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Impeach Bush

WMD: What Went Wrong?
The Washington Post
By Jane Harman
Wednesday, June 11, 2003; Page A35

The prewar intelligence case on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was convincing, and my vote in favor of the congressional resolution to use force against Saddam Hussein was based on the strength of the briefings I received. Again and again the president, the vice president, the secretaries of state and defense, the director of central intelligence and other senior administration officials told us that the overriding reason for using force against Hussein was to end the imminent threat his WMD posed.

That so far the United States has found only trace signs of a weapons program -- most notably two trailer-mounted laboratories that could have been used for bioweapons work -- is cause for grave concern. We do not need a frenzy, but we do need coolheaded analysis and a plan of action to get answers now. In this, Congress -- in particular the intelligence committees -- has a critical role to play.

The first and most urgent task is to figure out why we have not yet found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and redouble our efforts to find them. While Hussein's supporters may no longer control WMD infrastructure, these weapons and the material to make them potentially are available to unsavory characters. They might be in the hands of factions in Iraq vying for power, of terrorist groups or of other regimes hostile to the United States and other countries -- leaving the United States and its allies no safer than before the war. The scientists associated with the WMD programs may be tempted to go to work for rogue groups. Finding the elements of the programs and bringing them under strict international control, as well as finding any associated technicians and scientists and persuading them to cooperate with international authorities, are critical.

It appears that the initial war strategy in Iraq did not adequately map out a plan for locating, seizing, securing and examining suspected WMD-related sites. A just-launched Iraq Survey Group appears to have only several hundred inspectors searching for Iraq's WMD. Given the importance of WMD to the war aims, this apparent lack of a strong plan is mystifying and must be explained.

The second task is to review the prewar intelligence case and the portrayal of intelligence by proponents of military action in Iraq. Even if large amounts of WMD are eventually found in Iraq, important questions related to intelligence must be examined. We must ask if the prewar dossier was "actionable" enough to allow the military to pinpoint locations, types and quantities of Hussein's WMD. Intelligence collection methods and support to clandestine and military operations must be reviewed, as well as the analysis of the imminence of the threat and evidence to support claims that, should he have obtained fissile material, Hussein would have developed a nuclear weapon within a year. A review also must explore the size and nature of Hussein's other WMD programs, and possible Iraqi ties to terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.

There have also been questions about the public portrayal of intelligence by senior policymakers. Preliminary reviews indicate that public statements did not always portray the detailed caveats about Iraqi WMD that intelligence reports generally provided. In addition, questions about possible pressure on analysts to alter their judgments and about possible suppression of alternative assessments must be a central part of a thorough and detailed review.

The third task is to understand the strategic implications of what we are learning as the United States addresses WMD challenges in Iran and North Korea, the terrorist interest in WMD and the enforcement of the international nonproliferation regime. These reviews may demonstrate the difficulty of producing intelligence "actionable" enough to support a national security strategy of preemption, perhaps prompting the administration to review its foreign policy approach. Early findings also reinforce the assessment that a quick exit is not possible and that Iraq will require a broad, deep and lengthy U.S. presence.

In the long term, just as the 9/11 attacks brought into sharp focus the need to increase intelligence resources in the fight against terrorism, the Iraq conflict brings into sharp focus the need for a similar marshaling of intelligence resources in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The writer, a representative from California, is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
Wow!

Democrats are handed a gift, an impeachable offense, but instead of using it against Bush they want to use it against the intelligence agencies.

What do we know for sure? Bush said Iraq had nuclear weapons. He lied. He said they had aluminum tubes that could be used for nuclear weapons. He lied. He said they were getting nuclear material from Niger. He lied. He said they had chemical weapons facilities at the Fallujah II facility in Iraq. He lied. He said Iraq was arming missiles to be used against US forces. He lied.

Today, the CIA says the reports Bush used were far less certain than he maintained. In fact, they were almost sure the Niger nonsense which Bush used in his State of the Union was not true. But, instead of blaming Bush for bungling the war and lying about a threat to our national security, this democrat wants to blame intelligence agencies.

There could be a couple things going on. Democrats could be playing nice now so they can get the republicans to have open hearings which would shame Bush and his entire Administration.

This democrat is so lame or programmed that he can't see free himself from the Bush propaganda. He needs to get a grip on reality. Bush took us to war based on lies. He needs to expose those lies with every breath.

So the first problem will always be Bush lied about Iraq having WMD and he lied about a threat to our national security. The second problem then is the Congress. They believed his lies and failed to ask the necessary questions. For example, if Bush and the CIA had absolute proof of WMD why didn't Bush give the evidence to the UN inspectors? If Bush had proof, why didn't any other country (except Britain) believe him? If Bush or the CIA had proof, what the hell was it? To this day it appears they simply made it all up. A mistake? Hardly. The US doesn't go to war based on MISTAKES. There were plenty of warning signs and it's shameless to blame intelligence after the fact. Congress should have known the facts before they committed the US to war.

The third and final problem is the media. Why didn't they demand evidence, proof and facts before Bush went to war? Why did they push Bush's war propaganda 24-hours a day? Why do they continue to allow him to look for evidence after the war is over? Shouldn't a president have proof before he goes to war? Do we let presidents guess about why they're taking us to war and do we hope he's right? The list of questions the press failed to ask resulted in Bush abusing his presidential power.

This is the first scandal I can think of (since McCarthyism) where the press was a major participant in a massive political scandal. Without the press pushing war around the clock month after month, Americans wouldn't have fallen for the lies that led us to war.

 
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Reaping the World's Disfavor
Washington Post
By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, June 11, 2003; Page A35

Save for the continuing search for its justification, the war in Iraq is over. For the United States, if not yet for Iraq, the consequences are clear. We have established yet again the utter supremacy of our hard power.

Unfriendly governments tremble anew at our armed might and our willingness to use it. Some, to be sure, are hard at work building their atomic arsenals, and the last thing we need is a trembling adversary with a nuclear trigger. Still, if the challenge before us is military, our government is justly confident we can deter or defeat it.

But when it comes to our soft power -- our ability to persuade nations to work with us, to inspire their people to admire us and our social arrangements and ideals -- we have all but unilaterally disarmed. At least so long as George W. Bush is president.

Consider some new polling by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which measured public opinion in 44 nations during the summer and fall of 2002 and took further soundings in 21 nations in late April and May. All told, 54,000 people were surveyed, the clear majority of whom were mightily peeved at the United States in general and Bush in particular.

