The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Friday, July 11, 2003

U.S. TANK DOESN'T KNOW WAR IS "OVER" -- Last May Mr Bush declared "Mission: Accomplished" and the Iraq War to be "over." I guess someone forgot to tell the Iraqi resistance because attacks on U.S. forces have grown so bold that a U.S. tank opened fire on Iraqi irregulars and helicopter gunships attacked the positions of Iraqi resisters last night.

Drip drip drip.

CIA TOLD BUSH NIGER "INTELLIGENCE" WAS BOGUS -- More evidence is emerging that the CIA in fact did tell the White House before the State of the Union address that allegations of Iraqi attempts to acquire nuclear material in west Africa were false, but the White House used the "intelligence" anyway, attributing it to the British government to overcome the CIA's objections.
Senior administration officials tell CBS News the president's apparently mistaken claim was included in the Jan. 28 speech over the CIA's initial objections.

CIA officials warned members of the president's National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.

The White House officials responded that the September paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: "Iraq has ... sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"

As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that's how the charge was delivered.

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," Mr. Bush said in the speech.

At a press conference Thursday during the president's trip to Africa, Secretary of State Colin Powell portrayed it as an honest mistake.

"There was no effort or attempt on the part of the president or anyone else in the administration to mislead or to deceive the American people," said Powell.

But eight days after the State of the Union, when Powell addressed the U.N., he deliberately left out any reference to Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa.

"I didn't use the uranium at that point because I didn't think that was sufficiently strong as evidence to present before the world," Powell said.

Powell said he read the State of the Union speech before it was delivered and understood it had been seen and cleared by the intelligence community. But intelligence officials say Tenet never saw the final draft.

"The CIA cleared the speech. The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety," Rice said as Mr. Bush flew from South Africa to Uganda.

The agency raised only one objection to the sentence involving an allegation that Iraq was trying to obtain yellow cake uranium, she said. "Some specifics about amount and place were taken out," Rice said.

"With the changes in that sentence, the speech was cleared," she said. "The agency did not say they wanted that sentence out."

But The Washington Post is reporting that the CIA's doubts were so strong it even tried to persuade Britain from including the uranium allegation in a September dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons. That dossier, and a subsequent one in February, have stoked a growing political crisis for Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Several U.S. experts have come forward this week to share the doubts they had before the war. Greg Thielmann, who held a high post in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research said Wednesday that Iraq posed no threat, and that the administration had distorted intelligence to fit its policy purposes.
Notice how General Powell defends Mr Bush's use of the "intelligence" in the State of the Union address, but admits he refused to use the same "intelligence" in his own presentation to the United Nations a mere eight days later because he thought it was unreliable. Someone needs to ask General Powell what had changed in those eight days to make this "intelligence" go from being reliable enough to be used in a State of the Union address to being so unreliable he wouldn't use it in his U.N. presentation.

BUSH POLL NUMBERS FALL AGAIN -- A new CBS poll has Mr Bush's approval rating dropping again, this time to 60 percent. That's the lowest level his poll numbers have fallen to since before the Iraq War. This pretty much confirms in my mind a suspicion I've had for a while: Whenever there is a shooting war, Mr Bush's poll numbers go way up. When there is no shooting war and people are more likely to soberly assess his actual record in the White House, his poll numbers go down. No doubt Karl Rove has taken notice.

IRAQI COPS: G.I.'s STAY AWAY -- The security situation in Iraq has become so perilous that even Iraqi police officers are demanding that U.S. soldiers stay away from them.
With daily shootings and rocket attacks against U.S. soldiers claiming two more lives, even Iraqi policemen said Thursday they want to keep a safe distance from coalition troops for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.

Several dozen Iraqi police, most wearing new uniforms provided by the U.S. military, marched on the mayor's office in Fallujah, a restive town west of Baghdad, insisting American soldiers stop using their station as a base. The Iraqis said they would quit their posts if the soldiers don't find a new home within 48 hours.
And small wonder. There were several more attacks in Iraq last night, killing one U.S. soldier and injuring another.

Drip drip drip.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

CIA WARNED BUSH ABOUT NIGER "INTELLIGENCE" -- The Bush regime's assertion that it was not informed about the falsity of its claim that Iraq tried to obtain uranium in west Africa is being contradicted by CIA officials, who insist the did tell the administration the truth.
The CIA warned the US Government that claims about Iraq's nuclear ambitions were not true months before President Bush used them to make his case for war, the BBC has learned.

