difficult area to try to predict" that hinges on "any number of unknowns," including how many older Americans buy the drug coverage, how much pharmaceutical prices rise and how many people on Medicare switch to private health plans, as the law encourages.
"The bottom line is, President Bush made a commitment to give seniors a prescription drug benefit and modernize Medicare, and he's delivered," Duffy said.
Most Democrats argued that the law would provide skimpy drug assistance, make too little effort to constrain drug prices, and provide a financial boon to pharmaceutical manufacturers and private health plans. A significant faction of House conservatives, some of whom voted for the bill under duress, complained about the large expansion of one of the country's main entitlement programs, particularly at a time of record budget deficits.
Yesterday, both sides were furious.
"It's almost like shooting fish in a barrel to say 'We told you so,' " said Robert Moffitt, director of health policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that opposed the legislation on the grounds that it was unaffordable.
"All of us were afraid it was going to be greater than the estimate," said Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.), who said that he and other conservatives had felt pressured to support the bill, knowing that Bush was eager to sign it. "It's unfortunate that Congress was put in the position of dealing with a bill that was going to be very expensive, going to be an entitlement and was going to make it into law."
Collins said the White House figures could stiffen conservatives' resolve to impose unprecedented spending limits on the program. In a compromise, the law does not impose a hard limit on Medicare spending but would require the White House to alert Congress if expenditures rose above specified levels. "I hope Congress has enough backbone" to impose such a cap, Collins said.
Democrats were critical for different reasons.
"Not any senior has seen any assistance, yet we've just slugged the taxpayers for another $140 billion," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who fought unsuccessfully for provisions designed to reduce drug prices.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), said, "The ballooning cost of the program underlines the need to end the sweetheart deals [for drug companies] and to provide the government the authority to negotiate reasonable prescription drug prices for senior citizens under Medicare."
In probably the least disseminated but most important story of the week the Department of Justice Inspector General, Glenn Fine, a Democrat appointed by Bill Clinton, found no instances of civil liberty abuses by the USA Patriot Act. This comes just a few months after two other high-ranking Democratic congressional leaders came to the defense of the Patriot Act, knowing full well that the rhetoric from the Left against the act is not only faulty but dangerous were to lead to the act’s repeal.
Joe Biden (D, Del.) said that criticism of the act was “ill-informed and overblown.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California liberal at that, said there was "substantial uncertainty and perhaps some ignorance about what this bill actually does do and how it has been employed." Feinstein added that she asked the ACLU to provide even a single example of violations of civil liberties under the Patriot Act but that, “they had none.”
But that’s about it for Democrats. On an almost daily basis one can find Liberals and Democratic politicians denounce the Patriot Act as though it were a set of Nazi era racial purity laws. Indeed, every Democratic candidate, in some way shape or form, is guaranteeing that as president they will curb the Patriot Act.
Right now Bush is trying to prevent, even with threat of veto, the passage of the Security and Freedom Ensured (SAFE) Act, sponsored by Senators Richard Durban and Larry Craig. (How any Republican would ever get sucked into this is beyond me). SAFE Act seeks to curb important powers of Patriot, such as the cryptically sounding “roving wiretap.” (The philosophy is simple. Once presented evidence of threat a judge would give the Feds a warrant to wiretap not a device but a person; thus if the terrorist changed cell phone numbers every 2 days, for example, the Feds wouldn’t have to waste time going back to the judge for a new warrant. Simple, and with all Patriot provisions, requires judicial oversight – and is thus Constitutional.)
It would be easy to be sucked into such rhetorical fears of Patriot were you not educated on it’s true abilities. Without going into the specifics (read this best ever explanation, or this or this, for specifics) the Patriot Act basically gave the Federal government the ability to pursue terrorists in the same manner that they’ve pursued organized crime (the Mafia) for decades. There was nothing truly revolutionary about the act.
And so after this long introduction is the point of this post: for all the complaints about Bush’s spending or his domestic failures (such as on immigration) there nonetheless remain key differences between Bush and a Democratic president – differences that were a Democrat to take the Oval Office would result in a more dangerous America. Too many Liberals view September 11 as a tragedy – something bad that just happened to us, like an earthquake or natural disaster, but from which we should just move past. They don’t see it as an attack, they don’t see it as an act of war and threat against national security. They would go back to the September 10 way of combating terrorism: waiting to react to the next event and not being proactive, playing defense, responding with massive manhunts against a few individuals without ever taking the conflict – militarily, strategically, objectively – to their turf, to the organization whole, to the states that ignore the issue.
So, don’t kid yourself about there being no difference between the parties – they do exist, and they are critical.
In the modern era, where technology so easily spreads and terrorist groups can become as influential and dangerous as any third-world dictator, we will live and die by the success or failure of our intelligence community. Indeed, our intelligence problems have directly contributed to the failure to find WMD in Iraq, and a slew of terrorist events in the past 10 years, climaxing with September 11. Thus, it seems relevant that during this time when everyone agrees that our intelligence community, particularly that regarding human intelligence, is lacking we should examine the track record of presidential candidates claiming that they would make our nation safer than George W. Bush.
The current front runner among the Democratic candidates, John Kerry, seems like an obvious place to start (all searchable on Congress website):
On February 3, 1994, Senator Kerry proposed cutting $1 billion from our intelligence budget: S. 1826 stated, “$1,000,000,000 is rescinded, to be derived from programs and activities of the National Foreign Intelligence Program and the Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities.”
Again, on February 9, 1994, Senator Kerry proposed an amendment (1452) to H.R. 3759 to cut intelligence funding by $1 billion: “$1,000,000,000 is rescinded, to be derived from programs and activities of the National Foreign Intelligence Program and the Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities.”
On September 25, 1995 Senator Kerry proposed cutting $1.5 billion from intelligence: Bill S. 1290 (104th Congress), seeking to reduce the deficit in part by, “Reducing the Intelligence budget by $300 million in each of fiscal years 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.”
In 1997, on Congressional record, Senator Kerry summarized and agreed with the argument of Senator Patrick Moynihan about the size the US intelligence community, believing it to be too large (recall, this was thus after three major terrorist events: 1993 WTC bombing, 1995 OKC bombing, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing):
“He [Moynihan] has asked why it is that our vast intelligence apparatus, built to sustain America in the long twilight struggle of the cold war continues to grow at an exponential rate? Now that that struggle is over, why is it that our vast intelligence apparatus continues to grow even as Government resources for new and essential priorities fall far short of what is necessary? Why is it that our vast intelligence apparatus continues to roll on even as every other Government bureaucracy is subject to increasing scrutiny and, indeed, to reinvention?