Not surprisingly, the number of people holding a favorable view of the United States has plunged in the wake of the war. Last summer the percentage of Germans who viewed us positively was 61 percent; today it's 45 percent. In France, our favorability rating has declined from 63 percent then to 43 percent now. In Spain, where Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's government supported the war, U.S. favorability ratings are down to a scant 38 percent.

Look at the numbers a little more and you see unmistakable evidence that support for the Western alliance is coming unglued. The idea that Western Europe should have an approach to security and diplomatic matters that's more independent of the United States won the support of 76 percent of the French, 62 percent of the Spanish, 61 percent of the Italians, 57 percent of the Germans. If the Bush administration's goal was to keep the European Union from becoming a rival superpower, its war seems to have had precisely the opposite effect.

In nations that have not been our historical allies, fear of the United States has skyrocketed. The number of Indonesians who are "very or somewhat worried" that the United States could become a threat to their country is 74 percent, and the same apprehension was voiced by 72 percent of Nigerians and 71 percent of both Russians and Turks.

The Indonesian apprehension is worth some special scrutiny. On any number of questions, respondents from the world's fourth most populous country showed themselves to be overwhelmingly antagonistic to American viewpoints and positions. Partly this reflects a perspective now common to the Muslim world. But I suspect it also results from Indonesians' rage at their treatment by the International Monetary Fund and Robert Rubin, then U.S. treasury secretary, during the East Asian financial meltdown of the late '90s. With Indonesia facing an economic collapse the likes of which the United States hadn't seen since the Hoover administration, the mandate from the Americans was to cut back spending -- which had the predictable consequence of plunging Indonesia into a profound and lasting depression.

For the rest of the planet, the problem isn't Clinton's guys, it's Bush. In nation after nation, people affirm democratic ideals that they still generally associate with the United States -- but not with its president. In the 21 nations polled last month, respondents in 17 said that the problem with the United States was "mostly Bush" rather than "Americans in general."

All of which follows quite logically from the administration's reversals of what had been America's fundamental relationships to other nations. In disdaining the United Nations and NATO, in proclaiming for his nation the right to preemptive war and immunity from international standards, and in waging a war based on trumped-up allegations, George W. Bush has clearly decided that it is better for the United States to be feared than admired.

Our greatest presidents haven't viewed foreign relations as requiring this kind of trade-off. Under Franklin Roosevelt, the United States had the world's mightiest arsenal and was its beacon of hope. But that's the kind of synthesis that Bush seems incapable even of imagining.

Besides, it was Bush's father -- the special envoy to China, U.N. ambassador and CIA director -- who felt comfortable in the world. Our current Bush is the guy who almost never traveled abroad until he became governor of Texas. On the contrary, he revels in the role of the belligerent provincial. And after 21/2 years as president, damned if he hasn't remade the world in his own xenophobic image of it.

The writer is editor at large of the American Prospect.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
I dare say this boy has lost it. Reread this line regarding nuclear weapons;

"Some, to be sure, are hard at work building their atomic arsenals, and the last thing we need is a trembling adversary with a nuclear trigger. Still, if the challenge before us is military, our government is justly confident we can deter or defeat it."

We can deter or defeat nuclear weapons? Talk about hubris. The reasons countries are arming themselves with nukes is precisely because Bush is president and has threatened to attack anyone he wants without facts, proof or evidence. N. Korea has proven to the world that Bush won't touch a country that's armed and Iraq has proven Bush will make made for TV wars with defenseless countries. So the world is arming itself with nukes because of Bush. We need to accept the fact that the current regime is making the US and the world a far less safe place.

For more on the real reason on why the Indonesian economy collapsed go to Indonesia Economy, or go to the BBC where they maintain their debt payments exceed their GDP.

The rest of the article appears to be accurate.

 
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Why the Lies About WMD Matter
CounterPunch
By RAY CLOSE/former CIA analyst
June 10, 2003

It seems to me that the public controversy over the WMD issue has gotten considerably off track --- in a way that diminishes its overall importance to the country and, incidentally, depreciates our contribution to the debate.

This became clear to me the other evening when I watched a discussion between Senators Richard Lugar and Joseph Biden, senior Republican and Democratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee, respectively. They both agreed that the task of collecting and evaluating intelligence about a subject like WMD was very difficult, but that in the case of Iraq, it really didn't matter very much whether prohibited weaponry was ever discovered. After all, it was clear that Saddam Hussein was a monster, and that a commendable service was performed by the United States in eliminating him. The rest of the world seems to be concerned that America's declared reasons for launching a war are turning out to be somewhat dubious, observed both Lugar and Biden, but the important thing is that the American people don't seem to care very much about that; the great majority feel that the outcome has been a resounding national triumph.

That attitude has contributed to what I see today as a real diversion from the important central issue. The debate has indeed now degenerated almost entirely into a mean-spirited squabble between various bureaucratic elements in Washington over how certain intelligence about Iraq was evaluated, and whether partisan elements might have manipulated the raw intelligence data to support particular policy objectives. On a certain level these are still very legitimate issues that deserve to be investigated with great care. The debate surrounding them has not been irrelevant or without purpose. But that's not really my point.

Rather, I think the time has come to try to lift the substance of the dialogue to a much higher level. We need to leave behind the haggling over methods and procedures and get back to some very important principles that have been violated.

We might start by reminding our audience that there are several subjects that are NOT germane to the current debate, because they are not questioned by anyone. These include the following:

1. That Saddam Hussein was a vile despot who terrified and enslaved the population of Iraq;

2. That Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, that he used them against his own people, and that he probably would not have hesitated to reconstitute his WMD program at some future date if given the opportunity.

Those subjects should be excluded from the debate entirely.

The issues that are critically important, on the other hand, are these:

1. The Bush Administration declared that it had irrefutable, ironclad proof that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat to the safety and security of the United States, and this claim was used as the justification for launching a preemptive war.

The whole question of whether initiating preemptive military action is appropriate at all for a democracy like ours, under any circumstances, is a subject that deserves much more careful debate on the national level here in the United States than it has received --- in terms of its moral justification, its constitutional legitimacy and its practical utility as an instrument of national policy. But on one vital point EVERYONE is already in complete agreement --- that preemptive war cannot possibly be considered unless there is compelling evidence of an imminent threat to our national security. Not an unprovoked attack against a POTENTIAL FUTURE threat; not a war based on an intellectual conviction that harm COULD be done to us someday by a particular foreign enemy. Those are ideas that are new and unique to the self-proclaimed "Bush Doctrine". We are, by our own established moral and legal constraints, limited to launching military attacks ONLY against an enemy who poses an IMMINENT threat to our physical safety and our vital national interests, or who has already committed an act of war against the United States. There has been no national debate in which a change in those long-accepted and time-honored criteria has even been proposed for consideration, much less approved.