Doubts about a claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the African state of Niger were aired 10 months before Mr Bush included the allegation in his key State of the Union address this year, a CIA official has told the BBC.

On Tuesday, the White House for the first time officially acknowledged that the Niger claim was wrong and suggested it should not have been used in the president's State of the Union speech in January.

But the CIA official has said that a former US diplomat had already established the claim was false in March 2002 - and that the information had been passed on to government departments, including the White House, well before Mr Bush mentioned it in the speech.
This is getting hotter and hotter. Or, to use my normal metaphor: drip drip drip.

MORE FROM THE BUSH ECONOMY -- Jobless, jobless, jobless:
The number of jobless Americans receiving benefits hit its highest point in over 20 years last month, and new claims for jobless aid unexpectedly rose again last week, the government said on Thursday.
How do we change this? Well, a different administration would be a start.

MORE G.I.'s DIE IN IRAQ -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed and another wounded in Iraq yesterday after a series of attacks by Iraqi guerrillas on our troops.
A soldier was fatally shot Wednesday evening near the city of Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad, said Spc. Nicci Trent, a spokeswoman for the military.

Another soldier was killed and one wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack late Wednesday near Tikrit, 120 miles north of Baghdad, Trent said. The soldiers were taken to a nearby medical facility, but one of them died.

In the city of Ramadi, 60 miles west of the capital, three separate mortar attacks targeted U.S. troop, but there were no reports of casualties, the military said.

The military also reported that a soldier died Wednesday in what it described as a non-hostile gunshot incident. The military gave no more details. The names of the dead and wounded were withheld pending notification of next of kin.

An American soldier attached to the 101st Airborne Division died Monday in another non-hostile gunshot incident near Balad, 55 miles north of the capital. Soldiers at an air base near Balad said on condition of anonymity that the soldier had taken his own life.
Let's hope there are not more suicides among the troops in Iraq, though it isn't difficult to see why some might be so depressed.

BBC: IRAQ WMD "UNLIKELY TO BE FOUND" -- The BBC is reporting that "very senior sources" have virtually ruled out the possibility of finding weapons in Iraq.
Andrew Marr told the BBC's Ten o'Clock News on Wednesday: "Right at the top of Whitehall, they no longer believe that weapons of mass destruction are likely to turn up in Iraq.

"They do think there were weapons programmes there, they believe that other stuff - interviews with Iraqi scientists, paperwork, dossiers - that will turn up.

"But the actual weapons, the tubs of the evil stuff, the rusting missiles, no, belief that that will actually be available, can be shown to cameras, that is trickling away very fast at the top of government."
This looks like a leak from the government intended to prepare the British government for something they already expect--that Mr Blair lied repeatedly to the public about WMD in Iraq. It should cost him his job. I hope it does.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

COMPANIES SHIRK ANTI-TERROR SPENDING -- If you think accounting shenanigans are the worst corporate scandals these days, you better think again. U.S. corporations have learned nothing from September 11 and are barely spending any additional money to guard against future terror attacks.
While insurance and risk management costs have jumped sharply, corporate spending to protect against terrorist attacks and other security risks has gone up just 4 per cent, according to the Conference Board, a business research group.
"There was an expectation that there would be an overhaul in corporate security after 9/11," said Tom Cavanagh, the Conference Board's security expert who wrote the report. "But in general we haven't found that."
Hard to believe corporate would be shirking its duties on terror, eh? And once their negligence has led to another successful terror attack, guess who will be first to demand government bailouts to pay for damages and lost profits.

BUSHISM -- Thanks, as always, to Slate:

"It's very interesting when you think about it, the slaves who left here to go to America, because of their steadfast and their religion and their belief in freedom, helped change America."—Dakar, Senegal, July 8, 2003
Uh, yeah.

