The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Thursday, July 17, 2003

MILITARY 'STRETCHED THIN' -- The Bush regime intends to call up as many as 10,000 National Guard units to serve in Iraq soon.
The Pentagon could start a call-up of as many as 10,000 U.S. National Guard soldiers by this winter to bolster forces in Iraq and offset a lack of troops from allies, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the U.S. military thin, the report said, and soldiers there still face danger every day.

One senior U.S. defense official, asked by the Journal if he had ever seen the Army stretched so thin, said: "Not in my 31 years" of military service.
This is just the sort of thing Mr Bush swore he would avoid as president, but, of course, we've seen what his word is worth.

WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL INSISTED ON IRAQ WMD LIE -- According to Senator Dick Durbin [D-Ill], during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, CIA Director George Tenet said a White House official insisted the false allegation that Iraq was attempting to obtain uranium from Niger be included in Mr Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.
``He (Tenet) certainly told us who the person was who was insistent on putting this language in which the CIA knew to be incredible, this language about the uranium shipment from Africa,'' Durbin said on ABC's ``Good Morning America.''

``And there was this negotiation between the White House and the CIA about just how far you could go and be close to the truth and unfortunately those sixteen words were included in the most important speech the president delivers in any given year,'' Durbin added.

Tenet -- described as ``very contrite'' -- told the Senate panel he was responsible for bad intelligence finding its way into Bush's Jan. 28 speech to Congress and the nation. In that address, the president cited the accusation about an African connection as part of his justification for going to war to oust Saddam.

``The more important question is who is it in the White House who was hellbent on misleading the American people and why are they still there?,'' Durbin said Thursday.

``Being a member of the Intelligence Committee I can't disclose that but I trust that it will come out,'' he said. ``But it should come out from the president. The president should be outraged that he was misled and that he then misled the American people.''
Okay, we've got that part out yet. Now we just have to wait for that person's name to be revealed. If it is someone sufficiently close to Mr Bush, such as National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, then the entire administration will be implicated in the lie and the cover-up.

Drip drip drip.

DEATH TOLL SURPASSES GULF WAR -- Another U.S. serviceman has been killed in Iraq, raising the death toll in the Iraq War to 148--one more than the 147 Americans that died during the 1991 Gulf War. I think Mr Bush's presidency may be a casualty of this war, too.

Monday, July 14, 2003

IRAQ: ANOTHER BUSH FAILURE [Part Two] -- The United States is spending vast sums in Iraq right now [about $1 billion per week just to occupy the place, not including anything like reconstructing it] and what are the taxpayers getting for their money? A mess. A mess of the Bush regime's own making.
Richard Lugar [R-IN], chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, came back from his recent trip to Iraq with some disturbing stories.
By the time Lugar’s trip to Iraq was over, the Indiana Republican worried the American people were being blindsided, too, by the true costs in blood and treasure of a war that has yet to end. “This idea that we will be in [Iraq] ‘just as long as we need to and not a day more’,” he said, paraphrasing the administration line, “is rubbish! We’re going to be there a long time.” Lugar said he kept demanding answers about the cost to American taxpayers and was not quite getting them. “Where does the money come from?” he asked. “How is it to be disbursed, and by whom?”
The Bush regime is now claiming it will cost about $1 billion per week to occupy Iraq for the next two to four years. Take that with a grain of salt, however. In April, the Bush regime told Congress it would cost half that and said nothing about occupying the country for 2-4 years. In fact, one member of the administration said the occupation might not have to last “30 to 60 days.”

And how about paying for this vast project in Bush imperialism? Well, once again the administration was sanguine and soothingly urged everyone else to be, as well.
“We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon,” Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate a week after the invasion started in March. Now such pretenses have to be dropped. “It’s not going to be self-financing,” says L. Paul Bremer III, the Coalition administrator for Iraq. “Although Iraq is potentially a rich country, it’s not very rich now.”
Two weeks ago Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) sold off some 8 million barrels that had been stored in Ceyhan, Turkey, since before the war. Last week an additional 8 million barrels were sold to four international companies: Shell, ChevronTexaco, BP and Taurus, a Swiss-American trading company. It was the first newly produced petroleum sold since the fighting, and it brought in about $200 million. “Peanuts,” says Mussab al-Dujayli, a SOMO oil expert. He thinks the U.S. administration is dreaming if it believes it will be able to finance the reconstruction with oil money alone.

