Wednesday, March 31, 2004

How the Snarling Bush-Supporting Finger-Pointers are Missing the Point...

From the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, an editorial excerpt:

Administration officials have attacked their former colleague, Richard Clarke, from every possible angle, but they have not dared to attack him as being soft on terrorism. Whatever his faults, the hardheaded Clarke saw more clearly than most the threat posed by terrorism, and within the highest circles of the Clinton and Bush administrations he lobbied persistently to the point of obsession for more aggressive action against al-Qaida.

Logically, then, you might think that Clarke would be a huge fan of George W. Bush. As the president's campaign commercials try to drive home, as his supporters stress at every opportunity, Bush has been a man of action, the decisive leader in the flight suit who actually did something against terrorism. If Clarke wanted aggressive action against terror, and Bush has taken aggressive action, shouldn't Clarke be one of the president's most ardent supporters?
As most of the world knows by now, the answer is no. Why?

Because Clarke understands that macho preening is an attitude, not a foreign policy. He also understands that if macho preening becomes a substitute for thoughtful policy, it will lead this country into real trouble, which is exactly where we find ourselves today.

But the real anger in his critique seems to stem from what happened within the Bush inner circles in the hours and days immediately after the attacks. In his book, the breaking point occurs when he walks into an important meeting early on Sept. 12, with smoke and steam still rising from New York and Washington and with al-Qaida already fingered as the responsible party. Clarke expected to be talking about ways to retaliate against al-Qaida, to hunt its leadership and members down to their lairs and destroy them, and to ensure that no further attacks took place.

Instead, the meeting was dominated by talk of Saddam Hussein and invasion.

"At first I was incredulous that we were talking about something other than getting al-Qaida," Clarke writes. "Then I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and [Deputy Paul] Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq."

And that's exactly what happened.

President Bush would like to frame the debate over Iraq as a question of whether to be tough or soft. The real question is whether the policy has been right or wrong, smart or stupid. History's verdict on that point will not be kind.

More later this week on why Mr. Bush should be thanking Richard Clarke...

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Update: Restarting the Draft

The draft for military service was an accepted “norm” of American life from shortly before World War II through the Vietnam War. It disappeared from use, other than registration for all 18 year old males, for the last 30 years. This blog has been keeping a watch on the draft because the Bush administration must have more manpower, or pay for it through good-buddy contracts, to carry out a pre-emptive warfare foreign policy.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has repeatedly insisted that he will not ask Congress to authorize the return of the draft, and last year inadvertently offended many veterans of the conscription-era military by belittling the value of conscripts in contrast to today’s volunteer soldiers.

However, recent news reports indicate that other government officials are quietly preparing for such a resurrection.

Last year, the Selective Service System quietly announced a recruiting drive for “potential” draft board selection committee members. I can think of no other reason for this than Selective Service officials want to be ready to implement a nationwide conscription program at short notice if the government wants it to do so.

Officials noted that the Selective Service System already has a special program in place to register and draft health care personnel ages 20 to 44 – covering more than 60 specialties – in a crisis…to date, the Pentagon has made no such request.

It seems more probable that the Pentagon can, as an alternative to reviving the draft, win support for more and more expensive contracts to civilian firms to provide those very services.

In short, the draft debate may well be a ruse to sidestep the groundswell of criticism against civilian defense contractors providing direct support to the military in Iraq and elsewhere.

But even if that is the case, those who support the “All-Volunteer Force” should remain vigilant: If there is one thing we’ve learned since 9/11, an unexpected crisis or major setback could lead to a policy reversal.

The draft is not dead, and there are officials who know how to awaken it from its deep sleep.

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Monday, March 29, 2004

'Citizen soldiers: Called to fight, on the Cheap'

The National Guard and Army Reserve are crucial to the U.S. military, yet its soldiers get hand-me-down equipment and fewer benefits than their active duty counterparts. It's time to stop making excuses. This administration is dismantling the effectiveness and readiness of the citizen soldiers that bailed their butts out in Iraq. It's time to more than repay the favor, now. An excerpt from a first hand report:

Shut up. Suck it up. And don't write your congressman.

For every citizen soldier called to serve in the war in Iraq, Afghanistan or the broader war on terrorism, that's an order.

So when the Oregon National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, ran low of ammunition, fuel, soap and even toilet paper while training for war in shabby Fort Hood, Texas, the soldiers complained only to their spouses.

So when another Oregon Guard unit was ordered to report to Fort Bragg, N.C., just three days before Christmas, even though the base would be nearly empty for the holidays, the citizen soldiers started packing their bags. However, Gov. Ted Kulongoski and acting Adjutant Gen. Raymond Byrne Jr. insisted the Oregon soldiers would report after the holidays. Byrne called the Pentagon. "I said, 'They ain't coming.' "

So now that tens of thousands of citizen soldiers are leaving their civilian jobs to serve alongside active-duty soldiers with better equipment, including stronger body armor, and more extensive health care and retirement benefits, most of them are just sucking it up.

They sure don't talk about this: Citizen soldiers may fight alongside active-duty soldiers, but if they are killed they cannot be buried alongside them. As it stands, National Guard soldiers are not eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

It's time to write your congressman. The Guard and Reserve are no longer forces of last resort, and the Pentagon, the Congress, the Bush administration and the American people must stop treating them that way.

"Our volunteer Army is closer to being broken today than ever before in its 30-year history," said David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland.

It is by design hard and controversial to send into harm's way police officers, electricians, teachers and other reservists from small, close-knit Oregon towns such as Cottage Grove, Albany and Ontario.

"I doubt there are very many people in this state who don't personally know somebody who's in the Guard, who's either been called up or is about to be," said Col. Mike Caldwell, the Oregon Guard's deputy director for state affairs. "People are actively debating the war. It's a healthy thing."

"Bungled" mobilization

Yet the heavy demand for reservists in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and for homeland defense has exposed the nation's failure to properly pay for and equip its citizen soldiers. Decades of "tiered readiness," a Pentagon euphemism for giving the Guard hand-me-downs from active-duty forces, left many reserve units unprepared and unequipped for rapid duty. Across the nation, parents, spouses and friends of reservists have resorted to buying body armor, two-way radios and other equipment for soldiers.

A disorganized Pentagon called up more than 10,000 Army Reserve soldiers with fewer than five days of notice, leaving soldiers with no time to plan their separations from their spouses and children or their civilian jobs. A separate payroll system for Guard soldiers failed, leaving citizen soldiers serving in Iraq either with incorrect paychecks or none at all.

Lt. Gen. James Helmly, head of the Army Reserve, conceded that the military bungled the mobilization of soldiers and gave them a "pipe dream" about the length of their deployments. Promised six-month deployments grew first to a year, then to more than 16 months.
In a recent memo to his subordinates, Helmly wrote that he was "really damned tired of going to see our reserve soldiers and finding they're short of simple things such as goggles. It's about time you listen to your lawyers less and your consciences more. . . . I want this stuff fixed."

Rather than fix all that's so obviously broken with the National Guard and the Reserve, some prominent figures in Congress and the Pentagon want instead to return to the days of a much larger active-duty military. A bipartisan group on Capitol Hill has proposed adding as many as 100,000 new GIs. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld already has OK'd a temporary increase of 30,000 soldiers in the active-duty force.

But any expansion of active-duty forces must not come at the expense of long-overdue new investments in the National Guard and Reserves. The Pentagon is rumored to be contemplating reducing the size of the Army Guard from 350,000 to 310,000 soldiers. "I'd be strongly opposed to any reduction in the National Guard," Kulongoski said. "The states have a great need for a viable Guard."

Congress and the Pentagon can't wait any longer to address the unequal benefits and equipment provided to citizen soldiers. Without more support, the part-time soldiers now serving or preparing to serve full-time in a war zone could eventually leave the Guard and Reserve in droves.

A survey of 5,000 citizen soldiers from 15 states in February showed the rate Army Guard members choose to leave the military could jump as high as 22 percent a year. Last year about 16 percent of all Army Guard troops left as a result of retirement, injuries or a decision not to reenlist.

Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio says the Guard "is looking at a real recruitment and retention problem in the near future. If we're not meeting their needs, and right now we're not, it's going to erode the all-volunteer Army." It's short of everything from Humvees to armor to the newest rifles and radios.

Congress also should enable Guard soldiers to buy into the health insurance system provided to active-duty soldiers. Through bitter experience, the military now knows that health care is a readiness issue. Hundreds of reservists have shown up for duty in Iraq with minor injuries, illnesses or dental problems that either delayed or prevented their deployment.

Finally, Congress should make citizen soldiers who die serving their country eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. If Arlington is a resting place for the nation's military heroes, citizen soldiers who give their lives belong there, too.

All this will be difficult for a Pentagon and active-duty commanders still not used to seeing part-time soldiers as equals. Such changes won't come easy for a military establishment that has neglected the Guard and Reserve for 30 years.

