Saturday, June 25, 2005

What's the "Mission" In Iraq?


Apparently, not even the administration knows, because just like the ever-shifting justifications for invading Iraq in the first place, the "Mission" has undergone a series of transformations apparently based on what is coming out of the RNC spin-machine, Karl Rove's political advice and the poll numbers. It would seem that what is going on "on the ground" in Iraq is the last consideration. If you look at the coverage of what is going on in Iraq (ie. reality), what the actual military commanders and analysts are saying and compare that to what the Bush administration is saying, you will no doubt notice a stark difference- one (the former) is reality-based and the other (the latter) is fiction.

Here are some of the administration's own words over time describing the "Mission":
http://thinkprogress.org/index.php?s=terrorism&SubmitButtom=Search

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The Ever Changing Definition of “Mission” In Iraq

A headline in the Washington Post today declares “Bush Defends Strategy In Iraq, Pledges to ‘Complete the Mission’.” The trouble is that Bush has changed the definition of “mission” so many times, it’s hard to have any confidence in his most recent declarations.

THE PRE-WAR MISSION WAS TO RID IRAQ OF WMD…
Bush: “Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament.” [3/6/03]

AFTER THE WAR BEGAN, THE MISSION EXPANDED…

Bush: “Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” [3/22/03]

Bush: “Our forces have been given a clear mission: to end a regime that threatened its neighbors and the world with weapons of mass destruction and to free a people that had suffered far too long.” [4/14/03]

THEN THE MISSION WAS COMPLETE…
Bush: “On Thursday, I visited the USS Abraham Lincoln, now headed home after the longest carrier deployment in recent history. I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: Their mission is complete, and major combat operations in Iraq have ended..” [5/3/03]

BUT THEN IT CONTINUED AGAIN…
Bush: “The United States and our allies will complete our mission in Iraq.” [7/30/03]

THEN THE MISSION WAS TO DEVELOP A FREE IRAQ…
Bush: “That has been our mission all along, to develop the conditions such that a free Iraq will emerge, run by the Iraqi citizens.” [11/4/03]

Bush: “We will see that Iraq is free and self-governing and democratic. We will accomplish our mission.”[5/4/04]

AND TO TRAIN THE IRAQI TROOPS…
Bush: “And our mission is clear there, as well, and that is to train the Iraqis so they can do the fighting; make sure they can stand up to defend their freedoms, which they want to do.” [6/2/05]

NOW, COMPLETION OF THE MISSION IS FAR FROM CLEAR…
Bush: “We’re making progress toward the goal, which is, on the one hand, a political process moving forward in Iraq, and on the other hand, the Iraqis capable of defending themselves… And we will — we will complete this mission for the sake of world peace.” [6/20/05]

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Remember 9/12?


When the world stood behind us during a time of national tragedy?

Remember the scenes on the TV of people from every conceivable nation crying and holding candles in support for the grief of the United States? It was clear they meant it, too. Then, we became consumed with renaming french fries, boycotting french wine, trashing the germans and pretty much all of "liberal" europe and generally acting like a bunch of spoiled rich brats who know their behavior is deplorable but who also know that they will get away with it. Again. We were setting up to fight a global war on terror by alienating our allies, provoking our enemies ("axis of evil", "bring 'em on" and other nonsense), mocking diplomacy and ensuring a fertile ground for an entirely predictable backlash in the Middle East (and elsewhere).

Well, if you are wondering what type of attitude could get us so quickly from point A to point B in less time than it takes for a conservative to yell "traitor", take a look at this from thinkprogress.org:

Rep. Hunter’s Denial Diet
http://thinkprogress.org/index.php?cat=5

Tales of abuse, torture and humiliation at the prison at Guantanamo Bay are well-known. Last year, internal FBI memos showed methods used at the camp included leaving prisoners “in their own feces,” chaining them “in ice-cold or super-hot cells” and exposing them to sensory deprivation, beatings and terrifying dogs. In its recent issue, Time Magazine obtained a log kept at Guantanamo Bay detailing the treatment of Detainee 063, Mohammed al-Qahtani.

One military official described it as the “kind of document that was never meant to leave Gitmo.” It describes various forms of humiliation and abuse:

“They strip-search him and briefly make him stand nude. They tell him to bark like a dog and growl at pictures of terrorists. They hang pictures of scantily clad women around his neck.” In another instance, “a dog was used ‘in an aggressive manner to intimidate Detainee #63.” By the end of his “interrogation” period, “al-Qahtani had been ’subjected to intense isolation for over three months’ and ‘was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to non existent people, reporting hearing voices, crouching in a cell covered with a sheet for hours on end).”

So how did Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) respond to the ongoing tales of serious abuse at Guantanamo Bay? Now, how do we treat these people? I sent down yesterday for the menu from Guantanamo, so that the average American could understand how we’re brutalizing people in Guantanamo, and I’ve got it right here. For Sunday they’re going to be having — let me see — orange-glazed chicken, fresh fruit groupe, steamed peas and mushrooms, rice pilaf, another form of torture for the hijackers. We treat them very well. Warning to Rep. Hunter: Denial leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Right Wing Attack on PBS


Clearly, controlling the Executive and Legislative Branches of government (while trying hard as hell to gain control of the federal judiciary) isn't enough. Now, PBS is facing the Wrath of the Right. Clearly, PBS has had one too many specials on the endangered horny toad for the GOP's liking so now Congress is poised to step in and reduce or remove federal funding. Now, whether or not one considers a media outlet "liberal" or "conservative" is something upon which reasonable people may differ, but as the article below demonstrates the issue for the GOP, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (under Tomlinson) and Right Wing pundits, is not about liberal or conservative- its about whether or not a story is critical of George Bush and/or his policies. Frightening.

Now, back to reality- anyone who actually watches PBS knows that it tends to cover stories in more depth, tends to get rid of all the bells and whistles that cable news shows have (including that annoying scroll at the bottom of the screen!). Also, PBS anchors aren't supermodels. Damn them. Anyone who knows anything about PBS knows that it is the benefactor of corporate largess- Eastman Kodak, General Electric, AIG, ADM etc. They tend to have much more extensive business coverage than the networks and even the cable channels with the exception of CNBC (obviously). My point being, PBS is not propped up by George Soros.
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Published on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Public Television's Mystery Mann
by Michael Winship
http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0621-22.htm

In the current controversy over the possible elimination of Federal funding for PBS and National Public Radio, alleged liberal bias in public broadcasting and reports of Republican and White House meddling in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, one of the hot points has been a study commissioned by CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson.

The May 2 New York Times reported, “Without the knowledge of his board... Tomlinson contracted last year with an outside consultant to keep track of the guests' political leanings on one program, 'Now with Bill Moyers.'” (In the interest of full disclosure, and as previously stated, over the years, off and on, I have been a Moyers colleague and employee.)

In a June 16 follow-up, Times reporter Stephen Labaton revealed that CPB's inspector general has been investigating $14,700 in payments to an Indiana man named Fred Mann under contracts “which Mr. Tomlinson took the unusual step of signing personally” for the report on the Moyers program.

This, and $15,000 in payments to two Republican lobbyists, Labaton wrote, “are part of a broader examination by the inspector general of Mr. Tomlinson's efforts to bring what he says is more political balance to public television and radio and what critics say is political interference in programming."

As to the author of the Moyers report, the Times reported, “Mr. Mann, who was listed in the contracts as living in Indianapolis, could not be located, and officials at the corporation said they knew nothing about him."

Here's what I know.
Although as of this writing he has yet to return phone calls or e-mail's from me or other journalists, I know that Fred Mann - to put it mildly -- has a history of involvement with conservative politics. There's little information about him to be found via Google or other Internet searches, but a portrait emerges via those with whom he has been associated.
In 1997-98, reporting in Insight on the News, the bi-weekly owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, its senior writer David Webster (now an associate professor of law at Pat Robertson's Regent University) used Mann as a source several times.

Webster described him as a veteran, Washington-based conservative and GOP consultant, and in one article as “a self-styled 'old right' consultant and commentator who handled Dan Quayle's successful challenge to Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh in 1980."

During the mid-to-late eighties, Mann did some writing himself, political analyses in the conservative journal National Review.

Now believed in poor health, Mann's most recent position was as director of the job bank and alumni services at the National Journalism Center in Herndon, Virginia. The National Journalism Center trains and finds internships and jobs for conservative journalists at newspapers, wire services and magazines, including the Washington bureau of Reader's Digest, of which Tomlinson was editor-in-chief.

The National Journalism Center is administered by the Young America's Foundation, which is, in turn, affiliated with the right-wing Young Americans for Freedom. The foundation describes itself as “the principal outreach organization of the Conservative Movement."

The National Journalism Center's alumni include Ann Coulter, Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member John Fund and Maggie Gallagher, the writer who was paid by the Department of Health and Human Service to perform promotion work for the Bush administration's marriage promotion initiative -- while at the same time extolling it in her column.

The Center has received funding from Exxon Mobil and Philip Morris as well as the right-wing John M. Olin and Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundations.

