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Sunday, July 31, 2005 

War's origins and status quo both rooted in same Bushco manure

This week, President Bush is expected to make John Bolton the US ambassador to the UN, despite Bolton's failure to be confirmed by the Senate. He will become the first person the US has sent to the UN without such a confirmation.

At first it struck me as simply another example of the administration's obstinate bullying--if the Senate won't confirm who we want, we'll install him anyway with a recess appointment.

However, another news story appeared this weekend that made me think about the Bolton appointment in a different light. Michael Smith provides an update in the Sunday Times (story at bottom of page) on the prewar bombing that began in May 2002 under the guise of no-fly zone patrols. Turns out that in the seven months prior to May, there were 32 "provocations" recorded by allied pilots. The seven months before that: 370.

Obviously the change in tactics to include offensive strikes was not the result of increased Iraqi activity. This should cement in place the fact that the US and UK were engaged in an air war beginning in 2002, prior to obtaining UN resolution 1441, prior to obtaining Congressional approval for the use of force, and without any factual support for their rationale.

It seems almost like Bush is hurrying to ram through his latest agenda item (i.e., Bolton) because his past is rapidly catching up to him. Every time it looks like he might be able to turn people's attention to other things, Iraq rears its head again. Often it's the current news--car bombings, assasinations, sectarian violence--but occasionally something like this wafts in from the past. And the smell is familiar.

The reasons behind how we got into Iraq are directly related to the ongoing difficulty we are having there. The same hubris and plain stupidity that drove the invasion are now preventing the administration from seeing the obvious errors of its ways. Meanwhile, the world looks on. The US has no credibility left with which to win over hearts and minds--whether in Iraq among the people we're supposedly trying to help, or in Europe among the people who usually lend a hand with this nation building business.

I don't expect the president or his acolytes will ever acknowledge their failures with regard to Iraq and the War on Terror (oh, excuse me--make that the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism). But people are beginning to connect the dots. Bush wanted this war from the beginning, and he made it happen despite numerous obstacles, like how to conduct an air campaign without anyone really knowing its full scope. He figured that one out--wrap the offensive strikes in with the no-fly zone patrols.

Each time one of the administration's dirty tricks comes into view, it's another "dot" that connects to others already exposed. How many more dots can the administration expect the public to absorb without naming the image they see emerging?

 posted by ukiyo1  # 7:46 PM   7 comments  

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 

US Public at Odds with Itself

Cognitive Dissonance: psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously (courtesy of Merriam-Webster online)

A new USA Today poll shows 51% of Americans believe the administration deliberately misled us into war, but that fully 53% believe it was "not a mistake" to send US troops to Iraq. Indeed, according to the survey, this represents "strongest support for the war since just after the Iraqi elections in January."

What's wrong with this picture?

One thing's for certain--this kind of imbalance will not last. Sooner or later people will have to reconcile their beliefs, and you simply cannot support a decision to go to war that was based on the very information you also believe was used to mislead you.

Think of it as a contract. The Bush administration made a contract with the American people that said, in essence, give us your support (and in a million or so cases, your sons and daughters) for this war and we will give you security. That was the deal. We had to invade because of WMD and the possibility of Saddam making them available to terrorists.

Now I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that one of the basic requirements for a contract to be binding is the informed consent of each party. If the administration misled us about the reasons for going to war, how could we make an informed decision?

The good news here--if you can call it that--is that those of us who believed at the time that the invasion of Iraq was warranted can find some cover in the knowledge that we did not have all the facts at the time.

We do have the facts now, however. We know, for example, that there were no ties between Saddam and Al Qaida. We know that there were no WMDs found in Iraq. And we know, that these facts were subverted by the Bush administration in its public statements--at the time, and since.

I realize it may take some time for people to overcome the human tendancy against admitting you've been had, but the sooner we deal with how we got into this mess, the sooner we will regain the unity needed to deal with how to get out.

 posted by ukiyo1  # 10:33 PM   3 comments  

Friday, July 15, 2005 

Part 2 - Timeline to War 2001: May to September

"The coalition against Saddam has fallen apart or it's unraveling, let's put it that way. The sanctions are being violated. We don't know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction. He better not be or there's going to be a consequence should I be the president"
George W Bush 10-11-00, 2nd Presidential debate

With those words, future President George Bush had set one of the main agendas for his administrations the next four years. The specter of WMD was raised and the threat of regime change made. Within days of taking office, steps were beginning to be taken that put the nation on a course that would forever change its role in foreign affairs. Not since the days of Gilded Age Imperialism had an administration so pro-actively sought to take the nation to war. By May of 2001, the Bush administration was well on its way on that path to war with Iraq.

Having spent the first few months in office planning, and integrating the various factions within the administration, by May vital steps had been taken towards regime change in Iraq. Between the findings of VP Dick Cheney's energy task force, the various policy papers and recommendations of Neocon think tanks like PNAC, and James Baker's "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century" report, the case for military action in Iraq had effectively been made to all within the administration.

The military, by this time had been brought on board to make the necessary preparations for war. An active air campaign to soften up Iraqi defenses was underway and the movement of pre-positioned forces and equipment was in progress. Increased funding and training of Iraqi opposition forces was authorized and a campaign to make the case for war to the American people was starting to be formulated. Over the next four months more steps would be taken on the path to war.

The period from the beginning of May up to the events of September 11th was marked by an increase in activity by the military in preparation for a large scale operation in the Persian Gulf. In order to get around the problem presented by Saudi Arabia's reluctance to allow further missions to be flown out a Saudi air bases to attack Iraq, the military planners began to look at how to redraw the military map of the region. Top DoD officials and military brass criss-crossed the globe trying to set up basing agreements and mutual co-operation agreements. This use of the Defense Department as a mechanism of diplomacy increased over the next two years as Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and later Feith, gained powers that had traditionally been reserved for the Department of State.
An increase in intelligence and reconnaissance flights began over Iraq in advance of a future massive air campaign. Predator and U-2 flights increased in order to gain the intelligence to effectively target Iraqi radar, Command and Control facilities and communication hubs. The training and funding of Iraqi insurgent groups (through the umbrella group: the Iraqi National Congress -INC) also increased during these months in preparation for what was hoped to be a coup that could topple the Iraqi dictator and install a regime more acceptable to US security interests. This new regime could also be expected to be friendlier to US businesses interested in the region. Although the period might appear to be a lull before the storm of September 11th, at closer inspection it becomes apparent that war preparations were proceeding at a methodical pace.

May 2, 2001
The final draft of Dick Cheney's energy task force report is released.

May 5, 2001
Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld meets with Amir Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrian to discuss the current state of US naval bases in that country. Bahrain had long been the headquarters of U.S. naval activity in the Gulf. Currently Manama Naval Base in Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet which regularly includes a battle carrier group and other naval assets.

May 9-11, 2001
Deputy Sec. Of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Natioal Security Advisor Stephen Hadley meet with European leaders. The tour includes Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow.

