Friday, June 02, 2006
Bush Didn't Win the Presidency: Twice. Republicans really are the lowest fucking things on the planet.
Was the 2004 Election Stolen?
Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House. BY ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.
Like many Americans, I spent the evening of the 2004 election watching the returns on television and wondering how the exit polls, which predicted an overwhelming victory for John Kerry, had gotten it so wrong. By midnight, the official tallies showed a decisive lead for George Bush -- and the next day, lacking enough legal evidence to contest the results, Kerry conceded. Republicans derided anyone who expressed doubts about Bush's victory as nut cases in ''tinfoil hats,'' while the national media, with few exceptions, did little to question the validity of the election. The Washington Post immediately dismissed allegations of fraud as ''conspiracy theories,''(1) and The New York Times declared that ''there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale.''(2)
But despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004. Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad(3) never received their ballots -- or received them too late to vote(4) -- after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations.(5) A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states,(6) was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.(7) In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes,(8) malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots.(9) Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment -- roughly one for every 100 cast.(10)
The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush's victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.(11)
Any election, of course, will have anomalies. America's voting system is a messy patchwork of polling rules run mostly by county and city officials. ''We didn't have one election for president in 2004,'' says Robert Pastor, who directs the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. ''We didn't have fifty elections. We actually had 13,000 elections run by 13,000 independent, quasi-sovereign counties and municipalities.''
But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) -- more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.(13) (See Ohio's Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.(14) And that doesn?t even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.(15)
''It was terrible,'' says Sen. Christopher Dodd, who helped craft reforms in 2002 that were supposed to prevent such electoral abuses. ''People waiting in line for twelve hours to cast their ballots, people not being allowed to vote because they were in the wrong precinct -- it was an outrage. In Ohio, you had a secretary of state who was determined to guarantee a Republican outcome. I'm terribly disheartened.''
Indeed, the extent of the GOP's effort to rig the vote shocked even the most experienced observers of American elections. ''Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen,'' Lou Harris, the father of modern political polling, told me. ''You look at the turnout and votes in individual precincts, compared to the historic patterns in those counties, and you can tell where the discrepancies are. They stand out like a sore thumb.''
I. The Exit Polls
The first indication that something was gravely amiss on November 2nd, 2004, was the inexplicable discrepancies between exit polls and actual vote counts. Polls in thirty states weren't just off the mark -- they deviated to an extent that cannot be accounted for by their margin of error. In all but four states, the discrepancy favored President Bush.(16)
Over the past decades, exit polling has evolved into an exact science. Indeed, among pollsters and statisticians, such surveys are thought to be the most reliable. Unlike pre-election polls, in which voters are asked to predict their own behavior at some point in the future, exit polls ask voters leaving the voting booth to report an action they just executed. The results are exquisitely accurate: Exit polls in Germany, for example, have never missed the mark by more than three-tenths of one percent.(17) ''Exit polls are almost never wrong,'' Dick Morris, a political consultant who has worked for both Republicans and Democrats, noted after the 2004 vote. Such surveys are ''so reliable,'' he added, ''that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries.''(18) In 2003, vote tampering revealed by exit polling in the Republic of Georgia forced Eduard Shevardnadze to step down.(19) And in November 2004, exit polling in the Ukraine -- paid for by the Bush administration -- exposed election fraud that denied Viktor Yushchenko the presidency.(20)
But that same month, when exit polls revealed disturbing disparities in the U.S. election, the six media organizations that had commissioned the survey treated its very existence as an embarrassment. Instead of treating the discrepancies as a story meriting investigation, the networks scrubbed the offending results from their Web sites and substituted them with ''corrected'' numbers that had been weighted, retroactively, to match the official vote count. Rather than finding fault with the election results, the mainstream media preferred to dismiss the polls as flawed.(21)
''The people who ran the exit polling, and all those of us who were their clients, recognized that it was deeply flawed,'' says Tom Brokaw, who served as anchor for NBC News during the 2004 election. ''They were really screwed up -- the old models just don't work anymore. I would not go on the air with them again.''
In fact, the exit poll created for the 2004 election was designed to be the most reliable voter survey in history. The six news organizations -- running the ideological gamut from CBS to Fox News -- retained Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International,(22) whose principal, Warren Mitofsky, pioneered the exit poll for CBS in 1967(23) and is widely credited with assuring the credibility of Mexico's elections in 1994.(24) For its nationwide poll, Edison/Mitofsky selected a random subsample of 12,219 voters(25) -- approximately six times larger than those normally used in national polls(26) -- driving the margin of error down to approximately plus or minus one percent.(27)
On the evening of the vote, reporters at each of the major networks were briefed by pollsters at 7:54 p.m. Kerry, they were informed, had an insurmountable lead and would win by a rout: at least 309 electoral votes to Bush's 174, with fifty-five too close to call.(28) In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair went to bed contemplating his relationship with President-elect Kerry.(29)
As the last polling stations closed on the West Coast, exit polls showed Kerry ahead in ten of eleven battleground states -- including commanding leads in Ohio and Florida -- and winning by a million and a half votes nationally. The exit polls even showed Kerry breathing down Bush's neck in supposed GOP strongholds Virginia and North Carolina.(30) Against these numbers, the statistical likelihood of Bush winning was less than one in 450,000.(31) ''Either the exit polls, by and large, are completely wrong,'' a Fox News analyst declared, ''or George Bush loses.''(32)
But as the evening progressed, official tallies began to show implausible disparities -- as much as 9.5 percent -- with the exit polls. In ten of the eleven battleground states, the tallied margins departed from what the polls had predicted. In every case, the shift favored Bush. Based on exit polls, CNN had predicted Kerry defeating Bush in Ohio by a margin of 4.2 percentage points. Instead, election results showed Bush winning the state by 2.5 percent. Bush also tallied 6.5 percent more than the polls had predicted in Pennsylvania, and 4.9 percent more in Florida.(33)
According to Steven F. Freeman, a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in research methodology, the odds against all three of those shifts occurring in concert are one in 660,000. ''As much as we can say in sound science that something is impossible,'' he says, ''it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote count in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error.'' (See The Tale of the Exit Polls)
Puzzled by the discrepancies, Freeman laboriously examined the raw polling data released by Edison/Mitofsky in January 2005. ''I'm not even political -- I despise the Democrats,'' he says. ''I'm a survey expert. I got into this because I was mystified about how the exit polls could have been so wrong.'' In his forthcoming book, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count, Freeman lays out a statistical analysis of the polls that is deeply troubling.
