by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON --Amid growing concerns that hawks in the administration of President George W. Bush may have misled the U.S. public about the war in Iraq, a prominent U.S. arms-control group has called for Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and his chief deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, to be "summarily fired."
The Washington-based Council for a Livable World (CLW), which has long charged that administration officials exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to the United States and its allies, said the Pentagon's senior leadership had also failed to anticipate and plan adequately for post-war Iraq and the problems faced by U.S. troops there.
"Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz should be summarily fired," the group said Thursday. "The Bush admininstration needs to be held accountable for its mistakes."
CLW's appeal follows similar calls by a number of leading Democrats in Congress for those responsible for the rush to war to step down.
Earlier this month, Rep. David Obey, the ranking member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, also singled out Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in a letter to Bush.
"Whether one concludes that the invasion of Iraq was strategically in the best interests of the United States or not, it is impossible at this point to conclude that the unilateral way in which it was handled was in our national interest or that the planning for the post-conflict portion of the operation was anything other than a disaster," he wrote.
Earlier this week, Rep. John Murtha, the hawkish ranking member of the powerful Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, and a decorated Vietnam veteran who strongly supported the war, also called for high-level resignations in light of what he called both the misrepresentations by the administration that led to the war and the situation in its aftermath.
Murtha said he accepted blame for believing what the administration told him before the war. "I am part of it. I admit the mistake."
"Some bureaucrat in Washington has to start paying the price," Murtha said. "We cannot allow these bureaucrats to get off when these young people are paying such a price."
Murtha absolved Rumsfeld and pointed the finger more at the White House, where Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, has come under strong criticism for failing to control the pro-war hawks--centered primarily in the offices of Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney--in the run-up to the war. But he declined to name names.
Murtha was joined by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who agreed that someone's "head should roll," although she said it was up to the President to decide whose.
"It is clear that whatever plan may have existed for dealing with postwar Iraq, that plan has failed," she said. "That failure is the result of miscalculations and faulty assumptions by the administration."
For its part, CLW insisted that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz bear most of the responsibility.
"Blinded by their own arrogant assumptions, they elbowed the State Department out of the planning process and refused to permit UN weapons inspectors or humanitarian experts to take a major role in Iraq," the group wrote.
"Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have made a series of misstatements and miscalculations that have cost the United States lives, its reputation and billions of dollars," it charged, adding that the administration's recent request for an additional US$87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming year as well as Bush's decision to ask for more international support through the United Nations "are tacit acknowledgment that the post-war situation is a disaster."
Both of the men targeted have strongly defended themselves in recent public appearances. Wolfowitz, in particular, has said many of the problems that occupation forces have had to deal with, including a persistent and apparently growing resistance that has killed more U.S. troops than were slain during the war itself, could not possibly have been anticipated.
The Washington Post, however, disclosed last week that the Central Intelligence Agency, whose pre-war assessments were ignored or downplayed by the hawks in Rumsfeld's and Cheney's offices, had predicted such a scenario well before Washington launched the invasion in mid-March.
In addition to the rosy post-war scenarios painted by the hawks, they have also found themselves increasingly on the defensive for allegedly exaggerating or distorting the intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and its ties to al Qaeda, the two major administration justifications for going to war.
After two months of work, a 1,200-person team headed by former UN weapons inspector David Kay has reportedly found no evidence that Baghdad had any weapons of mass destruction in its possession at the beginning of the war, while Bush himself admitted for the first time this week that Washington had "no evidence" that Saddam Hussein had any role at all in al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
While Bush continued to insist that Hussein and Al Qaeda did have contacts through the 1990s, his statement about the Sept. 11 attacks contrasted with previous assertions by both Cheney, Wolfowitz, and several other lower-ranking officials.
In an interview on NBC's 'Meet the Press' last Sunday, Cheney revived a story he has cited several times before--the last time was on the eve of the mid-March invasion--that one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in April, 2001.