TNR LIKES KERRY ON IRAQ -- Since The New Republic heartily endorsed the Iraq War and Senator John Kerry [D-MA] was a reluctant advocate who nonetheless articulated the concerns of many of us normally-hawkish liberals about the war, you'd think they would not agree about much in Iraq these days. But that would be wrong. In its latest installment of the TNR Primary, The New Republic gives Senator Kerry a grade of A on foreign policy for his views on the situation in Iraq right now:
As U.S. forces in Baghdad wilt under the blazing heat and the increasing attacks on American troops and their Iraqi allies, John Kerry is hitting the right--if somewhat obvious--notes on the American presence in Iraq. "You need to get other troops in there on the ground in order to minimize the sense of American occupation and minimize the danger to American soldiers," Kerry said in New Hampshire yesterday, noting that he would quickly go to NATO, despite German and French opposition to the war, to obtain more troops for peacekeeping in Iraq. It's true: The U.S. has a very short window of time to prove to Iraqis that it can restore calm on the ground, and that window seems to be quickly closing. Any help from trained NATO troops--who are already providing peacekeeping in Afghanistan--can keep that window open a bit.
Sounds good to me.

WAXMAN AFTER THE TRUTH -- The indomitable Congressman Henry Waxman [D-CA], ranking Dem on the Holding Bush's Feet to the Fire Committee, is at it again, with this letter to Mr Bush regarding the Bush regime's use of obviously phoney "evidence" about Iraq's non-existent plot to obtain nuclear materials in Africa. Mr Bush cited this in his now-infamous 2003 State of the Union address and various other administration officials, from Mr Cheney to Mr Rumsfeld to Ms Rice, relied on this forged evidence, as well. Congressman Waxman wants to know what all decent people want to know--what did Mr Bush know and when did he know it? Why did he rely on this obviously phoney evidence in his State of the Union speech and why did o ther administration officials do the same in other venues. [In addition, I'd like to know why Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to use this phoney evidence in his presentation to the United Nations just days after Mr Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.]

Furthermore, Congressman Waxman wants to know why a letter from the International Atomic Energy Agency to his office was delayed by the Bush regime for several weeks and he would like to know why the Bush regime neglected to inform the IAEA about the phoney African "intelligence" for six weeks in late 2002 and early 2003. It's a damning letter full of juicy tidbits that leave no doubt to any reasonable mind of the Bush regime's utter and breathtaking mendacity on this subject. Read it. And read other documents on this issue from Congressman Waxman's office right here.

SOME OF THESE RIGHTIES ARE JUST NUTS, AREN'T THEY? -- Apparently, Michael Savage is not a rabid and racist right-wing crackpot. No, the right wing needn't take the fall for that. Actually, liberals are to blame for Michael Savage. You see, he's an agent provocateur. That's right, the political party that allows elections to be stolen from them is so crafty they've plotted the rise of the repulsive Mr Savage over a period of years. The goal: Embarrass the right wing. Fascinating.

I didn't even know it was possible to embarrass the right wing.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

BUSH REGIME ADMITS MISTAKES... -- ...but does not admit the just-as-obvious truth that it lied repeatedly about a non-existent Iraqi plan to acquire nuclear material from Africa.
National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton said the administration didn't discover the Niger intelligence was false until February, after the president's speech.

Anton said Bush didn't base his claim about Iraq's pursuit of African uranium on the Niger report alone, even as he conceded the additional intelligence -- which he wouldn't disclose -- wasn't strong enough to support the claim in Bush's speech.
Got that? So, in other words, the Bush regime admits it relied on one piece of information that--by their own admission--wasn't reliable enough to be mentioned by Mr Bush in his State of the Union speech and one other piece of information [Niger] that has been revealed as false. The only question is whether or not the Bush regime knew the Niger allegation was false or probably false when it was made by Mr Bush in his State of the Union address. Virtually everyone believes the Bush regime did know the information was false. Why?
``That information was erroneous and they knew about it well ahead'' of the president's Jan. 28 address, said Joseph Wilson, who the Central Intelligence Agency sent to Niger to investigate the report of Iraq's effort to buy uranium.

``Either the administration has some information that it has not shared with the public or, yes, they were using the selective use of facts and intelligence to bolster a decision in a case that had already been made -- a decision that had been made to go to war,'' Wilson told NBC's ``Meet the Press'' on Sunday. He made similar comments on other news shows and in a New York Times op-ed article.
Democrats, predictably, were disgusted.
The senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said the Bush administration's admission only confirmed the obvious.

``The whole world knew it was a fraud,'' said Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. ``It's not a revelation.''
Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said the White House admission was ``more evidence of why we need to have a bipartisan investigation.''

``It's a recognition that we were provided faulty information,'' he said.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said Bush's comments in January were ``not a mistake.''

``It was no oversight and it was no error,'' said McAuliffe. ``The allegations against the Bush White House couldn't be more serious,'' he said.