“The oil industry is in a state of chaos and anarchy,” says al-Dujayli. He points out that the Oil Industry Guards, a military unit that was tasked to secure the pipelines, has been either destroyed or dismantled. The Americans are talking about replacing the force but, meanwhile, pipelines north and south have been attacked several times in just the past two weeks. Iraq is actually importing gasoline from Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey and elsewhere, according to industry sources.
To me, it is unclear if the Bush regime believed all their nonsensical talk about how the Iraqis would fall to their knees and kiss our soldiers' feet after the fall of the Saddam Hussein government. It's unclear to me if the Bush regime's ignorant-seeming chatter about how Iraq could rebuild itself and U.S. forces could leave the country in a month or two--six at the most--was honest idiocy or calculated mendacity. Or some mixture of both. [I suspect the latter.] What is clear, however, is that in every possible way the Bush regime has mishandled the post-war environment in Iraq. From neglecting to protect Iraq's vital infrastructure from postwar looting to not understanding how the country's volatile mix of religions and ethnicities would greet the American invaders, the Bush regime has acted as if it does not have the slightest idea what it is doing in our new Middle East possession.

IRAQ: ANOTHER BUSH FAILURE [Part One] -- No weapons of mass destruction. Widespread Iraqi suspicion of American motives in the country. More U.S. combat deaths almost every day from guerrilla fighters. A hugely expensive occupation [about $1 billion per week] to say nothing of a national reconstruction which it now appears Iraq will be unable to afford without American taxpayers digging deep into their wallets. How did things get so bad in Iraq? Well, the signs were there from the start, especially the Bush regime's arrogant refusal to consider viewpoints opposed to their own vision of a nation of grateful Iraqis who would fall to their knees in gratitude after the invasion. Essentially, it was blind arrogance, augmented by a criminal lack of planning for anything, but the rosiest of scenarios.
The small circle of senior civilians in the Defense Department who dominated planning for postwar Iraq failed to prepare for the setbacks that have erupted over the past two months.

The officials didn't develop any real postwar plans because they believed that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops with open arms and Washington could install a favored Iraqi exile leader as the country's leader. The Pentagon civilians ignored CIA and State Department experts who disputed them, resisted White House pressure to back off from their favored exile leader and when their scenario collapsed amid increasing violence and disorder, they had no backup plan.

Today, American forces face instability in Iraq, where they are losing soldiers almost daily to escalating guerrilla attacks, the cost of occupation is exploding to almost $4 billion a month and withdrawal appears untold years away.

"There was no real planning for postwar Iraq," said a former senior U.S. official who left government recently.
"We could have done so much better," lamented a former senior Pentagon official, who is still a Defense Department adviser. While most officials requested anonymity because going public could force them out of government service, some were willing to talk on the record.

Ultimately, however, the responsibility for ensuring that post-Saddam planning anticipated all possible complications lay with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, current and former officials said.

The Pentagon planning group, directed by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith, the department's No. 3 official, included hard-line conservatives who had long advocated using the American military to overthrow Saddam. Its day-to-day boss was William Luti, a former Navy officer who worked for Vice President Dick Cheney before joining the Pentagon.