The objective of the Bradley Foundation has been described by the liberal Center for Media and Democracy as “to return the U.S. -- and the world -- to the days before governments began to regulate Big Business, before corporations were forced to make concessions to an organized labor force. In other words, laissez-faire capitalism: capitalism with the gloves off."

The full Mann report on Moyers has yet to be released to the public, but in remarks delivered on the Senate floor last week, North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan reported that at his request he had received from Ken Tomlinson the “raw data” used in the report.
The data “is unusual and strange,” Sen. Dorgan said. “We have all of these sheets that describe the guests and it says: anti-Bush, anti-Bush, pro-Bush, anti-Bush. It appears to me to be not so much an evaluation of is this slanted, is it liberal, does it have an agenda; it is the evaluation of is this program critical of the President?"

He notes that conservative Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel “appeared on one of the programs, and he apparently disagreed with a portion of President Bush's strategy with respect to Iraq. So my colleague, Senator Hagel, is referred to as liberal… My guess is that is going to surprise a lot of Nebraskans."

I detail all of this to make a single, cogent point: Mr. Tomlinson wrote PBS President Pat Mitchell that the Moyers show “does not contain anything approaching the balance the law requires for public broadcasting."

But who does Tomlinson hire to measure the program's “left-wing bias?” Not an objective observer but someone from the opposite end of the political spectrum, someone guaranteed to buttress Tomlinson's pre-existing prejudice.

It's just one in a series of misdeeds, including Tomlinson's efforts to make Patricia Harrison, a fiercely partisan former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, the new president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and e-mail's leaked to the New York Times and National Public Radio disproving Tomlinson's claim that the White House has not attempted to meddle with CPB and public broadcasting content.

What it suggests is a concerted attempt to remove from the air sources of information more comprehensive than most found in the commercial spectrum, part of a broader effort to keep the public in the dark about the policies and actions of the current administration.
For Tomlinson, it adds up to a single, cogent word of advice: Resign.

Michael Winship, Writers Guild of America Award winner and former writer with Bill Moyers, writes this weekly column for the Messenger Post Newspapers in upstate New York.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Great Work Begins


To me, there are several things that send a strong message about who we are as a nation and the status of our public education system is one of those things. In the United States, as opposed to other nations, a person's ability to achieve and rise above their circumstance is not defined by status at birth. While "a level playing field" is a fiction promoted by those who have the 50 yard advantage, a public education system that gives all children, and particularly the nation's most vulnerable children (those born into poverty), the tools for success is a necessity if we are to live up to our democratic ideals and our belief that in America, economic security and success (however one defines it) are not a birth-right.

The equality of our justice system, and in particular, its treatment of defendants and insistance on Constitutional protections for those charged with crimes, is another. Our ability to fight our enemies without becoming *like* the enemy (see Abu Gharib and Gitmo) is another. Many on the Right seemed practically offended when the tales of abuse of terror suspects began leaking out. They considered it anti-American to criticize the government because after all, terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center.

What they failed to realize was that there was a difference between a terrorist and a suspected terrorist. In addition, they failed to realize that any real or perceived moral legitimacy we may have had evaporated the minute those pictures of naked prisoners piled up in the prison hallway with the smiling female guard posing beside them. Not to mention the very real instances of torture and death after interrogation. Did the Right really not see the irony that in fighting the enemy, we had in fact become the enemy? We chastized the muslim world for its deplorable human rights abuses, its anti-democracy viewpoints and its anti-American protests but in just the click of a camera, we had set our own troops and civilians in Iraq up for a major backlash and destroyed whatever weak ties we had in the muslim world in addition to putting our allies in a difficult position. So, to the Right I say this- it is precisely because I am American and because I support our troops safety that I denounce the abuse, torture and illegal detention of prisoners held at Abu Gharib and Gitmo.

And finally, the priority we put on ensuring that our nation's children have the most basic healthcare (not to mention basic things required for existence- food, water, shelter) because we understand that how we treat the most vulnerable members of society sends a message about who we are as a nation and because children literally are, as corny as it sounds, our future. And if we compromise them, we not only compromise their futures, we compromise our own. On this final point, we have a much work to do.

As the angel said in 'Angels in America' by Tony Kushner, "The Great Work Begins"

British Intelligence Says Pre-War Air Strikes to Provoke Saddam Illegal

The British journalist Michael Smith is the UK's version of our Deep Throat and I wish the American press were learning from his example and taking notes, but they clearly are not because this story is not appearing state-side except on progressive news sites for the most part. If anyone has links to mainstream news sources with coverage of this issue please feel free to post those links in the "comment" section.

Anyway, it appears that while Bush was telling the US, the United Nations and Congress that it was doing everything possible to have war be the last option when dealing with Iraq, it turns out that the war, in effect, had already begun, without the knowledge of, well, the United States and most of the world. See the article below:
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Published on Sunday, June 19, 2005 by The Sunday Times/UK British Bombing Raids Were Illegal, Says Foreign Office by Michael Smith
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0619-01.htm

A SHARP increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war “to put pressure on the regime” was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice.
The advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began “spikes of activity” designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war.

The Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurize the regime was “not consistent with” UN law, despite American claims that it was.
The decision to provoke the Iraqis emerged in leaked minutes of a meeting between Tony Blair and his most senior advisers — the so-called Downing Street memo published by The Sunday Times shortly before the general election.

Democratic congressmen claimed last week the evidence it contains is grounds for impeaching President George Bush.

Those at the meeting on July 23, 2002, included Blair, Geoff Hoon, then defense secretary, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of MI6. The minutes quote Hoon as saying that the US had begun spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime.

Ministry of Defense figures for bombs dropped by the RAF on southern Iraq, obtained by the Liberal Democrats through Commons written answers, show the RAF was as active in the bombing as the Americans and that the “spikes” began in May 2002.

However, the leaked Foreign Office legal advice, which was also appended to the Cabinet Office briefing paper for the July meeting, made it clear allied aircraft were legally entitled to patrol the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq only to deter attacks by Saddam’s forces on the Kurdish and Shia populations.

The allies had no power to use military force to put pressure of any kind on the regime.

The increased attacks on Iraqi installations, which senior US officers admitted were designed to “degrade” Iraqi air defenses, began six months before the UN passed resolution 1441, which the allies claim authorized military action. The war finally started in March 2003.
This weekend the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Goodhart, vice-president of the International Commission of Jurists and a world authority on international law, said the intensified raids were illegal if they were meant to pressurize the regime.

He said UN Resolution 688, used by the allies to justify allied patrols over the no-fly zones, was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which deals with all matters authorizing military force.

“Putting pressure on Iraq is not something that would be a lawful activity,” said Goodhart, who is also the Liberal Democrat shadow Lord Chancellor.

The Foreign Office advice noted that the Americans had “on occasion” claimed that the allied aircraft were there to enforce compliance with resolutions 688 and 687, which ordered Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction.

“This view is not consistent with resolution 687, which does not deal with the repression of the Iraqi civilian population, or with resolution 688, which was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and does not contain any provision for enforcement,” it said.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, one of the Foreign Office lawyers who wrote the report, resigned in March 2003 in protest at the decision to go to war without a UN resolution specifically authorizing military force.

Further intensification of the bombing, known in the Pentagon as the Blue Plan, began at the end of August, 2002, following a meeting of the US National Security Council at the White House that month.

General Tommy Franks, the allied commander, recalled in his autobiography, American Soldier, that during this meeting he rejected a call from Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to cut the bombing patrols because he wanted to use them to make Iraq’s defenses“as weak as possible”.

The allied commander specifically used the term “spikes of activity” in his book. The upgrade to a full air war was also illegal, said Goodhart. “If, as Franks seems to suggest, the purpose was to soften up Iraq for a future invasion or even to intimidate Iraq, the coalition forces were acting without lawful authority,” he said.

Although the legality of the war has been more of an issue in Britain than in America, the revelations indicate Bush may also have acted illegally, since Congress did not authorize military action until October 11 2002.
The air war had already begun six weeks earlier and the spikes of activity had been underway for five months.

Quote of the Day- June 20th

President Bush In His Radio Address on June 18th: “We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens.” [6/18/05]


Really George? And who attacked us George? And who did we wage war against? And can you explain that please? No? I didnt think so. But thanks for continuing to conflate 9/11 and Iraq TO THIS DAY.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Quote of the Day

"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion."

President John Adams

Friday, June 17, 2005


This is what Fox News' motto should be Posted by Hello

Abstinence Only Sex Ed is Ignorance Only

Well, studies finally show what we all knew- that the so-called "abstinence only" sex education programs touted by the Right Wing Conservatives in this country (including Bush) who are currently throwing huge amounts of taxpayer dollars into these programs, are misleading, ineffective and at times, outright dishonest. Several studies have been released over the last 6 months showing that they simply don't work.

Yet, the administration and Congress continues to funnel even more money into these programs. Why would they continue to increase funds for a program that has been shown to be ineffective? Well, the answer is simple? Its not about reducing the number of teen pregnancies- its about promoting a particular evangelical christian political agenda plain and simple and that agenda happens to frown on medically accurate sex education and information on birth control and confronting the realities as they exist.