Democratic Senator Robert Graham also criticized the president. ``With this admission from the White House that the president misled us, George Bush's credibility is increasingly in doubt,'' said Graham, of Florida, who's seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
Republicans, naturally, continue to defend Mr Bush's lies. Typical is this reaction from Rep. Tom DeLay [R-TX]:
Representative Tom DeLay, the No. 2 Republican in the House, shrugged off the issue. The decision to go to war on Iraq was ``morally right,'' he said. ``The overall reason we went into Iraq is sound,'' DeLay said.
Get it? It's fine to lie about taking the nation to war. Not a big deal.

REPORT: CHINA CONSIDERED INVADING N. KOREA -- This story originates from a single unnamed source in Beijing, but it is worthy of mention nonetheless. Apparently, China considered invading North Korea--an intervention--in order to prop up the country in the face of American and western hostility. However, the government eventually rejected the idea after concluding that the People's Liberation Army lacks "the logistical capability of racing to the demilitarised zone facing South Korea." In addition, the Chinese government decided its economic interests in northeast Asia and its relationship with the United States are more important than maintaining the structural integrity of one of the last Stalinist states on Earth.

CONSERVATIVE CONCERNS ABOUT WMD LIES -- It often seems that the right wing is a monolith of denial about the importance of the Bush regimes lies regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction [or lack thereof]. Now it turns out there is a voice in the wilderness and that voice "spoke" through the written word today in the pages of the Christian Science Monitor. The words were written by Doug Bandow, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a special assistant to President Reagan.
There was a time when conservatives fought passionately to preserve America as a limited constitutional republic. That was, in fact, the essence of conservatism.
But many conservative activists seem to have lost that philosophical commitment. They now advocate autocratic executive rule, largely unconstrained by constitutional procedures or popular opinions.

This curious attitude is evident in the conservative response to the gnawing question: Where are Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction? A surprising number of conservatives respond: So what? He must have had them; maybe he gave them away. And, anyway, Hussein was a bad guy. In their view, even to ask the question is to mount a partisan attack on President Bush, and that's downright unpatriotic.It always seemed likely that Baghdad possessed WMD. Not only did Iraq once maintain a WMD program, but how else to explain the regime's obstructionist behavior during the inspections process?
But the longer we go without any discoveries, the more questionable the prewar claims appear to have been. The allies have checked all of the sites originally targeted for inspection, arrested leading Baath Party members, and offered substantial rewards for information. Even in Hussein's centralized regime, more than a few people must have known where any WMD stocks were hidden or transferred and would be able to help now.

Which means it is entirely fair to ask the administration, where are the WMD? The answer matters for the simplest practical reasons. Possible intelligence failures need to be corrected. Washington's loss of credibility should be addressed; saying "trust me" will be much harder for this president in the future or a future president.
Pointing to substitute justifications for the war just won't do. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz notes that the alleged Al Qaeda connection divided the administration internally, and humanitarian concerns did not warrant risking American lives. Only fear over Iraqi possession of WMD unified the administration, won the support of allies, particularly Britain, and served as the centerpiece of the administration's case. If the WMD didn't exist, or were ineffective, Washington's professed case for war collapses.

Conservatives' lack of interest in the WMD question takes an even more ominous turn when combined with general support for presidential warmaking. Republicans - think President Eisenhower, for instance - once took seriously the requirement that Congress declare war. These days, however, Republican presidents and legislators, backed by conservative intellectuals, routinely argue that the chief executive can unilaterally take America into war.

Thus, in their view, once someone is elected president, he or she faces no legal or political constraint. The president doesn't need congressional authority; Washington doesn't need UN authority. Allied support is irrelevant. The president needn't offer the public a justification for going to war that holds up after the conflict ends. The president may not even be questioned about the legitimacy of his professed justification. Accept his word and let him do whatever he wants, irrespective of circumstances.

This is not the government created by the Founders. This is not the government that any believer in liberty should favor.

It is foolish to turn the Iraq war, a prudential political question, into a philosophical test for conservatism. It is even worse to demand unthinking support for Bush. He should be pressed on the issue of WMD - by conservatives. Fidelity to the Constitution and republican government demands no less.
It's nice to know at least one conservative is asking these questions and demanding some accountability. I just wish more were doing the same.

