Thanks to USA Today, the public now knows some of what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld really thinks of the war of terrorism. And thanks to Rumsfeld, the public knows that Bush is spinning when he discusses the war on terrorism.
The newspaper obtained an October 16, 2003, memo Rumsfeld wrote to four senior aides, in which he asked, "Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror?" Rumsfeld also noted, "We are having mixed results with Al Qaida." The much-discussed memo was clearly intended to goose his top people--General Richard Myers, General Peter Pace, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith--to think boldly and imaginatively about the war at hand. But Rumsfeld observed, "Today, we lack the metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror." He wondered whether more terrorists are being produced on a daily basis than the number of terrorists being captured, killed, deterred or dissuaded by U.S. actions.
If Rumsfeld says there is no way to measure success or defeat in the campaign against terrorism, how can George W. Bush declare that he is winning the war? Yet while speaking on September 12 at Fort Stewart in Georgia, before soldiers and families of the Third Infantry Division, Bush said, "We're rolling back the terrorist threat, not on the fringes of its influence but at the heart of its power."
As Rumsfeld might put it, according to what metrics, Mr. President?
But the Rumsfeld memo is significant beyond its inadvertent truth-telling. Bush has repeatedly said that Iraq is "the central front" in the war on terrorism. Yet Rumsfeld's memo barely mentioned Iraq. Instead, Rumsfeld focused on combating terrorism at its roots, and he asked his aides to bring him ideas to counter the radical Islamic schools--the madrassas--that instruct students to hate the West. As he noted, "Does the U.S. need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?" And he asked, "Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madrassas to a more moderate course?"
With these comments, Rumsfeld veered dangerously close to becoming one of those root-cause-symps who routinely are derided by hawks for arguing that the United States and other nations need to address the forces that fuel anti-Americanism overseas--in the Muslim world and elsewhere. The public disclosure of these views also made Rumsfeld's refusal to criticize Lt. General William Boykin appear all the more curious.
Boykin, the newly appointed deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, was recently caught by NBC News and The Los Angeles Times making comments that indicate he believes that Islam is a false religion--he called Allah "an idol"--and that he sees the war on terrorism as a spiritual conflict between "a Christian nation" and heathens.
In various press briefings, Rumsfeld has dodged addressing Boykin's remarks. At one point Rumsfeld said he had tried to watch a videotape of one of Boykin's church speeches, but he was unable to make out the words. (Boykin made most of his controversial statements from various church pulpits.) Wait a minute. The Pentagon can analyze communications intercepts and satellite imagery, but it cannot provide the defense secretary a clear rendition of a broadcast videotape?
Social conservatives have predictably rallied behind Boykin, trotting out the to-be-expected argument that the poor general is being assailed for his religious views. Now what if he had said something like, "According to my religious views, Judaism is a false religion"? Or, "my religion teaches that black people are inferior to white people"? Would Rumsfeld and Boykin's defenders have been as temperate in their response?
Writing in The Washington Times, conservative commentator Tony Blankley noted, "Whether or not American officials chose to call this a religious war, it is unambiguously clear that our enemy, bin Laden and the other terrorists, are motivated by Islamic religious fanaticism.....It shouldn't be a firing offense for the occasional American general to return the compliment." In other words, in this war (religious or not), the United States is entitled to be as extremist and intolerant as its murderous foes. Blankley fondly recounted that when Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met on a cruiser off the coast of Newfoundland on August 9, 1941, they sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers" with the assembled sailors. Does he suggest that Boykin lead the Pentagon masses in singing that same number? Perhaps Bush and Rumsfeld can provide back-up vocals.
Boykin's prominent role in the administration's war on terrorism is certainly an impediment to any effort to encourage fundamentalist Islamic institutions to become more moderate. Rumsfeld ended his memo with a wide-open question: "What else should we be considering?" Here's a no-brainer: how about not appointing a Christian jihadist to be one of the leaders of an endeavor that aims to persuade Islamicists that the West is not so bad? Or is that too far outside the box?
