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Impeach Bush

Task Force 20 Failed To Pinpoint Weapons
By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 13, 2003; Page A01

A covert Army Special Forces unit, operating in Iraq since before the war began in March, has played a dominant but ultimately unsuccessful role in the Bush administration's stymied hunt for weapons of mass destruction, according to military and intelligence sources in Baghdad and Washington.

Task Force 20, whose existence and mission are classified, is drawn from the elite Army special mission units known popularly as Delta Force. It sent a stream of initially promising reports to a limited circle of planners and policymakers in Washington pointing to the possibility of weapons finds. The reports helped feed the optimism expressed by President Bush and his senior national security advisers that proscribed weapons would be found.

Thus far, military and intelligence sources said, the expectations are unfulfilled.

Even skeptics of Task Force 20's progress in the weapons hunt speak admiringly of the team's exploits on its other assignments, in which its role was concealed. The team captured Palestinian guerrilla leader Mohammed Abbas in Baghdad in mid-April and the Iraqi scientists nicknamed Mrs. Anthrax and Dr. Germ; it fought a bloody battle behind Iraqi lines to prevent a catastrophic release of floodwaters from the Haditha Dam; and it retrieved Pfc. Jessica Lynch, an Army prisoner of war, from a hospital in Nasiriyah.

Task Force 20's principal assignment is to "seize, destroy, render safe, capture, or recover weapons of mass destruction," according to a Special Operations mission statement. To that end it staged raids ahead of the U.S. and British ground advance to seize suspected caches of nonconventional arms, gathered hundreds of weapons samples and captured as many as half of the "high value" weapons scientists and Baath Party leaders now in U.S. custody. Its role in the search for illicit arms, military and intelligence sources said, turned out to be far more important than that of the search teams operating in the open.

Yet Task Force 20 has come no closer than its widely publicized counterpart, the 75th Exploitation Task Force, to the Bush administration's declared objective. Sources with firsthand knowledge of its mission and personnel, and others with access to its reports, said the team has found no working nonconventional munitions, long-range missiles or missile parts, bulk stores of chemical or biological warfare agents or enrichment technology for the core of a nuclear weapon. The administration cited all those components specifically as part of Iraq's concealed arsenal. The arms were forbidden to Iraq under U.N. Security Council mandate, and Bush used them as his primary argument for war.

The Defense Department has not made public Task Force 20's preliminary findings, which include a cache of land mines that U.S. analysts believed to be designed for dispersal of liquid contents. The mines were an unexpected discovery made more than 24 hours before the war began on March 20. A "direct action" team from Task Force 20 swept into a military base in Iraq's western desert, near Qaim, to preempt the firing of chemical-armed Scud missiles that U.S. intelligence suspected of being at the site. The team killed the Iraqi garrison guards but found no missiles. It found the mines in a bunker nearby.

Subsequent testing, at the Navy's Biological Defense Research Directorate in Silver Spring and at an undisclosed overseas laboratory, persuaded some U.S. government analysts that the mines once held botulinum toxin, according to two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. But mines are not considered offensive weapons, and these had deteriorated so much that identification of their contents might be disputed, the sources said. United Nations inspectors reported in 1999 that Iraq had considered biological land mines but had no mines "suitable for filling with liquid BW agents."

"There's extreme caution of judgment," said one military official conversant with the discovery. "They don't have at this juncture great confidence that anything they have found constitutes a smoking gun."

Until very recently, the principal focus of the U.S. Central Command, which directs the search for illegal weapons, was a methodical survey of the 87 top-priority facilities identified in the "integrated master site list" maintained at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

More than 900 specialists and tens of millions of dollars of detection and laboratory equipment were devoted to the survey, and its leaders said publicly that they expected to find large caches of chemical and perhaps other weapons at the sites. That effort, a high-ranking national security official said Wednesday, was "a waste of time."

The Defense Department's new public emphasis is on "people, not buildings," as one officer put it. Some officials said previously that Iraqis would have to lead the United States to the concealed weapons. But it is now clear, from an examination of Task Force 20's work, that the Defense Department and intelligence agencies have already put that strategy to the test for 100 days.

It is possible, as some administration officials assert, that "exploitation" of files and captured Iraqis -- the intelligence term for using one lead to generate another -- may have brought the search to the brink of major results.

"People who say there are no weapons are going to be quite embarrassed within weeks or months, when the material comes out," the high-ranking official said. He said that "there are things we are finding that are in train," under preparation for public disclosure, but he declined to elaborate.

But many of those most knowledgeable about Task Force 20's work, some of whom observed it at close quarters, said there is no sign of decisive evidence in the information gathered to date. They said most of Task Force 20's successes -- seizing files, wanted scientists and potentially "hot samples" of lethal substances -- came early in the war.

Intelligence specialists at the team's Baghdad airport headquarters, where many of the most important Iraqi prisoners are held, are interrogating leaders of the former Iraqi weapons program in cooperation with the CIA and the DIA. But the highest-ranking Iraqi weaponeers -- including Rihab Rashid Taha, known in the West as Dr. Germ, and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a Texas-trained microbiologist dubbed Mrs. Anthrax -- have disclosed almost nothing.

"Most of the very senior people, the [deck of 55] cards people, are saying very little," said a career national security official who is in a position to give an authoritative assessment. "What they are saying is largely BS -- 'I was not very close to Saddam,' 'I don't know anything about WMD.' It's all very orchestrated."

Though the weapons hunt was Task Force 20's primary assignment, some of its greatest successes came in the three additional missions for which it was organized.

One was "direct action" against time-sensitive targets in enemy-held territory. Among the disaster scenarios envisioned by Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the Central Command chief, before the war was the prospect that Iraqi forces might destroy the Haditha Dam, which holds vast floodwaters on the Euphrates River 130 miles northwest of Baghdad. Its demolition would likely have killed a great many Iraqi civilians, "caused an ecological catastrophe and flooded the Euphrates plain, which was a primary approach to Baghdad" for the 3rd Infantry Division, a knowledgeable officer said.

Task Force 20, including a detachment from the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, took the dam intact after three to four days of intense combat beginning April 2. It found no evidence that the Iraqis in fact attempted to blow up the dam.

Task Force 20 was also assigned to capture or kill "high-value targets," the U.S. military's euphemism for high-ranking wanted Iraqis. Some, such as Taha and Ammash, played important roles in the weapons program, and others, including Abbas, were sought for unrelated reasons. The team's third mission was prisoner rescue, and it led the mission to retrieve Lynch from her Iraqi hospital bed in early April.

In its weapons hunting assignment, the special mission unit at the core of Task Force 20 had many advantages over the Defense Department's more public search teams. The teams operating openly lacked reliable communications gear, Arabic linguists, on-call helicopters and personnel with experience in Iraq. They often visited sites without knowing the extensive histories of U.N. inspections there. One team leader did not recognize Iraq's second-largest nuclear waste storage facility.