May 16-18, 2001
Commander in Chief, US Army Central Command Tommy Franks makes a five-country tour of Central Asia. .Franks meets with officials in Kazakhstan. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The main theme of his visit is the solidification of military ties in the region. Discussions involve the sharing of intelligence, the procurement of US equipment, and plans to strengthen military cooperation between the US and the nations of the region.

May 31, 2001
The US and UK attempt extend UN sanctions on Iraq with modifications. The two countries lobby for new "smart sanctions" that would ease the flow of oil while increasing control of Iraqi imports. The initiative fails and the UN temporarily extends sanctions for one month until a decision can be made.

June 1-9, 2001
Rumsfeld goes on a nine day trip to meet with leaders of what he will later call "New Europe". Starting in Turkey, he went to Incirlik Air Base which was the home base for Operation Northern Watch, then on to the Ukraine, Macedonia, and Kosovo. Next he was off to Greece to meet with the nine member countries of the Southeast European Defense Ministerial (SEDM). He followed that with a NATO meeting in Brussels and finished up in Finland for a meeting with the Baltic States. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland were the other countries in attendance. This focus on "New Europe" would become crucial when it was time to go to the UN tg make the case against Iraq and form the "Coalition of the willing."

June 4, 2001
Iraq cuts off most of its UN-approved oil exports in protest against US and British moves to introduce so-called "smart sanctions". Iraq stopped pumping to oil terminals in Turkey and the Gulf.

June 5, 2001
Defense Sec Donald H Rumsfeld says US and British pilots who fly patrols over Iraq are under increasingly dangerous fire because of improved Iraqi defenses; blames China and other countries he says are supplying Iraqis with advanced antiaircraft technology. His remarks come as Pentagon reviews policy of reinforcing zones over Iraq.

June 11, 2001
DoD announces that they are short of anthrax vaccine and stops vaccinating certain military personnel.

June 16, 2001
The State Department tells Congress it plans to give $6 million over the next three months to the INC.

June 18, 2001
Rumsfeld consolidates DoD command structure to reflect a more "business-like" model. "The Senior Executive Committee will function as a business board of directors for the Department. It will be made up of Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge, and the Service secretaries. Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White, Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England, and Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche will use their unique qualifications as experienced business leaders to recommend changes to the Defense Department's business practices."

Sometime in June, 2001
"communications capability completed" at "secret " Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

(For the complete story of the building of Al-Udeid Air Base see: "Secret" Air Base for Iraq War started prior 9-11. )

July 20, 2001
Leading Neocons and founding members of PNAC join the DoD. Douglas J. Feith, Peter W. Rodman and Peter T.R. Brookes assume senior policy positions in the Department of Defense.

August 29, 2001
INC starts beaming satellite television propaganda programs into Iraq using funds provided by the U.S. Congress. The station is headquartered in Washington DC, with a "large production bureau" in London. The INC produces these programs with the help of a contract from Lockheed Martin Corp.

Sept.4, 2001
DOD announces plan to produce new strain of anthrax.

THE "SPY-PLANE WAR": 7/25 TO 9/11, 2001
By the middle of the Summer of 2001 a game of cat and mouse was being played in the skies above Iraq. The US, wishing to gain more intelligence about Iraqi air defense systems increased the U2 and predator surveillance missions over Iraqi installations. The Iraqis, having upgraded their systems over the last few years, now had the capability to down the slow moving spy planes. With each mission the stakes were raised as the Iraqis tried to prevent the US from finding, then destroying their new defense systems.

July 25, 2001
Iraq launches a ground-to-air missile at a US spy plane.

July 26, 2001
Pentagon sources tell CNN "The United States plans a military response to the attempted shoot down of a U-2 spy plane over Iraq's southern no-fly zone. Although the United States bombs Iraqi air defenses on a regular basis,the sources said targets this time will likely include early warning radars Iraq uses to track the high-flying, slow-moving U-2s.The radar sites, last hit by U.S. and British warplanes in February,have since been rebuilt, along with a fiber optic network linking them, installed with Chinese assistance."

August 7, 2001
US warplanes attacked a multiple-rocket launcher near Mosul in northern Iraq.

August 10, 2001
Air strikes stepped up, in the largest strike since Feb. US and British warplanes launched a major strike against three air-defense sites in southern Iraq in response to recent attacks on coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone, Pentagon officials said. About 50 aircraft -- including tankers and other support aircraft -- participated in the raid. A Pentagon official said the targets included a communications node, a surface-to-air missile site and a radar site.

August 14, 2001
U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets bombed a surface-to-air missile site in southern Iraq near the town of An Nasiriyah, some 170 miles south east of Baghdad.

August 17, 2001
"Iraqi forces threatened Operation Northern Watch coalition aircraft by firing anti-aircraft artillery from sites north of Mosul. Coalition aircraft were also targeted by Iraqi radar while conducting routine enforcement of the Northern No-Fly Zone. Coalition aircraft responded to the Iraqi attacks by delivering ordnance on elements of the Iraqi integrated air defense system."

August 27, 2001
Iraq downs a US spy plane. The official Iraqi News Agency (IRA) reported that Iraqi anti-aircraft forces had shot down a U.S. spy plane in a region of the southern port city of Basra. . The Pentagon would only say that they lost contact with the Predator spy drone before dawn near Basra, and the plane either was shot down or crashed August 27th. One Iraqi was killed and three others wounded in the combined US/British air strikes in northern Iraq. The bombing in northern Iraq followed the disappearance earlier of an unmanned US surveillance plane in the region of the southern port city of Basra.

September 4, 2001
Large air strikes in both Northern and Southern Regions. The US European Command said coalition warplanes struck "elements of Iraq's integrated air defence" in northern Iraq in response to anti-aircraft artillery fire and after coalition aircraft monitoring a no-fly zone in the north were targeted by Iraqi radar.In the south US jets used precision guided munitions to attack anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile sites around As Samwah, 209 kilometers (130 miles) southeast of Baghdad, a spokesman for the US Central Command said.

September 10, 2001
Eight Iraqis killed and three others injured in air strikes. US Air Force F-16, Navy F-18 and British Tornado GR-4 aircraft struck missile sites near al-Numinayah, al-Kut and Tallil, all south-east of Baghdad.

Sept. 11, 2001
US predator shot down in Iraq. Making it the second unmanned US spy plane downed by Iraq in less than a month.

The four month period that led up to September 11th can be viewed as the time when the administration began to get their ducks in a row in their quest for regime change in Iraq. Military agreements were made, the alliances that would become the "coalition of the willing" were being fostered and the air defenses of Iraq were beginning to be methodically taken apart piece by piece. The tragedy of September 11th would allow the next, and most crucial phase of the agenda to begin: The selling of the war to the American people.