JUST RELEASED AND A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER: David Corn's new book, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). For more information and a sample, check out the book's official website: www.bushlies.com.
The Senate voted Tuesday to ban so-called "partial-birth" abortions, marking the end of eight years of legislative skirmishes and the beginning of a major court battle, which could begin even before President Bush signs the bill into law, which he's said he'll do.
This will become the first federal ban on a specific abortion method since a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion was established by the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
As Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel writes in her weblog, this bill is just the latest in a series of increasingly aggressive assaults on women that Bush and his Administration have been launching since he took office. As abortion-rights activists like NARAL's Kate Michelman are pointing out, no one should be fooled as to the real intentions of this bill's sponsors: they want to take away a woman's right to choose.
Fortunately, there are numerous groups mobilizing in opposition: The Feminist Campus Network is planning protests and lobbying campaigns and is helping with what organizers hope will be a good, old-fashioned, massive march on Washington on April 25. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, headquartered in Washington, DC, works with twenty-two affiliates in states nationwide to conduct educational, lobbying and media efforts. NARAL and Planned Parenthood are both in the trenches slugging it out with the Bush appointees looking to choke off funding for virtually all social programs. The Abortion Access Project is increasing abortion services by training new abortion providers. And the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League is promoting good tips on combating the radical right's toxic effect on public policy.
Now, Bush has vowed to sign into law legislation passed yesterday by the Senate that would ban so-called "partial-birth" abortions. As NARAL President Kate Michelman said, "The Senate took its final step toward substituting politicians' judgement for that of a woman, her family, and her doctor...No one should be fooled as to the real intentions of this Bill's sponsors; they want to take away entirely the right to personal privacy and a woman's right to choose."
With Bush in the White House, women's right to choose is in greater danger now than it has been at any time since the Supreme Court issued the Roe V. Wade decision thirty years ago. It is truly, as Senator Barbara Boxer said after passage of the ban, a "very sad day for the women of America." This latest assault on women's reproductive rights is part of a larger war--waged by the Republican Party with Bush as its general.
Click here for a top-ten list of Bush Assaults on Women and Families. And thanks to the many readers who have sent me their own contributions to this list, which I'll be publishing in the coming weeks. (Click here to share your thoughts with me. I'll keep a running tally of Bush assaults as we head into 2004.)
What with the Bush White House leaking like a sieve these days, it wasn't difficult to obtain a copy of George W.'s secret birthday message to the venerable historian and former Kennedy aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Sources say that it was delivered by former Kennedy speech-writer and master toastmaker Ted Sorensen at Schlesinger's 85th birthday party at New York's Century Club on October 15th. The small group of revelers included actress Lauren Bacall, Jean Kennedy Smith, former NY Cultural Commissioner Schuyler Chapin and author Philip Howard.
October 15, 2003
From: The Oval Office, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC
For: Mr. Arthur Schlesinger, c/o The Century Club
Dear Dr. Schlesinger,
Warmest felicitatitudes from the all-White House.
Sorry this is late, but I could not find your address. It must be out there somewhere with Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, his weapons of mass destruction and the White House leaker--I'm certain they're all out there somewhere.
Karl Rove tells me that you and I have a lot in common.
--That each of us is named for a famous father; although, to tell you the truth (that's a phrase I picked up here in the White House) I don't know your father's name.
--Next, he says each of us served in the White House without ever being elected President.
--I hear you served every president's administration for the last half century, but, unlike Clinton, you were unable to perform between the Bushs'.
--Also, you have written six books, exactly the same number that I have...read.
--When I was a kid, I loved your book on the half-man/half-horse, "The Vital Centaur."
--I also tried to read your book on Kennedy. I got halfway through, about 500 days--and my lips got tired.
But I am most interested in your periodic poll of historians on our greatest presidents. I have no doubts that my administration will go down in history...
Sincerely,George W. Bush
*Sources also tell us that Sorensen is not only a brilliant speechwriter but a masterful writer of birthday toasts.