Today, it is very clear that no legitimate casus belli existed. In fact, many of the intelligence reports on which this momentous decision was based, and which were used to give that decision a patina of moral justification, were largely unsubstantiated. Some of the intelligence was even based on documentation that was known at the time to have been forged. In other words, it should be acknowledged beyond any question that the claimed "imminent threat to the safety of America" was a complete myth.

2. The main issue, we must conclude, goes far beyond the question of how available information was evaluated and used in making policy decisions. We are not talking just about errors of judgment on the part of earnest and conscientious analysts in Washington, and we are not denigrating the quality of U.S. surveillance technology or challenging the probity of our human intelligence sources. Nor are we limiting our concern to the question of whether or not certain individual officials in the Administration tinkered with the intelligence process to please their bosses or to support partisan political agendas --- serious as such corruption would certainly be.

What emerges as beyond dispute is the simple and straightforward reality that a preemptive war was launched on the basis of intelligence information that was represented to the American people and to the world by our leadership as incontrovertible proof of conditions that they must have known perfectly well did not really exist. Thousands died in that war. Immeasurable physical damage was done to an entire nation. A critically important principle of international law was violated and mocked. That was not only dishonest and immoral. It was a crime against those values for which America stands most proud.

Ray Close was a CIA analyst in the Near East division. He is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and can be reached at: close@counterpunch.org.

Commentary:
I have a better way of putting it. An entire nation was destroyed so we could feel good about ourselves. If Saddam was the problem, why didn't we take him out--say with a bullet, instead of destroying the whole damn country? The reason is simple, made for TV wars are good for ratings. TV ratings, presidential ratings, advertizer ratings, and the ratings for members of congress.

But the end result was devastating. The US can no longer lead the free world. They either fear, hate or don't trust us. We can't lead the world when they don't want to follow us anymore.

But damn we feel good about ourselves.

 
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WeaponsGate
CounterPunch
WAYNE MADSEN

June 10, 2003

You wouldn't know if from listening to the leading Democratic candidates for President, but "Weaponsgate" may ultimately bring about the downfall of the Bush regime and its allies in London, Canberra, and elsewhere. The neo-conservatives may have also finally stirred something in the Fourth Estate, which has suddenly begun challenging the lying echo chambers in the White House and Number 10 Downing Street.

The arrogance displayed by the Bush regime, somewhat surprising since it gained power through a fraudulent election process, is what may result in its eventual undoing. Bush may or may not ever realize how he was ill served by the neo-con blight that took root within his administration, particularly within the Department of Defense. But the historians and scholars, who will look back on what turned the tide for a supposedly "popular" war president, will point to the self-described "cabal" whose lies brought about a credibility gap unseen in the United States since the days of Watergate. In fact, Bush's "Weaponsgate" will be viewed as a more serious scandal than Watergate because 1) U.S. and allied military personnel were killed and injured as a result of the caper; 2) Innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, died in a needless military adventure; and 3) the political effects of the scandal extended far beyond U.S. shores to the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, and other countries.

Other effects of Weaponsgate are already apparent. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the majordomo of the neo-cons within the Pentagon, cannot find anyone to take the place of outgoing Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki. Generals Tommy Franks and Shinseki's vice chief, General John "Jack" Keane, want no part of the job. After winning a lightning war against Iraq, Franks suddenly announced his retirement. He and Keane witnessed how Rumsfeld and his coterie of advisers and consultants, who never once lifted a weapon in the defense of their country, constantly ignored and publicly abused Shinseki. Army Secretar y and retired General Tom White resigned after a number of clashes with Rumsfeld and his cabal. The Commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, Lt. Gen. James Conway, said he was surprised that he encountered no chemical weapons in Iraq.

Perhaps Conway was surprised because that is what the neo-cons wanted him and his fellow Marines to believe. Conway and his troops were merely additional victims of "Weaponsgate." Paul Wolfowitz, a chief neo-con cabalist, let the cat out of the bag in Singapore when he said that everyone could agree on a cause of war being Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. That would be the common denominator in justifying an attack, whether or not such weapons could ever be found. Wolfowitz also stated that Iraq's swimming on a "sea of oil" was the reason it had to be attacked and not, for example, North Korea. The fact that weapons of mass destruction are actually possessed by North Korea, a country lacking any significant natural resources, is of no concern to the neo-cons. Oil was and is the bottom line in Iraq. Sometimes, even the liars trip up and actually tell the truth. But only in a world where the neo-cons have enjoyed a stranglehold on the corporate media can Wolfowitz's supporters claim he was misquoted and the UK's Guardian be forced to print a clarification, one step short of a retraction. Congenital liars like Wolfowitz should never be given the benefit of the doubt on any issue..

Bush's Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, who has had his own problem with recognizing the truth, was obviously concerned how the history books will treat him. He decided to leave his post mid-term rather than face the music over his repeated distortions about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as a casus belli. Other Bush administration officials, political and career, have also jumped off what appears to be a rapidly sinking ship of state. They include Richard Haass, who as the director for policy planning, was number three at the State Department; Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency administrator; Rand Beers, the senior National Security Council director for counter-terrorism; Charlotte Beers, the State Department chief for International Public Diplomacy (who was said to have resigned for -- get this bit of Soviet-style spin -- "health reasons"), and State Department career Foreign Service officers John H. Brown, John Brady Kiesling, and Mary A. Wright.

Then there was the sudden firing of retired General Jay Garner as U.S. viceroy of Iraq. He was "outed" as having past associations with the neo-cons, especially the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). But when Garner started to show some independence in Baghdad, especially with regard to handing over some power to Iraqis, he was quickly sacked and replaced by Paul Bremer, a former Heritage Foundation flunky and Kissinger Associates director who was obviously more in tune with the ideological bent of the neo-cons. In a Pentagon where the civilian neo-cons don't trust the uniformed flag rank officers, Garner likely became a threat, a potential Trojan horse who had to be replaced by someone whose loyalty was beyond question.

