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It's a Small World After All

The International Ethical Collegium is an important new global voice. Its membership includes philosophers, diplomats, scientists, human rights activists and current and former Heads of State and governments, like ex-President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who want the global community to respond "intelligently and forcefully to the decisive challenges facing humankind." (The group has recently published an important Open Letter to George W. Bush and John Kerry, which is reprinted below.)

The Collegium sees three great challenges confronting the modern world--all of which require robust multilateral solutions: an ecological threat that includes global warming, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and a shortage of drinkable water in many of the world's poorest regions; a global economy in which deregulation has created massive disparities in income and a less secure world; and, finally, a "crisis of thought and meaning" whereby humanity is thwarted by forces like "violence and intolerance [and] materialistic obsession."

In an interview this week, the International Collegium's Secretary General Sacha Goldman talked about how sovereign states' own self-interest, threatened to undermine the hope of collective action to confront the world's most immediate problems. "The US is losing its moral leadership," Goldman said, and that's troubling because nations "don't exist anymore on their own." Interdependence, as the Open Letter states, "is the new reality of this century--from global warming to global markets, global crime and global technology."

The Collegium was formed in the period leading up to the Sept. 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. The former President of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, and the former French Prime Minister, Michel Rocard, serve as its co-chairs. While the group has proposed solutions to specific transnational problems, the Collegium is most valuable for its ethics-based approach to problems like terrorism, poverty and environmental degradation.

The Collegium's Open Letter is another sign that our upcoming election isn't just about the American people. It's about America's future role in the world. Citing a "new era of interdependence," the Collegium's members are asking Bush and Kerry to make clear their views about large issues like the prospects for democracy at the global level, and the possibility of formulating common interdependent values.

Sadly, however, the possibility of the global community working together to tackle the world's vast inequities has been greatly diminished due to Bush's hyper-militaristic approach to solving global problems, his illegal and un-necessary war in Iraq, and his contempt for the UN in particular and the international community in general. Worse, Bush's policies have made the US more isolated--even hated--among former friends and foes alike. Recent polls conducted by GlobeScan and the University of Maryland show rising international mistrust of the US. Transatlantic Trends 2004 recently released a survey revealing that 76 percent of Europeans disapprove of Bush's handling of foreign affairs, up 20 percent in the last two years.

"If the people of the world were going to participate in the US election, Kerry would win handily," said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. While that fact might be exploited by the Bush campaign, the Collegium's open letter should serve as a wake-up call to Americans that the US is stronger when it builds alliances. This assertion isn't new, of course, but this fact has gotten lost in this stormy campaign in which Vietnam--and a debate about whose service was nobler--has eclipsed the debate about Iraq's future, the genocide in Darfur, rising tensions in the Middle East, and Iran's nuclear weapons programs.

For the first time since 1972, international affairs and national security are the top concern of the American electorate. In turning his back on the concept of multilateral action to solve common problems, however, Bush has made America less secure by turning internationalism on its head.

Bush and Kerry have an obligation to listen to the Collegium's concerns and begin to address our greatest challenges in a serious and intelligent way. The Collegium's letter to the candidates provides an opportunity for both candidates to take that step. Read it below.

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Collegium International

To The Candidates of the 2004 United States Presidential Elction: President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry.

On November 2, one of you will be elected the next President of the United States. Because your great country is powerful far beyond its borders, billions of women and men who cannot vote will be profoundly affected by the choice made by the United States electorate.

We, the members of the International Ethical Collegium, write to you as citizens of the world who are in effect your constituents, but who have no vote. We ask that you consider your responsibility not just to the United States and its citizens but also to the world in this new era of interdependence, when sovereignty still circumscribes elections but can no longer circumscribe the consequences of elections.

Interdependence is evident in our world, from global warming to global markets, global crime, and global technology. However, more than anything else, terrorism has unveiled this fateful interdependence that defines our twenty-first century world. The atrocious attacks of September 11, 2001, like those that followed in Casablanca, Bali, Madrid and elsewhere, elicited the condemnation and sympathy of the entire world, even as they showed that no nation can any longer be secure or sovereign by itself.

We believe that the realities of interdependence require that the promise of its benefits be realized in affirmative ways through an architecture of interdependence that assures full equality in the distribution of economic, social and human resources. This condition requires the United States to recognize four crucial principles and needs, that define the central concerns of the Collegium:

** the need to establish democracy at a global level, where it can regulate and offer popular sovereignty over global anarchic forces that have escaped the sovereignty of individual nations, and at the same time secure diversity and equality among diverse democratic cultures and civilizations;

** the need to define the public goods of our common world, and to protect them as common heritage--including such crucial goods as access to knowledge and information and communication technologies, as well as to such non-renewable resources as drinking water and fossil fuels;

** the need to establish and formulate common interdependent values that can act as a bulwark against relativism and cynicism, even as they invite intercultural and intercivilizational dialogue and democratic deliberation;

** the need to define economic, social and cultural rights as intrinsic to and inseparable from political rights, extending across cultures and generations.