"We do not have the capability to fight for intelligence," the leader of one search team said. "We do not have the capability to fight for materiel. We do not have the capability to take people for questioning against their will. There are other units in the armed services that do that."

Task Force 20 employs the best-trained combat forces in the U.S. military. It can launch a mission with less than an hour's notice and communicate securely from anywhere in Iraq. It is equipped with the most advanced detection technology, including DNA identification of pathogens. Its biological and chemical laboratories, from the Theater Army Medical Laboratory, fit inside a collapsible tent that could be transported on the back of a Humvee. And it has full-time access to stealthy helicopters -- MH-60 Pave Hawks, MH-47 Special Operations Aircraft, and AH/MH-6 Little Bird gunships -- that enabled it to move covertly and defend itself.

Task Force 20 was able to reach most of its early target sites before they could be stripped by Iraqi insiders or looters from the general population. Because of that, the team took many more potentially "hot samples" than the openly operating search units. It has shipped hundreds of samples to Army and Navy laboratories in Maryland, one senior officer said, including about 90 this month. Knowledgeable sources said that none of the samples has produced a definitive hit.

Site survey teams attached to conventional military units, which most often found their targets looted and burned, occasionally learned to their chagrin that mysterious U.S. forces had already been there. Col. Richard McPhee and his subordinates at the conventional headquarters took to calling them "secret squirrels." In one case, Task Force 20 was still working when a survey team arrived. Its leader, who did not provide details of his unit or mission, ordered the survey team to leave.

"They were all in uniform, but some were obviously civilians -- long hair, guts on them, some old guys," said a regular Army officer who was present. "There was no attempt at deconfliction at all," he added, using the military term for avoidance of duplicate effort.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
There's one group of people I trust less than utility companies--those who say, wait, we'll find WMD if we just wait. They have a serious credibility gap. If they find WMD it'll be more by chance than skill. It sure won't be because we had solid evidence before the war began. These pro-WMD people sound foolish. They've been wrong dozens of times already. What makes them so sure they'll ever be right? A belief (propaganda?)

This kind of reminds me of Whitewater during the Clinton years, but in reverse. No matter how many times President Clinton was found innocent there were always dark clouds looming on the horizon. The nuts who pushed Whitewater lied to us around the clock (and this includes the entire news media). It's these same nuts who think we'll find WMD if we just wait a few more weeks, months, years.

I don't know about you, but like Whitewater, I like to see the proof before I decide. These guys just keep on looking and looking and looking.


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Missing Weapons May Become Election Issue
By Terry M. Neal
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 11, 2003; 9:06 AM

In the days and weeks before the United States launched its strike against Iraq, the Bush administration expressed absolute certainty that not only did Saddam Hussein's government possess massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, but also it knew where they were located.

"One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said March 22. "There are a number of sites."

Eight days later, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on national television: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

The war had already begun when those statements were made, and American surveillance – electronic and human – was intense. Yet today, six weeks after the war ended, no weapons have been found, and America faces the horrifying prospect that the threat was exaggerated or those weapons did exist but are now dispersed throughout the region among terrorists groups that are more of an imminent threat to America than Hussein was at the start of the war.

Those possibilities seem more likely than a third – that the weapons were destroyed in Iraq at the 11th hour before the war ended. If the administration knew through intelligence where those weapons were, isn't it likely that there would be at least some trace or evidence of their destruction? By all accounts, it is no easy task to destroy the materials to make "500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent," which Bush claimed Iraq had in his Jan. 28 State of the Union speech.

Administration officials have dealt with this incongruity by simply changing their story, or at least qualifying their earlier statements. "No one ever said that we knew precisely where all of these agents were, where they were stored," national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Most American voters want to trust their president, and they view with deep skepticism the perpetual, headache-inducing partisanship of this town. That's why President Clinton's approval rating remained high throughout the Monica Lewinsky mess. It was not that people believed him or condoned what he did, but they viewed the scandal with appropriately cynical lenses – through which much in Washington should be seen these days.

Similarly, President Bush's approval has remained high in the wake of increasingly critical stories about the administration's occasionally bumbling post-war efforts in Iraq and its increasingly dubious pre-war claims that Iraq held massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The voters view with skepticism the motivations of the president's opponents.

For now, the public is giving the White House the benefit of the doubt, as is reflected in recent public opinion polls that have the president's approval rating in the mid-60s, and with strong majorities still showing support for the war.

But that does not mean that there is no risk. The public is thrilled to see Saddam Hussein gone. The president's staunchest supporters will stand by him no matter what happens. But that group in the middle – the ever-influential and fickle moderate swing voters – will eventually demand accountability. And should they not find it, the 2004 presidential campaign might actually be a race. Maybe.

The Democrats

The Bush administration's pre-war claims that Iraq possessed massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat to the United States is increasingly becoming an issue on the campaign trail. In Iowa in recent days, several Democratic candidates have turned up the criticism. Anti-war Democrats are focused on dozens of recent news reports suggesting that the administration systematically ignored evidence and intelligence officials who disagreed with the conclusions that were being made by a small coterie of influential hawks.

In recent days, news reports have also raised questions about the administration's efforts to link Iraq and al Qaeda. Two high-level al Qaeda operatives have told American interrogators that the terrorist organization never worked with Hussein's government, a claim that might be considered dubious, considering the source, if it didn't square with what we know about the abject hatred most Islamic fundamentalists had for Hussein.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the military units hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are running out of places to look. "It doesn't appear there are any more targets at this time," said Lt. Col. Keith Harrington, whose team has been cut by more than 30 percent, the AP reported. "We're hanging around with no missions in the foreseeable future."

In Iowa this past weekend, at Gov. Tom Vilsack's annual picnic, former Vermont governor Howard Dean said, "This is a very serious matter. The president's credibility is at stake and unfortunately, the question becomes, "What did the president know and when did he know it? [Full Story from the Quad-Cities Times].

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) said: "They led this country into a war that was not necessary. I intend to make sure we challenge the administration on their fraudulent approach to foreign policy."

The Rev. Al Sharpton said recently in New Hampshire: "We have come out of war with weapons we can't find, guided by a president who told us a year and a half ago we're getting bin Laden – he can't find him. ... If you can find the weapons before the war, how come you can't reveal the weapons now?"

Perhaps the most credible critic among the Democratic candidates on this issue is Sen. Bob Graham (Fla.), who served for a decade, until late last year, on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The weapons-of-mass-destruction issue has seemed to energize Graham's campaign, which struggled initially for an identity and galvanizing theme. Graham went so far as to use the "L" word at the event in Iowa on Sunday, telling party activists that the Bush administration "lied, in the sense that it didn't tell the whole truth" about weapons of mass destruction. Graham voted against the resolution last year authorizing force in Iraq.

