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Thread: The War in Iraq

  1. #91


    March 28, 2004


    Operation Iraqi Infoganda

    Real journalism may be reeling, but faux journalism rocks. As an entertainment category in the cultural marketplace, it may soon rival reality TV and porn. Television is increasingly awash in fake anchors delivering fake news, some of them far more trenchant than real anchors delivering real news. Even CNBC, a financial news network, is chasing after the success of Jon Stewart; its new nightly fake newscast, presided over by a formerly funny "Saturday Night Live" fake anchor, Dennis Miller, is being promoted with far more zeal than was ever lavished on CNBC's real "News With Brian Williams."

    Turn on real news shows like "Dateline NBC" and "Larry King Live," meanwhile, and you're all too likely to find Jayson Blair, the lying former reporter of The New York Times, continuing to play a reporter on TV as he fabricates earnest blather about his concern for journalistic standards. Elsewhere on the dial you'll learn that a fake news show ("The Daily Show") has been in a booking war with a real news show ("Hardball") over who would first be able to interview the real (I think) Desmond Tutu. At such absurd moments, and they are countless these days in our 24/7 information miasma, real journalism and its evil twin merge into a mind-bending mutant that would defy a polygraph's ability to sort out the lies from the truth.

    This phenomenon has been good news for the Bush administration, which has responded to the growing national appetite for fictionalized news by producing a steady supply of its own. Of late it has gone so far as to field its own pair of Jayson Blairs, hired at taxpayers' expense: Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia, the "reporters" who appeared in TV "news" videos distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services to local news shows around the country. The point of these spots — which were broadcast whole or in part as actual news by more than 50 stations in 40 states — was to hype the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit as an unalloyed Godsend to elderly voters. They are part of a year-plus p.r. campaign, which, with its $124 million budget, would dwarf in size most actual news organizations.

    When one real reporter, Robert Pear of The Times, blew the whistle on these TV "news" stories this month, a government spokesman defended them with pure Orwell-speak: "Anyone who has questions about this practice needs to do some research on modern public information tools." The government also informed us that Ms. Ryan was no impostor but an actual "freelance journalist." The Columbia Journalism Review, investigating further, found that Ms. Ryan's past assignments included serving as a TV shill for pharmaceutical companies in infomercials plugging FluMist and Excedrin. Given that drug companies may also be the principal beneficiaries of the new Medicare law, she is nothing if not consistent in her journalistic patrons. But she is a freelance reporter only in the sense that Mike Ditka would qualify as one when appearing in Levitra ads.

    As for the mystery of Alberto Garcia's journalistic bonafides, it remains at this writing unresolved. His reporting career has not left a trace on any data bank. Perhaps he is the creation of Stephen Glass, the serial fantasist who once ruled the pages of The New Republic.

    Back at Comedy Central, Jon Stewart was ambivalent about the government's foray into his own specialty, musing aloud about whether he should be outraged or flattered. One of his faux correspondents, though, was outright faux despondent. "They created a whole new category of fake news — infoganda," Rob Corddry said. "We'll never be able to keep up!" But Mr. Corddry's joke is not really a joke. The more real journalism declines, the easier it is for such government infoganda to fill the vacuum.

    George W. Bush tries to facilitate this process by shutting out the real news media as much as possible. By the start of this year, he had held only 11 solo press conferences, as opposed to his father's count of 71 by the same point in his presidency. (Even the criminally secretive Richard Nixon had held 23.) Mr. Bush has declared that he rarely reads newspapers and that he prefers to "go over the heads of the filter" — as he calls the news media — and "speak directly to the people." To this end, he gave a series of interviews to regional broadcasters last fall — a holding action, no doubt, until Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia could be hired to fill that role. When the president made a rare exception last month and took questions from an actual front-line journalist, NBC's Tim Russert, his performance was so maladroit that the experiment is unlikely to be repeated anytime too soon.

    There's no point in bothering with actual news people anyway, when you can make up your own story and make it stick, whatever the filter might have to say about it. No fake news story has become more embedded in our culture than the administration's account of its actions on 9/11. As The Wall Street Journal reported on its front page this week — just as the former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke was going public with his parallel account — many of this story's most familiar details are utter fiction. Mr. Bush's repeated claim that one of his "first acts" of that morning was to put the military on alert is false. So are the president's claims that he watched the first airplane hit the World Trade Center on TV that morning. (No such video yet existed.) Nor was Air Force One under threat as Mr. Bush flew around the country, delaying his return to Washington.

    Yet the fake narrative of 9/11 has been scrupulously maintained by the White House for more than two years. Although the administration has tried at every juncture to stonewall the 9/11 investigative commission, its personnel, including the president, had all the time in the world for the producer of a TV movie, Showtime's "DC 9/11: Time of Crisis." The result was a scenario that further rewrote the history of that day, stirring steroids into false tales of presidential derring-do. Kristen Breitweiser, a 9/11 widow, characterized one of the movie's many elisions in Salon. To show the president continuing to sit and read with elementary school kids "while people like my husband were burning alive inside the World Trade Center towers," she wrote, "would run counter to Karl Rove's art direction and grand vision."

    To shore up the Rove version of 9/11 once Richard Clarke went public with his alternative tale on last Sunday's "60 Minutes," the White House placed Condoleezza Rice on all five morning news shows the next day. The administration is confident that it can reinstate its bogus scenario — particularly given that Ms. Rice, unlike Mr. Clarke, is refusing to take the risk of reciting it under oath to the 9/11 commission.

    After 9/11, similar fake-news techniques helped speed us into "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The run-up to the war was falsified by a barrage of those "modern public information tools," including 16 words of Tom Clancy-style fiction in the State of the Union. John Burns of The Times, speaking by phone from Iraq to a postmortem on war coverage sponsored by the University of California journalism school in Berkeley this month, said of the real press back then: "We failed the American public by being insufficiently critical about elements of the administration's plan to go to war." What few journalistic efforts were made to penetrate the trumped-up rationales for war were easily defeated by the administration's false news reports of impending biological attacks and mushroom clouds. To see how the faux journalism sausage was made, go to , where a searchable database posted by Representative Henry Waxman identifies "237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell and National Security Adviser Rice in 125 separate public appearances."

    Once the war began, the Defense Department turned a warehouse in Qatar into a TV studio, where it installed a $250,000 Central Command briefing stage, shipped from Chicago by FedEx for an additional $47,000. The set was lent authority by a real-news set designer, whose previous credits included ABC's "World News Tonight" and "Good Morning America." As for the embedded journalists who filled in the rest of the story, a candid assessment was delivered by Lt. Col. Rick Long, the former head of media relations for the Marine Corps, also speaking at Berkeley 10 days ago: "Frankly, our job is to win the war. Part of that is information warfare. So we are going to attempt to dominate the information environment. . . . Overall, we were very happy with the outcome."

    The "news" of the war included its fictionalized Rambo, Pfc. Jessica Lynch, and its fictionalized conclusion, the "Mission Accomplished" celebration led by the president on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. (Mr. Bush said that the premature victory banner was the handiwork of the ship's crew when in fact it was the product of the White House scenic shop.) But for all that fake news, we still don't know such real news as how many Iraqi civilians were killed as we gave them their freedom. We are still shielded from images of American casualties, before or after they are placed in coffins.

    Now that the breakdown in pre-9/11 security is threatening to dominate the real news, the administration is working overtime to overwhelm it with its latest, thematically related fake story line. Time magazine reports that employees of the Department of Homeland Security have been given the goal of providing the president "with one homeland-security photo-op a month." The Associated Press reports that the department is also hiring a "liaison to the entertainment industry" — with a salary as high as $136,000, plus benefits — "to make sure that dramatic portrayals of it are as accurate as possible." (The deadline for applications, do note, is tomorrow.) Of course "accurate" in that job description should be read as "inaccurate," since the liaison's real task, like that of the intrepid reporter Karen Ryan, will be to make sure that any actual news of our homeland security's many holes is kept on the q.t. According to E! entertainment news, we can even expect a new TV show, "D.H.S. — the Series," to which both Mr. Bush and Tom Ridge will contribute endorsements and sound bites.