In its official postmortem report issued two months after the election, Edison/Mitofsky was unable to identify any flaw in its methodology -- so the pollsters, in essence, invented one for the electorate. According to Mitofsky, Bush partisans were simply disinclined to talk to exit pollsters on November 2nd(34) -- displaying a heretofore unknown and undocumented aversion that skewed the polls in Kerry's favor by a margin of 6.5 percent nationwide.(35)
Industry peers didn't buy it. John Zogby, one of the nation's leading pollsters, told me that Mitofsky's ''reluctant responder'' hypothesis is ''preposterous.''(36) Even Mitofsky, in his official report, underscored the hollowness of his theory: ''It is difficult to pinpoint precisely the reasons that, in general, Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polls than Bush voters.''(37)
Now, thanks to careful examination of Mitofsky's own data by Freeman and a team of eight researchers, we can say conclusively that the theory is dead wrong. In fact it was Democrats, not Republicans, who were more disinclined to answer pollsters' questions on Election Day. In Bush strongholds, Freeman and the other researchers found that fifty-six percent of voters completed the exit survey -- compared to only fifty-three percent in Kerry strongholds.(38) ''The data presented to support the claim not only fails to substantiate it,'' observes Freeman, ''but actually contradicts it.''
What's more, Freeman found, the greatest disparities between exit polls and the official vote count came in Republican strongholds. In precincts where Bush received at least eighty percent of the vote, the exit polls were off by an average of ten percent. By contrast, in precincts where Kerry dominated by eighty percent or more, the exit polls were accurate to within three tenths of one percent -- a pattern that suggests Republican election officials stuffed the ballot box in Bush country.(39)
''When you look at the numbers, there is a tremendous amount of data that supports the supposition of election fraud,'' concludes Freeman. ''The discrepancies are higher in battleground states, higher where there were Republican governors, higher in states with greater proportions of African-American communities and higher in states where there were the most Election Day complaints. All these are strong indicators of fraud -- and yet this supposition has been utterly ignored by the press and, oddly, by the Democratic Party.''
The evidence is especially strong in Ohio. In January, a team of mathematicians from the National Election Data Archive, a nonpartisan watchdog group, compared the state's exit polls against the certified vote count in each of the forty-nine precincts polled by Edison/Mitofsky. In twenty-two of those precincts -- nearly half of those polled -- they discovered results that differed widely from the official tally. Once again -- against all odds -- the widespread discrepancies were stacked massively in Bush's favor: In only two of the suspect twenty-two precincts did the disparity benefit Kerry. The wildest discrepancy came from the precinct Mitofsky numbered ''27,'' in order to protect the anonymity of those surveyed. According to the exit poll, Kerry should have received sixty-seven percent of the vote in this precinct. Yet the certified tally gave him only thirty-eight percent. The statistical odds against such a variance are just shy of one in 3 billion.(40)
Such results, according to the archive, provide ''virtually irrefutable evidence of vote miscount.'' The discrepancies, the experts add, ''are consistent with the hypothesis that Kerry would have won Ohio's electoral votes if Ohio's official vote counts had accurately reflected voter intent.''(41) According to Ron Baiman, vice president of the archive and a public policy analyst at Loyola University in Chicago, ''No rigorous statistical explanation'' can explain the ''completely nonrandom'' disparities that almost uniformly benefited Bush. The final results, he adds, are ''completely consistent with election fraud -- specifically vote shifting.''
II. The Partisan Official
No state was more important in the 2004 election than Ohio. The state has been key to every Republican presidential victory since Abraham Lincoln's, and both parties overwhelmed the state with television ads, field organizers and volunteers in an effort to register new voters and energize old ones. Bush and Kerry traveled to Ohio a total of forty-nine times during the campaign -- more than to any other state.(42)
But in the battle for Ohio, Republicans had a distinct advantage: The man in charge of the counting was Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of President Bush's re-election committee.(43) As Ohio's secretary of state, Blackwell had broad powers to interpret and implement state and federal election laws -- setting standards for everything from the processing of voter registration to the conduct of official recounts.(44) And as Bush's re-election chair in Ohio, he had a powerful motivation to rig the rules for his candidate. Blackwell, in fact, served as the ''principal electoral system adviser'' for Bush during the 2000 recount in Florida,(45) where he witnessed firsthand the success of his counterpart Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state who co-chaired Bush's campaign there.(46)
Blackwell -- now the Republican candidate for governor of Ohio(47) -- is well-known in the state as a fierce partisan eager to rise in the GOP. An outspoken leader of Ohio's right-wing fundamentalists, he opposes abortion even in cases of rape(48) and was the chief cheerleader for the anti-gay-marriage amendment that Republicans employed to spark turnout in rural counties(49). He has openly denounced Kerry as ''an unapologetic liberal Democrat,''(50) and during the 2004 election he used his official powers to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Ohio citizens in Democratic strongholds. In a ruling issued two weeks before the election, a federal judge rebuked Blackwell for seeking to ''accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.''(51)
''The secretary of state is supposed to administer elections -- not throw them,'' says Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Cleveland who has dealt with Blackwell for years. ''The election in Ohio in 2004 stands out as an example of how, under color of law, a state election official can frustrate the exercise of the right to vote.''
The most extensive investigation of what happened in Ohio was conducted by Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.(52) Frustrated by his party's failure to follow up on the widespread evidence of voter intimidation and fraud, Conyers and the committee's minority staff held public hearings in Ohio, where they looked into more than 50,000 complaints from voters.(53) In January 2005, Conyers issued a detailed report that outlined ''massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio.'' The problems, the report concludes, were ''caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.''(54)
''Blackwell made Katherine Harris look like a cupcake,'' Conyers told me. ''He saw his role as limiting the participation of Democratic voters. We had hearings in Columbus for two days. We could have stayed two weeks, the level of fury was so high. Thousands of people wanted to testify. Nothing like this had ever happened to them before.''
When ROLLING STONE confronted Blackwell about his overtly partisan attempts to subvert the election, he dismissed any such claim as ''silly on its face.'' Ohio, he insisted in a telephone interview, set a ''gold standard'' for electoral fairness. In fact, his campaign to subvert the will of the voters had begun long before Election Day. Instead of welcoming the avalanche of citizen involvement sparked by the campaign, Blackwell permitted election officials in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo to conduct a massive purge of their voter rolls, summarily expunging the names of more than 300,000 voters who had failed to cast ballots in the previous two national elections.(55) In Cleveland, which went five-to-one for Kerry, nearly one in four voters were wiped from the rolls between 2000 and 2004.(56)
There were legitimate reasons to clean up voting lists: Many of the names undoubtedly belonged to people who had moved or died. But thousands more were duly registered voters who were deprived of their constitutional right to vote -- often without any notification -- simply because they had decided not to go to the polls in prior elections.(57) In Cleveland's precinct 6C, where more than half the voters on the rolls were deleted,(58) turnout was only 7.1 percent(59) -- the lowest in the state.