Make no mistake- any good medically accurate sex education program INCLUDES a discussion of abstinence because that is the best way to prevent STDs and pregnancy. But the reality is that if teens choose, for one reason or another, to become sexually active, we would rather they take precautions against unwanted pregnancy and STDs (including the deadly HIV virus). To not do so is almost inhumane in my view.
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This from Planned Parenthood.org
Abstinence-Only Education Flunks
by Lisa Stokes11.12.04

Abstinence-only education — or ignorance-only education, as it has come to be known — has little, and in some cases, no impact on students' sexual behavior. That was the result of a study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The study, typical of many others on the subject, examined the impact of the state's abstinence-only sexuality education curricula, known as ENABL.

The study evaluated program activities; interviewed parents in funded and non-funded counties, student participants, target groups, and community groups; and studied secondary data, such as abstinence rates and risk and protective behaviors.

"The abstinence message is critically important but is insufficient."
The evaluator recommended that future sexuality education methods use abstinence-based curricula that include information about abstinence as well as other ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The study also called for longer-term projects that focused primarily on at-risk students.

The vast majority (77 percent) of parents in the funded counties told researchers that they believed it was important to both promote abstinence and teach about contraception, findings that mirror federal survey results. The study concludes, "The abstinence message is critically important but is insufficient."

The researchers also noted that the falling U.S. teen pregnancy rates are attributed to both increased access to and use of contraceptives by teens (75 percent) and teens choosing abstinence (25 percent).

Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide play a key role in preventing teen pregnancy. Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota (PPMSD), for example, provides teens and their families with comprehensive reproductive health education and services. PPMSD's professional and teen educators work with community members through parent-child workshops, after-school programs, and job preparation and peer education programs to teach parents and teens about abstinence, other methods of pregnancy prevention, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

Bush's Appointee At the FDA


This is just an amazing story, not just for the hypocrisy involved (and the alleged criminality) but for the fact that yet again, it's one more example of how the mainstream media REFUSE to cover an issue that could be damaging to this administration.

This involves a Bush appointee to the FDA's Reproductive Health Advisory Committee. He also happens to be, like most of Bush's appointees, a right wing evangelical christian with a political agenda- his main qualification for this post seems to be his oppostion to birth control and abortion. In this exclusive from the Nation, Dr. Hager's ex-wife whom he had been married to for a very long time and who is also a conservative evangelical christian political activist, claims that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Dr. Hager during their marriage. Interestingly, despite covering every allegation against any clinton regardless of the ultimate veracity of the claims (see troopergate, white water, vince foster etc.) and how the press usually covers the dirty laundry (for better or worse) of appointees to important positions, particularly when the allegations are criminal in nature, the mainstream press hasn't made a peep about this. Go figure.
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This article can be found on the web at http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050530&s=mcgarvey
Dr. Hager's Family Values

by AYELISH MCGARVEY
[from the May 30, 2005 issue]
The Nation

Late last October Dr. W. David Hager, a prominent obstetrician-gynecologist and Bush Administration appointee to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), took to the pulpit as the featured speaker at a morning service. He stood in the campus chapel at Asbury College, a small evangelical Christian school nestled among picturesque horse farms in the small town of Wilmore in Kentucky's bluegrass region. Hager is an Asburian nabob; his elderly father is a past president of the college, and Hager himself currently sits on his alma mater's board of trustees. Even the school's administrative building, Hager Hall, bears the family name.
That day, a mostly friendly audience of 1,500 students and faculty packed into the seats in front of him. With the autumn sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows, Hager opened his Bible to the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel and looked out into the audience. "I want to share with you some information about how...God has called me to stand in the gap," he declared. "Not only for others, but regarding ethical and moral issues in our country."

For Hager, those moral and ethical issues all appear to revolve around sex: In both his medical practice and his advisory role at the FDA, his ardent evangelical piety anchors his staunch opposition to emergency contraception, abortion and premarital sex. Through his six books--which include such titles as Stress and the Woman's Body and As Jesus Cared for Women, self-help tomes that interweave syrupy Christian spirituality with paternalistic advice on women's health and relationships--he has established himself as a leading conservative Christian voice on women's health and sexuality.

And because of his warm relationship with the Bush Administration, Hager has had the opportunity to see his ideas influence federal policy. In December 2003 the FDA advisory committee of which he is a member was asked to consider whether emergency contraception, known as Plan B, should be made available over the counter. Over Hager's dissent, the committee voted overwhelmingly to approve the change. But the FDA rejected its recommendation, a highly unusual and controversial decision in which Hager, The Nation has learned, played a key role. Hager's reappointment to the committee, which does not require Congressional approval, is expected this June, but Bush's nomination of Dr. Lester Crawford as FDA director has been bogged down in controversy over the issue of emergency contraception. Crawford was acting director throughout the Plan B debacle, and Senate Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray, are holding up his nomination until the agency revisits its decision about going over the counter with the pill.
When Hager's nomination to the FDA was announced in the fall of 2002, his conservative Christian beliefs drew sharp criticism from Democrats and prochoice groups. David Limbaugh, the lesser light in the Limbaugh family and author of Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging Political War Against Christianity, said the left had subjected Hager to an "anti-Christian litmus test." Hager's valor in the face of this "religious profiling" earned him the praise and lasting support of evangelical Christians, including such luminaries as Charles Colson, Dr. James Dobson and Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham.

Back at Asbury, Hager cast himself as a victim of religious persecution in his sermon. "You see...there is a war going on in this country," he said gravely. "And I'm not speaking about the war in Iraq. It's a war being waged against Christians, particularly evangelical Christians. It wasn't my scientific record that came under scrutiny [at the FDA]. It was my faith.... By making myself available, God has used me to stand in the breach.... Just as he has used me, he can use you."

Up on the dais, several men seated behind Hager nodded solemnly in agreement. But out in the audience, Linda Carruth Davis--co-author with Hager of Stress and the Woman's Body, and, more saliently, his former wife of thirty-two years--was enraged. "It was the most disgusting thing I've ever heard," she recalled months later, through clenched teeth.
According to Davis, Hager's public moralizing on sexual matters clashed with his deplorable treatment of her during their marriage. Davis alleges that between 1995 and their divorce in 2002, Hager repeatedly sodomized her without her consent. Several sources on and off the record confirmed that she had told them it was the sexual and emotional abuse within their marriage that eventually forced her out. "I probably wouldn't have objected so much, or felt it was so abusive if he had just wanted normal [vaginal] sex all the time," she explained to me. "But it was the painful, invasive, totally nonconsensual nature of the [anal] sex that was so horrible."

Not once during the uproar over Hager's FDA appointment did any reporter solicit the opinion of the woman now known as Linda Davis--she remarried in November 2002 to James Davis, a Methodist minister, and relocated to southern Georgia--on her husband's record, even though she contributed to much of his self-help work in the Christian arena (she remains a religious and political conservative). She intermittently thought of telling her story but refrained, she says, out of respect for her adult children. It was Hager's sermon at Asbury last October that finally changed her mind. Davis was there to hear her middle son give a vocal performance; she was prepared to hear her ex-husband inveigh against secular liberals, but she was shocked to hear him speak about their divorce when he took to the pulpit.

"In early 2002," Hager told the churchgoers that day, "my world fell apart.... After thirty-two years of marriage, I was suddenly alone in a new home that we had built as our dream home. Time spent 'doing God's will' had kept me from spending the time I needed to nourish my marriage." Hager noted with pride that in his darkest hour, Focus on the Family estimated that 50 million people worldwide were praying for him.
Linda Davis quietly fumed in her chair. "He had the gall to stand under the banner of holiness of the Lord and lie, by the sin of omission," she told me. "It's what he didn't say--it's the impression he left."

David Hager is not the fringe character and fundamentalist faith healer that some of his critics have made him out to be. In fact, he is a well-credentialed doctor. In Kentucky Hager has long been recognized as a leading Ob-Gyn at Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital and a faculty member at the University of Kentucky's medical school. And in the 1990s several magazines, including Modern Healthcare and Good Housekeeping, counted him among the best doctors for women in the nation.

Yet while Hager doesn't advocate the substitution of conservative Christianity for medicine, his religious ideology underlies an all-encompassing paternalism in his approach to his women patients. "Even though I was trained as a medical specialist," Hager explained in the preface to As Jesus Cared for Women, "it wasn't until I began to see how Jesus treated women that I understood how I, as a doctor, should treat them." To underscore this revelation, Hager recounted case after case in which he acted as confidant, spiritual adviser and even father figure to his grateful patients. As laid out in his writings, Hager's worldview is not informed by a sense of inherent equality between men and women.

Instead, men are expected to act as benevolent authority figures for the women in their lives. (In one of his books, he refers to a man who raped his wife as "selfish" and "sinful.") But to model gender relations on the one Jesus had with his followers is to leave women dangerously exposed in the event that the men in their lives don't meet the high standard set by God Himself--trapped in a permanent state of dependence hoping to be treated well.