Yet with the United States in a war that cannot be won without the brave service of tens of thousands of citizen soldiers, the Pentagon really has only one choice.

Suck it up.

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Friday, March 26, 2004

UPDATE: "Fair & Balanced Reporting" - Fox News FLIP-FLOPs Themselves into Disgrace (see yesterday's blog)

Fox News brought out the Big Gun this morning - Bill O'Reilly - to refute the barrage of criticism coming in on their attempt to manipulate the Clarke testimony in front of the 9/11 Commission on Tuesday. Expect O'Reilly to carry the spear all day today. Will he comment on Fox's outrageous actions? Not a chance. Instead he will continue to attempt to discredit Clarke and accuse him of being a front man for John Kerry. O'Reilly tries to convince us that another of Clarke's motives is to sell his book. What ludicrous hypocrisy, coming from O'Reilly - the chief self-promoter of his books, his website (not free), his O'Reilly paraphernalia etc. etc. Bill - your famous question from your book which you shill every day is "Who's looking out for you?" Exactly. It isn't you or Fox News. That's crystal clear.

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Update: Promised Personal Body Armor Finally in Production

Retired Colonel David Hackworth, Defense Watch Senior Military Columnist, reports that, a year later, the Army is just now starting to provide enough personal body armor to deploying troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This morning, local news reports in Portland, Oregon are carrying a story that a father just spent more than $1,400 to outfit his son on the way to the Middle East. It's bad enough when the politicians don't get it right. When senior military officials don't act until moms and pops scream to their Congressional reps for a year, that's inexcusable.

Last year, Les Brownlee, the Army's top guy (Secretary of the Army) and one of my very fine captains way back when, stated that all troops in Iraq would have the latest individual body armor (IBA) by Christmas. Three months after this declaration to Congress, there were still soldiers in Iraq without the lifesaving vests - some of whom might have suffered death or wounds as a result.

How could Secretary Brownlee make such a bad call?


For starters, the Pentagon's top brass always focus on big-ticket toys like the irrelevant F-22 fighter, the crash-and-burn Osprey helicopter, the redundant Joint Strike Fighter and the dubious Stryker combat vehicle.

The other reason for the vest shortfall is standard senior brass stupidity. Two years before our troops waded into Iraq, those who planned the campaign and their top logisticians set the IBA production rate at a number based on vests for the "dismounted fighting soldier" and "combat vehicle crewman" - a mere 1,600 units per month. By jump-off time, the production requirement shot up to 19,000 sets per month - too little, too late - to provide all divisional and separate regimental-level combat units with IBA.

The flawed conventional-war thinking must have been that the Pentagon's $400- billion-a-year "shock and awe" machine would so flatten Saddam's $1 billion-a-year ragtag army that the guerrilla war predicted by many military analysts wouldn't happen. Because the tens of thousands of supporters providing the beans, bullets, medicine and maintenance wouldn't be in harm's way under this scenario, they wouldn't need the new 16-pound vest that protects against fragmentation splinters and up to a .30-caliber armor-piecing rifle round.

The Army's leadership owes a one-on-one apology to the families of the dead and the hundreds of support and service troops awarded Purple Hearts as a result of this criminal negligence. Not to mention the reimbursement that should be offered to everyone who purchased a vest for a serving loved one.

Last week, Maj. Gary Tallman, the Pentagon's point man on IBA, told me, "The Army has allocated $420 million and assigned top priority to ensuring that every soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq or who will be heading that way has one of the new vests."

Seven production lines, from Costa Mesa, Calif., to Pittsfield, Mass., are busy churning out 25,000 IBA sets - the vest and accompanying ballistic plates - per month. A year after the war started, production is finally meeting demand. Talk about ready, fire, aim on the part of the planners.

My guess is that the Pentagon brass pushed the pedal to the metal on IBA production because Congress, moms, pops and the media have been on their tails since this shameful shortfall came to light.

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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Bush Thinks that No WMDs is a Funny Subject

Apparently believing that he is untouchable after the hearings yesterday, Mr. Bush tried to make fun of himself last night with amazing insensitivity to the relatives of 9/11 victims. MSNBC reports that family members and others are emailing and phoning them in outrage. An excerpt:

There was Bush looking under furniture in a fruitless, frustrating search. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he said.

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"Fair & Balanced Reporting" - Fox News FLIP-FLOPs Themselves into Disgrace

Mid-way through Richard Clarke's testimony to the 9/11 Commission, Fox News breathlessly broke away, saying they had news that Clarke's testimony contradicted a statement he had made for the White House in Aug 2002 while still in charge of Counterterrorism. Wendell Goler reported this information provided just then from - guess who - the White House (remember Clarke's testimony was still going on!).

While Goler reported, the Fox on-screen banner flashed FLIP-FLOP FLIP-FLOP. Copies of the Fox report simultaneously appeared in the hands of conservative Commission members, one of whom held up Clarke's book and the Fox report and asked Clarke, "Which of these is true?" They were messing with the wrong guy - Clarke refused to bend, and blew the ploy away.

Commissioner (Sen.) Bob Kerrey asked why was Fox News attempting to subvert the Commission process? Good question. Any pretense of Fox News' supposed impartiality flew away, for good, in the wind like chaff. Fox spent the rest of the day pushing the White House report, ignoring the fact that they had been exposed for their shameless attempted manipulation of the Commission and the American public.

In the meantime, the White House was so busy pointing fingers that they also had the initiative taken away from their cut-throat tactics when Clarke apologized for the government's failure to prevent 9/11 - something George Bush should have done a long time ago.

The stupidity of Fox's attempt to help their man out in the White House - the Commander-in-Chief of Flip-Flops - was compounded by the fact that they forgot who their intended target was: Did they really think they would catch a former Chief of Counterterrorism off guard? It was a laughable and disgusting display by FOX who should issue an apology to the Commission and to the public. I am not holding my breath.

A copy of this is on its way to Fox News.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Between Days 1 & 2 of the 9/11 Hearings: An Interview With Richard Clarke

On Monday (see Another Body Blow... blog post below), it was predictable that the Bush team would get orders to go after Richard Clarke. However the breadth of the counterattack was amazing, across every major media outlet and every conservative talk show. The theme was shrill and consistent, as if you were watching all the gas prices go up the same day (which they also did on Monday!). Clarke was described as having the "postal" mentality of a bitter bureaucrat, fired by Mr. Bush.

By the end of Monday, Clarke was portrayed as being solely responsible, himself, for 9/11! And Condi Rice (now former vice-presidential hopeful), who went on talk shows condemning Clarke all weekend, somehow found the words "executive privilege" conveniently available, so as not to sit in front of the 9/11 Commission. I say "former vice-presidential hopeful" because she now has no chance of being on the ticket, sticking out like a sore thumb. Her own party will remember that lack of judgment. The Commission, having been snubbed, decided to call Clarke instead - humorous if you think about it.

Mr. Clarke agreed to be interviewed by the Guardian after listening to the barrage and getting skewered by Bush puppets over the weekend and during the first day of testimony. So, before he testifies today, here is what he said to Guardian journalist Julian Borger. You found it first here, before the fireworks start today.

JB: Condoleezza Rice wrote today in response to your book - that the Bush administration did have a strategy for eliminating al-Qaida and that the administration worked on it in the spring and summer of 2001? Is that true?

RC: We developed that strategy in the last several months of the Clinton administration and it was basically an update on that strategy. We briefed Condi on that strategy. The point is that it was done before they came to office and she never held a meeting on it. It was done before she asked for it.

JB: What about the claim that the administration did work hard on the issue?

RC: Its not true. I asked - on January 24 in writing to Condi - urgently for a meeting on cabinet level - the principal's committee - to review the plan and I was told I can't have that. It had to go to the deputies. They had a principals meeting on September 4. Contrast that with the principal's meeting on Iraq, on February 1. So what was urgent for them was Iraq. Al-Qaida was not important to them.

JB: In the plan developed under the Clinton administration, was the potential use of ground forces included?

RC: That option was included in the plan, and the Clinton people had never rejected it. Yes it was there. But when they finally did the ground invasion they kind of botched it, because all they did initially was send special forces with the northern alliance. They did not insert special forces to go in after Bin Laden. They let Bin Laden escape. They only went in two months after.

JB: So were there any principals meetings about al-Qaida in all this time?

RC: It didn't come up in the principal's meetings. Between April and July only four of the 30 or 35 deputy principal meetings touched on al-Qaida. But three of those were mainly about US-Pakistan relations, or US-Afghan relations or South Asian policy, and al-Qaida was just one of the points. One of the meetings looked at the overall plan. It was the July one. April was an initial discussion of terrorism policy writ large and at that meeting I said we had to talk about al-Qaida. And because it was terrorism policy writ large [Paul] Wolfowitz said we have to talk about Iraqi terrorism and I said that's interesting because there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States. There hasn't been any for 8 years. And he said something derisive about how I shouldn't believe the CIA and FBI, that they've been wrong. And I said if you know more than I know tell me what it is, because I've been doing this for 8 years and I don't know about any Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the US since 1993. When I said let's start talking about Bin Laden, he said Bin Laden couldn't possibly have attacked the World Trade Centre in '93. One little terrorist group like that couldn't possibly have staged that operation. It must have been Iraq.