In an interview Tuesday, Graham spokesman Jamal Simmons said Graham is making Bush's handling of Iraq a central issue in his early campaign. Graham has opposed the war all along because he thought it would divert attention from the real priority, the worldwide battle against terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah.

"There's no doubt that there are questions, and we need a thorough examination of the intelligence and the policies that led us to war," Simmons said. "The senator hopes weapons of mass destruction are found, because if they are not, one, the intelligence was manipulated," or even worse, the weapons "which were centralized are now dispersed in the region among people who want to harm us. And that would mean we are at an even greater risk than we were before the war."

The Political Ramifications

Simmons said the issue is a matter of great concern to many in the core Democratic constituencies. "People are concerned," he said. "And they're concerned about the confidence that they have in their government, especially as they face these risks. I think they appreciate that someone of Sen. Graham's stature is willing to ask these tough questions."

Perhaps. But for the Democrats, it won't be easy to make this a political issue against Bush. Much of the party's leadership in Congress voted in favor of the authorization, as did all of the so-called first-tier presidential candidates, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) and Sens. John Edwards (N.C.), John Kerry (Mass.), and Joseph Lieberman (Conn.).

Lieberman, who has been the most outspoken supporter of the war among the candidates and who co-sponsored the authorization, told voters in Iowa recently that his support for the war has not wavered.

"What's on the line is American credibility," Lieberman was quoted as saying in the Quad City Times. "But it ought not, in my opinion, to diminish from the fact that our military did what was right in overthrowing Saddam, and the American people are safer as a result of it."

As the media continue to focus on the missing weapons of mass destruction in coming weeks and months, the issue will further underscore the divisions in the party. It will be interesting to see how the issue plays out, given the unpredictable twists and turns of presidential politics.

Just as no one would have guessed at this point in the first President Bush's career that he would end up losing his reelection bid, it's impossible to say what impact this issue will have on the 2004 race. While some Republicans are fretting privately about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, others are predicting that the issue will have no political impact.

"Whether or not they find weapons of mass destruction doesn't matter, because the rationale for the war changed," GOP pollster Frank Luntz told the AP. "Americans like a good picture. And one photograph of an Iraqi child kissing a U.S. soldier is more powerful than two months of debate on the floor of Congress."

That may be so. Certainly, Americans are willing to pay for their safety. But, once the euphoria of victory has begun to fade, if no trace of the weapons is ever found, and doubt is raised about Iraq's link to al Qaeda, some voters who supported the war might begin to weigh the value of its multibillion dollar price tag during a time of economic uncertainty and escalating federal deficits.

© 2003 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

Commentary:
When Rumsfeld said we know where the sites are, he lied. No one in uniform should trust him again.

There is one thing for sure and you can bank on this. The press will NOT go after Bush, will not demand hearings or a special prosecutor, will not demand facts, evidence or proof. The press WILL attack democrats who dare to question Bush and the lies the press helped him push on the American people.


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Bush made claim despite CIA doubts
An Impeachable Offense
Seattle Times
Friday, June 13, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

WASHINGTON — Making his case for war with Iraq, President Bush in his State of the Union address this year accused Saddam Hussein of trying to buy uranium from Africa even though the CIA had warned White House and other officials that the story didn't check out.

A senior CIA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the intelligence agency informed the White House on March 9, 2002 — 10 months before Bush's nationally televised speech — that an agency source who had traveled to Niger couldn't confirm European intelligence reports that Iraq was attempting to buy uranium from the West African country.

Despite the CIA's misgivings, Bush said in his State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa."

Three senior administration officials said Vice President Dick Cheney and some officials on the National Security Council staff and at the Pentagon ignored the CIA's reservations and argued that the president and others should include the allegation in their case against Saddam.

The claim later turned out to be based on crude forgeries that an African diplomat had sold to Italian intelligence officials.

The revelation of the CIA warning is the strongest evidence to date that pro-war administration officials manipulated, exaggerated or ignored intelligence information in their eagerness to make the case for invading Iraq.

Black Caucus honors former prisoner of war

WASHINGTON — After shyly accepting praise from black congressional members, former prisoner of war Shoshana Johnson asked for continued prayers, not for herself but for soldiers who remain in Iraq and other parts of the world.

The Congressional Black Caucus honored Johnson yesterday in a 1-1/2-hour ceremony.

Johnson was a member of the Fort Bliss, Texas-based 507th Maintenance Company. The unit became separated from its convoy and was ambushed by Iraqi forces near Nasiriyah. Nine members died in the attack and five, including Johnson, were held prisoner for three weeks.

 
 
"Like myself, there are so many soldiers out there who did their job and are still doing their duty in Iraq. One of them includes my cousin ... who is in Baghdad this moment doing his duty," Johnson said, referring to Staff Sgt. Andre Amantine, 27, a Marine in field artillery.

Johnson was shot in both ankles during the March 23 ambush on her unit. She wore a cast on her right leg that stretched from her toes to below her knee, and she stood only briefly during her remarks.

1 prisoner killed, 1 hurt trying to escape U.S. camp

WASHINGTON — Two Iraqi prisoners were shot trying to escape from a U.S. camp yesterday, and one later died of his wounds, the military said.

U.S. Central Command released few details of the incident, other than to say one prisoner died at an Iraqi hospital and the other was recaptured after the escape attempt.

Of the thousands of Iraqis held by the Americans, the dead prisoner was the third to die. The Pentagon has launched a criminal investigation into the death of an inmate at a U.S. prisoner camp in Nasiriyah whose body was found last Friday.

The United States has more than 2,000 Iraqis in custody.

Treasured vase looted from Baghdad museum is returned

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The Vase of Warka, one of the most treasured antiquities looted from Baghdad's famed museum after the U.S.-led war on Iraq, was safely returned yesterday, officials said.

The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) said the vase, dating from 3200 B.C. and a centerpiece of the Baghdad Museum, was brought back by three Iraqis in a car and handed over to CPA security staff at the museum, along with other looted items.

Ambassador Pietro Cordone, the CPA's senior culture adviser, who was at the museum at the time, met the Iraqi men and thanked them for return of the vase that had been feared lost forever, the CPA said in a statement.

The Vase of Warka dates back to Sumerian rule in 3200 B.C. It was discovered by a team of German archaeologists in 1940 near Samawa in southern Iraq. The vase was one of 47 items reported last week as still missing from the museum's exhibition collection.