In tandem with his medical career, Hager has been an aggressive advocate for the political agenda of the Christian right. A member of Focus on the Family's Physician Resource Council and the Christian Medical and Dental Society, Hager assisted the Concerned Women for America in submitting a "Citizen's Petition" to the FDA in August 2002 to halt distribution and marketing of the abortion pill, RU-486. It was this record of conservative activism that ignited a firestorm when the Bush Administration first floated his name for chairman of the FDA's advisory committee in the fall of 2002. In the end, the FDA found a way to dodge the controversy: It issued a stealth announcement of Hager's appointment to the panel (to be one of eleven members, not chairman) on Christmas Eve. Liberals were furious that they weren't able to block his appointment. For many months afterward, an outraged chain letter alerting women to the appointment of a man with religious views "far outside the mainstream" snaked its way around the Internet, lending the whole episode the air of urban legend.

Back in Lexington, where the couple continued to live, Linda Hager, as she was still known at the time, was sinking into a deep depression, she says. Though her marriage had been dead for nearly a decade, she could not see her way clear to divorce; she had no money of her own and few marketable skills. But life with David Hager had grown unbearable. As his public profile increased, so did the tension in their home, which she says periodically triggered episodes of abuse. "I would be asleep," she recalls, "and since [the sodomy] was painful and threatening, I woke up. Sometimes I acquiesced once he had started, just to make it go faster, and sometimes I tried to push him off.... I would [confront] David later, and he would say, 'You asked me to do that,' and I would say, 'No, I never asked for it.'"

I first heard of Davis's experience in 2004 through a friend of hers. After a few telephone conversations, she agreed to have me fly down to see her in her modest parsonage in Georgia, to tell me her story on the record. With her mod reading glasses, stylish bob and clever outfits, Davis, 55, is a handsome woman with a sharp wit. She spoke with me over two days in January.

Linda Davis (née Carruth) first met David Hager on the campus of Asbury College in 1967. "On the very first date he sat me down and told me he was going to marry me," Davis remembers. "I was so overwhelmed by this aggressive approach of 'I see you and I want you' that I was completely seduced by it."

Davis, a former beauty queen, was a disengaged student eager to get married and start a family. A Hager-Carruth marriage promised prestige and wealth for the couple; her father was a famous Methodist evangelist, and his father was then president of Asbury. "On the surface, it just looked so good," she remembers. The couple married in 1970, while Hager completed medical school at the University of Kentucky.

"I don't think I was married even a full year before I realized that I had made a horrible mistake," Davis says. By her account, Hager was demanding and controlling, and the couple shared little emotional intimacy. "But," she says, "the people around me said, 'Well, you've made your bed, and now you have to lie in it.'" So Davis commenced with family making and bore three sons: Philip, in 1973; Neal, in 1977; and Jonathan, in 1979.

Sometime between the births of Neal and Jonathan, Hager embarked on an affair with a Bible-study classmate who was a friend of Davis's. A close friend of Davis's remembers her calling long distance when she found out: "She was angry and distraught, like any woman with two children would be. But she was committed to working it out."

Sex was always a source of conflict in the marriage. Though it wasn't emotionally satisfying for her, Davis says she soon learned that sex could "buy" peace with Hager after a long day of arguing, or insure his forgiveness after she spent too much money. "Sex was coinage; it was a commodity," she said. Sometimes Hager would blithely shift from vaginal to anal sex. Davis protested. "He would say, 'Oh, I didn't mean to have anal sex with you; I can't feel the difference,'" Davis recalls incredulously. "And I would say, 'Well then, you're in the wrong business.'"

By the 1980s, according to Davis, Hager was pressuring her to let him videotape and photograph them having sex. She consented, and eventually she even let Hager pay her for sex that she wouldn't have otherwise engaged in--for example, $2,000 for oral sex, "though that didn't happen very often because I hated doing it so much. So though it was more painful, I would let him sodomize me, and he would leave a check on the dresser," Davis admitted to me with some embarrassment. This exchange took place almost weekly for several years.

Money was an explosive issue in their household. Hager kept an iron grip on the family purse strings. Initially the couple's single checking account was in Hager's name only, which meant that Davis had to appeal to her husband for cash, she says. Eventually he relented and opened a dual account. Davis recalls that Hager would return home every evening and make a beeline for his office to balance the checkbook, often angrily summoning her to account for the money she'd spent that day. Brenda Bartella Peterson, Davis's friend of twenty-five years and her neighbor at the time, witnessed Hager berate his wife in their kitchen after one such episode. For her part, Davis set out to subvert Hager's financial dominance with profligate spending on credit cards opened in her own name. "I was not willing to face reality about money," she admits. "I thought, 'Well, money can't buy happiness, but it buys the kind of misery you can learn to live with.'"

These financial atmospherics undoubtedly figured into Linda's willingness to accept payment for sex. But eventually her conscience caught up with her. "Finally...I said, 'You know, David, this is like being a prostitute. I just can't do this anymore; I don't think it's healthy for our relationship,'" she recalls.

By 1995, according to Davis's account, Hager's treatment of his wife had moved beyond morally reprehensible to potentially felonious. It was a uniquely stressful year for Davis. Her mother, dying of cancer, had moved in with the family and was in need of constant care. At the same time, Davis was suffering from a seemingly inexplicable exhaustion during the day. She began exhibiting a series of strange behaviors, like falling asleep in such curious places as the mall and her closet. Occasionally she would--as she describes it--"zone out" in midsentence in a conversation, and her legs would buckle. Eventually, Davis was diagnosed as having narcolepsy, a neurological disorder that affects the brain's ability to regulate normal sleep-wake cycles.

For Davis, the diagnosis spelled relief, and a physician placed her on several medications to attain "sleep hygiene," or a consistent sleep pattern. But Davis says it was after the diagnosis that the period of the most severe abuse began. For the next seven years Hager sodomized Davis without her consent while she slept roughly once a month until their divorce in 2002, she claims. "My sense is that he saw [my narcolepsy] as an opportunity," Davis surmises. Sometimes she fought Hager off and he would quit for a while, only to circle back later that same night; at other times, "the most expedient thing was to try and somehow get it [over with]. In order to keep any peace, I had to maintain the illusion of being available to him." At still other moments, she says, she attempted to avoid Hager's predatory advances in various ways--for example, by sleeping in other rooms in the house, or by struggling to stay awake until Hager was in a deep sleep himself. But, she says, nothing worked. One of Davis's lifelong confidantes remembers when Davis first told her about the abuse. "[Linda] was very angry and shaken," she recalled.
As Hager began fielding calls from the White House personnel office in 2001, the stress in the household--and, with it, the abuse--hit an all-time high, according to Davis. She says she confronted her husband on numerous occasions: "[I said to him,] 'Every time you do this, I hate your guts. And it blows a bridge out between us that takes weeks, if not months, to heal.'" She says that Hager would, in rare instances, admit what he had done and apologize, but typically would deny it altogether.
For a while, fears of poverty, isolation and damnation were enough to keep Davis from seeking a divorce. She says that she had never cheated on Hager, but after reuniting with a high school sweetheart (not her current husband) in the chaotic aftermath of September 11, she had a brief affair. En route to their first, and only, rendezvous, she prayed aloud. "I said to the Lord, 'All right. I do not want to die without having sex with someone I love,'" she remembers. "'I want to know what that's like, Lord. I know that it's a sin, and I know this is adultery. But I have to know what it's like.'"
Davis was sure that God would strike her dead on her way home that weekend. But when nothing happened, she took it as a good sign. Back in Lexington, she walked through her front door and made a decision right there on the spot. "I said, 'David, I want a divorce.'"

Marital rape is a foreign concept to many women with stories like this one. Indeed, Linda Davis had never heard the term until midway through her divorce. In Kentucky a person is guilty of rape in the first degree when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person by "forcible compulsion"; or when the victim is incapable of consent because she is physically helpless. The same standards apply to the crime of sodomy in the first degree (equivalent to rape, and distinct from consensual sodomy). Both are felonies.

In sexual assault cases, the outcome hinges on the issue of consent. A high-level domestic violence prosecutor in Kentucky confirmed that a scenario such as this one, in which Davis was in a deep sleep from the narcolepsy, could meet the "physically helpless" standard required for a first-degree offense. A prosecutor could also argue that Hager engaged in sodomy with Davis by means of forcible compulsion, even though the alleged encounters did not involve violence. According to the Kentucky Supreme Court's decision in 1992 in Yarnell v. Commonwealth, a climate of abuse involving "constant emotional, verbal, and physical duress" is tantamount to forcible compulsion. In that case, the victims submitted to the sex acts to avoid a loss of financial security, as well as to maintain peace in the household.