The Pentagon group insisted on doing it its way because it had a visionary strategy that it hoped would transform Iraq into an ally of Israel, remove a potential threat to the Persian Gulf oil trade and encircle Iran with U.S. friends and allies. The problem was that officials at the State Department and CIA thought the vision was badly flawed and impractical, so the Pentagon planners simply excluded their rivals from involvement.
Feith, Luti and their advisers wanted to put Ahmad Chalabi - the controversial Iraqi exile leader of a coalition of opposition groups - in power in Baghdad. The Pentagon planners were convinced that Iraqis would warmly welcome the American-led coalition and that Chalabi, who boasted of having a secret network inside and outside the regime, and his supporters would replace Saddam and impose order.
The Chalabi scheme was dealt another major blow in February, a month before the war started, when U.S. intelligence agencies monitored him conferring with hard-line Islamic leaders in Tehran, Iran, a State Department official said. About the same time, an Iraqi Shiite militia that was based in Iran and known as the Badr Brigade began moving into northern Iraq, setting off alarm bells in Washington.

At the State Department, officials drafted a memo, titled "The Perfect Storm," warning of a confluence of catastrophic developments that would endanger the goals of the coming U.S. invasion.

Cheney, once a strong Chalabi backer, ordered the Pentagon to curb its support for the exiles, the official said.

Yet Chalabi continued to receive Pentagon assistance, including backing for a 700-man paramilitary unit. The U.S. military flew Chalabi and his men at the height of the war from the safety of northern Iraq, which was outside Saddam's control, to an air base outside the southern city of Nasiriyah in expectation that he would soon take power.

Chalabi settled into a former hunting club in the fashionable Mansour section of Baghdad. He was joined by Harold Rhode, a top Feith aide, said the former U.S. official who recently returned from Iraq.

But Chalabi lacked popular support - graffiti in Iraq referred to "Ahmad the Thief" - and anti-American anger was growing over the looting and anarchy that followed Saddam's ouster.

"It was very clear that there was an expectation that the exiles would be the core of an Iraqi interim (governing) authority," retired U.S. Ambassador Timothy Carney said. He was in Iraq in April to help with postwar reconstruction.

Once Saddam's regime fell, American authorities "quickly grasped" that Chalabi and his people couldn't take charge, Carney said.

However, the Pentagon had devised no backup plan. Numerous officials in positions to know said that if Pentagon civilians had a detailed plan that anticipated what could happen after Saddam fell, it was invisible to them.

Garner's team didn't even have such basics as working cell phones and adequate transportation. And Garner was replaced in May - much earlier than planned - by L. Paul Bremer.
The former senior White House official said Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, never took the logical - if politically risky - step of acknowledging that American troops would have to occupy Iraq for years to stabilize and rebuild the country.

"You let him (Bush) go into this without a serious plan … for the endgame," the official said. It was "staggeringly negligent on their part."
By the summer of 2004 Iraq will not look like a feather in Mr Bush's cap, but a thorn in his side. Some of us who predicted post-war disaster in Iraq are, to our own sorrow, looking pretty smart right now. It didn't take any remarkable predictive powers, however--everything that has happened in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad was completely predictable. In light of the criminal negligence of the Bush regime, events have proven to be completely inevitable. The big question now: Is it too late to save everything?

JERRY SPRINGER FOR SENATE -- Well, it is official. He's a Democrat, not a cowardly "moderate" Republican like incumbent George Voinovich [R-OH], so I suppose I must support him.

BUSH: INTELLIGENCE 'DARN GOOD' -- One must wonder, then, what he would consider bad intelligence, in the wake of the exposure of his administration's lies about Iraq's non-existent nuclear weapons program.

Mr Bush also said "When all is said and done the people of the United States will realize that Saddam Hussein had a weapons program." Notice the change there. No longer is he speaking about how Saddam Hussein possessed actual chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons that posed such an immiment threat to the United States that invasion was necessary. Now Mr Bush speaks only of a 'weapons program.' Whatever that means.

BUSH'S MARRIED BROTHER CHEATS -- And apparently he likes Asian women. I report. You vomit.

DEION SANDERS PAYS WHEN JESUS TELLS HIM TO PAY -- If Deion Sanders owes you money, you better make sure he has cleared it with Jesus first.
Former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders is battling an automotive shop over what he says Jesus told him to pay for a repair bill.