In 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson sought a major supplemental appropriation to fund the rapidly expanding US presence in Vietnam, ten members of Congress said "no." The group, all Democrats, included three US Senators--Oregon's Wayne Morse, Alaska's Ernest Gruening and Wisconsin's Gaylord Nelson--and seven members of the House: Californians Phil Burton, George Brown and Don Edwards, New Yorkers Bill Ryan and John Dow, Oregon's Edith Green, and a newly-elected representative from Detroit, Michigan, named John Conyers.
Of the ten, only Conyers remains in the Congress. And, on Friday, he again cast his vote against a presidential demand for the appropriation of money to fund a distant war that critics have begun to refer to as a "quagmire." A fierce critic of the Bush Administration's domestic and international policies -- Conyers likes to say, "We need a regime change in the United States" --the Congressman voted against the Bush Administration's request for an $87 billion supplemental appropriation, most of which will be used to fund the continued occupation of Iraq. "(The Administration is) adding $87 billion on top of the $67 billion already spent, and there is no end in sight," Conyers said, echoing his criticism of appropriations for Vietnam
When he voted against the Iraq appropriation, however, Conyers had a lot more company.
One hundred and thirty-seven members of the Congress -- 125 in the House and 12 in the Senate -- resisted the Administration's demand for the $87 billion. While the vote against the appropriation was insufficient to stop the war, it served as a signal that opposition to the US occupation of Iraq is more politically potent than analysts with short memories of past fights over military funding fights would have Americans believe.
Among the dozen senators who opposed the $87 billion appropriation were the chamber's two senior members, Democrats Robert Byrd, of West Virginia, and Edward Kennedy, of Massachusetts, both of whom supported that 1965 Vietnam appropriation. Byrd, whose passionate opposition to the Iraq war made him something of a hero to young activists, left no doubt about his feelings during Friday's debate. Comparing the Administration's promotion of the war in Iraq with Nazi Reich Marshall Hermann Goring's propaganda before and during World War II, Byrd declared, "The emperor has no clothes. This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation. Eight-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoods."
Kennedy and Byrd were joined by nine Democrats, California's Barbara Boxer, North Carolina's John Edwards, Florida's Bob Graham, Iowa's Tom Harkin, South Carolina's Ernest Hollings, Massachusetts' John Kerry, New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg, Vermont's Patrick Leahy and Maryland's Paul Sarbanes. Vermont Independent Jim Jeffords joined them in voting "no." Notably, Harkin, Edwards and Kerry voted for the October, 2002, resolution that Bush used as an authorization to invade Iraq.
Edwards and Kerry, both Democratic presidential candidates, have taken hard hits on the campaign trail for their support of last year's resolution. On Thursday, they sided with Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Dennis Kucinich in opposing the $87 billion spending scheme. Kucinich, the only Democratic presidential candidate who voted against the October, 2002, resolution, again helped to organize House opposition to the war.
"We must end the occupation," Kucinich, a representative from Ohio, said of the $87 billion request. "Seventy-seven percent of these funds would go for an occupation that is unjust and counterproductive. The Iraq occupation destabilizes an already turbulent region, and we should not risk the death of a single additional American soldier to perpetuate it."
In the House, Kucinich was one of 118 Democrats, six Republicans and an independent, Vermont's Bernie Sanders, who opposed the appropriation. The majority of House Democrats opposed the $87 billion appropriation. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, joined the opposition, as did Wisconsin's David Obey, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, New York's Charles Rangel, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Michigan's John Dingell, the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Conyers is also the ranking member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which provided much of the opposition to the appropriation. "We are leading this Congress and the Democratic Caucus in saying 'no' to the president," said California Democrat Maxine Waters, a key player in both the Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus.
California Democrat Diane Watson, a former diplomat, summed up the sentiments of members of the Black and Progressive caucuses, when she announced, "We cannot afford to give this president another blank check to spend on his Iraq adventure when so many people are suffering through a recession here at home and when our nation's critical infrastructure needs are being neglected. My vote against the Iraq supplemental is a vote for the American people and our troops, who will continue to bear the burden of the president's failed policy."