According to the Conyers report, improper purging ''likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters statewide.''(60) If only one in ten of the 300,000 purged voters showed up on Election Day -- a conservative estimate, according to election scholars -- that is 30,000 citizens who were unfairly denied the opportunity to cast ballots.
III. The Strike Force
In the months leading up to the election, Ohio was in the midst of the biggest registration drive in its history. Tens of thousands of volunteers and paid political operatives from both parties canvassed the state, racing to register new voters in advance of the October 4th deadline. To those on the ground, it was clear that Democrats were outpacing their Republican counterparts: A New York Times analysis before the election found that new registrations in traditional Democratic strongholds were up 250 percent, compared to only twenty-five percent in Republican-leaning counties.(61) ''The Democrats have been beating the pants off us in the air and on the ground,'' a GOP county official in Columbus confessed to The Washington Times.(62)
To stem the tide of new registrations, the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party attempted to knock tens of thousands of predominantly minority and urban voters off the rolls through illegal mailings known in electioneering jargon as ''caging.'' During the Eighties, after the GOP used such mailings to disenfranchise nearly 76,000 black voters in New Jersey and Louisiana, it was forced to sign two separate court orders agreeing to abstain from caging.(63) But during the summer of 2004, the GOP targeted minority voters in Ohio by zip code, sending registered letters to more than 200,000 newly registered voters(64) in sixty-five counties.(65) On October 22nd, a mere eleven days before the election, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett -- who also chairs the board of elections in Cuyahoga County -- sought to invalidate the registrations of 35,427 voters who had refused to sign for the letters or whose mail came back as undeliverable.(66) Almost half of the challenged voters were from Democratic strongholds in and around Cleveland.(67)
There were plenty of valid reasons that voters had failed to respond to the mailings: The list included people who couldn't sign for the letters because they were serving in the U.S. military, college students whose school and home addresses differed,(68) and more than 1,000 homeless people who had no permanent mailing address.(69) But the undeliverable mail, Bennett claimed, proved the new registrations were fraudulent.
By law, each voter was supposed to receive a hearing before being stricken from the rolls.(70) Instead, in the week before the election, kangaroo courts were rapidly set up across the state at Blackwell's direction that would inevitably disenfranchise thousands of voters at a time(71) -- a process that one Democratic election official in Toledo likened to an ''inquisition.''(72) Not that anyone was given a chance to actually show up and defend their right to vote: Notices to challenged voters were not only sent out impossibly late in the process, they were mailed to the very addresses that the Republicans contended were faulty.(73) Adding to the atmosphere of intimidation, sheriff's detectives in Sandusky County were dispatched to the homes of challenged voters to investigate the GOP's claims of fraud.(74)
Next page (EDITOR'S NOTE: TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE GO TO ROLLING STONE: IT'S IMPORTANT)
1) Manual Roig-Franzia and Dan Keating, ''Latest Conspiracy Theory -- Kerry Won -- Hits the Ether,'' The Washington Post, November 11, 2004.
2) The New York Times Editorial Desk, ''About Those Election Results,'' The New York Times, November 14, 2004.
3) United States Department of Defense, August 6, 2004.
4) Overseas Vote Foundation, ''2004 Post Election Survey Results,'' June 2005, page 11.
5) Jennifer Joan Lee, ''Pentagon Blocks Site for Voters Outside U.S.,'' International Herald Tribune, September 20, 2004.
6) Meg Landers, ''Librarian Bares Possible Voter Registration Dodge,'' Mail Tribune (Jackson County, OR), September 21, 2004.
7) Mark Brunswick and Pat Doyle, ''Voter Registration; 3 former workers: Firm paid pro-Bush bonuses; One said he was told his job was to bring back cards for GOP voters,'' Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), October 27, 2004.
8) Federal Election Commission, Federal Elections 2004: Election Results for the U.S. President.
9) Ellen Theisen and Warren Stewart, Summary Report on New Mexico State Election Data, January 4, 2005, pg. 2
James W. Bronsan, ''In 2004, New Mexico Worst at Counting Votes,'' Scripps Howard News Service, December 22, 2004. 10) ''A Summary of the 2004 Election Day Survey; How We Voted: People, Ballots & Polling Places; A Report to the American People by the United States Election Assistance Commission'', September 2005, pg. 10.
11) Facts mentioned in this paragraph are subsequently cited throughout the story.
12) See ''Ohio's Missing Votes''
13) Federal Election Commission, Federal Elections 2004: Election Results for the U.S. President.
14) Democratic National Committee, Voting Rights Institute, ''Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio'', June 22, 2005. Page 5
15) See ''VIII. Rural Counties.''
16) Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004'' prepared by Edison Media Research and Mitofksy International for the National Election Pool (NEP), January 19, 2005, Page 3
17) This refers to data for German national elections in 1994, 1998 and 2002, previously cited by Steven F. Freeman.
18) Dick Morris, ''Those Faulty Exit Polls Were Sabotage,'' The Hill, November 4, 2004.
19) Martin Plissner, ''Exit Polls to Protect the Vote,'' The New York Times, October 17, 2004.
20) Matt Kelley, ''U.S. Money has Helped Opposition in Ukraine,'' Associated Press, December 11, 2004.
Daniel Williams, ''Court Rejects Ukraine Vote; Justices Cite Massive Fraud in Runoff, Set New Election,'' The Washington Post, December 4, 2004.
21) Steve Freeman and Joel Bleifuss, ''Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count,'' Seven Stories Press, July 2006, Page 102.
22) Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004; prepared by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool (NEP), January 19, 2005, Page 3.
23) Mitofsky International
24) Tim Golden, ''Election Near, Mexicans Question the Questioners,'' The New York Times, August 10, 1994.
25) Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004; prepared by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool (NEP), January 19, 2005, Page 59.
26) Jonathan D. Simon, J.D., and Ron P. Baiman, Ph.D., ''The 2004 Presidential Election: Who Won the Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative Validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count Data.'' FreePress.org, December 29, 2004, P. 9
27) Analysis by Steven F. Freeman.
28) Freeman and Bleifuss, pg. 134
29) Jim Rutenberg, ''Report Says Problems Led to Skewing Survey Data,'' The New York Times, November 5, 2004.
