WP: The Bush administration has proposed giving dam owners the exclusive right to appeal Interior Department rulings about how dams should be licensed and operated on American rivers, through a little-noticed regulatory tweak that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the hydropower industry.
The proposal would prevent states, Indian tribes and environmental groups from making their own appeals, while granting dam owners the opportunity to take their complaints -- and suggested solutions -- directly to senior political appointees in the Interior Department.
One more report to add to what should be a post-election deluge of information on what's gone wrong in Iraq:
American intelligence agencies are drafting a report that could address whether the Iraq war has increased or decreased the foreign terrorist threat to the United States, but it will not be completed before Election Day, according to senior government officials.
The report "was sent in August in response to [a] draft fact sheet" titled America Is Safer Without Saddam Hussein. The fact sheet described Hussein as a "major obstacle" to Middle East peace and included specific statements about Hussein's ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations and Zarqawi. The fact sheet sounds awefully Feithish.
The White House's reaction to the memo was apparently to claim that the CIA should butt out of policy discussions. Of course, the WH has no qualms about policy shops assuming IC roles, or about blaming the IC for bad policy decisions.
David J. Morris, Salon: The threat posed by stockpiles like those I saw at Taqaddum is disconcerting, but what makes the situation infinitely worse is the realization that of the 103 weapon sites that the United States is aware of in western Iraq, only a handful are ever guarded on a regular basis, which means that insurgents bent on killing Americans have easily accessible and free material with which to make bombs of all sorts. Understandably, Bruner wouldn't give me an exact figure on how many of the sites are monitored at any given time, but it was abundantly clear that he and all of the soldiers of the 120th Engineer Battalion were doing the best they could with the limited resources that they had. (Most of the Marines' engineers have been tasked with locating and defusing roadside bombs that are found by infantrymen operating in the cities, a duty that saves countless American lives but still leaves the lion's share of the work to the 120th.)
The plight of the 120th is emblematic of the U.S. military's larger problem: There simply aren't enough American soldiers in Iraq to guard and dispose of all of the weapons stockpiles we know of, and even if there were they would have to be in place for decades to ensure that the country was picked clean of weapons. This is, arguably, one of the foremost drawbacks of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's transformational strategy for conquering Iraq: When the initial combat phase was concluded there weren't enough troops to saturate and pacify the entire country.
Update, 10/28/04, 7:25 PM EST: Knight Ridder, in a larger piece on improvised explosive devices (IEDs):
For all the military's efforts to tame the threat, IEDs kill coalition soldiers at a steady clip, 10 in some months, 20 or more in others. And while the Iraqi government keeps no statistics on civilians killed by IEDs, news accounts of the blasts almost always include bystanders.
The devices are too easy to build, and the explosives that power them too readily available, for them to go away anytime soon, said Brig. Abdul Kadir Moniem Said, the director of the Iraqi police unit that defuses and investigates IEDs.
"One of the coalition's fatal mistakes was to allow the terrorists into army storerooms," he said, citing the postwar looting of ammunition depots across Iraq. "The terrorists took all the explosives they would ever need."
LA Times: Military officials said a lack of troops has made it impossible to secure Highway 8. Insurgents and criminals openly set up checkpoints along the corridor, attacking mostly Westerners and those who work with them.
Among those attacked were seven Spanish intelligence agents ambushed in December, two CNN staffers gunned down in January and two Japanese journalists killed in May. Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi escaped an assassination attempt on the road last month.
In mid-October, the head of a major political party was killed on the road and nine Iraqi police recruits were shot as they returned from training. A day after the policemen were killed, Baher, the national guard commander, narrowly escaped an ambush in front of his compound.
U.S. officials say the attacks are chiefly designed to scare away outside forces that might attempt to interfere with the locals' criminal enterprises.
How many times do we have to hear it? How many places recede into anarchy because of poor administration planning?
Update, 10/28/04, 7:29 PM EST: Highway 8 runs through the center of the "triangle of death," according to the LAT article above:
Though closer to the capital than well-known insurgent strongholds such as Fallouja and Ramadi, this area of northern Babil province has been largely overlooked by U.S. forces in the last year. In the absence of any real authority, the area — dubbed the Death Triangle by locals — has become one of Iraq's murkiest, most dangerous and least understood hot zones.
AP: The increase of 20,000 was sharply higher than the 6,000 gain that many private economists had been expecting and was the biggest one-week rise since a jump of 21,000 claims in the week of Sept. 25.