Among the Democrats voting with Bush were former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, and Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut, both Democratic presidential candidates who have been steady supporters of the war. While Gephardt and Lieberman could not bring themselves to disagree with Bush's request, six House Republicans did. Among them were moderates such as Wisconsin's Tom Petri, conservatives such as Tennessee's John Duncan Jr. and Idaho's C.L. "Butch" Otter, and consistent war critic Ron Paul of Texas.
Pandering of the highest sort was on display last Friday, as President Bush announced that his Administration will "target" Americans who visit Cuba in violation of US laws. In addition to making it much more difficult to visit the country, Bush has instructed the Department of Homeland Security to step up its inspections of travelers and shipments between Cuba and the US. (This is at a time when the department can't even effectively handle security at US ports.)
Bush's policy has nothing to do with our security, or with democratic reforms in Cuba or with common sense. It is designed to win Cuban-American votes and money in the key electoral states of Florida and New Jersey; it is another piece in the "Bashcroft" assault on Americans' civil liberties. It also reveals the power that a handful of unrepresentative reactionary oligarchs in Miami have to restrict the movements of other American citizens.
As Cuba expert Peter Kornbluh told me, "I see this latest Administration act as a sign of its weakness on Cuba, its inability to do much substantive to mollify the hardline crowd in Miami which has been screaming about the fact that intercepted refugees are being repatriated and the Administration is not encouraging hijackers from Cuba, indeed is sending them back...This Administration doesn't want another Mariel boatlift, so it can't ease up on the illegal migration issue. It has little latitude to say it is toughening its stance except to cut back on travel. For domestic political reasons, of course, the White House is curtailing the one thing the US can do to help Cuba evolve--people-to-people contact."
The travel ban is just the latest example of how the decades-old embargo is a failed, hypocritical, inconsistent and self-defeating policy--demeaning to the American people, damaging to the rule of law, harmful to the interests of the Cuban polity, and beneath the dignity of a great country. Who really believes--even those like myself who protested the recent political arrests in Cuba and are concerned about the fate of dissent there--that restricting US citizens from traveling freely to Cuba (when they are free to travel to such nations as North Korea and Iran--both "axis of evil" countries) will produce democratic change in that country? What happened to encouraging the free flow of people, ideas and commerce?
If there is any good news it is that a bipartisan majority in the House understands that America needs to change course. In September, the House of Representatives countered the Administration's crackdown by passing an amendment to end the travel ban to Cuba. It also passed a less sweeping amendment that would restore permits for educational and cultural visits. (Bush has vowed a veto.)
"For more than forty years now, our Cuba policy has had the same effect as beating our head against a wall," says Representative Jeff Flake (Republican-AZ). "By tightening enforcement of the travel ban, we will essentially just be beating it harder. At some point," Flake says, "we need to concede that our current approach has failed and try something new."
Earlier this month, another voice of sanity spoke out against the US's counterproductive embargo. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, architect of policies that dramatically changed his country, and a man who knows something about reforming Communist systems, called for the US to restore exchanges and contacts with Cuba.
In an October 4 Washington Post op-ed, Gorbachev drew a parallel between the Berlin Wall and the wall of the economic embargo imposed by the US on Cuba forty-three years ago. "I urge President Bush to tear down the wall of the embargo now, in order to lay the foundation for a new relationship with Cuba." That act, Gorbachev wrote, "would complete the unfinished business of the Cold War in the Western Hemisphere."
It will be a cold day in hell before this Administration changes course but it's a good issue for one of the Democratic candidates to take off and run with. Many Cuban Americans who traditionally backed punitive measures against Cuba are increasingly calling for dialogue between the two nations. The rightwing Miami Cubans who wag the dog of Florida's twenty-five electoral votes have less power, as polls show that most Cuban Americans (particularly younger ones) would like to take the first steps to heal the wounds of the past forty-three years by an increase in contact between the two nations. (And, the way this Administration's deficit is bleeding social security, Cuba may not be the big issue in Florida in 2004.)