30) Freeman and Bleifuss, pg. 134
31) Analysis of the 2004 Presidential Election Exit Poll Discrepancies. U.S. Count Votes. Baiman R, et al. March 31, 2005. Page 3.
32) Notes From Campaign Trail, Fox News Network, Live Event, 8:00 p.m. EST, November 2, 2004.
33) Freeman and Bleifuss, pg. 101-102
34) Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004; prepared by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool (NEP), January 19, 2005, Page 4.
35) Freeman and Bleifuss, pg. 120.
36) Interview with John Zogby
37) Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004; prepared by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool (NEP), January 19, 2005, Page 4.
38) Freeman and Bleifuss, pg. 128.
39) Freeman and Bleifuss, pg. 130.
40) ''The Gun is Smoking: 2004 Ohio Precinct-level Exit Poll Data Show Virtually Irrefutable Evidence of Vote Miscount,'' U.S. Count Votes, National Election Data Archive, January 23, 2006.
41) ''The Gun is Smoking,'' pg. 16.
42) The Washington Post, ''Charting the Campaign: Top Five Most Visited States,'' November 2, 2004.
43) John McCarthy, ''Nearly a Month Later, Ohio Fight Goes On,'' Associated Press Online, November 30, 2004.
44) Ohio Revised Code, 3501.04, Chief Election Officer''
45) Joe Hallett, ''Blackwell Joins GOP's Spin Team,'' The Columbus Dispatch, November 30, 2004.
46) Gary Fineout, ''Records Indicate Harris on Defense,'' Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), November 18, 2000.
48) Joe Hallett, ''Governor; Aggressive First Round Culminates Tuesday,'' Columbus Dispatch, April 30, 2006.
49) Sandy Theis, ''Blackwell Accused of Breaking Law by Pushing Same-Sex Marriage Ban,'' Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), October 29, 2004.
50) Raw Story, ''Republican Ohio Secretary of State Boasts About Delivering Ohio to Bush.''
51) In the United States District Court For the Northern District of Ohio Northern Division, The Sandusky County Democratic Party et al. v. J. Kenneth Blackwell, Case No. 3:04CV7582, Page 8.
52) Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio, Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff (Rep. John Conyers, Jr.), January 5, 2005.
53) Preserving Democracy, pg. 8.
54) Preserving Democracy, pg. 4.
55) The board of elections in Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties.
56) Analysis by Richard Hayes Phillips, a voting rights advocate.
57) Fritz Wenzel, ''Purging of Rolls, Confusion Anger Voters; 41% of Nov. 2 Provisional Ballots Axed in Lucas County,'' Toledo Blade, January 9, 2005.
58) Analysis by Hayes Phillips.
59) Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
60) Preserving Democracy, pg. 6.
61) Ford Fessenden, ''A Big Increase of New Voters in Swing States,'' The New York Times, September 26, 2004.
62) Ralph Z. Hallow, ''Republicans Go 'Under the Radar' in Rural Ohio,'' The Washington Times, October 28, 2004.
63) Jo Becker, ''GOP Challenging Voter Registrations,'' The Washington Post, October 29, 2004.
64) Janet Babin, ''Voter Registrations Challenged in Ohio,'' NPR, All Things Considered, October 28, 2004.
65) In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, Amy Miller et al. v. J. Kenneth Blackwell, Case no. C-1-04-735, Page 2.
66) Sandy Theis, ''Fraud-Busters Busted; GOP's Blanket Challenge Backfires in a Big Way,'' Plain Dealer, October 31, 2004.
67) Daniel Tokaji, ''Early Returns on Election Reform,'' George Washington Law Review, Vol. 74, 2005, page 1235
68) Sandy Theis, ''Fraud-Busters Busted; GOP's Blanket Challenge Backfires in a Big Way,'' Plain Dealer, October 31, 2004.
69) Andrew Welsh-Huggins, ''Out of Country, Off Beaten Path; Reason for Voting Challenges Vary,'' Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), October 27, 2004.
70) Ohio Revised Code; 3505.19
71) Directive No. 2004-44 from J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Sec'y of State, to All County Boards of Elections Members, Directors, and Deputy Directors 1 (Oct. 26, 2004).
72) Fritz Wenzel, ''Challenges Filed Against 931 Lucas County Voters,'' Toledo Blade, October 27, 2004.
73) In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, Amy Miller et al. v. J. Kenneth Blackwell, Case no. C-1-04-735, Page 4.
74) LaRaye Brown, ''Elections Board Plans Hearing For Challenges,'' The News Messenger, October 26, 2004.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.
With Friends Like These.... Iraqi PRIME MINISTER accuses U.S. of Daily Attacks Against Civilians. W's Winning Those Hearts and Minds....
Iraqi Accuses U.S. of 'Daily' Attacks Against Civilians
By Richard A. Oppel Jr. / New York Times
BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 1 — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lashed out at the American military on Thursday, denouncing what he characterized as habitual attacks by troops against Iraqi civilians.
As outrage over reports that American marines killed 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha last year continued to shake the new government, the country's senior leaders said that they would demand that American officials turn over their investigative files on the killings and that the Iraqi government would conduct its own inquiry.
In his comments, Mr. Maliki said violence against civilians had become a "daily phenomenon" by many troops in the American-led coalition who "do not respect the Iraqi people."
"They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion," he said. "This is completely unacceptable." Attacks on civilians will play a role in future decisions on how long to ask American forces to remain in Iraq, the prime minister added.
The denunciation was an unusual declaration for a government that remains desperately dependent on American forces to keep some form of order in the country amid a resilient Sunni Arab insurgency in the west, widespread sectarian violence in Baghdad, and deadly feuding among Shiite militias that increasingly control the south.
It was also a sign of the growing pressure on Mr. Maliki, whose governing coalition includes Sunni Arabs who were enraged by news of the killings in Haditha, a city deep in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province. At the same time, he is being pushed by the Americans to resolve the quarreling within his fragile coalition that has left him unable to fill cabinet posts for the Ministries of Defense and the Interior, the two top security jobs in the country.
Military and Congressional officials have said they believe that an investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis in Haditha on Nov. 19 will show that a group of marines shot and killed civilians without justification or provocation. Survivors in Haditha say the troops shot men, women and children in the head and chest at close range.
For the second day in a row, President Bush spoke directly about the furor surrounding the case. "Obviously, the allegations are very troubling for me and equally troubling for our military, especially the Marine Corps," President Bush said Thursday, in response to a question from a reporter after a meeting of his cabinet. Referring to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, he added, "I've spoken to General Pace about this issue quite a few times."
Investigators are examining the role of senior commanders in the aftermath of the Haditha killings, and trying to determine how high up the chain of command culpability may rest.