JB: So what were all the principal's meetings about then?

RC: There were a lot of meetings on 'Star Wars'. We had a lot of meetings about Russia policy, because Condi is a Russian specialist. There were a lot of meetings on China.

JB: And after the February meeting any more on Iraq?

RC: Yes there were many more, it was central. The buzz in national security staff administration wanted to go after Iraq.

JB: Do you think they came into office with that as a plan?

RC: If you look at the so-called Vulcans group [Bush's pre-election foreign policy advisors] talked about publicly in seminars in Washington. They clearly wanted to go after Iraq and they clearly wanted to do this reshaping of the middle east and they used the tragedy of 9/11 as an excuse to test their theories.

JB: Do you think President Bush was already on board when he came to office.

RC: I think he was. He got his international education from the Vulcans group the previous year. They were people like Richard Perle, Jim Woolsey, Paul Wolfowitz. They were all espousing this stuff. So he probably had been persuaded. He certainly wasn't hearing any contrary view during this education process.

JB: If there had been meetings on terrorism in that first eight months, do you think it would have made a difference?

RC: Well let me ask you: Contrast December '99 with June and July and August 2001. In December '99 we get similar kinds of evidence that al-Qaida was planning a similar kind of attack. President Clinton asks the national security advisor to hold daily meetings with attorney-general, the CIA, FBI. They go back to their departments from the White House and shake the departments out to the field offices to find out everything they can find. It becomes the number one priority of those agencies. When the head of the FBI and CIA have to go to the White House every day, things happen and by the way, we prevented the attack. Contrast that with June, July, August 2001 when the president is being briefed virtually every day in his morning intelligence briefing that something is about to happen, and he never chairs a meeting and he never asks Condi rice to chair a meeting about what we're doing about stopping the attacks. She didn't hold one meeting during all those three months. Now, it turns out that buried in the FBI and CIA, there was information about two of these al-Qaida terrorists who turned out to be hijackers [Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi]. We didn't know that. The leadership of the FBI didn't know that, but if the leadership had to report on a daily basis to the White House, he would have shaken the trees and he would have found out those two guys were there. We would have put their pictures on the front page of every newspaper and we probably would have caught them. Now would that have stopped 9/11? I don't know. It would have stopped those two guys, and knowing the FBI the way they can take a thread and pull on it, they would probably have found others.

JB: So might they have stopped the September 11 attacks?

RC: I don't want to say they could have stopped the attacks. But there was a chance.

JB: A reasonable chance? A good chance?

RC: There was a chance, and whatever the probability was, they didn't take it.

JB: Condoleezza Rice argued today that when President Bush was asking you to find evidence linking September 11 to Iraq, he was simply showing due diligence, asking you to explore the options.

RC: That's very funny. There are two ways of asking. There's: 'check every possibility - don't assume its al-Qaida look at everybody'. That's due diligence. Then there's the: 'I want you to find every shred of evidence that it was Iraq and Saddam' - and said in a very emphatic and intimidating way, and the other people who were with me got the same impression as I did. This was not due diligence. This was: 'come back with a memo that says it was an Iraqi attack'.

JB: And when you didn't find any evidence, the memo was bounced back?

RC: Yes

JB: Stephen Hadley [deputy national security advisor] said he bounced it back saying just update this?

RC: Well as soon as he got it he said update it, even though it was very current. Hadley's a good lawyer, he knows how to cover his ass. He not going to write: 'I don't like the answer'. But when your memo is immediately bounced and its got very current information and its bounced back to you and you're told to do over, its pretty clear what the implication is.

JB What do you think drove these people on Iraq?

RC: Some are ideologues - they have a superpower vision of us reshaping the Middle East. Changing the historical balance. Condi Rice has this phrase: 'We needed to change the middle east so terrorists would not fly aircrafts into buildings'.

JB: Do you believe they felt they had to finish what Bush's father started?

RC: That's a big part of it. For Wolfowitz and Cheney feels some guilt for having stopped the war, a couple of days early, not that we should have marched on Baghdad but at least we should have gone after the Republican Guard.

JB: Do you believe there were also political motives.

RC: You have to bifurcate the White House team between the national security types and the political types. For the political types like Karl Rove this has been a godsend. They ran on the war in the congressional elections two years ago. They're running on the war now. They're painting this election as a vote on terrorism, a vote against Osama Bin Laden. And they're succeeding to a certain extent because 70 per cent of American people last year thought that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. But the political benefit was clearly a secondary benefit.

JB: Do you believe the administration believed the intelligence on Iraqi WMD?

RC: We all believed Saddam had WMD. What I kept saying was: So what?. They said he could give it to terrorists. But I said he's not that stupid. If he gave WMD to terrorists he would lose power. The question was: Is there an imminent threat or had we contained him? And I thought we had successfully contained him. I didn't see it as a first-tier issue.

JB: Did the Pentagon and the office of special plans play an important role in the processing of intelligence?

RC: Certainly. The people in Rumsfeld's office and in Wolfowitz's operation cherry-picked intelligence to select the intelligence to support their views. They never did the due diligence on the intelligence that professional intelligence analysts are trained to do. [The OSP] would go through the intelligence reports including the ones that the CIA was throwing out. They stitched it together they would send it out, send it over to Cheney. All the stuff that a professional would have thrown out. As soon as 9/11 happened people like Rumsfeld saw it was opportunity. During that first week after September 11, the decision was made. It was confirmed by president We should do Afghanistan first. But the resources necessary to do a good job in Afghanistan were withheld. There was not enough to go in fast, to go in enough to secure the country. Troops were held back. There were 11,000 troops in Afghanistan. There were fewer in whole country than police in the borough of Manhattan

JB: The White House is suggesting that this is sour grapes from a Clinton holdover, scoring political points.

RC: I was a Bush [senior] holdover. I'm not a registered Demcrat. I don't want a job in the Kerry admin. What I want to do is to provide the American people with a set of facts and let them draw their own conclusions.

JB: What conclusions did you draw about President Bush's leadership style.

RC: He doesn't like to read a lot - not terribly interested in analysis. He is very interested in getting to the bottom line. Once he's done he puts a lot of strength behind pushing it, but there's not a lot of analysis before the decision.

JB: Do you think Britain had much influence in the run-up to the war?

RC: They would have done it without Britain. I don't think it made a lot of difference. I think the British were able to help Colin Powell to persuade them to go to the UN. It did go to the UN for a period of time, and it may have helped a little. It may also have forced president to issue a statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He went out there and read the words like he was seeing them for the first time. There hasn't been a lot of follow through, and I don't think the Brits got very much. They got the minimum possible out of us. I think Blair tried to influence the decision making and thought he could do better inside, but his influence was small.

JB: What was Cheney's role in all this.

RC: Quite enormous. Huge. Very quietly and behind the scenes he sat in all the national security meetings chaired by Condi Rice, and no vice president had done that before. He would listen and then give his thoughts. But he bought the compromise that it was al-Qaida first, Iraq second.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Veterans Protest Reduced Medical Exams for Returning Soldiers

The two articles below show once again how this administration supports our soldiers for the media, but forget about them once they come home.

A "Force Health Protection Law" was enacted after the failure of the Department of Defense to monitor the health of soldiers who fought in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. More than 145,000 were exposed to low levels of chemical warfare agents in March 1991, but the DoD covered up the exposure information and delayed medical research and treatment. Now, in violation of the law and contrary to the best scientific advice, the senior medical officers are compounding the mistakes made by the DoD and the Veterans Administration by reducing health screenings for returning Iraqi Freedom veterans. Our own senior military medical leadership is failing active duty personnel and veterans.... again.

Article #1

Veterans Protest Reduced Medical Exams for Returning Soldiers

WASHINGTON -- The Army is scaling back the medical exams offered to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, discouraging routine blood tests, electrocardiograms and X-rays, according to a Pentagon memo.

The directive from Brig. Gen. Richard Ursone, an Army assistant surgeon general, is drawing criticism from some veterans organizations. Rather than scaling back on medical exams, these critics say, the Pentagon ought to be making them mandatory and more comprehensive to enable earlier diagnosis of the kinds of medical problems faced by veterans of the first Gulf War 13 years ago.

In a Jan. 20 memorandum to regional medical commands, Ursone said: "Performance of routine screening laboratory, radiologic and electrocardiographic tests in this setting is extremely low yield and is discouraged."