There's also increasing bipartisan (as well as corporate) support for ending travel and commercial restrictions. Calling for a lifting of the embargo would be both politically savvy and the right thing to do.
So far, however, only Dennis Kucinich has come straight out and said he's for an immediate lifting. Dean was against the embargo, but now says it's the wrong time to lift it because we'll look like we're rewarding Castro; Lieberman is firmly pro-embargo; Edwards and Gephardt are against dropping it now; Kerry is in favor of opening up travel but not lifting the embargo; And the Clark campaign says that he needs more time to study the issue. (Neither Sharpton nor Mosely-Braun's campaigns provided information on this issue.)
Vice President Dick Cheney has a special interest in this week's Congressional debate on the Bush administration's request for $87 billion to maintain the occupation of Iraq and other military adventures abroad. If approved by the House and Senate in its current form, the proposal would allocate roughly $20 billion to reconstruct Iraq, with most of the rest of the money going to cover the costs of the occupation.
Approval of the $87 billion package would be good news for Cheney, who it is now evident, retains ties to his former employer, the energy and construction conglomerate Halliburton. Halliburton is, of course, a prime benecificary of military and reconstruction expenditures in Iraq.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has already awarded Halliburton's engineering and construction arm, Kellogg, Brown & Root, a no-bid contract to restore Iraq's oil industry. Halliburton parlayed an initial $37.5 million contract to put out oil-field fires into a range of responsibilities that has already run up roughly $1 billion in costs. "War is hell, but it has turned into financial heaven for Halliburton," said Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, who with Representative Henry Waxman, D-California, has led the charge to expose details of Halliburton's dealings in Iraq. "This sweetheart, no-bid contract given to Halliburton spikes up by hundreds of millions of dollars each week. It's outrageous."
The outrageousness does not stop there. The value of a contract between the Pentagon and Halliburton to manage military bases could end up costing as much as $2 billion.
Thus, if Congress approves the $87 billion spending bill, Halliburton will be well positioned to collect maximum payments on its existing contracts and to go for more gold as the Pentagon opens the dollar spigots. It is important to remember that Halliburton would not merely benefit from an increase in funding for reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry. Halliburton has also integrated itself into the military side of the operation. As much of one-third of the current $3.9 billion-a-month cost of maintaining US troops in Iraq is paid to private contractors such as Halliburton, according to independent analysts.
A Washington Post report in August revealed that, "Services performed by Halliburton, through its Brown and Root subsidiary, include building and managing military bases, logistical support for the 1,200 intelligence officers hunting Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, delivering mail and producing millions of hot meals. Often dressed in Army fatigues with civilian patches on their shoulders, Halliburton employees and contract personnel have become an integral part of Army life in Iraq."
So it should come as no surprise that, if Congress approves another $87 billion to maintain the occupation of Iraq and to pay for reconstruction initiatives, analysts expect the value of Halliburton stock to increase. And that's where the Congressional vote gets interesting for Cheney. As the former CEO of Halliburton, which saw its stock value sink during the energy crisis and after revelations about its long history of ties to the scandal-plagued Enron Corp., he could benefit from an uptick in Halliburton's fortunes.
Despite Cheney's claim during a September "Meet the Press" appearance that he had "severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest" in Halliburton, Lautenberg argues that Cheney retains significant financial ties to the company. A successful businessman and investor before his election to the Senate, Lautenberg notes that Cheney, who received a $34 million package when he left Halliburton to become Vice President, continues to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred salary and retains $433,333 in unexercised stock options.
According to an analysis distributed by Lautenberg, if Cheney were to exercise his options, the Vice President could:
* Buy 100,000 shares of Halliburton stock at $54.50 before the end of 2007. That adds up to $5,420,000.