Historically, the legal system has long been indifferent to the crime of marital sexual assault; as recently as twelve years ago in some states, it was legal for a man to force his wife physically into sex, or commence having sex without her consent--actions that could land a stranger in jail. Until 2000 the Kentucky Penal Code still contained archaic procedural obstacles for prosecuting marital rape, including a requirement that it be reported within one year of the offense. (No other felony--including "stranger rape"--contains a statute of limitations.) Even today, marital sexual assault is a notoriously difficult crime to prosecute. Women like Davis often have strong financial incentives to stay with their spouses; those who speak out frequently face an uphill battle to convince people that their husbands, who may be well liked and respected, are capable of something this ugly at home. Also, because marriages play out over many years, some sex is consensual, while other sex is not--a fact that may complicate matters for a jury in a criminal proceeding.

Linda Davis chose not to bring allegations of marital rape into her divorce proceedings; her foremost desires at the time were a fair settlement and minimal disruption for her sons. Nonetheless, she informed her lawyer of the abuse. Natalie Wilson, a divorce attorney in Lexington, asked Linda to draw up a working chronology of her marriage to Hager. "[It] included references to what I would call the sexual abuse," Wilson explained. "I had no reason not to believe her.... It was an explanation for some of the things that went on in the marriage, and it explained her reluctance to share that information with her sons--which had resulted in her sons' being very angry about the fact that she was insisting on the divorce."
As it turned out, when the dust settled after their divorce, nearly everyone in the Hagers' Christian and medical circles in Lexington had sided with Hager, who told people that his wife was mentally unstable and had moved in with another man (she moved in with friends).
Davis had only told a handful of people about the abuse throughout her marriage, but several of her longtime confidantes confirmed for this article that she had told them of the abuse at the time it was occurring. Wilson, the attorney, spoke to me on the record, as did Brenda Bartella Peterson, Davis's close friend of twenty-five years. Several others close to Davis spoke to me off the record. Two refused to speak to me and denounced Davis for going public, but they did not contest her claims. Many attempts to interview nearly a dozen of Hager's friends and supporters in Lexington and around the country were unsuccessful.
As for David Hager, after repeated attempts to interview him for this story, we finally spoke for nearly half an hour in early April. That conversation was off the record. "My official comment is that I decline to comment," he said.

As disturbing as they are on their own, Linda Davis's allegations take on even more gravity in light of Hager's public role as a custodian of women's health. Some may argue that this is just a personal matter between a man and his former wife--a simple case of "he said, she said" with no public implications. That might be so--if there were no allegations of criminal conduct, if the alleged conduct did not bear any relevance to the public responsibilities of the person in question, and if the allegations themselves were not credible and independently corroborated. But given that this case fails all of those tests, the public has a right to call on Dr. David Hager to answer Linda Davis's charges before he is entrusted with another term. After all, few women would knowingly choose a sexual abuser as their gynecologist, and fewer still would likely be comfortable with the idea of letting one serve as a federal adviser on women's health issues.

(Lest inappropriate analogies be drawn between the Hager accusations and the politics of personal destruction that nearly brought down the presidency of Bill Clinton, it ought to be remembered that President Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky was never alleged to be criminal and did not affect his ability to fulfill his obligations to the nation. This, of course, did not stop the religious right from calling for his head. "The topic of private vs. public behavior has emerged as perhaps the central moral issue raised by Bill Clinton's 'improper relationship,'" wrote evangelist and Hager ally Franklin Graham at the time. "But the God of the Bible says that what one does in private does matter. There needs to be no clash between personal conduct and public appearance.")

Hager's FDA assignment is an object lesson in the potential influence of a single appointment to a federal advisory committee that in turn affects thousands, even millions, of lives. Witness the behind-the-scenes machinations that set the stage for the FDA's ruling against Plan B, a decision that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called a "dark stain on the reputation of an evidence-based agency like the FDA."

On December 16, 2003, twenty-seven of the FDA's advisers on women's health and nonprescription drugs gathered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of emergency contraception for over-the-counter use. (The Plan B pill, which drastically reduces the risk of pregnancy when used within seventy-two hours after intercourse, has long been available by prescription only; its advocates say its greater availability could significantly reduce the nation's abortion rate.) After a long day of highly technical deliberation, the advisers voted 23 to 4 to drop the prescription-only status of emergency contraception. "I've been on this committee...for almost four years, and I would take this to be the safest product that we have seen brought before us," announced Dr. Julie Johnson, a professor at the University of Florida's Colleges of Pharmacy and Medicine.

But on May 6, 2004, the FDA rejected the advice of its own experts and refused to approve the sale of Plan B over the counter. In his letter to Barr Laboratories, Steven Galson, acting director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, claimed that Barr had not provided adequate data showing just how young adolescent women would actually use the drug.

That issue was never voted on by the committee. It was, however, broached by Hager at the meeting; he mentioned his concern for these "younger adolescents" several times.

In his private practice back in Kentucky, Hager doesn't prescribe emergency contraception, because he believes it is an abortifacient, and, not surprisingly, his was one of the four votes against widening its availability. But rather than voice his ethical opposition to the product, Hager emphasized his concern about adolescents, which other committee members have since called a "political fig leaf." According to Dr. James Trussell, who voted in favor of Plan B, the FDA had at hand six studies examining whether teens as young as 15 would increase their "risky" behavior if they knew they had a backup emergency contraceptive--and none of the studies showed any evidence for that contention.

In his sermon at Asbury College last fall, Hager proudly recounted his role in the Plan B decision. "After two days of hearings," he said, "the committees voted to approve this over-the-counter sale by 23 to 4. I was asked to write a minority opinion that was sent to the commissioner of the FDA.... Now the opinion I wrote was not from an evangelical Christian perspective.... But I argued it from a scientific perspective, and God took that information, and He used it through this minority report to influence the decision." [Emphasis added.]

None of the four panel members I spoke with for this article were aware of Hager's "minority opinion." An FDA spokeswoman told me that "the FDA did not ask for a minority opinion from this advisory committee," though she was unable to say whether any individual within the agency had requested such a document from Hager. This past January the FDA missed a deadline to respond to a new application from Barr Laboratories, and any forward motion on making Plan B more widely available has completely stalled.

Meanwhile, David Hager's stock has been rising among conservatives. Though his term on the FDA panel is set to expire on June 30, observers on both sides of the political divide anticipate his reappointment. In March I spoke with Janice Shaw Crouse, executive director and senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the research arm of Concerned Women for America. She is one of Hager's staunchest advocates in Washington (some credit her with engineering his FDA appointment); Crouse sits alongside Hager on Asbury College's board of trustees. In May, when informed of the allegations against him, she declined to revise her earlier statement. "I would not be at all surprised to see Dr. Hager elevated to a higher position or to another very influential position when it comes to women's care," she told me. "Because he has shown that he does care about women regardless of...the [religious] issues that people want to try to raise.... When people try to discredit him, he continues on. He hasn't caved in, and he hasn't waffled. He has been a gentleman. He is a person of character and integrity, and I think people admire that."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For...

Well, big surprise- at a press conference earlier today WH Press Secretary Scott McClellan totally blew off any questions about the Downing Street Memo despite the fact that Rep. Conyers had presented the President with a petition with over half a million signatures of the American public and 88 members of the U.S. Congress. According to McClellan, the President didn't really see the point in responding, as all of this was just rehashing old news. In other words, he didn't see what all the fuss was about.

If it weren't so deadly serious it would almost be comical. Here is the exchange as reported by rawstory today
http://rawstory.com (right on the front page)

*********************************
WH Press Secretary Mocks 'Downing Street Memo' By E&P Staff Published: June 16, 2005 4:25 PM ET

NEW YORK With a hearing about to begin on Capitol Hill on the so-called Downing Street Memo, hosted by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), reporters at today's White House briefing by Press Secretary Scott McClellan naturally raised the subject, albeit briefly.

Rather than ask about details or implications of the 2003 internal British document -- which seemed to suggest that the Bush administration was determined to go to war against Iraq and that intelligence would be “fixed” to support it -- the correspondents wondered if the White House was ever going to respond to a letter authored by Conyers and signed by 88 of his colleagues asking for information about the memo. A transcript of two separate exchanges follows:

***Q Scott, on another topic, has the President or anyone else from the administration responded to the letter sent last month by Congressman John Conyers and signed by dozens of members of the House of Representatives, regarding the Downing Street memo? Has the President or anyone else responded?

McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Why not?

McCLELLAN: Why not? Because I think that this is an individual who voted against the war in the first place [Conyers] and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed. And our focus is not on the past. It's on the future and working to make sure we succeed in Iraq.These matters have been addressed, Elaine. I think you know that very well.

The press
--Q Scott, 88 members of Congress signed that letter.

McCLELLAN: The press -- the press have covered it, as well.

Q But, Scott, don't they deserve the courtesy of a response back?

McCLELLAN: Again, this has been addressed….

***Q Scott, on John Conyers, John Conyers is walking here with that letter again, as you have acknowledged from Elaine's comment. But 88 leaders on Capitol Hill signed that letter. Now, I understand what you're saying about him, but what about the other 88 who signed this letter, wanting information, answers to these five questions?

McCLELLAN: How did they vote on the war -- the decision to go to war in Iraq?

