In These Times: “They Knew”…invasion claims were false


Richard Moore


 They Knew...
 By David Sirota and Christy Harvey
 In These Times

Wednesday 03 August 2004

Despite the whitewash, we now know that the Bush
administration was warned before the war that its Iraq claims
were weak.

If desperation is ugly, then Washington, D.C. today is
downright hideous.

As the 9/11 Commission recently reported, there was "no
credible evidence" of a collaborative relationship between
Iraq and al Qaeda. Similarly, no weapons of mass destruction
have been found in Iraq. With U.S. casualties mounting in an
election year, the White House is grasping at straws to avoid
being held accountable for its dishonesty.

The whitewash already has started: In July, Republicans on the
Senate Intelligence Committee released a controversial report
blaming the CIA for the mess. The panel conveniently refuses
to evaluate what the White House did with the information it
was given or how the White House set up its own special team
of Pentagon political appointees (called the Office of Special
Plans) to circumvent well-established intelligence channels.
And Vice President Dick Cheney continues to say without a
shred of proof that there is "overwhelming evidence"
justifying the administration's pre-war charges.

But as author Flannery O'Conner noted, "Truth does not change
according to our ability to stomach it." That means no matter
how much defensive spin spews from the White House, the Bush
administration cannot escape the documented fact that it was
clearly warned before the war that its rationale for invading
Iraq was weak.

Top administration officials repeatedly ignored warnings that
their assertions about Iraq's supposed Weapons of Mass
Destruction (WMD) and connections to al Qaeda were overstated.
In some cases, they were told their claims were wholly without
merit, yet they went ahead and made them anyway. Even the
Senate report admits that the White House "misrepresented"
classified intelligence by eliminating references to
contradictory assertions.

In short, they knew they were misleading America.

And they did not care.

They knew Iraq posed no nuclear threat There is no doubt even
though there was no proof of Iraq's complicity, the White
House was focused on Iraq within hours of the 9/11 attacks. As
CBS News reported, "barely five hours after American Airlines
Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald
H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for
striking Iraq." Former Bush counterterrorism czar Richard
Clarke recounted vividly how, just after the attack, President
Bush pressured him to find an Iraqi connection. In many ways,
this was no surprise - as former Treasury Secretary Paul
O'Neill and another administration official confirmed, the
White House was actually looking for a way to invade Iraq well
before the terrorist attacks.

But such an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country
required a public rationale. And so the Bush administration
struck fear into the hearts of Americans about Saddam
Hussein's supposed WMD, starting with nuclear arms. In his
first major address on the "Iraqi threat" in October 2002,
President Bush invoked fiery images of mushroom clouds and
mayhem, saying, "Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons

Yet, before that speech, the White House had intelligence
calling this assertion into question. A 1997 report by the
U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - the agency
whose purpose is to prevent nuclear proliferation - stated
there was no indication Iraq ever achieved nuclear capability
or had any physical capacity for producing weapons-grade
nuclear material in the near future.

In February 2001, the CIA delivered a report to the White
House that said: "We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq
has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its
weapons of mass destruction programs." The report was so
definitive that Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a
subsequent press conference, Saddam Hussein "has not developed
any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass

Ten months before the president's speech, an intelligence
review by CIA Director George Tenet contained not a single
mention of an imminent nuclear threat - or capability - from
Iraq. The CIA was backed up by Bush's own State Department:
Around the time Bush gave his speech, the department's
intelligence bureau said that evidence did not "add up to a
compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what [we]
consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to
acquiring nuclear weapons."

Nonetheless, the administration continued to push forward. In
March 2003, Cheney went on national television days before the
war and claimed Iraq "has reconstituted nuclear weapons." He
was echoed by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, who
told reporters of supposedly grave "concerns about Iraq's
potential nuclear programs."