* Buy 33,333 shares of Halliburton stock at $28.13 by the end of 2008. That adds up to $937,657.29.
* Buy 100,000 shares of Halliburton stock at $39.50 by the end of 2009. That adds up to $3,950,000.
Cheney says that he would donate profits from the sale of these stock options to charity, and he says he will not take tax deductions for such donations. But he would still be able to enjoy the prestige and honor of delivering substantial resources to a favored charity -- perhaps the Richard Cheney Vice Presidential Library -- and he could also provide Halliburton with a sizable tax deduction.
Unfortunately for Cheney and his former firm, Halliburton shares have been selling for under $25. Thus, for Cheney to be able to cash out, Halliburton stock prices must move upward -- as they might well do once the Congress approves the $87 billion.
Does this all add up to a conflict of interest? Cheney's office says "the answer to that is, 'no.'" But that's because they interpret the Vice President's retention of unexercised stock options as something other than a tie to Halliburton. Lautenberg notes that, in addition to sitting on the stock options, the Vice President received $205,298 in deferred salary paid by Halliburton in 2001 and $162,392 in deferred salary paid by Halliburton in 2002, and he notes that Cheney is apparently scheduled to collect similar payments in 2003, 2004 and 2005. "The Vice President says he does not have any financial ties to Halliburton, but his own financial disclosure filings suggest something else," says Lautenberg. "In 2001 and 2002, Vice President Cheney was paid almost as much in salary from Halliburton as he made as Vice President."
Lautenberg is not alone in viewing the deferred salary payments and unexercised stock options as a lingering linkage between Cheney and Halliburton. A new Congressional Research Service report describes deferred salary and stock options as "among those benefits described by the Office of Government Ethics as 'retained ties' or 'linkages' to one's former employer."
So, while the Vice President and his aides spin their way around the question of whether conflicts exist, Lautenberg says, "I ask the Vice President to stop dodging the issue with legalese."
Assuming the Vice President does not take his advice, Lautenberg and other Senate Democrats are proposing an amendment to the $87 billion spending bill that would force Cheney to finally cut what the Congress Research Service describes as "retained ties" and "linkages" to Halliburton. The amendment would prevent companies with financial ties to Bush, Cheney and their Cabinet secretaries from obtaining Pentagon contracts in Iraq. And it would require members of the Bush Administration who retain stock options to exercise them in 90 days or forfeit the benefits.
Cheney aides claim all the talk about the Vice President's ties to Halliburton are a "a political cheap shot."
But as the details of Halliburton's sweetheart contract, its overcharging of the U.S. government and the ever expanding value of its contracts with the Pentagon are revealed, what Cheney aides call a "cheap shot" is starting to look like a smoking gun.
For the latest on US Senator Frank Lautenberg's examination of Cheney's lingering ties to Halliburton, click here
For the latest on US Representative Henry Waxman's examination of Halliburton's contracts with the Pentagon, click here.
Every day brings more evidence that this http://www.thenation.com/directory/view.mhtml?t=000706 "> Administration and its rightwing cronies want to unmake everything good about this country, from Head Start to habeas corpus.
Their aim, as our national affairs correspondent William Greider has argued, seems to be to destroy New Deal programs like Social Security and Medicare, unravel our already frayed social safety net and roll back the hard-earned rights and liberties of the 20th century.
Don't believe me? These goals are clearly laid out in the 2002 Republican Party platform of George W's home state of Texas, which calls for abolishing the income tax, wiping out the social security system, repealing the minimum wage, rescinding US membership in the United Nations, and cancelling the War Powers Act. (Click here for full text of this document.)
Remember that this is the platform of the party which was instrumental in electing Bush to the Governorship of Texas. And don't let people tell you it's only a piece of paper. Texas GOP leaders take this document seriously. The Party's Executive Committee has been directed "to strongly consider candidates' support of the platform" when granting financial or other support. And all candidates "for a public or party office" must "read and initial each page of the platform" and sign a statement affirming he/she has read the entire platform."