Q Well, you have two -- well, if that's the case, you have two Republicans who are looking for a timetable. How do you justify that?

McCLELLAN: I already talked about that.Q I understand, but let's talk about this.

McCLELLAN: Like I said --

Q Well, just because -- I understand -- but if you're talking about unifying and asking for everyone to come together, why not answer, whether they wanted the war or not, answer a letter where John Conyers wrote to the President and then 88 congressional leaders signed? Why not answer that?

McCLELLAN: For the reasons I stated earlier. This is simply rehashing old debates that have already been discussed.

Glad the media is taking it all down! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Evidence Cannot Be Ignored

On the eve of Congressional hearings on the Downing Street Memo and the other British documents leaked to the press over the weakend, the mounting evidence against this administration cannot be ignored. The political Right in this country, perhaps understandably, is spinning away, telling the American people that a) there is absolutely nothing new in these documents and b) those of us who are "obsessed" with the DSM are just a bunch of Bush-hating left wing nutjobs. Well, they they are wrong on both counts.

While it's certainly true that many of us who have progressive blogs and who write daily on the DSM have no love of Dubya, our "obsession" with the issue here is based on principle- the principle that in a democracy, the President of the United States cannot lie to the people who elected him (and even those who didn't), to Congress and the United Nations in order to start a war that in all likelihood violates international law. In a democracy, we hold our leaders accountable and this principle goes, or should go, beyond partisanship.

And in a democracy, the media hold those we elected to represent us accountable by asking the hard questions and by connecting the dots when evidence of wrongdoing presents itself and by ensuring that We The People have all the information necessary to make informed decisions about the issues and our leaders. In a democracy, the press is a check and balance on power and if it does not perform this function, than democracy cannot and will not flourish. THAT is why those of us in the liberal blogging community post and blog so obsessively on this issue. Because we actually care about our democracy and sometimes that means holding our leaders and the media accountable.
*********************

From commondreams.org:

Published on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 by the Baltimore Sun
Damning Evidence Can't be Ignored
by David Swanson and Jonathan Schwarz

Since its publication May 1 by The Sunday Times of London, the so-called Downing Street memo has dominated the media in Britain and on the Internet in the United States. The memo is the official minutes from a secret meeting about Iraq held by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his inner circle July 23, 2002.
The significance of the memo - and additional leaked British documents now surfacing in public view - can hardly be overstated. They conceivably could lead to impeachment proceedings against President Bush.
The Bush administration consistently has made two claims regarding its decision to invade Iraq:

Mr. Bush chose war only as a last resort.
Mr. Bush dealt honestly with intelligence about weapons of mass destruction and alleged Iraqi ties to al-Qaida.

The Downing Street memo contradicts these claims.
Here are some of the key words in the memo, written three months before
Mr. Bush received congressional authorization for war, four months before U.N. Resolution 1441 held Iraq in "material breach" of disarmament obligations and eight months before the invasion in March 2003:

"[British intelligence chief Richard Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington. ... Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam [Hussein], through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. ... It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Other internal British memos from March 2002 and July 2002 reveal British officials discussing Mr. Blair's agreement with Mr. Bush to support an invasion of Iraq and Mr. Blair's insistence that Mr. Bush make a public show of going to the United Nations in order to - as the British ambassador to Washington, Christopher Meyer, put it - "wrongfoot Saddam on inspectors" to create a pretext for war.

The British privately scoffed at the frightening claims made by the Bush administration. In a memo to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in March 2002, Peter Ricketts, the political director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said: "US scrambling to establish a link" between Iraq and al-Qaida "is so far frankly unconvincing."

Anyone who follows the news will not be surprised. A long list of whistleblowers, including former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and former National Security Council official Richard Clarke, have reported that the Bush administration was obsessed with regime change in Iraq from Day One and regarded 9/11 as an opportunity to put its plans into action. Removing Mr. Hussein was in the 2000 Republican Party platform. Bush administration misuse of intelligence has been well documented.

But the Downing Street minutes and other recently leaked documents illustrate that the intelligence was wrong by design. The documents show officials at the apex of the government of our closest ally confirming among themselves what were the darkest suspicions about the Iraq war among ordinary Americans.

The evidence suggests that Mr. Bush has lied to Congress and to the American people about the justifications for war. It includes a formal letter and report that he submitted to Congress within 48 hours of launching the invasion in which he explained the need for the war in terms that appear to have been intentionally falsified, not mistaken.
Lying to Congress is a felony. Either lying to Congress about the need to go to war is a high crime, or nothing is.

AfterDowningStreet.org, a coalition of veterans groups, peace groups and other activist organizations, is urging Congress to introduce a Resolution of Inquiry that would require the House Judiciary Committee to hold formal investigations with the power of subpoena. The result would be a determination as to whether the president has committed impeachable offenses.

Democratic Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey of New York, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said Monday, "I think a Resolution of Inquiry is completely appropriate at this stage. It's something that should be done."

Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has not expressed support for a Resolution of Inquiry. But he has asked Mr. Bush in a letter to respond to questions raised by the Downing Street memo. At least 90 members of Congress and about 500,000 U.S. citizens have signed the letter. Mr. Conyers plans to deliver it to the White House tomorrow.

He also plans to hold hearings about the memo tomorrow and participate in a rally in front of the White House.

David Swanson is co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, and Jonathan Schwarz is a consultant for the group.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Untangling All the Lies

Well, here I sit in this nice air-conditioned cafe (its 90 degrees outside) and I am frantically searching all the mainstream news websites- cnn.com, msnbc.com, washingtonpost.com and on and on and guess what? No follow-up on the stunning documents released over the weekend that not only support, but supplement, the allegations in the Downing Street Memo. And I sit here and think, "I just don't get it!" But then I think the more we keep this issue front and center on our blogs and websites and the more we continue to write the mainstream media and our local news to insist they cover it the more likely they are to have to cover the issue. This is a democracy after all. Isn't it?

A great article from TomPaine.com
reprinted on truthout.org:
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/061405F.shtml

Downing Street II
By Ray McGovern Monday 13 June 2005

Yesterday, London's Sunday Times published the text of another SECRET UK EYES ONLY briefing document prepared for senior British officials. This one was dated July 21, 2002, two days before British intelligence chief Richard Dearlove gave Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security advisers a briefing based on discussions with American counterparts in Washington. The minutes recording the discussion at the July 23, 2002, meeting, published by the Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times on May 1, 2005, included Dearlove's matter-of-fact report that President George W. Bush had decided to bring about "regime change" in Iraq by military action; that the attack would be "justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD" (weapons of mass destruction); and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Creating Conditions
At that meeting, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw noted that the evidence regarding "weapons of mass destruction" was "thin." And British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith pointed out that "the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action." But Blair gave them the back of his hand, ordering them to "work on the assumption that the U.K. would take part in any military action."

It is a safe bet that the British seemed a bunch of nervous Nellies in the eyes of the hard-nosed "neoconservatives" running our policy toward Iraq. The briefing paper of July 21 shows senior British officials preoccupied with the question of how to fix it so the war would be legal. The paper makes it clear that U.S. military plans assumed, "as a minimum, the use of British bases on the islands of Cyprus and Diego Garcia." Even this minimum gave rise to serious legal questions. Pervading the briefing paper is the British leaders' need to square a circle: how to render legal an illegal, unprovoked attack on Iraq-or in the words of the briefing paper, how to go about "creating the conditions...in which we could legally support military action."

The briefing paper of July 21, 2002, offers this clear picture of what the British see as the U.S. goal. "U.S. military planning unambiguously takes as its objective the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime, followed by elimination of Iraqi WMD." But, alas, with the evidence of WMD "thin," and an invasion to bring about "regime change" illegal, the British found themselves between Iraq and a hard place-Washington. The document reeks not only of obsequiousness toward the United States, but also wonderment at Washington's policies-particularly with respect to international law.

U.S. views of international law vary from that of the U.K. and the international community. Regime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law...Legal bases for an invasion of Iraq are in principle conceivable...but would be difficult to establish because of, for example, the tests of immediacy and proportionality.

In lay terms, that must mean that, absent any immediate threat, those who chose to invade and occupy Iraq anyway would flunk the "test of proportionality." Grasping at straws, the document raises the possibility of demanding Iraqi acceptance of an unacceptably intrusive U.N. inspection regime:

It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access)....However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003.

The British, you see, knew that the summer months in Iraq are uncomfortably hot. Thus, January was the time they thought an invasion would have to begin, or the attack would have to be put off until autumn. As for a possible attack by Iraq, British government documents released to Parliament show that American and British aircraft dropped no bombs on Iraq in March 2002, 10 tons of bombs in July, and 54.6 tons in September. Nevertheless, this failed to provoke Saddam Hussein into the kind of reaction that could be used as an ostensible casus belli. And intrusive inspections? Iraq wound up tolerating the strictest inspection regime in modern history. And when U.N. inspectors found Al Samoud missiles with a range greater than that permitted, Saddam allowed them to be destroyed.
One can visualize the British lawyers wringing their hands: Foiled again.