We believe that these needs represent the fundamental concerns of the world's voiceless citizens who will have to live with the consequences of United States leadership. At the same time, we recognize that, as leaders of your great nation, you are agents of hope, capable of using the power given to you by the American people to the advantage of all humankind. We also know that since the United States can no longer find peace or justice without engaging cooperatively and multilaterally with the world and itsinternational institutions, the world can have neither justice nor peace without the involvement of the United States.

In this spirit, although you have a legal obligation only to your countryís citizens, we would ask you to read this letter and offer the world's citizens--your other invisible constituents--a considered response. You can be sure it will be met with a gratitude that recognizes that you have moved beyond the responsibilities of politics to embrace the responsibilities of ethical leadership and in doing so, have affirmed both the reality and the promise of interdependence.

Endorsed on behalf of the International Collegium members by:

Milan KUCAN , former President of Slovenia andMichel ROCARD, former Prime Minister of France,Co-chairs of the International Collegium

Andreas VAN AGT, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands;Henri ATLAN, Bio-physicist and Philosopher, France;Lloyd AXWORTHY, President of University of Winnipeg, former Foreign Minister of Canada; Fernando Henrique CARDOSO, former President of Brazil; Manuel CASTELLS, Sociologist, Spain;Mireille DELMAS-MARTY, Professor of law, Sorbonne and College de France; Ruth DREIFUSS, former President of the Swiss Confederation; Gareth EVANS, President of the ICG, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Australia; Malcolm FRASER, Chairman of the InterAction Council, former Prime Minister, Australia; Bronislaw GEREMEK, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland;Bacharuddin Jusuf HABIBIE, former President of Indonesia; H.R.H. HASSAN BIN TALLAL, Jordan; Vaclav HAVEL, former President of the Czech Republic; Stephane HESSEL, Ambassador of France; Alpha Oumar KONARE, former President of Mali; Claudio MAGRIS, Author, Italy;Edgar MORIN, Philosopher, France; Sadako OGATA, President of Japan International Cooperation Agency(JICA), former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Japan; Jacques ROBIN, Philosopher, Founder of Transversales, France; Mary ROBINSON, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former President of Ireland;Wolfgang SACHS, Economist, Germany; Mohamed SAHNOUN, Ambassador of Algeria; George VASSILIOU, former President of the Republic of Cyprus; Richard VON WEIZSACKER, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany; Huanming YANG, Director and Professor, Beijing Genomics Institute, China.

Mobilize for Public Schools Today

This won't be a surprise to Nation readers, but with Congress back in session, the White House and the GOP majority are pushing hard to continue shortchanging America's public schools. A memo leaked from the president's budget office shows deep cuts planned for nearly every education program in 2005.

In response, the Campaign for America's Future--along with The Nation, MoveOn.org, the National Education Association and more than 40 allied groups--is working to forge support for a national movement with the power to force Washington to make our public schools a priority.

One of the many ways that CAF is suggesting people help their campaign is to sponsor house parties on September 22. Similar gatherings have proved effective venues for discussing critical issues with many people at once, allowing them to ask questions and get the information they need to effectively organize in their own communities. So, please consider hosting a house party for America's public schools. Already, many thousands of teachers, parents, students, and community members have signed up to host events. Click here to sign up. With your help we can build the largest national mobilization for public schools ever.

As a house party host, you'll receive a free video to show, and a resource kit to guide you every step of the way. A house party can offer the opportunity to get your neighborhood working together and making a difference.

Ex-Nader Leaders Change Tune

If there was ever any doubt that Ralph Nader's former supporters understand that redefeating Bush is the top priority for progressives in this election, it ended this morning when the overwhelming majority of Nader's 2000 National Citizens Committee issued a strong statement urging support for John Kerry and John Edwards in all swing states. (Click here to read the statement.)

Among the more than 75 signers are Phil Donahue, Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich (who used one of her New York Times column to come out against Nader), Jim Hightower, Howard Zinn, Tim Robbins, Eddie Vedder, Susan Sarandon, Ben Cohen and Cornel West.

This urgent call comes at a time when it appears that the Nader campaign has qualified for the ballot in some 23 states, a minimum of 10 of which are considered swing states. Nader will probably also qualify for several other swing state ballots by the time of the election. In a race which remains both close and highly polarized, any one of these states could end up as the new "Florida," and tip the electoral college vote to Bush.

While the 75-plus signers include a spectrum of views, all are united around a single proposition: Ending the national nightmare of Bush. As Noam Chomsky describes the stark choice: "Help elect Bush, or do something to try to prevent it."

A number of signers also stress the importance of working to (re)defeat Bush on behalf of the world community. "We are not just voting for ourselves," says political strategist Steve Cobble. "The entire world wishes they could vote in our presidential election--so they could vote against George W. Bush, pre-emption, bullying and unilateralism."

