HYPOCRISY AND HUBRIS

“A pitiful week, which found Colin Powell apologizing for a fraudulent State Department report on terrorism that suffered from shockingly wrong statistics and apparent, er, printing problems”

BY JOHN TULLY
THE LOS ANGELES SUN
Jan. 25 2005

There are weeks on that tiny hill full of impressive buildings and important people when swirling winds truly collide. Halfway through 2004, the June sun was shining, the war was spiraling out of control, and nobody except maybe Joe Biden had the faintest trace of a viable plan to stop digging the hole .

It had been an extraordinary few days, one which brought William Jefferson Clinton back to the limelight that he loves so much. The former president’s book tour received a curious mixture of scoffing and slathering from the networks while they just about ignored a visit from the Special Prosecutor to the Oval Office, He was there to find out who gave Bob Novak the identity of C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame, which ruined her long undercover career.

A pitiful week, which found Colin Powell apologizing for a fraudulent State Department report on terrorism that suffered from shockingly wrong statistics and apparent, er, printing problems. The original report stated that terrorism acts in the world against America, for the year 2003, had gone down.

It hadn’t .

Terrorism acts actually went up for the year; what do you know? It turned out that they had only looked at part of the year and in fact attacks were up by a record amount.

A typical week, as the Vice-President was given a break by the Supreme Court when it sent the now infamous lawsuit about his energy policy meetings back down to the lower courts.

As usual the mainstream media got lost in the shuffle about Ken Lay and Big Oil running energy policy. Forgotten once again was the release in 2003 of curious Energy Task-Force documents that contained detailed Iraqi oil field maps, pipelines and terminals, and a list of “Foreign Suitors of Iraqi Oil Field Contracts”.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, it had been a long week for Congressman Henry Waxman who called for a Select House committee to investigate the abuses at a prison named Abu-Ghraib after weeks of outright stonewalling by the administration.

A partial and select document dump of memos late on a Tuesday evening by the White House, showed that the President had approved a document on February 7, 2002 approving a new set of interrogation techniques that fall outside the law of the Geneva Convention and could be used in future conflicts.

Now, six months later, the fellow who cleared those torture memos will be our new Attorney General, the head of the C.I.A. who claimed the intelligence about Iraq’s imminent threat was a “slam dunk” gets a medal, and the President’s adviser on national security for the past four years and two failed wars gets to head up the State Department.

Oy that Bush….

We Were So Naive

2005 THE LOS ANGELES SUN

An Open Letter To: People Who Thought This War Was a Good Idea.

A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

An Open Letter to:
People who thought this war was a good idea.
Subtitle: You know who you are.


JUNE 19 2004

You don’t get to sneer about how the evidence was there.

You don’t get to scoff about how even Bill Clinton, Germany and France thought there were WMD’s.

You don’t get to shriek about media-elite liberals just Bush-hating, conspiracy theorists whining about Halliburton, and Saddam gassing his own people:

…Not when our leaders were so fully unprepared for this war that there was no legitimate flank or rear security support for the thousands of vehicles, many endlessly breaking down, in that convoy that stretched across the Iraqi desert at the beginning of the war.

…Not when they couldn’t even bribe Turkey into letting us enter Iraq from the north.

…Not when there weren’t enough MRE’s, tanks that would work in the sand and flack-jackets for our troops .

…Not when our Marines suddenly became gendarmes on the streets of Baghdad while we completely disbanded both the Iraqi army and police and the country was being destroyed from the bottom up as the looters demolished everything that the precision guided bombs did not.

…Not when Republican Senators Richard Shelby, Chuck Hagel and Dick Lugar had been screaming about the need for a plan post-war Iraq and what to do about the Shiites/Sunnis/Kurds on The News Hour and Charlie Rose virtually every night for the twelve months leading up to the start of the attack.

…Not when there was no budget for the war, funding was asked for on the eve of the initial strike and there have been no plans to pay for the ever-increasing cost.