Iraqi refugees must wait to return home from Iran

GENEVA — The United States and Britain are delaying the return of tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees who fled to Iran during the reign of Saddam Hussein, a senior Iranian official said yesterday.

As a result, Iran has had to postpone a voluntary repatriation program for 200,000 Iraqis living within its borders, said Ahmad Hosseini, Iran's director general for refugee issues.

Two weeks ago, British and other European officials said they were making plans to repatriate many of the 225,000 Iraqis who have sought asylum in Europe. But after talks with the U.N. refugee agency they said they would delay returns because many parts of the country were unsafe.

Around 4 million Iraqis are believed to have fled Saddam's regime, including many who left during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. About 48,000 of the Iraqis in Iran live in refugee camps.

Hosseini also said Iran is having trouble coping with its 1.9 million Afghan refugees who fled two decades of conflict and their homeland's Taliban government, which was overthrown in a U.S.-led war in 2001.

Danish troops to police town in southern Iraq

QURNA, Iraq — British troops formally handed over control of the area around the southern Iraqi town of Qurna to a Danish brigade yesterday, the latest step in efforts to get more nations involved in policing postwar Iraq.

Polish soldiers have begun reinforcing central Iraq, and an advance party of Dutch troops was due to arrive in the southern port of Umm Qasr.

NATO officials yesterday said Spain will contribute 1,100 soldiers to the Polish-led peacekeeping force in central Iraq, along with troops from Honduras, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador.

UNICEF finds trash, sewage threatening children's health

BAGHDAD — The U.N. children's agency said yesterday it was overhauling Baghdad's sewage system and funding rubbish collection across Iraq because a postwar breakdown of city services was threatening children's health.

Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF spokesman in Baghdad, said lakes of raw sewage had formed in many parts of the capital, sometimes flooding into classrooms and homes. Stinking refuse heaps pose another serious health threat to Iraqi children.

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

Commentary:
Ok, this is huge. The State of the Union is a legal requirement under the Constitution. Bush presented to Congress a piece of information that was forged and a lie. Lying to Congress is a felony.

But wait, Bush lied about surpluses and his tax cut in his budget. Does anyone in the press care? Bush can lie about issues of State, but if he lies to us about his sex life, well, he's finished. There's something very odd about our current version of morality.


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US Troops Kill 124 Iraqi's
Voice of America
13 Jun 2003, 13:58 UTC

U.S. military officials say American troops have killed at least 97 enemy combatants in Iraq this week during operations aimed at rooting out die-hard supporters of Saddam Hussein.

Officials say 70 of those were killed in an assault on what the U.S. Central Command calls a "terrorist training camp" northwest of Baghdad. The fighting began early Thursday. The military has given no details about the camp nor said why it was designated a terrorist installation.

U.S. Central Command says American troops Friday, killed another 27 fighters after coming under attack north of the Iraqi capital. A Central Command statement says the troops killed four attackers after being targeted with rocket-propelled grenades in the town of Balad. It says U.S. forces then pursued the rest of the group with armored vehicles and helicopter gunships, killing another 23 attackers. No U.S. casualties were reported in the clash.

U.S. officials have blamed Baath party loyalists and paramilitary groups still loyal to Saddam for the recent surge in attacks on U.S. soldiers. At least 10 American soldiers have been killed in the past 16 days.

Meanwhile, U.S. and Turkish officials are investigating two explosions that ripped through a oil pipeline in northern Iraq late Thursday. Some witnesses say bombs caused the explosions on the pipeline, which carries oil to Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul says the explosions were the result of sabotage. But U.S. officials in Iraq say the blasts appear to have been accidents.

On Thursday, Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization awarded its first post-war oil contracts to European and American companies. The sale of Iraqi oil is to be used to help rebuild the war-torn country.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Commentary:
"Terrorist training camp?" Why is it that everyone who hates us is called a terrorist? The media has become corrupted by meaningless words. How do we know these people were terrorists? We don't. What evidence do we have in this report? None. Does the reporter demand anything more than a press release from the government? Nah. They'll never learn.

A government that lies to us about WMD can't be trusted to tell us the truth about terrorism.


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Belgium appears not to respect the sovereignty of other countries
By Mike Wendling
CNSNews.com London Bureau Chief
June 13, 2003

London (CNSNews.com) - U.S. funding for new NATO buildings may be withdrawn because of a law that permits foreigners to be tried for war crimes in Belgian courts, no matter where the alleged acts are committed.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday that he would oppose money for a new headquarters in Brussels until U.S. officials could be certain that they could travel to the country without fear of prosecution.

"Belgium has turned its legal system into a platform for divisive politicized lawsuits against her NATO allies," Rumsfeld told reporters at a press conference following a meeting of alliance defense ministers.

"We will have to seriously consider whether we can allow our civilian and military officials to come to Belgium," he said. "Until the status is resolved, we will have to oppose all further spending for a NATO headquarters in Brussels until we know with certainty Belgium intends to be a hospitable place."

"It is perfectly possible to meet elsewhere," he said. "Belgium appears not to respect the sovereignty of other countries."

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is in the early stages of constructing a new headquarters that is scheduled to be complete by 2007.

The Belgian law, passed in 1993, gives the country's courts "universal jurisdiction" over war crimes. Faced with a backlog of suits against a number of national leaders, the Belgian senate voted earlier this year to change the law in an attempt to stop spurious claims.

The lawmakers amended the law to exclude prosecutions against citizens of democratic countries with independent judicial systems.

Despite the revisions, a suit was filed last month against U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the war in Iraq, and another officer, Marine Col. Brian P. McCoy.

The complaint was brought by left-wing Belgian lawyer Jan Fermon on the behalf of 17 Iraqis and two Jordanians who claim to have lost civilian family members as a result of allied military action in Iraq. The suit was condemned as a "misuse of the law" by the Belgian government, and officials promised to refer the complaint to the United States.

Under the original 1993 law, separate complaints were filed against former President George H. W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Cuban President Fidel Castro. The suit against Sharon stemmed from killings at a Palestinian refugee camp and severely strained relations between Israel and Belgium.

Apart from the row over the war crimes law, NATO ministers reached agreements in several other areas.

A pact was reached on streamlining the alliance's command structure and creating a rapid reaction force that will be fully operational by 2006.

The ministers also partially overcame pre-war divisions and agreed to add Spanish forces to a Polish-led contingent working towards security in Iraq.

All original CNSNews.com material, copyright 1998-2003 Cybercast News Service.

Commentary:
Did the US respect the sovereignty of Iraq? Nope! So why should Belgium respect ours? There's a reason why we used to follow the rule of law.


