Saturday, October 01, 2005
From the NYT
Buying of News By Bush's Aides is Ruled Illegal
by Robert Pear
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - Federal auditors said on Friday that the Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.
In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated "covert propaganda" in the United States, in violation of a statutory ban.
The contract with Mr. Williams and the general contours of the public relations campaign had been known for months. The report Friday provided the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities.
Lawyers from the accountability office, an independent nonpartisan arm of Congress, found that the administration systematically analyzed news articles to see if they carried the message, "The Bush administration/the G.O.P. is committed to education."
The auditors declared: "We see no use for such information except for partisan political purposes. Engaging in a purely political activity such as this is not a proper use of appropriated funds."
The report also sharply criticized the Education Department for telling Ketchum Inc., a public relations company, to pay Mr. Williams for newspaper columns and television appearances praising Mr. Bush's education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act.
When that arrangement became public, it set off widespread criticism. At a news conference in January, Mr. Bush said: "We will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."
But the Education Department has since defended its payments to Mr. Williams, saying his commentaries were "no more than the legitimate dissemination of information to the public."
The G.A.O. said the Education Department had no money or authority to "procure favorable commentary in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition" in federal law.
The ruling comes with no penalty, but under federal law the department is supposed to report the violations to the White House and Congress.
In the course of its work, the accountability office discovered a previously undisclosed instance in which the Education Department had commissioned a newspaper article. The article, on the "declining science literacy of students," was distributed by the North American Precis Syndicate and appeared in numerous small newspapers around the country. Readers were not informed of the government's role in the writing of the article, which praised the department's role in promoting science education.
The auditors denounced a prepackaged television story disseminated by the Education Department. The segment, a "video news release" narrated by a woman named Karen Ryan, said that President Bush's program for providing remedial instruction and tutoring to children "gets an A-plus."
Ms. Ryan also narrated two videos praising the new Medicare drug benefit last year. In those segments, as in the education video, the narrator ended by saying, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."
The television news segments on education and on Medicare did not state that they had been prepared and distributed by the government. The G.A.O. did not say how many stations carried the reports.
The public relations efforts came to light weeks before Margaret Spellings became education secretary in January. Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for the secretary, said on Friday that Ms. Spellings regarded the efforts as "stupid, wrong and ill-advised." She said Ms. Spellings had taken steps "to ensure these types of missteps don't happen again."
The investigation by the accountability office was requested by Senators Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, both Democrats. Mr. Lautenberg expressed concern about a section of the report in which investigators said they could not find records to confirm that Mr. Williams had performed all the activities for which he billed the government.
The Education Department said it had paid Ketchum $186,000 for services performed by Mr. Williams's company. But it could not provide transcripts of speeches, articles or records of other services invoiced by Mr. Williams, the report said.
In March, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel said that federal agencies did not have to acknowledge their role in producing television news segments if they were factual. The inspector general of the Education Department recently reiterated that position.
But the accountability office said on Friday: "The failure of an agency to identify itself as the source of a prepackaged news story misleads the viewing public by encouraging the audience to believe that the broadcasting news organization developed the information. The prepackaged news stories are purposefully designed to be indistinguishable from news segments broadcast to the public. When the television viewing public does not know that the stories they watched on television news programs about the government were in fact prepared by the government, the stories are, in this sense, no longer purely factual. The essential fact of attribution is missing."
The office said Mr. Williams's work for the government resulted from a written proposal that he submitted to the Education Department in March 2003. The department directed Ketchum to use Mr. Williams as a regular commentator on Mr. Bush's education policies. Ketchum had a federal contract to help publicize those policies, signed by Mr. Bush in 2002.
The Education Department flouted the law by telling Ketchum to use Mr. Williams to "convey a message to the public on behalf of the government, without disclosing to the public that the messengers were acting on the government's behalf and in return for the payment of public funds," the G.A.O. said.
The Education Department spent $38,421 for production and distribution of the video news release and $96,850 for the evaluation of newspaper articles and radio and television programs. Ketchum assigned a score to each article, indicating how often and favorably it mentioned features of the new education law.
Congress tried to clarify the ban on "covert propaganda" in a bill signed by Mr. Bush in May. The law says that no federal money may be used to produce or distribute a news story unless the government's role is openly acknowledged.
Friday, September 30, 2005
Bill Bennett's Colorblind Society
The Honorable William J. Bennett is a Nationally Syndicated Radio Show Host, Washington Fellow at the Claremont Institute, Distinguished Fellow in Cultural Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, Fox News contributor, Reagan's chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1981-1985, secretary of education from 1985-1988, and from 1989-1990, he served as "drug czar" in the administration of the elder Bush. Bill Bennett is also a racist.
During a speech to the Heritage Foundation in 1993, Mr. Bennett tried to lay claim to sharing the same principles as Dr. Martin Luther King.
“I think people should continue to read what he has to say on three issues -- race, education and the Western tradition, and the spiritual in life. On race, Dr. King said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." A color-blind society.”
“If King's statement is true, it doesn't matter who says it. If it is true, it is true. Indeed, everyone should say it. Everyone of all races should say it.”
“But today the modern agenda is one that insists on counting by race, skin pigmentation, quotas, racial gerrymandering, set-asides, and race-norming. We are moving further from Dr. King's vision on this issue.” --- Bill Bennett, Heritage Foundation lecture, 1993.
Flash forward to September 2005.
Bennett told a caller to his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday: "But I do know that it’s true, that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down
"That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down," he said.
When people were understandably outraged by Mr. Bennett’s comments, he had this to say in response:
"I don't think people have the right to be angry, if they look at the whole thing. But if they get a selective part of my comment, I can see why they would be angry. If somebody thought I was advocating that, they ought to be angry. I would be angry."
"But that's not what I advocate."
Asked if he owed people an apology, Bennett replied, "I don't think I do. I think people who misrepresented my view owe me an apology."
William J. Bennett is exactly the kind of "moderate" that Dr. King warned of in his letter from a Birmingham jail.
Dr. King wrote: “I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.
I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some-such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation
Mr. Bennett is the type of person who believes that he’s supportive of the civil rights movement, and Dr. King, because he often quotes him in support of a color-blind society. But Bill Bennett only takes one thing Dr. King said and uses it to push a conservative agenda. That agenda wants to roll back the civil rights movement by making it impossible for government to address the issue of race. They have tried to make color-blindness the only acceptable response to racism, and most egregiously, they have co-opted Dr. King to push their agenda.
Dr. King never advocated color blindness as a solution to racism. Dr. King advocated action. He hoped for a color-blind society. He prayed for a color-blind society. But Dr. King never claimed that color-blindness was the solution to the problem of racism, but the result of a society without racism. Once racism is gone, then color-blindness will be the norm. By refusing to acknowledge that racism still exists, which is what modern advocates of color-blindness like Bill Bennett profess, they refuse to accept that there is still a problem. I believe Hurricane Katrina destroyed that illusion. Poverty and race are still inextricably linked, and the modern conservatives color-blindness is really just blindness.
Mr. Bennett’s ugly racism shows itself in his selective reading of Martin Luther King and his belief that if you removed blacks from the United States you would lower the crime rate. Mr. Bennett believes that people are upset because he advocates aborting black babies, but that is not what people are upset about. His myopic white male viewpoint has prevented him from recognizing that what he was saying is that blacks create crime. That my friends, is racism. Crime comes from many sources, poverty, education, opportunity, but certainly doesn’t come from the number of black people you have in your city. Being black doesn’t make you a criminal. A thought Mr. Bennett has refused to acknowledge that he even expressed.
Miller's Big Secret
By Dan FroomkinSpecial to washingtonpost.com
Friday, September 30, 2005; 12:03 PM
Can it be? That after all that, New York Times reporter Judith Miller sat in jail for 12 weeks to protect the confidentiality of a very senior White House aide -- even though the aide repeatedly made it clear he didn't want protecting?
That somehow Miller was more intent on keeping their conversations secret than the aide was?
Miller was released from jail yesterday and showed up this morning at a federal courthouse to testify before the grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative.
The man she was protecting, it turns out, was I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Cheney -- sometimes called "Dick Cheney's Dick Cheney" on account of his considerable influence in the White House.
Over the course of the investigation, Libby had freed several other reporters from any obligation to keep their conversations with him secret -- and his lawyer had apparently told Miller's lawyer more than a year ago that she was free to talk, as well.