In the next installment in this series we will look at the events of Sept 11th and the month that followed. Data compiled by the IRAQFACT working group.

 posted by IRAQFACT  # 2:10 PM   3 comments  

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 

Part 1- Timeline to War 2001: The opening moves, January to April

This is the first installment of a multi-part series courtesy of IRAQFACT working group. Their research is also going into a timeline project organized by Congressman John Conyers.

On January 29, 2001, just nine day after his inauguration, George Bush sat down in the White House with Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini, the leader of the Islamic Center of America in Detroit. This would be the last of six meetings that were held between the two men prior to the first meeting of the NSC. Their mutual desire for regime change in Iraq was one of the main topics of discussion that chilly winter day. Over the following three days, Bush met with his new National Security Council twice. By the evening of Feb. 1, decisions had been made that would forever change the course of the history. A path to war had been set, and as the events of the following year unfolded, the desires of the two men would start to become a reality. By late the following December, Bush would meet at his Crawford Ranch with Tommy Franks to finalize the plans for war with Iraq. The events of September 11 would pave the way to justifying the invasion to the American people, and it would only be a matter of time before the plans that began on that brisk January day would come to fruition Over the course of the year military planners and security analysts discussed various plans and scenarios for war with Iraq, but four constant themes emerged from every plan:

1. The need to pre-position military equipment and forces in the region.
2. A desire to encourage an armed opposition force within Iraq.
3. The necessity to soften-up or destroy Iraqi defense capabilities.
4. A means to justify the need to go to war to the American people.

When viewed in the light of these themes, many of the events and decisions of 2001 clearly demonstrate a concerted effort on the part of the Administration to take the country to war and the military making preparations for that war long in advance of the American public's knowledge.

January 30-February 1, 2001
The first National Security Council meeting of new administration was held on Jan. 30, 2001.
The removal of Saddam Hussein was a central topic of the meeting. According to then Treasury Sec. Paul O'Neill: "From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go, that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration." At the second NSC meeting on Feb.1 the topic of regime change again became the center of discussion. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld spoke at the second meeting about how removing Mr. Hussein would "demonstrate what U.S. policy is all about" and help transform the Middle East. Rumsfeld talked at the meeting "in general terms about post-Saddam Iraq, dealing with the Kurds in the north, the oil fields, the reconstruction of the country's economy, and the `freeing of the Iraqi people"

Feb. 3rd, 2001
One of the first policy changes coming out of the NSC meetings was the Bush administrations issuing an order permitting Iraqi opposition groups to begin limited moves inside Iraq using US government funding.
The moves were limited to a program described as the "collection of informational materials", but they signaled a change in direction and crossed a line which the Clinton administration was exceptionally reluctant to pass. It marked the first time since 1996 that the US had directly funded Iraqi opposition activities inside Iraq itself. The new order allowed the Iraqi National Congress (INC) - the main umbrella opposition group in the north of the country - to draw on $4m which was authorized by the US Congress in late 2000 to compile information inside Iraq relating to Baghdad's war crimes, military operations and other internal developments.

Feb.12th, 2001
A program to train Iraqi dissidents begins in College Station, Texas as dissidents receive a first round of weapons training from federal lawmen and members of the military's Special Forces under a U.S. plan to support insurgency activities inside Iraq.
The INC, under a $98,000 contract with the Guidry Group, a consulting firm comprised of ex-secret service agents, were to learn the fine art of "diplomatic security". What distinguished this training from previous courses for the INC, is that the rebels attending the five-day seminar also learned how to use pistols, Kalishnikov rifles, 12-gauge shotguns and a variety of other fire-arms. Previous U.S.-backed training for the INC had been limited to "non- lethal" activities, such as emergency medical care, public relations and war crimes investigations. While the State Department still classified this assistance to be of the non-lethal variety, the INC clearly did not. "This is important because this is the first time we are receiving lethal training with the United States government funding," said Francis Brooke the Washington adviser for the INC. Retired Gen. Wayne Downing, the commander of the joint special operations task force during the Gulf War, concurred. He told United Press International "This is significant because this is the first lethal training. It is designed to protect, so the significance is that this is the first time they are being trained to do anything on this level."

Feb. 16th, 2001
U.S. and British aircraft attacked targets near Baghdad.
U.S. Defense officials said 24 American and British planes struck six Iraqi military targets five to 20 miles from Baghdad using various long-range precision-guided weapons. The attack was the first Western strike against the capital since December 1998, during Operation Desert Fox. Sirens wailed over Baghdad, loud explosions were heard and anti-aircraft systems opened fire. The Defense Department said the planes struck Iraqi radar systems at about 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Baghdad time. Bush said the attack was a routine mission but had required the President's personal authorization. The British Defense Ministry said British and American planes attacked six sites, comprising part of Iraq's integrated Air Defense System. The raid was the first excursion outside the no-fly zone since 1998.

Feb. 26th, 2001
Two events occur demonstrating a step up in anti-Iraq rhetoric coming out of the White House.
"[The] sanctions against Iraq are like Swiss cheese - that means they are not very effective," President George Bush said after his weekend meeting with Tony Blair "We're going to work together to figure out a way to make them more effective,". At the same time, Sec. Of State Colin Powell, attending a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of Kuwait's liberation from Iraqi occupation said "[Our] quarrel is not with the people of Iraq. It is with the regime in Baghdad.''

Late February, 2001
"Cooperative Belt" early warning network started.
The network provided radar, early warning and secure communications links between the six GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council) nations. (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) all of whom (with the exception of Saudi Arabia) would become crucial allies in the War in Iraq.

1st wk. of March, 2001
VP Dick Cheney meets with major energy and oil interests to formulate US energy policy.
Cheney's Energy Task Force authors a variety of documents relating to the oil industries of Iraq, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts"—This document, dated March 5, 2001, includes a table listing 30 countries which have interests in Iraq's oil industry. The document also includes the names of companies that have interests, the oil fields with which those interests are associated, as well as the statuses of those interests. "Map of Iraq's oil fields"—The map includes markings for "supergiant" oil fields of 5 billion barrels or more, other oilfields, fields "earmarked for production sharing," oil pipelines, operational refineries, and tanker terminals.

Late Feb. or Early March, 2001
Pentagon begins planning to move assets out of Saudi Arabia.
Tension between the US and the Saudis had become a more acute in February, after the allies mounted a large air raid from Prince Sultan Air Base against air defense targets around Baghdad, apparently without providing prior notice to the Saudi government. Following this episode, the Saudis imposed operational restrictions on allied warplanes operating out of PSAB, forbidding them to conduct further offensive operations against Iraq. U.S. military formulates a contingency plan for reducing its presence in Saudi Arabia The movement to gain greater basing flexibility—and reduce Washington's dependence on Riyadh—started by Gen. Anthony Zinni.

March 5th, 2001
State Department announced that a sum of five million dollars was allocated to the Iraqi National Congress
, noting that talks continue with this organization to provide it with extra aid estimated at 29 million.