    When it comes to homeland security, you can be sure that the administration's faux news will always be good news — though this is the one story in which the real news can sometimes become just too intrusive to ignore.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #92


    April 19, 2004

    Airing of Powell's Misgivings Tests Ties in the Cabinet


    WASHINGTON, April 18 — For more than a year, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his aides have tacitly acknowledged that he was concerned before the war about what could go wrong once American forces captured Iraq.

    But Mr. Powell's apparent decision to lay out his misgivings even more explicitly to the journalist Bob Woodward for a book has jolted the White House and aggravated long-festering tensions in the Bush cabinet. Moreover, some officials said, the book has created problems for the secretary inside the administration just as the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and President Bush is plunging into his re-election drive.

    Mr. Powell has not acknowledged that he cooperated with Mr. Woodward, but the book presents the secretary's reservations in such detail that it leaves little doubt. A spokesman for Mr. Powell said again Sunday that he would not comment on the book, "Plan of Attack."

    Critics of Mr. Powell in the hawkish wing of the administration said they were startled by what they saw as his self-serving decision to help fill out a portrait that enhances his reputation as a farsighted analyst, perhaps at the expense of Mr. Bush. Several said the book guaranteed what they expected anyway, that Mr. Powell will not stay as secretary if Mr. Bush is re-elected.

    The view expressed Sunday by people in the administration that Mr. Bush comes across as sober-minded and resolute in the book, asking for contingency plans for a war early on but not deciding to wage one until the last minute, saves Mr. Powell from any immediate difficulties that might grow from seeming to betray his confidential relationship to a president who prizes loyalty, several officials said.

    "Look, a lot of people have been struck by the degree to which Secretary Powell is using this book as an opportunity — to be fair — to clarify his position on the issues," said an official. "But what this book does is muddy the water internally, which is very unfortunate and unhelpful."

    Another official, who like others declined to be identified because of the political sensitivity of their criticism, accused Mr. Powell of having a habit of distancing himself from policies when they go wrong. "It's such a soap opera with him," this official said.

    Democrats seized on Mr. Powell's portrayal, saying it would give them ammunition to criticize the administration for going to war without broad international backing or adequate planning for an occupation.

    Throughout the day Sunday, Senator John Kerry brought up the Woodward book, mentioning it twice in his interview on "Meet the Press" on NBC and once at an outdoor rally at the University of Miami.

    "Here we have a book by a reputable writer," Mr. Kerry told several thousand students at the afternoon campus rally. "We learn that the president even misled members of his own administration."

    Asked if material in Mr. Woodward's book would be grist for his party, Jano Cabrera, the spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said in an interview: "Absolutely. It's one thing for us to assert it. It's another thing for it to be stated as fact by his secretary of state."

    And Steve Murphy, who managed the presidential campaign of Representative Richard A. Gephardt, said: "The strongest criticism of Bush is that he did not have a plan for the aftermath of the war. And that was exactly what Powell was pointing out to him. He is a credible source. This intensifies the backdrop between Bush and Kerry."

    People close to Mr. Powell said Sunday that they had no doubt he would weather any criticism from within over his apparent cooperation with Mr. Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post. Polls show that he is one of the most popular and best-known figures in government. The people close to him note that most people following the situation closely knew that he had misgivings about the war.

    "Is the secretary going to be undercut for having been right?" asked an official close to Mr. Powell. "I don't think so. Undercut compared to who? Donald Rumsfeld? Dick Cheney? These are people who have some real problems right now. They're not reading Bob Woodward's book. They're reading the dispatches from the field."

    Other officials close to Mr. Powell say his strained relations with Mr. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, and Vice President Cheney are common currency among Washington insiders, though they say the suggestion that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Powell are barely on speaking terms is highly exaggerated.

    "I don't think there will be much change in his dealings with Cheney and Rumsfeld," said one person close to Mr. Powell. "People already thought it was this bad. It doesn't change things for them to find out that it really was. They know how to deal with each other, and they've been through quite a bit together."

    When asked on "Fox News Sunday" about Mr. Woodward's contention that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Powell are so distant on policy matters that they do not talk, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, described the men's relationship as "friendly."

    "I can tell you," she said, "I've had lunch on a number of occasions with Vice President Cheney and with Colin Powell, and they are more than on speaking terms. They're friendly."

    But another official said Mr. Powell's dealings internally with Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld especially had made life difficult for people inside the administration.

    "The day-to-day nattering of the Defense Department trying to take over the business of diplomacy at every level, it's just difficult to be on the inside," said an administration official who defends Mr. Powell's actions. "Every day is difficult. The byplay at the meetings is difficult."

    Mr. Powell's standing around the world was less easy to measure this weekend. But a European diplomat said he thought the secretary's standing in Europe especially would only be enhanced because he would be seen as sharing the view of many there that the administration had been overly optimistic about subduing dissidents in Iraq.

    For the people long familiar with Mr. Powell's thinking, his misgivings about an American occupation of Iraq, and his insistence on getting full international backing for American actions, goes back many years. So, they note, does his fighting with Mr. Cheney.

    For example, Mr. Powell's memoir, "My American Journey," published in 1995 after he retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he had opposed a final push to oust Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Persian Gulf war on the ground that an occupation would provoke a counterinsurgency and criticism among Americans.

    In addition, many accounts of the planning for the first gulf war say that Mr. Cheney, then secretary of defense, opposed going to the United Nations or Congress for backing to remove Iraq from Kuwait, fearing that failure would weaken the first President Bush's administration's ability to go to war.

    In 2002, Mr. Cheney was openly disdainful of Mr. Powell's insistence on getting approval of the United Nations Security Council before going to war, spreading consternation at the State Department. Mr. Powell won that argument, and President Bush authorized a bid to get a Security Council resolution supporting war.

    Mr. Powell's memoir also recalls an exchange in the early 1990's, in which Mr. Powell accused Mr. Cheney — jokingly, he insisted — of being surrounded by "right-wing nuts like you." In the last year, the Woodward book says, Mr. Powell referred privately to the civilian conservatives in the Pentagon loyal to Mr. Cheney as the Gestapo.

    The Woodward book also attributes to Mr. Powell the belief that although he had misgivings about going to war, it was his obligation to support the president once Mr. Bush decided to do so.

    Mr. Bush told Mr. Woodward that he did not ask the secretary's opinion on whether to go to war because he thought he knew what that opinion would be: "no."

    But a senior aide to Mr. Powell asserted this weekend that the secretary was not as opposed to war as some people presume, no matter what the implications in the book.

    "The portrait of Powell in the Woodward book is pretty consistent with what everybody knows," the official said. "We were with the president if we had to do this. We set up an exit ramp for Saddam, and he didn't take it. Powell in the end was very comfortable knowing that."

    Adam Nagourney contributed reporting from Washington for this article and Jodi Wilgoren from Miami.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  3. #93


    Pentagon Deleted Rumsfeld Comment

    Remark to Saudi About War's Certainty Is Not in Internet Transcript of Interview

    by Mike Allen
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, April 21, 2004; Page A01

    The Pentagon deleted from a public transcript a statement Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made to author Bob Woodward suggesting that the administration gave Saudi Arabia a two-month heads-up that President Bush had decided to invade Iraq.

    At issue was a passage in Woodward's "Plan of Attack," an account published this week of Bush's decision making about the war, quoting Rumsfeld as telling Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, in January 2003 that he could "take that to the bank" that the invasion would happen.

    The comment came in a key moment in the run-up to the war, when Rumsfeld and other officials were briefing Bandar on a military plan to attack and invade Iraq, and pointing to a top-secret map that showed how the war plan would unfold. The book reports that the meeting with Bandar was held on Jan. 11, 2003, in Vice President Cheney's West Wing office. Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also attended.