Asked why more than two-thirds of the public believes that Saddam Hussein had some role in the attacks, Cheney said, "I think it's not surprising that people make that connection." It was in that context that he raised the Atta story, adding, "We've never been able to develop any more of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it," he said. "We just don't know."
Bush's assertion that there was "no evidence" of that tie--as well as the fact that U.S. interrogators have had the person with whom Atta is alleged to have met in Prague since early July--would appear to undercut Cheney's uncertainty about the event.
In a related development this week, the cyber-anti-war group MoveOn launched a new website and email service at http://www.misleader.org that will track controversial statements by Bush in the run-up to the 2004 elections.
In a full-page ad that appeared in the New York Times, the group, which claims almost two million members who contributed some $6.5 million dollars in campaign funding during a drive earlier this year, said, said, "The President says things that are misleading or just plain wrong every day, but most of these statements are never challenged."
Copyright 2003 OneWorld.net
President Faces Tough Sell
By Barry Schweid, AP
Addressing the U.N., President Bush said wartorn Iraq ''needs the help of friends.''
UNITED NATIONS (Sept. 23, 2003) - President Bush, again facing skeptical world leaders, challenged the United Nations on Tuesday to support his plan for steady transition to democratic rule in Iraq, saying the wartorn nation ''needs the help of friends.''
''This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis - neither hurried nor delayed by the voices of other parties,'' Bush said at the opening of the 58th U.N. General Assembly session, a jab at France and others demanding an immediate end to the U.S. occupation.
''So let us move forward,'' said Bush, who also invited the United Nations to play an expanded role in Iraq's reconstruction. He said the world body should assist in preparing a constitution for Iraq, help train civil servants and conduct free and fair elections.
''Every young democracy needs the help of friends,'' Bush said.
Second, Bush called for a worldwide drive to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. ''The deadly combination of outlaw regimes, terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away,'' he said.
In the audience at the General Assembly, sat Ahmed Chalabi, this month's president of the Iraqi Governing Council, and President Jacques Chirac of France, who opposes Bush's plan for Iraq.
Bush told world leaders they must stand with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan as they build free and stable countries.
''The terrorists and their allies fear and fight this process above all, because free people embrace hope over resentment,'' he said.
Bush still faces opposition from France and other countries that want a quick end to U.S. occupation of Iraq and transfer of authority to Iraqis.
The president faced similar opposition earlier this year in trying to marshal the United Nations to support war with Iraq.
Bush acknowledged that differences over the war persist.
French President Jacques Chirac has called for quick symboblic transfer of civilian control to the Iraqis, with full control being handed over within six to nine months.
Bush spoke after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized his ''pre-emptive'' attack on Iraq but urged world leaders Tuesday to set aside their disputes over the war and join forces to build a peaceful democracy in the troubled nation.
The president was not only addressing an international audience, but some of his remarks appeared tailored for domestic consumption. Polls show increased concern on the part of Americans over continued casualties in Iraq and with respect to the mounting costs of reconstruction. These polls also have shown a decline in the president's overall approval ratings.
Bush also revived the issue of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction - once cited by the administration as a key reason for the war but given less emphasis lately since none has yet been found.
''The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder, and refused to account for them when confronted by the world,'' he said.
''The Security Council was right to demand that Iraq destroy its illegal weapons and prove that it had done so. The Security Council was right to vow serious consequences if Iraq refused to comply. And because there were consequences, because a coalition of nations acted to defend the peace and the credibility of the United Nations, Iraq is free, and today we are joined by representatives of a liberated country,'' he said.
Bush said that democracy in Iraq could be an inspiration to other countries in the Middle East, just as it had great power to destabilize the region under the overthrown Saddam.
Calling on the Palestinians to follow the course now under way in Iraq, Bush said - in an apparent reference to Yasser Arafat - ''the Palestinian cause is betrayed by leaders who cling to power but are feeding old hatreds and destroying the good will of others.''
Bush also called on Israel to work to create conditions that will allow a peaceful Palestinian state to emerge.