KERRY CAMPAIGNS FOR HEALTHCARE, DEFENSE -- Senator John Kerry's campaign visited Washington state recently, where the Senator spoke out on a number of important issues, including his plan to extend to the entire American public the same health care benefits currently enjoyed by members of Congress.
He touted a health plan designed to control catastrophic costs, while bringing health insurance to 27 million Americans. Kerry would give Americans the option of joining the same health plan as members of Congress and the president.

Kerry came across as a kind of Dick Cheney-in-reverse on energy policy. He wants to get 20 percent of America's energy supply from conservation and renewable energy sources by 2020. Of U.S. dependence on foreign oil, he declared: "We can't drill our way out of it. We need to invent our way out of it."

He delivered a Kennedyesque appeal for national service, beginning with community activities as a condition of high school graduation. Kerry would have Uncle Sam pay in-state college tuition for those who complete two years of public service.

But the mountain that Democrats have to climb -- the issue of national strength -- is never far away in a Kerry stump speech.

"They (Republicans) are betting that because of national security, they can just run him (Bush) as commander in chief," he cried. "Well, I am the only one in this race who has worn the uniform of this nation for four years and fought in a war."

Howard Dean's campaign may have hit the ground running. But Democrats at the dinner repeatedly stood to cheer Kerry.

"It's the first home run hit at a Democratic gathering in some time," said Jon Parkinson, a Boeing retiree.

Asked if he is coming off the fence, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., replied: "Not yet, but I'm very impressed."

"Kerry has vigah," added Inslee, using the pronunciation for "vigor" made famous by that other son of Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy.
Senator Kerry's plan would go a long way towards controlling some of the spiralling costs of health care while extending generous benefits to millions of Americans who would greatly benefit from such a plan. It's a good idea whose time has come and I'm grateful to Senator Kerry for being clever and courageous enough to tout it. This is just another reason to hope his campaign succeeds and the next president is John Kerry.

LYING ABOUT WMD MATTERS A LOT -- Atrios is smoking today with this exchange from Meet the Press on Sunday between NBC hack Andrea Mitchell and Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who revealed in Sunday's New York Times that the White House deceived the American people with its claims that Iraq was attempting to acquire nuclear material in Africa. That claim, made most memorably by Mr Bush during his 2003 State of the Union address, is now known to be false. Ambassador Wilson was sent to west Africa to assess the claim that Iraq was attempting to acquire nuclear material from Niger and it took him very little time to demonstrate the "intelligence" was false. He passed this information on to the administration three different times and yet the false assertion still made its way into the State of the Union address and numerous other occasions. Interestingly, Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to use this false information when he spoke to the United Nations only days after the State of the Union address.
MS. MITCHELL: ... But do you think that there was simply a train going down the track here, that we needed to find enough evidence or at least claim it was evidence in order to justify a war?

AMB. WILSON: Well, I think that's a question that we need to ask. Had we decided upon going to war, and were we using the grave and gathering danger argument, the imminent threat to our national security posed by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction programs, as justification for a war that we had already decided to go to. And I would add that that is a trivialization of the weapons of mass destruction problem.

There is no greater threat that we face as a nation going forward than the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of non-state actors or international terrorists. And if we've prosecuted a war for reasons other than that, using weapons of mass destruction as cover for that, then I think we've done a grave disservice to the weapons of mass destruction threat. The bar will be set much, much higher internationally, and in Congress, when the next administration, or another administration, has a true WMD problem, and has to go to get that sort of authority.
Get it? The problem of rogue or unstable nations acquiring weapons of mass destruction is a real one. It's a dangerous problem that we'll be dealing with for the forseeable future. Right now, North Korea and Iran loom as disconcerting examples of rogue countries working on the creation of nuclear weapons. [Both countries have extensive ties to transnational terrorist groups]. The Bush regime and future U.S. administrations will almost certainly have to use force upon occasion against unsavory regimes bent on acquiring nuclear weaponry. If the international community does not believe the U.S. government because of the numerous lies told by the Bush regime on this subject, it will make it much more difficult to maintain some credible international nuclear anti-proliferation system. And that endangers the lives of every single American and those not yet born. It's a scandal.