    Pentagon officials omitted the discussion of the meeting from a transcript of the Woodward interview that they posted on the Defense Department's Web site Monday. Rumsfeld told reporters at a briefing yesterday that he may have used the phrase "take that to the bank" but that no final decision had been made to go to war.

    "To my knowledge, a decision had not been taken by the president to go to war at that meeting," Rumsfeld said. "There was certainly nothing I said that should have suggested that, and any suggestion to the contrary would not be accurate."

    Woodward supplied his own transcript showing that Rumsfeld told him on Oct. 23, 2003: "I remember meeting with the vice president and I think Dick Myers and I met with a foreign dignitary at one point and looked him in the eye and said you can count on this. In other words, at some point we had had enough of a signal from the president that we were able to look a foreign dignitary in the eye and say you can take that to the bank this is going to happen."

    The transcript made it clear that the foreign dignitary Woodward was discussing was Bandar, although Rumsfeld would not say that. "We're going to have to clean some of this up in the transcript," Rumsfeld said in the omitted passage. "We'll give you a -- I mean you just said Bandar and I didn't agree with that so we're going to have to -- I don't want to say who it is but you are going to have to go through that and find a way to clean up my language too."

    All told, the Pentagon transcript omits a series of eight questions and answers, some of them just a few words each. Yesterday Rumsfeld described the deleted passages as "some banter."

    Larry DiRita, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said the deletion was an honest disagreement and defense officials were reviewing the passage to determine whether to restore it to the published version.

    "I had discussions with the author about passages that would be excluded from the transcript by mutual agreement, and this passage was one of those sections," he said. "It was excluded specifically because the secretary was not in a position to validate or confirm the details that the author was raising."

    Woodward said: "As the transcript shows, it was not off the record. I was surprised that it was deleted because it obviously dealt with a critical issue and was important corroborating information for the book. I asked DiRita to restore it on the Pentagon Web site."

    Rumsfeld's comments came on a day when fallout from the book's many disclosures continued to dominate conversations throughout Washington. Rumsfeld, who gave Woodward two lengthy interviews after Bush asked his Cabinet to cooperate, was a rare dissenter in an administration that has embraced the book despite the mixed portrayal it offers of Bush's campaign to unseat Saddam Hussein.

    Stephanie Cutter, communications director for Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, said the book "raises serious doubts about the president's planning for war with Iraq, and what his war cabinet knew or didn't know."

    But Bush's closest aides, who typically resist efforts to pull back the Oval Office curtains, are actively promoting sales of the book.

    "We're urging people to buy the book," White House communications director Dan Bartlett said. "What this book does is show a president who was asking the right questions and showing prudence as well as resolve during very difficult times. This book undermines a lot of the critics' charges."

    An official involved in the negotiations said the administration cooperated so completely that Bush asked Cheney to grant Woodward an interview, which Cheney did, although he is not named as a source. Woodward writes in the book that information came from "more than 75 key people directly involved in the events," most of whom spoke on the condition that they not be identified.

    The Pentagon posted transcripts of both Woodward interviews with Rumsfeld, and they show that Rumsfeld was more recalcitrant than other administration figures. He complained about Woodward's questions in a past meeting, saying that "almost everything you asked me was premised with an assertion that was either incomplete or wrong." Woodward is quoted as gently reminding Rumsfeld that the president "wants me to do this."

    At Rumsfeld's briefing yesterday, he said that he remembered the session in Cheney's office with Bandar but that it was not unlike others "we had with any number of neighboring countries as the buildup towards the -- to support the diplomacy, the flow of forces was taking place.

    "We had the obligation to try to do it in the most cost-effective and responsible way, and the way that would best fit General [Tommy R.] Franks's plans, in the event that he did in fact ultimately have to go to war," Rumsfeld said, referring to the former head of the U.S. Central Command. "That meant we had to talk to the countries in the region and work out things at ports or airfields and that type of thing."

    After being handed a note later in the briefing, Rumsfeld returned to the transcript and said that it might omit "some discussion about a totally unrelated topic, and some items that were agreed between us . . . that were off the record."

    "But I can say of certain knowledge that nothing was taken out that would naysay what I just indicated in my response to the question," Rumsfeld said.

    "No 18-minute gap?" a reporter asked, referring to the notorious deletion from a Watergate tape.

    Amid laughter, Rumsfeld said: "You can take that to the bank."

    Mark Malseed contributed to this report.

    © 2004 The Washington Post Company

  4. #94


    June 17, 2004

    The Plain Truth

    It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.

    Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different.

    Of all the ways Mr. Bush persuaded Americans to back the invasion of Iraq last year, the most plainly dishonest was his effort to link his war of choice with the battle against terrorists worldwide. While it's possible that Mr. Bush and his top advisers really believed that there were chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq, they should have known all along that there was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. No serious intelligence analyst believed the connection existed; Richard Clarke, the former antiterrorism chief, wrote in his book that Mr. Bush had been told just that.

    Nevertheless, the Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/11. And since the invasion, administration officials, especially Vice President Dick Cheney, have continued to declare such a connection. Last September, Mr. Bush had to grudgingly correct Mr. Cheney for going too far in spinning a Hussein-bin Laden conspiracy. But the claim has crept back into view as the president has made the war on terror a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.

    On Monday, Mr. Cheney said Mr. Hussein "had long-established ties with Al Qaeda." Mr. Bush later backed up Mr. Cheney, claiming that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist who may be operating in Baghdad, is "the best evidence" of a Qaeda link. This was particularly astonishing because the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, told the Senate earlier this year that Mr. Zarqawi did not work with the Hussein regime.

    The staff report issued by the 9/11 panel says that Sudan's government, which sheltered Osama bin Laden in the early 1990's, tried to hook him up with Mr. Hussein, but that nothing came of it.

    This is not just a matter of the president's diminishing credibility, although that's disturbing enough. The war on terror has actually suffered as the conflict in Iraq has diverted military and intelligence resources from places like Afghanistan, where there could really be Qaeda forces, including Mr. bin Laden.

    Mr. Bush is right when he says he cannot be blamed for everything that happened on or before Sept. 11, 2001. But he is responsible for the administration's actions since then. That includes, inexcusably, selling the false Iraq-Qaeda claim to Americans. There are two unpleasant alternatives: either Mr. Bush knew he was not telling the truth, or he has a capacity for politically motivated self-deception that is terrifying in the post-9/11 world.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  5. #95


    Majority of Americans Now Call Iraq War a Mistake

    Thu Jun 24,11:55 PM ET

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For the first time since the start of the war in Iraq (news - web sites), a majority of Americans now say the U.S.-led invasion was a mistake, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll released on Thursday.

    Amid continuing violence in Iraq and questions about the justification for the war, 54 percent of the 1,005 Americans polled said it was a mistake to send U.S. troops into Iraq, compared with 41 percent who held that view three weeks ago.

    The findings mark the first time since Vietnam that a majority of Americans has called a major deployment of U.S. forces a mistake, USA Today reported on its Web site.

    In addition, the poll found that for the first time a majority also said the war in Iraq has made the United States less safe from terrorism.

    Fifty-five percent said the war has increased U.S. vulnerability, compared to a December poll in which 56 percent said the war made the United States safer.

    The war's original justification was to stop Iraq deploying weapons of mass destruction. None have been found.

    President Bush has also said the Iraq mission would make America safer by bringing democracy to a key country in the Middle East.

    In Iraq on Thursday, insurgents killed about 100 people in a wave of attacks across the country aimed at sabotaging next week's transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government.

    Despite Americans' changing attitudes toward the war, the poll found Bush in a statistical dead heat with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Among likely voters, Bush edged out Kerry 48 percent to 47 percent. Three weeks ago, Kerry led 49 percent to 43 percent.