Even after the invasion, when troops failed to uncover any
evidence of nuclear weapons, the White House refused to admit
the truth. In July 2003, Condoleezza Rice told PBS's Gwen
Ifill that the administration's nuclear assertions were
"absolutely supportable." That same month, White House
spokesman Scott McClellan insisted: "There's a lot of evidence
showing that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons

They knew the aluminum tubes were not for nuclear weapons To
back up claims that Iraq was actively trying to build nuclear
weapons, the administration referred to Iraq's importation of
aluminum tubes, which Bush officials said were for enriching
uranium. In December 2002, Powell said, "Iraq has tried to
obtain high-strength aluminum tubes which can be used to
enrich uranium in centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program."
Similarly, in his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush said
Iraq "has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes
suitable for nuclear weapons production."

But, in October 2002, well before these and other
administration officials made this claim, two key agencies
told the White House exactly the opposite. The State
Department affirmed reports from Energy Department experts who
concluded those tubes were ill-suited for any kind of uranium
enrichment. And according to memos released by the Senate
Intelligence Committee, the State Department also warned
Powell not to use the aluminum tubes hypothesis in the days
before his February 2003 U.N. speech. He refused and used the
aluminum tubes claim anyway.

The State Department's warnings were soon validated by the
IAEA. In March 2003, the agency's director stated, "Iraq's
efforts to import these aluminum tubes were not likely to be
related" to nuclear weapons deployment.

Yet, this evidence did not stop the White House either.
Pretending the administration never received any warnings at
all, Rice claimed in July 2003 that "the consensus view" in
the intelligence community was that the tubes "were suitable
for use in centrifuges to spin material for nuclear weapons."

Today, experts agree the administration's aluminum tube claims
were wholly without merit.

They knew the Iraq-uranium claims were not supported In one of
the most famous statements about Iraq's supposed nuclear
arsenals, Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address,
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein
recently sought significant quantities of uranium from
Africa." The careful phrasing of this statement highlights how
dishonest it was. By attributing the claim to an allied
government, the White House made a powerful charge yet
protected itself against any consequences should it be proved
false. In fact, the president invoked the British because his
own intelligence experts had earlier warned the White House
not to make the claim at all.

In the fall of 2002, the CIA told administration officials not
to include this uranium assertion in presidential speeches.
Specifically, the agency sent two memos to the White House and
Tenet personally called top national security officials
imploring them not to use the claim. While the warnings forced
the White House to remove a uranium reference from an October
2002 presidential address, they did not stop the charge from
being included in the 2003 State of the Union.

Not surprisingly, evidence soon emerged that forced the White
House to admit the deception. In March 2003, IAEA Director
Mohammed El Baradei said there was no proof Iraq had nuclear
weapons and added "documents which formed the basis for [the
White House's assertion] of recent uranium transactions
between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic." But when
Cheney was asked about this a week later, he said, "Mr. El
Baradei frankly is wrong."

Bush and Rice both tried to blame the CIA for the failure,
saying the assertion "was cleared by the intelligence
services." When the intelligence agency produced the memos it
had sent to the White House on the subject, Rice didn't miss a
beat, telling Meet The Press "it is quite possible that I
didn't" read the memos at all - as if they were "optional"
reading for the nation's top national security official on the
eve of war. At about this time, some high-level administration
official or officials leaked to the press that Ambassador
Joseph Wilson's wife was an undercover CIA agent - a move
widely seen as an attempt by the administration to punish
Wilson for his July 6, 2003 New York Times op-ed that stated
he had found no evidence of an Iraqi effort to purchase
uranium from Niger.

In recent weeks, right-wing pundits have pointed to new
evidence showing the Iraq uranium charge may have flirted with
the truth at some point in the distant past. These White House
hatchet men say the administration did not manipulate or
cherry-pick intelligence. They also tout the recent British
report (a.k.a. The Butler Report) as defending the president's
uranium claim. Yet, if the White House did not cherry-pick or
manipulate intelligence, why did the president trumpet U.S.
intelligence from a foreign government while ignoring explicit
warnings not to do so from his own? The record shows U.S.
intelligence officials explicitly warned the White House that
"the Brits have exaggerated this issue." Yet, the
administration refused to listen. Even The Butler Report
itself acknowledges the evidence is cloudy. As
nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace recently pointed out, "The
claim appears shaky at best - hardly the stuff that should
make up presidential decisions."