So what was Miller doing in jail? Was it all just a misunderstanding? The most charitable explanation for Miller is that she somehow concluded that Libby wanted her to keep quiet, even while he was publicly -- and privately -- saying otherwise. The least charitable explanation is that going to jail was Miller's way of transforming herself from a journalistic outcast (based on her gullible pre-war reporting) into a much-celebrated hero of press freedom.
Note to reporters: There is nothing intrinsically noble about keeping your sources' secrets. Your job, in fact, is to expose them. And if a very senior government official, after telling you something in confidence, then tells you that you don't have to keep it secret anymore, the proper response is "Hooray, now I can tell the world" -- not "Sorry, that's not good enough for me, I need that in triplicate." And if you're going to go to jail invoking important, time-honored journalistic principles, make sure those principles really apply.
Here are the official statements from Miller, her editor and her publisher.
Reporters -- particularly those at the New York Times -- faced quite a challenge last night trying to explain what happened.
David Johnston and Douglas Jehl write in the Times: "For more than a year, [special counsel Patrick J.] Fitzgerald has sought testimony from Ms. Miller about conversations she had with Mr. Libby. Her willingness to testify now was in part based on personal assurances given by Mr. Libby this month that he had no objection to her discussing their conversations with the grand jury, according to those officials briefed on the case."
How did this all come about? Johnston and Jehl write: "The agreement that led to Ms. Miller's release followed intense negotiations among her; her lawyer, Robert Bennett; Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate; and Mr. Fitzgerald.
"The talks began with a telephone call from Mr. Bennett to Mr. Tate in late August. Ms. Miller spoke with Mr. Libby by telephone this month as their lawyers listened, according to people who have been briefed on the case. It was then that Mr. Libby told Ms. Miller that she had his personal and voluntary waiver."
Here's where it gets bizarre: "The discussions were at times strained, with Mr. Libby and Mr. Tate's asserting that they communicated their voluntary waiver to another lawyer for Ms. Miller, Floyd Abrams, more than year ago, according to those briefed on the case."
I'm betting that strained is a euphemism.
And in one of the great journalistic understatements of our time, Johnston and Jehl write: "Much about Ms. Miler's role remains unclear."
Susan Schmidt and Jim VandeHei write in The Washington Post that Libby's lawyer said that he had no idea until he was contacted by Miller's lawyer several weeks ago that Miller thought she had gone to jail for his client.
"We are surprised to learn we had anything to do with her incarceration," Tate told The Post.
Fitzgerald and Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan certainly knew. Schmidt and VandeHei note that when Hogan "ordered Miller to jail, he told her she was mistaken in her belief that she was defending a free press, stressing that the government source she 'alleges she is protecting' had released her from her promise of confidentiality."
The disputed conversations between Miller and Libby took place soon after Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, went public with information that cast doubt on the administration's case against Saddam Hussein.
So what did Libby say?
Schmidt and VandeHei write: "According to a source familiar with Libby's account of his conversations with Miller in July 2003, the subject of Wilson's wife came up on two occasions. In the first, on July 8, Miller met with Libby to interview him about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the source said.
"At that time, she asked him why Wilson had been chosen to investigate questions Cheney had posed about whether Iraq tried to buy uranium in the African nation of Niger. Libby, the source familiar with his account said, told her that the White House was working with the CIA to find out more about Wilson's trip and how he was selected.
"Libby told Miller he heard that Wilson's wife had something to do with sending him but he did not know who she was or where she worked, the source said.
"Libby had a second conversation with Miller on July 12 or July 13, the source said, in which he said he had learned that Wilson's wife had a role in sending him on the trip and that she worked for the CIA. Libby never knew Plame's name or that she was a covert operative, the source said."
John Solomon writes in the Associated Press reminding us: "Until a few months ago, the White House maintained for nearly two years that Libby and presidential aide Karl Rove were not involved in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame, whose husband had publicly suggested that the Bush administration twisted intelligence in the run up to the war in Iraq."
Joe Hagan and John D. McKinnon write in the Wall Street Journal: "Reached last night, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of the Times, said, 'I can confirm that Judy Miller is out.' He declined to elaborate except to say the reporter was 'enjoying a steak at dinner, which you are interrupting.' " Couldn't This Have Been Resolved Earlier?
Hagan and McKinnon quote Tate, Libby's lawyer, as asking: "Why didn't somebody call us?"
It's a fine question.
As I wrote in my July 7 column : "The New York Times could answer some questions. For instance, have they contacted Miller's source and asked for an explicit waiver of confidentiality -- and been denied? That would be good to know. And if so, might that not properly put the pressure back on the White House, where it belongs? Wouldn't the Times be happier if the source came forward? Or is it in their interests to turn Miller into a martyr?"
In my August 4 column , I called attention to comments made by New York Times reporter Adam Liptak on NPR . "Here's Liptak on whether jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller has ever even asked her source for permission to break confidentiality: 'Judy and her lawyers have declined to answer the question of whether they have done anything at all to contact the source and try to obtain a satisfactory waiver.' "
The Bloggers Weigh In
Reporter/blogger Murray Waas writes: "Miller's testimony is central to whether special [counsel] Fitzgerald brings criminal charges against I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. Libby was unwavering in telling prosecutors and the FBI that he knew nothing of Plame's covert work for the CIA, even though he spoke to Miller about at length about her and her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Whether that account is truthful is something only both Miller and Libby know. Miller's testimony on that issue will be central to any final disposition of the criminal probe, sources close to the investigation have told me for some time now."
The Anonymous Liberal writes: "[N]ow that we know (presumably) that Libby did not learn about Plame from Miller, the question remains: how did Libby first learn about Plame?"
Arianna Huffington has lots of questions she thinks Miller and the Times should answer, including this one: "So, as the image of Judy as a principled, conscience-driven defender of the First Amendment gives way to the image of Judy wearing her 'new' waiver as a fig leaf allowing her to get out and sing, the big question remains: What is she hiding?"
Tom Maquire asks: "[W]ho knew the Times could execute so lovely a pirouette?"
Digby writes: "[I]t seems obvious now that Jeralyn was right; Judy's real issue was being asked about her other sources under oath. It looks like they came to some sort of agreement about that."
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Bush Supporters of the Far Right: Cries From the Lake of Fire
Thu Sep 29th, 2005 at 15:18:21 PDT
At Blogs For Bush, which bills itself as the Whorehouse... er, "White House" of the Blogosphere, the ever effervescent Mark Noonan writes about the DeLay indictment:
As our Sister Toldjah noted earlier, the "indictment" of Tom Delay is entirely bogus - from what I've read, Tom Delay didn't know about the perfectly legal transaction he is accused of conspiring to make. We have now left entirely the field of normal political conflict and entered a twilight world where fantasy is presented as fact and the only standard of conduct is "will it work?". This is not the actions of a political Party engaged in seeking a majority - it is the action of a Party determined to destroy its opponents entirely and sieze all power for itself...it is, in short, the stuff from which civil wars are made...
I really do urge our Democrats to step back from the edge - you are sitting in a lake of gasoline and you are playing with fire. We on our side will only put up with so much before we start to pay back with usury what we have received. If you can't defeat Tom Delay in the electoral field, then you will simply have to accept him as Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives - and you'd better start accepting political reality before things get really bad.
Mark... may I call you Mark? I feel when someone has shown me the insides of their own rectum, we're pretty much on a first name basis... I have some words for you.
Whitewater. Rush Limbaugh. "Drug Dealer" Bill Clinton. Swift Boats.
Vince Fucking Foster.
Playing with fire, you say? Because the indictments ringing Tom DeLay finally reached up that one, final step from his ring of closest advisers to DeLay himself? Because the SEC has launched a formal investigation into the same behaviors by Bill Frist that put Martha Stewart recently in prison? Because one of the single most visible, highest profile Republican money men has been indicted for fraud, is being investigated for client shakedowns, and has his close business associates being investigated for a mob-connected murder?
What utter cowardice. What pathetic anti-American pedantry. What laughable protestation. The crimes of campaign money laundering, of fraud, of conspiracy, the violation of the laws of the nation, to be answered with stern visions of potential gunfire if Democrats have the audacity to pursue it.
This is the world of the Republican Party, split open like a rotting pumpkin. Crime after crime after crime being investigated, all revolving around the Republican money machine. Every seed connected by the strands of money they share between them. Barely-laundered campaign money passed in the palm of every flabby handshake. Every player in boldface, underlined print in the Rolodex of every other.