The most dramatic revolt against George W. Bush and Tony Blair can be seen from the high-level leaks of classified information from the top levels of American and British intelligence. Just consider that the United States has never experienced such repeated leaks of classified information since the years of the spies in the 1980s, a time when a number of intelligence employees were caught selling U.S. secrets to the Russians and Israelis. Yet, the current leaks are not acts of treason, but acts of unbridled patriotism.

The leaks from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), CIA, State Department, and other agencies are testimony to the deep divisions within the Bush administration over the phony war on Iraq. Intelligence agencies that are often at odds with one another over policy have united like never before in blowing the whistle on the neo-con agenda. The Bush administration lied flat out over the Iraqi WMDs and Iraq's links to Al Qaeda. It's just that simple. Career intelligence officers, who know the penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, are showing more courage than most of the Democrats in Congress who seem more fearful of the neo-cons and their supporters than in exposing "Weaponsgate."

The most recent classified disclosure was a DIA report on chemical weapons that concluded that there "was no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or whether Iraq has or will establish its chemical agent production facilities."

On June 8, the Bush administration paraded its usual shills, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, before the Sunday talking head shows. Rice and Powell said they based their claims that Iraq had WMDs on an October 1, 2002 national intelligence "white paper." But that paper stated that Iraq had a capability to produce chemical weapons within its chemical industry, not that it was producing such weapons. Hans Blix recently said the so-called intelligence passed to him by the Bush regime was useless for his own UN weapons inspection team in its search for WMDs in Iraq. It now appears that all the so-called U.S. and British "intelligence" was nothing more than a collection of neo-con propaganda and disinformation. In the face of incessantly probing questions on CBS's "Face the Nation," Rice, in her school marm-like best, could only keep repeating that "there are still bad people in Iraq." Bad people? Is this the best terminology we can get from a PhD in International Studies? Or is that the phraseology she uses in explaining foreign policy matters to Bush? The latter explanation seems more likely.

Last March, a classified State Department report, prepared by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and titled "Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes," countered neo-con claims that a democracy in Iraq would foster democracy throughout the Middle East. The report, dated February 26, 2003, concluded that democracy would be difficult to achieve in Iraq, electoral democracy in Iraq would be exploited by anti-American elements, and that the idea that other Middle East nations would be transformed into democracies is not credible. So far, all those predictions have come true. Iraq is currently an American protectorate lacking even fundamental human services, anti-American Shi'as in the south are increasingly venting their anger at U.S. occupiers, and far from extending democracy throughout the Middle East, Mauritania's Arab pro-American government barely survived a military coup attempt by Islamist and pro-Iraqi elements in the counry's armed forces. So much for the Middle East "domino theory" concocted by Richard Perle and his American Enterprise Institute clones and parroted by Bush in a speech before the right-wing "think tank" the same day the State Department prepared its opposite report.

In another slap at the neo-cons, who have supported the Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi, the CIA leaked a classified report about their favorite Iraqi. The report, which surfaced in April 2003, concluded that Chalabi had little popular support among the Iraqi people. No wonder then that it is Chalabi who appears to be the source for all the bogus intelligence about Iraqi WMDs, Saddam Hussein's links to Al Qaeda, Iraqi purchases of uranium from Niger, and other false flag intelligence. Chalabi, who is as big a liar as his neo-con friends, hoped to lull American intelligence into believing him over seasoned Middle East intelligence hands. No one but Rumsfeld; former CIA Director James Woolsey (who has taken hundreds of thousands of consulting dollars from Chalabi over the years); Wolfowitz; Doug Feith; America's new monitor for the Middle East peace road map, John Wolf; and their comrades were taken in by Chalabi, a wanted scofflaw from justice in Jordan.

One day the names Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Woolsey, and Chalabi will become as familiar to students of "Weaponsgate" as the names Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Liddy, Mitchell, and Stans are familiar to those who study Watergate. And in a very interesting nexus between the two scandals, Richard Nixon's former counselor John W. Dean has written that Bush's lying about the reasons for the United States to go to war is an impeachable offense.

For those who are looking for the straw that broke the camel's back in "Weaponsgate" they need not look any farther than Number 10 Downing Street. The troubles that Tony Blair are now experiencing may be a harbinger for things to come in Washington. Blair is in deep trouble and he knows it. After returning from the G-8 summit in Evian, France, Blair was reported by The Obsever to be running around Number 10 in a pathetic panic. In a moment of temporary insanity, which must have been precious to people who loathe Blair, the toothy Prime Minister was pacing about his residence and yelling that people needed to get a grip on what was happening. One of Blair's aides had to comfort Blair and convince him that his advisers were on his side. Blair must have had thoughts of John Major getting ready stick it to Margaret Thatcher or of Brutus getting ready to plunge a knife into the back of Julius Caesar. Blair's political opponents within his own Labor party had seized on his government's use of a "dodgy dossier" on Iraqi WMDs to support the attack on Iraq as an example of Blair's deceit. The dossier, titled "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation," was based on a 12-year-old PhD thesis culled from the Internet and the bogus Chalabi documents about Nigerien uranium.

The revolt against Blair should serve as a warning for Bush. Just consider what is happening in Britain. Blair has been abandoned by some of his most senior government officials, including former Leader of the House of Commons Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and former International Development Minister Clare Short, in addition to a number of lesser Cabinet officials. Over 70 of Blair's Labor members of the House of Commons are in open revolt against his duplicity. No wonder Godric Smith, Blair's official spokesman, announced his resignation the same day that Ari Fleischer was announcing his departure in Washington. The wheels are coming off the transatlantic neo-con wagon. New Labor and the "Compassionate Conservative" Republican Party have been shown to be total ruses. Their war policies and global domination goals have been thoroughly exposed as neo-fascist manifestations of the teachings of neo-con philosopher Leo Strauss.

But Blair faces an even more serious revolt from his intelligence officials. Blair's use of bogus intelligence to claim that Britain had only a 45-minute warning prior to an Iraqi chem-bio attack reportedly resulted in the threatened resignations of the heads of MI-6 and MI-5, Sir Richard Dearlove and Eliza Manningham-Buller, respectively, And there was the leak of a January 31, 2003 Top Secret memo from the National Security Agency to its Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) counterpart, which asked for British help in electronically snooping on members and non-members of the UN Security Council to determine their stance on America's anti-Iraq UN resolution. That memo was reportedly leaked with a wink and an nod from the highest levels of British intelligence.