On other subjects, Bush called for decisive action against HIV-AIDS and to stop the spread of trading in sex slaves. ''Governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery,'' he said.
Bush's unyielding stance on Iraqi reconstruction, already at odds with the views of France and Germany, came up against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he had concluded that U.S. failure to stabilize postwar Iraq proved the war was a bad idea.
Chirac posed the stiffest opposition to U.S. policy. Work on a U.S. resolution designed to induce contributions of peacekeeping troops and financial support for reconstruction has stopped, at least until Bush holds talks over two days in New York with the leaders of France, Germany, Pakistan, India, Spain and other countries.
While Chirac has said France would not veto a resolution in the Security Council and might even offer to train Iraqi police and soldiers, he has ruled out contributing French troops and said: ''There will be no concrete solution unless sovereignty is transferred to Iraq as soon as possible.''
Rice, foreshadowing Bush's speech, said the French ideas ''are not going to work.'' She said the United States wants Iraq to be guided to democracy and independence through a seven-stage transition that would include writing a constitution and holding free elections.
Bush is willing to give the United Nations a larger role in shaping Iraq's political and economic recovery, while having the Security Council sanction the use of peacekeeping troops under U.S. command.
He said Sunday on the Fox broadcast network that the United Nations might be helpful in preparing a constitution. ''They're good at that,'' Bush said. ''Or perhaps, when an election starts, they'll oversee the election. That would be deemed a larger role.''
Secretary of State Colin Powell, accompanying Bush to the United Nations, was asked Monday if he thought the United States should turn over power in Iraq as France suggested. ''No,'' he said.
Bush met Monday in the Oval Office with two officials from Iraq chosen by the Governing Council, Public Works Minister Nesreen Berwari and Electricity Minister Ayham Sameraei. Both agreed with the administration's contention that more time was needed before Iraqis receive full self-government.
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.
Situation Excellent, I Am Attacking
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 24 September 2003
"That's the spirit, George. If nothing else works, then a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through."
-- General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett, 'Blackadder Goes Forth'
There is not enough grammar in the entirety of the English language to describe the incredible international humiliation that has befallen the United States of America. That this humiliation was brought down upon the American people by the man supposedly in charge of the country is, in all honesty, no big surprise for those who have been watching this all unfold. The layers of crushing embarrassment have been building like river sediment for months upon months upon months. On Tuesday, however, George W. Bush managed to completely obliterate the hard-won standing the United States has earned within the global community.
Never mind that the Iraqi seat was filled at the United Nations by none other than the crawling kingsnake himself, Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi has been cheerleading for war in Iraq for years, and became a boon companion of Donald Rumsfeld and the other neocon hawks who cobbled the war together with a tapestry of lies and fear-mongering. He was, in fact, Rumsfeld's hand-picked leader-in-waiting of Iraq as early as 1997. Chalabi was convicted of 32 counts of bank fraud and sentenced to 22 years imprisonment by a Jordanian court in 1992, and yet this hand-picked sock puppet was George W. Bush's chosen exemplar of a free and democratic Iraq. If you want to know one big reason why the mainstream media reported so long and so erroneously about Iraq's weapons capabilities, look to Chalabi, who was the main source for New York Times reporter Judy Miller's horribly inaccurate reporting on the matter. Where the Times goes, the others will follow. Thank you, Ahmad. I hope the chair is comfortable. You are no more deserving of its accommodation than the vile people who occupied it before you.
Never mind that the entire United Nations may as well not have shown up in the first place. The pitch and tenor of Bush's speech was not aimed at that body. It was directed at the mainstream American media, whose reporting on these matters has been about as sharp as a sack of wet mice. Yet even to that tone-deaf receiver, Bush failed to complete the pass. He meandered off into a free-association rant about sex slaves, somehow forgetting that his own citizens were waiting to hear how he was going to get them out of the mess he so brazenly threw them in to. Certainly, the matter of international slavery in the 21st century is of deadly importance, but what connection it has to the blood-and-guts catastrophe unfolding in the Middle East is still hovering somewhere in space.
