Friday, July 18, 2003

Bush's crumbling credibility

Apologists for President Bush have repeatedly argued that he did not know the Niger documents were forgeries before referencing them in the State of the Union. But what is becoming more clear is that Bush’s ideologically driven administration persisted in its habit of accepting information that it agreed with without question, and dismissed information that it disagreed with regardless of its merit and authenticity. We have seen that in Bush’s economic estimates where info that went against the Republican tax cut mantra was chunked down the memory hole. We saw it in the environmental reports that were purged of scientific data showing evidence of global warming. And now we see it very clearly in the intelligence gathered in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Today, the Washington Post reports that the Bush administration had access to the forged Niger documents more than three months before Bush’s State of the Union speech. This was in addition to the first-hand report from a U.S. diplomat who debunked the Niger story almost a year earlier.

”The documents, which officials said appeared to be of "dubious authenticity," were distributed to the CIA and other agencies within days. But the U.S. government waited four months to turn them over to United Nations weapons inspectors who had been demanding to see evidence of U.S. and British claims that Iraq's attempted purchase of uranium oxide violated U.N. resolutions and was among the reasons to go to war.”

An AP story today reports that the White House is attempting to make excuses by claiming that even though some agencies had accessed the forged documents, the CIA did not get around to analyzing them until after the president made his speech.

”The White House sought to bolster its case as U.S. officials said that documents alleging Iraq sought uranium from Africa were obtained months before Bush cited them in making his case for war. But intelligence analysts did not look at them closely enough to know they were forgeries until after Bush had made the claim, U.S. officials say.”

This is bunk. Further down in the story an intelligence official says the reason the CIA had not formally analyzed the documents at that time is because they had already determined they were bogus.

”The official suggested analyzing the documents was not a top priority at the time because the CIA had already investigated their substance.”

This is no doubt why the CIA included the “footnote” in the National Intelligence Estimate that the White House is citing today.

“The material released by the White House also included a "footnote" by the State Department that said "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are...highly dubious."

Bush has already lost credibility around the globe and, as more people begin to pay attention, he is losing it here at home as well.

Alternate State of the Union

Eric Alterman submits the following speech that Bush could have delivered on the State of the Union if he had not intended to deceive and mislead the American people:

 “Saddam Hussein has no nuclear-weapons program. He has destroyed most of his weapons of mass destruction. He has no ties with al-Qaida, nor, insofar as we can determine, with any other major terrorist group, and even the CIA can’t pin anything on him for at least a decade. He’s a bad guy, to be sure, but one of many in the world, and we’ve used his badness when we thought it convenient. Hell, Don Rumsfeld even paid him a visit as Ronald Reagan’s private emissary and didn’t find time to mention it.
           Now, we are about to embark on a war that may never end. Sure, we will cream them in the main combat phase — how could we not? — but after that our troops will remain in Iraq, alone and vulnerable to daily attacks, and increasingly resented by the population, surrounded by murderous chaos. We will pay for this war by increasing the time of service of our enlisted men and women to at least a year in that country, away from their families, while I explode the deficit (robbing future generations), and cut deeply needed services to give enormous tax breaks to the wealthy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

For the Clinton obsessed

I can't think of a better way for conservatives to spend their money than to send it to John LeBoutillier to help him build his Counter-Clinton Library in Little Rock and Washington. Read all about it here.

That's right, an anti-Clinton Library that he wants to build next to the actual Clinton Presidential Library under construction in Little Rock.

"We already hear he's going to bring a bunch of egghead economists to his library to say how great the economy was when he was president," said former U.S. Rep. John LeBoutillier, R-N.Y. "And we'll find our own who can say it had nothing to do with him."

Yeah, the economy was so awful during the Clinton years. I'm so happy that Bush Jr. is in there now taking us back to the economic glory days of his father's administration.

Boutillier was briefly elected to Congress in 1980 during the Reagan landslide, but didn't stay there very long. His district is currently represented by Democrat Greg Meeks.

He says he only needs $5 million to create a place where people can relive the Whitewater investigation, the Paula Jones civil suit, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and much more!! So dig into your wallets and get those checks in the mail!

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Bad news all around

David Broder, the “dean” of the Washington press corps, makes a point today that I think has been obvious for some time - that George Bush’s 2004 election is not going to be the cakewalk that so many Republicans have thought it would be.
He cites a lot of negative stories topping the evening newscasts, but just skimming the headlines in today’s papers makes the same point.

The Washington Post is reporting that the federal budget deficit may surpass $455 billion - a remarkable turnaround in just three years.

War, tax cuts and a third year of a flailing economy have pushed this year's budget deficit to $455 billion, the Office of Management and Budget announced today. That is 50 percent higher than the Bush administration forecast five months ago.
The deficit projection is nearly $55 billion more than economists anticipated just last week, and it underscores the continuing deterioration of the government's fortunes since 2000, when the Treasury posted a $236 billion surplus. That represents a fiscal reversal exceeding $680 billion.
"It's shock and awe," said a senior Republican Senate aide yesterday as early details about the size of the deficit were first reported.

Let me summarize - The war is now costing $4 billion a month; the tax cuts have depleted our treasury and wiped out our surplus; and the economy is not looking like it will turn around any time soon.

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s latest assessment is not very promising, according to the AP:

The Federal Reserve stands ready to reduce interest rates even further if necessary to boost the sluggish economy and guard against a destabilizing fall in prices, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Tuesday.
Greenspan said that the Fed was prepared to leave interest rates at low levels "for as long as it takes" - even though rates are at a 45-year low.