…Not when Deputy Secretary Of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is asked to give the number of Americans killed in Iraq during a congressional commitee on April 29 2004 and he’s off by over two hundred soldiers.

…Not when they won’t let us see the bodies at Dover and undercount casualties received in combat by the thousands.

Now bugger off and prepare for the trials.

©2004 THE LOS ANGELES SUN

THE MISSION CREEPS


BY JOHN TULLY
THE LOS ANGELES SUN
JUNE 1 2004

The Today Show, America’s number one source for morning infotainment seemed almost obsessed by two stories in the Fall of Two-Thousand Two. Elizabeth Smart, a young girl from Utah had been abducted from her home by a man at gunpoint that summer and it continued to be a big story. In October, seemingly random citizens of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area were being gunned down by a mysterious shooter.

Remember?

Katie and Matt stoically opened the show almost every morning with these two stories.
At the same time, a war in Iraq was looming and the shadow of a vote in Congress giving the President authorization to use military force was creeping forward. The vote was even more crucial because the midterm elections were just ahead in November and the GOP was playing the Patriot card like the pros they are.

The Bush administration had strolled into power promising anyone within earshot that they would be exactly the opposite of everything the Clinton administration was and added that the “W” missing from some computer keyboards was not funny.

They vowed to be different from President Clinton: different on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and a plan of disengagement was put in place as a way to “back off” and let the two sides work it out for a while.

Mr. Clinton had “coddled” North Korea they said, and now the Bush White House was going to get tough. Moscow and Beijing would know who the new boss was with the plan going forward to build a missile defense shield.

Throw out Kyoto because it’s bad for business and bad for America, and by the way, tell the domestic bad guys that John Ashcroft was putting law and order back into the Justice Department where it belonged.

Presidential transition teams notwithstanding, the grownups were now in charge, and in the first nine months of this new administration they made that fact perfectly clear.

Then the whole world watched in horror as airplanes struck New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

This was truly a call to leadership for Mr. Bush.
But perhaps as a sign of things to come, his initial statements thereafter and his address in the pit at Ground Zero on a bullhorn was almost universally praised by the mainstream media though neither speech had much substance or style. Various pundits declared that simply “everything had changed.”

The rest is history.

Two wars, three tax cuts, and the whole world is watching in horror. Sixty miles outside of Kabul, Afghanistan the Taliban have taken over again. Opium production has tripled by some accounts, sure to sweep obscene amounts of heroin into Europe this year. The same conditions that led the country to harbor Al-Qaeda before that war are present once again and we have too few troops there to do the job.

Iraq and Afghanistan have taken close to a thousand lives and wounded at least five-thousand troops. There have been over thirteen-thousand medi-vacs or medical evacuations-mostly American forces. The Bush administration, while publically trying to form a coalition of countries willing to put boots on the ground in Iraq for violations of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1441, had privately trashed that very same U.N. as “irrelevant” at every opportunity.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld scoffed and sneered his way through press conferences, dismissively declaring that he knew where the Weapons of Mass Destruction were, and did we mention that the U.N. is irrelevant? And FRANCE.

The CIA, DIA, FBI, independent intelligence, Congressman Jim McDermott, The Dixie Chicks and The Pope all expressed concern about the attack on Iraq but the administration pooh-poohed all dissent. While Prime Minister Tony Blair was getting absolutely grilled by the House of Commons, the U.S. Congress was eerily silent and on the first day of the War on Iraq Kent Conrad seemed to be all alone on the Senate floor as he lamented the lack of even a basic budget for the conflict and it’s aftermath.

There was a complete breakdown of even basic diplomacy shown by President Bush, failing to privately convince skeptical nations to join him in the fight as his father had done in the first Gulf War and using words like “crusade” “bring ’em on” and “axis of evil” to further alienate the Muslim world.