Our colleague’s answer is an important one for all of us to reflect on. The answer is secrecy and bureaucracy. It is secrecy that conceals structure, budgets, functions, and critical evaluation from the public, the executive branch and most Members of Congress, including those on appropriate oversight committees. It is bureaucracy, the nature of the self-perpetuating institution like any of our intelligence agencies, that leads to an ongoing redefinition of purpose and ongoing creation of redundant systems and ongoing expansion of scope.
The first component, secrecy, means that the normal active tools of democracy, that is, press scrutiny, public debate, and appropriate oversight from executive and the congressional branches, are absent. And the second component, bureaucracy, means that reform, downsizing, reorganization, and elimination of redundancies cannot come from within because, as the Senator from New York demonstrates, our intelligence apparatus is merely following the norms of all agencies. This suggests that the intelligence bureaucracy will not, indeed cannot, change until we act on the cultural barriers to reform.”
Kerry doesn’t stop for a moment to consider the new threats that exist since the end of the Cold War. Instead, in typical liberal knee-jerk fashion, Kerry sees our intelligence community as this secretive monster that must be stopped. Always wearing his Vietnam lenses, Kerry sees our intelligence community, not the terrorists trying to kill us, as the danger to America.
The nice thing about Kerry being the front runner candidate is that he has a nice long record which Bush can carve up once he really begins politicking. For all of Kerry’s accusations towards Bush it may be Kerry, long record and all, who has the most explaining to do.
Here’s how political analyst Fred Barnes concluded it:
On the CIA, Kerry sponsored a bill to cut $1.5 billion from the budget for intelligence gathering. Then after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, he asked why America's intelligence wasn't better. His explanation: He wanted the CIA to devote more money to human intelligence and less to technical means. He sought, he explained, "to change the culture of our intelligence gathering." He didn't explain, however, how slashing the CIA budget would achieve that.
At a rally in Nashua yesterday, Kerry raised two other issues that may require explaining. He criticized President Bush for withdrawing from the Kyoto global warming treaty in 2001. "You don't just walk away from a treaty [negotiated by] 160 countries over 10 years," he said. But in 1997, Kerry voted for a resolution, which passed 95-0, saying the United States "should not be a signatory" to the treaty. So on Kyoto, he'll have some explaining to do.
Judging by the lack of quoted material the mass media is not happy about what former head of the Iraqi Survey Group, David Kay, said yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. No matter, however, they just won’t bother printing what he quoted.
Had Kay fired off a bunch of statements damning to the Bush administration you can bet that the media would have printed them all. But, he didn’t. Instead Kay made those who asked loaded questions, baiting Kay to blame Bush, look stupid. Ed Kennedy, Carl Levin, Jay Rockefeller – they all tried, but failed, and if you watched the event you could actually see the frustration on their faces. Nonetheless they spin. What’s aggravating, although expected, is that the media becomes the Democrats’ willing accomplice on the matter.
Take, for example, the Washington Post’s piece today. The article is co-written by Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, the two biggest Bush-haters on the Post staff. Milbank and Pincus refuse to acknowledge Kay’s central theme – that our intelligence failed; that all parties involved whether Democrat or Republican are guilty of assumption; that either Saddam wanted us to believe that he had WMD or was tricked by his own scientists for financial gain; but that there was no premeditation, overestimation, deception or a pressure on our analysts by the president. The Post instead concentrates on a growing “partisan feud over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”
Kay emphasized the need to begin reviewing our intelligence failure in Iraq – which he had previously termed as our intelligence agencies failing the president – while the Bush team wishes to let the ISG continue its work in Iraq first. Naturally, as with the 9-11 commission, both the Democrats and Republicans are looking at the calendar on this one. The Democrats would just love a review to end around August, when the election race is hot; whereas the GOP would rather only start a review by then, so as to be complete after the election. Like on the 9-11 commission the Democrats seek to politicize our intelligence failures in Iraq, even though they existed long before Bush took office, spanning 15 or so years by Kay’s measure.
The coverage by the NY Times is even worse, although its introduction paragraph is better:
David A. Kay, the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, called on Wednesday for an independent inquiry into prewar intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, but he said he did not believe that the Bush administration had pressured intelligence analysts to exaggerate the threat.
The Times then proceeds to do just that – convince readers that Bush pressured analysts or outright deceived the American public.
Proponents of an independent investigation said they wanted an explanation of the gap between the intelligence cited by President Bush and his cabinet in making a case for war and Dr. Kay's conclusion that Iraq did not have any large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons by the time the conflict began.
Now, never mind you that these proponents, such as Jay Rockefeller, not only cited those same stockpile numbers but used it themselves when they voted to use military force against Iraq in October 2002. You won’t read that in the Times.
A senior official on Capitol Hill said Wednesday that members of Congress involved in inquiries into the faulty intelligence on Iraq were now pursuing two hypotheses, both focusing on the possible failure of analysts to question the assumption that the Iraqi government was producing illicit weapons.
"Either the intelligence analysts just created their own inertia and couldn't get out of it, or the inertia was created from the top down by Tenet and his crowd," the senior official said.
Again, Dr. Kay, the foremost expert on the subject, says that the latter scenario – that the Bush team pressured analysts – just isn’t true. But which scenario do you think the Democrats will concentrate on? Furthermore, something that the Times report ignores and the Post report only briefly touched on, Kay said that a reduction of human intelligence (US spies) over the last few decades goes to the heart of the problem – the US relies too much on foreign sources and technology. You can thank guys like Jimmy Carter, Frank Church and Robert Torricelli for that (all Democrats) but you won’t see it broached in the Times or Post.
Even worse than not addressing Kay’s retorts to the loaded questions of Senators Levin and Kennedy, as the Post did, is only quoting statements by those senators and not Kay by the Times. (Interesting that the only Democrat who did not follow the “Bush lied!” line of questioning was Hillary Clinton, probably because her husband bombed the heck out of Iraq in 1998 based on the belief that Hussein had large stock of WMD).
But Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is his party's ranking committee member, quoted at length from President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in statements to the public that Mr. Hussein had stockpiles of unconventional weapons.
"The administration, in order to support its decision to go to war, made numerous vivid, unqualified statements about Iraq having in its possession weapons of mass destruction — not programs, not program-related activities, not intentions — actual weapons is what the administration's statements focused on," Senator Levin said.
Hypocrite alert: Who said on September 19, 2002: “We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandates of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them”? Why, it was none other than Senator Carl Levin! So if the Bush team “made numerous vivid, unqualified statements about Iraq having in its possession weapons of mass destruction — not programs, not program-related activities, not intentions — [but] actual weapons,” than so did Carl Levin, Jay Rockefeller, and almost every other Democratic senator.