It is no wonder that the Bush administration wants to keep our focus on foreign affairs. But they don’t want us to think too long and hard about this story from the NY Times:

North Korean officials told the Bush administration last week that they had finished producing enough plutonium to make a half-dozen nuclear bombs, and that they intended to move ahead quickly to turn the material into weapons, senior American officials said today.

So while we’ve been flailing about in Iraq looking for non-existent nuclear weapons programs based on forged documents, North Korea has been moving right ahead with its very real nuclear production capabilities.

Meanwhile, Bush is quoted today in the Washington Post making statements that directly contradict what his aides said just last week about the bogus uranium intelligence.

Bush said the CIA's doubts about the charge -- that Iraq sought to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore in Africa -- were "subsequent" to the Jan. 28 State of the Union speech in which Bush made the allegation. Defending the broader decision to go to war with Iraq, the president said the decision was made after he gave Saddam Hussein "a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."

Bush's position was at odds with those of his own aides, who acknowledged over the weekend that the CIA raised doubts that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger more than four months before Bush's speech.

The president's assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring: Hussein had, in fact, admitted the inspectors and Bush had opposed extending their work because he did not believe them effective.

Talk about revisionist history!

Monday, July 14, 2003

Truth vs. Accuracy

It depends on what the definition of "truth" is.... That is the new line coming from Bush officials like Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. Since trying to blame the whole bogus uranium story on the CIA chief hasn't worked as well as they had liked they are now, according to the NYTimes trying to renege and say the information was technically accurate - so no harm done right? "Bush Aides Now Say Claim on Uranium Was Accurate"

Ms. Rice, in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," said that "the statement that he made was indeed accurate. The British government did say that."

And Mr. Rumsfeld said on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" that "it turns out that it's technically correct what the president said, that the U.K. does — did say that — and still says that. They haven't changed their mind, the United Kingdom intelligence people."

But of course, the British intelligence is based on the same forged documents that the CIA already rejected! So it is just as untrue.

Here is Time magazine's take on the issue

Is a fib really a fib if the teller is unaware that he is uttering an untruth? That question appears to be the basis of the White House defense, having now admitted a falsehood in President Bush's claim, in his State of the Union address, that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa. But that defense is under mounting pressure from a variety of sources claiming that the White House could not have been unaware that the claim was false, because it had been checked out — and debunked — by U.S. intelligence a year before the President repeated it.

The big question I would like answered and no one even seems to be asking is who made these forged documents in the first place and why?

Well, that settles that...

Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer has finally cleared up that little matter about the bogus uranium report making it into the President's State of the Union speech... He says it's all just "a bunch of bull."

Thanks, Ari! I'm glad that is all finally cleared up. Now we can move on to more pressing matters like what to do about all these soldiers who keep coming home in body bags.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Iraq history quiz

(Note: The following information is compiled from an article by journalist Robert Hennelly published in The Village Voice on Aug. 11, 1992)

1. When did Saddam Hussein come to power in Iraq?
2. Who first placed Iraq on the list of terrorist nations?
3. Who took Iraq off the list of terrorist nations and when?
4. The Iran-Iraq War began in late 1980 and lasted for eight years. How many lives were lost during the conflict?
5. Place the following events in chronological order - Iraq announces it has a new chemical weapon capable of killing 100,000 people at one time; Iraq provides safe haven for Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal; the U.S. agrees to provide $210 million in federal loan guarantees to Iraq.
6. Iraq first uses chemical weapons in its war with Iran in March 1984 killing how many Iranians?
7. In June of 1984, Democratic Congressman Howard Berman of Calif. Tries to get Iraq recategorized as a terrorist state. Who dissuades him and why?
8. On Nov. 13, 1984, what diplomatic action does President Reagan take concerning Iraq?
9. On March 13, 1985, Iraq launches 32 chemical attacks killing how many Iranians?
10. From 1985 to 1990 the amount of loan guarantees to Iraq from the U.S. Export-Import Bank grows from $35 million to how much?
11. We’ve heard repeatedly how Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons “against his own people” i.e. the Kurds, but when did most of these attacks actually take place?
12. When did President George H.W. Bush sign a top-secret directive calling for closer ties to Iraq and authorizing an additional $1 billion in U.S. government backed commodity credits for Iraq?


1. July 16, 1979
2. Jimmy Carter in Dec. 1979
3. Ronald Reagan in March of 1982
4. About 750,000
5. The events are in the order that they occurred in 1982
6. Press reports cite the deaths of 5,000 soldiers contaminated by nerve gas.
7. Secretary of State George Schultz (for Reagan) saying it would “disrupt our diplomatic dialogue.”
8. He reestablishes full diplomatic ties with Iraq for the first time since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
9. Close to 5,000
10. $267 million
11. 1988: A particularly heinous attack occurs on Aug. 25, 1988, just five days after a cease fire takes hold in the Iran-Iraq War.
12. Oct. 2, 1989

My point in putting together this little quiz is to try and demonstrate the irony of our current stance on Iraq. Many of the atrocities that were cited as reasons for going to war with Iraq in 2003 actually occurred prior to the first Gulf War when we were supporting Iraq in its war against Iran. Back then, Hussein was seen as the lesser of two evils and we helped to build up his army with billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees so that he could counter the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic revolution in Iran. I find it extremely ironic to read back over the history of U.S.-Iraq relations in the 1980s and see all the reports of Hussein building up chemical weapon stockpiles, seeking nuclear weapons capability and consorting with terrorists - and all the while having the Reagan and Bush administrations apologizing for and supporting him at every turn. Up until the point when he was suddenly no longer useful.

For an excellent summary and links to documents check out Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein at The National Security Archive.