Breaking the Laws of War
While the White House may have deemed British government lawyers lily-livered or perhaps "quaint," they were under a good deal of pressure from the British military establishment, which wields more influence in the British government than its domesticated Pentagon counterparts do in Washington. To his credit, British Admiral Michael Boyce, chief of the defense staff, demanded a straightforward, written opinion from the attorney general that attacking Iraq would be lawful, before Boyce would put his troops at risk of subsequent prosecution as war criminals.

This put the bite on Attorney General Goldsmith who had long shared the doubts of the legal establishment about the legality of starting a war without unequivocal endorsement by the United Nations. After much equivocation, Goldsmith bowed to Blair and was asked to appear before the cabinet on March 17, 2003, two days before the war began. Goldsmith read a brief statement saying he now thought attacking Iraq was lawful, and Blair quickly moved the discussion on. Questions were not permitted. The British attorney general reportedly confided to lawyer friends during February and early March 2003 that he found himself in an "impossible" position, and wondered aloud if he should stay in the job.

Admiral Boyce, upset that he was never shown Goldsmith's more equivocal advice to Blair prior to March 17, has now said that if British troops are brought to trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC), British ministers should be "brought into the frame as well." The London Observer asked Boyce if Blair and Goldsmith should be included. "Too bloody right," was his answer.

American forces, of course, do not have to worry about the ICC, since the Bush administration "unsigned" the signature that President Bill Clinton had affixed to the treaty in December 2000. Nor have U.S. government officials shown themselves to be sticklers about international law. In November 2003, Richard Perle, then a key leader of the Defense Policy Board and a principal intellectual author of the invasion of Iraq, left international lawyers astonished when he told a London audience, "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

The Evidence Strengthens
When asked about the July 23, 2002, minutes at their press conference last week in Washington, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair did a good job of obfuscating-enough to mislead our corporate press into the all-too-familiar he-said, she-said reporting. What went unnoticed was the fact that in the process, the two leaders unintentionally acknowledged the authenticity of the minutes, which read like a meeting of Mafioso. They may think no one will read the actual minutes. In that, they are dead wrong. And these new British revelations have already strengthened the case against the Bush administration.

The first paragraph of the Downing Street minutes of July 23, 2002, warns that they "should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents." In a democracy, we the people have a genuine need to know the background of decisions on war and peace-so the source(s) who leaked the minutes and other documents were performing a duty that can be seen as truly patriotic. And patriotic leaks can be done without revealing information that truly needs to be protected.

On behalf of the Truth Telling Coalition, let me invite any patriotic truth tellers out of the woodwork, so that truly courageous leaders like Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., will not have to depend solely on patriots in Britain (and Rupert Murdoch!). Conyers has a tip line on his website, and our coalition appeal includes a number of pointers about patriotic leaking, and what kinds of support are available.
Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among people.-John Adams, August 1765
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Ray McGovern is a co-founder of the Truth Telling Coalition and of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He had a 27-year career as a CIA analyst, and now works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

This Just In!!! Another Top Secret British Document Leaked to Media

Well, it looks like the rabbit hole goes deeper than we thought. Today, the London Times broke a story revealing that an "excuse" for going to war needed to be found to justify it and make it legal. In other words, despite what Tony Blair and George Bush were saying at the time about Saddam being a major threat to the U.S. and the world, his having WMDs and supporting terrorism, they themselves didn't believe that, or they wouldn't have had to find an "excuse" would they? When you take this document together with the Downing Street Memo, all the President's pre-war statements at the time of the memos you have a clear picture of a President lying to justify a policy and action that he knows to be illegal.

I quickly scanned the major mainstream news websites and guess what? No coverage of this latest development. What a surprise. I just emailed CNN about it and decided I would be helpful and send them the article below so they could just cut and paste it onto their website- you know, just in case they are too busy to do the research themselves.

Please click on the link for the article from the London Times:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1650822,00.html

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Editorial on the Downing St. Memo

Published on Friday, June 10, 2005 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Bush and 'The Memo'
Editorial

PRESIDENT BUSH apparently thinks he can dismiss the damning "Downing Street memo" with a few glib words.

If he is right, it is a sad commentary on the state of American democracy and values.

The memo, recounting the details of a July 23, 2002, meeting at British Prime Minister Tony Blair's official residence on 10 Downing St., strongly suggested that the message had been sent across the Atlantic that the Bush White House had made the decision to wage war on Iraq. The minutes of the meeting indicated that Blair and his top-level intelligence and foreign-policy aides were given clear signals that military action was "inevitable."

In the most disturbing passage of the minutes, the head of Britain's MI6 intelligence service, reporting on his recent trip to Washington, told the group that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of a war to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Bush was finally asked about the memo directly this week, during a media availability with Blair. Bush tried to discredit the memo because of the timing of its disclosure -- just days before Blair's re-election. But it is important to note that no one has challenged the authenticity of the memo nor the accuracy of its account of the meeting.

Bush also scoffed at the suggestion that the decision to go to war had been made by July 2002, nearly a year before U.S. bombs began raining on Baghdad. "There's nothing farther from the truth," Bush told reporters. "My conversation with the prime minister was, how can we do this peacefully?"

Americans deserve to have a more intensive investigation and expansive explanation to the extremely serious allegation that their government "fixed" intelligence to justify a pre-emptive war. The White House wants to dismiss it as "old news" and the Republicans who control both houses of Congress assume they can shrug off the demands of a bloc of Democrats -- led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. -- for hearings on the Downing Street memo.

There should be no statute of limitations -- or shortness of public attention span -- on an issue that cuts to the core of this government's integrity and credibility. Congress must fully investigate the actions in Washington that led the highest officials in Great Britain to be convinced that the Bush administration was hell-bent on war and working to concoct a rationalization for it.

Memogate Hearings Scheduled for June 16th!!!

Well, the John Conyers (my new hero) has finally rallied the Democrats (but not the Republicans) to launch a formal investigation into the Downing Street Memo and its implications with respect to whether or not Bush lied to Congress and the American people about the justifications and need to go into Iraq to fight this war. The problem of course is, that the mainstream media STILL refuses to cover this important issue in any depth, despite this major turn in events. I have been watching cnn, msnbc etc. for coverage of this upcoming Democratic investigation and have seen nothing, not even on their websites. I encourage all interested to email mainstream media outlets and DEMAND they cover this issue.

From www.commondreams.org:
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Memogate Hearings Scheduled for June 16

WASHINGTON - June 10 - On Thursday June 16, 2005, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of House Judiciary Committee, and other Democratic Members will hold a Democratic hearing to hear testimony concerning the Downing Street Minutes and the efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.

On May 1, 2005 a Sunday London Times article disclosed the details of a classified memo, also known as the Downing Street Minutes, recounting the minutes of a July 2002 meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair that describes an American President already committed to going to war in the summer of 2002, despite contrary assertions to the public and the Congress. The minutes also describe apparent efforts by the Administration to manipulate intelligence data to justify the war. The June 16th hearing will attempt to answer the serious constitutional questions raised by these revelations and will further investigate the Administration's actions in the lead up to war with new documents that further corroborate the Downing Street memo.

Directly following the hearing, Rep. Conyers, Members of Congress, and concerned citizens plan to hand deliver to the White House the petition and signatures of over a half million Americans that have joined Rep. Conyers in demanding that President Bush answer questions about his secret plan for the Iraq war.

WHAT: Democratic hearing on Downing Street Minutes and Pre-war intelligence
WHEN: Thursday, June 16, 2005, TIME TBD
WHERE: LOCATION TBD
WITNESSES:

Joe Wilson, Former Ambassador and WMD Expert;
Ray McGovern, 27-year CIA analyst who prepared regular Presidential briefings during the Reagan administration;
Cindy Sheehan, mother of fallen American soldier;
John Bonifaz, renowned constitutional lawyer and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org.

For details on time and place and for downloadable flyers promoting the rally, please watch the top of this website:http://www.afterdowningstreet.org

AfterDowningStreet.org is a rapidly growing coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups, which launched on May 26, 2005, a campaign to urge the U.S. Congress to begin a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sound Off To the Media!

Some will say that it doesnt matter, that writing to CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, PBS etc. is just a waste of time. But I am so enraged at the lack of substantial coverage these days about political issues of substance, but in particular, the British Downing Street Memo. So, I am writing the various mainstream news sources including CNN, MSNBC, Slate, the NY times, the Washington Post and some others to tell them that their coverage of the british memo- or should I say lack of coverage, was shameful.