But now, instead of contrition, Republicans are insisting the
White House's uranium charge was accurate. Indeed, these
apologists have no option but to try to distract public
attention from the simple truth that not a shred of solid
evidence exists to substantiate this key charge that fueled
the push for war.

They knew there was no hard evidence of chemical or biological
weapons In September 2002, President Bush said Iraq "could
launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45
minutes after the order is given." The next month, he
delivered a major speech to "outline the Iraqi threat," just
two days before a critical U.N. vote. In his address, he
claimed without doubt that Iraq "possesses and produces
chemical and biological weapons." He said that "Iraq has a
growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons"
and that the government was "concerned Iraq is exploring ways
of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States."

What he did not say was that the White House had been
explicitly warned that these assertions were unproved.

As the Washington Post later reported, Bush "ignored the fact
that U.S. intelligence mistrusted the source" of the 45-minute
claim and, therefore, omitted it from its intelligence
estimates. And Bush ignored the fact that the Defense
Intelligence Agency previously submitted a report to the
administration finding "no reliable information" to prove Iraq
was producing or stockpiling chemical weapons. According to
Newsweek, the conclusion was similar to the findings of a 1998
government commission on WMD chaired by Rumsfeld.

Bush also neglected to point out that in early October 2002,
the administration's top military experts told the White House
they "sharply disputed the notion that Iraq's Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles were being designed as attack weapons." Specifically,
the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center
correctly showed the drones in question were too heavy to be
used to deploy chemical/biological-weapons spray devices.

Regardless, the chemical/biological weapons claims from the
administration continued to escalate. Powell told the United
Nations on February 5, 2003, "There can be no doubt that
Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to
rapidly produce more, many more." As proof, he cited aerial
images of a supposed decontamination vehicle circling a
suspected weapons site.

According to newly released documents in the Senate
Intelligence Committee report, Powell's own top intelligence
experts told him not to make such claims about the
photographs. They said the vehicles were likely water trucks.
He ignored their warnings.

On March 6, 2003, just weeks before the invasion, the
president went further than Powell. He claimed, "Iraqi
operatives continue to hide biological and chemical agents."

To date, no chemical or biological weapons have been found in

They knew Saddam and bin Laden were not collaborating In the
summer of 2002, USA Today reported White House lawyers had
concluded that establishing an Iraq-al Qaeda link would
provide the legal cover at the United Nations for the
administration to attack Iraq. Such a connection, no doubt,
also would provide political capital at home. And so, by the
fall of 2002, the Iraq-al Qaeda drumbeat began.

It started on September 25, 2002, when Bush said, "you can't
distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam." This was news even
to members of Bush's own political party who had access to
classified intelligence. Just a month before, Sen. Chuck Hagel
(R-Neb.), who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, said, "Saddam is not in league with al Qaeda, I
have not seen any intelligence that would lead me to connect
Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda."

To no surprise, the day after Bush's statement, USA Today
reported several intelligence experts "expressed skepticism"
about the claim, with a Pentagon official calling the
president's assertion an "exaggeration." No matter, Bush
ignored these concerns and that day described Saddam Hussein
as "a man who loves to link up with al Qaeda." Meanwhile,
Rumsfeld held a press conference trumpeting "bulletproof"
evidence of a connection - a sentiment echoed by Rice and
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. And while the New York
Times noted, "the officials offered no details to back up the
assertions," Rumsfeld nonetheless insisted his claims were
"accurate and not debatable."