Taking Dives for the Bush Mob

I used to have sympathy for Colin Powell, the supposed adult among the neocon kindergartners who pushed this nation into war in Iraq. Now I see him merely as a boxer who has taken one too many dives. And he has been doing so to protect a no-good mob.

The on-the-ground reality in Iraq was darn ugly last week: cities beyond the control of the United States military or the new Iraqi government, rising American casualties (not only did the number of dead American GIs top 1000, the rate of US troops killed in action has increased), and mounting civilian deaths in US military attacks. So the Bush White House--looking to keep the bad news from Iraq from shaping the presidential campaign in these final weeks--dispatched Secretary of State Powell to the Sunday morning shows to do what he does best: put forward a reassuring and realistic spin. On Meet the Press, Tim Russert asked if Iraq was heading toward civil war. Powell calmly replied,

It's always a possibility, but I don't think it's going to happen. We have leaders in the interim government who represent every element of Iraqi society. We have Kurd, Shiias, Sunnis. They're all working together. What are they working together for? To end the insurgency, to build up Iraqi security forces so they can take care of their own security and to get ready for an election with the help of the coalition and the help of the U.N. These are dedicated men and women who get up every day in order to keep their country together, to work for a political outcome that reflects the will of the Iraqi people and they're being attacked by insurgents.

And so it is a difficult time. There's an insurgency that has to be put down, and when that insurgency is put down, what the people of the world will see are Iraqis in charge of their own destiny, moving toward an election that will provide for a representative form of government, the creation of a constitution and the ratification of a constitution, and it's going to be something they'll be able to be proud of.

And so this is a difficult time as this insurgency still rages and as we work to bring it under control, but it will be brought under control. It's not an impossible task. And when it has been brought under control, you'll find that the forces that keep Iraq together are stronger than the forces that pull it apart.

In other words, there is nothing about which to worry. When George W. Bush--or Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz--make such an argument, it seems self-serving and absurd. But Powell has that magic touch: he concedes the problems, promises it will work out in the end, and those who want to believe can believe. He certainly is no Scott McClellan, who has the air of a waiter carrying far too many plates and is but a second away from dropping the entire load.

But Powell can only prettify the mess so much. And he can only do so by resorting to disingenuousness. On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Powell, "John Kerry now says that Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. Is any of that right?" Powell replied:

It is a war that succeeded in removing a dictator--a dictator who was a threat to his own people, a threat to the region and a threat to the international order. And so we did the right thing at the right place and the right time to get rid of that dictator and to give the Iraqi people a chance for peace.

A threat to his own people, the region and the international order. Hmmm, what did Powell leave out? Oh, yeah--a threat to the United States. Before the war, Bush and his gang claimed that Saddam Hussein's regime was a "direct" and "immediate" threat to the United States. Bush, citing Hussein's supposed possession of significant amounts of weapons of mass destruction, repeatedly called it a "grave and gathering threat." But now Powell is helping the Bush rewrite history by airbrushing out of the picture the primary rationale for the war.

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When you're done reading this article,visit David Corn's WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries on Kitty Kelley's new Bush-bashing book and the flap over Bush's Air National Guard service.

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Wallace did not ask Powell about the absent WMDs. But Russert did. And Powell countered with a falsehood. The exchange:

RUSSERT: As you well know, the primary rationale given for the war was weapons of mass destruction. The deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, said this, that "...we settled on that issue because everyone could agree on it. ... There actually had been three fundamental concerns. One was WMD. Two was support for terrorism. The third was the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. ... The third one by itself..."--the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people--"is a reason to help the Iraqis but not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did." In light of the fact there's no direct connection between Iraq and September 11, no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, is it worth 1,000 American lives and 7,000 wounded and injured simply because Saddam was a bad guy?

POWELL:....The president decided that action was appropriate in Iraq and he put together a coalition of many nations that joined in that judgment and joined in that fight. Because, one, Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction in the past. He had an intention. He had a capability. And all of the intelligence available to us and to the internal community led us to the conclusion that he had stockpiles and it was a reasonable conclusion at that time.

That is not true. Not all the available intelligence said there were stockpiles. The prewar National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (flawed as it was) did not state there were biological weapons stockpiles; it only maintained there was a biological weapons development program (and, as subsequent events demonstrated, it had overstated that conclusion). And the Defense Intelligence Agency reported in the fall of 2002 there it had found no evidence that Iraq was maintaining stockpiles of chemical weapons. Powell is being quite slippery here. He is suggesting the evidence was clear and undeniable on the question of WMD stockpiles. But here he is putting his reputation for probity to misuse and selling a phony cover story.