Even if giving those tests is "supported by evidence based medicine," Ursone said in his memo, they "may be deferred if the soldier is without symptoms and the laboratory tests will delay release from active duty." The directive applies to soldiers leaving active duty from all Army units.

Pentagon public information officers, when asked about the memo, could not say whether the new medical exam policies are being implemented for the other military services.

Mike Duggan, American Legion deputy director for national security, said the veterans group views the Army decision as a step backward.

"Our position has been and continues to be that soldiers, active or reservists, deserve to have a complete physical when they leave the service," Duggan said.

The military currently requires only that soldiers answer a health questionnaire both prior to and after deployment overseas, with an actual medical exam being optional.

"You leave it up to them and they are, quite understandably, in a hurry to get out," Duggan said. "But getting a complete exam can be so important in terms of diagnosing any medical problems, including some that might not have active symptoms."

Jack Trowbridge, deputy commander for administration at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital at Fort Polk, La., said that while the post-deployment physicals have been scaled back since Jan. 20, the military is still able to assess if there are any medical problems demanding immediate follow-up.

"We make sure they are fit to go back home," Trowbridge said.

Denise Nichols, a Denver nurse, experienced medical problems including fatigue and low red blood cell count after serving with a Army Reserve unit in the 1991 Gulf War. She has been pressing for complete medical exams -- both pre- and post-deployment. Her view is that the physicals, along with good recordkeeping, could provide the keys to understanding the types of unexplained medical ailments that affected her and other Desert Storm veterans.

"I don't know if the fact that they are cutting back on medical exams, or not collecting all the information they should before and after deployment, surprises me," Nichols said. "After the Gulf War, we tried to mandate by law that they do these things, and keep good records, and they keep on ignoring it."

In 1997, Congress required that Defense provide "pre- and post-deployment medical examinations," but the Pentagon decided a self-administered survey would be sufficient.

Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., ranking Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the Defense Department "must do a better job ensuring that it is assessing the health needs, including mental health needs, of service members."

Evans said Congress' General Accounting Office recently concluded that the Defense Department wasn't even doing a good job compiling the limited information from the questionnaires.

Bruce Alpert can be contacted at

Article #2

Officials gathering data, but advocates push for more

WASHINGTON -- To help diagnose veterans expected to suffer from physical and mental problems long after leaving service, government health officials are gathering medical data, individual soldier histories, and other information on the thousands of American troops in Iraq.

Some veterans' groups, however, fault the government for not being proactive enough. They contend insufficient data is being collected to prepare for future consequences of serving in an environmentally and psychologically hazardous combat zone. They also charge the Pentagon is not providing timely information to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which cares for soldiers upon discharge.

Government officials say they are not necessarily expecting a new version of the mysterious "Gulf War syndrome" that caused physical and mental ailments in tens of thousands of veterans of the 1991 war, but they are not discounting the possibility.

"This is different from Persian Gulf One because of the length of time soldiers have been there," said Dr. Terence M. Keane, director of the behavioral sciences division of VA Boston Health Care System. "The data will be valuable to us on many levels, from the exposure to toxic substances and to significant combat stressors."

Learning from mistakes made during the 1991 Gulf War, when doctors and researchers lacked the battlefield and medical information necessary to diagnose veterans' illnesses, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are compiling blood samples, detailed histories of each soldier's whereabouts, and information about which weapons were used in which places and when.

No particular health problems stand out among Iraq veterans so far, and officials do not expect a repeat of the Gulf War, in which oil fires, exposure to chemical weapons depots, and a variety of experimental drugs and vaccines may have contributed to severe fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pains, dizziness, asthma, rashes, and memory loss.

Nevertheless, "every war is going to have some walking wounded," said Susan Edgarton, a staff member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. "We don't have enough data yet, but we are doing better screening this time."

The government has a variety of new programs in place. One, the Veterans Health Initiative, documents exposure to hazardous materials and is establishing a database for further study. The goal is "to increase recognition of the connection between military service and certain health effects, the VA recently told Congress.

As of March 9, the government had compiled a database of 107,540 soldiers who served in Iraq or the surrounding region since October 2002 and have since left the military. Of those, 13,580 have sought care at VA medical facilities and about 2,800 have been diagnosed with a physical or mental condition. Officials said the data so far does not indicate any higher incidence of illness than in the general population.

"We are working with DoD to develop processes whereby pre- and post-deployment health assessments will be available electronically to VA physicians and claims examiners," according to the February VA report. "A service member separating from military service and seeking health care through VA today will have the benefit of VA's decade-long experience with Gulf War health issues."

A particular area of concern is the onset of psychological problems related to combat stress.

"There are not a significant number of heavy firefights," said Keane, but unlike previous wars with well-defined battle lines, "there isn't much of a sense of safety wherever you are and that is one of biggest problems."

Despite the efforts to collect sufficient epidemiological data, some veterans groups believe more is needed.

"I am not satisfied that they have learned their lesson," said Stephen Robinson, director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, an advocacy group in Silver Spring, Md.

He noted that among the 300,000 troops expected to serve in the the conflict, many of them did not have blood drawn beforehand for future reference, as stipulated by law, and only now are all troops being screened both before their departure and upon return.

He also accused the military of failing to provide timely data on individual soldiers' activities. "The VA needs that so they can forecast," Robinson said. "While there have been some strides to correct some of the mistakes, there are other glaring mistakes that have yet to be addressed."

As pointed out previously on this blog, those who should be advocating for us in the military medical community, have continuously failed to do so. It won't be enough to clean house in the White House. We need new thinking and proactive leadership in the DoD, the VA, and the military medical community, led by those who intend to fight for us and our medical needs, especially returning GIs who need medical and mental health therapy. This is not a "resources" issue. It's a moral and ethical issue - and it reflects shame, not honor, on those responsible.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Monday, March 22, 2004

Paul Krugman Once Again Parses The Administration's Words to Get the Truth

Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." So George Bush declared on Sept. 20, 2001. But what was he saying? Surely he didn't mean that everyone was obliged to support all of his policies, that if you opposed him on anything you were aiding terrorists.

Now we know that he meant just that.

A year ago, President Bush, who had a global mandate to pursue the terrorists responsible for 9/11, went after someone else instead. Most Americans, I suspect, still don't realize how badly this apparent exploitation of the world's good will — and the subsequent failure to find weapons of mass destruction — damaged our credibility. They imagine that only the dastardly French, and now maybe the cowardly Spaniards, doubt our word. But yesterday, according to Agence France-Presse, the president of Poland — which has roughly 2,500 soldiers in Iraq — had this to say: "That they deceived us about the weapons of mass destruction, that's true. We were taken for a ride."

This is the context for last weekend's election upset in Spain, where the Aznar government had taken the country into Iraq against the wishes of 90 percent of the public. Spanish voters weren't intimidated by the terrorist bombings — they turned on a ruling party they didn't trust. When the government rushed to blame the wrong people for the attack, tried to suppress growing evidence to the contrary and used its control over state television and radio both to push its false accusation and to play down antigovernment protests, it reminded people of the broader lies about the war.

By voting for a new government, in other words, the Spaniards were enforcing the accountability that is the essence of democracy. But in the world according to Mr. Bush's supporters, anyone who demands accountability is on the side of the evildoers. According to Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, the Spanish people "had a huge terrorist attack within their country and they chose to change their government and to, in a sense, appease terrorists."

So there you have it. A country's ruling party leads the nation into a war fought on false pretenses, fails to protect the nation from terrorists and engages in a cover-up when a terrorist attack does occur. But its electoral defeat isn't democracy at work; it's a victory for the terrorists.

Notice, by the way, that Spain's prime minister-elect insists that he intends to fight terrorism. He has even said that his country's forces could remain in Iraq if they were placed under U.N. control. So if the Bush administration were really concerned about maintaining a united front against terrorism, all it would have to do is drop its my-way-or-the-highway approach. But it won't.

For these denunciations of Spain, while counterproductive when viewed as foreign policy, serve a crucial domestic purpose: they help re-establish the political climate the Bush administration prefers, in which anyone who opposes any administration policy can be accused of undermining the fight against terrorism.

This week the Bush campaign unveiled an ad accusing John Kerry of, among other things, opposing increases in combat pay because he voted against an $87 billion appropriation for Iraq. Those who have followed this issue were astonished at the ad's sheer up-is-down-ism.

In fact, the Bush administration has done the very thing it falsely accuses Mr. Kerry of doing: it has tried repeatedly to slash combat pay and military benefits, provoking angry articles in The Army Times with headlines like "An Act of `Betrayal.' " Oh, and Mr. Kerry wasn't trying to block funds for Iraq — he was trying to force the administration, which had concealed the cost of the occupation until its tax cut was passed, to roll back part of the tax cut to cover the expense.

But the bigger point is this: in the Bush vision, it was never legitimate to challenge any piece of the administration's policy on Iraq. Before the war, it was your patriotic duty to trust the president's assertions about the case for war. Once we went in and those assertions proved utterly false, it became your patriotic duty to support the troops — a phrase that, to the administration, always means supporting the president. At no point has it been legitimate to hold Mr. Bush accountable. And that's the way he wants it.