    In the new poll, 60 percent of respondents said they believe the Massachusetts Democrat could handle the job of commander-in-chief, but most Americans indicated they trust Bush more in that role, 51 percent to 43 percent.

    The survey, conducted Monday through Wednesday, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

    Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited.

  6. #96


    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp
    In the new poll, 60 percent of respondents said they believe the Massachusetts Democrat could handle the job of commander-in-chief, but most Americans indicated they trust Bush more in that role, 51 percent to 43 percent.
    I still fail to understand how any rational person could possibly believe that chickenhawks like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Ashcroft, all of whom ditched military service, would be better defenders of this country in this so-called "War On Terrorism" than a decorated WAR HERO like Kerry.

  7. #97
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    Oct 2002
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    July 9, 2004

    Report Says Key Assertions Leading to War Were Wrong


    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The key U.S. assertions leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq -- that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was working to make nuclear weapons -- were wrong and based on false or overstated CIA analyses, a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee report asserted Friday.

    Intelligence analysts fell victim to ``group think'' assumptions that Iraq had weapons that it did not, concluded a bipartisan report. Many factors contributing to those failures are ongoing problems within the U.S. intelligence community -- which cannot be fixed with more money alone, it said.

    Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican who heads the committee, told reporters that assessments that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and could make a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade were wrong.

    ``As the report will show, they were also unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence,'' he said.

    ``This was a global intelligence failure.''

    The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, said: ``Tragically, the intelligence failures set forth in this report will affect our national security for generations to come. Our credibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before.''

    The report repeatedly blasts departing CIA Director George Tenet, accusing him of skewing advice to top policy-makers with the CIA's view and elbowing out dissenting views from other intelligence agencies overseen by the State or Defense departments. It faulted Tenet for not personally reviewing Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, which contained since-discredited references to Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium in Africa.

    White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, traveling with President Bush on a campaign trip Friday, said the committee's report essentially ``agrees with what we have said, which is we need to take steps to continue strengthening and reforming our intelligence capabilities so we are prepared to meet the new threats that we face in this day and age.''

    Tenet has resigned and leaves office Sunday.

    Intelligence analysts worked from the assumption that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was seeking to make more, as well as trying to revive a nuclear weapons program. Instead, investigations after the Iraq invasion have shown that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had no nuclear weapons program and no biological weapons, and only small amounts of chemical weapons have been found.

    Analysts ignored or discounted conflicting information because of their assumptions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the report said.

    ``This 'group think' dynamic led Intelligence Community analysts, collectors and managers to both interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program as well as ignore or minimize evidence that Iraq did not have active and expanding weapons of mass destruction programs,'' the report concluded.

    Such assumptions also led analysts to inflate snippets of questionable information into broad declarations that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, the report said.

    For example, speculation that the presence of one specialized truck could mean an effort to transfer chemical weapons was puffed up into a conclusion that Iraq was actively making chemical weapons, the report said.

    Analysts also concluded that Iraq had a mobile biological weapons program based mainly on the since-discredited claims of one Iraqi defector code-named ``Curve Ball,'' it said. American agents did not have direct access to Curve Ball or his debriefers, but the source's information was expanded into the conclusion that Iraq had an advanced and active biological weapons program, the report said.

  8. #98


    September 7, 2004


    A Mythic Reality


    The best book I've read about America after 9/11 isn't about either America or 9/11. It's "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," an essay on the psychology of war by Chris Hedges, a veteran war correspondent. Better than any poll analysis or focus group, it explains why President Bush, despite policy failures at home and abroad, is ahead in the polls.

    War, Mr. Hedges says, plays to some fundamental urges. "Lurking beneath the surface of every society, including ours," he says, "is the passionate yearning for a nationalist cause that exalts us, the kind that war alone is able to deliver." When war psychology takes hold, the public believes, temporarily, in a "mythic reality" in which our nation is purely good, our enemies are purely evil, and anyone who isn't our ally is our enemy.

    This state of mind works greatly to the benefit of those in power.

    One striking part of the book describes Argentina's reaction to the 1982 Falklands war. Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, the leader of the country's military junta, cynically launched that war to distract the public from the failure of his economic policies. It worked: "The junta, which had been on the verge of collapse" just before the war, "instantly became the saviors of the country."

    The point is that once war psychology takes hold, the public desperately wants to believe in its leadership, and ascribes heroic qualities to even the least deserving ruler. National adulation for the junta ended only after a humiliating military defeat.

    George W. Bush isn't General Galtieri: America really was attacked on 9/11, and any president would have followed up with a counterstrike against the Taliban. Yet the Bush administration, like the Argentine junta, derived enormous political benefit from the impulse of a nation at war to rally around its leader.

    Another president might have refrained from exploiting that surge of support for partisan gain; Mr. Bush didn't.

    And his administration has sought to perpetuate the war psychology that makes such exploitation possible.

    Step by step, the fight against Al Qaeda became a universal "war on terror," then a confrontation with the "axis of evil," then a war against all evil everywhere. Nobody knows where it all ends.

    What is clear is that whenever political debate turns to Mr. Bush's actual record in office, his popularity sinks. Only by doing whatever it takes to change the subject to the war on terror - not to what he's actually doing about terrorist threats, but to his "leadership," whatever that means - can he get a bump in the polls.

    Last week's convention made it clear that Mr. Bush intends to use what's left of his heroic image to win the election, and early polls suggest that the strategy may be working. What can John Kerry do?

    Campaigning exclusively on domestic issues won't work. Mr. Bush must be held to account for his dismal record on jobs, health care and the environment. But as Mr. Hedges writes, when war psychology makes a public yearn to believe in its leaders, "there is little that logic or fact or truth can do to alter the experience."

    To win, the Kerry campaign has to convince a significant number of voters that the self-proclaimed "war president" isn't an effective war leader - he only plays one on TV.

    This charge has the virtue of being true. It's hard to find a nonpartisan national security analyst with a good word for the Bush administration's foreign policy. Iraq, in particular, is a slow-motion disaster brought on by wishful thinking, cronyism and epic incompetence.

    If I were running the Kerry campaign, I'd remind people frequently about Mr. Bush's flight-suit photo-op, when he declared the end of major combat. In fact, the war goes on unabated. News coverage of Iraq dropped off sharply after the supposed transfer of sovereignty on June 28, but as many American soldiers have died since the transfer as in the original invasion.

    And I'd point out that while Mr. Bush spared no effort preparing for his carrier landing - he even received underwater survival training in the White House pool - he didn't prepare for things that actually mattered, like securing and rebuilding Iraq after Baghdad fell.

    Will it work? I don't know. But to win, Mr. Kerry must try to puncture the myth that Mr. Bush's handlers have so assiduously created.


    Bush and Kerry Clash Over Iraq and a Timetable


    CLEVELAND, Sept. 6 - Senator John Kerry and President Bush clashed repeatedly over Iraq on Monday, with Mr. Kerry branding it "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" and saying he wanted all American troops home within four years, while Mr. Bush defended the war as "right for America then and it's right for America now."

    Their conventions behind them, the candidates spent Labor Day, the traditional start of the fall campaign season, doing what they have done for months: trading roundhouse punches over Iraq, job losses and health care.

    Mr. Kerry, who campaigned before blue-collar workers in suburban Pittsburgh and coal miners in West Virginia and in an African-American neighborhood in Cleveland, unveiled a new attack on Mr. Bush, saying voters needed to decide between the president's "wrong choices and wrong direction for America" and his own promises to create jobs, strengthen the economy and expand access to health care.

    "The W stands for wrong,'' Mr. Kerry said in a riff on the president's middle initial at a labor picnic in Racine, W.Va.

    But it was Mr. Kerry's responses to two questions about Iraq that set off a flurry of attacks by Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

    Asked his timetable for pulling troops out of Iraq, Mr. Kerry told a few hundred people in Canonsburg, Pa.: "My goal would be to get them home in my first term. And I believe that can be done." He said he would make it clear that "we do not have long-term designs to maintain bases and troops in Iraq."