Particularly troubling, as Ralph Nader pointed out in a letter to Bush on August 2, is the fact that key elements of the document contradict existing federal law, which the President of the United States is sworn to uphold. The media has been virtually silent on this potential political conflict of interest. But don't American citizens have a right to know whether Bush endorses his own state party's extremist stands?
I'm no Bob Novak.
The conservative columnist, it seems, receives different treatment from the CIA than yours truly. After senior administration officials told him in July that former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife was a CIA officer working in the field of counterproliferation--this was the leak that launched the current scandal--he called the CIA for confirmation. According to Novak, a CIA official was "designated to talk" to him. This official, in Novak's telling, denied that Valerie Wilson (nee Plame) had "inspired" Joseph Wilson's selection for a mission to Niger to check out allegations that Iraq had been uranium-shopping there. But this CIA person informed Novak that Valerie Wilson had been asked to solicit her husband's help. The "designated" CIA official, Novak reports, asked that Novak not use Wilson/Plame's name, saying she probably would not be given another overseas assignment but that exposure could cause "difficulties" if she traveled abroad. Novak claims the official never stated that Wilson's wife or anyone else would be endangered. So he named her in a July 14 column and damaged her career and aided what might have been a White House attempt to punish or discredit Joseph Wilson--an effort that possibly undermined national security and possibly violated federal law.
Compare this to my experience with the CIA. After I learned from reliable sources the identity of a current National Security Council staffer who once worked with Valerie Wilson at the CIA in weapons counterproliferation, I wondered whether I should make the name of this person public, and I contacted the CIA.
This NSC staffer might--I emphasize, might--play a role in the Wilson leak scandal. I know of no reason to suspect he or she is one of the leakers. (A recent Newsweek story referred to this NSCer, but it did not name the staffer.) But perhaps this individual--whom I was told is a CIA officer assigned to the NSC--mentioned Valerie Wilson's CIA connection to one or more White House colleagues during the period in which Joseph Wilson was causing the White House discomfort. (Wilson primarily did that by publicly disclosing that the Niger allegation was probably not true and by charging that the White House had reason to be suspicious of the claim.) Consequently, investigators probing the Wilson leak ought to ask this NSC officer--if they have not already done so--whether he or she talked about Valerie Wilson with anyone in the White House? If the Justice Department investigators can figure out how individuals in the White House came to know about Wilson's wife (if they did), then the gumshoes might be able to find a trail leading to the leakers.
I tried reaching this individual and could not get past the NSC receptionist, who referred me to NSC press spokesman Sean McCormack. He returned my call once, missed me, and then did not return subsequent calls.
I thought it would certainly be newsworthy to point out a White House officer who particularly deserved to be questioned by the Justice Department investigators. But I worried: would doing so out another CIA officer who has engaged in counterproliferation work? Over the years, I've generally been a critic of the CIA, but I do want the agency to be successful in this mission. And I do not aim to needlessly jeopardize anyone's career. In my 1994 book on the CIA--Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades--I named many a CIA person, but most were retired and had no objection to being identified. In one instance, a former CIA man who lived in a developing nation maintained that if he were fingered as a former CIA undercover officer his family might be targeted. I kept his name out of the book.
So should I ID this CIA person working at the White House? As Novak did, I called the CIA. I spoke to Mark Mansfield, a longtime CIA spokesperson. I informed him that I had learned about this CIA officer and mentioned the individual's name. I asked if the CIA would confirm the person's employment at the CIA and whether the agency wanted to make a case for not revealing his or her name. He said he would get back to me--and nothing more. Several hours later, he called. He had no "designated" official for me to speak with. "We generally don't comment upon employment," he said. But did he not want to argue against naming this person. Any guidance, off the record? I asked. No, he said. "As a general point," Mansfield added, "we always prefer that CIA employees--whether they are undercover or overt--not be identified publicly because it can limit opportunities to travel overseas and can have unintended consequences."