Marine officials said Thursday that Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, who was the top Marine Corps commander in Iraq during the Haditha killings, had been set to be promoted to become the service's senior officer in charge of personnel, a three-star position.
General Johnson is widely respected by the Marine Corps' senior leadership, yet officials said it was unlikely that the Pentagon would put him up for promotion until the Haditha investigations were concluded.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that a parallel investigation into whether the killings were covered up has concluded that some officers reported false information and that superiors failed to adequately scrutinize the reports about the two dozen deaths.
The newspaper said that the inquiry had determined that Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, a squad leader present at Haditha, made a false statement when he reported that a roadside bombing had killed 15 civilians. The inquiry also said that an intelligence unit that later visited the site failed to highlight that civilians had gunshot wounds.
In Baghdad, senior Iraqi officials demanded an apology and explanation about Haditha from the United States and vowed their own inquiry.
"We in the ministers' cabinet condemned this crime and demanded that coalition forces show the reasons behind this massacre," Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie, one of the most powerful Sunni Arabs in the new government, said in an interview.
"As you know, this is not the only massacre, and there are a lot," he said. "The coalition forces must change their behavior. Human blood should be sacred regardless of religion, party and nationality."
Mr. Zubaie, also the acting defense minister, acknowledged that Iraqi officials would probably not be able to force the extradition of any troops suspected of culpability in the Haditha killings. But he said a committee of five ministers, including defense, interior and finance, would investigate the killings with the expectation that American officials would turn over their files. "We do not have the security file because it is in the hands of the coalition forces," he said. "We hope there will not be obstacles ahead."
The crisis over Haditha and other disputed killings in Sunni areas comes just as it appears that military operations may be needed to retake some Sunni areas at risk of falling to the insurgency.
This week American forces ordered 1,500 troops from Kuwait into Anbar Province, a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency, in the latest sign that insurgents and terrorist groups including those led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi control much of the sprawling desert region.
In interviews on Thursday, two senior Republicans — Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, who is next in line to be committee chairman — both said it was too soon to tell whether the episode would undermine support for the war. Still, both expressed concern.
Senator Warner, who has promised to hold hearings as soon as the military completes its investigation, said he had been urging Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to wrap up the inquiry as swiftly as possible.
"In the interim, frankly, the public opinion on this matter is being influenced by misinformation, leaks and undocumented and uncorroborated facts," he said.
Mr. McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years, said the incident harked back to the My Lai massacre during the war in Vietnam. He added, "It certainly is harmful, but I can't assess the extent of the damage."
Neither he nor Mr. McCain would say whether Mr. Rumsfeld should be called as a witness.
"I think it depends on what we find out," Mr. McCain said. "I can't say until we really know what happened. There are allegations, and I emphasize allegations, that there was a cover-up. If so, then obviously more senior people would have to be the subject of hearings."
On Wednesday, American troops near the restive city of Samarra shot and killed two Iraqi women, including one who might have been pregnant and on her way to a hospital, after their car did not heed what the American military command said were repeated warnings to stop.
At a news conference in Baghdad, a senior American military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, said that "about three or four, at least," allegations of wrongdoing by American troops were being investigated and that anyone found guilty of offenses in those incidents or in the Haditha case would be punished. "This tragic incident is in no way representative of how coalition forces treat Iraqi civilians," he said.
In Baghdad, the top American ground commander in Iraq ordered that all 150,000 American and allied troops in the country receive mandatory refresher training on "legal, moral and ethical standards on the battlefield."
In a statement, the officer, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, did not specifically cite the civilian deaths in Haditha as the reason for the unusual order.
But he said commanders would be provided with training materials and sample vignettes to use to instruct on professional military values and conduct in combat, as well as Iraqi cultural sensitivities.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
American Aristocracy: While You Pay $3 a Gallon Exxon Mobile Chief Gets $400 Million. I bet those Republican Tax Cuts Help Too.
By Stephen Foley
The Independent UK
Thursday 01 June 2006
Lee Raymond, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has bowed out from the oil giant with a $400m pay and retirement deal that has caused outrage among environmentalists. In his 12 years at the top of the company, Exxon has pumped an estimated six billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere and has led the opposition to action on climate change.
Investors and environmental campaigners condemned a $400m (£214m) retirement package for the boss of Exxon Mobil, the man known as the "Darth Vader of global warming" for his denial that carbon emissions cause climate change.
Protesters descended on the annual shareholder meeting of the world's largest oil company's in Dallas, Texas, amid fury over the lavish lifestyle that it plans to fund for Lee Raymond, who retired after 12 years as chairman and chief executive.
Exxon has been condemned by green groups for fuelling the world's addiction to oil by opposing the Kyoto treaty on reducing emissions and refusing to invest a penny in alternative energy sources. The total amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by the production and use of Exxon's oil and gas output is calculated at 500 million tons a year, or six billion tons during Mr Raymond's tenure.
Since becoming chief executive in 1993, Mr Raymond had become infamous for his dismissive response to environmental lobbyists at previous annual meetings. He has funnelled $19m of Exxon's money to groups that question the science of global warming. His package of pension and perks includes a bodyguard, a car and driver, and use of a company jet, plus a $1m-a-year deal to stay on as a consultant.
Exxon says the value of the package is at least $258m, which comes on top of a retirement bonus of $98.4m. This largesse makes his salary and bonus for 2005, $49m, look modest by comparison, but it was still one of the biggest pay deals for an executive last year and it has stoked claims that big oil companies are profiteering from the soaring price of crude. Exxon made a profit of $36.1bn in 2005, the biggest ever by any company in the world.
Up to 100 protesters gathered outside the Morton H Meyerson Symphony Centre in downtown Dallas to bang drums and chant slogans, including "Pumping global warming lies" and "No planet, no dividends".
Shawnee Hoover, the director of the Exxpose Exxon coalition of environmental groups, said the size of Mr Raymond's retirement package had crystallised anger against the company, the squeeze on oil prices and the company's increasingly isolated stance on alternative energy.
Even President George Bush, a significant beneficiary of funding from Exxon while he was the governor of Texas, now says high oil prices should prompt investment in sustainable energy. "It is not only that Exxon is making record corporate profits," Ms Hoover said, "but also that it is paying its chief executives some of the highest compensation packages that have been seen. While ordinary families and businesses are struggling under the weight of the high oil price, Exxon Mobil has been a key architect of keeping America addicted to oil and to keeping the status quo."