And still, this same bottom-tier world of flag-waving supporters still obsessed over an extramarital sex act, but offended to the point of sad, blustering threats at the notion that crimes by gilded and worshipped Republicans are really still crimes.
Your party has set aflame the entire political landscape, and now, once burned, you warn sternly from the branches of a burnt-out tree about "playing with fire". You used the ashes of one of the great liberal cities of America, New York City, as war paint for your own sick, racist dreams. You shudder at a burning flag, yet are willing to snip-and-cut basic tenets of the Constitution as needed or convenient.
And now, you're outraged, not by any of the rest of it, not by anything that has come before, but because a few prominent Republican faces have -- shock of shocks -- been indicted in probes that have spanned years of investigation, and interrogation, and deposition. That, you say, represents the underpinnings of a civil war.
You poor, hollow, blood-painted clowns. Cheering the trials and failures of your country with the same pennants and giant foam hands that you wave at your favorite sports teams. Willing to accept the most outrageous of lies, if they are spoken from your favorite talking heads, and soothe your own notions of America for you, and only for you.
And as for the audacity of Democrats speaking up during this process... the redfaced, flatulent fury with which you declare Republicans off-limits to that which you so gleefully hurl yourself...
Welcome to the world of the politics of personal destruction, you tubthumping, chin-jutting, Bush humping gits. Welcome to the nasty and partisan world that Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, and a legion of insignificant lowest-rung toadies like yourselves nurtured into fruition daily with eager, grubby hands, and now look upon with dull-faced faux horror.
I know you hate me, and anyone else who dares disturb the thin strands of alternate reality in which George W. Bush is an intellectual giant, Saddam really was responsible for 9/11, the economy is getting better by the minute, and we capture the most very important members of al Qaeda on a weekly basis.
But here's some advice. You'd better start hating me more. This is the world you forged and, unfortunately for you, I'm beginning to take a fancy for it. Welcome to the politics of your own party, finally sprouting from the ground on which you planted the seeds and shat upon them.
Step back from the edge? You poor boy, asleep in the back of the car the whole trip, finally waking up and wondering where you're at.
Swift boats. Aluminum tubes. Niger uranium. "Mushroom clouds". Whitewater.
Vince Fucking Foster.
You can't even see the edge from here. You left it behind a hundred miles back.
So don't give me chest-thumping crap about civil wars, if your politicians are indicted. Don't give me visions of a lake of fire, if all those who find you loathsome refuse to suck at your teats of scientific ignorance in the name of religion, racism in the name of freedom, and corruption in the name of the New World Order.
Get used to the world you have created, and the stench your worshipped heroes have unleashed.
New York Times Reporter Judith Miller Agrees to Testify in CIA Leak Probe Investigation, Leaves Prison
By JOHN SOLOMON Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON Sep 29, 2005 — After nearly three months behind bars, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released Thursday after agreeing to testify about the Bush administration's disclosure of a covert CIA officer's identity.
Miller left the federal detention center in Alexandria, Va., after reaching an agreement with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. She will appear Friday morning before a grand jury investigating the case.
"My source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations," Miller said in a statement.
Her source was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, reported The Times, which supported her contention that her source should be protected.
"As we have throughout this ordeal, we continue to support Judy Miller in the decision she has made," said Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. "We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify."
Fitzgerald spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment.
Miller has been in custody since July 6. A federal judge ordered her jailed when she refused to testify before the grand jury investigating the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's name by White House officials.
The disclosure of Plame's identity by syndicated columnist Robert Novak in July 2003 triggered an inquiry that has caused political damage to the Bush White House and could still result in criminal charges against government officials.
The federal grand jury delving into the matter expires Oct. 28. Miller would have been freed at that time, but prosecutors could have pursued a criminal contempt of court charge against the reporter if she continued to defy Fitzgerald.
Of the reporters swept up in Fitzgerald's investigation, Miller is the only one to go to jail. She was found in civil contempt of court.
Time reporter Matthew Cooper testified to the grand jury after his magazine surrendered his notes and e-mail detailing a conversation with presidential aide Karl Rove.
Government Gone Rancid Creators Syndicate
AUSTIN - The Big Whew blew over Texas, leaving Port Arthur underwater and a whole lot of stress across the state.
Stress-sensitive groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous were doing land-office business in Texas this weekend. The refugees trade tales of heroism and generosity, along with reports of the bad and the ugly. That's human nature, but there's nothing forgivable about organized government corruption.
I'm sorry, but there are no exceptions: The first commandment of governing is Thou Shalt Not Steal the People's Money.
The waste of money in Iraq is already into the billions, and the lack of accountability is fed by a Republican Congress that refuses to seriously investigate anything done by the Republican administration. The sums being overtly wasted are already staggering, and because there is no accountability, we can expect that situation not only to continue but deteriorate.
With billions being allocated to clean up after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, you can already smell the corruption -- fat contracts awarded without competitive bidding.
The New York Times reports: "More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse."
"Provoking concerns," eh? Good old Times, eternally blah -- why doesn't it ever run a screaming headline that says, "You're getting ripped off!" "They are Stealing Your Money to Pay Off Their Political Pals!" The trouble with journalism in this country is that it's too polite.
Look, this is rank, nasty business -- corruption, cronyism and competence (the lack thereof) are the issues here. And as we have so recently and so painfully been reminded, when government is run by incompetent cronies, real people pay a real price. There is nothing abstract about swollen bodies floating in flooded streets or dozens of old people dead in nursing homes.
Frankly, it's just a mercy that most of Houston didn't drown in a giant traffic jam last week. Already, the corporate vultures are moving in -- contracts are arranged through people like Joe Allbaugh, the former FEMA director who brought in his old buddy Michael "Heckuva Job, Brownie" Brown to run the agency.
This pattern is not just one rotten agency: The arrest last week of David Safavian, the Bushie who oversaw contracts for the Office of Management and Budget, ties into a whole nest of cronyism. Safavian's friend and former lobbying partner is Jack Abramoff, who in turn is big buddies with U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay.
The corporate clout in this administration is mirrored everywhere, with the same pattern of crony contracts. Allbaugh didn't just start getting contracts for politically connected firms after Katrina. He's been in Iraq, where he has a flourishing lobbying business precisely to help corporations get government contracts.
Already, Homeland Security is flooding what's left of New Orleans with mercenaries from the same private security contractors flourishing in Iraq. The Nation reports that companies such as DynCorp, Intercon Security, American Security Group, Blackwater, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International are all in New Orleans.
"Some, like Blackwater, are under federal contract. Others have been hired by the wealthy elite, like F. Patrick Quinn III, who brought in private security to guard his $3 million private estate and his luxury hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative federal contract to house FEMA workers."
Baghdad on the Bayou for real.
from BBC News
:News that Tom DeLay, Republican majority leader in the US House of Representatives, is to face criminal charges has provoked stinging criticism from many US newspapers.
Mr DeLay has insisted he is innocent of the charges - which centre on allegations of illegal fund-raising - and described the man prosecuting him as an "unabashed partisan zealot".
Mr DeLay's hard-headed approach to his role has secured Republican interests in the House in recent years, bringing political results but turning him into a divisive partisan figure.
"The imperious Texan is an increasing embarrassment to his party, turning its majority into an undisguised fountain of patronage and an ideological cudgel while skirting the bounds of campaign law," says The New York Times, which criticises his decision to resign his post only temporarily.
The newspaper points to Mr DeLay's open intervention in state elections in Texas as "reason enough for him to relinquish leadership" even without criminal charges.
His approach is damned as "intellectually dishonest" by the Los Angeles Times, which ponders whether US political culture can deteriorate further before it improves.
Pointing to a fresh outbreak of partisan squabbling in Washington surrounding the charges, the likelihood is, the newspaper suggests, that little will change.
Mr DeLay "has practically made a career out of testing the boundaries on ethics - and going far beyond them politically," the LA Times says.
He is accused of hypocrisy and partisanship on issues ranging from military action to the right to life: a man, the LA Times believes, "so unprincipled that not even his allies pretend he stands for anything".
Even newspapers in Texas, home to Mr DeLay and President George W Bush, have strong words over the issue.
"It should go without saying, but I'll put it on the record, that [Mr] DeLay is innocent until proven guilty. It just doesn't mean that he is blameless," writes Cragg Hines in the Houston Chronicle.