Another Democrat, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, was even more accusatory: "Many of us feel that the evidence so far leads only to one conclusion, that what has happened was more than a failure of intelligence; it was the result of manipulation of the intelligence to justify a decision to go to war."
On camera, David Kay absolutely body slammed these men, but the Times prints nary a reply. The Post didn’t even address the exchange. Kay made Kennedy look particularly stupid, reminding him that Bill Clinton’s defense secretary, William Cohen, made statements about Iraqi WMD as confidently as Bush. Kay also said that, much to the Democrat’s chagrin, given the circumstances – what our intelligence community had been saying for years - there was no reason to think otherwise:
"All I can say is if you read the total body of intelligence in the last 12 to 15 years that flowed on Iraq, I quite frankly think it would be hard to come to a conclusion other than Iraq was a gathering, serious threat to the world with regard to WMD," he [Kay] said.
Even so, expect Democrats to continue their faulty spin.
Dr. Kay has done a great service to the country by pointing out that in this day and age of terrorism and WMD our country can ill afford to have a slack intelligence community. We better fix it and fast. Kudos to the Washington Post editorial staff, who unlike their reporters Pincus and Milbank, manage to find some balance in Kay’s statements:
Mr. Kay has chosen to go public with this disturbing news not because he wishes to embarrass the Bush administration or cast doubt on the mission in Iraq but because he believes it vital that the faults in intelligence gathering that led to the mistaken weapons estimates be identified and corrected. There is indeed a critical need for such a review: U.S. security in an age of proliferation and terrorism depends on it. What a shame that, rather than accept Mr. Kay's conclusions, both the president and his Democratic opponents prefer to play them for political advantage.
President Bush and most of his aides have quietly backed away from their once-unambiguous assertions that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush now speaks of "weapons-of-mass-destruction-related program activities" or, as he did Tuesday, doggedly insists that Saddam Hussein was a "danger." Mr. Kay's team has documented those activities, and the former inspector agrees with the president's characterization of Saddam Hussein -- as do we. The problem is that Mr. Bush has not taken the next step, which is to admit that the intelligence that he was provided by U.S. agencies and that he and his administration then relayed to the country -- sometimes in exaggerated terms -- was substantially mistaken. To do so might be politically perilous in an election year; it's far easier to argue, as the administration has, that we must wait many more months before drawing any conclusions. But the truth cannot be put off forever, and it should not have to wait until after November. The longer Mr. Bush delays, the longer it will be before intelligence agencies can be held accountable and reforms undertaken.
Democratic members of Congress and presidential candidates are not making a responsible reckoning any easier. Instead they have attempted to twist Mr. Kay's conclusions to serve their arguments that Mr. Bush fabricated a case for war against a country that posed no serious threat. Mr. Kay punctured those theories yesterday. He bluntly told Democratic senators that he had found no evidence that intelligence analysts had come under administration pressure to alter their findings; pointed out that the Clinton administration and several European governments had drawn the same conclusions about Iraq's weapons; and stated that his investigation showed that Saddam Hussein's regime was in some ways more dangerous than was believed before the war -- because its corruption and disintegration had made it more likely that weapons or weapons technology would be sold to "others [who] are seeking WMD." That didn't stop Howard Dean from charging on the campaign trail that "the administration did cook the books" -- an allegation that, so far as Mr. Kay's testimony is concerned, is false.
The partisanship and demagoguery that have overtaken the discussion of Iraq's missing weapons mean that investigations of the intelligence failure by the Bush administration or Congress are unlikely to be thorough or credible. The only proper approach to the problem, suggested yesterday by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and quickly seconded by Mr. Kay, is an independent inquiry. The president and Congress should agree on the appointment of an expert, nonpartisan commission with full secrecy clearance and subpoena power to examine why the intelligence on Iraq proved wrong and to report on how such failures can be prevented in the future. "It's not a political issue," Mr. Kay told National Public Radio. "It's an issue of the capabilities of one's intelligence service to collect valid, truthful information."
I don’t agree with all of this, but it’s better than the other editorials floating out there that completely take Kay’s comments out of context and imply that Kay contradicted the president, or that he said Hussein wasn’t a danger – he was, and Kay states so often and gives reasons why.
The Post can say that Bush needs to take the next step, as it were, but as long as Democrats politicize the issue – which is forever – Bush should proceed with caution. Next, it is maximum naivety to assume that just because a review board is smacked with an “independent” label it won’t become just another political tool.
I’m still looking for David Kay’s full statement in text. CNN has published his opening remarks but not his more revealing answers to questions by senators on the Armed Services Committee.
Kay reminded the committee that everyone was inaccurate about estimates on Iraqi WMD, not just the Bush team:
Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here.
Sen. [Edward] Kennedy knows very directly. Senator Kennedy and I talked on several occasions prior to the war that my view was that the best evidence that I had seen was that Iraq indeed had weapons of mass destruction.
I would also point out that many governments that chose not to support this war -- certainly, the French president, [Jacques] Chirac, as I recall in April of last year, referred to Iraq's possession of WMD.
The Germans certainly -- the intelligence service believed that there were WMD.
It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgment, and that is most disturbing.
Kay reminds them that not only has our intelligence community had false positives, but false negatives:
We're also in a period in which we've had intelligence surprises in the proliferation area that go the other way. The case of Iran, a nuclear program that the Iranians admit was 18 years on, that we underestimated. And, in fact, we didn't discover it. It was discovered by a group of Iranian dissidents outside the country who pointed the international community at the location.
The Libyan program recently discovered was far more extensive than was assessed prior to that.
Kay reminds the committee that we went to war in Iraq not simply over WMD, but to legally enforce and give meaning to 17 UN Security Council resolutions that Hussein continued to breach:
In my judgment, based on the work that has been done to this point of the Iraq Survey Group, and in fact, that I reported to you in October, Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of [U.N.] Resolution 1441.
Resolution 1441 required that Iraq report all of its activities -- one last chance to come clean about what it had.
We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid material.
Kay flat out shoots down the notion that the Bush administration pressured intelligence analysts to modify intel to back war:
And let me take one of the explanations most commonly given: Analysts were pressured to reach conclusions that would fit the political agenda of one or another administration. I deeply think that is a wrong explanation.
As leader of the effort of the Iraqi Survey Group, I spent most of my days not out in the field leading inspections. It's typically what you do at that level. I was trying to motivate, direct, find strategies.
In the course of doing that, I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated. Reality on the ground differed in advance.
And never -- not in a single case -- was the explanation, "I was pressured to do this." The explanation was very often, "The limited data we had led one to reasonably conclude this. I now see that there's another explanation for it."