The mealy-mouthed-chicken-hawk-think tankers in Northwest D.C. kept the pot stirring as well with talks of regime change, disarmament and virtual screaming about resolution 1441. Despite the evidence of dissipating mustard and sarin gas over the last ten years in Iraq, continued flyovers, sanctions and inspections, we were told there may be nuclear program-related activities; the ultimate McGuffin of the war debate. While the term imminent threat was never officially used, the talk of a nuke mushroom cloud not being our smoking gun got the point across stoutly. Throw in chatter about forty-five minute deployment and unmanned aerial vehicles and the cake was baked.

The military and diplomatic tracks never intersected. Spring came around, and the U.S. demanded that Saddam destroy his conventional Al -Samoud missiles even while almost 100,000 troops were amassed on Iraq’s border and CNN was reporting that the first attack was only days away. “Might as well go in now that we’ve gone in” was all the noise that week.

President Bush of course had the complete support of Congress to go right ahead in, and everyone north of MacArthur Boulevard knew he didn’t really have to go back for more approval. That crucial vote in Congress, that blank check, is now brought up whenever there is criticism of the war and rightly so. Because not one of these Senators or Congressmen were really pressed by the Press on this vote, they showed no guts in standing up to the march to Baghdad. Perhaps if the morning shows and popular media had pumped up the voting issue and specific plans for post-war Iraq like the Laci Peterson/MichaelJackson/Elizabeth Smart/Sniper stories with full saturation coverage a real debate would have resulted.

We’ll never know.

In the middle of a War on Terrorism The United States Of America invaded a sovereign Muslim nation of twenty-five million people. Because there were no real plans for the occupation, and no substantive debate about it, we’ve got eighteen year-olds from Cedar Rapids, Iowa negotiating foreign policy on the streets of Fallujah.

This arrogant smug administration has made our country less safe. We’ve lost credibility and our moral standing in the world. Most importantly there can be no doubt that this invasion has created more terrorists that hate America.

Goodness Gracious.

©2004 NY HERALD SUN

MR. ROVE’S WILD RIDE

MR. ROVE’S WILD RIDE

By JOHN S. TULLY

October 8 2002

Los Angeles — Politics is not a pretty thing. Look no further than this week in Washington D. C. Former Vice-president Albert Gore Jr. finally brought up the huge marsupial in the room. Criminy! folks, that’s gonna’ wake the whole herd up mate!

Senate Leader Tom Daschle, who seemed to have stashed his opinions in a lock box this summer finally blew his top on the Senate floor denouncing President Bush’s comment at a recent fundraiser that the “Senate” is more interested in “special interests” than in the Security Of Americans. That very same fundraiser pushed the President past Bill Clinton’s record of $126 million raised in one year and it’s only the last week of September.

Stepping right up to the plate this week was a small group of Senators who have been all too quiet this summer with any dissent of this administration’s dual War On Terrorism and Iraq. In fact the debate on war had bipassed “if” and went straight through to “when” and “who’s with us” by the time Mr. Gore finally cleared his throat Monday in San Francisco.

Actual questions were raised about our effectiveness in toppling Saddam and how to proceed post-war in Iraq among others. Sen. Robert Byrd paced and shook with disdain as he read Bush’s remarks from the newspaper on the senate floor. Sen. Daschle’s voice broke as he defended his colleagues, spoke of members who have served in the military and demanded an apology from the President. He also spoke of not politicizing the nation’s debate. It was a classic case of “too little,too late” Back in June an internal G.O.P. playbook, authored by White House political strategist Karl Rove got into the hands of the opposition. The Powerpoint presentation suggested Republican candidates play up the “War” to keep the political dialogue on their side of the fence.

The relative silence of the Democrats this summer only strengthened the resolve of the true hawks in the administration and a bipartisan resolution for war will almost definitely be passed by both houses. For GOP candidates however, the strategy might not pay off. A new poll released this week shows that while the majority of Americans are for action against Iraq, three out of five want our allies to sign on. Colin Powell would like to go back to the Security Council soon with a joint resolution from the United States Congress and it looks as if he will have it.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, this momentary truce focuses the debate back onto the domestic front where, as usual, it is the Economy…stupid. Crikey! The bugger just ate his own heed!