Regarding the highlighted text above: Sound familiar? The result will be the same here in November if Mr. Kerry can hammer this theme home.

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Another Body Blow from a Former Bush Insider

The White House knows that this former insider's information, from Richard A. Clarke who was counterterrorism coordinator for President Bill Clinton and President Bush, will be especially hard to refute. The Bush team has launched an all-out attack on Clarke who asserts that neither Bush nor Clinton did enough to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Bush team's assertion that Clarke's book is "politically motivated" is an especially inept response from them. An excerpt from this morning's N.Y. Times:

The Bush administration has undermined American national security by using the 9/11 attacks for political advantage and ignoring the threat of Al Qaeda in order to invade Iraq.

Mr. Clarke, who has spent more than 30 years as a civil servant in Republican and Democratic administrations, issues a highly critical assessment of the Bush White House in "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," which is being released on Monday.

Mr. Clarke resigned from government in March 2003.

In an interview Sunday evening, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, dismissed Mr. Clarke's charges as "politically motivated," "reckless" and "baseless."

In his book, Mr. Clarke accuses the administration not only of failing to take Al Qaeda seriously before the attacks, despite "repeated warnings," but also of mounting a lackluster, bureaucratic and politicized response to the attacks.

Having failed to act against Al Qaeda before 9/11, Mr. Clarke writes, Mr. Bush "harvested a political windfall for taking obvious yet insufficient steps after the attacks." Mr. Clarke also accused the administration of starting "an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide."

Mr. Clarke alleges in his book that Mr. Bush and others in his small inner circle tried to intimidate him and other officials into finding a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda despite the intelligence community's repeated determinations that no significant connections existed. He also refers to Vice President Dick Cheney as a "right-wing ideologue," who rejected facts inconsistent with the administration's political outlook and goals.

In an interview with CNN this morning, Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, said she was "flabbergasted" at the charges in the book, saying Mr. Clarke had said he supported the president.

Mr. Clarke denied that his book was politically motivated, saying in an interview that he had spoken up because he was "outraged" by the "terrible job" that President Bush had done fighting terrorism.

¶Less than a day after the attacks, Donald H. Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, said at a cabinet-level meeting that "there were no decent targets for bombing in Afghanistan and that we should consider bombing Iraq" instead because it had "better targets."

¶Paul D. Wolfowitz, Secretary Rumsfeld's deputy, repeatedly "belittled" the Al Qaeda threat and argued after the 9/11 attacks that Iraq was responsible for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and must have helped Al Qaeda carry out 9/11 because the attack was "too sophisticated and complicated" for a "terrorist group to have pulled off by itself."

¶As counterterrorism adviser, Mr. Clarke said he had only three meetings with Mr. Bush before the attacks in which he set the agenda, and was never given the "chance to talk with him about terrorism" until after the attacks.

Mr. Clarke's book also accuses the Clinton administration of having done too little to fight the threat of Al Qaeda. But he attributes this to the fact that Mr. Clinton had been "weakened by continuing political attack" stemming from his involvement with a White House intern and by other scandals.

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Friday, March 19, 2004

Conflict of Interest 101 (cont.)
Abuse of Power 101 (cont.)

Does Supreme Court Justice Scalia send a 21-page memorandum to his wife when she asks him to take the garbage out? Does he send a 21-page memorandum to the rest of the court when it's time for lunch? Methinks the Justice doth protesteth too much:

Scalia, in a feisty, 21-page memorandum, said that because Cheney was being sued in his official capacity as a government officer and not personally, their friendship was not relevant in the case. Scalia rejected an environmental group's suggestion he should recuse himself because the trip to Louisiana created the appearance that Scalia might not be impartial in judging the case.

"My recusal is required if ... my 'impartiality might reasonably be questioned,' " Scalia wrote, citing federal rules that offer guidance to justices on when to remove themselves from cases. "While friendship is a ground for recusal of a justice where the personal fortune or the personal freedom of the friend is at issue, it has traditionally not been a ground for recusal where official action is at issue."

A spokesman for the Sierra Club, which had called on Scalia to drop out of the case, said the justice "misses the point."

"It is the appearance of secrecy and impropriety that causes a problem, and it clearly has caused a public outcry here," Sierra Club spokesman David Bookbinder said.

The Sierra Club is suing Cheney to try to force him to release details of meetings involving a task force he led to develop a federal energy policy. The group says the task force relied on advice from energy industry executives who advocated industry subsidies and other policies that are "destructive" to the environment. Cheney has refused to release such details, citing executive privilege. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on April 27.

When even the "most respected public institution" in America, by every poll that's ever been taken, is infected with abuse of power, we know we've got huge problems in leadership. Scalia can argue until he is blue that it is legally correct to not recuse himself. But he is not right, morally or ethically, nor is he the example we want to hold up, displaying our system of justice to the rest of the world. Justice is blind for certain in this case. Scalia not only needs to recuse himself, he needs to retire. We don't want someone, who doesn't understand the abuse of power in a free society, to again decide the next election.

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Thursday, March 18, 2004

Patriot Act II Update

For those of you still living in a dreamworld, and you believe that the government has your best interests in mind with Patriot Act I and II, here is the latest in ongoing actions by this administration to restrict your freedoms - there is no other way to say it. Now, this blog does not spend a lot of time commenting on the various conspiracy theories put forth from either end of the political spectrum - lots of other blogs put their focus there. There is plenty of evidence otherwise of disturbingly poor leadership in this administration. Besides Mr. Bush himself, there are too many people who do not understand power, and the misuse of it, because they themselves abuse their power and positions daily.

Yes, actions aimed at catching terrorists and preventing further disasters are of the highest priority, but many of these actions, beginning right after 9/11, do not have the weight of critical thinking behind them. As a result, the baby is being continually thrown out with the bathwater. Actions now aimed at monitoring your internet communications are a case in point. Goodbye to another freedom in the name of terrorism, because this hasn't been thought through logically either:

The Justice Department wants to significantly expand the government's ability to monitor online traffic, proposing that providers of high-speed Internet service should be forced to grant easier access for FBI wiretaps and other electronic surveillance, according to documents and government officials.

A petition filed this week with the Federal Communications Commission also suggests that consumers should be required to foot the bill.

Law enforcement agencies have been increasingly concerned that fast-growing telephone service over the Internet could be a way for terrorists and criminals to evade surveillance. But the petition also moves beyond Internet telephony, leading several technology experts and privacy advocates yesterday to warn that many types of online communication, including instant messages and visits to Web sites, could be covered.

The proposal by the Justice Department, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration could require extensive retooling of existing broadband networks and could impose significant costs, the experts said. Privacy advocates also argue that there are not enough safeguards to prevent the government from intercepting data from innocent users.

They are asking the FCC to curtail its usual review process to rapidly implement the proposed changes. The FBI views the petition as narrowly crafted and aimed only at making sure that terrorist and criminal suspects are not able to evade monitoring because of the type of telephone communications they use, according to a federal law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance is an invaluable and necessary tool for federal, state and local law enforcement in their fight against criminals, terrorists, and spies," the petition said, adding that "the importance and the urgency of this task cannot be overstated" because "electronic surveillance is being compromised today."

But privacy and technology experts said the proposal is overly broad and raises serious privacy and business concerns. James X. Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a public interest group, said the FBI is attempting to dictate how the Internet should be engineered to permit whatever level of surveillance law enforcement deems necessary.

"The breadth of what they are asking for is a little breathtaking," Dempsey said. "The question is, how deeply should the government be able to control the design of the Internet? . . . If you want to bring the economy to a halt, put the FBI in charge of deploying new Internet and communications services."

David Baker, vice president for public policy at Internet provider EarthLink Inc. in Atlanta, said the FBI appears to be going beyond concerns over voice communications technology on the Internet ."

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

As Preparation for the Draft Continues, Hans Blix Speaks Out

As reported several times on this blog in the past, preparations continue to re-start a draft in this country if Mr. Bush is re-elected. He must have the additional troops and expertise to continue the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive invasions. Congress says it's not in the mood to support the draft, but it won't take much more to change that if other large scale international or domestic terrorism acts occur. Messrs. Bush, Perle, Frum, Wolfowitz will use anything they can to promote the idea of keeping us on an invasion-based foreign policy for four more years.

We have to fight terrorism at its sources and not waste our kids on wars fought "without critical thinking" - those words from Hans Blix, who reported this morning that he believed Bush Administration about evidence of WMDs at first. But then as he conducted U.N. inspections over many months, he came to realize that the Bush administration was "100% convinced, but they had 0% evidence." But that won't stop this administration from doing more of the same.