And each case was different, but the conversations were sufficiently in depth and our relationship was sufficiently frank that I'm convinced that, at least to the analysts I dealt with, I did not come across a single one that felt it had been, in the military term, "inappropriate command influence" that led them to take that position.
It was not that. It was the honest difficulty based on the intelligence that had -- the information that had been collected that led the analysts to that conclusion.
And you know, almost in a perverse way, I wish it had been undue influence because we know how to correct that.
I really hope I can find Kay’s full Q&A text before the committee. He pretty much did this ad lib, which tells you how smart and experienced the guy is. Kay is saying if he concluded incorrectly about Iraq, so can anyone, which sounds like we did.
Having said that Kay emphasizes that small amounts of WMD could still be discovered, that materials may have been transferred to a foreign country like Syria, and that Iraq had the intentions and programs to continue as soon as the UN gave him a clean bill of health, which he was expected Hans Blix to give.
[REUTERS] Meanwhile Iraq's foreign minister said he was confident weapons of mass destruction would still be found in the country, despite testimony from the former U.S. chief weapons inspector that no such munitions exist.
Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, on a visit to Bulgaria, said he was sure Saddam's regime had acquired chemical and biological arms, but said they had not been found because they were so well hidden.
"I have every belief that some of these weapons could be found as we move forward," Zebari told reporters in Sofia.
"They have been hidden in certain areas. The system of hiding was very sophisticated."
Interesting. It would be nice if he’s right. Although it might take 5, 10 or 15 years for them to be found considering Migs were hidden in the desert for 12.
Just in case you missed it, the UK Independent reported that the Iraqi Governing Council would begin an investigation into the possibility that financially connected businesspersons or government employees from anti-war countries accepted lucrative oil bribes from Saddam Hussein. The Independent’s report was based on an expose by an independent Iraqi paper, Al-Mada, which acquired official documents from Saddam’s oil ministry. The translation site MEMRI has republished the report, complete with names and host countries. Al-Mada noted that there are companies receiving barrels of oil that have nothing to do with the industry or the former UN Oil-for-Food program.
Among others, the report implicates British parliamentarian George Galloway. But that’s not surprising and is certainly not the first time it has occurred.
Since the deposed regime endorsed the 'Memorandum of Understanding,' also known as 'oil for food [program],' it turned it into a despicable political and commercial game, and used it to finance its clandestine acquisitions of arms, expensive construction materials for the presidential palaces and mosques, and frivolous luxury items. It turned the oil sales agreements into the greatest bribery operation in history, buying souls and pens, and squandering the nation's resources.
Since then, rumors were abound about vouchers that Saddam gave to certain Arab and foreign dignitaries, providing them with crude oil in exchange for their support to the regime in a period of international isolation, and as a way to finance the campaign to lift the economic sanctions against it and to whitewash its image.
I won’t print the list here – it’s too long. But give it a once over if you’re curious. Lots and lots of Ruskies on it.
Before the Armed Services Committee today former head CIA weapons inspector David Kay made Senator Ted “I did not drown that girl” Kennedy look absolutely stupid. Kennedy must have broken the record for the most long-winded loaded question ever aired in Congress. Indeed, it wasn’t even a question, rather it was just a long rant accusing President Bush of misleading the American people on Iraqi WMD. Kay not only didn’t take the bait but obliterated the very concept and then reminded the senator that everyone from French intelligence to Bill Clinton’s former defense secretary, Bill Cohen, all believed that Saddam Hussein had large supplies of WMD.
When I find the transcript I’ll post it.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, questioned the basis upon which the Bush administration went to war.
"There were no basic weapons of mass destruction available to be rained down upon this or any other country," Rockefeller said. - January 28, 2004
“There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years.” - Same Senator Jay Rockefeller, October 10, 2002, while voting in favor of war in Iraq.
The Iraqi Governing Council is pursuing a report by an Iraqi newspaper claiming that dozens of politicians from countries who opposed the war took bribes from Saddam Hussein. Al-Mada published a list of individuals, including from all three antiwar countries on the UN Security Council (France, Russia, China), which the newspaper obtained from official Iraqi documents seized from Saddam’s oil ministry.
The 46 individuals, companies and organisations inside and outside Iraq were given millions of barrels of oil, the documents show. Thousands of papers were looted from the State Oil Marketing Organisation after Baghdad fell to US forces on 9 April.
"I think the list is true," Naseer Chaderji, a Governing Council member, said. "I will demand an investigation. These people must be prosecuted." Rumours had circulated for months that documents implicating senior French individuals were about to surface. Such evidence would undermine the French position before the war when President Jacques Chirac staked out the moral high ground in opposing the invasion.
A senior Bush administration official said Washington was aware of the reports but refused further comment. Another US source said that incriminating oil ministry documents allegedly implicating France concerned the two-year period before the war, when the UN sanctions were in danger of collapse.
French diplomats have dismissed any suggestion that their foreign policy was influenced by payments from Saddam. The French have always insisted their anti-war stance did not mean support for Saddam. But British diplomats suspected France's steadfast opposition to the war was driven by something other than the reasons stated by President Chirac. "Oil runs thicker than blood," is how one former ambassador put his suspicions about the French motives for opposing action against Saddam.
The list quoted by al-Mada included members of Arab ruling families, religious organisations, politicians and political parties from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Sudan, China, Austria, France and other countries. But no names were available last night.
Organisations named include the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Communist Party, India's Congress Party and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The United States and Britain launched the war on Iraq on 19 March, 2003 without UN approval after tense negotiations in the Security Council collapsed in the face of a veto threat from France. France's relations with Britain and the US deteriorated to their worst point in decades over the Iraq rift, and have yet to heal.
China, another Security Council permanent member with veto power which is named by al-Mada, was also opposed to the Iraq invasion. Arab countries, in addition to France, had warned of the risk of instability spreading throughout the Middle East as a result of the war. Turkey, a Nato member, was a crucial player because of the opposition to the war among its Muslim majority population. There is the possibility that the documents in al-Mada are forgeries. At present there is almost a war of documents under way as Iraqis come to the realisation that they could be used as blackmail or as a settling of scores. And the leak of the documents could be a manipulation by the US-backed authorities in Iraq to discredit France.
The Iraqi authorities will be keen to interview prominent Iraqi officials held by the Coalition Provisional Authority who could shed light on illegal payments. Those officials include the former oil minister, Amer Mohammed Rashid. Assem Jihad, an oil ministry spokesman, said the documents stolen from his ministry may prove Saddam used bribery to gain support. "Anyone stealing Iraqi wealth will be prosecuted," he said.