The owner of the repair shop says Sanders wanted to pay only $1,500 of the $4,265.57 bill, saying that Jesus had informed him that was all he needed to pay.

"It's the 'Praise Jesus' discount,'' attorney Ed Edson told The Dallas Morning News in Monday's editions.
Apparently, this is not a joke.

WIND POWER IN THE UK -- The British government is moving forward with a wise proposal to use wind power to provide more than 15% of Britain's energy needs by the end of this decade. How? Wind farms. Those are rows of turbines miles offshore that harness the wind to provide electricity.
The wind farms will all be sited about five miles from the coast, and will take account of any areas of special interest such as bird sanctuaries.

They could consist of up to 300 turbines each, but Ms Hewitt [UK Minister for Trade and Industry] said they would be far enough offshore not to be noticed from the coast.

"This announcement is good for the environment, good for Britain's energy needs and good for jobs," she said, adding that up to 20,000 positions could be created.

"We are confident that with this new round of offshore wind farms we will indeed, we may well be able ... to generate electricity for about one in six of Britain's households.
We need more of this sort of thinking in the United States, instead of trying to solve all our energy problems by drilling for oil in our national parks and propping up corrupt, terrorist-supporting Persian Gulf kingdoms.

IRAQ WMD CASE CRUMBLES -- As the BBC notes, not a single one of the nine British allegations about Saddam Hussein's WMD has been proven true. That's right, not a single one.
The nine main conclusions and the broad evidence which has emerged about them are these:

1. "Iraq has a useable chemical and biological weapons capability which has included recent production of chemical and biological agents."

No evidence of Iraq's useable capability has been found in terms of manufacturing plants, bombs, rockets or actual chemical or biological agents, nor any sign of recent production.

A mysterious truck has been found which the CIA says is a mobile biological facility but this has not been accepted by all experts.

2. "Saddam continues to attach great importance to the possession of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles... He is determined to retain these capabilities."

He may well have attached great importance to the possession of such weapons but none has been found. The meaning of the word "capability" is now key to this.

If the US and UK governments can show that Iraq maintained an active expertise, amounting to a "programme", they will claim their case has been made that Iraq violated UN resolutions.

3. "Iraq can deliver chemical and biological agents using an extensive range of shells, bombs, sprayers and missiles."

Nothing major has been found so far. There was one aircraft adapted with a sprayer but its capability was small.

4. "Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons... Uranium has been sought from Africa."

The UN watchdog the IAEA said there was no evidence for this up to the start of the war and none has been found since. It is possible, though, that a case could be made from a shopping list of items needed for such a programme.

These include vacuum pumps, magnets, winding and balancing machines - all listed in the British dossier. No details about these purchasing attempts have been provided.

A claim that aluminium tubes were sought for this process was not wholly accepted by the British assessment though it was by the American and has subsequently not been proved.

The uranium claim is currently under question, though the British Government stands by its allegation.

5. "Iraq possesses extended-range versions of the Scud ballistic missile."

No Scuds have been found. The British said Iraq might have up to 20, the CIA said up to 12.

6. "Iraq's current military planning specifically envisages the use of chemical and biological weapons."

That may have been the case but direct evidence from serving Iraqi officers will be needed to prove it.

7. "The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons (chemical and biological) within 45 minutes of a decision to do so."

The 45 minute claim is currently under question. It is said to come from "a single source" probably a defector or Iraqi officer. It has not been proven.

8. "Iraq... is already taking steps to conceal and disperse sensitive equipment."

This is a focus of the current American and British investigation being carried out in Iraq by the Iraq Survey Group. One Iraqi scientist has come forward to say that he hid blueprints of centrifuges under his roses but that was in 1991.

If a pattern of concealment can be established, it would add to the credibility of the allegations that Iraq wanted to defy the UN.

9. "Iraq's chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missile programme are well funded."