    Mr. Kerry has said he could replace most, but not all, American troops with foreign forces within four years by offering new inducements to other countries.

    "When they talk about a coalition - that's the phoniest thing I ever heard," Mr. Kerry said of the current array of foreign soldiers deployed in Iraq. "You've got 500 troops here, 500 troops there, and it's American troops that are 90 percent of the combat casualties, and it's American taxpayers that are paying 90 percent of the cost of the war.

    "It's the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.

    Mr. Bush has said repeatedly that it would be unwise to set a deadline for beginning or finishing a pullout of troops in Iraq. Terrorist groups, he argues, would use the date to their strategic advantage. And he often says that American troops will come home "as soon as the job is done'' without specifying the criteria for the completion of the mission.

    In Poplar Bluff, Mo., Mr. Bush told supporters that Mr. Kerry couldn't make up his mind.

    "After saying he would have voted for the war, even knowing everything we know today, my opponent woke up this morning with new campaign advisers and yet another new position,'' Mr. Bush said to laughter and to cries of, "Flip-flop. Flip-flop.''

    "Suddenly he's against it again," Mr. Bush said. "No matter how many times Senator Kerry changes his mind, it was right for America then and it's right for America now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.''

    Mr. Cheney, campaigning in Clear Lake, Iowa, criticized Mr. Kerry for "demeaning our allies."

    "When it comes to diplomacy, it looks like John Kerry should stick to windsurfing," he said.

    The exchange between Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry spotlighted how the two campaigns had honed their message on Iraq - and how they emphasize different aspects of the issue.

    Mr. Bush has tried to convince crowds that he and Mr. Kerry agreed on the need to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and that Mr. Kerry's position has simply changed with the winds and the casualty numbers.

    Mr. Kerry argues that the president has deliberately conflated two very different issues: whether it was right to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for his defiance of the United Nations, and whether Mr. Bush, once given that authority by the Congress, used it properly.

    The essence of Mr. Kerry's argument - one he has had a difficult time making - is that Mr. Bush obtained the authority to go to war on false intelligence, and then prosecuted the war in a way that alienated allies and prolonged the insurgency.

    At day's end on Monday, Mr. Kerry told thousands at a rally that Mr. Bush "wishes I have the same position he does, but as we've learned from this president, just wishing something, and saying something, doesn't make it so."

    "When it comes to Iraq, I would not have done just one thing differently, I would have done everything differently from this president," he added.

    Now, however, Mr. Kerry is going further, talking of the economic cost of the war and how that money could have been better spent.

    "George Bush's wrongheaded, go-it-alone Iraq policy has cost you - cost you - already, over $200 billion," Mr. Kerry said in Cleveland. "That's $200 billion we're not investing in Cleveland. That's $200 billion we're not investing in our schools and in No Child Left Behind, that's $200 billion we're not investing in health care for all Americans and prescription drugs that are affordable."

    It was a measure of how Iraq has overshadowed so many other issues in the campaign that it even dominated on Labor Day, the moment Mr. Bush has often used to focus attention on job creation, one of the points of vulnerability of his campaign.

    That economic record, of course, is Mr. Kerry's main target, as he made clear in trying out a new speech.

    "The choice in this race is very simple," Mr. Kerry said. "It's whether you want to continue to move in the wrong direction, or whether you want to turn it around and move the United States of America in the right direction and put people back to work."

    "Do you want four more years of lost jobs?" he asked, as his crowd shouted, "No!"

    "Do you want four more years of shipping jobs overseas and replacing them with jobs that pay you less than the jobs you have today?"

    Mr. Kerry said Mr. Bush had the worst record on job creation "since Herbert Hoover." At the front-porch session in a middle-class neighborhood in Canonsburg on Monday morning, Mr. Kerry fended off pro-Bush hecklers while talking of people earning less money and paying more for health care. Lori Sheldon, 45, stirred in her seat. "You told our story," she said to him.

    Her husband, Ms. Sheldon said, works on a ground crew for US Airways in Pittsburgh and fears he may be laid off in the fall. "You see those two young ladies over there? Those are my daughters," she said, beginning to sob. "I'm tired of saying no. We say no all the time."

    Mr. Kerry said, "What we need is a president making choices not to reward Halliburton and a bunch of big companies, but reward the American people."

    "I want you to be able to say yes to your kids," he said.

    Mr. Bush's appearance in Poplar Bluff was his only one of the day. The southeastern Missouri town was so eager to hear him that more than 10,000 people, or nearly two-thirds of the population, signed a petition urging him to visit. When he agreed, the town organized one of the largest rallies of his campaign: more than 23,000 went through metal detectors, ignoring a light evening rain.

    The president made a dramatic entrance, with Marine One, his helicopter, landing in a field. Though it was Labor Day, Mr. Bush only briefly touched on job creation. Picking his time frame carefully, Mr. Bush noted that "last Friday, we showed we added 144,000 new jobs in August,'' saying that was "1.7 million since August of '03.''

    "The national unemployment rate has fallen to 5.4 percent,'' he said. "That is lower than the average rate of the 1970's, the 1980's and the 1990's.''

    He spoke about tax simplification and farm exports with the passion of a man acutely aware that he won Missouri in 2000 by only a bit more than three percentage points and that re-election would be enormously difficult without winning it again.

    David M. Halbfinger reported from Cleveland for this article and David E. Sanger from Poplar Bluff, Mo.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  9. #99


    US military deaths just topped 1,000. What a sad moment for America.

  10. #100


    Is it true that on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said something to the effect that 1,000 dead is not that much when you compare it to 40,000 dead in U.S. highway accidents?

  11. #101


    September 9, 2004

    For 1,000 Troops, There Is No Going Home


    Dixie Codner had a question for the marines who came down her gravel road, past the rows of corn and alfalfa, to tell her that her 19-year-old son, Kyle, had been killed in Iraq. Should she bring them the dress blues, still pressed and hanging neatly in his closet, for his funeral?

    No need, she recalled them answering. They had dress uniforms from all the services, all sizes, waiting back at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the bodies of American service members come home.

    "What does that say?" Ms. Codner asked, as she sat at her kitchen table in Shelton, Neb., on a recent morning, fingering a thick stack of photographs that her son had sent from the desert. "How many more are they expecting? All I know is that there are 1,000 families that feel just like we do. We go to bed at night, and we don't have our children."

    Like Lance Cpl. Kyle W. Codner, each of the more than 1,000 marines and soldiers, sailors and airmen killed since the United States sent troops to invade Iraq leaves behind a grieving family, a story, a unique memory of duty and sacrifice in what has become the deadliest war for Americans since Vietnam.

    But along with so much personal loss, the roster of the dead tells a larger story, a portrait of a society and a military in transition, with ever-widening roles and costs for the country's part-time soldiers, women and Hispanics.

    As has often been true in the United States' wars, small towns like Shelton and other rural areas suffered a disproportionate share of deaths compared with the nation's big cities. More than 100 service members who died were from California, the most for any state, but the smaller, less-populated states, many in the nation's middle - the Dakotas, Wyoming and Nebraska - recorded some of the biggest per capita losses.

    In these mostly Republican-leaning states, people have begun to take painful note of the toll in Iraq. Many of the families of the dead there said they remained supportive of the war, the troops and the president. Still, with the death toll reaching 1,000 just two months before the presidential election, the somber milestone captured a central spot in the national political debate this week.

    More than 70 percent of the dead were soldiers in the Army, and more than 20 percent were marines. More than half were in the lowest-paid enlisted ranks. About 12 percent were officers. Three-quarters of the troops died in hostile incidents: most often, homemade-bomb explosions, small-arms fire, rocket attacks. A quarter died in illnesses or accidents: truck and helicopter crashes and gun discharges.