Powell is quite useful for Bush. He plays the role of the administration's reasonable man. He comes out and says there was no direct connection between Iraq and the terrorists of 9/11 (undermining Cheney's repeated suggestions such a link existed). He says Kerry would deal with the terrorism in a "robust" fashion (undercutting Cheney's charge that the United States would be hit again by terrorists should Kerry be elected). Asked if he would have supported the invasion of Iraq had he known there were no WMD stockpiles there, he says, maybe, maybe not (distancing himself slightly from the Bush line). But he refuses to concede that he and the Bush administration misrepresented the case for war. "I'm disappointed; I'm not pleased"--that's all he says about the misleading intelligence on Iraq's WMDs that he infamously cited at his prewar briefing of the UN Security Council. (When it comes to Iran's nuclear program, Powell notes that the Bush administration is working closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He does not remind the audience that the administration he serves trashed the IAEA when the IAEA was conducting inspections in Iraq during the months before the invasion.)

In Washington, there has long been a debate within foreign policy circles hostile to Bush and his war: is it better for Powell to be in the administration or not? Does Powell occasionally apply the brakes to the administration's recklessness? Is he a mature, multilateralral influence? My view is that if there are benefits from his tenure at the State, they are outweighed by an obvious cost: how he helps the Bush bunch stay in power and, thus, enables the neoconservatives. In the final weeks of the election, I expect the public will see more of Powell than Wolfowitz. He will reassure. He will have plausible-sounding explanations for the screw-ups. He will offer soothing words about the "challenges" ahead. In doing all this, he will be fronting for the neocons. And if Powell does his job well, they will have more four more years to impose upon the world their miscalculations. It seems Powell never grows tired of kissing the mat for the Bush gang.

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DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there.

Sept. 11th Families for Peace

Nearly three years ago, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was born out of a shared belief that America's military response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks "which took our loved ones' lives would result in the deaths of countless innocent civilians and increase recruitment for terrorist causes, making the United States, and the world, less safe and less free for generations to come."

Click here to read the full statement from Peaceful Tomorrows, issued on today's third anniversary of the tragic attacks, click here to listen to a BBC radio interview with Lisa Mullins, one of Peaceful Tomorrow's founders, and click here to help support the group's work.

MEDIA LINK: The Common Dreams site has put together a collection of archived articles published shortly after September 11, 2001. Click here to read pieces by Arundhati Roy, Barbara Kingsolver and Robert Fisk, among many others.

RFK in EKY

"As long as everyone is talking about what did or did not happen 35 years ago in Vietnam," writes Matt Miller, columnist and fellow at the Center for American Progress, "they're not talking about the candidates' rival visions for the future, or domestic policy differences between the parties that are huge."

Of course, the Bush campaign's scurrilous lies about Kerry's record as a war hero must be challenged forcefully. But what ever happened to the important debate about the costs of war in Iraq--we've just passed the grim milestone of 1000 US deaths-- particularly at a time in which poverty is rapidly growing?

In February 1968, when poverty and another war weighed heavily on people's minds, Robert F. Kennedy, as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on employment, manpower and poverty, held two field hearings in Eastern Kentucky to explore the causes of Appalachian poverty and gauge the success of Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty programs.

This week, John Malpede, a performance artist from Los Angeles, is staging RFK in EKY, a re-enactment of Kennedy's visit to Eastern Kentucky. "Reality has been accommodating to us," Malpede observed in a recent interview in the New York Times, where he discussed his hope that history could refocus our political debate on poverty and the costs of war at home.

Under President Bush, the rich have gotten richer, the middle-class has shrunk, and the ranks of the poor have expanded. In 2003, according to the Census Bureau's latest statistics, America's poverty rate jumped from 12.1 percent to 12.5 percent. Currently, some 36 million Americans live in poverty, while the country endures the worst child-poverty rate of any industrialized nation. Some 45 million Americans went without health insurance in 2003.

In sharp contrast, under the Bush Administration, to cite one figure, the top 50 outsourcing companies paid their CEOs, on average, $10.4 million in 2003--a nearly 50 percent increase over a year earlier. The gap between the relative prospects of rich and poor in the age of Bush is driven home by Executive Excess, a new report released by the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy, which documents that, "If the minimum wage had increased as quickly as CEO pay since 1990, it would today be $15.76 per hour, rather than the current $5.15 per hour." (Click here to view the report.)

Remembering RFK's visit to Kentucky is a useful way to reframe the 2004 political debate and articulate a vision of what is possible in this country. As Malpede says of his play: "The idea is to revisit a moment in history that was significant to the community and see how it resonates now."

Although the Right has worked assiduously to discredit the War on Poverty, the effort was, in fact, successful. Between 1964 and 1973, the poverty rate declined from 19 percent to 11.1 percent due to programs such as Head Start, Medicare and food stamps. And we've made some strides since 1973. In an interview, Georgetown law professor and anti-poverty activist Peter Edelman pointed out that America has adopted the State Children's Health Insurance Program; expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, increased the number of housing vouchers, created Pell Grants for higher education, and the living wage campaign is successful in over 100 cities and counties from coast to coast.

Under Bush however, "the labor market has failed," Edelman says. The jobs being created aren't good jobs, and we need to "keep chipping away" at poverty. "We're in a particularly bad period now" with Republicans controlling the entire federal government, but at the same time, Edelman believes "the moral support in the country for doing something about[poverty]" is substantial.