March 17th, 2001
Rumsfeld tells Congress of plan to use Qatar as base of future operations.
In particular he discusses plans to use Al Udeid air field as a US base of operations. The unused air field in the desert of Qatar which sat idle since 1996, would become in little more than a year the largest US Air Base in the Gulf and the headquarters for all USAF operations in the region. The tiny nation of Qatar, which had no more than 50 US service personnel stationed in it as of October of 2000, would be transformed by the fall of 2002. It not only became the major base of operations for the USAF, it obtained two major Army bases; Camp Snoopy and Camp As Sayliyah, along with numerous smaller supply and pre-positioning centers and became, with Kuwait, our major ally in "The War on Terror."

For the complete story of Al-Udeid airbase see: "Secret" Air Base for Iraq War started prior 9-11.

Mid March, 2001
Ahmad Chalabi visits Iran to establish a base for sending roughly 100 INC operatives into northern Iraq
to gather intelligence and distribute "humanitarian aid". The Iraqi National Congress secured necessary licenses from the Office of Foreign Asset Control in early 2001 to spend U.S. government grant funds inside Iran as a specific activity within their overall grant. In April the government of President Mohammad Khatami agrees to permit INC forces and their military equipment to cross the Iranian border into southern Iraq. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control gives special approval to open a liaison office in Tehran. According to an INC official, "We did it with U.S. government money."

March 24th
Iraqi opposition group holds conference in London, attended by delegations from US State Dept. and British Foreign Office.
The two-day gathering is organized by the INC to emphasize the importance of toppling the Iraqi regime and bringing a democratic and accountable government in Baghdad Both the U.S. and the British reiterate their support for the INC and the removal of Saddam Hussein. Tom Warrick, a State Department Official, told the INC in a brief address, the Bush administration was seeking the removal of Saddam Hussein and the creation of a democratic pluralistic regime in Baghdad. Martin Hetherington, of the British Foreign Office, added that the British government appreciates the role played by the INC in providing an alternative for the Iraqi people and working towards the establishment of a democratic system in the country.

April 10th
A report commissioned by former US Secretary of State James Baker and the Council on Foreign Relations titled; "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century" is submitted to Vice President Cheney.
It warns that the US is running out of oil, with a painful end to cheap fuel already in sight. It argues that "the United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma," and that one of the "consequences" of this is a "need for military intervention" to secure its oil supply. It argues that Iraq needs to be overthrown so the US can control its oil.

April, 2001
During a National Security Council deputy principals meeting, Paul Wolfowitz first floats the idea of tying Iraq to terrorism.
He asserts that Iraq must be involved in terrorism, since Bin Laden couldn't possibly have attacked the World Trade Center in '93 alone. "One little terrorist group like that couldn't possibly have staged that operation. It must have been Iraq."

As the first four months of the Bush Administration came to a close, plans that were first dreamed up in Washington think tanks and only whispered in the corridors of power, began to become US foreign policy. A concerted effort to embark on regime change in Iraq was well underway. Changes in US policy towards the Iraqi opposition had been made that would hopefully allow an armed insurgency to take hold in Iraq. It was believed that at the very least, such an insurgency would aid in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Some even believed it possible that the opposition might initiate and execute an overthrow on their own with only limited air support coming from the US. (As would become the model in Afghanistan). The military began to eliminate the uncertainty of Saudi cooperation in a major offensive against Iraq by making a shift in basing and pre-positioning to its more friendly and acquiescent Gulf neighbors. This shifting of forces would become a key feature of the pre-war period. By the time the war had officially begun, the military map of the region had been almost entirely re-written. The air operations of Southern and Northern watch began to shift tactics to a more preemptive posture, targeting radar, communication and command and control facilities. The raids outside the No-Fly zone would only increase throughout the period, culminating in the massive pre-war air campaign of Operation Southern Focus in the summer of 2002. The propaganda campaign to sell the war had also started. After years of being a mute issue for most of the American public and media, Iraq, sanctions, weapons inspectors and Saddam Hussein were once again being raised in public discourse. As the faint beating of war drums along the Potomac began, the American people were being prepped for a new chapter in the story of American intervention in Iraq.

In the second installment in this series we will look at the following four-month period as the nation marched forward to war. Data compiled by the IRAQFACT working group.

 posted by IRAQFACT  # 10:34 PM   12 comments  

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 

Rove, Bolton, DSM all one story

This is a diary by Strandedlad cross-posted with permission from DailyKos. The nexus of the Plame case, John Bolton's "madman" behavior, and the observations in the Downing Street Memos is the heart of what's wrong with this administration--flagrant abuse of power for purely self-serving ends, at the expense of the American people.

"The facts were being fixed around the policy."

That's what the Downing Street Memo said, and now we have the hard data to show how this was done. Don't let the administration off the hook by viewing Rove/Plame, Bolton and the DSM as separate. They are all of a piece, all parts of the same story.

Republican talking points are that Rove's treasonous behavior was actually insignificant, that Bolton is just a hard-charger. But look at the pattern.

The DSM says that facts were being fixed around the policy.

The objection to Bolton isn't that he is rude or aggressive. It is that, when presented with intelligence contrary to his already established opinion (e.g., on Cuba or Syria), that he attempted to have analysts who disagreed with him removed from their posts. Failing that, he sought to use classified intelligence to spy on people who disagreed with him, presumably to discredit them in some fashion.

This is clearly a case of a man who decided on a policy and then was willing to do whatever he could to make sure that the intelligence reinforced what he already believed.

Rove's behavior was even more egregious, but all part of the same narrative. Having been caught in a lie about intelligence -- by the very person who collected the intelligence -- Rove attempted to use classified information to discredit the whistleblower. In doing so, he blew the cover of not only a covert operative, but also the CIA front company for which she worked.

Again, we have the policy, then we have the use of classified information to intimidate those who collected information contrary to that policy.

I'm not reading anything about the DSM or about Bolton anymore, either in the news or on the front page or recommended diaries here. This is totally understandable, as the revelations about Rove are fairly dramatic and, let's face it, red meat for those of us who despise him.

But do not forget that this is all about one thing: the undeniable fact that this administration made every effort to twist and fabricate intelligence in order to lead us into a war of choice in Iraq, one that has cost us so much in so many ways, which has strengthened our enemies and made us more vulnerable. In doing so, the administration betrayed our intelligence community to punish those that did not go along with the party line.

Rove is only the latest example of this. It is one story, one narrative: this administration chose to go to war in Iraq and was willing to do anything to accomplish that goal.

 posted by ukiyo1  # 10:46 PM   2 comments  

Sunday, July 10, 2005 

Robin Cook's Diary - Another Important Resource

Tony Blair and George Bush would like us to believe that we’re reading too much into the leaked documents from Britain; that we’re taking them out of context; that those in government who witnessed the entire process (of dragging our countries to war) know the documents are extremely limited in perspective or (?) inaccurate. We have at least one anonymous former Bush administration official who confirmed the accuracy of Dearlove’s comments in the DSM, according to the KRT report by Warren Strobel and John Walcott of May 6. We also have the comments by Carnes Ross, a British diplomat at the U.N., that the WMD intel was badly manipulated by the Blair government (see my recent post). But is there anybody who had an inside view of how things played out, who’s willing to go on record as saying that the case for war was a sham, that Bush and Blair ginned up the war?