    On average, the service members who died were about 26. The youngest was 18; the oldest, 59. About half were married, according to the death roll, which does not include a handful yet to be identified by the Defense Department and three civilians who worked for the military.

    Part-time soldiers, the guardsmen and reservists who once expected to tend to floods and hurricanes, were called to Iraq on a scale not seen through five decades of war. Increasingly, Iraq is becoming their conflict, and in growing numbers this spring and early summer, these part-time soldiers died there. Ten times as many of them died from April to July of this year as had in the war's first two months.

    American women, too, have quietly drawn closer to combat than they had in half a century. At least 24 female service members died in Iraq, more than in any American conflict since World War II, a stark sign of a barrier broken.

    Many Hispanics, once underrepresented in the armed forces, have fought and died in striking numbers. At least 122 Hispanics have died in Iraq, meaning that they died at a rate disproportionately high for their representation in the active forces and among the deployed troops. Among the dead were 39 service members who were not American citizens, significantly more than had died in Vietnam or Afghanistan, according to Defense Department records.

    Most of the troops - 85 percent - died after President Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1, 2003. Nearly 15 percent died after the United States turned over sovereignty to Iraq's new leaders this June. The deadliest month was this April, as insurgents stepped up their attacks. Nearly as many American troops died that month as had in the initial invasion.

    The Pentagon says it does not track or release estimates of the number of Iraqis killed since the war began, although some independent groups have offered widely varying estimates. (A group called Iraq Body Count said Iraqi civilian deaths exceeded 11,000.)

    Among Americans, especially the relatives of service members who have died, the meaning of the toll is already a matter of feverish, sometimes bitter, debate.

    Some say they view the number of deaths - and the injuries to more than 7,000 other Americans - as a tragic but unavoidable price of war, and one that seems modest beside the death toll from Vietnam, which was 58,000. About 380 troops died in the Persian Gulf war of 1991, and some 97 in Afghanistan. Any questions about the mounting numbers in Iraq, these relatives said, served as a rejection of the troops' mission, an insult to their lost soldier's work.

    "The loss is there, of course, but we also know the honor and the pride," said Kelby McCrae, himself a captain in the National Guard and the son of a veteran soldier. His younger brother, Erik, was killed in June. "We're just so honored at the sacrifice he gave."

    But others said they worried that their soldier's sacrifice in Iraq might be forgotten as more months pass and people grow inured to news of so many deaths, one after the next in this war.

    The Guard and the Reserves: 'Weekend Warriors' Go Full Time

    Eric S. McKinley was a baker and a part-time soldier. He dyed his hair strange colors and pierced his body in places his mother sometimes wished he had not. His six-year stint in the Oregon National Guard was supposed to end in April, but it was extended, and Specialist McKinley died June 13 when a bomb blew up near his Humvee near Baghdad. Specialist McKinley's father, Tom, said he was left with a haunting conviction: that guardsmen and reservists are now being asked in record numbers to fight the same lethal wars as full-time soldiers, but without the same level of training, equipment or respect. Dozens of parents and spouses of guardsmen - some who died and others still serving in Iraq - said they shared Mr. McKinley's worries as they wrestled with what the role of the nation's 1.2 million part-time service members once was and what it was becoming.

    "They are not prepared for this, not emotionally and not with their gear and equipment," said Mr. McKinley, of Salem, Ore. "There's this opinion that these guys are just 'weekend warriors,' and we'll have them do all the things the regular army doesn't have time to do. But these guys are being asked to put their lives on the line just as much as everyone else. These guys are yanked from their lives, and yet they aren't treated the same."

    During special training at a base in Texas before he left for Iraq, Specialist McKinley told his father that his Guard unit was getting only two meals a day, while regular units ate three. And in Iraq, on the day of his death, Specialist McKinley's fellow guardsmen said he was in a Humvee reinforced with plywood and sandbags, not real armor.

    Cecil Green, a spokesman at Fort Hood where Specialist McKinley's unit trained before it left for Iraq, said all soldiers - regular and part time - were fed equally. But Col. Mike Caldwell, deputy director of the Oregon National Guard, said his troops had complained about unequal conditions during training there in months past. "There were a lot of problems in their treatment," Colonel Caldwell said. "It was deplorable. They were treated like slaves in some respects."

    Thomas F. Hall, the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, acknowledged in a telephone interview last week that since the terrorist attacks of 2001, the nation's reserve components had been called in numbers unknown since perhaps World War II. But those part-timers sent to Iraq are trained and equipped to the same level as any active-duty troops, Mr. Hall said.

    "It's no longer your father or your grandfather's Guard and Reserves," Mr. Hall said. "A lot of this is a leftover vestige from a time in which we didn't perhaps equip and train our Guard and Reserve as we need to."

    Any shortages of equipment - of armored Humvees or protective gear - have been faced by all types of troops, not just guardsmen, he said. And Mr. Hall insisted that no one, not even him, could distinguish between part--s and others when it came to Iraq. "They look the same. Their standards are the same. Their training is the same," he said.

    Recently home from Iraq with an injury, Specialist Andrew Cross, a member of the North Carolina National Guard, said the only difference he discerned was a little taunting. "Sure, they say stuff about you not being full time,'' Specialist Cross said, "but who cares what they say."

    Specialist Cross's best friend, Specialist Daniel A. Desens, who listened to Bob Marley and Dave Matthews with him as they rolled along in their Bradleys in Iraq, was one of at least 179 guardsmen and reservists killed there, the records of those identified as of yesterday show.

    Their deaths make up less than a fifth of those killed, but the timing of their deaths underscores the changing makeup of American forces in Iraq. In the first weeks of war, only a small group of reserve forces was sent to Iraq, and only a few died. The numbers grew swiftly this year, and reserves and guards now amount to about 40 percent of the forces deployed to Iraq, and maybe still more soon.

    Back in Oregon, Colonel Caldwell said leaders were busy arranging more deployments for some of the state's 8,400 Army and Air National Guard troops in the coming weeks, even as gloom lingered over the headquarters. Four Oregon guardsmen, including Specialist McKinley, died in a 10-day stretch.

    Nationally, Mr. Hall said, recruiters may fall 1 percent short of their goals for new Guard members when the annual count is taken at the end of September. In Oregon, Colonel Caldwell predicted direr shortfalls: 10 percent to 15 percent.

    "I think it's pretty obvious what's happening," he said. "People have realized: you join the Guard in Oregon, you're going to be mobilized."

    The Women: Dying, in a Role Quietly Redefined

    Before she left her home in Richmond, Va., Leslie D. Jackson's Junior R.O.T.C. instructor warned her that although women might not officially be on the very front line of a ground war, they were edging ever closer - and the line itself, if ever there was one in Iraq, had grown dangerously blurry.

    "I told her that even combat support roles could still take you places that maybe you should not be," said Master Sgt. Earl G. Winston Jr., who taught Private Jackson at George Wythe High School. "But she said she was ready to accept the challenge. She said she did not want her fellow soldiers, most of them men, to think that she wasn't every bit as good as them."

    Private Jackson, who had talked her reluctant mother into letting her sign up for the Army when she was 17, died on May 20 in Baghdad. The truck she was transporting supplies in hit a roadside bomb. She had finished basic training eight months before, and had turned 18, making her the youngest of 24 women who have died in Iraq.

    Not long before, she had sent an e-mail message to her former principal, Earl Pappy, to say that she was spending long hours driving trucks and had been unnerved at seeing a soldier killed for the first time right before her: " 'I left home as Mommy's little girl,' '' Mr. Pappy said she wrote, " 'and I'm coming back as a strong woman.'

    "She told me she wouldn't be in combat, and I don't think women should be," said Viola Jackson, Private Jackson's mother. "But then again, they joined the Army, and I guess you've got to do whatever the other people are doing. I don't know. What I know is she was a sweet child."

    Women make up some 10 percent of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they account for less than 3 percent of the 1,000 deaths in Iraq. Still, more women have died there than in any conflict since hundreds died in World War II - a certain if somber sign of how women's roles in the military have grown in the last decade.