Tom DeLay "personally and vindictively, for partisan advantage" redrew electoral boundaries city of Austin to benefit Republicans, Mr Hines says. There is irony, he adds, in Mr DeLay branding his prosecution a political issue.
In the Dallas Morning News, Carl Leubsdorf points out that Tom DeLay "was brought down by a party rule that Republicans initially enacted to contrast their adherence to the proprieties with the allegedly lower standards of the Democrats.
"In a larger sense, he fell victim to his own efforts to continually expand his power."
Back in the capital, The Washington Post questions whether criminal charges might be a "blunt instrument" to use in an apparently political game.
Nevertheless, echoing the concerns of others, the Post wonders if "this latest controversy will cause his colleagues to rethink whether he is, in fact, the person they really want to call their leader".
By Dan BalzWashington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 29, 2005; Page A01
Bad news often comes in bunches, but for a Republican Party that not long ago looked ahead to an unfettered period of growth and expansion, yesterday's indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) represented one of the most significant blows the party has suffered in a year replete with problems.
Since the fall of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1998, no two Republicans have been more responsible for the GOP's recent electoral and legislative successes than DeLay and President Bush, a power tandem whose strengths have complemented one another repeatedly. Bush has been the party's public face, direction-setter and most effective campaigner. But in Washington, DeLay has been an iron force who bent the system to his will and priorities.
Over the years, DeLay raised and moved vast sums of money to buttress GOP candidates, kept the party's often-narrow majority together to move a Bush agenda that drew little Democratic support and changed the terms by which K Street lobbyists did business with Congress. With muscle and determination, DeLay ruled the inside game, and his indictment is therefore all the more significant -- a powerful symbol that the Democrats will attempt to exploit as an example of the GOP's abuse of power.
The indictment -- which Republicans say is politically motivated -- adds to the gathering headwind that now threatens the Republicans as they look toward the 2006 elections. Whether this becomes the perfect storm that eventually swamps the GOP is far from clear a year out. But Republican strategists were nearly unanimous in their private assessments yesterday that the party must brace for setbacks next year.
On almost every front, Republicans see trouble. Bush is at the low point of his presidency, with Iraq, hurricane relief, rising gasoline prices and another Supreme Court vacancy all problems to be solved. Congressional Republicans have seen their approval ratings slide throughout the spring and summer; a Washington Post-ABC News poll in August found that just 37 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job, the lowest rating in eight years.
On the ethics front, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is under investigation for selling stock in his family's medical business just before the price fell sharply. The probe of well-connected lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a former close associate of DeLay, threatens to create even more troubles for Republicans. Finally, the special counsel investigation into whether White House senior adviser Karl Rove or others in the administration broke the law by leaking the name of the CIA's Valerie Plame is nearing a conclusion.
Former representative Vin Weber (R-Minn.) said yesterday that he thinks DeLay and Frist are victims of "bum raps," but he nonetheless said that Republicans should be worried by the prospect that the issue of corruption will become a central theme in the upcoming campaigns.
"I think that the Democrats are unable to exploit issues like energy, taxes and Iraq because they have nothing to say," said Weber, who remains an important GOP strategist. "The problem with the issue of corruption is the opposition party doesn't have to have anything to say. All you've got to be is the other party, so it worries me."
DeLay proclaimed his innocence yesterday, and many Republicans joined in charging that the indictment by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle was the work of a partisan prosecutor -- "the P.T. Barnum of the prosecution business," as former House member Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) called him. Frist, too, has said he was not privy to inside information and disposed of his stock simply to remove any hint of conflict of interest as he finishes his term and prepares for a possible presidential campaign.
What worries Republicans is the confluence of a large number of scandals when Bush and the GOP Congress are at the weakest point in years. In the same fortnight as DeLay's indictment and Frist coming under an ethics cloud, David H. Safavian was arrested in connection with the Abramoff investigation days after resigning as the government's top procurement officer.
At an earlier point, Bush could have provided political cover for scandals that touched one or another Republican elected official. But with his approval ratings in the low 40s, there is little to prop up the party's image when congressional leaders are under investigation. Already there have been signs that Bush's influence with members of his own party was beginning to wane as House Republicans look to 2006. Without DeLay in power, the prospects of further splintering increase, adding to perceptions of a party in growing disarray.
"Tom DeLay was like Tito in Yugoslavia," said James A. Thurber, a professor of government at American University. "He ruled with fear and also resources to reward people. Now without DeLay, the House will be balkanized."
Republicans spoke openly yesterday about their vulnerabilities. "There is a cloud until the cases are resolved, and the earlier we have a trial and resolution, the happier all of us will be," Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) said.
Some Democrats see growing parallels between what happened to them in 1994, when voters responded to a Republican message that power had corrupted the majority party and threw them out of power. But Paxon said the forces that uprooted the Democratic majority were far deeper and more powerful than today's conditions. "You're talking about a monumentally different environment," he said.
But former House Democratic whip Tony Coelho (Calif.), who left Congress under an ethics cloud in 1989, said Republicans now face the prospect of being branded by the same term Gingrich used against the Democrats: the arrogance of power. "He [Gingrich] used that against [then-House Speaker] Jim Wright and the Democrats," Coelho said. "That phrase is now coming back to haunt them. It is not whether anyone did anything wrong; it is the perception that develops, and there is nothing that they can do about it."
Tim Hibbits, an Oregon-based pollster, said the DeLay indictment by itself may be less significant in shaping the partisan environment than some others suggested, but he argued that it will deepen the disenchantment of swing voters toward the political system. For a multitude of reasons, he said, Republicans have much to fear about the year ahead. "I think the Republicans at this point are in more trouble than they realize," Hibbits said.
For Democrats, there were many cautionary notes yesterday, despite their obvious glee over DeLay's indictment. On a practical level, the House is now so gerrymandered by redistricting that far fewer districts are genuinely competitive, making the Democrats' task of scoring big gains there more difficult. Nor is there much evidence yet that the voters see Democrats as an attractive alternative, no matter how sour they may be about the Republicans.
But the DeLay indictment represents a powerfully disruptive force inside a party whose success has been built on discipline, cohesion and the mastery of the mechanics of politics at a time Republicans can least afford it.
Staff writer Jeffrey H. Birnbaum contributed to this report.
Shots Across the Bow: On Integrity, Iraq, and al-Queda's Pecking Order
If This Is Integrity...:
Delay, Frist, Abramoff, Safavian
... Wasn't this the crowd that was going to "restore honor and integrity" to Washington? If this is what integrity looks like, let's bring back Oval Office blow jobs.
Take the Scotty Quiz!: C-SPAN left me in suspense this morning.
There I was, feeding my Scott McClellan addiction
by watching the latest White House press briefing. Suddenly, a question piqued my interest: a reporter wanted McClellan to clarify remarks
the president had made earlier in the day about "the way we're changing our strategy" in Iraq. But before Scotty could reply, C-SPAN abruptly and without warning cut away from the gaggle and over to Sen. John Warner on the Senate floor waxing lyrical (and vaguely Blue Boy) about John Roberts: "He is a magnificent man."
It was a couple of hours before I could finally track down a transcript of the press briefing -- hours spent speculating on what Scotty's answer might have been. I thought you might enjoy playing along. So, what was Scotty's reply?
A) "The president said what???"
B) "Why would we want to change our strategy, when things are going so well?"
C) "We have a strategy in Iraq?"
D) "Actually, when the president said 'changing our strategy,' he actually meant 'changing our talking points.'"
E) "We're fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here at home."
(correct answer below)
# 2 at Al Qaeda...with a Bullet!: After reading that U.S. forces had killed Abu Azzam, identified by the LA Times as the "No. 2 Al Qaeda Leader in Iraq," I couldn't help but wonder: Where do they get these rankings? Are they based on raw stats like the Billboard 100 (ie most beheadings or suicide bombers recruited)? Some kind of playoff system? Or is there a ridiculously complicated poll like the BCS? And do they factor in intangibles like the blackness of your heart?
And what about Al Qaeda's #3? Does he automatically move up to #2 now that Azzam is dead, or can someone leapfrog the order of succession? For instance, can #5 suddenly become #2 if he has an IED hot streak?