Evidence will be needed from serving Iraqi officials backed up by documents. Again, if a pattern of funding can be established, a case against Iraq could be made but if the actual programmes did not exist, was the funding of much use and in any case, how much was it?
Blair must go. Bush must go. They lied and people died.

20 LIES ABOUT IRAQ -- This article from The Independent of London is about just what it seems to be about:
1 Iraq was responsible for the 11 September attacks

A supposed meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, leader of the 11 September hijackers, and an Iraqi intelligence official was the main basis for this claim, but Czech intelligence later conceded that the Iraqi's contact could not have been Atta. This did not stop the constant stream of assertions that Iraq was involved in 9/11, which was so successful that at one stage opinion polls showed that two-thirds of Americans believed the hand of Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks. Almost as many believed Iraqi hijackers were aboard the crashed airliners; in fact there were none.

2 Iraq and al-Qa'ida were working together

Persistent claims by US and British leaders that Saddam and Osama bin Laden were in league with each other were contradicted by a leaked British Defence Intelligence Staff report, which said there were no current links between them. Mr Bin Laden's "aims are in ideological conflict with present-day Iraq", it added.

Another strand to the claims was that al-Qa'ida members were being sheltered in Iraq, and had set up a poisons training camp. When US troops reached the camp, they found no chemical or biological traces.

3 Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa for a "reconstituted" nuclear weapons programme

The head of the CIA has now admitted that documents purporting to show that Iraq tried to import uranium from Niger in west Africa were forged, and that the claim should never have been in President Bush's State of the Union address. Britain sticks by the claim, insisting it has "separate intelligence". The Foreign Office conceded last week that this information is now "under review".

4 Iraq was trying to import aluminium tubes to develop nuclear weapons

The US persistently alleged that Baghdad tried to buy high-strength aluminum tubes whose only use could be in gas centrifuges, needed to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Equally persistently, the International Atomic Energy Agency said the tubes were being used for artillery rockets. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, told the UN Security Council in January that the tubes were not even suitable for centrifuges.

5 Iraq still had vast stocks of chemical and biological weapons from the first Gulf War

Iraq possessed enough dangerous substances to kill the whole world, it was alleged more than once. It had pilotless aircraft which could be smuggled into the US and used to spray chemical and biological toxins. Experts pointed out that apart from mustard gas, Iraq never had the technology to produce materials with a shelf-life of 12 years, the time between the two wars. All such agents would have deteriorated to the point of uselessness years ago.
Read 'em all. It's important.

PUBLIC MORE SKEPTICAL OF BUSH, WAR -- More on how Americans are slowly, but surely catching on to Mr Bush:
With U.S. troops continuing to take casualties in Iraq, less than half of Americans now believe the U.S. is in control of the situation there -- a dramatic decline from April, when 71 percent thought it was.

Less than half now say Iraq was a threat that required immediate action. And while 54 percent still believe that removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the costs of war, that figure, too, has declined from 65 percent in May.

A majority still believes the U.S. will eventually turn up weapons of mass destruction, but fewer are confident of this today than they were last month, and the public divides on whether the war will have been worth it if no weapons of mass destruction are found. For the first time a majority now says the Bush administration overestimated the extent of the Iraqis’ weapons.

Americans continue to look homeward, and they rate the economy -- not Iraq -- as the nation’s most important problem. There is even more concern about the state of the economy -- just one in four thinks it is improving.

Americans’ belief that the U.S. is in control of the situation in Iraq has plummeted to 45 percent, down from 71 percent in late April.
This is what happens when you tell a lie that can easily be disproved later.

Drip drip drip.

PUBLIC SLOWLY CATCHING ON -- The number of people who get it yet is low, but rising:
Forty-five percent of Americans say the Bush Administration misinterpreted intelligence reports that proved Iraq was hiding banned chemical or biological weapons before the war, says a new Newsweek poll. And while a significantly smaller number, ”38 percent,” believe the administration purposely misled the public, President Bush's approval ratings have declined significantly in recent months, the poll shows.