Exxpose Exxon is encouraging consumers to boycott Exxon Mobil's service stations, which include the Esso brand. The coalition includes Friends of the Earth, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace, which has disrupted Exxon board meetings and speeches by Mr Raymond over several years.
Ben Stewart, of Greenpeace UK, said: "Exxon bosses are the Darth Vaders of global warming. They have run a 50-year-long campaign of dirty tricks designed to block action on the greatest threat to humanity. In years to come, the campaign by this company will be regarded as nothing less than a crime. There are striking parallels with the propaganda campaigns run by tobacco companies in the Sixties, but the damage done by this company could be much greater." Richard Heede, of Climate Mitigation Services - whose Friends of the Earth-commissioned report attempted to calculate Exxon's total carbon dioxide and methane emissions, plus those of end customers burning its oil and gas - said Exxon was still responsible for at least 500 million tons of carbon a year.
Mr Raymond routinely accuses advocates of a link between global warming and carbon emissions of practising fuzzy science. His first action as a senior executive was to cut solar and other alternative energy programmes because they did not seem likely to make money for decades.
His successor, Rex Tillerson, who took over at the start of the year, has attempted to put a more congenial face on Exxon's stance. The company still argues that the link between emissions and global warming rests on the assertion of expert scientists rather than on robust scientific models. He told shareholders: "The level of misinformation only makes it more important to discuss the massive scale of our industry and the meaningful alternatives available in the foreseeable future."
Investors lambasted Exxon's board for Mr Raymond's retirement package, and several said they would withhold their support for the re-election of directors on the remuneration committee. Others argued refusing to invest in renewable energy would condemn the company to extinction. Resolutions proposed by green groups attracted more support than in previous years but were still defeated.
Exxon said: "Operating in an environmentally responsible manner has long been and continues to be a primary focus for ExxonMobil. This includes... regular dialogue with local communities, and research to understand the impacts of air quality on health."
Al Gore Gets It: Where's The Rest of the Democrats?
Oliver Burkeman and Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday May 31, 2006
Al Gore has made his sharpest attack yet on the George Bush presidency, describing the current US administration as "a renegade band of rightwing extremists".
In an interview with the Guardian today, the former vice-president calls himself a "recovering politician", but launches into the political fray more explicitly than he has previously done during his high-profile campaigning on the threat of global warming.
Denying that his politics have shifted to the left since he lost the court battle for the 2000 election, Mr Gore says: "If you have a renegade band of rightwing extremists who get hold of power, the whole thing goes to the right."
But he claims he does not "expect to be a candidate" for president again, while refusing explicitly to rule out another run. Asked if any event could change his mind, he says: "Not that I can see."
Mr Gore, who appeared at the Guardian Hay literary festival over the bank holiday weekend, is promoting An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary and book detailing the climate change crisis that he warns "could literally end civilisation".
The new levels of attention he is receiving have led some Democrats to call on him to run again for president, while others have responded with anger that Mr Gore did not show the same level of passion in the 2000 campaign.
He has since acknowledged that he followed too closely the advice of his consultants during that campaign, and - before he started to scoff at the idea of running again - swore that if he ever did so, he would speak his mind.
In the years since, he has been a steady critic of specific Bush administration policies. He opposed the war on Iraq at a time when most prominent Democrats were supporting it, and more recently spoke out against what he called "a gross and excessive power grab" by the administration over phone tapping.
In the interview Mr Gore also distances himself from Tony Blair on the subject of nuclear power, which the prime minister has insisted is "back on the agenda with a vengeance". Mr Gore says he is "sceptical about it playing a much larger role," and that although it might have a part to play in Britain or China, it will not be "a silver bullet" in the fight against global warming.
In the US, Mr Gore's environmental campaign has sparked a backlash from some on the right who accuse him of scaremongering. A series of television advertisements, launched by a thinktank called the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argue that carbon dioxide emissions are a sign of American productivity and progress.
Mr Gore's true attitude towards a potential return to the White House - or, at least, a potential battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination - remains unknown.
At the weekend, Time magazine reported that he was telling key fundraisers they should feel free to sign on with other potential candidates. The magazine quoted unnamed Democratic sources as saying that the former vice-president had also been asking the fundraisers to "tell everybody I'm not running".
Mr Gore would not find it difficult to raise millions of dollars, if he did decide to run. But while public denials might prove a wise campaign strategy - not least by prolonging the period of positive attention Mr Gore is now receiving - actively turning away fundraisers does suggest a firmer resolve not to re-enter electoral politics.
It is significant, however, that Mr Gore refuses to go beyond saying that he has no "plans" for such a campaign. "I haven't made a Shermanesque statement because it just seems odd to do so," he has said - a reference to the famous announcement by the civil war general William Sherman, who unequivocally refused to stand in the election of 1884. "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve," General Sherman said.
Bush's Coalition of the Willing Disappearing.... Last one out is a rotten egg?
16:33:33 EDT May 30, 2006
WILLIAM J. KOLE
VIENNA, Austria (AP) - It's a coalition of the dwindling.
The U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq is losing troops from two of its most important allies - Italy and South Korea - and up to a half dozen other members could draw down their forces or pull out entirely by year's end.
The withdrawals are complicating the U.S. effort to begin extracting itself from the country, where a fresh onslaught of deadly attacks on coalition forces is testing the resolve of key partners such as Britain and Poland.
Some observers say Iraq's deteriorating security situation is an argument for coalition forces to stay - not leave - and perhaps even deploy additional forces to tamp down violence as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki works to shift security duties to Iraqis over the next 18 months.
Underscoring the reality, the Pentagon said Tuesday it was shifting about 1,500 U.S. troops from Kuwait to western Iraq's volatile Anbar province to help the Iraqis establish order there.
Increased instability, violence and Islamic extremism in Iraq could require "a larger role for overt, co-ordinated, multilateral intervention, involving the key regional powers, to stabilize the situation," defence analyst Christopher Langton of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies warns in a new report.
Defence Secretary Des Browne of Britain, the No. 2 military presence in Iraq with about 8,000 troops, conceded Tuesday that the latest attacks were "a major concern."
Two British soldiers were killed and two others wounded in a roadside bombing in Basra on Sunday, bringing to nine the number of British personnel who have died in the southern Iraqi city this month and pushing total British deaths in the past three years to 113. American deaths, meanwhile, are approaching 2,500.
Despite the bloodshed, public opposition to Britain's involvement and reports that more than 1,000 British troops may have deserted since 2003, Browne insisted there were no plans to pull British troops from Iraq.
"We will continue to remain in Iraq until the Iraqi government is confident that the Iraqi security forces are capable of providing security without assistance from the coalition forces," he told the British Broadcasting Corp.