Funny I should ask. Robin Cook is such a person, and he is in many ways the perfect witness to the accuracy of DSM. First, Cook said publicly before the start of the war that Blair and Bush were rushing to war and lacked clear evidence for their claims about Iraqi WMD. Second, he resigned from Blair’s cabinet on March 17, 2003 in protest against the impending war (he had been Leader of the House of Commons and one of Blair’s closest confidents). His justly famous resignation speech received a standing ovation in the Commons; if you don’t know it, you should read it. And third, in October 2003 (a year before any of the now notorious documents was leaked) Cook published the personal diaries that he kept in the months leading up to the Iraq war; the book is entitled Point of Departure.

The Sunday Times has published excerpts from that book. Selections focus on how the Blair government became entangled in Bush’s Iraq policies. In the Diary, Cook’s criticisms of the dishonesty and arrogance of the two men are more sharply stated than in his more tactful speech to the Commons.

To judge by his published diary, Cook saw clearly from early in 2002 that Bush was grossly exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and that for personal reasons Blair was allowing Britain to be entangled in Bush’s idiocy. Cook could see that an invasion of Iraq without U.N. authorization would be illegal and might prove to be a disaster for both Iraq and Britain. Seen through his eyes, we can watch the train wreck of George Bush’s Iraq policy unfold over the course of 2002. We also learn that several members of Blair’s Cabinet, including perhaps Jack Straw, hoped that events would block the two leaders from hatching their plan to invade Iraq.

Everyone interested in the pre-war diplomacy should read the Times extracts in full, if only because they give excellent insight into what the Blair government was planning and how it was reacting to what Bush was planning. Just as the DSM is an almost perfect document to assess what George Bush’s closest ally made of his war plans, so too we could hardly ask for a better resource than Robin Cook’s Diary to assess what one of Blair’s closest allies was making of all this. I think the Diary (whose existence I discovered only recently) reaffirms that we have been exactly right in how we’ve interpreted the DSM.

This source is so important that I’ll quote extended extracts. Note that with several entries Cook appended one or more paragraphs of commentary when he prepared the Diary for publication:

Thursday February 28: I walk over Green Park to the cabinet, troubled by my discussion in Brussels. Before I can raise it, David Blunkett asks if we can have a discussion at an early meeting on Iraq.

I back him up by explaining that military action against Iraq will not be supported in Europe. Nor throughout the Arab world: "In present circumstances Arab governments would not comprehend such obsession with Iraq. They see Sharon, not Saddam, as the problem for the Middle East." Somewhat to my surprise this line provokes a round of "hear hearing" from colleagues, which is the nearest I've heard to a mutiny in the cabinet.

Thursday March 7: A real discussion at cabinet. Tony permitted us to have the debate on Iraq which David and I had asked for. For the first time I can recall in five years, Tony was out on a limb.

David was first over the top. Being now home secretary he cunningly camped on the need for a proper legal authority for any action: "What has changed that suddenly gives us the legal right to take military action that we didn't have a few months ago? Has anybody asked the legal opinion of the attorney-general, and what is he saying?"

Pat Hewitt lamented that we were expected to listen to US worries about Iraq when we could not get them to listen to us before slapping higher tariffs on our steel exports. "We are in danger of being seen as close to President Bush, but without any influence over President Bush."

I am told that in the old days prime ministers would sum up the balance of view in the discussion. This would be simple in the present case as all contributions pointed in one direction. However, Tony does not regard the cabinet as a place for decisions. Normally he avoids having discussions in cabinet until decisions are taken and announced to it.

Tony appeared totally unfazed at the fact that on this occasion the balance of discussion pointed strongly in the reverse direction of his intentions. Rather than attempt to sum up the discussion of this supreme body of collective government, he responded as if he was replying to a question-and-answer session from a party branch.

He was patient with us, but he was firm where he saw Britain's national interests lie: "I tell you that we must steer close to America. If we don't we will lose our influence to shape what they do."

This was the last cabinet meeting at which a large number of ministers spoke up against the war. I have little sympathy with the criticism of Tony that he sidelined the cabinet over Iraq. On the contrary, over the next six months we were to discuss Iraq more than any other topic, but only Clare Short and I ever expressed frank doubts about the trajectory in which we were being driven.

Monday March 25: Among my old contacts in the Foreign Office I cannot find any who can convincingly demonstrate that something dramatic has changed in Iraq in recent months which would produce a justification for military action that was not there a year ago.

Thursday April 11: At cabinet Tony reported in full on his visit. Pat Hewitt spoke up bravely on the importance of UN cover for any military action on Iraq. "There will be a lot of tension among the Muslim communities in Britain if an attack on Iraq is seen as a unilateralist action. They would find it much easier to understand, and we would find it much easier to sell, if there was a specific agreement at the UN on the need for military action."

Tony characteristically refused to be boxed in. He regards the UN process as important but "we should not tie ourselves down to doing nothing unless the UN authorised it". Rather more alarmingly he said, "The time to debate the legal base for our action should be when we take that action."

Tuesday September 3: Tony gave the second of his new monthly press conferences to the press gallery. He promises "the fullest possible debate" in parliament and emphasises the importance of building broad international support for action at the UN. I am, though, haunted by the fear that Tony still sees this as an issue of manipulating press and public opinion, and has not grasped that on the substance of the issue the public and he are so far apart that he cannot win this one. Over the years, those employed to support him at No 10 have become accustomed to the Blair magic working, and I fear that there are none left among them prepared bluntly to tell him that this time it cannot work.

Wednesday September 4: It is a glorious day and I walk across the park for my meeting at No 10 with Tony. I open up with the recall of parliament. "Recall is inevitable, and the longer we put it off the more grudging we appear and the less credit we will get for it when it happens." To my surprise, Tony readily agrees.

He attaches great importance to the forthcoming dossier, although I fear that the main response will be one of disappointed expectations. He is enthusiastic at Saddam Hussein's being reported as saying that Iraq must get nuclear weapons to pose a threat to the West. Tony added, "Given the poor state of his conventional forces, it is not surprising that he wants to get his hands on nuclear weapons."

This is a curious aside. If Tony himself recognises that Saddam's conventional forces are much weaker than they were before, it is going to be difficult for him to be convincing that Saddam is now a greater threat to his region.

A rational interpretation of the events of the summer of 2002 would be that Tony Blair succeeded in convincing President Bush that they would secure more international and domestic support for an attack on Iraq if the president put the issue before the UN. The gain from this approach was that the US submitted to a UN process. The downside was the implicit guarantee that Britain was committed to join the US military action.