Such corruption in regards to Hussein’s oil wealth is nothing new, so this is hardly surprising, if determined true. Turkey, Jordan and Syria have long received billions of dollars in kickbacks annually from Saddam Hussein smuggling oil across his borders. As far as criminal activities from oil, it’s no secret that Saddam relied on this wealth to buy allies when they were most convenient. See here, here, here, here and here.
Beyond oil, captured Iraqi documents have uncovered all kinds of illicit, and at very least compromising, complicity. Included: Russia trained Iraqi intelligence agents, and later admitted so. Russia is believed to have spied on UK Prime Minister Tony Blair for the Hussein government, advised the Iraqi military on US war plans (but apparently not that well), and even to have provided “hit lists” for the Iraqis. German intelligence agents, likewise, offered help to the Hussein government. Similarly, documents show that France briefed the Hussein government in the months leading up to war, and even helped Iraqi secret police undermine a Paris-based human rights conference intended to focus on Hussein.
Coming in fourth place wasn’t good for Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, no matter his spin. It will be difficult for him to catch up to either Howard Dean or John Kerry, especially since Edwards accepted government funding for his election. Dean and Kerry, who did not, will thus be able to outpace any campaign spending that Edwards could do. This isn’t really news, but since Edwards will have such a difficult time beating either of the top two some have speculated that a Kerry-Edwards ticket would be the best bet to beat Bush. While much can happen in the months ahead Edwards outright shot that idea down this morning:
Asked on NBC's "Today" show if he would accept second place on the Democratic slate to face President Bush in the fall election, Edwards said: "I think you've got the order reversed. I intend to be the nominee."
Edwards said he would not be willing to be No. 2. "No, no. Final. I don't want to be vice president. I'm running for president," he said.
Edwards declared his fourth-place finish in New Hampshire's primary just what he needed as he headed into his native South and beyond. He climbed from low in the pre-primary polls to finish just behind retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who placed third. Clark and Edwards both had 12 percent of the vote, with Clark earning more than 800 votes over Edwards.
"We've got a lot of energy and momentum going right now. My job is to keep it going," he said Wednesday.
That’s a lot of spin for fourth place, even for a trial lawyer. I suppose since he came in second in Iowa and is preparing to head down south Edwards could have a resurgence. But the money thing is going to be hard to overcome.
Considering that Wesley Clark chose to skip Iowa so he could focus all his energy (and money) on New Hampshire you can likewise begin the countdown for the general. Like Edwards, Clark could do better in the South, but he was a distant third in New Hampshire.
Only nine days ago, Clark was leading Kerry and closing in on Dean in New Hampshire, where he campaigned virtually alone while his rivals focused in Iowa. But Kerry's decisive win in Iowa, as well as Clark's own missteps in his first campaign for public office, altered the dynamics of the race.
In the last week, Clark has been forced to devote precious time to damage control, explaining his position on abortion, his jabs at Kerry and his support of Michael Moore, who at his endorsement of Clark branded President Bush a "deserter." [and in doing so insulted anyone who was in the Air National Guard, or serving in Korea, Germany, etc., during the entire Vietnam era.]
Clark’s statements have been at times just as kooky, if not more, than Howard Dean. If the general thinks all it takes to sweep the South is to be born in Arkansas he’s got another thing coming, especially when opining that he’d use Saudi Arabian commandoes to hunt for Osama bin Laden… in Pakistan. Um… yeah. (Lots on Clark here, here, here)
Joe Lieberman’s response was sad. Actually it was so sad it was funny. Lieberman thanked his supporters last night bragging that he was “in a three-way split decision for third place.” Wow… this is also known as sixth place. Sorry Joe. Well, once Lieberman is out, and this is inevitable, maybe he won’t be so shrill as the rest of the candidates.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair did more that just survive an inquiry regarding a 2003 BBC report that he “sexed up” intelligence on Iraq, he turned the tables and forced the BBC chairman to resign. For weeks the punditry has been waiting for what they thought would be a damning report that was supposed to topple the Blair presidency. Instead, serious questions regarding slant, bias and journalistic integrity have been aimed at the BBC.
[Gavyn] Davies told the corporation's governors of his decision as they met at 1700 GMT.
It comes after Lord Hutton said the suggestion in BBC reports that the government "sexed up" its dossier on Iraq's weapons with unreliable intelligence was "unfounded".
And he criticised "defective" BBC editorial processes over defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan's broadcasts of the claims on the Today programme.
Announcing his resignation, Mr Davies said the people at the top of organisations should accept responsibility for their actions.
"I have been brought up to believe that you cannot choose your own referee, and that the referee's decision is final," he said.
Lord Brian Hutton blasted the BBC in his final report and cleared Tony Blair of all “unfounded” allegations:
Hutton ruled that BBC editors did not adequately scrutinize the allegations before they were broadcast and that editors and senior officials -- including the BBC's board of governors -- failed to investigate after Blair and the government heatedly denied the report.
The BBC story and the government's reaction to it set off a major political controversy in Britain and led to chain of events that resulted in the suicide of David Kelly, a weapons expert in Britain's Ministry of Defense, after he was identified publicly as a source for the BBC story.
Following the suicide, Blair appointed Hutton to lead an independent inquiry. Hutton is a retired senior judge.
Hutton said Kelly himself had acted improperly in discussing with BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan intelligence matters without official authorization. But it said Gilligan's notes of the meeting did not substantiate the reporter's claims that Kelly had accused the prime minister's office -- and specifically Alastair Campbell, the prime minister's top aide who has since resigned -- of publishing false intelligence data.
Hutton said the Ministry of Defense could have done a better job of protecting Kelly after officials at the ministry leaked his name as the confidential source of the original BBC report. But he exonerated officials of the charge that their actions were responsible for Kelly's apparent suicide last July.
The US military is planning a spring offensive within Pakistan, according to the Chicago Tribune. This would be monumental, not only because it would be a first for the US military, but because it would indicate that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has finally relented on allowing US troops into his country. The latter is important, because it was a political barrier and nothing else, that prevented this from occurring sooner. Also, it means that Musharraf has weighed his options and decided that since internal enemies are trying to kill him - he survived two assassination attempts in December alone - he has nothing to lose by breaking from the remaining extremist Islamic bloc that rules much of Pakistan.
U.S. Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, according to sources familiar with details of the plan and internal military communications. The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified.
As now envisioned, the offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops, sources said. A Navy aircraft carrier would be deployed in the Arabian Sea.
Referred to in internal Pentagon messages as the "spring offensive," the operation would be driven by certain undisclosed events in Pakistan and across the region, sources said. A source familiar with details of the plan said this is "not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this plan to be executable, now."