WE NEED A SENSIBLE WARNING SYSTEM -- This is a good example of how the Bush regime's ridiculous color-coded terror warning system does nothing but cover the administration's ass:
When U.S. officials first used a color-coded system to issue a national terrorism alert last September, Phoenix police fell in line with virtually all city and state law enforcement agencies.
"We went full bore," Police Chief Harold Hurtt says of Phoenix's response to the Code Orange alert, which indicated there was a high risk of an attack. "We put people on 12-hour shifts, canceled time off. We put people everywhere." Officers guarded power plants and a gasoline supply depot, and security was increased at Bank One Ballpark, the retractable-roof baseball stadium where the Arizona Diamondbacks play.

But by the time U.S. officials had relaxed the threat level two weeks later, Hurtt had concluded that absent a direct threat to Phoenix, his department couldn't afford to jump every time officials in Washington, D.C., said to do so.

Now, a growing number of city and state officials are following Hurtt's lead. Plagued by tight budgets and fatigued officers — and still frustrated by a lack of specific information from the U.S. government about threats — officials nationwide are cutting back their responses to federal terrorism alerts.
Why not have a terror system that warns only specific cities or regions of the country? For example, if U.S. intelligence services have reason to believe an attack may be imminent against the San Francisco area, why not simply place a terror alert for northern California instead of the entire country? Why should Miami mobilize for an imminent terror attack if Seattle is the city U.S. intelligence believes is being threatened. Putting the entire country on notice when only a portion of it faces an imminent threat wastes money and manpower and leads to a "boy who cried wolf" syndrome that will eventually retard our terror alertness nationwide.

SABOTEURS MOCK BUSH/CHENEY OIL PLANS FOR IRAQ -- Remember when Mr Bush and Mr Cheney were assuring us that rebuilding Iraq would not be expensive for Americans because the country's oil wealth could be used to do the job? Well, like almost everything else those two have said since taking office, it has turned out to be a lie or a mistake. Saboteurs are bombing Iraq's oil pipelines, making it difficult or impossible to export new oil from the country.
Iraq's northern export pipeline via Turkey was damaged by a new sabotage blast over the weekend in another setback for Baghdad's battered oil sector, a senior Iraqi oil ministry official said on Tuesday.

The official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters Iraq was also facing what he called widespread "economic sabotage" along a pipeline from Iraq's southern oilfields.

"The Iraq-Turkey pipeline was sabotaged 36 hours ago," he said.

"It will take two weeks to repair if there are no new explosions and we still have several damaged areas on the pipeline that are still to be repaired from earlier explosions."

The bombing of the line from the Kirkuk oilfields to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan delivers a further blow to Iraqi hopes of raising crude exports, crucial to funding rebuilding.

The country has been hit by a series of pipeline blasts since the end of the war that ousted president Saddam Hussein and has yet to reopen the Kirkuk line.

"What we know is the saboteurs are digging in the sand beneath the pipelines and planting bombs," said the official.

The attacks have suppressed oil supplies with the only exports so far from crude held in storage at export terminals since before the war began.
This is completely predictable. The notion that anti-American forces in Iraq would just sit back while the country's main natural resource is exported to pay for the creation of a U.S. puppet regime is something only the most blinkered official could believe. Unfortunately, blinkered public officials are the only sort the Bush regime has administering our foreign and defense policies.

If Iraq cannot export its oil, it cannot earn desperately-needed hard currency. If it cannot do that, the country cannot rebuild itself and the job will fall to the United States. Some hope. The Bush regime doesn't even want to invest in American infrastructure, let alone the Iraqi kind. It's a poor lookout for Iraq and Bush/Cheney are to blame.

AFRICAN THUGS STYMIE BUSH'S MISSION -- Well, Mr Bush's crusade to save Liberia has gotten off to a good start:
US military experts were forced by soldiers loyal to Liberian President Charles Taylor to abort the start of a mission to evaluate the war-torn west African country's humanitarian and security needs.

The experts had set off on the start of their mission as US President George W. Bush, who began his first official tour of Africa in Senegal on Tuesday, was still mulling sending US troops to Liberia, founded by freed American slaves in the 19th century.

The 32-member team of US experts, which includes Marines, was on its way to the VOA camp for Sierra Leonean refugees about 15 kilometres (about nine miles) from the capital when it was stopped by troops loyal to Taylor and told to return to Monrovia.
If that poor little country had any oil we'd have 20 battalions in the capital by now.

