Next time you hear the Bush Administration boast about the multinational support for its occupation of Iraq, remember the story of the Hungarian truck company. It turns out that the Hungarians, who offered to send a truck company to Iraq, have no trucks, or other equipment commonly associated with a military unit of this type. "They contribute 133 drivers, but no trucks, or mechanics, or anything else," a Defense Department official said. "Either somebody else is going to donate trucks, or they're going to be driving ours."
Maybe Hungary played a small role in the Bush Administration's recent change of course. What with the costs of the occupation running $1 billion a week, demoralized US soldiers facing what the military's new commander in Iraq calls a "classical guerrilla-type" war, and dozens of nations refusing to contribute troops or money without a UN mandate, Administration officials acknowledge they are rethinking their disastrous strategy.
On Saturday, it was reported that after spurning the United Nations in the run-up to war, the Administration may seek a UN resolution that could placate countries like India, Germany--even the reviled France. "The Administration has to give up its arrogant attitude toward foreign policy--it's my way or the highway--and bring in the international community," Senator Edward Kennedy said in a televised interview last week.
Have you noticed that many days, in newspapers nationwide, the letters to the editor are more enlightening and provocative than the op-eds or editorials they're sandwiched between? Take Saturday's Washington Post, for example. The smartest item on the editorial page was a letter, titled "The President's 'Revisionism," from two historians, Linda Gordon and Linda Kerber.
"Last week," they wrote, "when his administration was criticized for justifying the Iraq invasion with forged evidence, President Bush accused his critics of trying to 'rewrite history'. In addition, his then-press secretary, Ari Fleischer, sneered at 'revisionist historians.'
As historians, we are troubled by these remarks. It is central to the work of historians to search for accuracy and to revise conclusions that prove to be unsupported by evidence. Revision, based on fresh evidence, is a good thing. The argument about the use of misleading claims in the State of Union address is not about revising history; it is about whether public statements were founded on honestly presented evidence."
As Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel noted in a recent weblog, the Freedom of Information Act has been under severe assault from the Bush Administration since October 2001, when Attorney General John Ashcroft began reversing long-standing FOIA policies.
Since its establishment in 1967, the FOIA has been critical in exposing waste, fraud and government abuse. FOIA replaced a "need to know" standard with a "right to know" threshold, putting a burden on the government to show that requested information should not be disclosed, rather than assuming the Government always had good reason to withhold data from the public. Unsurprisingly, the Bush Administration appears determined to systematically undermine this showpiece of good government legislation.
So comprehensive is the Administration's attack that the presidents of twenty major journalists' organizations declared in a recent joint statement that Ashcroft's "restrictions pose dangers to American democracy and prevent American citizens from obtaining the information they need." (For example, FOIA allows neighbors who live near a chemical plant to get the same safety reports that the plant provides to the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor the plant's compliance with emissions standards.)
Only hours after British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a cheering US Congress that history would forgive the United States and Great Britain for using dubious data to make the case for a preemptive war with Iraq, history was catching up with Blair. And it did not look as if forgiveness was in the offering.
As the man British newspapers describe as George W. Bush's "poodle" was flying from his cheerleader-in-chief appearance before Congress to a meeting in Tokyo, Blair learned of the suspicious death of a British expert on weapons of mass destruction. The dead scientist had been hounded by the prime minister's aides and allies for apparently assisting a BBC investigation into manipulation of intelligence data by the Blair team.
The news of the death, an apparent suicide, has created a crisis for Blair, and perhaps for his partners in Washington. Within minutes after the body was discovered, Washington observers were referring to Dr. David Kelly, the dead scientist, as "the British Vince Foster." That reference to the mysterious death of Clinton White House lawyer Vince Foster, which launched a thousand conspiracy theories that remain fodder for right-wing talk radio hosts in the US, was a wide stretch. Foster's death, while certainly as tragic as Kelly's, was never so closely linked to immediate and internationally significant questions as that of a former United Nations weapons inspector who had become one of the British Ministry of Defense's most highly regarded experts on chemical and biological weapons.
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Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer
working covertly in a field of vital importance to national
security--and break the law--in order to strike at a Bush Admin