Such an operation almost certainly would demand the cooperation of Musharraf, who previously has allowed only a small number of U.S. Special Operations forces to work alongside Pakistani troops in the semi-autonomous tribal areas. A military source in Washington said last week, "We are told we're going into Pakistan with Musharraf's help."
Yet a large-scale offensive by U.S. forces within the nuclear-armed Islamic republic could be political dynamite for Musharraf.
The army general, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, has come under growing political pressure from Islamic parties, and his cooperation with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts is widely unpopular among average Pakistanis. Nor can Musharraf count on the loyalty of all of Pakistan's armed forces or its intelligence agency, members of which helped set up and maintain the Taliban in Afghanistan and are suspected of ties to militant Islamic groups.
The U.S. military is operating under the belief that, despite his recent statements, Musharraf's thinking has changed, sources said. Musharraf said last week that bin Laden and his followers likely were hiding in the mountains along the Afghan border. He also said "we are reasonably sure that it is Al Qaeda" who was behind the two attempts on his life.
An offensive into Pakistan to pursue Al Qaeda would be in keeping with President Bush's vow to strike wherever and whenever the United States feels threatened and to pursue terrorist elements to the end.
The trick in the war on terror is convincing all these third world dictators that al Qaeda is as much a threat to their rule as it is to ours. It appears that Musharraf has come around.
Here’s a note for those who believe that the war in Iraq has hurt our global influence:
WASHINGTON - The United States said it took possession on Tuesday of an estimated 55,000 pounds (25,000 kg) of equipment and documents related to Libya's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including centrifuge parts used to enrich uranium.
McClellan said the shipment was a sign of "real progress" by Libya in carrying out an agreement with the United States and Britain to dismantle its banned-weapons programs.
The transport plane was carrying 55,000 pounds (25,000 kg) of equipment, including "critical materials related to Libya's nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile capabilities." McClellan told reporters.
"These materials include both sensitive documentation and equipment" - including centrifuge parts used to enrich uranium as well as ballistic missile guidance sets for longer-range missiles which Libya has voluntarily agreed to eliminate.
The independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks is preparing to ask for an extension to move their final report back from May 27 to the end of July, which just happens to be when the electoral races between President Bush and the Democratic nominee will be peaking. Republicans on Capital Hill are vowing to fight any extension, as is Bush, because it smacks of a political agenda to delay commission findings until it can cause the most damage to the Bush team. Well, since the independent commission is asking for an extension, which they deem as crucial to a through final report, I have a relevant question: When's the last time the independent commission investigating September 11 put out any new or insightful information about the attacks?
Indeed, today the Washington Post reports that the commission released the bombshell that, and tell me if you've heard this one before, the hijackers used small knives and mace to disable the crew and passengers. This is news? To confirm this the commission released the full recording of a stewardess from Flight 11, Betty Ong, saying, "Somebody's got Mace or something." Well, ABC News disclosed back in July of 2002 that these same investigators learned that the hijackers used mace based on the recording of a FLT 11 stewardess named - you guessed it - Betty Ong.
So in 18 months all they've managed to do is recycle old information? Should they be granted their extension one wonders what kind of eye-openers the commission will reveal - the hijackers intended to crash FLT 93 into the White House... or maybe the Capital Building... or something... well, anyway, BUSH KNEW!
Even so, Democrats on the commission defend their extension request by claiming that previous delays in their findings are due to Bush's refusal to prostrate himself before the commission. You see, Bush refuses to release any information that his enemies and political opponents might use to gut him during the peak of the election cycle. Gee, imagine that!
Beyond that, the only defense one will get from the Democrats is empty rhetoric about "rushes to judgment," and so on:
Commission member Timothy J. Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, said, "We need this extension in order to thoroughly sift through all the facts, carefully evaluate a set of recommendations and not have a rush to judgment."
This is opposed to the hunt for Iraq's WMD, where Democrats had no compunction whatsoever about rushing to judgment months ago (BUSH LIED!). Now, suddenly they're concerned about being thorough before making a final analysis.
Republicans are wise to be cautious. From the time of its first announcement, anyone minus the politically un-astute or naive sucker knew that this commission would be nothing more than an internal political battle between two groups - those who wish to pin the attacks on the Bush administration and those parrying off the blows of the attacking group. As the past two years have progressed this knowledge has been further confirmed by so many partisan hacks attempting to cut off the investigation's starting point at January 20, 2001, the day of Bush's inauguration - particularly faulty since Khalid Mohammed had been preparing for 9-11 since at least 1998.
The media has become a willing accomplice to the first group, as highlighted in today's NY Times:
The White House confirmed news reports last year that an Oval Office intelligence summary presented to Mr. Bush shortly before the attacks suggested that terrorists might be planning an attack using passenger planes.
What the NY Times fails to mention in that short paragraph is that such warning occurred long before Bush took office. People like former CIA director James Woolsey had been warning of hijacked aircraft used as missiles since the mid-1990s, and especially after captured 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef admitted in 1995 a plan to crash a commercial flight into CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. But back then anyone who suggested such a plot, especially one perpetrated by Islamic radicals, were painted as nothing more than paranoid anti-Muslim careerists. The Clinton team scrapped all airline safety suggestions, including barring cockpit doors and arming cockpits, even though the then VP, Al Gore, formed the panel making the recommendations; focused on domestic terrorists more than the threat of Islamic extremists; shot down a plan to accept extradition offers from Sudan for Osama bin Laden due to Janet Reno's legal hand-wringing (2,3); and generally refused to take aggressive action against Islamic terrorism even after numerous terrorist attacks throughout the 1990s.
Imagine how Democrats would respond if the GOP was forcing a report with the above information during the election cycle. They'd claim it just another batch of lies from the vast right-wing conspiracy. "Oh, sure, blame Bill again," they'd retort.
The Republicans on the Hill might seem dumb, but they're not stupid.
"It smacks of politics to put out a report like this in the middle of a presidential campaign," said a senior Republican Congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Democrats will spin and spin."
An extension of the commission's deadline would need to be approved in Congress in the next few weeks, and the Senate authors of the bill that created the panel last year, John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, have already said that they are willing to try to shepherd an extension bill through Congress, although both have said they expect a fight with Republican Congressional leaders.
"I fully support an extension to ensure that the commission's work is not compromised by the Bush administration's delaying tactics, secrecy and stonewalling," Mr. Lieberman said Tuesday from New Hampshire, where he was campaigning in that day's Democratic presidential primary. "Clearly the president is not interested in a complete and thorough investigation."