THE GOP's BROKEN RECORD PROPHET -- Grover Norquist, the epicenter of the vast right-wing conspiracy that brought George W Bush to power has taken to predicting a Republican lock on federal power in America for some time to come. Apparently, a lot of people in Washington are starting to believe him. Before they do, they should read Slate's dissection of Mr Norquist's analysis. My favorite part:
Sounds convincing. Until you realize that Norquist has been making the same prediction for nearly two decades. He's the Republican Party's stopped clock. Four years earlier in the American Spectator, Norquist put forth a similar analysis: Declining union membership, a shrinking government work force, the dying of the Great Depression generation, the shrinking of America's urban population, and the rise of a large new investor class all bode well for the Republican majority. Before the 1998 election, he predicted that Republicans were "about to secure majority status for a generation," and after the 1996 election he wrote that it "confirmed that the Reagan Republican coalition is the natural governing majority in the United States." Ditto for the 1994 election, after which Norquist declared, "The long-predicted partisan realignment has finally come to pass." As far back as 1985, he told the Washington Post, "I think the revolution is happening. It's going to stick. I don't see what could happen to move it back." Norquist is like a child's doll with a ripcord in his back. Pull it, and he exclaims something about the emerging Republican majority.
The Republicans are guaranteed to remain in power--until the next election. Bank on it!

DUMB HEADLINES -- This is an occasional series for the Beltway Bandit; I'll be doing them when they pop up and, boy, did one pop up today. Here it is: Bush Condemns Slavery in Africa Speech .

I'm sorry, the editor was thinking Mr Bush might refer to slavery as "a mixed bag"?

Monday, July 07, 2003

MSNBC FIRES SAVAGE -- In a decision that came as a surprise to absolutely no one, MSNBC fired right-wing TV talk show host Michael Savage today for making yet another anti-gay remark. Apparently, this one was too much even for MSNBC to endure. Consider:
The incident that resulted in his firing began innocently enough. Savage was taking viewer phone calls about airline horror stories, and a male caller began talking about smoking in the bathroom.

"Half an hour into the flight, I need to suggest that Don and Mike take your ..." the caller said, before he was cut off and his words became unintelligible.

"So you're one of those sodomists. Are you a sodomite?" Savage asked.

The caller replied: "Yes, I am."

"Oh, you're one of the sodomites," Savage said. "You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it."

He asked for another phone caller who "didn't have a nice night in the bathhouse who's angry at me today."

These bums "mean nothing to me," he said.
What's really annoying about this is how inevitable it was. You knew Mr Savage was going to be fired from MSNBC for telling a homosexual to die of AIDS or hoping an African-American would be chained to a pickup truck and dragged to death. It was always going to happen and it was going to happen that way. Now it has. And MSNBC, which hired Mr Savage knowing full well that's he's a vile racist and homophobe of the worst kind, will pretend to be surprised. How loathesome. The next step for this scabrous cretin will be to [ghost]write a book about how his thriving television career was done in by the P.C. police. Meanwhile, he'll have to go back to his radio gig. Boohoo.

I cannot decide which is worse. Mr Savage or the people who briefly employed him.

THE [GOOD] BRITS ARE COMING! -- The very good news is that The Guardian, that liberal British newspaper that became required reading for Americans wishing to be informed during the Iraq War, will be launching an American magazine later this year. The magazine will rely on material from the newspaper for about 60% of its content and then use Americans for the remaining 40 percent.

For those of you who do not know much [or anything] about The Guardian, consider this description:
First, it's important to understand the anomalous nature of the Guardian itself.

There may not be anything else quite like it in commercial publishing anywhere. The Guardian is the fruit of a legal trust whose sole purpose is the perpetuation of the Guardian. In other words, the trust—the Scott Trust, created in 1936 by the Manchester family that controlled the paper—eliminates the exact thing that has most bedeviled media companies: the demands of impatient shareholders and the ambitions of would-be mogul CEOs.

The Guardian, because of this flukish independence, occupies for well-bred left-wing Brits something like the position that the New York Times once held for Upper West Side liberals (or that Fox now holds for red-state anti-liberals): You cannot be who you are without it.