The government is taking the first steps toward a targeted military draft of Americans with special skills in computers and foreign languages.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is adamant that he will not ask Congress to authorize a draft, and officials at the Selective Service System, the independent federal agency that would organize any conscription, stress that the possibility of a so-called "special skills draft" is remote.

Nonetheless, the agency has begun the process of creating the procedures and policies to conduct such a targeted draft in case military officials ask Congress to authorize it and the lawmakers agree to such a request.

Flahavan said Selective Service planning for a possible draft of linguists and computer experts began last fall after Pentagon personnel officials said the military needed more people with skills in those areas.

A targeted registration and draft "is strictly in the planning stage," he said, adding that "the whole thing is driven by what appears to be the more pressing and relevant need today" -- the deficit in language and computer experts.

The agency already has a special system to register and draft health care personnel ages 20 to 44 in more than 60 specialties if necessary in a crisis. According to Flahavan, the agency will expand this system to be able to rapidly register and draft computer specialists and linguists, should the need ever arise. But he stressed that the agency has received no request from the Pentagon to do so.

Congress, which would have to authorize a draft, has shown no interest in taking such a step.

The military draft ended in 1973 as the U.S. commitment in Vietnam waned, beginning the era of the all-volunteer force. Mandatory registration for the draft was suspended in 1975 but resumed in 1980 by President Carter after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. About 13.5 million men, ages 18 to 25, are currently registered with the Selective Service.

A Pentagon official familiar with personnel issues stressed that the armed forces are against any form of conscription but acknowledged that the groundwork is already under way at the Selective Service System.

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Monday, March 15, 2004

Patriot Act Mentality Side Effects

In spite of the assurances from Homeland Security and the Justice Dept that they need every part of the Patriot Act, and that it is being used wisely, we have already seen predictable abuses of power at local levels of law enforcement. Many localities and several states have passed resolutions against the Patriot Act provisions, with more doing so every day. Now we are starting to see other abuses taking place from military intelligence sources - and this is not good news, besides being against long standing federal law:

IN A LITTLE-NOTICED side effect of the war on terrorism, the military is edging toward a sensitive area that has been off-limits to it historically: domestic intelligence gathering and law enforcement.

Several recent incidents involving the military have raised concern among student and civil-rights groups. One was a visit last month by an Army intelligence agent to an official at the University of Texas law school in Austin. The agent demanded a videotape of a recent academic conference at the school so that he could identify what he described as "three Middle Eastern men" who had made "suspicious" remarks to Army lawyers at the seminar, according to the official, Susana Aleman, the dean of student affairs.

The Army, while not disputing that the visit took place, declined to comment, saying the incident is under investigation.

Last year, the Office of Naval Intelligence, the nation's primary source of global maritime intelligence, demanded access to the U.S. Customs Service's database on maritime trade, saying it needed information to thwart potential terrorist activity. Customs officials initially resisted the Navy's demands but eventually agreed to give naval intelligence much of what it wanted.

In an interview earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection chief Robert C. Bonner said he shares data only after getting Navy assurances that the information won't be abused.

The fact that Mr. Rumsfeld has also not said a word about these "incidents" shows again that this administration intends on using the military, and letting it be used illegally - ironically, in the pursuit of saving democracy. Rumsfeld should be directing the military and all intelligence forces to obey the law. Old Soviet style KGB-like tactics are not the way to preserve democracy. With all the stated good intentions for wiping out terrorism, the means are once again becoming the ends. We can't allow any more incidents like this to take place involving the misuse of power by a few misguided military intelligence personnel against private citizens. Vets, this is another example of why we need an administration that understands, and will strongly support, the right use of the military we served in and continue to support.

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How to Win an Election, Soviet Style

Almost 50 years ago, the Russians claimed cultural and intellectual superiority over us and the rest of the world with the launch of the first space satellite, Sputnik. Somehow the Russian psyche (like our own in many respects) is one that insists it is the best at everything and that it invented virtually everything worth inventing. Those of you old enough to remember, can relate to yesterday's celebration of the 1972 Cold War chess victory of American Bobby Fischer over Russian world champ Boris Spaasky. We remember with relish how Fischer used American-style "psyching out" strategies to defeat Spaasky - as, believe it or not, millions listened and watched for the results of a chess match! But this was not any chess match - this was Communism against Capitalism.

Many in this country praised Vladimir Putin's decision not to go along with the war in Iraq, but it would also be wise to remember that his re-election yesterday was largely a dressed-up reprise of the communist-era cold war "elections" in Russia. Resumes are important for those of us looking for full time employment again, and Putin's resume, in case you did not know it, includes leadership positions in the former Russian secret police, the KGB. Among other 1960s Chicago-style election tactics used this week, Putin set up grocery stands with give-away prices next to polling booths. The Russian media ignored the other five candidates. Maybe the Russians have learned something from how we do things.

Responding to criticisms from the Bush administration for using heavy-handed tactics to win the election (about the last place such criticism should come from), Putin rightly responded that the U.S. was hardly in a position to make such judgments.

However, Vladimir just couldn't help himself when, as ABC News quoted him this morning, he stated that it was appropriate that he use an "Old Russian Proverb: Take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

Sorry Vladimir, but both you and ABC News need to check your sources. If memory serves me right, that quote is actually quite a bit older, perhaps 2,000 years older, and comes from the most widely read book in the world.

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

That Suction Sound You Hear Coming from the White House Has Been Identified...

As those of you who visit here periodically know, it’s hard to resist having fun with the insanity coming out of the White House (see Monday’s post below, for example).

Yet, aside from the dozens of conspiracy theories that are possible to explain the Bush team aberrant behaviors, or the overwhelming number of potential mental disorders involved with working next to advisors like Rove, Wolfowitz, Perle & Frum, I ask myself: Who would want to be on Mr. Bush’s team, and under what circumstances?

And then I came across a book that explains it all. Finally, someone who understands what’s going on, and this guy is writing primarily about corporate management, not politics. You won’t need to watch Fox “news” anymore or listen to Elmo-like blonde talking dolls whose hair is required to hang down one side of their empty heads, and who gush over Mr. Bush. (As an aside, I mistakenly heard far-right Laura Ingraham for the first time on a talk radio show a couple nights ago. She described "her man" George Bush as a "hunk." This resulted in the closest near-death experience that I've have ever had).

The book I mentioned above is a must read and, as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this title up. How to Work for an Idiot by John Hoover, and its contents are dead serious. Hoover is an organizational leadership consultant, a former manager at Walt Disney and a general manager at McGraw-Hill. The dust cover says he has helped dozens of clients overcome the disease of idiocy, including Delta Airlines, IBM, Hilton Hotels and Xerox.

There is so much good stuff in this short book, it’s hard to know where to start. Browse through it the next time you are at Borders or Barnes & Noble. Hoover speaks from experience - he is a recovering I-boss (Idiot Boss) himself. He describes several kinds of corporate management diseases, maybe without realizing that he has also described the current White House.

Here are some jewels:

With a little power, I-bosses can drive you crazy. With a lot of power, they can terrorize the planet. Not because they are evil, but because they just get certain bizarre thoughts in their heads. And that’s dangerous in a head not designed for thinking.

The belief that I-bosses occur naturally in the random selection of nature raises some interesting questions…Was it a chemical imbalance or oxygen deprivation (in the womb)? Neurological damage is harder to overcome. In either case, it’s the people working for I-bosses who need medicating. There must be some common, cosmic thread running through all workplace idiocy, but …where does idiot power come from to begin with? Is there a mother of all Idiocy?

Most people can spot an I-boss from 100 yards. I often find people in the I-zone (The Idiot zone, surrounding the Idiot). The lifeless expressions worn by (I-zone) zombies …

(Note: have you noticed Colin Powell’s expression lately when he tries to explain what happened at the U.N. a year ago?)

…is the opposite of the perpetual smile so many I-bosses wear.

(Note: …especially when they are also wearing flight jackets and waving)

I-bosses are often overwhelmed at the extent and complexity of the information being discussed by their team members at meetings.

(Note: recall our leader’s aversion to reading anything or listening to the news.)

In these situations it’s common to see the I-Boss’s eyes glaze over.

(Note: ...such as when he is reviewing intelligence options?)

As I-Bosses move up…suction (occurs behind them), and the vacuum that idiots in high places create, is replicated at every level.

(Note: the perpetually inept Texas Rangers, whom our leader formerly owned, just gave away the best player in baseball to the New York Yankees).

Try some of these actual comments (from I-bosses):

Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.

Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the deadline.

My hope is that we can boil down these two documents into three.

We know communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.

E-mail is not to be used to pass on information and data. It should be used only for company business.

Now dear reader, please go to my blog post of Wednesday Feb 25, entitled “At Least One Child was Left Behind…” Notice anything vaguely familiar, compared to the I-Boss comments above?