Edelman was an aide to Kennedy in 1968, and he has stayed true to Kennedy's fusion of pragmatism and idealism. Kennedy was moved in Appalachia by the unmet needs of the community's inadequate schools, its environmental degradation, and the working families he spoke to who had trouble feeding their children.

"Family after family still survives on beans and potatoes or rice, cornbread and fat back," Kennedy said during his visit. "In many of the counties of Eastern Kentucky, more than half of the adult men, sometimes over three quarters, have no work." Kennedy was not only bringing attention to poverty--but also to how people in Appalachia were cut out of access to education, and decent jobs, and lived without health care. While conditions in Appalachia have improved in recent decades, there are still "two Americas" in this country.

Edelman, who will be a participant in Malpede's RFK in EKY, says the play "reminds us, as Robert Kennedy was fond of saying, that one person can make a difference, and that people working together in larger numbers can make a huge difference. This is an especially crucial time to be communicating those kinds of reminders."

In 1997, former Senator Paul Wellstone re-traced RFK's steps in Appalachia and other poverty-stricken regions. Some journalists ridiculed his efforts. But Wellstone's crusading spirit underscores the kind of courage, focus and real compassion that defined Kennedy's commitment to calling attention to poverty in all its guises.

In the weeks ahead, it is likely that the vicious attacks against Kerry and the distorted views about another war held by men who have never accepted Former Defense Secretary's Robert McNamara's assertion that we were "terribly wrong" about Vietnam, will remain central to the political debate. But at a time of gutter-ball politics, we should refocus the debate on the real issues in 2004: waging war against poverty and finding a wayout of the war in Iraq which is costing this country so much in lives and resources.

More Revelations--UPDATED

[UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that several document experts it consulted have raised questions about the authenticity of the Killian memos obtained by 60 Minutes. These documents, written about below, appear to provide further evidence that Bush skipped out on the Texas Air National Guard. CBS News so far is standing by its assertion that the documents are real. A senior CBS official says that retired Maj. General Bobby Hodges--Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian's superior--told CBS News that the contents of the memos were consistent with what Killian said to him at the time. No doubt, the debate over the memos will continue. But as it continues, the point should not be lost that even without the new information, Bush's account of his Guard service does not withstand scrutiny--that he still has not fully explained his missing year in the Air National Guard, that he has not presented any evidence that he engaged in training activity in Alabama (while commanders at the Guard unit there say they do not recall he ever reported for duty), that he has offered various misleading and false explanations for his failure to take a flight exam, that he has not addressed why he left his unit in Houston before his transfer to another unit in Alabama was approved, that he has misrepresented his Guard service in his autobiography, and that he has not explained why his annual performance review from May 1973 said he had not been seen at his unit for a year (when he claimed he was only in Alabama for a few months). All of these questions about his Guard service are backed up by official records that are unquestionably authentic.]

"Dirty politics."

That is how Dan Bartlett, communications director for the Bush White House, responded to the latest revelations about George W. Bush's questionable military service. He was speaking to 60 Minutes for a report that featured Ben Barnes, a Democrat and former Texas Speaker of the House, who says he pulled strings to win George W. Bush a spot in the Air National Guard. But Bartlett did not explain why it is "dirty politics" to publicize new documents that show Bush cut out on his Guard duty but it is not "dirty politics" for Republican-financed veterans to claim (without producing any documentation) that John Kerry lied about wartime deeds that are indeed substantiated by official records.

Barnes's appearance on the CBS News show did have the stench of politics to it. Thanks to the oppo-researchers at the Republican Party--who dispatched a mass email hours before 60 Minutes came on--every reporter on the GOP spam list (myself included) ended up possessing a pile of clips that showed that Barnes, now a corporate lobbyist, is a close friend of and a major fundraiser for John Kerry. And Barnes's story was not new. Back in 1999, Barnes told The New York Times that in 1968, when Bush was facing the prospect of being drafted for Vietnam, a Houston oilman named Sidney Adger, a friend of George H.W. Bush, had asked Barnes to get Bush into the Texas Air National Guard. Barnes maintained that he then dutifully contacted the head of the Air National Guard, who was a pal of his, on behalf of the young Bush. During the 60 Minutes spot, anchor Dan Rather said, "This is the first time Ben Barnes has told his story publicly." But Barnes revealed nothing that he has not claimed previously.

One big question is whether Adger was acting in response to a request from George H.W. Bush. Both Bushes have claimed that the elder Bush did not ask Adger to obtain special treatment for the younger Bush and that they know nothing about any special treatment afforded W. And Barnes--in 1999 and now--has not said anything that contradicts the Bushes on this point. It seems logical to assume that Adger's efforts to win Bush a much-coveted Guard spot were known to at least the elder Bush. But Adger is dead, and only common sense (rather than evidence) undermines the Bush story that Adger was a lone favor-seeker who kept his efforts secret from his friend and the fellow who benefited from his intervention.