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GOP Balks at Call for Probe on WMD Intelligence
Salt Lake Tribune
By Jonathan S. Landay
Knight Ridder News Service

June 12, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Top Republican lawmakers on Wednesday rejected Democratic demands for a formal public inquiry into whether the Bush administration distorted or mishandled intelligence about Saddam Hussein's illicit arms programs and links to terrorists, which helped justify President Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said such an investigation could be held if warranted after closed-door hearings and classified-document reviews by his panel and its counterpart in the House of Representatives.

But he failed to mollify Democrats who are seeking a full public inquiry, including open hearings, testimony from current and former intelligence officials and a public report.

"Closed hearings and review of documents presented by the administration are not sufficient," asserted Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In justifying the invasion of Iraq, Bush and his top lieutenants stressed intelligence findings that Saddam was hiding chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs from U.N. inspectors, and had forged links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

But two months of searches by U.S. troops in Iraq haven't uncovered any weapons of mass destruction or proof that Saddam and al-Qaida were conspiring together.

Some key questions raised are:

* How good was the intelligence provided to the Bush administration by the CIA, which had no high-level human sources of its own inside the Iraqi regime?

* How much weight did senior administration officials give to intelligence supplied by sources whom the CIA had rejected?

* Did pro-invasion officials exaggerate the threat Saddam posed to boost public support for his ouster?

Some current and former military, diplomatic and intelligence officials have said there was pressure to produce intelligence assessments that would strengthen the arguments of pro-invasion officials in the White House and Pentagon.

"The committee has yet to hear from any intelligence official expressing such concerns," Roberts said.

Bush and other administration officials say they are confident that illicit weapons eventually will be discovered in Iraq, although they have suggested that the stockpiles may have been destroyed before the war.

Roberts charged that some accusations that intelligence was skewed are politically motivated; he spoke alongside his House counterpart, Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va. "There seems to be a campaign afoot by some to criticize the intelligence community and the president for connecting the dots," he said.

The CIA has begun turning over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee for review.

"It seems to me sensible to do that kind of homework before you talk about a formal investigation," Roberts said. "It could come to that. If there is anything egregious, rest assured that the veracity and the value of our national intelligence is first and foremost in this chairman's mind."

The Senate Armed Services Committee already has begun closed-door hearings on the issue.

Rockefeller said he would continue pressing for a formal inquiry. "Iraqi WMD and links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida were the primary justification offered for the war in Iraq," he said.

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he didn't believe the administration officials had concocted intelligence. "It was not misleading the country in the broad sense of whether or not [Saddam] had weapons of mass destruction. He had used them," Biden said.

However, Biden accused hard-liners aligned with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of creating "a false sense of urgency" about Iraq's threat to ensure that an invasion took place before opposition grew too strong.

© Copyright 2003, The Salt Lake Tribune.

Commentary:
"Iraqi WMD and links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida were the primary justification offered for the war in Iraq."

Either we accept the fact that Bush lied to us about a threat to our national security or we don't. I find it appalling that Bush can lie to us about issues of State and get away with it. When Reagan lied to us about selling arms to terrorists, his poll numbers dropped like a bomb. Iran/Contra was minor compared to this scandal. But, there's one thing keeping Bush afloat–the media is part of this scandal. They pushed Bush's war around the clock and bringing him down would make them look like hypocrites.


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Prewar report: No evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons
An Impeachable Offense
By BRYAN BENDER
The Boston Globe/Orange County Register

Saturday, June 7, 2003

WASHINGTON – The Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's main spy unit, stated in a report last fall that there was "no definitive, reliable information" that Iraq was producing or stockpiling chemical or biological weapons, casting new doubts on the Bush administration's prewar contentions that Saddam Hussein was operating a widespread gas and germ warfare program.

The secret document nonetheless expressed confidence that the regime was concealing unconventional weapons, basing that conclusion on unspecified pieces of intelligence that indicated Iraq was hiding activities from United Nations weapons inspectors scouring the country at the time.

But the findings in the September 2002 report, made public Friday, indicate that a key piece of the U.S. intelligence community had no hard information at that time supporting the White House contention that Iraq posed an imminent and intolerable threat because of weapons of mass destruction.

Two months after Saddam's regime was ousted, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. The items closest to being evidence of the existence of such weapons in Iraq are two trailers turned over to the U.S. military that the Pentagon believes were designed to manufacture biological toxins.

Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said Friday that a beefed-up military search team called the Iraq Survey Group will arrive in Iraq on Monday to begin a more thorough search for the elusive weapons program, which the White House says it remains confident will be found. The team of 1,400 analysts, interpreters, and document specialists "will now begin a very rigorous, analytically driven effort to identify the Iraqi WMD program," he said in a news conference.

Meanwhile, senior intelligence officials downplayed the lengthy document, first reported by U.S. News and World Report. They acknowledged that the Defense Intelligence Agency could not find facilities identifiable as having been part of a weapons of mass destruction program, that situation did not undercut their belief that one existed in Iraq.

"In September 2002, we could not specifically pin down individual facilities operating as part of the weapons of mass destruction programs, specifically the chemical warfare portion," Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, agency director, told reporters Friday after briefing lawmakers seeking an explanation for the apparent contradictions. "It is not in any way intended to portray the fact that we had doubts that such a program existed, that such a program was active, or such a program was part of the Iraqi WMD infrastructure."

He said the Defense Intelligence Agency ultimately signed on to the view that Iraq "had a weapons of mass destruction program in place."

The report discussed what it called "unusual munitions-transfer activity," a reference to suspicious moves made under the cover of night, that led analysts to believe that Iraq "probably had (a chemical warfare) agent," and cited undisclosed intelligence that the Iraqi regime "does have (biological warfare) agents stockpiled that could be weaponized in the event of war," according to a U.S. intelligence official who was provided a copy.

"Were there indicators that they could have a program? The answer would be 'yes,'" the official said. "But if you asked an intelligence analyst if this is (definitely) happening, he would say there is no evidence."

It was unclear whether the conclusions by the Pentagon spy agency were included in a broader assessment - the consensus view of all intelligence agencies - and provided to President Bush in December. A U.S. intelligence official, who asked not to be identified, said the National Intelligence Estimate did include the analysis.

The estimate concluded that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction and predicted that Saddam's regime would continue to develop them, according to intelligence officials. The Central Intelligence Agency and congressional committees have recently launched reviews of that summary of intelligence, in response to allegations that its findings were exaggerated.

The defense agency's report, which includes secret satellite photos of various Iraqi facilities, lent new ammunition to critics of the Bush administration who contend intelligence information was exaggerated to justify military action. "Publicly, the administration was picking things to fit its agenda," said David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear inspector and now president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. The report, which was riddled with caveats, "also shows that intelligence agencies are not all-knowing and have trouble finding these sites," he said.

Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain have come under increased scrutiny from their respective legislatures over the veracity of prewar intelligence. However, opinion polls in the United States continue to show strong backing for the president on Iraq and do not reflect widespread concerns that they may have been misled.