That was hardly a forceful argument. No pleading. No melodramatic warnings that I would be endangering one person's career and ruining operations around the world. In a way, this echoed the weak pushback Novak claims he received when he contacted the CIA about Valerie Wilson. Still, Novak reports, the CIA did talk to him about Valerie Wilson's position at the CIA and her (apparently small) role in the Niger business. That was more help than I received. I suppose the CIA officials who discussed my request might have figured that if they had asked me not to identify this NSC officer they would be confirming his CIA employment. So they left me in the cold--with my conscience.
It was, though, not a tough call. I have decried the Wilson leak and lambasted the White House for engineering it, doing nothing about it, or trying to exploit it (or all of the above). So I'm not going to drop a dime on this NSC staffer--not yet. Let's see how the investigation goes--to the extent the public can discern what is happening. I am assuming that the feds are aware of this person. If not, they should contact me. I'm dying to tell somebody.
JUST RELEASED AND A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER: David Corn's new book, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). For more information and a sample, check out the book's official website: www.bushlies.com.
While tales of Arnold's physical harassment of women should keep him out of the Governor's seat, George Bush's assaults against women nationwide--and around the world--should ensure that he is ousted from the White House in 2004.
Since he arrived in DC, he has been waging a not-so-quiet war against women and families. Several of his most extreme actions--for example, the global gag rule--have received some media scrutiny. But how many people know about these other assaults?
With all due credit to Emily's List, here's a top-ten list of Bush Assaults on Women and Families. (If you have your own list, click here to share it with me. I'll keep a running tally of Bush assaults as we head into 2004.)
10. Bush chose Nancy Pfotenhauer, president and CEO of the conservative Independent Women's Forum, to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women. (The IWF is a rightwing group actively opposed to the Violence Against Women Act.)
9. Bush appointed Diana Furchgott-Roth as director of the Federal Housing Finance Board. Furchgott-Roth, a former fellow at the far-right American Enterprise Institute, co-authored a book denying the existence of a wage gap and glass ceiling, and arguing that women are no longer affected by discrimination in the workplace.
8. The Republican-backed Personal Responsibility, Work and Family Promotion Act of 2003 increased from thirty to forty the number of hours that welfare recipients are required to work--while also providing $200 million annually to promote marriage and $50 million to promote abstinence.
7. Bush tried to eliminate contraceptive coverage from federal employees' health plans. (Democrats fought back and won.)
6. Bush in intent on nominating judges who are staunch opponents of abortion rights. His most recent nominee to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Claude A. Allen, has gone so far as to claim that abortion is causing genocide of the black population. Allen has also been a vocal supporter of abstinence-only education programs and the Bush Administration's decision to remove information about condoms and teen pregnancy prevention from the Center for Disease Control's website.
5. Bush appointed Wade Horn as assistant secretary for family support in the US Health and Human Services Department. As President of the National Fatherhood Institute, Horn said that low-income kids whose parents aren't married should be last in line for Head Start and other benefits.
4. Bush policy prohibits military women stationed overseas from receiving safe medical abortions at military hospitals, even if they pay for the procedure with personal funds.
3. Bush slammed the door shut on the White House Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach, which worked with women's advocacy groups on public policy and political issues. His 2004 budget eliminated funding for the Women's Educational Equity Act to promote equity for girls and women in education.
2. Bush nominated Dr. David Hager to chair the Food and Drug Administration's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. (Hager has written about Christ's ability to heal women's illnesses and reportedly refused to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women.) The good news? Hager did not become chair. The bad news? He became a member of the committee.
1. Under the pretense of helping working families, particularly working mothers, the Bush Administration proposed the so-called Family Time Flexibility Act to abolish federally mandated overtime pay for workers, allowing employers to offer comp time instead. The Democrats prevented this bill from coming to the floor but there's talk that Republican legislators may try to bring it back in different form.
Don't let George W. hide behind his image as the protector of a country that is, in fact, becoming increasingly less secure--not to mention less fair, less compassionate and less just--under his shrinking stewardship.