I do not know whether Tony ever made that deal explicit rather than simply implicit. But it would have been consistent with his previous conduct towards Iraq if he had given the US president a private assurance. I have seen a minute of January 1998 to Tony Blair from John Holmes, his then international private secretary, written during the confrontation with Iraq over weapons inspections, which reminded the prime minister that he had already assured President Clinton: "If a resolution were unachievable, there would certainly be support here for further action."

On that occasion Saddam's subsequent refusal to co-operate with the weapons inspectors provoked unanimous condemnation by the security council. Tony Blair may have bargained on history repeating itself five years later, and it certainly would have been in line with his own previous practice if he had given President Bush a private assurance of British support. The subsequent refusal of the UN to provide cover for military action came as a very unwelcome surprise.

Monday September 16: When I was getting ready for bed, I listened to the midnight news and was startled to hear that Kofi Annan had just received a letter from the Iraqis accepting the return of UN weapons inspectors without any conditions. This is quite a climbdown by Saddam. We cannot credibly proceed with a military strike now he has met our key demand.

Tuesday September 17: When I got into the office the first thing I did was to ring Jonathan Powell to express my strong view that we could not simply bat away the latest offer from Saddam. I found Jonathan very receptive to my argument, but there was a catch: "We have to be careful of how our statements will play in Washington, and we therefore should not get too far in front of the Americans."

Later in the day, passing through No 10 on my way to the Cabinet Office, I bumped into Alastair Campbell and again expressed the view that we should not be too grudging in our response. Alastair, as always, was no-nonsense in his reply: "I cannot agree with you. We are playing a long game." Presumably the long game is to contrive an assault on Iraq whatever Saddam does.

Tuesday September 24: The house was packed for the recall debate, even the front bench. I got a glimpse of the irritation of the war party with my public doubts when Hilary Armstrong, the chief whip, expressed her appreciation that I had lost a stone in weight as we otherwise would not have squeezed in. Adam Ingram, a defence minister, asked how I had done it. "Basically, by starvation," I replied. To which he cheerily responded, "I'm sure many of our colleagues would be only too happy to help you with that."

Jack Straw's speech was refreshing for its extended and powerful emphasis on working through the UN. Afterwards I told him: "You do realise now you are thoroughly impaled on the UN route?" To which he responded with a twinkle: "Yes, I'm glad you noticed that." I suspected that there is some tension behind the scenes between the Foreign Office and Downing Street about the extent to which the UN can be the only route.

This was the parliamentary debate in which the prime minister presented the now notorious dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. I had been familiar with previous secret reporting on Iraq, and when I came to read the dossier I was surprised that there was so little new material in it. There was no new evidence that I could find of a dramatic increase in threat requiring urgent invasion.

Intelligence is supposed to be the evidence on which ministers reach decisions on foreign and defence policy. It is not meant to be the propaganda by which ministers sell a policy to a sceptical public. Nor are intelligence reports suited for the purpose. At the Foreign Office I regularly saw the assessments of the joint intelligence committee (JIC). They would normally arrive in the red box for the weekend and were readily identifiable by their distinctive green covers.

I grew to respect the caution of the Secret Intelligence Service and I would regard it as monstrously unfair to the men and women who serve in the agency if they were now made the fall guys because of the way their work was abused to produce the September dossier.

The dossier did violence to their craft in two ways. First, it painted only a one-sided picture, whereas every JIC assessment I saw would honestly present any contrary evidence that might be inconsistent with the final conclusion. Second, it definitely proclaimed a certitude for its claims that was at odds with the nuanced tone of every JIC assessment I read.

Personally I never doubted that No 10 believed in the threads of intelligence which were woven into the dossier. But that does not alter the awkward fact that the intelligence was wrong and ministers who had applied a sceptical mind could have seen that it was too thin to be a reliable basis for war.

No 10 believed in the intelligence because they desperately wanted it to be true. Their sin was not one of bad faith but of evangelical certainty. They selected for inclusion only the scraps of intelligence that fitted the government's case and gave them an edge that was justifiable. The net result was a gross distortion.

Thursday February 6: At cabinet, Jack is beaming with satisfaction about the relative success of Colin Powell's presentation yesterday to the security council,
which he attended. However, in a comment which revealed the thin ice on which we are skating, he began with the admission that "Powell's presentation went better than I or Powell expected".

One issue on which we may have already fallen through the ice is on the rather laboured attempts to prove that Saddam and Al-Qaeda are in the same camp despite the mountain of evidence that they heartily loathe each other. Tony, who has made much of trying to merge Saddam and world terrorism in the public mind, half-acknowledged the poverty of evidence when he described it as "a changing picture" with the two thrown together on the principle that "my enemy's enemy is my friend".

There never was a shred of evidence found linking Saddam to Al-Qaeda, despite a desperate hunt for it by the intelligence services of three continents. Foreign Office contacts with Iraqis discovered that they were indignant to be compared with Al-Qaeda whom they regarded as an enemy rather than an ally. These feelings were heartily reciprocated by Al-Qaeda.

However, leaders in both the US and the UK did not let the facts on the ground get in the way of their allegations on the airwaves. Tony Blair, addressing the nation on the eve of the war, warned, "Dictators like Saddam, terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, threaten the very existence of such a world. That is why I have asked our troops to go into action tonight."

Tony was far too clever to allege that there was a real link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda. But he deliberately crafted a suggestive phrasing which in the minds of many viewers must have created an impression, and was designed to create the impression, that British troops were going to Iraq to fight a threat from Al-Qaeda.

In a powerful speech to the Commons before it voted on war, Tony majored on the risk that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue states and fundamentalist terrorist organisations might come together to pose a unique threat to western security.

What none of us knew at the time was that, only a month before, the prime minister had received an assessment that "there was no intelligence that Iraq had transferred CB materials to Al-Qaida". Even more startlingly the JIC had warned that, "in the event of imminent regime collapse there would be a risk of transfer of such material". We had to wait until the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee six months later before we learnt of these warnings.

Friday February 14: The news from New York is electrifying. The latest report by Hans Blix registers a lot of progress in co-operation from Iraq, fails to identify any evidence of weapons of mass destruction and expresses confidence that, with time, more progress can be made. Far from being welcome news to Tony, this will be his nightmare come true. The truth is that he does not want the UN inspections to work. He needs them in order to prove that Saddam will not co-operate and that he is therefore justified in going to war as Sancho Panza to George Bush's Don Quixote.

Thursday February 20: I spent the afternoon in private meetings at our flat. An old friend from the Foreign Office called first. He observed that since the Blix report, Jack has been talking even faster than usual, always a sign with him that he knows he is under pressure. I shepherded my friend down the lift, while I myself used the stairs in order that John Scarlett, chairman of the JIC, who had come to brief me, would not see my visitor.

The presentation was impressive in its integrity and shorn of the political slant with which No 10 encumbers any intelligence assessment. My conclusion at the end of an hour is that Saddam probably does not have weapons of mass destruction in the sense of weapons that could be used against large-scale civilian targets.