Anyway, if anyone is as pissed as I am about this, please consider sending emails to the mainstream media- feel free to use mine below- paste it on an email and send it off. One thing that encourages me is that groups like mediamatters.org have been taking the mainstream media to task over this- putting such so-called liberal media stalwarts as the NYT and Washington Post on the defensive about their flimsy coverage of this issue. If thousands of liberals would write and complain PLUS having pressure from groups like FAIR, Media Matters etc., perhaps we COULD accomplish something? Anyway, here's my email I am sending. Feel free to comment or make suggestions. Or feel free to copy it and send it yourself to media outlets. This email of course was sent to CNN.com.
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I am writing to tell you that you have lost yet another viewer as a result of CNN's insubstantial and biased political news coverage. CNN's coverage of the leaked British Memo has been shameful. The British Memo contains information that possibly contradicts the assertions of the Bush administration with respect to whether the intelligence was politicized and raises important/serious questions about when exactly the President had decided to go to War. Yet CNN provided more coverage of the ridiculous "Runaway Bride" story than it did the British Memo. How is it that a news organization such as CNN, that claims to be "the most powerful name in cable news" can justify or rationalize such mixed up priorities with respect to its coverage?

In addition, CNN has apparently found the story worthy of little to no follow-up reporting. Since when does the media drop an issue simply because the administration refuses to comment on a potentially damning story? That in itself is worthy of coverage in light of the fact that in a democracy, the President is accountable to the people.

Yesterday, your website posted a short article that covered John McCain's statement that he didn't agree with the memo but McCain's statements did not come anywhere near addressing the issues raised in the memo. The issue is not political ideology, but rather thorough coverage of an issue of extreme importance to the American people- what is more serious than conflicting evidence about whether or not a war was waged under false pretenses? We do not know at this stage whether or not that is indeed the case, but we certainly wont find out if the media, including CNN, refuse to ask the obvious, difficult and important questions that this memo raises.

The "mainstream media" (including CNN) has long given in to the Republican political spin that the media, and CNN in particular, has a "liberal bias" and it is clear that in an attempt to counter that ridiculous misconception, CNN and others have joined Fox in its quest for "patriotic" news coverage- ie. coverage that seeks to ensure access to those in power by refusing to ask the essential journalistic questions, no matter how difficult or controversial, of those that claim to represent us and in particular, the President of the United States.

Your coverage of the leaked British Memo is just one example of how CNN's coverage has been ultra-accommodating to this administration. The result is news that is sterile, dumbed-down and uninformative. I find it likely that CNN's ratings will continue to drop- not because more people are attracted to the Fox-News recipe for what they call "reporting" which is really biased spin dressed up as actual journalism, but because more and more of us are turning to more independent and in-depth sources of news coverage- usually on the internet.

The Empire Strikes Back

The Watergate Era was not a time period that any of us thought we would look back on fondly. But some of us find ourselves doing that in at least one respect- the media's willingness to take part in real investigative journalism and to not be manipulated or intimidated by the controlling party in power, no matter which party is in control, was truly inspiring. Not to mention essential to any meaninful notion of a truly free press.
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Nixon's empire strikes back
Bush's imperial project has succeeded by learning the chief lesson of Watergate - muzzle the press.
Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday June 9, 2005
The Guardian

The unveiling of the identity of Deep Throat - Mark Felt, the former deputy director of the FBI - seemed affirm the story of Watergate as the triumph of the lone journalist supported from the shadows by a magically appearing secret source. Shazam! The outlines of the fuller story we now know, thanks not only to Felt's selfunmasking but to disclosures the Albany Times Union of upstate New York, unreported so far by any major outlet. Felt was not working as "a disgruntled maverick ... but rather as the leader of a clandestine group" of three other high-level agents to control the story by collecting intelligence and leaking it. For more than 30 years the secrecy around Deep Throat diverted attention to who Deep Throat was rather than what Deep Throat was - a covertFBI operation in which Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward was almost certainly an unwitting asset.

When FBI director J Edgar Hoover died on May 2 1972, Felt, who believed he should be his replacement, was passed over. The Watergate break-in took place a month later. As President Nixon sought to coerce the CIA and FBI to participate in his increasingly frantic efforts to obstruct justice, Felt, who had access to raw intelligence files, organised a band of his most trusted lieutenants and began strategic leaking. The Felt op, in fact, was part of a widespread revolt of professionals throughout the federal government against Nixon's threats to their bureaucratic integrity.
Nixon's grand plan was to concentrate executive power in an imperial presidency, politicise the bureaucracyand crush its independence, and invoke national security to wage partisan warfare. He intended to "reconstitute the Republican party", staging a "purge" to foster "a new majority", as his aide William Safire wrote in his memoir. Nixon himself declared in his own memoir that to achieve his ends the "institutions" of government had to be "reformed, replaced or circumvented. In my second term I was prepared to adopt whichever of these three methods - or whichever combination of them - was necessary."

But now George Bush is building a leviathan beyond Nixon's imagining. The Bush presidency is the highest stage of Nixonism. The commander-in-chief has declared himself by executive order above international law, the CIA is being purged, the justice department deploying its resources to break down thewall of separation between church and state, the Environmental Protection Agency being ordered to suppress scientific studies and the Pentagon subsuming intelligence and diplomacy, leaving the US with blunt military force as its chief foreign policy.

The three main architects of Bush's imperial presidency gained their formative experience amid Nixon's downfall. Donald Rumsfeld, Nixon's counsellor, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, one after the other, served as chief of staff to Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, both opposing congressional efforts for more transparency in the executive.
With perfect Nixonian pitch, Cheney remarked in 1976: "Principle is OK up to a certain point, but principle doesn't do any good if you lose." During the Iran-contrascandal Cheney, a republican leader in the House of Representatives, argued that the congressional report denouncing "secrecy, deception and disdain for the law" was an encroachment on executive authority.

The other architect, Karl Rove, Bush's senior political aide, began his career as an agent of Nixon's dirty trickster Donald Segretti - "ratfuckers" as Segretti called his boys. At the height of the Watergate scandal, Rove operated through a phoney front group to denounce the lynch-mob atmosphere created in this city by the Washington Post and other parts of the Nixon-hating media".

Under Bush, the Republican Congress has abdicated its responsibilities of executive oversight and investigation. When Republican senator John Warner, chairman of the armed services committee, held hearings on Bush's torture policy in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib revelations, the White House set rabid House Republicans to attack him. There have been no more such hearings. Meanwhile, Bush insists that the Senate votes to confirm John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN while refusing to release essential information requested by the Senate foreign relations committee.

One of the chief lessons learned from Nixon's demise was the necessity of muzzling the press. The Bush WhiteHouse has neutralised the press corps and even turned some reporters into its own assets. The disinformation WMD in the rush to war in Iraq, funnelled into the news pages of the New York Times, is the most dramatic case in point. By manipulation and intimidation, encouraging atmosphere of self-censorship, the Bush White House has distanced the press from dissenting professionals inside the government.

Mark Felt's sudden emergence from behind the curtain of history evoked the glory days of the press corps and its modern creation myth. It was a warm bath of nostalgia and cold comfort.

· Sidney Blumenthal is former senior adviser to President Clinton and author of The Clinton Wars

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Thank You, Mr. Bush

This clears up all the questions raised in the now-infamous Downing Street Memo, about whether Bush misled the American people and the world with respect to the case for war against Iraq and the threat Saddam posed. Here is Bush's response today to questions raised about the contents of the memo:

"Somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth," Bush said.

Yup, that's it folks. I sure feel a lot better now, don't you?

Culture and Politics in Venezuela

In March, 2005, I visited several parts of Venezuela as part of my "adventure" vacation through the West Indies and part of South America. It's impossible to escape politics no matter where one goes, but its particularly impossible for me to escape political discussions, as I seem to constantly be drawn to them and being on another continent with a very different political system was a fantastic opportunity to step away from the ethnocentric American worldview and see the world through the political eyes of people who are far removed from the United States.

Venezuela's leftist President, Hugo Chavez, is a real thorn in George Bush's side for multiple reasons, not the least of which being that he presides over an oil rich country, making doing business with him a virtual necessity. In addition, recent statements from Chavez indicate he believes (or wants his people to believe) that George Bush personally wants him dead, one way or another. Whether or not that's true I honestly can't say although the United States (in particular, the CIA) certainly doesn't have a great track record in dealing with South/Latin America, even in a covert fashion.

Most of the people we came in contact with were quite poor and were hard core Chavez supporters, or Chavistas, as they were known. Even they believed that Chavez had a touch of paranoia but at the same time, most people were skeptical about George Bush and his foreign policy and in particular, the Iraq War. As a result, we came across few American tourists in Venezuela and that made myself and my traveling partner stand out like a sore thumb everywhere we went. People automatically assumed that we were die hard Bush supporters and were surprised to find that both of us were not- and when they found this out, were more willing to speak to us about their concerns about Bush and their attraction to Chavez' populist policies.

Stereotypes aside, there are apparently two main groups in VZ, which is by all accounts considered "third world"- rich and poor. And guess which group is bigger? You got it- the poor. Chavez basically capitalized on this fact and geared his political message to this group after his failed Coup attempt in 1992 (and resulting prison term). His message is a mixed one- on its face its a message of socialism with a strong contempt for capitalism but in practice, some say his populist rhetoric is mostly just that- rhetoric.Below is an article from the Nation.com about Chavez and the apparent inconsistency of being such an oil rich nation with such a weak economy and exstensive poverty.