But the story does not stop here. Bartlett can grouse about Barnes's late reemergence in the presidential campaign and dismiss it as "politics." But what can he say about the new documents CBS News also featured in the spot? This was the important stuff, and it might have served CBS News well to have dumped Barnes and focused on these records--which are only the latest of new material that has come out recently regarding Bush's Guard service.

The records show that in May 1972, Bush disobeyed a direct order. On May 4, 1972, Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian, the commander of Bush's squadron, sent First Lt. Bush a memo stating, "You are ordered to report" to Ellington Air Force Base in Houston--where Bush's Air National Guard unit was stationed--"to conduct an annual physical examination."

Bush did not appear for this physical. And on May 19, Killian wrote a memo detailing a conversation he had with Bush. He noted the two had "discussed options of how Bush can get out of coming to drill from now through November....Says he wants to transfer to Alabama to any unit he can get in to. Says that he is working on another campaign for his dad." Regarding the physical exam, Killian wrote, "We talked about him getting his flight physical situation fixed before his date. Says he will do that in Alabama if he stays in flight status. He has this campaign to do and other things that will follow and may not have the time. I advised him of our investment in him and his commitment. He's been working with staff to come up with options and identified a unit that may accept him. I told him I had to have written acceptance before he would be transferred, but think he's also talking to someone upstairs."

Bush never reported for his physical. Moreover, another Killian memo shows that Bush was suspended from flight status not just because he did not take his physical (as has previously been reported) but also because he had not performed adequately. Furthermore, this memo indicates that Bush headed off to Alabama--that is, he skipped out on the Air National Guard--before a transfer was arranged and approved. On August 1, 1972, Killian kicked Bush off flight status and wrote a memo noting that the suspension was "due to failure to perform to" Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force "standards and failure to meet annual physical examination (flight) as ordered."

Previously, Bush's aides have given two reasons for his failure to take that flight exam. First they said he was unable to be examined because he was in Alabama at the time and his personal physician was back in Houston. But that explanation did not wash. Flight physicals are given not by personal physicians but by flight surgeons, and there were flight surgeons available in Alabama. But the Bush camp has also claimed that Bush did not take the physical because the F-102A fighter jet he flew was about to be mothballed and that there were no planes for him to fly in Alabama. Yet an additional set of records from Bush's military file released by the White House days ago shows that Bush's unit flew F-102As until 1974. And the Killian memos make clear that the physical exam was not optional. Bush was ordered to submit to an exam, and he refused that order. Under Texas law, a member of the Guard who "willfully" disobeys a superior officer "shall be punished as a court-martial directs."

Killian's August 1 memo went on: "I recommended transfer of this officer to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron [based in Alabama] in May....The transfer was not allowed. Officer [Bush] has made no attempt to meet his training certification or flight physical. Officer expresses desire to transfer out of state including assignment to non-flying billets."

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When you're done reading this article,visit David Corn's WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries on Alan Keyes claiming Jesus might vote for him, Dick Cheney's over-the-top attack, and GOP spinning on stem cells.

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By this point, Bush had already left Texas for Alabama to work on the campaign of a Republican senatorial candidate and family friend. Bush has claimed he fulfilled his Guard commitment in Alabama. But the commanders at Dannelly Air National Guard Base, where he was eventually assigned, say he never reported for duty. And there are no service records that show he engaged in any training with the unit there. This week, an anti-Bush group called Texans for Truth began airing ads featuring Bob Mintz, an Air National Guard pilot at Dannelly at that time, who says he never saw Bush at Dannelly.

The Killian memos are rather damning proof that Bush abandoned the Guard. Which of course contradicts Bush's assertion that he fulfilled his commitment to the Guard. But apparently for over 30 years, there has been an effort to burnish his Guard credentials. In another memo--written on August 18, 1973--Killian noted that when it came time for him to draft an evaluation of Bush, there was pressure from above for a good write-up. Killian noted that Col. Walter "Buck" Staudt, his superior,

"has obviously pressured [Lt. Colonel Bobby] Hodges more about Bush. I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job--[Lt. Colonel William] Harris gave me a message today from [Group] regarding Bush's [officer efficiency training report] and Staudt is pushing to sugar coat it. Bush wasn't here during rating period and I don't have any comments from 187th in Alabama [a unit to which Bush was assigned when he was in Alabama]. I will not rate.''

Several months earlier--on May 2, 1973--Killian had signed an annual performance report on Bush that said, "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit" for the past year. One reading of Killian's August 18, 1973, memo is that several officers at the base were trying to cover for Bush and his missing year.

The Killian memos obtained by CBS News and the documents released by the White House are not the only truly new information on Bush's Guard service to come out this week. On September 8, The Boston Globe reported:

In February, when the White House made public hundreds of pages of President Bush's military records, White House officials repeatedly insisted that the records prove that Bush fulfilled his military commitment in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

But Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice during his Guard service--first when he joined in May 1968, and again before he transferred out of his unit in mid-1973 to attend Harvard Business School--Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty.