Wednesday March 5: Prime minister's questions was notable for the confidence Tony expressed about getting a second UN resolution. I don't know whether this is calculated bravado to keep Saddam wary, or whether he is in a state of denial.

I saw Tony privately shortly after we left the chamber. I started by observing that he'd gone out on a limb and the first piece of advice that I would offer is that he had to stop climbing further out on it, especially on Friday when Hans Blix presents his next report to the UN. "Britain has got to be seen on-side with Blix." If he needed months, we should be prepared to give him until autumn.

Tony was quite frank that he could not deliver that: "I don't know if I could do that. Left to himself, Bush would have gone to war in January. No, not January, but back in September."

I expressed my concern about the hard-line rightwingers around Bush and warned him that many of them would regard it as a bonus in the present crisis if we were driven from office and replaced by a Conservative government. He laughed and said, “Regime change is for Baghdad. It is not for here.”

The most revealing exchange came when we talked about Saddam’s arsenal. I told him, “It’s clear from the private briefing I have had that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction in a sense of weapons that could strike at strategic cities. But he probably does have several thousand battlefield chemical munitions. Do you never worry that he might use them against British troops?”

“Yes, but all the effort he has had to put into concealment makes it difficult for him to assemble them quickly for use.”

There were two distinct elements to this exchange that sent me away deeply troubled. The first was that the timetable to war was plainly not driven by the progress of the UN weapons inspections. Tony made no attempt to pretend that what Hans Blix might report would make any difference to the countdown to invasion.

The second troubling element to our conversation was that Tony did not try to argue me out of the view that Saddam did not have real weapons of mass destruction that were designed for strategic use against city populations and capable of being delivered with reliability over long distances. I had now expressed that view to both the chairman of the JIC and to the prime minister and both had assented in it.

At the time I did believe it likely that Saddam had retained a quantity of chemical munitions for tactical use on the battlefield. These did not pose “a real and present danger to Britain” as they were not designed for use against city populations and by definition could only threaten British personnel if we were to deploy them on the battlefield within range of Iraqi artillery.

I had now twice been told that even these chemical shells had been put beyond operational use in response to the pressure from intrusive inspections.

I have no reason to doubt that Tony Blair believed in September 2002 that Saddam really had weapons of mass destruction ready for firing within 45 minutes. What was clear from this conversation was that he did not believe it himself in March this year.

This in turn begs another chain of questions. If No 10 accepted that Saddam had no real weapons of mass destruction which he could credibly deliver against city targets and if they themselves believed he could not reassemble his chemical weapons in a credible timescale for use on the battlefield, just how much of a threat did they really think Saddam represented?

I have long been puzzled that the contentious claims in the September dossier were quietly dropped by ministers as war drew nearer. In the crucial debate on March l8, no minister claimed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction ready to be fired in 45 minutes, or that he had rebuilt chemical weapons plants, or that he had sought uranium from Niger.

Yet in that debate the government had its back to the wall and outside the chamber the whips were deploying every technique of persuasion available in their armoury. Why did ministers not repeat inside the chamber their strongest lines on the threat from Saddam unless they themselves had come to recognise they were disputed?

They had been given plenty of cause to come to doubt their own claims. The scepticism about the September dossier which has surfaced from within UK intelligence is a pale reflection of the raging controversy in the US. Colin Powell invested four whole days, before his presentation to the security council in March, grilling the CIA on the reliability of the intelligence he was going to deploy. By the end of it he had decided not to use the claim about the Niger connection on uranium and he made no mention of weapons of mass destruction ready for firing in 45 minutes.

Given the intimate relationship between State Department and Foreign Office it is implausible that his cautious scepticism did not become known in London.

The public controversy over the September dossier has focused on whether No 10 really believed in its claims at the time of its publication, and whether all of its claims were sourced in reliable intelligence. There is, though, another and even more disturbing question. Did No 10 still believe in its own claims six months later and how many of those claims had been undermined by subsequent intelligence and analysis?

This leads to the gravest of political questions. The rules of the Commons require ministers to correct the record as soon as they are aware that they may have misled parliament. If the government did come to know that the State Department did not trust the claims in the September dossier and that some of even their own top experts did not believe them, should they not have told parliament before asking the Commons to vote for war on a false prospectus?

Monday March 10: Clare Short announced that she will resign if there is no second resolution. For good measure, she also describes Tony Blair as “reckless”, and repeats it five times. It is a sign of Tony’s weak political position not that Clare said these things last night, but that this morning he has not dared to remove her from the government. When Hilary came in I could not resist asking if Tony was going to dismiss Clare and got a brisk response: “No, he’s far too busy today.” She then added, with a hint of a smile, “Reshuffles take so much time.”

I took Gaynor and my son Peter to dinner in Portcullis House. Martin Salter leaned across to tell us that the whips had been asking tonight if Labour MPs would be for or against France. To demonstrate where their prejudices lay on the war, they had set up a game of boules in Portcullis corridors and had been talking loudly to each other in French.

 posted by smintheus  # 11:51 PM   4 comments  

Terrorist Flypaper

One of the mainstays of Bush's rationale for the war in Iraq is the idea that we're "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here." Hence, the title of this post--Bush has taken a sovereign nation and turned it into a roach motel for Islamic extremists. At least, that was the plan.

However, as last week's bombings in London prove, this strategy is not based in reality (like so many of Bush's other policies). Sure, it's a lot easier to kill Americans in Iraq--now that there are a couple hundred thousand of us there, no border security, no police protection and a vast supply of bomb making materials courtesy of the last regime--and a lot of "foreign fighters" are taking the president up on his invitation to "bring it on."

But if you're a psychopath with the right combination of resources and inclination, it's still quite a simple matter to hit the infidels where they live. This is as true of New York today as it is of London. Bush would have us believe the Iraq war has made us safer. The truth is we are just as vulnerable as we ever were. All the airport security you can dream up will not keep a guy with a suitcase off the subway.

The fact that we have not experienced an attack in the US since 9/11 is the source of much Republican grandstanding, and indeed the likelihood of a repeat of that tragedy is low given the security measures now in place for air travel. But what of our ports? What about the local mall? How hard would it be for a guy to park a van loaded with 500 gallons of gasoline and a detonator in a crowded area, and walk away?
The fact that something like this hasn't happened yet has no bearing on whether it will happen.

The positioning of Iraq as "the central front in the war on terror" has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But Bush is deluding himself and his followers if he thinks we will overcome terrorism by fighting fire with fire. Anyone who wonders if the terrorist flypaper of Iraq will keep them safe need only look to London for an answer.

Update 7/11: From Juan Cole's article today on Salon...