The public row in Britain has forced Alastair Campbell, Blair's own Karl Rove-like spinmeister, to apologize to the British Security Services for combining their intelligence material with the bogus material it used in developing the Iraqi WMDs dossier. However, some of Blair's advisers seem willing to go down with their Prime Minister faster than the deck hands on the Titanic. Blair's new House of Commons leader John Reid, a former member of the British Communist Party, ranted that "rogue elements" within the intelligence services were leaking classified information to bring down the government. Reid also stated that for all anyone knew, the leaks were coming from some "man in a pub." Such are the cynical words from a government on the brink of collapse.

Blair is not the only "Coalition of the Willing" partner beginning to get nervous. Australian Prime Minister John Howard is distancing himself from the forged and phony intelligence on Iraqi WMDs, claiming his intelligence services took at face value what was presented by the Americans and British. Denmark, which has very little tolerance for lying Prime Ministers, is opening up an parliamentary investigation of why Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen lied about the Iraqi WMDs. Bush's allies in Spain and Italy face similar inquiries. Blair, who appears to be heading for an ignoble British-style heave-ho, is sticking to the lie but with an interesting caveat. At a June 10 news conference, Blair restated the canard, "There is not a shred of evidence that we have doctored or manipulated intelligence." But then he added, "that would be absolutely gross if we did so." Blair may be entering the typical "let's look for a scapegoat" phase. He won't be successful. The intelligence services won't let him get away with it. He and his supporters will have to pay the price for lying to the British people. Barring a miracle, Blair's days in office appear to be numbered.

And what of Bush saying the United States will help its friends and punish its foes? Well, it seems that Mr. Bush cannot be trusted to take care of his friends. Iceland was one of the country's that signed up to Bush's so-called "coalition." How has Bush repaid the North Atlantic nation? By writing a letter to Iceland's Prime Minister stating that the United States will, after 46 years of providing for the NATO nation's defense, pull its military forces from the soon-to-be defenseless island state.

The Icelandic Prime Minister, like his colleagues in Denmark, Australia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, has found out the hard way of what price is paid for aligning with a dishonest and illegal regime. They will suffer the consequences. However, the leaders of France, Germany, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Ireland, Belgium, South Africa, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, and the other countries who withstood constant berating from Washington and the American ambassadors accredited to them, can take heart in the fact that they were correct all along. They will reap the electoral benefits of their stance while they see their pro-American colleagues take the consequential and inevitable electoral fall.

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John Stanton, of the forthcoming book, "America's Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II."

Commentary:
Australia is beginning an investigation into their intelligence. Their PM says he believed the US and Great Britain and didn't have any intelligence of his own. In Great Britain, Blair is most likely finished. Both parties attack him for lying and the media is brutal. Hearings are on TV.

The British and the US are in a world of hurt. Both parties know they lied to their respective people about war and now they need a way out. If Blair is forced from power, the conservatives who favored war will get power. In the US, the democrats are too cowardly to take on Bush so he'll be re-elected unless brought down by outside forces. Democrats will be consigned to minority status for generations (as it should be).

The loyal opposition forgot how to oppose in both countries and a weird stalemate exists between the two parties in both countries. They all lied or supported someone who did.

It's time for a change. Those who supported the war and haven't recanted are no longer fit to serve.

 
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Senate to hold closed hearings on U.S. Intelligence
By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau
Wednesday, June 11, 2003 Posted: 6:20 PM EDT (2220 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold closed-door hearings as part of its ongoing review of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, the chairman of that panel announced Wednesday, but there will not be a formal, public inquiry as sought by Democrats.

The move comes amid questions about whether the Bush administration manipulated intelligence data to bolster its case for war.

Sen. Pat Robert, R-Kansas, made it clear that he has seen no evidence that any intelligence data was slanted or politicized, but he said the allegations from anonymous officials saying they were under pressure to "skew their analysis" were serious and "must be cleared up."

"If any officials believe... that they have been pressured to alter their assessment, they have an obligation -- and I encourage them -- to contact the committee," Roberts said at a press conference attended by other Republican members of the Senate committee and his House counterpart. No Democrats attended the news conference.

Roberts said his panel would work with the Senate Armed Services Committee, but a joint formal investigation would be "very premature."

"Let's do our homework first," he said.

White House reaction
At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the administration would cooperate with Congress.

"The administration welcomes the review," Fleischer said. "It's important. We always work together with Congress on dealing with the threat of Iraqi possession of WMD and we will continue to work with Congress on the facts that led previous administrations, Democrats, Republicans alike, to know that he had WMD."

Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he welcomed the upcoming hearings, but described them as "not sufficient" and called for a "full fact-finding investigation."

"We need to be able to request additional intelligence documents; interview intelligence community and administration officials, past and present; hold closed and open hearings, and prepare a final public report on lessons learned," the West Virginia Democrat said in a statement.

The Bush administration has come under fire from some Democrats and critics abroad because no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, despite U.S. and British statements before the war that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was harboring and developing such banned weapons.

Arguing that Saddam posed a global threat, coalition forces, led by the United States, invaded Iraq in March, toppling the Iraqi regime. Saddam remains unaccounted for, and the search for weapons of mass destruction continues.

President Bush recently pointed to the discovery of what he described as two "mobile biological weapons facilities" as evidence of Saddam's interest in and Iraq's capability of producing biological weapons. But no actual WMD have been found, and criticism of the administration has grown sharper and louder in recent weeks -- particularly from Democrats.

Wednesday, for example, Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters the Bush administration "embellished" and "hyped" intelligence concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, though he added, "I believe those weapons do exist."

"I am not accusing them of cooking the books," Biden of Delaware said. "I am accusing them of hyping--it's different."

"They took the truth and they embellished it in my view," he added.

CIA Director George Tenet and other members of the administration have denied that claim.

U.N. report
A recent U.N. report on the matter was inconclusive, saying there was no evidence before the war that Iraq had reconstituted its chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs.

But the report also noted that Iraq was unable to account for chemical or biological weapons it claimed to have destroyed, and weapons inspectors were unable to clear up discrepancies before they left Baghdad in advance of the invasion.

Roberts said his committee was already reviewing intelligence documents supplied by the CIA director. The review, he said, would evaluate "the intelligence underlying the pre-war assessments of Iraq's WMD capability and its connections to terrorists groups."

It would also evaluate the "reasonableness" of the assessments and their accuracy by comparing them with the results of the ongoing search, Roberts said.