"That will, of course, be in consultation with us and our allies. But the decision on withdrawal will be based on achieving the right conditions but not on a particular timetable."
The United States still provides most of the muscle for the mission, with about 132,000 troops in Iraq.
Officials have said they would like that number reduced to about 100,000 by the end of 2006, although White House spokesman Tony Snow cautioned last week that U.S. President George W. Bush is unlikely to say "we're going to be out in one year, two years, four years."
In the months after the March 2003 invasion, the multinational force peaked at about 300,000 soldiers from 38 countries, including 250,000 U.S. troops. But the coalition has shrunk steadily ever since, with Spain and Ukraine among the larger contributors to pull out.
The latest blow to the current 26-country coalition is Italy's decision to pull its remaining 2,600 troops out by the end of the year.
Italy's new defence minister, Arturo Parisi, was quoted by Italian media Tuesday as saying "Italy won't turn its back on Iraq" and would offer unspecified political, civil and humanitarian support.
And Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema wrote in Tuesday's Corriere della Sera newspaper that the pullout would be carried out "with the minimum possible risk for our soldiers, who have paid a high price," referring to the deaths of 31 Italian troops in Iraq.
"We'll be able to deal with this decision while keeping in mind the consequences for the Iraqi people and the need to co-ordinate with coalition forces," said D'Alema, confirming the force would be reduced to 1,600 by mid-June.
South Korea, the third-largest contributor of forces, began bringing troops home this week as part of a plan to withdraw about 1,000 of its 3,200 soldiers from northern Iraq by year's end.
Other coalition members are thinking about drawing down their forces.
Legislators in Denmark, which has 530 personnel in Iraq, approved a government plan Tuesday to cut the contingent by 80 troops. They also extended the mission to June 30, 2007.
Japan has about 600 non-combat troops doing humanitarian work in southern Iraq, and says it won't decide whether to withdraw them until Baghdad appoints new defence and interior ministers. There has been speculation the Japanese force will be withdrawn this year.
And in Poland, the prime minister said this month that his government was weighing whether to keep troops in Iraq beyond the end of 2006. Poland has 900 troops in central Iraq, where it leads an international force.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Dick Cheney Says We're Seeing The "LAST THROES" of the Insurgency in Iraq, May 31, 2005.
Relentless violence kills 54 in Iraq
By Kim Gamel / Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Car bombs targeting Shiite areas devastated a bustling outdoor market and an auto dealership Tuesday, part of a relentless onslaught that killed 54 people and prompted the United States to deploy more troops to combat insurgents in western Iraq.
The bombs also wounded 120 people, officials said. The death toll made Tuesday one of the bloodiest days in Iraq this month, and lawmakers still had not agreed on who should lead the nation's army and police forces.
Authorities also captured a suspected terrorist who allegedly confessed to beheading hundreds of people. The operation by Iraqi forces also netted documents, cell phones and computers containing information on other wanted terrorists and Islamic extremist groups.
The worst bombing hit the outdoor market as Iraqis were doing their evening shopping in Husseiniyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. At least 25 people were killed and 65 were wounded, Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Falah Al-Mohamedawi said.
Hours earlier, a car packed with explosives blew up at a dealership in the largely Shiite city of Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding 32, Capt. Muthana Khalid said.
A bomb hidden in a plastic bag also detonated outside a bakery in a religiously mixed neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, killing at least nine people and injuring 10, police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said.
Separately, mortar rounds fired by remote control from a car hit the third floor of the heavily guarded Interior Ministry and a nearby park, killing two government employees and wounding three other people.
A day earlier, 40 people were killed in various attacks, including a car bombing in Baghdad that killed two CBS News crewmen and seriously wounded network correspondent Kimberly Dozier. She underwent two emergency surgeries and was transferred to a U.S. military hospital in Germany, where she was reported to be in critical but stable condition.
Before Tuesday, at least 4,066 Iraqis had been killed in war-related violence this year, and at least 4,469 had been wounded, based on Associated Press reports. Those may not be complete, however.
During May, at least 871 Iraqis have been killed, surpassing the 801 killed in April. The deadliest month this year for Iraqis was March, when 1,038 were killed and 1,155 were wounded.
The deadliest day for Iraqis this month was May 7, when at least 67 civilians were killed.
Amid the surge in violence, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki held another day of meetings aimed at getting Iraq's ethnic, sectarian and secular factions to agree on new interior and defense ministers.
But the key security posts remained vacant 10 days after al-Maliki's national unity government took office.
The Interior Ministry, which controls the police forces, has been promised to the Shiites. Sunni Arabs are to get the defense ministry, overseeing the army. It is hoped the balance will enable al-Maliki to move ahead with a plan for Iraqis to take over all security duties over the next 18 months so U.S.-led troops can begin withdrawing.
Al-Maliki told the British Broadcasting Corp. his government had a better chance of suppressing the violence than his predecessors because it is the nation's first permanent government since Saddam Hussein fell.
"Previous governments were either temporary or transitional. They did not receive full backing from the Iraqi people to deal with this issue," he told the BBC.
In the meantime, U.S. military commanders have moved about 1,500 combat troops from a reserve force in Kuwait into the volatile Anbar province to help authorities establish order in the insurgent hotbed stretching from Baghdad west to Syria.
The military command in Iraq described the new deployment as short-term. The plan is to keep the newest troops in Anbar no longer than four months, said one military official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the move.
The military also said a roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier Tuesday southeast of Baghdad, while small-arms fire killed an American soldier Monday in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.
The bodies of two Marines missing after a helicopter crash in western Iraq over the weekend also were recovered.
The AH-1 Cobra helicopter from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing was on a maintenance test flight when it went down Saturday in Anbar. The military said hostile fire was not suspected as the cause, but the crash was being investigated.
The prime minister's office said suspected terrorist Ahmed Hussein Dabash Samir al-Batawi was captured Monday and confessed to hundreds of beheadings around the country. They released a mugshot of the balding al-Batawi wearing a white T-shirt with a nametag hanging around his neck.
Beheadings are a common tactic used by Islamic extremist groups or sectarian death squads. Al-Qaida in Iraq has claimed responsibility for beheading several foreign hostages, including American Nicholas Berg.
Police also said three unidentified insurgents described as well-known aides of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were killed last week during clashes in Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, a roadside bomb also killed one police officer and wounded four others, and police found the bodies of nine shooting victims. A decapitated body was discovered floating in a river about 35 miles south of the capital.
Police Capt. Laith Mohammed, meanwhile, said a pregnant woman and her cousin were killed in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, while driving to a maternity hospital. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.