He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show. The 1973 document has been overlooked in news media accounts. The 1968 document has received scant notice.

The Globe noted that in July 1973, shortly before moving from Houston to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to attend Harvard Business School (when he had about nine months left on his six-year commitment to the Texas Air National Guard), Bush signed a document that stated, "It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit or mobilization augmentation position. If I fail to do so, I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months." Bush had 60 days to locate a new unit. But, the paper reported, Bush never signed up with a Guard unit in the Boston. In 1999, Bartlett, then a spokesman for the Bush campaign, told The Washington Post that Bush finished his six-year commitment at a Boston-area Air Force Reserve unit. "I must have misspoke," Bartlett told the Globe.

The Globe also reported,

And early in his Guard service, on May 27, 1968, Bush signed a "statement of understanding" pledging to achieve "satisfactory participation" that included attendance at 24 days of annual weekend duty--usually involving two weekend days each month--and 15 days of annual active duty." I understand that I may be ordered to active duty for a period not to exceed 24 months for unsatisfactory participation," the statement reads.

Yet Bush, a fighter-interceptor pilot, performed no service for one six-month period in 1972 and for another period of almost three months in 1973, the records show.

The oh-too slowly emerging account of Bush's Guard service just gets uglier and uglier. To recap: he repeatedly did not meet his obligations, he failed to obey an order to take a physical, he fell short of the Guard's performance standards, he improperly left his unit before arranging a transfer, he ended his Guard service before he finished his commitment, and senior officers pressured his commander to cover for him. And that's all in the written record. (An analysis of Bush's Guard records written by Gerald Lechliter, a retired Army colonel, argues that Bush received fraudulent payments from the Air National Guard. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has posted Lechliter's analysis here.)

Now compare all this to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth episode. In challenging Kerry's wartime record, these vets have produced no documents that substantiate their charge that Kerry lied about his wartime exploits and earned medals he did not deserve. In fact, the official records back up Kerry's account. Yet Kerry found himself pinned down by the unproved charges from a group financed by Republican donors.

It is true that Bush has not made his Vietnam-era military service an issue as Kerry has. But Bush has repeatedly claimed he received no preferential treatment in the Guard and that he served honorably and fulfilled his obligations. But the various explanations he and his aides have offered for the mysteries of his Guard service--the missing time in Alabama and Houston, the failure to take the flight physical--have not held up. The available evidence indicates he has not been honest about that period in his life. Is it "dirty politics" to point to documents that contradict Bush's account and ask, why?

The past week has produced almost too much material on Bush's curious tenure in the Air National Guard. In a way, that is a blessing for the White House. By dismissing all of it as merely recycled partisan charges, the Bushies are attempting to sweep aside the new with the old. For over three decades, Bush has been able to keep the full tale of his Guard service--particularly that missing year--a secret. But the truth has been dripping out--like water seeping through bullet holes in the hull of a Swift boat. His story is sinking. But he need only keep it afloat--or out of the full media spotlight--for seven more weeks. And his aides are paddling mighty fast.

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Assault-Weapons Ban Expires

In addition to a few big things like reproductive choice, and maybe evolution there are lots of smaller differences between Bush and Kerry. One of these--their position on gun control--is highlighted by the September 13 expiration of the assault weapons ban.

Four presidents (Ford, Carter, Reagan and Clinton) passed and renewed the ban, which Kerry also supports, but Bush has successfully blocked the bill's renewal, despite its endorsement by every national police organization and the support of about 77 percent of the American voters, according to most polls. The only people who stand to gain from Bush's killing of the ban are terrorists, violent criminals, and, of course, the corporations behind the gun lobby.

The bill outlawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A clause directed that the ban expire unless Congress specifically reauthorized it. And now that Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert have announced that they won't even bring a vote on the matter, gun manufacturers are gearing up for the scheduled expiration by taking orders for semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines that may soon become legal again, according to the Washington Post.

Click here for info on how you can get involved in the gun-control movement and check out the Stop The NRA site for info on the assault ban and what may still be left to do to defend it.

Vice President of the Apocalypse

For those who feared that the speakers at last week's Republican National Convention had failed to adequately impress upon the American electorate the view that death and grief and sorrow would be the predictable byproducts of John Kerry's election to the presidency, Vice President Dick Cheney has spelled out the threat in excruciating detail.

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney grumbled to a gathering of the ceaselessly-nodding Republican party faithful in Des Moines.

Cheney's claim that the replacement of the administration he runs -- with an assist from George W. Bush -- by a Kerry administration would call down the wrath of global terrorism on the homeland is easily the most irresponsible statement of a campaign that has not exactly been characterized by moderation.

The Democratic response was to condemn Cheney in the bizarrely tepid fashion that has come to characterize the opposition party's dysfunction attempt to retake the White House. "Protecting America from vicious terrorists is not a Democratic or Republican issues, it's an American issue and Dick Cheney and George Bush should know that," whined Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards.