Politics is not a pretty creature.

©2002 The New York Herald Sun

Surprise Surprise, Halliburton Used Shell Companies To Get Contracts

THE NEW YORK TIMES
by James Risen and Mark Mazzetti

WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq, according to Congressional investigators and former Blackwater officials.

While it is not clear how many of those businesses won contracts, at least three had deals with the United States military or the Central Intelligence Agency, according to former government and company officials. Since 2001, the intelligence agency has awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates, according to a United States government official.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week released a chart that identified 31 affiliates of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. The network was disclosed as part of a committee’s investigation into government contracting. The investigation revealed the lengths to which Blackwater went to continue winning contracts after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007. That episode and other reports of abuses led to criminal and Congressional investigations, and cost the company its lucrative security contract with the State Department in Iraq.

The network of companies — which includes several businesses located in offshore tax havens — allowed Blackwater to obscure its involvement in government work from contracting officials or the public, and to assure a low profile for any of its classified activities, said former Blackwater officials, who, like the government officials, spoke only on condition of anonymity. Continue reading Surprise Surprise, Halliburton Used Shell Companies To Get Contracts

Republicans Defend Torture With Two Tasty Words: Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi and Torture

AFTER DOWNING STREET

rahpel

By John Nichols – www.thenation.com

That House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been a disappointing leader for House Democrats, few serious observers of the congressional condition will deny. But now, she appears to be something more troubling: a serious hindrance to the fight against the use of the crudest and most objectionable torture techniques.

Democrats and Republicans with a conscience have gotten a good deal of traction in recent months in their battle to identify the use by U.S. interrogators of waterboarding – a technique that simulates drowning in order to cause extreme mental distress to prisoners — as what it is: torture. Arizona Senator John McCain, a GOP presidential contender, has been particularly powerful in his denunciations of this barbarous endeavor. And Senate Intelligence Committee chair Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, and key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have effectively pressed the issue on a number of fronts.

Now, however, comes the news that Pelosi knew as early as 2002 that the U.S. was using waterboarding and other torture techniques and, far from objecting, appears to have cheered the tactics on.

The Washington Post reports that Pelosi, who was then a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, was were informed by CIA officials at a secret briefing in September 2002, that waterboarding and other forms of torture were being used on suspected al-Queda operatives. That’s bad. Even worse is the revelation that Pelosi was apparently supportive of the initiative.

According to the news reports, Pelosi has no complaint about waterboarding during a closed-door session she attended with Florida Congressman Porter Goss, a Republican who would go on to head the Central Intelligence Agency, Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts and Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham.

“The reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement,” recalls Goss.

How encouraging? It is reported that two of the legislators demanded to know if waterboarding and other methods that were being employed “were tough enough” forms of torture to produced the desired levels of mental anguish to force information from suspects who, under the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Constitution, cannot be subjected to cruel or unusual punishment.

Was Pelosi one of the “tough-enough” cheerleaders for waterboarding? That is not clear, as the speaker has refused to comment directly regarding her knowledge of torture techniques and encouragement of their use. Another member of the House who is closely allied wit Pelosi did tell the Post, however, that the California Democrat attended the session, recalled that waterboarding was discussed, and “did not object” at the time to that particular torture technique.

If this is the case, Pelosi has provided aid and comfort to the Bush administration’s efforts to deviate not just from the standards set by international agreements regarding war crimes but from the provision of the Bill of Rights that establishes basic requirements with regard to the treatment of prisoners who in the custody of the United States.

Those deviations are precisely the sort of impeachable offenses that Pelosi has said are “off the table.” Her association with the administration on the matter of torture necessarily calls into question the speaker’s credibility on questions of how and when to hold the administration to account. It also begs a more mundane political question: At a point when Republicans like John McCain are earning points with their forthright stances against waterboarding, isn’t the credibility and the potential effectiveness of the House Democratic Caucus as an honest player in the debate profoundly harmed by the involvement of its leader in behind-the-scenes meetings that by all accounts encouraged the use of that technique?