"Conservative commentators argue that Iraq is a "fly trap" for Muslim terrorists. It makes much more sense to think of it as bin Laden's fly trap for Western troops. "

 posted by ukiyo1  # 11:11 PM   0 comments  

Wednesday, July 06, 2005 

A Soldier Speaks

Virgil Butler is a former Army Ranger who spent years doing America's dirty work and has seen the horrors of war at close range. He wrote to us a little while ago, relating much of the story he tells here, and I wanted to share it with our site visitors. Butler talks about his own experience, that of a young man close to him recently recruited for the National Guard, and the differences between them.

I have found it interesting that, even in this "red state" where I live (rural Arkansas), I have yet to find a single solitary soul who supports this war. And especially not the vets. Those of us who have lived and survived combat, killed and seen our buddies die, know all too well the horrible sacrifice that war is and that there is absolutely nothing glorious about it. We also recognize the fact that really nobody is the "hero" the media, the military, and the administration make them out to be. Most "heroes" who are awarded the highest medals are awarded them posthumously, and the rest will tell you that there was nothing brave about what they did. They will tell you, as will I, that they were scared shitless, and doing all they could not to die.

I still have nightmares, even though I got out 15 years ago. Lately they have become much more frequent. I finally watched Black Hawk Down last week. One of those guys was a friend. I can't tell you how hard it was for me to watch that. And I haven't had a single good night's sleep since where I wasn't sleepwalking in a nightmare, coming under fire. Hell, I am almost afraid to fall asleep anymore anyway. Too many nightmares. Tired of waking up on the floor after tripping over something, or outside with a knife hunting sentries to cut their throats. I receive psychiatric care, including medication, for all of this, having been diagnosed with PTSD.

I also pay for this on my own, receiving private care and shouldering the entire financial burden, even though I haven't had a steady job since November of 2002. The one time I talked to the VA about getting help, they told me that they might be able to work me in about six months later.

I saw a man in my doctor's office who had taken his granddaughter in for care because his son was wounded in Iraq and couldn't do it himself, having lost his right leg at the hip and his right elbow. The man told me that his son received the same answer I had when he tried to get help from the VA, so I decided that I wouldn't even pursue that course and possibly take away time and resources from someone like the man’s son, who obviously needed help even more than I did.

If we can't even take care of the veterans that we now have, then how can this already overstretched system do anything but fail those who have put everything on the line for this country? I am completely disgusted at the lack of care given to veterans once they are no longer of value on the battlefield.

Laura, my other half, has an only son who was duped into joining the National Guard when he was 17 (though he turned 18 in December). She obviously is quite upset about this and wants him out and certainly not sent to Iraq. He has completed boot camp and goes off to AIT the 6th of July. His is an armored unit, and he lives in Shreveport, LA. She has been writing letters to all of our representatives, writing letters to the editors of papers, signing petitions, and generally fighting to stop this before they send her only son into battle for this illegal and immoral war. She can't even talk about the possibility of it without breaking into tears.

The poor kid is only now starting to realize the enormity of his mistake and that of his father for signing those damn papers and believing the lies the recruiter told them. The recruiter actually told them that National Guard troops wouldn't be sent to Iraq, even though at that very moment there were thousands of them over there. That's just how ignorant Laura’s son and his father were about what was really going on and why that recruiter was able to get him signed up with promises of a great career and college.

At first her son believed everything the military told him, and it is still hard to break through that. He is 18, after all, and what do we know, since he believes he has the "inside line" through what the military tells him, which is so very different from what we tell him. But he is starting to listen. He watched Fahrenheit 911 a couple of months ago, had a few long talks with his mother about what I went through and still go through, and now he just wants out. He believes that even if he survives physically, he will "go crazy."

There's a very wide difference between the training I received as an elite Airborne Ranger and what little he has received as Army National Guard. Add to that the fact that I was brought up in an abusive home environment, raised rough in the Ozarks in desperate poverty so severe that I was beaten if I wasted a bullet by missing an animal I was hunting for the family's supper. I worked a full-time night job catching chickens at 14 to help support my younger siblings, in addition to going to school and graduating. Looking at this kid's relatively easy city life playing Nintendo and basketball, there is no comparison between our respective backgrounds.

I was a mean, tough, trained killer that took my first deer at the age of eight, whereas this kid is loving and compassionate. He doesn't want to kill any innocent Iraqi women and children. I tortured people for my country without flinching during the "dirty wars" in South America, but we are afraid that he will come home mentally damaged from seeing people die—innocent or not, friends or not—even if he survives without being physically wounded or killed.

Laura’s son is also one of the ones who would have been kicked out of the military years ago - dropped out of high school, didn't show up for a drill, etc. But they want that fresh blood in there so badly that they are lowering requirements, taking basically anyone that can hold a gun. All that's doing is getting even more kids killed. That makes this situation even worse.

We had a definite beginning and end to the war I was in, whereas the Bush administration refuses to even set any sort of timetable for withdrawal or ending this nightmarish quagmire we are in now. It's just not the same, any of it. Iraq was no threat to this country, and when you take into account that this was a pre-emptive war based on choice and supported by lies, being waged with a complete disregard for the troops and the poor Iraqi civilians unlucky enough to be caught in the middle, how can anyone justify what is going on over there?

What mother would want her son or daughter sacrificed for a war that makes fat cats fatter, creates more animosity towards our country, undermines our national security and increases our debt to the point that there is now what is being called a "birth tax" of $150,000 on every child born in this country?

It certainly makes no sense when the reason for the violence is our mere presence there. How long should we continue to "stay the course" and allow more of our young people to die and be maimed for life in a war that is so utterly indefensible? How long before enough of the American people demand those responsible for this war be held accountable for their actions? How many more of America's sons and daughters must die before we scream, "ENOUGH!”

War is hell, and the best way to "support the troops" is to get them the hell out of there. I feel the need to do something, now. Every American calling themselves "patriotic" and waving flags everywhere should feel the same and take action to change things. Not later—now.

Virgil Butler, Pine Ridge, AR

 posted by ukiyo1  # 11:38 PM   4 comments  

Friday, July 01, 2005 

'Awaken' Campaign Moves from Media to Senate

Today marked the close of our campaign to "Awaken the Mainstream Media" to the DSM story, and by any measure it was a resounding success.

Kudos go to our mighty Smintheus, who provided the three media targets for each day along with painstaking research on their coverage of the DSM and what kinds of messages would be most likely to get their attention. This "precision guided" approach made all the difference--I know because journalists at the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Sun-Times told me so.

Now we're turning our sights on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Every day in July, we'll post the name of one committee member along with their contact information. Our goal is really quite reasonable--we want the committee to finish the job it started last year and complete its investigation on prewar intelligence by looking into how that "bad" intel was used in building the administration's case for war.

Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) made a commitment last year to do just that, but has since flip-flopped. Contrary to what Ken Mehlman and others might have us believe, no formal investigation into the use of intelligence has yet been undertaken by either house in Congress.

So, thanks to everyone who made the first Awaken campaign such a success. Now it's time to bring the alarm clock into the Senate.

 posted by ukiyo1  # 12:25 AM   21 comments  

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