And will the new #2, whoever he is, be happy for the promotion? Will he get a congratulatory e-mail from Osama bin Laden? A catchy job title like Azzam, who was known as the emir of Baghdad? Will it mean a big end-of-year bonus and a corner office down the hall from Abu al-Zarqawi or a million-dollar bounty on his head? Inquiring minds want to know.
Answer to the Scotty Quiz: E) "We're fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here at home." I'm not kidding. He really said that -- as well as, "This is a strategy that was developed by our military commanders, because they're the ones who are on the ground, the ones on the ground who are in the best position to understand how to defeat the enemy. And it's a strategy that will succeed." In other words: Meet the new strategy; same as the old strategy.
Where is Bunnatine H. Greenhouse When We Need Her?
Oh, yeah....she was demoted
for calling attention to this kind of crap....Auditors to Probe Katrina Contracts
By Hope Yen / Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- A day after castigating the federal government's ousted disaster chief, a House panel is hearing pledges from government auditors that they will closely examine millions of dollars in contracts the Bush administration awarded to politically connected companies for Hurricane Katrina relief.
The inspectors general from half a dozen agencies, as well as officials from the Government Accountability Office, on Wednesday were addressing a House subcommittee on the Katrina cleanup and announcing several new audits to combat waste and fraud.
They are pledging strong oversight that includes a review of no-bid contracts and close scrutiny of federal employees who now enjoy a $250,000 _ rather than a $2,500 _ purchase limit for Katrina-related expenses on their government-issued credit cards.
"When so much money is available, it draws people of less than perfect character," H. Walker Feaster, inspector general of the Federal Communications Commission, said. "It underscores the need for internal controls of the money going out."
Meanwhile, the governors of three states devastated by Katrina _ Mississippi's Haley Barbour, Louisiana's Kathleen Blanco and Alabama's Bob Riley _ were scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Finance Committee.
The joint appearance of government auditors Wednesday comes amid a flurry of legislation pending in Congress that would create additional layers of oversight to the Katrina contracting and award process.
It also comes amid growing charges of favoritism that critics say led to government missteps in the wake of the Katrina disaster.
In a House hearing Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats assailed former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, who critics say lacked proper experience for the job, for his performance in handling emergency aid. Brown admitted making some mistakes but placed the brunt of the blame on the Louisiana governor, the New Orleans mayor and even the Bush White House that appointed him.
Blanco vehemently denied that she waited until the eve of the storm to order an evacuation of New Orleans. She said her order came on the morning of Aug. 27 _ two days before the storm _ resulting in 1.3 million people evacuating the city.
"Such falsehoods and misleading statements, made under oath before Congress, are shocking," Blanco said in a statement Tuesday.
Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said Wednesday that while Brown made mistakes, so did others. "He can't be the scapegoat. First responders are local and state, and the governor and mayor did a pathetic job of preparing their people for this horrific storm," Shays said on NBC's "Today" show.
On Wednesday, lawmakers turned their attention to the lucrative Katrina contracts.
In the weeks after the Aug. 29 storm, more than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts awarded by FEMA for Katrina work were handed out with little or no competition or had open-ended or vague terms that previous audits have cited as being highly prone to abuse.
They included contracts such as a $16 million deal involving Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root Services Inc. of Arlington, Va., that has been cited for overcharging the government for work in Iraq; and San-Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. Both companies have strong ties to the Bush administration.
Primary oversight falls to the agency IGs and the GAO, the auditing arm of Congress, but critics have said that isn't enough. The various proposals, including ones from Republican Sen. Susan Collins and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., call for a specially appointed IG who would oversee all the various agencies' work.
But in their testimony Wednesday, the inspectors general said additional review was unnecessary. The GAO and Homeland Security Department IG Richard Skinner have said they would look closely at the no-bid contracts that may have been unfairly awarded based on political connections.
Pentagon auditors also announced a broad-scale review of their defense contracts. The measures include sending teams of auditors to the Gulf Coast to monitor reconstruction efforts.
Investigators also will carefully examine whether federal employees have been abusing government-issued credit cards since their purchase limits were hastily raised to $250,000 to help pay for hurricane-related expenses.
Previous government audits have shown that the credit cards, which typically have a purchase limit of $2,500, were improperly used to pay for prostitutes, gambling activity and even breast implants. About 250,000 federal employees have the government credit cards.
The Annenberg Politcal "FACT CHECK" engages in speculation. I thought these guys only did Facts.
Annenberg Political “Fact Check” gets it wrong by relying on single source as gospel and ignoring contrary evidence. A recent posting to the Annenberg Political Fact check makes some disturbing assumptions. A fact check means you check the facts, and leave the interpreting of those facts to others, but this recent posting seems to stray significantly from that stated objective. I’ve posted all of my own thoughts in italics, so you can tell what the Fact Check said, and my rebuttle.Anti-war Ad Says Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Rice "Lied" About Iraq
We find some subtle word-twisting, and place the claims in context. (Notice how it begins, Bush didn’t lie, he just subtly twisted some words which can be corrected by putting those words in their “proper context”.)
September 26, 2005
Modified:September 26, 2005
An anti-war coalition of mostly liberal groups ran a newspaper ad quoting six alleged lies about Iraq by President Bush and others.
But, like movie blurbs, the quotes sometimes look different when read in full context.
And while much of what the ad calls lies was indeed wrong, there's evidence that the President and his advisers believed the falsehoods at the time. (In fact, there is no evidence that the president and his advisors “believed the falsehoods at the time” only an absence of proof the president and his advisors lied. This is far different than saying they “believed” what they were saying. And there is Richard Clark, The Downing Street Memo, Joseph Wilson and others who claim the exact opposite.)Analysis
The ad carried a bold-faced headline saying "They Lied," and six brief quotes from Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Rice (now Secretary of State). It also carried a list of American military personnel killed in Iraq, along with the words "They Died."
The ad appeared Sept. 22 in USA Today and more than a dozen other newspapers. The sponsor, "Win Without Wars," is a coalition made up of groups including MoveOn.org Political Action, and using Fenton Communications, the same media consultant used by MoveOn.org.
The brief quotes all seem starkly false in hindsight. But some are a bit too stark – they look a bit different when read in full context. Furthermore, calling them lies suggests Bush and his advisers knew they were wrong at the time. (Once again the Fact Check engages in speculation. Even though they conclude at the end of this report that there is no proof Bush knew or did not know the intelligence was flawed.)
And a bipartisan commission concluded earlier this year that what the Bush administration told the world about Iraqi weapons – while tragically mistaken – was based on faulty intelligence. (This Bipartisan commission was also specifically organized to not inquire as to what the Bush Administration did with the intelligence it received. So there is no way to know if they knew or did not know if they were wrong, or if they received contrary intelligence, or how that information was vetted. One could speculate that the because the Bush Administration which has been widely reported as operating on a “don’t bring bad news” philosophy, didn’t want to hear bad news, the intelligence they received was tailored to suit the political decisions already made. I guess the Fact Check has never heard of the Downing Street Memo? By relying on a simple bipartisan commission which did not inquire into the central issue, did the Bush Administration know the intelligence was flawed, the Annenberg Political Fact check uses that commission in a way it was never intended.)"We found the weapons"
Bush is quoted as saying “We found the weapons of mass destruction,” but that's not all he said. The quote is from an interview with Polish television given May 29, 2003 – weeks after the fall of Baghdad, as Bush was starting to face questions about why no Iraqi stores of such weapons had been found.
Reading all of what Bush said makes clear he was referring both to "weapons" and to "manufacturing facilities" and was still clinging to what intelligence officials had told him about Iraqi mobile laboratories that supposedly were used for manufacturing biological weapons. (In fact Bush isn't clinging to old intelligence "Found" means new intelligence.)
The full quote:
Q: Weapons of mass destruction haven't been found. So what argument will you use now to justify this war?
Bush, May 29, 2003: We found
the weapons of mass destruction. We found
biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two
. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.