Within days, the accusations became more than just
"debatable"; they were debunked. German Defense Minister Peter
Stuck said the day after Rumsfeld's press conference that his
country "was not aware of any connection" between Iraq and al
Qaeda's efforts to acquire chemical weapons. The Orlando
Sentinel reported that terrorism expert Peter Bergen - one of
the few to actually interview Osama bin Laden - said the
connection between Iraq and al Qaeda are minimal. In October
2002, Knight Ridder reported, "a growing number of military
officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in [Bush's]
own government privately have deep misgivings" about the
Iraq-al Qaeda claims. The experts charged that administration
hawks "exaggerated evidence." A senior U.S. official told the
Philadelphia Inquirer that intelligence analysts "contest the
administration's suggestion of a major link between Iraq and
al Qaeda."

While this evidence forced British Prime Minister Tony Blair
and other allies to refrain from playing up an Iraq-al Qaeda
connection, the Bush administration refused to be deterred by

On November 1, 2002, President Bush claimed, "We know [Iraq
has] got ties with al Qaeda." Four days later, Europe's top
terrorism investigator Jean-Louis Bruguiere reported: "We have
found no evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda. If there
were such links, we would have found them. But we have found
no serious connections whatsoever." British Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw, whose country was helping build the case for war,
admitted, "What I'm asked is if I've seen any evidence of
[Iraq-al Qaeda connections]. And the answer is: 'I haven't.' "

Soon, an avalanche of evidence appeared indicating the White
House was deliberately misleading America. In January 2003,
intelligence officials told the Los Angeles Times that they
were "puzzled by the administration's new push" to create the
perception of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection and said the
intelligence community has "discounted - if not dismissed -
information believed to point to possible links between Iraq
and al Qaeda." One intelligence official said, "There isn't a
factual basis" for the administration's conspiracy theory
about the so-called connection.

On the morning of February 5, 2003, the same day Powell
delivered his U.N. speech, British intelligence leaked a
comprehensive report finding no substantial links between Iraq
and al Qaeda. The BBC reported that British intelligence
officials maintained "any fledgling relationship [between Iraq
and al Qaeda] foundered due to mistrust and incompatible
ideologies." Powell, nonetheless, stood before the United
Nations and claimed there was a "sinister nexus between Iraq
and the al Qaeda." A month later, Rice backed him up, saying
al Qaeda "clearly has had links to the Iraqis." And in his
March 17, 2003, speech on the eve of war, Bush justified the
invasion by citing the fully discredited Iraq-al Qaeda link.

When the war commenced, the house of cards came down. In June
2003, the chairman of the U.N. group that monitors al Qaeda
told reporters his team found no evidence linking the
terrorist group to Iraq. In July 2003, the Los Angeles Times
reported the bipartisan congressional report analyzing
September 11 "undercut Bush administration claims before the
war that Hussein had links to al Qaeda." Meanwhile, the New
York Times reported, "Coalition forces have not brought to
light any significant evidence demonstrating the bond between
Iraq and al Qaeda." In August 2003, three former Bush
administration officials came forward to admit pre-war
evidence tying al Qaeda to Iraq "was tenuous, exaggerated, and
often at odds with the conclusions of key intelligence

Yet, the White House insisted on maintaining the deception. In
the fall of 2003, President Bush said, "There's no question
that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties." And Cheney claimed
Iraq "had an established relationship to al Qaeda." When the
media finally began demanding proof for all the allegations,
Powell offered a glimmer of contrition. In January 2004, he
conceded that there was no "smoking gun" to prove the claim.
His admission was soon followed by a March 2004 Knight Ridder
report that quoted administration officials conceding "there
never was any evidence that Hussein's secular police state and
Osama bin Laden's Islamic terror network were in league."

But Powell's statement was the exception, not the norm. The
White House still refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing, and
instead resorts to the classic two-step feint, citing sources
but conveniently refusing to acknowledge those sources'
critical faults.