"Beginning next week, I intend to hold hearings on a number of topics relevant to this review and our ongoing oversight of the intelligence agencies," Roberts said, promising a "deliberate and bipartisan" approach.

Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, said his panel was also reviewing the CIA material.

"The evidence that I have examined does not rise to give the presumption that any one in this administration has hyped or cooked or embellished such evidence to a particular purpose," Warner, R-Virginia, said.

-- CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor and Congressional Producer Trish Turner contributed to this report.

© 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

Commentary:
Democrats can salvage this disaster by holding their own PUBLIC hearings. Their first witness should be Blix followed by El Baradei from the IAEA. Dems should ask them to review all of Powell's so-called evidence and refute it, line by line. Was there any evidence of mobile labs hidden in the trees kinda questions. Simple and easy to understand questions and answers. Then they should bring in other weapon's inspectors, the CIA (especially those who said Bush was lying) and the people who said Rumsfeld lied last year about military intelligence.

Then Powell should be called and asked to provide the UN speech Cheney wrote for him that he called "bullshit." It would all make for good TV! Which is what it's all about these days.

 
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Archaeologists Paint a Mixed Picture of Looting Damage
The New York Times
MARTIN GOTTLIEB
June 11, 2003

Significant archaeological sites have been looted of tens of thousands of objects since the beginning of the war in Iraq, although some of the most famous of them have escaped unscathed, American archaeologists who surveyed the country last month reported today.

The archaeologists, who undertook the first extensive postwar survey of Iraq's sites for the National Geographic Society, found that some of the locations, like the huge temple complex at Ur, and another significant site at Lagash, had survived the war intact. But others, like Nimrud, the former capital of the Assyrian Empire, had been looted. At others, including the large site at Isin, groups of 200 or 300 looters were seen at work.

Some of the sites, McGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago said, had been so extensively ransacked that they looked like "Swiss cheese." This was the result, said the team leader, Henry T. Wright, a University of Michigan archaeologist, of "major, massive looting of sites in a search for items saleable on the antiquities markets."

Until now, reports of antiquities looting had centered on the plundering of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and other institutions, with reports from the thousands of archaeological sites in the country grim but episodic.

In a 10-page report to the society and a conference call with reporters today, Professor Wright and his team painted a picture of serious, unmeasured damage mixed with essentially good news from some world-famous sites. The noted site at Babylon, for instance, was left intact as looters ransacked the nearby director's house and the gift shop.

The National Geographic team also said that the strong presence of American troops at several sites, like that at Nimrud, in the north of the country, had stopped looting there. Team members called for more soldiers in more sensitive locations.

"The situation is very different in different parts of the country," Professor Wright said. The sites in the north, where fighting was generally lighter, fared better, he said.

He added that five of nine sites in the north showed evidence of serious looting. Around Baghdad, 1 of 4 sites did, but in the south 8 of 10 sites sustained significant plundering.

Dr. Gibson, who took a helicopter trip to the south with American authorities, said several additional sites had been overrun by hundreds of looters.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Commentary:
Three people resigned from the Bush Administration because he failed to take their advice on protecting antiquities. Bush has advisors, but he only listens to those who are yes men. Actually those who control this White House (and it's not Bush) pull all the strings so what they tell Bush is meaningless.

 
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WMD: Democrats risk looking foolish
The Christian Science Monitor
Liz Marlantes
June 12, 2003 edition

WASHINGTON – Questions surrounding the administration's handling of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war are ripping through the Democratic presidential campaign, reviving the party's painful debate over the war itself - and further widening the gap between pro- and antiwar candidates.
With the Senate holding hearings on whether the administration misrepresented intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs - and as the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq drags on with no significant discoveries - antiwar Democrats are seizing on the issue to challenge President Bush's credibility. Sen. Bob Graham, a former chairman of the Intelligence Committee, is accusing the president of "a pattern of deception and deceit," while former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has taken to asking: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"

The issue is creating an awkward situation for Democrats who supported the war, forcing them to pass on an opportunity to attack Mr. Bush, or to imply that they may have been misled, too. Rep. Dick Gephardt, for example, has essentially defended the administration's representation of the threat, telling CBS News: "There is a long line of evidence, going back to the early '90s, that Saddam Hussein had lots of weapons of mass destruction."

The danger of looking foolish

But while antiwar Democrats may gain some momentum among liberal voters on the issue, they run the risk of looking foolish if weapons eventually turn up.

"It's a potentially big boon for [antiwar candidates like] Dean and Graham, but also one rife with land mines," says independent pollster John Zogby. "Dean's antiwar stance and Graham's issue of how good is our intelligence raise some serious issues for Democrats," he says. But "if they go way out on a limb, and then weapons are found, that could be terribly embarrassing."

The ongoing potency of the Iraq debate on the Democratic campaign trail some two months after the fall of Baghdad is not surprising, given how deeply it divided the party, and the various problems that US troops have encountered in the wake of the war. But many antiwar Democrats believe the weapons issue could have an even bigger impact than the war itself, by casting doubt on administration's truthfulness.

"This turns the presidential race upside down," says Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a strong opponent of the war, who has introduced a resolution in the House demanding the administration turn over intelligence to support its claims. Not only does it indicate "a carefully crafted policy of misinformation" on the part of the Bush administration, he says, but the Democratic Party is also confronted with "major candidates who supported a war that was not based on truth."

Probing a credibility question

Kucinich has largely hung his candidacy on his antiwar stance - and is the most dovish Democrat in the field. He believes that the war in Iraq will continue to resonate throughout the 2004 campaign, saying it "changed the direction of this country," both ideologically and financially.

Other candidates are downplaying their antiwar stances, but portraying the weapons issue as the gravest example of a series of White House deceptions. In particular, Senator Graham, who voted against the war resolution because he felt it would distract from the war on terror, has challenged the administration's honesty on everything from energy to economic policy.

"Lying to the American public is not something you should play around with," says Karl Struble, a strategist for Graham. "It's one thing to misrepresent a tax cut; it's another to put American lives in harm's way."

Still, Mr. Struble acknowledges that while the issue may resonate with liberals, it has not taken hold with the public. Polls show most Americans do not see weapons of mass destruction as the primary justification for war - and do not believe the administration deliberately misled them. Democratic voters have "shifted on the war," says Mr. Zogby: A majority in Iowa and New Hampshire now say that pro-war candidates are more credible.