Congress is reviewing the intelligence community's reporting on the subject. An investigation by the House Intelligence Committee seeks to determine whether dissenting views were sufficiently aired.

Copyright 2003 The Orange County Register

Commentary:
Best case scenario: We went to war based on the supposition that Saddam had WMD because he wasn't giving in to the UN inspectors. Worse case: The US government lied to us.


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Nation misled into war in Iraq
An Impeachable Offense
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
By PAUL KRUGMAN
SYNDICATED COLUMNIST

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The Bush and Blair administrations are trying to silence critics -- many of them current or former intelligence analysts -- who say they exaggerated the threat from Iraq. Last week, a Blair official accused Britain's intelligence agencies of plotting against the government. (Blair's government has since apologized for January's "dodgy dossier.")

In this country, Secretary of State Colin Powell has declared that questions about the justification for war are "outrageous."

Yet dishonest salesmanship has been the hallmark of the Bush administration's approach to domestic policy. And it has become increasingly clear that the selling of the war with Iraq was no different.

For example, look at the way the administration rhetorically linked Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11. As The Associated Press put it: "The implication from Bush on down was that Saddam supported Osama bin Laden's network. Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks frequently were mentioned in the same sentence, even though officials have no good evidence of such a link."

Not only was there no good evidence; according to The New York Times, captured leaders of al-Qaida explicitly told the CIA they had not been working with Saddam.

Or look at the affair of the infamous "germ warfare" trailers. I don't know whether those trailers were intended to produce bioweapons or merely to inflate balloons, as the Iraqis claim -- a claim supported by a number of outside experts. (According to the British newspaper The Observer, Britain sold Iraq a similar system back in 1987.)

What is clear is that an initial report concluding that they were weapons labs was, as one analyst told The Times, "a rushed job and looks political." President Bush had no business declaring "we have found the weapons of mass destruction."

We can guess how Bush came to make that statement. The first teams of analysts told administration officials what they wanted to hear, doubts were brushed aside, and officials then made public pronouncements greatly overstating even what the analysts had said.

A similar process of cherry picking, of choosing and exaggerating intelligence that suited the administration's preconceptions, unfolded over the issue of WMDs before the war. Most intelligence professionals believed that Saddam had some biological and chemical weapons, but they did not believe they posed any imminent threat.

According to The Independent, another British newspaper, a March 2002 report by Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee found no evidence that Saddam posed a significantly greater threat than in 1991. But such conclusions weren't acceptable.

Last fall former U.S. intelligence officials began warning that official pronouncements were being based on "cooked intelligence." British intelligence officials were so concerned that, The Independent reported, they kept detailed records of the process. "A smoking gun may well exist over WMD, but it may not be to the government's liking," a source said.

But the Bush administration found scraps of intelligence suiting its agenda, and officials began making strong pronouncements.

"Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have," Bush said on Feb. 8. On March 16 Dick Cheney declared, "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

It's now two months since Baghdad fell -- and according to The Associated Press, military units searching for WMDs have run out of places to look.

One last point: The Bush administration's determination to see what it wanted to see led not just to a gross exaggeration of the threat Iraq posed, but to a severe underestimation of the problems of postwar occupation.

When Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, warned that occupying Iraq might require hundreds of thousands of soldiers for an extended period, Paul Wolfowitz said he was "wildly off the mark" -- and the secretary of the Army may have been fired for backing him up.

Now a force of 150,000 is stretched thin, facing increasingly frequent guerrilla attacks, and a senior officer told The Washington Post that it might be two years before an Iraqi government takes over. The Independent reports that British military chiefs are resisting calls to send more forces, fearing being "sucked into a quagmire."

I'll tell you what's outrageous. It's not the fact that people are criticizing the administration, it's the fact that nobody is being held accountable for misleading the nation into war.

Paul Krugman is a columnist for The New York Times. Copyright 2003 New York Times News Service. E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

©1996-2003 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Commentary:
We have entered the era of propaganda. It's purpose of which is for you to never question, never doubt, never ask for proof, facts or evidence. If propaganda works as intended all it requires of you is for you to believe.


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Lying to Congress in the State of the Union
An Impeachable Offense
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 12, 2003; Page A01

A key component of President Bush's claim in his State of the Union address last January that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program -- its alleged attempt to buy uranium in Niger -- was disputed by a CIA-directed mission to the central African nation in early 2002, according to senior administration officials and a former government official. But the CIA did not pass on the detailed results of its investigation to the White House or other government agencies, the officials said.

The CIA's failure to share what it knew, which has not been disclosed previously, was one of a number of steps in the Bush administration that helped keep the uranium story alive until the eve of the war in Iraq, when the United Nations' chief nuclear inspector told the Security Council that the claim was based on fabricated evidence.

A senior intelligence official said the CIA's action was the result of "extremely sloppy" handling of a central piece of evidence in the administration's case against then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But, the official added, "It is only one fact and not the reason we went to war. There was a lot more."

However, a senior CIA analyst said the case "is indicative of larger problems" involving the handling of intelligence about Iraq's alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and its links to al Qaeda, which the administration cited as justification for war. "Information not consistent with the administration agenda was discarded and information that was [consistent] was not seriously scrutinized," the analyst said.

As the controversy over Iraq intelligence has expanded with the failure so far of U.S. teams in Iraq to uncover proscribed weapons, intelligence officials have accused senior administration policymakers of pressuring the CIA or exaggerating intelligence information to make the case for war. The story involving the CIA's uranium-purchase probe, however, suggests that the agency also was shaping intelligence on Iraq to meet the administration's policy goals.

Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), former chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and a candidate for president, yesterday described the case as "part of the agency's standard operating procedure when it wants to advance the information that supported their [the administration's] position and bury that which didn't."

Armed with information purportedly showing that Iraqi officials had been seeking to buy uranium in Niger one or two years earlier, the CIA in early February 2002 dispatched a retired U.S. ambassador to the country to investigate the claims, according to the senior U.S. officials and the former government official, who is familiar with the event. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity and on condition that the name of the former ambassador not be disclosed.

During his trip, the CIA's envoy spoke with the president of Niger and other Niger officials mentioned as being involved in the Iraqi effort, some of whose signatures purportedly appeared on the documents.

After returning to the United States, the envoy reported to the CIA that the uranium-purchase story was false, the sources said. Among the envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong," the former U.S. government official said.

However, the CIA did not include details of the former ambassador's report and his identity as the source, which would have added to the credibility of his findings, in its intelligence reports that were shared with other government agencies. Instead, the CIA only said that Niger government officials had denied the attempted deal had taken place, a senior administration said.