It's pretty bold and slimy of Joe Lieberman to outright accuse the president of actively trying to hinder the September 11 investigation - also known as treason - considering that Lieberman just happens to be one of the Democrats hoping to earn the presidency this year. As for the other senator that created the 9-11 commission, John McCain, you might recall that he lost a rather bitter and ugly primary to Bush in 2000.
So you tell me: Was it not obvious when this commission was created that it would be come nothing more than a political arena considering that both the authors of the 9-11 commission are some of the president's hottest political opponents, both who lost to Bush in previous elections?
Below are the words of John Kerry on February 11, 2003. Kerry was defending his decision to give President Bush authority to use military power to force Saddam Hussein to comply with all UN resolutions. (Note: not to “disarm Saddam” as is often egregiously misstated by the media and Bush’s critics, but only to force Saddam to comply with all previous UN resolutions against Iraq.)
John Kerry: And I thought that we had a legitimate concern-- all of us, together, the United Nations, in the wake of the 1991 war-- and that’s what left Saddam Hussein in power: the Cease-fire Agreement of 1991. And under the terms of that agreement, not with the United States, but with the United Nations, Saddam Hussein agreed to disarm and to cooperate, and to fully disclose. And for eight years we had inspections. We learned during those inspections he was much further down the road towards the creation of nuclear weapons than we thought. We learned also that he had much more biological and chemical weaponry than we thought. Then all of a sudden in 1998 the inspectors were prevented from going further. President Clinton responded with four days of bombing, called, I think it was, Desert Fox. And subsequent to that, nothing happened.
Yes, you're reading this right: John Kerry, even as late as February of 2003, was complaining that Bill Clinton didn't go far enough acting against Iraq! But now Kerry criticizes Bush for doing what Clinton refused to follow through with? (Clinton was acting in part on the 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act, which John Kerry voted in favor of, which made it US policy to pursue regime change in Iraq. Bush, Rove and company didn't invent regime change in Iraq. The Democratically controlled Congress did.)
Well, Chuck Hagel, John McCain and I-- not, coincidentally, three veterans of the war in Vietnam-- all felt because of our own experience, that words have to mean something, that you have to follow through on efforts to try to maintain your integrity as a nation and as an international institution. And we drafted a resolution that urged the President to go to the United Nations and use whatever means were necessary to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. For four years nothing happened. Now, in September of 2001, this President comes out of a Crawford, Texas meeting in August in which Karl Rove and company make a decision to try to take a legitimate national security issue and actually put it to political use. And they present this to the United States Congress in September. And those of us of good conscience who care about the-- I’m not suggesting people weren’t of good conscience on the other side-- but everyone who approached it in good conscience and good faith made decisions based on their judgments about the security issues of the country.
I made a decision that Saddam Hussein is a threat, that he has proved himself to be a master of miscalculation. Miscalculated an eight year war with Iran-- a million people dead. Miscalculated invading Kuwait, miscalculating lighting oil well rigs on fire, miscalculating sending 36 scuds into Israel, miscalculated trying to assassinate a former President of the United States, miscalculated his own military strength, miscalculated our judgment about his miscalculations-- which he continues to do.
And in the final analysis, I decided that it was important, given Colin Powell’s and the President’s assurance that we would go through the United Nations, we would respect the international process, we’d do the inspections, and we would go through that process as a means of holding him accountable. And I said in my floor speech the day of the vote, "If the President decides to go unilaterally and make a joke of the inspection process, and simply uses this as an excuse to go forward, I will oppose him. If he goes preemptively, simply as a means of regime change, not as a mechanism of the enforcement of weapons of mass destruction component, I will oppose him."
And that’s why I’ve been pressing so hard for the United States to build the international support, to bring other nations along with us, so that we operate in the position of greatest strength, so we protect our troops, protect our interests, and proceed forward in a way that allows us to manage the post-war effort and the War on Terror effectively. And that is my position today. If the President tries to do it unilaterally, he’s wrong. If he builds an international coalition, then I believe we have to make those words of the United Nations mean something and we have to hold Saddam Hussein accountable to the highest standards in inspection and compliance.
Not for one moment does Kerry consider threat status, and the word “imminent” never escapes his lips. Like everyone else Kerry assumes Saddam to be dangerous, concealing weapons programs, and not serious about complying with UN resolutions. Even in February of last year Kerry’s one stipulation is that Bush build an international coalition. Kerry doesn’t say this coalition must be approved by the UN – indeed that would open him up to all kinds of attacks about placing UN authority over the US – just that Bush build an international coalition.
Bush did that. 60+ countries, including such powers as the UK, Australia, Italy, Spain and Japan, are currently united to complete regime change in Iraq. While not as precarious as some of the other candidates (Dean, Clark), Kerry has dangerous footing in criticizing Bush for the war. And if I can find these quotes from Kerry, you know Karl Rove can too.
And the Bush team has yet to even cast one attack on the candidates. But that approaches fast.
"The Bush administration cannot justify the war in Iraq as a humanitarian intervention, and neither can Tony Blair," said Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director.
Atrocities such as the mass killing of Kurds would have justified humanitarian intervention, Roth said.
"But such interventions should be reserved for stopping an imminent or ongoing slaughter," he said. "They shouldn't be used belatedly to address atrocities that were ignored in the past."
Yeah? Go try telling that to the Iraqis, dude! Amazing... this is the spokesman for Human Rights Watch basically arguing that there’s a statute of limitations on mass murder. So, had Hitler politically survived WWII, or had Slobodan Milosevic politically survived the Kosovo war Human Rights Watch would oppose any effort to remove them from power by force? The lengths to which the Left will castrate their own principles for sake of spiting Bush are grotesque.
Not so funnyman Al Franken physically assaulted a man who tried to shout down presidential candidate Howard Dean at the candidate’s Tuesday rally. Franken claims he was defending freedom of speech – well, that of the person whose view he supports.
The tussle left Franken's trademark thick-rim glasses broken, but he said he was not injured.
Franken - who seemed in a state of shock and out of breath after the incident - was helped back to his feet by several people who watched the tussle. Police arrived soon after.
"I got down low and took his legs out," said Franken afterwards.
Franken said he's not backing Dean but merely wanted to protect the right of people to speak freely. "I would have done it if he was a Dean supporter at a Kerry rally," he said.
"I'm neutral in this race but I'm for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down."
Franken is so for freedom of speech he violated a man trying to express his. Last time I checked the US Constitution one person’s civil rights doesn’t take precedent over another just because it’s their rally. Franken is such a jerk. He calls himself neutral? You can't chop block somebody and say you're neutral.