In the end, neither weapons nor manufacturing facilities were found. Bush was wrong about the mobile laboratories, of course. He was repeating a claim transmitted to him by the CIA, which based its intelligence reports on an Iraqi source, code-named "Curveball," whom it later determined to be a fabricator. (This once again, is speculation that Bush used the word found, but was discussing old intelligence reports)
But the CIA didn't formally recall Curveball's reporting until May 2004, according to the report of the bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. That CIA reversal came roughly a year after Bush's interview with Polish television. (This point is very subtle, but worth noting. The Fact Check says that Bush believed the intelligence community when he made this statement. They also say that the intelligence community relied on Curveball. Curveball made his claims before the war started, which makes Bush’s statement that “so far we’ve found two” isn’t a claim that we know from intelligence (Curveball) that Saddam has two mobile labs, it’s a claim that the U.S. government has found two of Saddam’s mobile labs. Bush isn’t relying on old intelligence data from Curveball or he would have said we know Saddam has two mobile labs, Bush said we found two. The Fact Check takes the fact that Curveball was later discredited to claim that Bush believed his statement at the time. This is a blatant attempt to deflect criticism of the president. The lie is “we found the WMD, not that we have a source who says Saddam had WMD, the Fact Check ignores this and attempts to paint a more rosy picture. I don’t think Turd Blossom could have done any better.)
The intelligence commission, though appointed by Bush, included several Democrats including co-chair Charles Robb, a former senator and governor from Virginia. Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to Democratic Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, was "of counsel" to the commission. One of the Republican commissioners was Sen. John McCain, Bush's opponent in the 2000 Republican presidential primaries. (Again the Fact Check falls into the old “all you need is one or two democrats” and it must not be politcally motivated or a cover-up. Sometimes Democrats and Republicans work together to protect all their asses. The Fact Check once again moved out of the Fact realm here.)"Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties."
The ad quotes Bush as saying, "There's no question Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties." Bush said that September 17, 2003, after months of fruitless searching for evidence of WMD's in Iraq.
However, the full quote shows Bush also made clear that he was not claiming that Saddam had any connection to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In fact, he was knocking down a suggestion made four days earlier by Vice President Cheney, who said on NBC's Meet The Press that it is "not surprising that people make that connection" when asked why so many Americans believed Saddam was involved in the attacks.
Bush, Sept. 17, 2003: We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th . What the Vice President said was, is that he has been involved with al Qaeda. And al Sarawak, al Qaeda operative, was in Baghdad. He's the guy that ordered the killing of a U.S. diplomat. He's a man who is still running loose, involved with the poisons network, involved with Ansar al-Islam. There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties.Since the word "ties" can cover any connection, however weak, Bush was in fact stating the truth. (This statement is particularly disturbing. The word ties does not mean “any connection, however weak. The word ties means to bring together in relationship; connect or unite: friends who were tied by common interests; people who are tied by blood or marriage, and has a very specific meaning. Ties implies that people work together for a common purpose, or have a connection. The connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda was at best like meeting someone at a party, or having dinner with them once. I don’t think anyone would claim they have ties to a person you met once. The Fact Check engages in speculation again, and this is not FACT CHECKING. The Fact Check also neglects the context of Bush’s statement, after 9/11 Bush was trying to convince us that we needed to go to war with Iraq. Why Iraq?, because Saddam had al-Qaeda ties. If that’s not an outright lie, in context, I don’t know what would ever qualify.)
The bipartisan 9/11 Commission later cited reports of several "friendly contacts" between Saddam and Osama bin Laden over the years, and cited one report that in 1999 Iraqi officials offered bin Laden a "safe haven," which bin Laden refused, preferring to remain in Afghanistan. But nothing substantial came of the contacts. The commission said: "The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides' hatred of the United States. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship.""We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators"
Cheney is quoted as saying, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, "We will in fact, be greeted as liberators... I think it will go relatively quickly... [in] weeks rather than months."
Those quotes are actually from two separate interviews, and they do give a rosy prediction that failed to include the bloody insurrection and resistance that continues to this day.
The first Cheney quote comes from an NBC Meet the Press interview March 16, 2003. The full quote makes clear – as the ad's blurb does not – that Cheney is stating his own "belief." Thus, the statement would be true if that's what Cheney actually believed at the time. (Once again, the Fact Check engages in Positive speculation, this speculation could just as easily be Negative speculation, but it is not FACT CHECKING.)
Cheney, March 16, 2003: Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . .
Q: If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?
Cheney: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. . . . The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.
The second quoted fragment is from another interview the same day on CBS's Face The Nation . The full quote shows Cheney qualified his prediction of quick victory, by saying the "really challenging part" may come in the "aftermath" of a quick military victory. That turned out to be quite accurate.
Cheney, March 16, 2003: I'm confident that our troops will be successful, and I think it'll go relatively quickly, but we can't...
Cheney: ...we can't count on that.
Cheney: Weeks rather than months. There's always the possibility of--of complications that you can't anticipate, but I'm--I have great confidence in our troops. The men and women who serve in our military today are superb. Our capabilities as a force are the finest the world has ever known. They're very ably led by General Tommy Franks and Secretary Rumsfeld. And so I have great confidence in the conduct of the military campaign. The really challenging part of it to some extent may come in the--in the aftermath once the military segment is over and we move to try and stand up a new government and--and turn over to the Iraqi people the responsibilities to their nation.
US, British and other coalition forces invaded Iraq March 20, and on May 1 the US declared an end to "major combat operations." At that time 139 US armed forces personnel had been killed. But 1773 more died after that, plus five civilian employees of the Defense Department, according to official Pentagon figures as of Sept. 26, 2005. By that measure the "aftermath" has been more than a dozen times deadlier to the US military than the initial combat phase."We know where [the WMDs] are."
The ad quotes Defense Secretary Rumsfeld as saying "We know where [the WMDs] are" on March 30, 2003 – at a time when US forces were within 65 miles of Baghdad.
This quote doesn't look much different even in full context. Rumsfeld was reacting to a question about why no weapons of mass destruction had been found, and he said US and coalition forces didn't yet control the areas where weapons "were dispersed."
Q: And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction?
Rumsfeld, May 30, 2003: Not at all. If you think -- let me take that, both pieces -- the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
Subsequent events have proved Rumsfeld wrong. Whether his statement was a lie or a mistake depends on whether or not he knew at the time that the weapons weren't there. (This is in fact a true statement, and is far different from the speculation about the comments above. This statement doesn't engage in the positive spin that the earlier statements do.)
"[Saddam] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon."
This quote is from Condoleezza Rice on September 8, 2002, months before the war began, in an interview with CNN. Rice was then Bush's National Security Adviser and later became Secretary of State.
Q: Based on what you know right now, how close is Saddam Hussein's government -- how close is that government to developing a nuclear capability?
Rice, September 8, 2002: You will get different estimates about precisely how close he is. We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance -- into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to -- high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.
We know that he has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought, maybe six months from a crude nuclear device.
The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
What Rice said then is an accurate summation of what the US Intelligence community was saying at the time. (Once again, one has to wonder how an adminstration that was, according to the Downing Street Memo, fixing the facts to fit the policy, can be given such a broad free pass.)
Here's what the bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction said last March, after a year-long study:
Commission on Intelligence Capabilities, March 31, 2005: On the brink of war, and in front of the whole world, the United States government asserted that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, had biological weapons and mobile biological weapon production facilities, and had stockpiled and was producing chemical weapons. All of this was based on the assessments of the U.S. Intelligence Community. And not one bit of it could be confirmed when the war was over.
Looking back, it is now clear that much of what is quoted in this ad was, even in context, false or misleading. To say Bush and the others "lied," however, requires evidence that they knew the intelligence they were getting was wrong. The unanimous finding of the Intelligence Commission argues against that idea. Once again the FACT CHECK decided the issue for you. They don't rebut anything that the anti-war ads say with a single fact, but rebut everything the ads say with speculation based on investigations that do not have all the information. The truth is that the motives of this administration will never come fully to light because everthing they do they claim secrecy and hide from public scrutiny. Every single one of these statements may in fact be a lie, and the Fact Check does nothing to rebut that FACT.)
Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Education Bill Bennett thinks that aborting every black baby in the country would lower the crime rate. Eugenics anyone?
Editor's Note: I'm so repulsed by this statement, I don't know what to say. From Media Matter's for America:
Bill Bennett: "[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down"
Addressing a caller's suggestion that the "lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years" would be enough to preserve Social Security's solvency, radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett dismissed such "far-reaching, extensive extrapolations" by declaring that if "you wanted to reduce crime ... if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett conceded that aborting all African-American babies "would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do," then added again, "but the crime rate would go down."
Bennett's remark was apparently inspired by the claim that legalized abortion has reduced crime rates, which was posited in the book Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. But Levitt and Dubner argued that aborted fetuses would have been more likely to grow up poor and in single-parent or teenage-parent households and therefore more likely to commit crimes; they did not put forth Bennett's race-based argument.