Young people even read it.
But will its magazine work in the United States, where dumbed-down Fox-driven media has driven everything and everyone but right-wing yahoos and majestically flowing American flags off the television screen? That's a good question. On first blush, one would answer in the resoundingly negative, considering the "news" environment described above. However, The Guardian has its own marketing strategy:
The smarty thing--which runs against the Fox-led Zeitgeist--might, counterintuitively, work here too. The Wal-Marting of the publishing business (as well as every other business) invites the inverse strategy: You're too dumb, too low-class, too fat for our magazine. Sorry, it's not for you. That's a marketing approach that could potentially be worth real dough.
Works for me. Too dumb, too low-class and too fat is a pretty accurate description of most of the Fox News afficionados I've met. Here's one Yank rooting for The Guardian. Come to America. We need you. Badly.

DADDY BUSH'S POTTY MOUTH -- The excerpt below is from an interview [suscription required] of George Herbert Walker Bush conducted by Evan Smith of Texas Monthly.

ES: What's interesting, I think, is that the press takes your silence as an indication of differences between you and the president. The fact that you're not speaking out supposedly says something.

GHWB: When a friend of mine like Jimmy Baker or Brent Scowcroft says, "Well, we ought to do more about the Middle East," the press says, "It looks to us like they're reflecting what president number forty-one really feels but doesn't want to say," which is all bullshit , if you'll excuse the expression.

ES: We can edit that out.

GHWB: You can print it. At this stage in my life, I don't care.
I think he means a lot of people are "major league Clymers" or something like that.

KEN STARR'S DISGRACED DEPUTIES MAKE A COMEBACK -- Where else but in the Bush regime? Some of these prurient pornographers, like Brett Kavanaugh, are being appointed to high positions in the Bush administration. Liberals are howling mad about it and justifiably so, as the entire Starr inquisition has been revealed to be an evidence-starved political witch-hunt organized by President Clinton's enemies. [It's worth nothing that not a single person in the Clinton administration was ever indicted--let alone convicted--of a crime.] Jewish newspaper The Forward has a good story on the subject of Starr's deputies returning like extras from "Dawn of the Dead." The real question: Why isn't this being reported in The Washington Post? Why indeed.

3 MORE AMERICANS DIE IN IRAQ -- The burgeoning guerrilla war against U.S. forces in Iraq continued to intensify last night and today, as three American soldiers were murdered in Iraq. Here is how it happened to the last of the three:
At the university, several students who said they had witnessed the shooting, outside a cafeteria near the engineering school, said the gunman had pulled out a pistol and fired a single shot at point-blank range into the soldier's head. An American official said the soldier had apparently just left the cafeteria after buying a drink.

The gunman fled, disappearing into the crowd of students, witnesses said. The soldier, whose name was not released, was evacuated to a military hospital, where he later died, military officials said.

The three deaths represent the 26th, 27th and 28th American soldiers to be killed in hostile action since May 1, when President Bush said major fighting had ended.
Tragedy upon tragedy upon tragedy. The neocons' grand design of redrawing the map of the Middle East grows more expensive by the hour. How much more are we expected to endure? Answer: Until the Bush regime says 'enough'.

IDIOT KIDS PLANNED KILLING SPREE -- Three teenage losers, one an 18-year-old adult, planned a killing spree in New Jersey over the weekend. The plan was foiled pretty quickly.

U.S. SOLDIERS LOOTING IN IRAQ -- It often happens when soldiers are bored and broke--far from home. Iraq, it seems has been no exception and some U.S. soldiers have disgraced themselves and their uniforms by looting, among other places, the main airport in Baghdad.
What was then called Saddam International Airport fell to soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division on April 3. For the next two weeks, airport workers say, soldiers sleeping in the airport's main terminal helped themselves to items in the duty-free shop, including alcohol, cassettes, perfume, cigarettes and expensive watches.
The airplanes suffered the greatest damage. Of the 10 Iraqi Airways jets on the tarmac when the airport fell, a U.S. inspection in early May found that five were serviceable: three 727s, a 747 and a 737. Over the next few weeks, U.S. soldiers looking for comfortable seats and souvenirs ripped out many of the planes' fittings, slashed seats, damaged cockpit equipment and popped out every windshield.
U.S. estimates of the cost of the damage and theft begin at a few million dollars and go as high as $100 million. Airport workers say even now air conditioners and other equipment are regularly stolen. "Soldiers do this stuff all the time, everywhere. It's warfare," says a U.S. military official. "But the conflict was over when this was done. These are just bored soldiers."
This is bad, but not horrible. It isn't rape or murder, for example. It's just another piece of bad news coming out of Iraq. The Bush regime badly needs some good news coming out of that country. Some hope.

TOM TOMORROW -- Hits it out of the park.