For instance, Cheney began pointing reporters to an article in
the right-wing Weekly Standard as the "best source" of
evidence backing the Saddam-al Qaeda claim, even though the
Pentagon had previously discredited the story. Similarly, in
June, the Republican's media spin machine came to the aid of
the White House and promoted a New York Times article about a
document showing failed efforts by bin Laden to work with Iraq
in the mid-'90s against Saudi Arabia. Not surprisingly, the
spinners did not mention the article's key finding - a
Pentagon task force found that the document "described no
formal alliance being reached between Mr. bin Laden and Iraqi

When the 9/11 Commission found "no credible evidence" of a
collaborative relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, the
White House denials came as no surprise. Cheney defiantly
claimed there was "overwhelming evidence" of a link, provided
no evidence, and then berated the media and the commission for
having the nerve to report the obvious. Bush did not feel the
need to justify his distortions, saying after the report came
out, "The reason I keep insisting that there was a
relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda is because
there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

That was the perfect answer from an administration that never
lets the factual record impinge on what it says to the
American public.

They knew there was no Prague meeting One of the key pillars
of the Iraq-al Qaeda myth was a White House-backed story
claiming 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi spy in
April 2001. The tale originally came from a lone Czech
informant who said he saw the terrorist in Prague at the time.
White House hawks, eager to link al Qaeda with Saddam, did not
wait to verify the story, and instead immediately used it to
punch up arguments for a preemptive attack on Iraq. On
November 14, 2001, Cheney claimed Atta was "in Prague in April
of this year, as well as earlier." On December 9, 2001, he
went further, claiming without proof that the Atta meeting was
"pretty well confirmed."

Nine days later, the Czech government reported there was no
evidence that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in
Prague. Czech Police Chief Jiri Kolar said there were no
documents showing Atta had been in Prague that entire year,
and Czech officials told Newsweek that the uncorroborated
witness who perpetuated the story should have been viewed with
more skepticism.

By the spring of 2002, major news publications such as the
Washington Post, the New York Times, Newsweek and Time were
running stories calling the "Prague connection" an
"embarrassing" mistake and stating that, according to European
officials, the intelligence supporting the claim was
"somewhere between 'slim' and 'none'." The stories also quoted
administration officials and CIA and FBI analysts saying that
on closer scrutiny, "there was no evidence Atta left or
returned to the United State at the time he was supposed to be
in Prague." Even FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, a Bush
political appointee, admitted in April 2002, "We ran down
literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every
record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to
car rentals to bank accounts," but found nothing.

But that was not good enough for the administration, which
instead of letting the story go, began trying to manipulate
intelligence to turn fantasy into reality. In August 2002,
when FBI case officers told Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz that there was no Atta meeting, Newsweek reported
Wolfowitz "vigorously challenged them." Wolfowitz wanted the
FBI to endorse claims that Atta and the Iraqi spy had met. FBI
counterterrorism chief Pat D'Amuro refused.

In September 2002, the CIA handed Cheney a classified
intelligence assessment that cast specific, serious doubt on
whether the Atta meeting ever occurred. Yet, that same month,
Richard Perle, then chairman of the Bush's Defense Policy
Board, said, "Muhammad Atta met [a secret collaborator of
Saddam Hussein] prior to September 11. We have proof of that,
and we are sure he wasn't just there for a holiday." In the
same breath, Perle openly admitted, "The meeting is one of the
motives for an American attack on Iraq."

By the winter of 2002, even America's allies were telling the
administration to relent: In November, British Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw said he had seen no evidence of a meeting
in Prague between Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent.

But it did not stop. In September 2003, on "Meet the Press,"
Cheney dredged up the story again, saying, "With respect to
9/11, of course, we've had the story that's been public out
there. The Czechs alleged that Mohammed Atta, the lead
attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence
official five months before the attack." He provided no new
evidence, opted not to mention that the Czechs long ago had
withdrawn the allegations, and ignored new evidence that
showed the story was likely untrue.

Even today, with all of the intelligence firmly against him,
Cheney remains unrepentant. Asked in June about whether the
meeting had occurred, he admitted, "That's never been proven."
Then he added, "It's never been refuted." When CNBC's Gloria
Borger asked about his initial claim that the meeting was
"pretty well confirmed," Cheney snapped, "No, I never said
that. I never said that. Absolutely not."