From the September 28 broadcast of Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America:
CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.
BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?
CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.
BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.
CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.
BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --
CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.
BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.
Bill Bennett's Morning in America airs on approximately 115 radio stations with an estimated weekly audience of 1.25 million listeners.
I wonder if Donald Rumsfeld has a yellow "support our troops" sticker on his car?
Soldiers still waiting for armor reimbursements
Pentagon fails to figure out how to pay back troops' personal expenditures
Updated: 7:47 a.m. ET Sept. 29, 2005
WASHINGTON - Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon has still failed to figure out a way to reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq.
Soldiers and their parents are still spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for armor they say the military won’t provide. One U.S. senator said Wednesday he will try again to force the Pentagon to obey the reimbursement law it opposed from the outset and has so far not implemented.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he will offer amendments to the defense appropriations bill working its way through Congress, to take the funding issue out of the hands of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and give control to military unit commanders in the field.“Rumsfeld is violating the law,”
Dodd said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s been sitting on the books for over a year. They were opposed to it. It was insulting to them. I’m sorry that’s how they felt.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said the department “is in the final stages of putting a reimbursement program together and it is expected to be operating soon.” But defense officials would not discuss the reason for the delay.
Krenke said the Pentagon’s first priority is to ensure that soldiers “have all they need to fight and win this nation’s wars.”
Others don’t see it that way.'Not good enough'
“Your expectation is that when you are sent to war, that our government does everything they can do to protect the lives of our people, and anything less than that is not good enough,” said a former Marine who spent nearly $1,000 two weeks ago to buy lower-body armor for his son, a Marine serving in Fallujah.
The father asked that he be identified only by his first name — Gordon — because he is afraid of retribution against his son.
“I wouldn’t have cared if it cost us $10,000 to protect our son, I would do it,” said Gordon. “But I think the U.S. has an obligation to make sure they have this equipment and to reimburse for it. I just don’t support Donald Rumsfeld’s idea of going to war with what you have, not what you want. You go to war prepared, and you don’t go to war until you are prepared.
Under the law passed by Congress last October, the Defense Department had until Feb. 25 to develop regulations for the reimbursement, which is limited to $1,100 per item. Pentagon officials opposed the reimbursement idea, calling it “an unmanageable precedent that will saddle the DOD with an open-ended financial burden.”
In a letter to Dodd in late April, David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel, said his office was developing regulations to implement the reimbursement, and would be done in about 60 days.'Serious shortages'
Soldiers and their families have reported buying everything from higher-quality protective gear to armor for their Humvees, medical supplies and even global positioning devices.“The bottom line is that Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department are failing soldiers again,”
said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Operation Truth, an advocacy group for Iraq veterans.
“It just became an accepted part of the culture. If you were National Guard or Reserve, or NCOs, noncommissioned officers, you were going to spend a lot of money out of your pocket,” said Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader with the 3rd Infantry Division and served in Iraq from the invasion in March 2003 to spring 2004. “These are bureaucratic failures, but when they make mistakes like this, guys die. There has been progress made, but we’re still seeing serious shortages.”
Dodd said he is worried the Pentagon will reject most requests for reimbursement. Turning the decision over to the troop commanders will prevent that, he said, because the commanders know what their soldiers need and will make better decisions about what to reimburse.
Dodd also said he wants to eliminate the deadline included in the original law, which allowed soldiers to seek reimbursement for items bought between September 2001 and July 2004. Now, he said, he wants it to be open-ended.
“I’m tired of this, obviously they’re not getting the job done,” said Dodd. “If you have to go out and buy equipment to protect yourself, you’re going to get reimbursed.”
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.
DeLay's attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.
"I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County district attorney today," DeLay said.
GOP congressional officials said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of California step into those duties. Some of the duties may go to the GOP whip, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. The Republican rank and file may meet as early as Wednesday night to act on Hastert's recommendation.
The charge carries a potential two-year sentence, which forces DeLay to step down under House Republican rules.
"The defendants entered into an agreement with each other or with TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee) to make a political contribution in violation of the Texas election code," says the four-page indictment. "The contribution was made directly to the Republican National Committee within 60 days of a general election."
The indictment against the second-ranking, and most assertive Republican leader came on the final day of the grand jury's term. It followed earlier indictments of a state political action committee founded by DeLay and three of his political associates.
The grand jury action is expected to have immediate consequences in the House, where DeLay is largely responsible for winning passage of the Republican legislative program. House Republican Party rules require leaders who are indicted to temporarily step aside from their leadership posts.
However, DeLay retains his seat representing Texas' 22nd congressional district, suburbs southwest of Houston.
DeLay has denied committing any crime and accused the Democratic district attorney leading the investigation, Ronnie Earle, of pursuing the case for political motives.
Democrats have kept up a crescendo of criticism of DeLay's ethics, citing three times last year that the House ethics committee admonished DeLay for his conduct.
Earlier, DeLay attorney Bill White told reporters, "It's a skunky indictment if they have one."
As a sign of loyalty to DeLay after the grand jury returned indictments against three of his associates, House Republicans last November repealed a rule requiring any of their leaders to step aside if indicted. The rule was reinstituted in January after lawmakers returned to Washington from the holidays fearing the repeal might create a backlash from voters.
DeLay, 58, also is the center of an ethics swirl in Washington. The 11-term congressman was admonished last year by the House ethics committee on three separate issues and is the center of a political storm this year over lobbyists paying his and other lawmakers' tabs for expensive travel abroad.
Wednesday's indictment stems from a plan DeLay helped set in motion in 2001 to help Republicans win control of the Texas House in the 2002 elections for the first time since Reconstruction.
A state political action committee he created, Texans for a Republican Majority, was indicted earlier this month on charges of accepting corporate contributions for use in state legislative races. Texas law prohibits corporate money from being used to advocate the election or defeat of candidates; it is allowed only for administrative expenses.
With GOP control of the Texas legislature, DeLay then engineered a redistricting plan that enabled the GOP take six Texas seats in the U.S. House away from Democrats -- including one lawmaker switching parties -- in 2004 and build its majority in Congress.
Dear Rush: How is a criminal investigation "Politically Motivated" if you're not a politician? You're in the Entertainment Business You Fat Fuck.
We all know that Rush Limbaugh is a racist. We also know he's stupid. We also know he doesn't even believe half the bullshit he's shoveling. But these days he seems to think that the rest of the world is as stupid as his regular listeners. The "Dittoheads." (Just for the record morons, dittoheads is an insult. He's making fun of you for repeating everything he says. Ditto means repeat, copy, same as before, a parrot.... get the joke yet?)
While Pill popper is being investigated for possible criminal charges stemming from his doctor shopping, his excuse has now become that he's the target of a "politically motivated" fishing expedition. A politically motivated investigation presupposes that you are a politician, such as the politically motivated investigation by Kenneth Starr into President (read: Politician) Bill Clinton. Remember Kenneth Starr was appointed to investigate Whitewater, a failed land deal in Arkansas and ended up discovering that the president had gotten a blowjob from an intern. That my friends is a "politically motivated" fishing expedition.
Rush is not a politician, he's in the entertainment business. He's not even in the news business, his FCC license is for an entertainment program, that's why he's not held to the same standards of truth, honesty and balance as a regular news program. Rush's claim of political persecution is like a drug dealer who's a registered Democrat claiming that the police can't investigate him for possible criminal charges because the prosecuter is a registered Republican. So when you hear Rush Turdball claim that the criminal investigation into his doctor shopping is "Politically Motivated," remember that he's just shoveling more shit. But this time the shit he's shoveling is trying to keep his fat ass out of jail.
The Truth is that Rush Limbaugh believes that because he is a rich and influential man, he's above the law. That's why he feels he shouldn't be investigated for possible crimes. It turns out Rush Limbaugh is really just Big Ern McCracken.
Here's the story:Limbaugh's doctors sought in probe
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) -- Prosecutors want to question Rush Limbaugh's physicians in their probe of the conservative commentator's possible "doctor shopping" for prescription painkillers, according to a motion filed Tuesday.
Prosecutors believe Limbaugh illegally deceived multiple doctors to receive overlapping prescriptions for painkillers. He has not been charged with a crime.
Limbaugh's attorneys argue the request for depositions from the doctors and their employees could reveal privileged medical information.