Never mind that in the first ten words of his speech, George W. Bush once again tried to connect the nation of Iraq to the attacks of September 11th. He failed to explain how a nation under near-total occupation before the war, crushed by sanctions, devoid of weapons of any merit whatsoever, unable to even launch a fighter aircraft in its own airspace, and completely lacking in any connections to Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda, could have managed to challenge the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. These are mere details. Bush chose instead to hew close to the bones of our beloved dead, to use them again as an excuse and as cover for his terrible mistakes, lies and mismanagement. The Iraq-9/11 connection has been so thoroughly debunked that Bush himself was forced recently to publicly denounce it, while claiming shock that anyone would think he'd try to make such a connection. Yet there he stood before the judgment of the world, coughing up the same old hairball on their carpet.
Never mind the rank absurdity of it all. There is an old story of a French officer who, when thrown into an impossible battle, sent a communiqué to his commanders: "Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent, I am attacking!"
That sad chestnut was on display before the United Nations on Tuesday, with George W. Bush and the United States of America standing in for the officer. Bush was at the United Nations for one reason: He got his country into terrible trouble, in defiance of virtually the entire international community, and was forced to come begging for help. An ounce of contrition would have furthered the cause of actually helping to repair the devastation in Iraq. An ounce of contrition would have shown America to be the humble nation Bush promised us way back in 2000. An ounce of contrition would almost certainly have motivated the U.N. to leave aside wrangling, roll up its sleeves, and begin to repair the damage that has been done. That ounce was not offered, and the jut-jawed whipsaw President barefaced his way through what could have been the most hopeful moment the Iraqi people have seen in 100 years. Situation excellent, I am attacking.
Never mind the 26,000 liters of anthrax, the 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, the 500 tons of sarin and mustard gas and VX gas, the 30,000 munitions capable of deploying this red death, the mobile biological weapons labs, and the infamous 'yellow-cake' uranium from Niger, that has so fantastically failed to materialize. All of this is sitting on a White House web page called 'Disarm Saddam Hussein.' This was the argument, the reason for war. None of it exists in any coherent state. The administration's own hired-gun weapons inspector, Dr. David Kay, has been tearing through Iraq to find all of these horrors promised by Bush and the gang. His report, saying pointedly that the stuff isn't there, was ready to be released on September 15th, but was promptly buried by the administration.
Never mind all that. It comes down to this.
Over the last 227 years, the United States of America went from a brawling, rebellious infant to the greatest democracy in the universe. This nation spent oceans of blood, sweat and tears to earn the respect of the world. Too often, it abused that respect by abusing the world, but always managed to regain its standing within the global community by the sheer force of its goodness, its ideals, and its willingness to help other nations in need. When the attacks of September 11th came, that global community responded to our essential goodness by embracing us with a passionate ferocity that has no precedent in the annals of human history. That standing is dust now, ground under the heels of a pack of ideological extremists who would wrap the world in flames if it profited them a few more ducats. The world sees this, and has seen it for some time now. The United Nations was used on Tuesday as a prop for a failing President's Fox newsbite writ large. It is a shame and a scandal and a disaster beyond description that this great nation has fallen so very low.
A moment will come on January 20th, 2005. It will be cold in Washington D.C. A man who is not George W. Bush will raise his hand and swear and oath to preserve, protect and defend the United States of America. The words "So help me God" will be snatched by the wind and carried across seas and mountains to the furthest corners of the planet. When that happens, all of the Earth will be joined together in the deepest and most profound exhalation of relief. When that happens, George W. Bush will have become in his absence what he completely failed to be with his presence: A uniter.
<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books -
On Iraq," available from Context Books,
Greatest Sedition is Silence," available from Pluto Press, and "<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1893956490/qid=1058768896/sr=1-3/ref=sr_1_3/103-6365635-6776664?v=glance&s=books>Our
Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in August from Context Books.