His actual words in December 2001: "It's been pretty well
confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a
senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service."

In other words, Cheney hit a new low. He resorted not only to
lying about the story, but lying about lying about the story.

Conclusion: They knew they were misleading America In his
March 17, 2003 address preparing America for the Iraq
invasion, President Bush stated unequivocally that there was
an Iraq-al Qaeda nexus and that there was "no doubt that the
Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most
lethal weapons ever devised."

In the context of what we now know the White House knew at the
time, Bush was deliberately dishonest. The intelligence
community repeatedly told the White House there were many deep
cracks in its case for war. The president's willingness to
ignore such warnings and make these unequivocal statements
proves the administration was intentionally painting a
black-and-white picture when it knew the facts merited only
gray at best.

That has meant severe consequences for all Americans.
Financially, U.S. taxpayers have shelled out more than $166
billion for the Iraq war, and more will soon be needed.
Geopolitically, our country is more isolated from allies than
ever, with anti-Americanism on the rise throughout the globe.

And we are less secure. A recent U.S. Army War College report
says "the invasion of Iraq was a diversion from the more
narrow focus on defeating al Qaeda." U.N. envoy Lakhdar
Brahimi put it this way: "The war in Iraq was useless, it
caused more problems than it solved, and it brought in

These statements are borne out by the facts: The International
Institute of Strategic Studies in London reports al Qaeda is
now 18,000 strong, with many new recruits joining as a result
of the war in Iraq. Not coincidentally, the White House
recently said the American homeland faces an imminent threat
of a terrorist attack from a still-active al Qaeda operation
in Afghanistan. Yet, the administration actually moved special
forces out of Afghanistan in 2002 to prepare for an invasion
of Iraq. Because of this, we face the absurd situation whereby
we have no more than 20,000 troops in Afghanistan hunting down
those who directly threaten us, yet have 140,000 troops in
Iraq - a country that was not a serious menace before

Of course, it is those troops who have it the worst. Our men
and women in uniform are bogged down in a quagmire, forced to
lay down life and limb for a lie.

To be sure, neoconservative pundits and Bush administration
hawks will continue to blame anyone but the White House for
these deceptions. They also will say intelligence gave a bit
of credence to some of the pre-war claims, and that is
certainly true.

But nothing can negate the clear proof that President Bush and
other administration official officials vastly overstated the
intelligence they were given. They engaged in a calculated and
well-coordinated effort to turn a war of choice in Iraq into a
perceived war of imminent necessity.

And we are all left paying the price.


David Sirota, who writes the "Truth & Consequences" column in
In These Times, is director of strategic communications for
the Center for American Progress. Christy Harvey is deputy
director of strategic communications for the Center for
American Progress.


 Betrayal of Trust
 By Sidney Blumenthal

 Thursday 04 August 2004

The Bush administration's disgraceful history of lies and
distortions explains why so many Americans are dismissing the
latest terror alerts as a political stunt.

The fog of war has descended over the campaign. Within 72
hours after the Democratic Convention ended, the Department of
Homeland Security declared a new terror alert, jacking up the
color-coded level from yellow to orange, verging on red. The
cause, the government reported, was that the computer of an
al-Qaida operative captured in Pakistan contained precise
information about threats to five financial institutions in
New York and Washington.

Then additional information was released: The intelligence
was mostly three to four years old (was the World Trade Center
in this latest batch of targets?), al-Qaida's surveillance of
U.S. buildings had been mostly conducted through the Internet
and other "open sources," someone had opened the computer file
again in January of this year for uncertain reasons, and
Pakistani officials said that the captured material indicated
no new al-Qaida planning.