Limbaugh has acknowledged an addiction to pain medication, attributing it to severe back pain, and took a five-week leave from his radio show to enter a treatment program in October 2003.
The criminal investigation into Limbaugh's drug use has been ongoing for nearly two years. Throughout, his attorneys have fought vigorously over privacy concerns.
Assistant State Attorney James Martz told the court Tuesday he would ask the doctors and their employees only about matters relating to Limbaugh's possible "doctor shopping."
Limbaugh has accused Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer, a Democrat, of a "fishing expedition" that's politically motivated.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Grand Theft Auto: Iraq. I ask again, if Video Game Violence is so bad, just imagine what the real thing does to 18-21 year olds.
War PornographyUS soldiers trade grisly photos of dead and mutilated Iraqis for access to amateur porn. The press is strangely silent.
By Chris Thompson
The War Pornographers
If you want to see the true face of war, go to the amateur porn Web site NowThatsFuckedUp.com. For almost a year, American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been taking photographs of dead bodies, many of them horribly mutilated or blown to pieces, and sending them to Web site administrator Chris Wilson. In return for letting him post these images, Wilson gives the soldiers free access to his site. American soldiers have been using the pictures of disfigured Iraqi corpses as currency to buy pornography.
At Wilson's Web site, you can see an Arab man's face sliced off and placed in a bowl filled with blood. Another man's head, his face crusted with dried blood and powder burns, lies on a bed of gravel. A man in a leather coat who apparently tried to run a military checkpoint lies slumped in the driver's seat of a car, his head obliterated by gunfire, the flaps of skin from his neck blooming open like rose petals. Six men in beige fatigues, identified as US Marines, laugh and smile for the camera while pointing at a burned, charcoal-black corpse lying at their feet.
The captions that accompany these images, which were apparently written by the soldiers who posted them, laugh and gloat over the bodies. The soldier who posted a picture of a corpse lying in a pool of his own brains and entrails wrote, "What every Iraqi should look like." The photograph of a corpse whose jaw has apparently rotted away, leaving a gaping set of upper teeth, bears the caption "bad day for this dude." One soldier posted three photographs of corpses lying in the street and titled his collection "DIE HAJI DIE." The soldiers take pride, even joy, in displaying the dead.
This could become a public-relations catastrophe. The Bush administration claims such sympathy for American war dead that officials have banned the media from photographing flag-draped coffins being carried off cargo planes. Government officials and American media officials have repeatedly denounced the al-Jazeera network for airing grisly footage of Iraqi war casualties and American prisoners of war. The legal fight over whether to release the remaining photographs of atrocities at Abu Ghraib has dragged on for months, with no less a figure than Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Meyers arguing that the release of such images will inflame the Muslim world and drive untold numbers to join al-Qaeda. But none of these can compare to the prospect of American troops casually bartering pictures of suffering and death for porn.
"Two years ago, if somebody had said our soldiers would do these things to detainees and take pictures of it, I would have said that's a lie," sighed recently retired General Michael Marchand, who as assistant judge advocate general for the Army was responsible for reforming military training policy to make sure nothing like Abu Ghraib ever happens again. "What soldiers do, I'm not sure I can guess anymore."
But for Chris Wilson, it's all in a day's work. "It's an unedited look at the war from their point of view," he says of the soldiers who contribute the images. "There's always going to be a slant from the news media. ... And this is a photo that comes straight from their camera to the site. To me, it's just a more real look at what's going on."
Wilson, a 27-year-old Web entrepreneur living in Florida, created the Web site a year ago, asked fans to contribute pictures of their wives and girlfriends, and posted footage and photographs bearing titles such as "wife working cock" and "ass fucking my wife on the stairs." The site was a big hit with soldiers stationed overseas; about a third of his customers, or more than fifty thousand people, work in the military. Wilson says soldiers began e-mailing him, thanking him for keeping up their morale and "bringing a little piece of the States to them." But other soldiers complained that they had problems buying memberships to his service. "They wanted to join the site, the amateur wife and girlfriend site," he says. "But they couldn't, because the addresses associated with their credit cards were Quackistan or something; they were in such a high-risk country that the credit card companies wouldn't approve the purchase."
That was when Wilson hit upon the idea of offering free memberships to soldiers. All they had to do was send a picture of life in Iraq or Afghanistan, and they'd get all the free porn they wanted. All sorts of images began appearing over the transom, but he dedicated a special site to view the most "gory" pictures. Asked what he feels upon viewing a new batch, Wilson says: "Personally, I don't look at it one way or another. It's newsworthy, and people can form their own opinions."
One soldier, who would not reveal his name or unit, defended his decision to post pictures of the dead, which he did after returning home. "I had just finished watching the beheading of one of our contractors that was taken hostage over in Iraq," he wrote in an e-mail. "I figured since that was all over the Web, maybe these pictures would make some potential suicide bomber think twice after seeing what happens AFTER you pull the pin.
"What you interpret [as] maliciousness and bravado may be how [soldiers] react to situations where they almost die or they just saw their buddy get killed," he continued. "I will not defend the people who have posted pictures of dead, innocent Iraqis, but in my opinion, the insurgents/terrorists that try to kill us and end up getting killed in return have absolutely no rights once they are dead.
"Obviously these postings do not help our public image at all," the soldier concluded. "However, I believe the US has been far too concerned about our public image as of late. ... We need to take a much harsher stand against these Islamic fundamentalists and stop giving them the royal American treatment. They need to be taught a lesson, a lesson hard enough that they will think twice before waging a jihad against us."
Wilson's Web site has made the news before – but not for posting pictures of murdered people. Last October, the New York Post reported that the Pentagon was investigating him for posting naked pictures of female soldiers in Iraq. After a few months, the Post reported that the Pentagon had blocked soldiers in Iraq from accessing the Web site, which had posted five more pictures of nude female soldiers, some of whom had posed with machine guns and grenades. After the Post's stories, Wilson says, he was bombarded with requests for interviews from newspapers and radio stations. Even after he began posting photographs of corpses late last year, media inquiries focused exclusively on his nudie pics. It wasn't until reporters from the European press contacted him last week that anyone took notice of Wilson's snuff-for-porn arrangement with American troops.
"The soldiers thing, I think the Italians picked it up first," Wilson says. "I've done interviews with the Italians, the French, Amsterdam. ... They were very critical, saying the US wouldn't pick it up, because it's such a sore spot. ... It raises too many ethical questions. ... I started to laugh, because it's true."
When contacted for this story, a White House spokeswoman said, "If we have a comment, we'll call you back." They never did. But according to Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Conway, Pentagon policy may be ambivalent when it comes to soldiers posting pictures of mutilated war victims. "There are policies in place that, on the one hand, safeguard sensitive and classified information, and on the other hand protect the First Amendment rights of service members," he says, adding that field commanders may issue additional directives. "In plain English, if you're on the job working for the Department of Defense, you shouldn't be freelancing. You should be doing your duty."
If American soldiers in the field are always considered representatives of their government, international law clearly prohibits publishing and ridiculing images of war dead. The First Protocol of the Geneva Conventions states that "the remains of persons who have died for reasons related to occupation or in detention resulting from occupation or hostilities ... shall be respected, and the gravesites of all such persons shall be respected, maintained, and marked." The first Geneva Convention also requires that military personnel "shall further ensure that the dead are honorably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged."
No one can reasonably expect a war without war crimes. But thanks to modern communications technology, photographic evidence of its brutality will always be with us. Roughly two hundred soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan document their experiences in online "milblogs," and digital cameras are ubiquitous. No one can stop soldiers from posting pictures of eviscerated corpses for all to see, and no one should ever again be able to feign ignorance of war's human cost. Or so you'd think. Yet in the days since the European press uncovered the gore-for-porn story, not a single US print newspaper other than the Express has touched it.
Representatives from Amnesty International and Human Rights First even refused to comment, although both organizations ostensibly exist to condemn just this kind of practice. Perhaps no one wants to give Chris Wilson more publicity, or daily editors are too sensitive about being viewed as unpatriotic. Or perhaps the story is just too ugly to contemplate.
Americans have thousands of media outlets to choose from. But they still have to visit a porn site to see what this war has done to the bodies of the dead and the souls of the living. One of the pictures on Wilson's site depicts a woman whose right leg has been torn off by a land mine, and a medical worker is holding the mangled stump up to the camera. The woman's vagina is visible under the hem of her skirt. The caption for this picture reads: "Nice puss -– bad foot."