"This gent made a visit to the region and chatted up his friends," a senior intelligence official said, describing the agency's view of the mission. "He relayed back to us that they said it was not true and that he believed them."

Thirteen months later, on March 8, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, informed the U.N. Security Council that after careful scrutiny of the Niger documents, his agency had reached the same conclusion as the CIA's envoy. ElBaradei deemed the documents "not authentic," an assessment that U.S. officials did not dispute.

Knowledgeable sources familiar with the forgery investigation have described the faked evidence as a series of letters between Iraqi agents and officials in Niger. The documents had been sought by U.N. inspectors since September 2002 and they were delivered by the United States and Britain last February.

The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a panel of nongovernment experts that is reviewing the handling of Iraq intelligence, is planning to study the Niger story and how it made its way into Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28. In making the case that Iraq had an ongoing nuclear weapons program, Bush declared that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

That same month, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice also mentioned Iraq's alleged attempts to buy uranium, and the story made its way into a State Department "fact sheet" as well.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee and a leading administration critic, wrote the president June 2 asking why Bush had included the Niger case as part of the evidence he cited against Iraq. "Given what the CIA knew at the time, the implication you intended -- that there was credible evidence that Iraq sought uranium from Africa -- was simply false," Waxman said.

The CIA's decision to send an emissary to Niger was triggered by questions raised by an aide to Vice President Cheney during an agency briefing on intelligence circulating about the purported Iraqi efforts to acquire the uranium, according to the senior officials. Cheney's staff was not told at the time that its concerns had been the impetus for a CIA mission and did not learn it occurred or its specific results.

Cheney and his staff continued to get intelligence on the matter, but the vice president, unlike other senior administration officials, never mentioned it in a public speech. He and his staff did not learn of its role in spurring the mission until it was disclosed by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on May 6, according to an administration official.

When the British government published an intelligence document on Iraq in September 2002 claiming that Baghdad had "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," the former ambassador called the CIA officers who sent him to Niger and was told they were looking into new information about the claim, sources said. The former envoy later called the CIA and State Department after Bush's State of the Union speech and was told "not to worry," according to one U.S. official.

Later it was disclosed that the United States and Britain were basing their reports on common information that originated with forged documents provided originally by Italian intelligence officials.

CIA Director George J. Tenet, on Sept. 24, 2002, cited the Niger evidence in a closed-door briefing to the Senate intelligence committee on a national intelligence estimate of Iraq's weapons programs, sources said. Although Tenet told the panel that some questions had been raised about the evidence, he did not mention that the agency had sent an envoy to Niger and that the former ambassador had concluded that the claims were false.

The Niger evidence was not included in Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's Feb. 5 address to the Security Council in which he disclosed some intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons programs and links to al Qaeda because it was considered inaccurate, sources said.

Even so, the Voice of America on Feb. 20 broadcast a story that said: "U.S. officials tell VOA [that] Iraq and Niger signed an agreement in the summer of 2000 to resume shipments for an additional 500 tons of yellow cake," a reference to the uranium. The VOA, which is financed by the government but has an official policy of editorial independence, went on to say that there was no evidence such shipments had taken place.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
How is it possible that Tenet could give the Congress information the UN clearly said was forged? Is Tenet a moron or a victim of plausible deniability--the doctrine which keeps the decision makers uninformed so they have an excuse in case everything falls apart? Tenet should have known the Niger information was fake. He's should resign.

What is inexcusable is the Administration continuing to use information that was known to be false. The Niger farce is just one example. A second glaring example of lies is on the aluminum tubes. After the IAEA inspected the tubes and said they were for conventional use only, Rice, Cheney, Bush and Powell continue to repeat the party line and lie to the American people about Iraq reconstituting nuclear weapons.

The State of the Union is a legal document, required by the Constitution. Bush lied to the Congress in his official capacity as Commander in Chief and President. This lie along with others makes Bush unfit to serve.


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Army chief's parting shot at Rumsfeld
Chicago Sun Times
June 12, 2003
BY ROBERT BURNS

FORT MYER, Va.--''And so I say one last time, my name is Shinseki and I am a soldier--proud of it.''

With that trademark expression from an Army chief of staff who defined himself as a simple soldier, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki on Wednesday bade farewell to a career that spanned five decades, from the jungles of Vietnam, where combat cost him part of a foot, to the halls of the Pentagon, where he fought bureaucratic wars until his final hours as chief of staff.

The White House has not nominated a Shinseki successor, but officials let it be known the day before his retirement ceremony that it would be Peter Schoomaker, who retired from the Army in 2000. Never before has an Army chief of staff been chosen from the ranks of the retired.

In his parting remarks, Shinseki made no specific mention of his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, with whom he had a sometimes tense relationship.

But Shinseki alluded to the tensions, which some have attributed to a belief by Rumsfeld that Army leaders resisted a basic principle of democracy: that they must answer to civilian authority.

''We understand that leadership is not an exclusive function of the uniformed services,'' Shinseki said to an audience that included members of Congress and military officers from countries across the globe. ''So when some suggest that we in the Army don't understand the importance of civilian control of the military, well, that's just not helpful--and it isn't true.

''The Army has always understood the primacy of civilian control,'' he added. ''In fact we are the ones who reinforce that principle with those other armies with whom we train all around the world. So to muddy the waters when important issues are at stake--issues of life and death--is a disservice to all those in and out of uniform who serve and lead so well.''

Shinseki is the only officer of Japanese descent to rise to the top post in the Army.

AP

Copyright 2003, Digital Chicago Inc.

Commentary:
We'll learn the truth some day. I can't wait.

As some of you may recall, Rumsfeld did two really stupid things when he became defense secretary. The first was to pull assets away from terrorism and the second was his attempt to make massive defense cuts.

Impeach2

Navy
Cutting one of its 12 carrier battlegroups, which would mean 6,000-8,000 sailors, 80 airplanes, plus three to five ships that support a carrier.
Army
15,000 troops based in Europe would be eliminated, plus more than 30,000 troops from the National Guard or reserve.
Air Force
Three squadrons of fighters would be cut; about 70 planes and more than 1,000 people"

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All the News That's Fudged to Print
Common Dreams/The Globe & Mail (Canada)
by John MacArthur
June 06, 2003

Yesterday's forced resignation of New York Times executive editor Howell Raines might lead a casual observer to conclude that the wayward reporter Jayson Blair (under Mr. Raines's lax supervision) had committed serial rape on the Gray Lady of West 43rd Street, rather than serial acts of journalistic fraud. In reality, this metaphoric beheading by the company's board of directors furthers a preposterous image of victimization that covers up far more serious transgressions by the "paper of record."