Let it be recorded that, despite the firm slap on the wrist that was administered by Mr. Edwards, Mr. Cheney did not choose to retract his remarks. And he won't.

Edwards and other Democrats make a mistake when they assume, as Edwards did, that the vice president is merely playing politics. When Edwards suggested that Cheney was employing "scare tactics," and that the Republicans "will do anything and say anything to save their jobs," he gave Cheney far too much credit.

It is true, of course, that the vice president would say anything and do anything in order to maintain his grip on power. But it does not necessarily follow that Cheney is simply carrying out a political hit. Indeed, if the past is prologue, there is every reason to assume that the vice president believes what he is saying about the damage that will befall the land if he and his minions are not working the levers of authority.

Few figures in American politics maintain a world view that is so consistently apocalyptic as does Cheney. Fewer still have allowed petty fears and profound ignorance to so dramatically warp their actions and public pronouncements.

Cheney's Cold War obsessions have frequently placed him on the wrong side of history, causing him to misread the geopolitical realities of regions around the world -- and of the key players within them. This is the man who was so certain that the African National Congress was a dangerous group that he regularly voted, as a member of Congress in the 1980s, against House resolutions calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners in South Africa. While leading conservative Republicans such as Jack Kemp were hailing Mandela as an iconic fighter for freedom and racial justice, Cheney continued to decry the ANC as "a terrorist organization" and to dismiss its leaders as threatening radicals.

During the same period that Cheney was championing the imprisonment of Mandela, the Republican representative from Wyoming was one of the most prominent Congressional advocates for the Reagan administration's illegal war making in Central America. When the administration's crimes were exposed as the Iran-Contra scandal, former White House counsel John Dean notes, "Cheney became President Reagan's principle defender in Congress." Cheney argued that those who sought to hold the Reagan administration accountable for illegal acts in Latin America were "prepared to undermine the presidency" and the ability of future presidents to defend the United States.

When he left the House to become George Herbert Walker Bush's Secretary of Defense, Cheney struggled to maintain the Pentagon's Cold War footing even as the Berlin Wall was crumbling. Obsessed with the notion that the United States should retain the capacity to launch preemptive wars against nation's that were perceived even as possible threats, Cheney was a hyperactive advocate for the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Unfortunately for Secretary of Defense, whose passion for deposing Saddam Hussein reached surreal levels, the "Operation Scorpion" scheme he and his aides developed for imposing "regime change" upon Iraq was so ineptly plotted that it was scrapped after a cursory review by General Norman Schwarzkopf. "I wondered whether Cheney had succumbed to the phenomenon I'd observed among some secretaries of the army," observed Schwarzkopf, the commander on the ground in the region. "Put a civilian in charge of professional military men and before long he's no longer satisfied with setting policy but wants to outgeneral the generals."

When Cheney and a self-selected Praetorian Guard set up the new Republican administration that took charge of the White House after the 2000 election, the vice president could not be bothered to address real threats to the country because he remained obsessed with what turned out to be a ridiculously hyped Iraqi threat. As former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill noted, Cheney and his aides were in the first days of 2001 "already planning the next war in Iraq and the shape of a post-Saddam country."

On the issue of Iraq, Cheney has allowed his tendency toward apocalyptic fantasies to go unchecked. When the vice president was peddling the "case" for invasion, he made far more remarkable claims than did Bush. Charging that Saddam had "resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," Cheney warned a 2002 Veterans of Foreign Wars convention that, "Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten American friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail."

Whew! Scary stuff!

Even scarier, however, is the fact that, as Cheney's claims were proven wrong, the vice president continued to repeat them -- long after Bush had backed off, and long after there was any political advantage to be gained.

This, of course, is where assessing Cheney gets difficult. It is no longer clear where Cheney is deliberately deceiving the American people and where he has deliberately deceived himself. It is easy to call Cheney a "liar," -- and there is no question that the vice president has been caught more than once twisting the truth. But Dick Cheney's biggest lies are almost certainly the ones he tells himself. As such, he will never back away from his charge that changing administrations would be a "wrong choice."

A man who so frequently anticipates the apocalypse is likely to fall into the habit of believing that he alone recognizes that true dangers facing his country.

But why would anyone else treat Cheney seriously? Why would the press repeat his over-the-top charges without noting that Dick Cheney has a track record of reading the world wrong, imagining threats where they do not exist and neglecting real dangers? Why would it go unmentioned that the man who is questioning John Kerry's judgement thought Nelson Mandela was a terrorist?

That's what John Edwards should be talking about.

Instead of complaining that the vice president is engaging in "scare tactics," the Democrat should be suggesting that Americans ought to be afraid, very afraid, of Dick Cheney.

(John Nichols' book on Cheney, Dick: The Man Who Is President, has just been released by The New Press. It's available in independent bookstores nationwide and at www.amazon.com)