More to come from John Hoover in the future. In the meantime, they need him badly at the White House now.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

George's Antique Road Show

Notes From a Personal Friend:

"Buried in the proposed new White House budget as endorsed by President Bush is a plan to cut capital gains taxes (for the super-rich) on their art, antiques and other collectibles." This was not labeled under "tax relief," but rather lumped under measures designed to "simplify the tax laws for families."

Geez ...... it's not enough that this guy gave himself and America's wealthy a huge tax break on their income tax, now they may get a big break on their art treasures as well.

Looks like George is trying to unload some of his family's Van Goghs, maybe. At last check, the U.S. is going $500 Billion more in debt for just the last fiscal year. That brings the total to around $7 Trillion. The consequences are dire for all of us if this is allowed to continue.

Here's an excerpt from the WSJ article:

Thinking of selling your stamp collection or that spare Van Gogh?

If President Bush has his way with Congress, many sellers will wind up paying less in capital-gains taxes than under current law. But the president faces a stiff battle.

Buried in the administration's proposed new budget is a plan to cut capital-gains tax rates on works of art, antiques, stamps, coins, precious gems and other "collectibles." However, it isn't labeled as tax relief. Instead, it's lumped under measures designed to "simplify the tax laws for families."

Simplification is a noble goal, especially in the remarkably complex realm of capital-gains taxes.

But critics see the Bush proposal in a different light. "Sure, this is 'simplification,' " says Rep. Charles Rangel, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. "If a person just happens to be selling millions of dollars worth of Faberge eggs or other expensive collectibles, he gets a new tax break. Simple."

The result: For art and other collectibles, the change would produce a maximum effective rate of 25% for someone in the top 35% ordinary-tax bracket. That works out to a rate cut of three percentage points, which would mean large savings on multimillion dollar art sales. And it would mean lower rates for those in lower tax brackets, the Treasury says.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Why Mental Health Care Support to Veterans Must, Once Again, be a Priority

The winds of war blow harshly, no matter what the reason was for the war. Many returning vets, in numbers that may well seem surprising, want and need mental health care after coming out of a combat zone. That's why cutting the VA budget (see Mar 04 blog below) in this area puts our veterans in double jeopardy, first physical and then mental. It's time we had people in the administration who care.

The hallucination a few weeks ago wasn't the ex-GI's first: Steven Rock saw a force of heavily armed soldiers attack and overtake his college chemistry class.

Rock, who is suffering the painful realities of post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Philippines for two months, is not alone.

Medical officials at Fort Carson and at other military installations predict that between 8 and 10 percent of all soldiers returning from Iraq will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or will need some counseling once stateside.

Many veterans and mental health advocates who gathered at the University of Colorado at Boulder over the weekend for a two-day symposium on war and its effects say that number will be much higher.

Roughly 12,000 GIs have been admitted to Landsthul Regional Medical Center in Germany for psychiatric care, said Dr. Gene Bolles, who for the two years following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, served as the chief of neurosurgery services at Landsthul.

"War is not a football game," said retired Lt. Col. Ralf Zimmerman, a Colorado Springs resident who served 20 years in the military, including in the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

That, said Rock, 25, is exactly what people need to hear.

"Our society at large needs to understand what is going on and what the long-term and the unseen costs of war are," said Rock, one of roughly 70 current or former soldiers and concerned civilians who attended the symposium "The Unseen Costs of War."

For Rock, a nearly three-year stint in the Air Force ended after he found himself riddled with paranoia and an insatiable desire to go back to the jungle in Asia - a place where his adrenaline ran higher than ever, a place where he was likely to die.

"I wanted to go where people could kill me," said Rock, an aircraft mechanic from Washington. "I felt better there."

Those close to the GI said he had a death wish.

After his recent hallucination, Rock dropped out of school and is preparing to enter a psychiatric facility.

He hears helicopters when they are not there. He suffers recurring nightmares of his M4 rifle jamming, as well as visions of being surrounded by the enemy. He fantasizes about being back in the Philippines, even though when he was stationed there, he felt untrained and terrified.

"I'm living proof" of the reality of post-war trauma, he said.

The symposium was the brainchild of Jon Aguilar, a CU-Boulder student. He joined with the university's humanities department and the Magis Group, a Boulder stress management consulting firm, to kick off what they hope will be several nationwide symposiums.

Aguilar said he was moved to have a panel of national experts talk about the stresses of war on soldiers, families and society after reading a Denver Post story on the struggles of Staff Sgt. Georg-Andreas Pogany, an interrogator for the 10th Special Forces Group. Pogany was charged with cowardice after suffering a panic attack in Iraq. The cowardice charge was dropped, but Pogany's case at Fort Carson is still unresolved.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Monday, March 08, 2004

You Too Can Contribute to the $200 Million Ad Campaign

Why? Because we could save the Bush campaign a lot of money this year. It’s time to reprise the ready-made bumper stickers that were floating around the net six months ago. They are as accurate and useful now as they were then, plus there are a few new ones I am willing to part with to Rove & Co., and I won’t need but a fraction of that $200 million:

Bush/Cheney '04: Compassionate Colonialism
Bush/Cheney '04: Because the truth just isn't good enough.
Bush/Cheney '04: Deja-voodoo all over again!
Bush/Cheney '04: Four More Wars
Bush/Cheney '04: Leave no billionaire behind
Bush/Cheney '04: Making the world a bitter place, one country at a time.
Bush/Cheney '04: Over a billion Whoppers served.
Bush/Cheney '04: Putting the "con" in conservatism
Bush/Cheney '04: Thanks for not paying attention.
Bush/Cheney '04: The last vote you'll ever have to cast.
Bush/Cheney '04: This time, elect us!
Bush/Cheney ’04: The best money can buy
Bush/Cheney ’04: Be afraid, be very afraid

And some new ones from yours truly, just this weekend. I don’t know how Karl can pass these up either, and still have hope for Bush II in November:

Bush/Cheney ’04: Known by the companies we keep
Bush/Cheney ’04: We can do brown for you
Bush/Cheney ’04: Your contribution$ are $afe with u$
The Bush/Cheney Mastercard: 0% interest in you, 30 years to pay
Bush in ’04: Learning English as a second language
Cheney in ’04: Can you find a better vice president?
And with special thanks to Toshiba: Bush/Cheney ’04: Steals Daily

How about you? Your creative bumper sticker ideas are also needed now – so send them in via the “comment” link below. But none of us should expect an ad contract from the Republican Party anytime soon...

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Friday, March 05, 2004

It's been 900 days since Mr. Bush said he'd catch Osama bin Laden

'Dead or Alive!'

Mr. Bush now knows, politically, he must at last do what he should have done 900 days ago: Focus elite forces on capturing the real killers, including Bin Laden (see blog for Wed Dec 31, 2003, "George Bush’s 2004 New Year’s Resolution #22") . We will all be glad when/if that's done, but Mr. Bush's true character is revealed again in the fact that it took the upcoming election to make him act and not the failure of his administration with regard to Iraq, and not the lives and wounds to our troops, and not the huge impact on our national economy. His political survival is at stake and he knows it. But his judgment is still lacking: it still won't make the difference in November.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

David Kay's Interview with The Guardian

The following excerpt from WMD inspector Kay's interview highlights the point that we can't just let George Bush hope we forget the fiasco in Iraq.

When David Kay walked into the US Senate in late January, the question of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had become entangled in a thick forest of evasions...George Bush's administration and Tony Blair's government insisted that some evidence of weapons had been found by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which Kay had led for seven months, and that much more would be uncovered. At the same time, some US officials were market testing a new line - that the administration had never claimed there were Iraqi weapons stockpiles in the first place, just weapons programs.

Kay sat down in front of the Senate microphone on January 28, and with a few blunt words, swept all that carefully calibrated verbiage away. "Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here," he told the open-mouthed senators.

It was a mea culpa - he had been convinced since his days as a UN inspector that Saddam Hussein was concealing a potentially devastating arsenal - but it was much more than that.

In simply stating that there were no stockpiles, Kay declared that the would-be emperors on both sides of the Atlantic had no clothes. His call for a full inquiry ultimately tipped the balance in Washington and led to the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the intelligence fiasco.

Kay is now calling on the White House to come clean about its mistakes and defend the war instead as a liberation of an oppressed people.

There are no signs of the administration following his advice. Even after Kay's testimony, vice-president, Dick Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld have continued to insist that weapons may still be found. A week after Kay's senate appearance, Rumsfeld referred dismissively to the "theory that WMD may not have existed at the start of the war".

Kay clearly admires Bush... Nevertheless, he thinks the president has to go further to regain public trust. "It's about confronting and coming clean with the American people, not just slipping a phrase into the state of the union speech. He should say: 'We were mistaken and I am determined to find out why'."

"And the other thing is it makes it very difficult for relations with allies. I think we lost the credibility of our intelligence. The next time you have to go and shout there's fire in the theatre people are going to doubt it," Kay says.