Separately, the U.S. military freed 204 male detainees from Abu Ghraib and other detention centers after an Iraqi-led panel recommended their releases.
To date, the board has reviewed the cases of more than 39,000 detainees, recommending more than 19,600 individuals for release, the military said.
In other violence, according to police and hospital officials:
• Three people were killed and 10 others were wounded in Ramadi, although the circumstances were unclear.
• A suicide car bomber tried to ram into an Iraqi army checkpoint in a village west of Mosul, but Iraqi soldiers opened fire, killing the driver.
• Masked gunmen killed a real estate broker, a baker and the owner of a convenience store in separate attacks in Baghdad.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Bush's Folly: The Other War Bush Has Lost. Afghans Riot In Kabul; The only city the U.S. actually Controls.
Afghans Riot After Deadly Crash by U.S. Military Truck
By CARLOTTA GALL
KABUL, Afghanistan, May 29 — A deadly traffic accident caused by a United States military convoy quickly escalated into a full-blown anti-American riot that raged across much of the Afghan capital on Monday, leaving at least 14 people dead and scores injured.
Witnesses said American soldiers fired on Afghans throwing stones at them after the crash, although the United States military said only that warning shots were fired in the air.
But the crash tapped into a latent resentment of the American military presence here and violence radiated quickly through the city. Gunfire rang out as Afghan police officers and army soldiers tried to control rioters who rampaged for around six hours through the streets burning and looting a dozen offices, cars and police posts. By the end of the day, at least 14 people were dead and more than 90 were injured, hospital officials said.
The Ministry of Interior announced a nighttime curfew for the city for the first time in four years, from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m., and President Hamid Karzai called for calm on national television. "This country has been destroyed for years by rioters and they are using this traffic incident as an excuse," he said.
The speed and magnitude of the unrest was such that hundreds of police officers and army troops struggled to keep the violence from spreading. Both the Afghan government and the American military authority issued statements promising full investigations into the initial event.
Scores of people were treated in hospitals for gunshot wounds, as it became clear the American military, police officers and army soldiers had used their weapons to try to disperse the crowds.
Among the dead was a 7-year-old boy, and two more school children were badly injured, said Dr. Amin, the duty doctor at Khair Khana hospital in the northern part of Kabul. Four people died at the hospital and 60 wounded were given immediate first aid before being transferred to other hospitals, he said.
The sudden explosion of violence may have been set off by the deaths of civilians in the crash, but it was a sign that Afghans were losing patience with the government and the foreign military presence in Afghanistan, residents said.
Ali Seraj, a businessman and a descendant of the Afghan royal family, asserted that the American military had a careless attitude toward human life, whether it involved the bombing of villages in counter-insurgency activities in southern Afghanistan or car accidents in the capital.
"This type of attitude has created a great deal of mistrust and hatred," he said. "Afghan are hospitable, but if they are pushed they will explode."
Just last week, President Karzai ordered an investigation into an American airstrike on a village near Kandahar that killed at least 35 civilians. In another incident, the United States military said last month that it would investigate the killings of seven members of a family in an airstrike in Kunar province during an operation against insurgents.
On Monday, clashes began early in the morning when a truck leading an American military convoy smashed into 12 cars in rush-hour traffic as it came down a long hill from the Khair Khana pass on the north of the city. Five civilians were killed and more wounded in the multiple crash, a statement from Mr. Karzai's office said.
The United States military said in a statement, "A large cargo truck apparently experienced a mechanical failure." The statement continued, "This was a tragic incident and we deeply regret any deaths or injuries resulting from this incident."
An angry crowd gathered and began stoning the American convoy, as well as Afghan police officers when they arrived at the scene. "There are indications that at least one coalition military vehicle fired warning shots over the crowd," the United States military statement said. "We will determine the facts regarding the incident and cooperate fully with Afghan authorities."
But demonstrators and townspeople said the American truck driver had deliberately rammed vehicles as he led the convoy through outlying villages and then into the city. Many said that the American troops fired into the crowd as people gathered and started throwing stones.
One demonstrator, called Ahmadullah, was still shouting, "Death to Karzai," and "Death to America" hours after the initial event. "These Americans came to our country and they are doing this kind of thing in my country, and our government is also their servant and a puppet of the Americans," he shouted to a crowd of people. "We are against America, all Afghans are against them."
Some demonstrators claimed that the American truck had caused fatalities in villages before it even reached Kabul. "The Americans came all the way from Bagram to Kabul and killed about 20 people along the way," said Fraidoon, a youth who was among the demonstrators in the center of town. "That's why we started a demonstration and came here."
He and other bystanders said that up to a dozen demonstrators were shot by guards as they tried to break into a compound belonging to a British security company in a downtown area.
Other protesters tried to reach the United States Embassy compound across town, but were prevented by armed blockades of Afghan police officers and army troops. Others attacked buildings in the commercial center of the city and some marched on the Afghan Parliament in the southwest of the city, attacking a television company and pizzeria nearby.
By late afternoon the crowds had dispersed, leaving people to count the casualties and put out the fires. The offices of the aid organizations CARE International, the French nongovernmental organization ACTED, a pizzeria, a Chinese guesthouse and a district post office were among the compounds that were gutted by fire and ransacked.
The newly opened Serena Hotel, Kabul's first five-star hotel, had its ground floor windows smashed, and traffic police sat outside burnt roadside police posts. NATO troops evacuated diplomats and staff from a European Commission compound downtown.
Mr. Karzai blamed opportunists and rioters for the violence. "My hope from my country people is that wherever you face these elements, do not let them destroy our home once again," he said.
Yet in a sign of the political implications the incident has for the government, the president promised to investigate the circumstances of the car crash and to see that the American soldiers involved are punished if they were found to be guilty. He added that he had received a visit Monday afternoon from the United States ambassador, who had expressed his "deep regrets."
The demonstrators were overwhelmingly young men, even school children, carrying sticks and stones, and were angry at the reports of deaths but also expressed frustration with the government, the police, and general poor standards of living.
"Most of the demonstrators are people who have lost their jobs, and the government cannot provide the people with the basic necessities," said Mukhtar Ziayee, 33 a property dealer. "The people are disappointed."
But some were armed and intent on violence and robbery, residents said. Mohammed Arif Safajoy, the owner of the pizzeria in southwestern Kabul, estimated the rioters had done $50,000 damage to his restaurant.
"This was just a demonstration in name," he said. "They were looters these people who came to my restaurant." Among the looters were high school students from the nearby Habibia High School, and they carried off electric fans, dishes and antique ornaments, he said.