But as Democrats probe the issue, Struble says it may grow. "The question is, will the media be responsible and report it?"

Copyright © 2003 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.

Commentary:
Interesting article. The writer suggests democrats will look foolish if WMD are found some day, but of course misses the fact that Bush and his supporters looks foolish because they believed the lies about WMD. Bush looks more than foolish, he looks like a liar.

In article after article reporters can't bring themselves to say the "L" word. Why is that? When did telling lies become so respectable to the press? I'm thinking the press began insatiable lying during the Clinton years. They can't stop themselves.

 
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Republicans Propose Another $82 Bln in Tax Cuts
Bloomberg.com
June 10, 2003

June 10 (Bloomberg) -- House Republican leaders, going beyond President George W. Bush's request to fix the omission of increased child tax credits for poor families in last month's tax cuts, are proposing $82 billion in tax relief that boosts refunds for other families.

The proposal is eight times larger than a $9.7 billion measure passed by the Senate last week and includes capital gains tax relief for members of the U.S. military who sell their homes when reassigned duty stations and estate tax breaks for astronauts who die on space missions. The House plans to vote on its bill Thursday in Washington.

Congress is considering additional tax cuts after a political flap erupted over the $330 billion tax-cut plan signed by Bush last month. That package excluded poor parents and married couples from receiving $400 child-credit refund checks this summer, and the White House has urged Congress to pass legislation to address the exclusion.

``We think our bill is better, and we think the president will be more excited about ours,'' said Representative Bill Thomas, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

Once the House passes its bill, House and Senate negotiators will meet to work out a compromise, which may be difficult to achieve because several senators have balked at more costly tax cuts. Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio insisted that last month's tax cut package, which includes $20 billion in state aid, be kept under $350 billion.

`Pass It'

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday that Bush supports the Senate bill. ``His advice to the House Republicans is to pass it, to send it to him so he can sign it,'' Fleischer told reporters.

When asked about Fleischer's comments, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said, ``Last time I checked, he doesn't get a vote.''

``What we are interested in is real, solid tax relief,'' DeLay said. Child tax credits should be ``in a tax package that actually creates jobs and grows the economy,'' he said.

Democrats have called for quick passage of legislation to give the increased child tax credit to low-income parents, including many who don't pay income taxes. Democrats have criticized the $330 billion measure as benefiting wealthy taxpayers by cutting taxes on dividends and capital gains.

$400 Checks

About 25 million U.S. families are scheduled to get $400 checks for each child by mid-August because the per-child tax credit was increased to $1,000 from $600 as part of the new tax law. Taxpayers who earn less than $26,625 a year don't pay enough income taxes to claim the increase. The Senate voted 94-2 for its bill to give the annual credit to those families.

Under the House proposal, the credit would be raised to $1,000 through 2010, an increase from the tax-cut measure passed last month, in which the credit fluctuates each year during the decade to as low as $700.

The Senate bill to extend the tax credit also phased in an increase in the income cap to qualify for the credit to $150,000 from $110,000 and made more children eligible for the credit.

The House's version increases the income limit to qualify for the benefit to $150,000 immediately, while the Senate bill's limit wouldn't reach that figure until 2010, Thomas said.

``I think they'll pass the child tax credit because the country is outraged,'' said Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat.

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, last week said he wanted to see the extension of the child tax credit enacted by mid-June so those families would get checks along with other taxpayers.

The Treasury Department said Monday that's impossible. It plans to send out the 25 million checks to qualifying families over three weeks starting in late July.

Assuming Congress acts quickly, low-income families would get their checks in a second round of disbursements in September, the Treasury Department said.

Last Updated: June 10, 2003 19:42 EDT

Commentary:
Are you getting sick of republicans trying to buy your vote with deficits and tax cuts? It's time for a change. Do you know the last time a tax cut balanced the budget? Never. So why do they keep trying the same old tricks.

I once read the definition of insanity is when you do something over and over and expect different results each time. Republicans in congress are insane. As the deficit soars to record levels they continue passing one tax cut after another.

 
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North Korea Says It Seeks to Develop Nuclear Arms
The New York Times
DAVID E. SANGER
June 10, 2003

WASHINGTON, June 9 — North Korea declared today for the first time that it was seeking to develop nuclear weapons so that it could reduce the size of a million-man army it can no longer afford.

The announcement came on the same day that several administration officials said the United States and its Asian allies were planning to track and inspect suspect sea shipments out of North Korea.

Administration officials said that those steps would stop short of a full embargo, but would amount to what one official called "selective interdiction." The effort is aimed at curbing the weapons exports of North Korea and cutting off its sources of cash, officials said. North Korea has shipped missiles to the Middle East, including Iran, and to Pakistan.

The administration was deliberately measured in its public response to the North today.

"This does not mean we are on our way to war," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in Santiago, Chile, where he was attending a meeting of the Organization of American States, according to Reuters. "We are not."

"The president continues to believe that there is an opportunity for a diplomatic solution, a political solution, but it's a solution that must come in a multilateral forum," Mr. Powell said at a news conference.

While debate continues on holding a second round of talks with North Korea — the first was two months ago — the administration is stepping up the economic pressure on the government of Kim Jong Il.

Japan began the process, sending 1,900 "safety inspectors" and policemen to meet a North Korean ferry suspected for years as being the link that allowed North Koreans living in Japan to transfer money home. When it became clear that the ferry would be inspected regularly, the North suspended the service.

American officials say those inspections are just a beginning. They are encouraging allies to stop ships and inspect them for drugs, as Australia did a month ago. Whether the United States itself will attempt to interdict shipments is unclear.

The legality of stopping ships is open to question. A ship suspected of carrying illegal drugs, for example, may be searched.

The effort "will be focused on those activities which require no additional laws, no new international treaties, no going to the United Nations Security Council," a senior official said. "Look at the Japanese, who can't stop transfers of money on North Korean ships, but suddenly discovered they can do `safety inspections.' " Other techniques like that are under consideration.

The strategy, officials say, is to make no announcement of any new measures, to avoid any overt confrontation with the North. But the interdictions are intended to make clear, officials say, that the United States has had some success in organizing its Asian allies into a loose coalition to put more and more pressure on the North. The most important nation needed in that coalition is China, and so far there is no indication it is willing to seal off its border or cut off oil and other shipments.