This stark challenge is all the more painful coming from a man the administration had handpicked to lead its search for hidden weapons. Of all the experts to emerge from the UN inspections in the 90s, Kay had the clearest record of denouncing the Baghdad regime for deception and harassment of the inspectors.

The amazing thing about the whole interview is that Kay still believes Mr. Bush acted honorably throughout the whole Iraq decision making process, and that the president must have been misled by intelligence agencies.

Mr. Kay - you are still too close to the events yourself to understand that the word "Leadership" means something - it means that you have accountability, as president, for the actions of your advisors and your team, and that you have responsibility for your decisions. Mr. Bush possesses neither of these characteristics. Therefore, none of us are waiting breathlessly for him to "come clean."

Just because you think your boss was sincere in his actions, Mr. Kay, it still doesn't change the fact that he was, and is, sincerely wrong.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The "Do-More-With-Less" VA Budget

We've heard this line before, haven't we vets? "Yes, there's less money, but we expect to be a lot more efficient." Right.

After months of this administration's claims that it was taking care of its veterans, several veterans organizations have forced the issue of declining health care out in the open.

(John) Kerry may be getting an unintended boost from the Bush administration's proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs in the next fiscal year.

After three years of mostly cordial relations with the administration, leaders of veterans' organizations and a union that represents VA workers are voicing strong criticism of Bush's fiscal 2005 budget plan. They assert that the budget would only worsen the backlog in processing disability claims, reduce the number of VA nursing home beds just as the number of veterans who need long-term care is swelling and force some veterans to pay a fee simply to gain access to the VA health care system.

In a statement issued shortly after the budget was released, Edward S. Banas Sr., commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the VA's health care spending proposal "a disgrace and a sham."

VA officials reply that spending for health care will increase under the budget, but that tough choices had to be made because of the soaring budget deficit and limits on spending.

According to John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the VA is calling for a reduction of 540 full-time jobs in the Veterans Benefits Administration, which handles disability, pension and other claims by

Mark Catlett, the VA's principal deputy assistant secretary for management, said ….the lower staffing levels proposed in the budget assume an increase in productivity by VA employees.

But critics in the veterans' organizations say the budget would effectively cut health care spending because about $2.4 billion of the total would not come from congressional appropriations but from fees and other charges collected from third parties and from veterans themselves.

John McNeill, deputy director of the VFW, credited the Bush administration with increasing the VA's health care budget during the last few years. But, he added, "just as they are getting close [to the needed level of spending], this proposal retrogrades everything. It doesn't even take care of the inflation factor."

Linda Bennett, AFGE's legislative director, was equally critical of the proposed cuts in nursing home care, which she said would reduce the number of full-time VA nursing home beds to 37 percent below the level set in law by Congress in 1998. She said the VA has been trying to move more veterans into state-run nursing homes and "non-institutional" settings, such as home health care programs.
"I look at it as a signal that the VA would like to get out of the business of taking care of veterans in their old age," Bennett said.

Last year, Congress rejected a similar proposal for a user fee and higher co-payments and may do so again. But the congressional debate will almost certainly become embroiled in presidential politics as Bush and his Democratic opponent vie for the allegiance of veterans.

I know there are a lot of vets out there who still refuse to believe that Mr. Bush and a Republican administration could possibly be ignoring veterans' health needs. It's time for you to objectively look at the facts - and get involved.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The B.S. Campaign Began Last Night

That stands for "Bush is Steady" in case you were wondering - his campaign slogan for the next eight months - but you can read in any double or triple meaning you like. Up to their ears in Democrats for six months, Mr. Rove could probably be heard screaming for joy down the halls of the White House. Finally, his man could get back in the news, or at least deflect the bad news and the daily attacks on his presidency - that's right, it's as much Rove's presidency, as it is Cheney's, as it is Wolfowitz's, as it is Perle's - and the real nastiness begins now from them. $200 million dollars buys a lot of ads, even these days. Mr. Bush will now try to put all the focus on Kerry's "weak voting record." How magnanimous and phony of you to call John Kerry, Mr. Bush. Get over it - the moment was his, not yours - and if the American people are smart, all the ad money in the world won't matter.

One problem, Mr. President - we are not taking the focus off of you for a minute for the next eight months. We are going to recount every piece of B.U. ("Bush the Unsteady") just so no one forgets exactly who you are and what you have done to cripple our democracy's values - while you are spending all that ad money. Veterans don't like what you have done, and we are going to keep saying so. And by the way, unlike you, we have some solutions - the first one being to put YOU in the unemployment line.

For readers: Be somewhere where you can be ready to be violently ill as you read the following.

President Bush's re-election team unveiled his first campaign advertisements on Wednesday and they in part use the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to focus on his "steady leadership" during turbulent times.

"Steady." Is that as good as $200 million can do? That means about the same as "Consistent" and with that we would agree, as in consistently outrageous, consistently noncomapassionate, and consistently arrogant - sending our kids off to die and be wounded, for what? Your mission to save the world? To save your corporate donors? To keep the family honor? It's all misguided - every bit of it, and your money is going to have a tough time counteracting your B.S.

The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign waited to launch the ad campaign until after the Democrats chose their presumptive nominee, John Kerry, who locked it up with impressive victories across the country on Tuesday.

Campaign officials said they saw Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, as a formidable opponent and predicted Bush will be at most tied or behind in the polls until the Republican nominating convention in New York in September. Recent polls have put Bush behind his Democratic opponent.

"We're obviously starting this race in a place where we thought we would, which is even or slightly behind, and I think that's going to stay that way for the next five or six months," said Bush's campaign pollster, Matthew Dowd.

The four Bush ads, one of them in Spanish, will begin running on Thursday in at least 16 important battleground states and on more than five national cable television channels.

Two ads refer to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, as the Bush campaign seeks to present Bush as a tried and tested leader who has risen to the challenge. One ad, entitled "Tested," shows, among other images, a damaged building from the World Trade Center ruins behind an American flag.

"The last few years have tested America in many ways," the voice-over says. "Some challenges we've seen before. And some were like no others. But America rose to the challenge."

An ad called "Safer, Stronger," points to the problems the United States has faced since Bush took office in January 2001, a recession, a declining stock market, a boom gone bust and "a day of tragedy."

"Today, America is turning the corner. Rising to the challenge," the ad says. This one is also done in Spanish.


What economy - the one that you saddled with a $700 billion deficit next year, the same one with no real job growth since your economic turn-around began with the tax cuts?

A 60-second ad entitled "Lead" focuses on what may well be Bush's greatest weakness, the inability of the U.S. economy to generate a lot of jobs despite strong growth.

"And as the economy grows, the job base grows and somebody who's looking for work will be more likely to find a job," Bush says in the ad.

Seated next to him is his wife Laura, who the Bush campaign sees as an enormous asset. She lauds her husband for "the strength, the focus, the characteristics that these times demand."

The ads constitute a multimillion-dollar purchase as the Bush campaign begins to dip into the more than $100 million in cash on hand. The ads are positive looks at the president's record with no attacks on Kerry.

Dowd said a large section of the electorate will see the ads but would not say which states they will be in to avoid tipping off the Bush strategy to the Democrats.

Don't worry - you won't be able to hide, until after November.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Can Somebody Find Me a Witness?

This is just too good an opportunity to pass up for you, blog readers. A quick $10 grand is yours if you act quickly.

A $10,000 reward offered by the "Doonesbury" comic strip for proof that U.S. President George W. Bush served in the Alabama National Guard during the Vietnam War has elicited over 1,300 responses but turned up no credible evidence yet, the cartoonist said on Friday.

With so much controversy surrounding Bush's National Guard service, a credible witness would have turned up by now if there was one, said Garry Trudeau.

"You can be sure some very motivated people have tried to find a witness who can establish Bush's presence at Dannelly Base beyond a reasonable doubt," said the creator of the politically irreverent and satirical daily cartoon. "Anyone who could do so would almost certainly have surfaced by now."
"Doonesbury" first posted the award on Monday.

Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee denounced the contest as a "silly stunt." Trudeau agreed.

"She's right," he said. "But as a simple investigative cartoonist, I don't have a very big tool kit."
Trudeau also said he doubted proof of Bush's service -- or lack thereof -- would affect his support in the November presidential election. "For me, stunt cartooning is mostly about keeping busy. If it tips a national election, well, that's just gravy," he said.

He said he planned to pay the $10,000 from his own money.

"What else am I going to do with a huge tax cut I didn't need? One of the unintended consequences of Mr. Bush's generosity toward the Great Un-needy is that I'm now a fat cat," he joked.

He also said he realized it was "counterintuitive" for him to support Democrats because he considered Bush to be "God's gift to cartoonists."

A Web site features a Witness Registration Form for submitting online testimony.

The prize money will be paid by Trudeau in the form of a donation to the United Service Organization, or USO, which entertains U.S. troops.

A cutoff date is still in the works, he said.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link