Gen. Clark gives off the vibrations of a man who has no real beliefs save one: Wes Clark should be president. The rest--the actual meaning of his candidacy--he seems to be making up as he goes along. It seems a candidacy void of purpose beyond meeting the candidate's hunger. He is passionately for the war until he announces for the Democratic nomination facing an antiwar base, at which point he becomes passionately antiwar. He thanks God that George Bush and his aides are in the White House, then he says they're the worst leaders ever. Anyone can change his mind; but this is not a change, it's a swerve, and without a convincing rationale. Last week, Brit Hume asked Gen. Clark when it was that he'd "first noticed" that he--Gen. Clark--was a Democrat. There was laughter, but that was a nice big juicy softball. Gen. Clark flailed and fumbled. Later he blamed Mr. Hume for being a Republican agent.
That’s columnist Peggy Noonan’s take on General Wesley Clark. Boy, can you tell that Clinton’s people are backing Clark? They both stood for whatever worked for their political power, and nothing more.
According to officials on the independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks the US government missed several opportunities to prevent the hijackers from entering the country, including warning signs such as fraudulent passports. The report runs contrary to those government officials who claimed that nothing could have been done to prevent the terrorists from entering the country. However, it must be noted in fairness that even had the terrorists been turned away they may have just come back at a later date because before September 11 we were still in a defensive mindset; officials were geared to turn terrorists away, not aggressively track and arrest them.
Even so, it’s relevant considering the number of people pointing to our new policies as divisive, unfair, anti-immigration, a violation of civil liberties (insert typical mindless rhetoric here). These policies are in play as a result of September 11, but you’ll nonetheless find buffoons (such as Judge Collins below) who still live in the pre-September 11 world.
Yesterday's report disclosed that as many as eight of the hijackers carried passports that "showed evidence of fraudulent manipulation," while as many as five of the passports had "suspicious indicators." The report did not identify the details missed by authorities.
The report also found that at least six hijackers, including ringleader Mohamed Atta, violated U.S. immigration laws either while in the United States or while returning. Five of the hijackers aroused enough suspicion that they were questioned individually by customs or immigration inspectors but were eventually allowed to enter the United States. None of the hijackers filled out his visa application correctly, and three clearly lied on the forms, according to the report.
"There were many opportunities to stop the 9/11 plot," said commission member Jamie S. Gorelick, a former Justice Department official in the Clinton administration.
So sayeth a former Justice official from the Clinton administration. He’s technically right, but his statement avoids any self blame, considering that hijackers began planning for the attack as far back as 1998. Point being, 9-11 didn’t occur in a vacuum. I’m sure there were just as many opportunities to stop the WTC bombing in 1993, or Khobar Towers in 1996, or the embassy bombings in 1998, or the USS Cole bombing in 2000, but Clinton’s Justice Department was more concerned with Microsoft, I guess. At the same time Mr. Gorelick’s boss, former Attorney General Janet Reno, was dangerously hesitant to undertake any aggressive action towards terrorists because it conflicted with her politically correct concerns about offending Muslims.
Of course, had the Justice Department before September 11 truly profiled Arab nationals in the US, as FBI Special Agent Kenneth Williams suggested be done at civil flight schools, the civil libertarians would have screamed bloody murder. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. Indeed, even profiling Arab nationals after September 11 results in cries of racism and unfairness from the civil libertarian community. Funny, however, how they never complain about FBI profiling of serial killers, but that’s probably because most serial killers are white males.
Several current and former government officials who testified yesterday disputed such assertions, arguing that little more could have been done to detect the plotters. "I don't believe that in a visa interview, you would ever uncover a terrorist," said Mary A. Ryan, former assistant secretary for consular affairs in the State Department.
Now, this is exactly what you’d expect Mary Ryan to say. Who’s Mary Ryan, you ask? Mary Ryan was the person most responsible for the Visa Express program, which enabled several of the hijackers to acquire US visas from travel agents in Saudi Arabia instead of the usual method where a US consulate would vet them, and even worse refused to end the program after September 11. A 36-year veteran of the State Department Mrs. Ryan was also in charge when, again after September 11, at least 71 fraudulent visas were issued at an embassy in Qatar. Ryan “retired” shortly after that, but everyone knows she was forced out.
The reason that Mrs. Ryan does not believe that in a Visa interview one could uncover a terrorist is probably because Mrs. Ryan never bothered to try to while she was in charge.
In any event, the gist of the article is what we already knew. No matter their stance on the subject now, too many bureaucrats prevented either the common sense or aggressive law enforcement that could have prevented the September 11 attacks.
Well the Washington Post is running a full court press against making the tax cuts permanent by quoting the latest Congressional Budget Office predicted numbers on future deficits as gospel. Well, for gospel the CBO sure is wrong a lot. (Can someone name a time when they’ve been right?)
Where the deficit goes from here, the CBO said, will depend in part on a major decision facing Congress: whether to follow Bush's admonitions and make permanent the $1.7 trillion in tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003, or to let them expire by 2011.
If they do expire, the 2004 peak deficit would gradually decline until the books balance in 2014. But if they are extended, the government would continue to run large deficits well into the next decade.
"If you look forward, sustained, large deficits in the face of a fully operating economy will have economic consequences," warned CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former economist in the Bush White House.
Um, is that the same Bush White House that raised taxes and then lost the election because of it? Yeah, thought so. Pardon me, but I won’t be taking any economic advice from the Bush 1 crew.
Well, I won’t rerun my same rant on why the CBO numbers are so very wrong (because they calculate statically, ARRRRGH!) Instead I’ll point you to what I wrote yesterday.
Collins said the section of the USA Patriot Act is so broad that it "could be construed to include unequivocally pure speech and advocacy protected by the First Amendment," and that it "places no limitations on the type of expert advice and assistance which is prohibited."
The case was filed by the Humanitarian Law Project, an organization that said it has tried to give "human rights" training to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Marxist group designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government because of its militant activities in Turkey.
David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University and an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who argued the case, said in a statement yesterday that the decision "calls into question the government's reliance on overbroad laws imposing guilt by association in the war on terrorism.
"Our clients sought only to support lawful and nonviolent activity, yet the Patriot Act provision draws no distinction whatsoever between expert advice in human rights, designed to deter violence, and expert advice on how to build a bomb," Cole added.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said the provision of the Patriot Act "made clear that Americans are threatened as much by the person who teaches a terrorist to build a bomb as by the one who pushes the button."
The provision was an elaboration on an earlier law, enacted in 1996, that bans giving "material support" to terrorists. The USA Patriot Act's addition of the words barring "expert advice or assistance" was only a "modest, incremental" change to the earlier law, Corallo said.
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