    More surprising, though, to advocates on both sides of a long-simmering debate over what women should and should not do in times of war has been the public's reaction to the loss of 24 women. Mostly, there has been silence.

    "What it means is that our view of women has changed," said Lory Manning, director of the Women in the Military Project at the Women's Research and Education Institute in Washington and a retired 25-year veteran of the Navy.

    "Within our minds, women are doing a lot of athletic things. They're SWAT team members and firefighters now. This is worldwide. So people see this as less horrible. The horror of death is equal now."

    But others, like Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy group in Livonia, Mich., said Americans were largely oblivious to the role women were playing in Iraq and would be disturbed if they knew. Female soldiers who die receive little attention, she said, except in small hometown newspapers; the same is true of the 207 women who have been injured in Iraq.

    Shortly after the war began, there were hints of the nation's discomfort when three female soldiers, including Pfc. Jessica Lynch and Specialist Shoshana Johnson, were taken hostage, and one of them, Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, was killed, Ms. Donnelly said. In images broadcast around the world, Specialist Johnson looked terrified, her eyes darting.

    "The risk of capture is why we oppose women in combat," said Ms. Donnelly, who wants the Pentagon to reconsider the jobs close to combat that women now hold. "We're a civilized nation. Violence against women is wrong. I hope that we don't become that kind of a nation that doesn't care about this sort of thing."

    Eight women died in Vietnam. Sixteen died in the first Persian Gulf war. Three died in Afghanistan. And through most of that time, people have argued over what place women should take in war.

    Women have served in the American military since 1901, and others quietly did unofficial military work as early as the Revolutionary War. But in 1948, Congress adopted the Armed Forces Integration Act, which capped women at 2 percent of the services and barred them from serving on combat planes and combat ships.

    After Vietnam, and the end of the draft, the restrictions on women began to fade, one by one. By 1994, women were allowed to fly combat aircraft, to serve on fighter ships but not submarines, and to fill ground jobs except those most directly on the front lines: special forces, infantry, armor, artillery. But in Iraq, the jobs that women could fill - as drivers in convoys bringing supplies to troops and as members of military police units - came under attack from homemade bombs and mortar fire, too, and the notion of a front line seemed no longer to fit the conflict.

    Nearly all of the women killed were full-time soldiers in the Army. And two-thirds of them died in hostile situations, not in accidents or because of illness.

    Even Ms. Manning, who supports bigger roles for women in the military, said she was surprised at the degree to which women had been included in critical operations, including patrolling checkpoints. In part, their role may have been a necessary outgrowth of cultural differences in Iraq. Female soldiers were needed when Iraqi women were searched or questioned.

    Still, Ms. Donnelly and other critics say, the scars from so much change are being ignored: What will come of the children, they asked, who lose their mothers to war?

    Sgt. Tatjana Reed, a single mother, was killed on July 22 when a bomb exploded near her convoy vehicle. She had signed papers leaving her 10-year-old daughter, Genevieve, in the care of relatives near her base in Germany, expecting the arrangement to be temporary.

    Sergeant Reed "always said, 'What a man can do, I can do,' '' recalled her mother, Brigitte Dykty, who lives in Clarksville, Tenn. "Sometimes I wish she hadn't thought that."

    The Hispanics: Underrepresented, Except on Death Rolls

    Five years ago, the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group for Hispanics, released a scathing study of Hispanics in the United States military. The central finding was that the military was not employing as many Hispanics as it should.

    In 1996, the study said, Hispanics 18 to 44 made up more than 11 percent of the civilian work force but accounted for less than 7 percent of the military's active forces.

    The military took notice, and the Marines, in particular, began a serious recruiting effort aimed at Spanish-speaking markets, said Lisa Navarrete, vice president of the advocacy group.

    "They took it very, very seriously," Ms. Navarrete said.

    By 2004, Latinos accounted for 9.2 percent of all active-duty forces and about 10 percent of those forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    That news came with a distinctly bittersweet edge. Of the 1,000 killed in Iraq, at least 122, or more than 12 percent, were Hispanic, according to the Defense Department, which says ethnicity was not tracked by the same measures in previous wars.

    "It seems that in a time of peace, we're underrepresented," Ms. Navarrete said quietly. "In a time of war, the situation is completely changed."

    One reason for the high rate of Hispanic deaths in Iraq is that Hispanics account for a particularly large segment - more than 13 percent - of the Marines, the ground troops who suffered significant losses early in the war, as well as in the uprisings of recent weeks.

    Some of those who died fighting for the United States were not even citizens. At least 39 noncitizens - many, though not all, of Hispanic heritage - were among the dead. Legal residents of this country have long served in the armed forces, but records of their deaths in war are hard to find. The official Defense Department records show that one noncitizen died in military duty in Vietnam and three in Afghanistan.

    In 2002, Mr. Bush issued an order shortening the waiting periods for service members and their families seeking citizenship, and Congress made those changes permanent with a law that takes effect in October. Some anti-immigration advocates said that military service alone was not a qualification for citizenship, while others worried that the changes might induce some immigrants to enlist in hopes of speedy citizenship.

    "But the bottom line, whatever the casualties, is that people are going to continue to join because they have to," said Rodolfo Acuna, a professor of Chicano studies at California State University, Northridge. "They want to live better. They want to get money. They want to better themselves."

    Rey David Cuervo was born in Tampico, Mexico, but his mother, Rosalba Kuhn, took him to Texas when he was 6. She was a maid in Port Isabel. He was an only boy among three sisters, the quiet one with just a handful of friends.

    At age 8, she said, he went to her carrying a picture of the American flag and explained that he planned to join the American Army. "He said that this is all he wanted," she recalled not long ago. "He said if they wouldn't take him in the Army here, then he'd go back to Mexico and sign up there."

    In 1999, he left for basic training.

    "I was so proud," Ms. Kuhn said. "When I came here, my dreams were that I would see my kids here, see them learn the language, see them get a better life for themselves. Part of that was wanting to see my son in an American uniform."

    Ms. Kuhn said she thinks of her son every day when she wakes up. She lights candles for him. She holds a hat of his under her nose and breathes it in. In the sadness, though, Ms. Kuhn said she had no anger. Her son wanted to go into the Army. He wanted to go to Iraq. He chose his future.

    Private Cuervo, who once told his mother that he planned to retire from the military after 20 years and then buy a big house, died on Dec. 28, 2003, when a bomb exploded. He was 24, one of 32,000 noncitizens in the armed forces. The government granted him citizenship after he died.

    The Small Towns: When the Population Is Reduced by One

    There are no sidewalks along the quiet streets of Shelton, Neb., but there is red-white-and-blue bunting, a little faded now, and tattered black ribbon tied to the street posts. Not that anyone here needs to be reminded about Kyle Codner.

    The nation's small towns experienced more than their share of death in Iraq, a clear reflection of their representation in the nation's military services. Not only did death arrive in disproportionate numbers in these towns, but each death seemed to echo louder and longer than it might have in a big city.

    One resident here compared Corporal Codner's death on May 26 to a tornado whipping up in the Midwest and zeroing in on this town of 1,100 people.

    "The word 'shock' is overused, generally," said Lynn McBride, the chairman of Shelton's village trustees and a schoolteacher. "But it understates the feelings about this. We're all in it together here, and there was a feeling that this couldn't be true."

    To Shelton, Corporal Codner was the son of Dixie and Wain Codner. He was one of 19 graduates of Shelton High in 2003, and one of two to go off to the military. He was the basketball player with the blond girlfriend, each of them usually on the king and queen court. He was the clerk at J. R.'s Mini Mart. He was the kid who got his photograph taken in front of the old military tank that sits at the town's entrance, and the student named in the yearbook as "Most Likely to Kick Some Terrorist Butt."