There is no indication that the squeeze on the North is having much effect. A Congressional delegation that traveled there last week said officials boasted that they had nearly completed reprocessing 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods, which can make four or five weapons.
The North was believed to have two nuclear weapons produced at least a decade ago, but with the ejection of international inspectors on New Year's Eve the opportunity to produce weapons has increased.

"What they are doing, though, is edging toward a declaration that they are now a nuclear weapons state," a senior official said. "And once they take that step, how do we respond?"

That is the subject of a continuing debate between Mr. Bush and his allies. Meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan have produced statements that the allies will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea. But the meaning of that is unclear.

The White House has said that it will rule out no options, even a military strike against the North's nuclear facilities. South Korean leaders have declared such a strike would be unthinkable, and have said they will neither plan for any military solution nor discuss one with allies.

In today's announcement, the North said it might have to develop a "nuclear deterrent." Its usual warning is that it will develop a "physical deterrent" against the United States.

Today also marked the first time North Korea linked its atomic weapons program to the goal of cutting its conventional military and saving money. Its huge army consumes most of the country's budget. But it also performs nonmilitary functions, including building housing.

"They introduced a new element into their logic today when they said they would also do this as a cost-saving measure," Mr. Powell said. "I'll have to reflect on that for a while," he added.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Commentary:
This article is a joke. Japan has already agreed to help North Korea with food, but the article says Bush is using economic pressure on the North, with Japan leading the way. When reporters are this stupid, a president can lie his butt off and they don't know it. Damn, I miss the good ol' days when reporters looked up facts before they committed the "party line" to print.

North Korea told Bush it had nuclear weapons on October 4, 2002, literally days after Bush announced his "first strike" doctrine. North Korea called his bluff and won the game by getting Bush to announce he wouldn't attack North Korea. Bush continues to play this little cat and mouse game for idiots in the press but the rest of us know Bush lost this one a long time ago.

The probability of North Korea having had nukes on October 4th is zero. The probability of them getting them because of "first strike," 100%.

 
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Soaring Heating Bills Likely Next Winter
By H. JOSEF HEBERT
The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 10, 2003; 12:14 PM

WASHINGTON - An acute shortage of natural gas is increasing concerns that consumers may see heating prices soar next winter and that higher energy costs could thwart economic recovery, lawmakers were told Tuesday.

"An abnormally hot summer, followed by a cold winter could push natural gas deliverability to the limit and cause record high prices," Guy Caruso, head of the government's Energy Information Administration, told a congressional hearing.

Because of supply shortages, he said, the current price of natural gas, hovering around $6 per thousand cubic feet, is not expected to ease this year and could remain at that level into early 2004 even if weather conditions are normal.

The emerging gas supply problems recently prompted a warning from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan that not enough attention was being paid to the issue which, he said, already was putting pressure on some key industries trying to bounce back from the anemic economy.

Greenspan was to expand on his concerns when he testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee later in the day.

"If the train wreck occurs and natural gas prices skyrocket and shortages occur, who will be at fault?" Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., the committee's chairman, asked. "We see a storm brewing on the horizon. We need to prepare for it."

But a panel of industry officials provided little insight on what might be done to increase supplies dramatically in the short term, or head off higher prices this summer and winter.

Richard Sharples, a vice president of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., said a chronic gap between supply and demand needs to be addressed by removing regulatory barriers to exploration and development, and providing industry with greater access to gas reserves on federal lands.

That won't help consumers this year in Ohio where Donald Mason, head of the state Public Utilities Commission, predicted that the average residential heating bill next winter will be $220 higher per household than it was last winter. He said he's trying to find a way to "prepare (people) for the sticker shock."

"It's already impacted us," Greg Lebedev, president of the American Chemistry Council said in an interview. "And with the domino effect when you have an industry our size, it will by definition have a cascading effect on the entire economy."

Robert Liuzzi, president of CF Industries Inc., speaking on behalf of the fertilizer industry, said high fuel prices already have forced one-fifth of the industry production capacity to shut down. "This situation threatens to destroy an efficient U.S. industry and displace thousands of workers," he said in remarks prepared for the hearing.

The Bush administration also is worried.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has asked the National Petroleum Council to provide a game plan before the end of this month on how to deal with "the looming challenges we face" because of the short-term natural gas supply crunch.

This spring, natural gas in storage dropped to 623 billion cubic feet, the lowest it has been since the government began keeping records in 1976. Stocks have increased somewhat, but remain 38 percent below last year, and 28 percent below the five-year average, according to the department's Energy Information Administration.

By next fall, the government would like to see about 3.5 trillion cubic feet of gas in storage to be ready for the winter heating season, or about three times the amount available now. The average natural-gas fueled home uses about 80 thousand cubic feet a year, according to the American Gas Association.

"The natural gas industry is at a critical crossroads," says Carl English, president of Consumers Energy in Jackson, Mich. He said while the federal government encourages increased use of natural gas to improve air quality and other reasons, it also makes it difficult to get it to meet the increased demand.

A group of 29 Democratic senators recently wrote Abraham urging him to take steps to promote increased conservation to try to curtail gas demand this summer. Abraham agreed to push for conservation measures.

There will be enough gas to go around, but "we're trying to prepare customers for higher prices this winter regardless of the weather," says Peggy Laramie, a spokeswoman for the American Gas Association. The group represents 191 utilities that deliver natural gas to more than 53 million homes.

The spot price on Monday for natural gas was $6.25 per 1,000 cubic feet at the Henry Hub transit center in Louisiana. The average price was about $3 per 1,000 cubic feet last year, and $2.46 per 1,000 cubic feet from 1996-2000, according to the Energy Department.

Despite the high prices, there is little sign that the amount of gas being developed will increase significantly this year with the government expecting an overall 2 percent decline in production compared with last year. The number of drilling rigs has increased about 22 percent from a year ago, but remains below the number in operation in 2001 when surging prices caught the industry's attention.

On the Net:

Energy Department forecast: http://www.eia.doe.gov

American Gas Association: http://www.aga.org/

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
I don't know about you, but I don't trust utility companies. It seems reasonably obvious energy producers have figured out that they can keep supply low and prices and profits will soar. OPEC learned the same lesson in the 1970's. It's time for massive regulation of all utility companies.

Maybe if they fear regulation they'll become responsible again.

Until then open up your wallet and know your hard earned money is going straight back to Congress in campaign contributions.

Oh, and don't forget, republicans like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News blamed the rising energy prices in California on their governor. The media happily went along with this nonsense. Will they now blame Bush for rising energy prices across the US? You get one guess.


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