Notwithstanding Mr. Blair's "crime," such a histrionic mea culpa recalls the criminal who pleads to a lesser offence in order to escape prosecution for a more serious one. Whatever's driving the paper's nervous breakdown, I'm sure of this: The Times has lately been a perpetrator of fraud more than its victim.

Take the case of staff reporter Judith Miller, who covers the atomic bomb/chemical-weapons-fear beat, and hasn't heard a scare story about Iraq that she didn't believe, especially if leaked by her White House friends. On Sept. 8, 2002, Ms. Miller and her colleague Michael Gordon helped co-launch the Bush II sales campaign for Saddam-change with a front page story about unsuccessful Iraqi efforts to purchase 81-mm aluminum tubes, allegedly destined for a revived nuclear weapons program.

Pitched to a 9/11-spooked public and a gullible, cowardly U.S. congress, the aluminum tubes plant was a big component of the "weapons of mass destruction" canard, which resulted in hasty House and Senate war authorization on Oct. 11.

Months later, when the tubes connection was thoroughly discredited (UN weapons inspectors past and present said the tubes were intended for conventional rocket production), the Times did not think it necessary to run a clarification. Nor was Ms. Miller disciplined for shoddy work; on the contrary, when the A-bomb threat had faded, the Bush administration astutely shifted the media's focus to chemical and biological weapons -- and Ms. Miller fell into line with the program.

When these non-nuclear weapons proved elusive after the fall of Baghdad, she placed herself at the service of what I call the Pentagon's pretext verification unit. In her first postwar dispatch, again deemed front-page news, she wrote about a man claiming to be an "Iraqi scientist" with knowledge about destroyed chemical weapons. The problem was, Ms. Miller didn't interview the gentleman, didn't learn his name and agreed to have her story censored by the U.S. army under the terms of her "accreditation."

Thus, the reader wasn't even told what chemicals or weapons materials the "scientist" was alleged to have known about. Readers were told that the man had to remain anonymous in order to protect him from reprisal (despite regime change). What Ms. Miller did reveal (besides her censorship contract) was that she witnessed "from a distance" a man in a baseball cap pointing "to several spots in the sand," where he claimed the awful stuff was buried. This would be laughable if it hadn't help pave the way for war and the subversion of democracy.

When officials leak a "fact" to Ms. Miller, they then can cite her subsequent stenography in the Times as corroboration of their own propaganda, as though the Times had conducted its own independent investigation. On Sept. 8, Dick Cheney cited the Times's aluminum tubes nonsense on Meet the Press to buttress his casus belli.

More recently, on May 23, former CIA director and Bush apologist James Woolsey was challenged by CNN International's Daljit Dhaliwal in very un-Timesian fashion about the absence of weapons and the world's resulting skepticism. Mr. Woolsey replied, "Well, I think the key thing on that is the very fine reporting that's been done by Judith Miller of The New York Times. The first article on the front page was three or four weeks ago, about this Iraqi scientist who was captured by the Americans, who was in charge of a major share of the nerve gas program, and was apparently ordered just as the war began to destroy a substantial share of what he had and to hide very deeply the rest."

Evidently very deeply, since we still haven't seen any confirmation.

Meanwhile, the White House-Judith Miller teamwork has had its intended impact. A Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll found that 41 per cent of Americans "either believed that the U.S. had found WMD, or were unsure" and that 31 per cent thought Iraq had actually used chemical or biological weapons in the war (or were unsure). These numbers led PIPA director Steven Kull to suggest that "some Americans may be avoiding having an experience of cognitive dissonance." No, they're just reading The New York Times.

Rotten reporting isn't all that's wrong at the Times. Last October, the paper's Sunday supplement published a long piece by contract writer Michael Lewis ("In Defense of the Boom"). In it, he criticized New York State Attorney-General Elliot Spitzer for singling out Merrill Lynch and its crooked analyst Henry Blodget for hyping the Internet bubble to attract Internet IPOs for Merrill's investment banking business. Mr. Lewis declared that Mr. Spitzer was driven by political ambitions, and argued that, unlike other big investment banks "more central to the Internet bubble, Merrill actually serviced lots of small customers."

And ripped them off. Mr. Lewis's point about Mr. Spitzer's political motives might seem narrowly legitimate if Mr. Lewis hadn't taken a $15,000 fee from Merrill to speak at its Internet Strategies mutual fund sales promotion conference in March, 2000. Mr. Lewis was hot off the success of his ode to Internet entrepreneur Jim Clark, The New New Thing, and insisted to me last week that the Merrill gig was just one of many, and thus inconsequential in his overall judgment of Merrill Lynch. Indeed, he called the suggestion that it influenced his Times article "absurd."

In his Times piece, Mr. Lewis mentioned attending a Merrill-Blodget Internet conference that he claims caused him foolishly to invest in an Internet company called Exodus Communications "at the end of 1999."

But he told me that this conference was the same one he got paid to speak at in March, 2000, and that the Exodus buy lost him "three times his speaking fee." Whatever the timeline, Mr. Lewis portrays himself as just another victim of Merrill's hype machine rather than as a beneficiary.

Now, that's absurd. But I'm mostly concerned here with corruption at The New York Times, not logical argument. And Mr. Lewis disclosed nothing about getting paid by Merrill (a company spokesman referred to him as "a participant in the roadshow") to lend glamour and an implicit endorsement to a sales promotion.

Mr. Lewis said he didn't think he told his editors about the fee, but that "it wouldn't have mattered to them." (A Times spokesman said that his article was printed "before we issued our new ethical journalism policy earlier this year. Nonetheless, we do not believe there was a conflict.")

Howell Raines got punished for the wrong reason; Jayson Blair is merely a symptom. What's a few made-up features compared with promoting an unjustifiable war and a bunch of worthless stocks?

John R. MacArthur is publisher of Harper's Magazine.

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc.

Commentary:
Excellent. The media is obsessed with lying to us. They can't help themselves anymore. We're not talking mistakes. We're talking about spinning the party line around the clock and then when the truth comes out to do everything in their power to keep it hidden. A typical example of their inability to tell us the facts is Whitewater. We all know Whitewater was a made for TV scandal based on fake evidence, innuendo, lies and misstatement of fact (otherwise known as making it up), but some members of the press won't let it go. The Washington Times seems particularly well apt at lying.

We shouldn't take the press seriously again until they take themselves seriously. The solution is simple, they need to verify their sources and facts. Stories are not opinion and opinion is not news.

News should be based on solely on facts. When they return to being real journalists instead of political spin machines we can think about trusting them again. Unfortunately, I don't see the press repairing itself soon. The lies they pushed to get Bush elected don't bother them. They lies they pushed about Gore and Clinton don't bother them. The lies they pushed about WMD doesn't seem to bother them. The lies they push about Hillary Clinton don't bother them.


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