WHILE 55 PERCENT of those polled say they approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president, his ratings have fallen 6 points from the end of May, 16 points from mid-April when Baghdad first fell to American soldiers, and nearly 30 points from the weeks immediately following the September 11 attacks.

Americans are increasingly skeptical about the military operations in Iraq, as well. The number who say they are very confident that the United States can create a stable democratic Iraqi government is now just 15 percent; 39 percent are somewhat confident. Those numbers were 21 percent and 42 percent, respectively, at the beginning of May. In that same time frame, Bush's approval ratings with respect to Iraq have fallen to 53 percent from 69 percent.

In response to the attacks on U.S. military personnel in Iraq, 49 percent say they would support more aggressive action by U.S. forces to prevent the violence, even if it means great risk for Iraqi civilians. Forty-five percent say they would support a withdrawal of U.S. troops in response to the attacks; 40 percent would support increasing the number of troops in Iraq.

Meanwhile, 57 percent say they want the majority of U.S. troops to leave Iraq within two years; 74 percent want them out within five.
There are a chunk of people who won't believe anything bad about Mr Bush, no matter what sort of intellectual contortions they must undertake to maintain their fragile sense of trust in the Commander-in-Thief. The rest are persuadable, but they've been told by the media for two years now what a nice guy Mr Bush is. It isn't easy for them to believe the man in the White House could so such a thing, but they are slowly--if reluctantly--facing the truth.

At least criticizing Mr Bush isn't enough to get you kicked out of the country any more.

INDIA REFUSEES TO SEND TROOPS TO IRAQ -- without a U.N. mandate. Smart move, India. The more these other countries see our troops coming under fire from Iraqi guerrillas, the less likely they are to want to send their troops to face the same thing.

WE HAVE OUR FALL GUY -- And, surprise, surprise--it's CIA Director George Tenet:
But intelligence professionals and former senior CIA officials familiar with the push and pull between the White House and the CIA said it appears that Bush had decided to make Tenet a sacrificial lamb in order to deflect criticism from the White House about exaggerated charges used in making the case for war on Iraq.

"The long knives are out, no doubt about it," said Richard Stolz, who headed the CIA's clandestine service under the elder President Bush.

Kent Harrington, a former senior CIA official, said, "If they're going to try to put this issue behind them, there's no question that this is a tried and true technique, to pick a 'stickee' and stick him."

And former U.S. senator Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last week's events make clear that the administration decided, " 'OK, we'll make George Tenet walk the plank.' "

The dilemma now facing the Bush administration is whether forcing Tenet out would tamp down the controversy or intensify it. An angry ex-CIA director can be more damaging to a president than a disgruntled current director. That was President Clinton's experience after he pushed out CIA director James Woolsey, only to have Woolsey become one of the leading critics of Clinton on national security issues.

If Tenet stays, his influence with Bush, which has been considerable at times, will almost certainly be diminished. On the other hand, resignation would amount to admitting a broader degree of fault at the CIA for the intelligence used in making the case for war in Iraq. In fact, Tenet and his senior staff take pride in their past refusal to endorse some intelligence on Iraq that they regarded as substandard.
With multiple congressional investigations of the Iraq-related intelligence about to begin, some in the Bush administration are arguing privately for a CIA director who will be unquestioningly loyal to the White House as committees demand documents and call witnesses.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticized Tenet for "sloppy handling" of the questionable intelligence on Niger. Echoing the White House view, Roberts said Tenet should have raised objections to any reliance on the Niger allegations. Instead, the CIA said in an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that it could not confirm reports by foreign intelligence services that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa.

At the time, Tenet may have believed he was doing the Bush administration a favor by failing to highlight doubts about the Africa intelligence. The administration last fall was struggling to gain international support for its Iraq policy, and Tenet was under orders to round up all the available intelligence about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction programs.
Officials in Vice President Cheney's office are angry at Tenet because they believe the CIA leaked to reporters last week that it had told White House officials — before the State of the Union address — that allegations Iraq was trying to buy uranium were probably bogus.