The effect of the alert has been to throw the presidential
campaign into turmoil and momentarily freeze it. John Kerry
decided to accept the administration's explanations and timing
at face value. He could not be seen as veering into an Oliver
Stone script, flailing at shadows of paranoia. His critique of
Bush's war on terrorism must be made with iron discipline,
based on the facts at hand, not the suspicions in mind. Yet
other Democrats have felt free to voice their views that the
administration is using the situation for political advantage.
The steam puts additional pressure on Kerry, who has to hold

In part, the level of partisanship has increased because of
the clumsy performance of Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland
security, who turned the alert announcement into a political
rally. "We must understand that the kind of information
available to us today is the result of the president's
leadership in the war against terror," he said on Aug. 1.
Several days later, Ridge held another news conference, at
which he declared, "We do not do politics at the Department of
Homeland Security." With that the alert rose to the risible.

Whether planned politically or not, the alert exposed that
for Bush terror is the irreducible basis of his campaign. And
while it starkly elevated his profile as the "war president"
again, it also revealed indirectly the vacuum of his
second-term program (i.e., that his hard-right issues are
insufficient to appeal to a national majority), his weakness
on the realities of homeland security, and his desire to
smudge the history of his inaction leading to 9/11 and of his
responsibility for the deterioration of the situation in Iraq.

The widespread cynicism about the latest alerts, which may
have no grounding, is a product of Bush's intense
politicization of national security, his long record of
misleading statements about almost every aspect of the Iraq
war -- from weapons of mass destruction to the connection
between Iraq and al-Qaida -- and his well-chiseled image as a
decisive leader worthy of Mount Rushmore, which is belied by
the 9/11 commission report's support of every charge in former
counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke's account of

The 9/11 commission report is a devastating and irrefutable
record of Bush's passivity on terrorism, beginning with his
first act: the demotion of Clarke. The report documents that
the administration "was not ready to confront Islamabad" on
Pakistan's support for the Taliban or to "engage actively
against al Qaeda" and that it "did not develop new diplomatic
initiatives on al Qaeda with the Saudi government." Bush told
the commission that the Aug. 6, 2001, President's Daily Brief,
"Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," was "historical in
nature," though it contained current information. And, the
report said: "In sum, the domestic agencies never mobilized in
response to the threat. They did not have direction, and did
not have a plan to institute." The administration's
neoconservatives, such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz, are depicted as dismissive -- Wolfowitz opposed
retaliation for al-Qaida's attack on the USS Cole as "stale"
-- and obsessed with Iraq as the source of all terrorism.

Bush's campaign must try to blur memory of his history.
When Kerry seized upon the commission's recommendations, Bush
reacted a week later by endorsing a new national intelligence
chief. But he would give this new post no control over budget,
no White House office, no power over personnel and no
authority over intelligence operations. Once again, he
appeared to be acting only on political motives.

In the meantime, various bills for homeland security
languish before Congress, neglected by Bush. His paltry $46
million proposal for port security, for example, is more than
$1 billion short of what the U.S. Coast Guard says is
required. On port security, 10 Democratic amendments have
already been defeated while Bush has slept. He prefers that
the money be appropriated for more tax cuts skewed to the
upper bracket.

Bush is haunted not only by the ghosts of his own past but
by the ghosts of other presidents past. While he attempts to
redeem his father's political fall by avoiding his mistakes,
his effort at reversal is creating a similar estrangement from
voters. The elder Bush won his war against Iraq and withdrew
without toppling Saddam; his ratings were then at their peak.
But his obliviousness to economic circumstances undermined the
heroic image. Lyndon Johnson had an ambitious domestic agenda
backed by a landslide electoral mandate. But he squandered it
in the Vietnam quagmire, and his political credibility
undermined his party's for a generation. Now, Bush's faltering
credibility is tearing at trust in U.S. national security.
Perversely, his campaign must exploit the fears, real or not,
that his failures have helped engender. For him, the campaign
is not a war of choice, but of necessity.


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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland
    "...the Patriot Act followed 9-11 as smoothly as the
      suspension of the Weimar constitution followed the
      Reichstag fire."  
      - Srdja Trifkovic

    There is not a problem with the system.
    The system is the problem.

    Faith in ourselves - not gods, ideologies, leaders, or programs.
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