    Nebraska and a long list of states in the country's middle and South had some of the highest death rates per capita. Many of these states are considered Republican strongholds. Vermont, a Democratic-leaning state in the presidential race, had the most deaths per capita. Among swing states in the presidential race, Oregon, Maine and Iowa had heavy losses.

    No one can be sure what role the deaths in Iraq will play in this election season. Nebraska has been more reliably Republican through five decades of presidential races than any other state. Still, Democrats in Nebraska say the war and the death toll of 14 is stirring political discussion.

    "The Republican voting bloc is persuadable here, especially when you're talking about sending your sons and daughters to war," said Barry R. Rubin, executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party. "One thing about Nebraska is we are very independent-minded people, and people are seriously questioning the merits of this war."

    But along the streets of Shelton last weekend, most people said they backed the war, and would probably vote for Mr. Bush. Among them was Corporal Codner's best friend from childhood, Matthew S. Walter, 19 and preparing to vote in his first presidential election. "I don't think I like what John Kerry has to say,'' Mr. Walter said.

    Most people interviewed said they did not see Corporal Codner's death through the prism of politics.

    "I sense no bitterness or contrition whatsoever about Kyle,'' Mr. McBride said. "I've never heard any of that. I think the overall feeling is that we're grateful he died the way he did - serving his country."

    About eight miles away, back at Ms. Codner's kitchen table, the Codners said they would vote against President Bush, one of the many people Ms. Codner describes as "someone without skin in the game."

    She and her husband go to sleep thinking of the boy in the circle of class pictures on their living room wall, she said, and then they wake up thinking of him. In the moments when other thoughts crowd out those memories, Ms. Codner said, something always brings him back. On Friday, it was the mail. Four packages that had been sent to her son in Iraq were returned to her, unopened. A yellow form on the front of the boxes gave a curt explanation in the form of a checked box: "Deceased."

    The Codners tried to discourage their son from joining the Marines during his senior year in high school, but when he complained that they were not being supportive, they tried to go along.

    Wain Codner said the town's embrace helped his family the first weeks after his son's death. "The support was incredible," he said. "But then, people go on with their lives."

    A few days before Corporal Codner died, he sent home a roll of film. His family developed it, then waited, hoping he would call, so he could tell them exactly what they were seeing.

    The mysterious stack of pictures still sits on the kitchen table. One shows Corporal Codner, with a wide smile, beside an Iraqi child. In another, a thick automatic weapon dangles around his neck, seeming to dwarf his slim frame. Another shows just a sleeping bag and pad, arranged carefully on a concrete block. This is probably where he slept, his parents surmise, but they will never be sure.

    Tom Torok and the research staff of The New York Times contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  12. #102

    by George Packer
    Issue of 2004-09-27
    Posted 2004-09-20

    Earlier this year, the United States Agency for International Development, or U.S.A.I.D., hired a team of independent experts to go to Iraq and evaluate the agency’s programs there. The experts came back with a mixed review that included plenty of reason for worry: the reconstruction of Iraq was taking place in an ad-hoc fashion, without a consistent strategy, without the meaningful participation or advice of Iraqis, within paralyzing security constraints, and amid unrealistic claims of success. But something happened to the report on the way to publication. U.S.A.I.D. kept sending parts of it back for revision, draft after draft, weeding out criticism, until the agency finally approved a version for internal use which one member of the team called “a whitewash” of his findings. Another expert said, “It’s so political, everything going on out there. They just didn’t want to hear any bad news.” Pointing out that some of the numbers posted on the agency’s Web site were overly optimistic, he concluded, “They like to make their sausage their way.”

    This would be a minor footnote in the history of the Iraq war, if only the entire story didn’t read the same. President Bush has been making the sausage his way from the beginning, and his way is to politicize. He forced a congressional vote on the war just before the 2002 midterm elections. He trumpeted selective and misleading intelligence. He displayed intense devotion to classifying government documents, except when there was political advantage in declassifying them. He fired or sidelined government officials and military officers who told the American public what the Administration didn’t want it to hear. He released forecasts of the war’s cost that quickly became obsolete, and then he ignored the need for massive expenditures until a crucial half year in Iraq had been lost. His communications office in Baghdad issued frequently incredible accounts of the progress of the war and the reconstruction. He staffed the occupation with large numbers of political loyalists who turned out to be incompetent. According to Marine officers and American officials in Iraq, he ordered and then called off critical military operations in Falluja against the wishes of his commanders, with no apparent strategic plan. He made sure that blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib settled almost entirely on the shoulders of low-ranking troops. And then, in the middle of the election campaign, he changed the subject.

    No one can now doubt the effectiveness of the President’s political operation. Here’s one measure: between May and September, the number of Iraq stories that made page 1 of the Times and the Washington Post dropped by more than a third. During the same period, the percentage of Americans who support the President’s handling of the war increased. It’s the mark of a truly brilliant reëlection campaign that these trends at home are occurring against a background of ever-increasing violence and despair in Iraq. The latest reports from mainstream think tanks, such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, show every indicator of progress moving in the wrong direction. In July, the National Intelligence Council issued a classified and quite gloomy analysis of Iraq which had no effect on the President’s rhetoric or on his policy. After a year and a half of improvising and muddling through, there seems to be no clear way forward and no good way out. But because the President—as his chief of staff, Andrew Card, recently said—regards Americans as ten-year-old children, don’t expect to hear an honest discussion about any of this from the White House. (The President’s party, however, is trying to force congress to vote, just before the election, on a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning—no doubt to bring the country a little closer to victory in Iraq.)

    The problem with making sausage the President’s way—other than the fact that it deceives the public, precludes a serious debate, bitterly divides the body politic when war requires unity, exposes American soldiers to greater risk, substitutes half measures for thoroughgoing efforts, and insures that no one will be held accountable for mistakes that will never be corrected—is that it doesn’t work. What determines success in this war is what happens in Iraq and how Iraqis perceive it. If U.S.A.I.D. releases a report that prettifies the truth, officials here might breathe easier for a while, but it won’t speed up the reconstruction of Iraq. Covering up failures only widens the gap in perception between Washington and Baghdad—which, in turn, makes Washington less capable of grasping the reality of Iraq and responding to it. Eventually, the failures announce themselves anyway—in a series of suicide bombings, a slow attrition of Iraqi confidence, a sudden insurrection. War, unlike budget forecasts and campaign coverage, is quite merciless with falsehood.

    In refusing to look at Iraq honestly, President Bush has made defeat there more likely. This failing is only the most important repetition of a recurring theme in the war against radical Islam: the distance between Bush’s soaring, often inspiring language and the insufficiency of his actions. When he speaks, as he did at the Republican Convention, about the power of freedom to change the world, he is sounding deep notes in the American political psyche. His opponent comes nowhere close to making such music. But if Iraq looks nothing like the President’s vision—if Iraq is visibly deteriorating, and no one in authority will admit it—the speeches can produce only illusion or cynicism. In what may be an extended case of overcompensation, so much of the President’s conduct in the war has become an assertion of personal will. Bush’s wartime hero, Winston Churchill, offered his countrymen nothing but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Bush offers optimistic forecasts, permanent tax cuts, and his own stirring resolve.

    As the campaign moves toward its finish, Senator Kerry seems unable to point any of this out, let alone exploit it. On Iraq, he has said almost everything possible, which makes it difficult for him to say anything. It’s understandable that the war fills him with ambivalence. The President’s actions have led the country into a blind alley; there’s no new strategy for Kerry to propose, and the press should stop insisting that he come up with one when the candidate who started the war feels no such obligation. But the Senator has allowed the public to think that the President, against all the evidence of his record, will fight the war in Iraq and the larger war against radical Islam with more success. If Kerry loses the election, this will be the reason.

  13. #103


    Freedom is on the march...
    G W Bush

  14. #104
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    The Catskills


    Is it coming, or going?

  15. #105


    It's not marching anymore: it's sprinting away.

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