Bush administration officials who were hawkish on war in Iraq also have lingering resentment toward Tenet for his tendency to be skeptical about the intelligence implicating Iraq. These officials took note that the envoy the CIA sent to Niger in February 2002 to investigate the uranium rumors was Joseph Wilson, a career diplomat who had served on Clinton's National Security Council. Last year, Wilson made frequent TV appearances in which he voiced opposition to war in Iraq.
The CIA clashed frequently with Bush administration policymakers in the months leading up to the war. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set up his own in-house intelligence adviser, in part as a counterweight to the skepticism on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction coming from the CIA. One of the issues Democrats in particular are seeking to probe is whether frequent visits to CIA headquarters by Cheney amounted to undue pressure on intelligence analysts to tilt their reports in a way preferred by the White House.

But Tenet has also been criticized by some for joining with administration officials in exaggerating the case against Iraq. In testimony a month before the U.S.-led invasion began, Tenet said in prepared testimony to lawmakers that Iraq "retains, in violation of U.N. resolutions, a small number of Scud missiles that were produced before the Gulf War." Four months earlier, a declassified intelligence estimate said only that discrepancies in Iraqi reporting "suggest that Iraq retains" a small Scud force.

"I would argue that's an important difference," Greg Thielmann, until last fall a senior official in the State Department's intelligence branch, told reporters last week. "I cannot for the life of me understand how, in a prepared statement to Congress, that very important precision would have become so imprecise."
So there you have it. The White House is already angry at Mr Tenet because they think he was unhelpful for months leading up to the Iraq War and now they've decided to make him the fall guy because he failed to stop them from making a mistake that has now come back to haunt them. Forget, of course, that Mr Bush and his team were going to accuse Saddam Hussein of pursuing nuclear weapons come Hell or high water. Nothing was going to stop the Bush regime from pursuing that argument because they knew it would frighten and thus convince many people of the need to go to war against Iraq.

So far, Mr Tenet--who is justifiably disgraced for participating in this shabby cover-up--seems willing to be the fall guy. We'll see how long that lasts.

YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- So who did you vote for?

CHINA TAKES PROTESTS "SERIOUSLY" -- The Chinese government is apparently sufficiently impressed by the recent Hong Kong protests against a new anti-subversion law that it has decided to take the protests "seriously". Hopefully, that means the Chinese government will listen to the protestors instead of shooting them.

TENET JUST PLEASING HIS BOSS -- Mark Brown of the Chicago Tribune writes CIA Director George Tenet was just trying to please Mr Bush when he "signed off" on the false assertion that Saddam Hussein was attempting to acquire uranium from Niger.
The decision to go to war already had been made. The president and his more hawkish advisers were determined to find ways to sell it to the public. Sometimes in a situation like that, a bureaucrat knows better than to step in front of the train, although you hope for more from a director of central intelligence.
Seems perfectly believable to me and Mr Bush is the real culprit here, not Mr Tenet--who is merely a coward. Mr Bush wants to do two things: 1] Blame the CIA and George Tenet for the nuclear lies Mr Bush and his entire National Security team have told; and 2] Hold on to Mr Tenet until after the November 2004 elections because a fired and embittered ex-CIA Director is the sort of person who might talk and reveal all sorts of embarrassing information.

RUMSFELD STATES THE BLOODY OBVIOUS -- It appears Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld thinks American troops in Iraq will come under more attacks from Iraqi guerrillas in the weeks and months [and years?] ahead. Guess what? By stating the obvious, Mr Rumsfeld finally got one right:
Just hours after Rumsfeld's warning, one American soldier was killed and six others wounded early Monday in an attack by insurgents who fired rocket-propelled grenades at their convoy, a military spokesman said. The military also said a marine in southern Iraq died in a non-hostile incident. It provided no details.
Too bad Mr Rumsfeld wasn't this far-sighted when he helped take the country to war in the first place.