AP: Kerry is "just dead wrong. ... We know ... upwards to 125 tons had been removed" in January 2003 before the invasion, Cheney told supporters at a restaurant coffee session in the battleground state of Wisconsin.
"He's just plain wrong on the facts," Cheney said.
Around the time Cheney was speaking, a United Nations agency called the news report into question, saying that it cited an inspection report of a single day and that most of the explosives were kept at another site that the U.N. agency considered part of the overall storage area.
ABC reported that confidential documents of the United Nations agency showed that just over three tons of the explosive RDX was stored at the facility, which could mean that well in excess of 100 tons were removed before the invasion.
Neither the American military nor the Iraqi security forces have a firm grip on Ramadi, Fallujah's "sister city:"
While Ramadi is not exactly a "no go" zone for the marines, like the insurgent stronghold of Falluja 30 miles to the east, officers say it is fast slipping in that direction. In the last six weeks, guerrillas have stepped up the pace of assassinations of Iraqis working with the Americans, and marine officials say they suspect Iraqi security officers have been helping insurgents to attack their troops.
Reconstruction efforts have ground to a halt because no local contractors are willing to work. NYT
Infiltration of the Iraqi security forces resurfaces:
Even worse, they say, the local forces sometimes aid the insurgency. Marines arrested the police chief of Anbar Province in August on charges of corruption, and Lieutenant Schranel said Iraqi National Guardsmen were suspected of helping insurgents blow up a veterans' building that marines were using as an observation post.
Colonel Newman said the only effective Iraqi troops in Ramadi are 80 or so Iraqi Special Forces soldiers from elsewhere in the country. They live at battalion headquarters and are used for specific operations like mosque raids, not day-to-day security.
On a recent afternoon, two Iraqi National Guardsmen at a checkpoint at the government center watched as a group of marines walked up. "Here come the sons of dogs," one guardsman said to an Iraqi reporter.
Next door, in police headquarters, Iraqi officers tossed around conspiracy theories.
"The Americans gave us nothing more than AK-47's so they could stay in Iraq for a long time," Lt. Abdul-Latif Salim said. "The resistance has the right to fight the occupation. It's an obligation for every Muslim. The Allawi government has no power." NYT
The CSM reportedMonday that "efforts to pacify the city of Samarra suggest that Iraqi military participation is crucial to legitimize any offensive and maintain stability afterward. Aware of this key role, insurgents took bloody aim at Iraq's fledgling armed forces this weekend."
Apparently, as the pressure has increased on Fallujah, insurgents have simply relocated to Ramadi. Last weeks stories on Fallujah "emptying out" look decidedly more ominous.
Amnesty International Report on US Detention Practices
Amnesty International has released a harshly critical, very detailed report on US detention practices. The Bush administration's invocation of necessity and exceptionalism was easily predictable to any Milquetoast dystopian, including OBL. Its studied contempt for the rule of law has stained our global image, undermining any real effort at human rights promotion. If time is limited, search for the "Words Undone by Deeds" section. [BBC]
Phil Carter's Washington Monthly piece on Abu Ghraib, placing accountability where it belongs, is also a must read.
I want to recommend this book, Marc J. Hetherington's Why Trust Matters: Declining Political Trust and the Demise of American Liberalism. I have only begun to read it, but I have looked at three of his previous papers:
The Political Relevance of Political Trust, APSR vol. 92, no. 4 (Dec. 1998) 791-808;
The Effect of Political Trust on the Presidential Vote, 1968-1996, APSR vol. 93, no. 2 (June 1999) 311-326;
Political Trust and Racial Policy Preferences, AJPS vol. 46 No. 2 (April 2002) 253-275
They each discuss how the dissemination of political distrust benefits conservatism. Nothing has been more effective at spreading this distrust than the Bush administration and the machinations of movement conservatism - even when bad decisions hurt them specifically, their incompetence helps them generally by producing more anti-government sentiment. When we beat Bush on Nov. 2nd, we will be faced with a generational task to restore American confidence in good, pragmatic governance.
Part of this effort will entail reasserting popular ownership of government authority. Increasing public participation in the political process, increasing the responsiveness of government institutions, increasing transparency in process as well as substance - all of these are essential steps not only to increasing government effectiveness, but to warding off the specter of conservatism.
The Washington Post has a long article on proliferation issues. The incompetence of the Bush administration is laid bare.
Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who asked to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 15, noted Bush's emphasis on the "immense threat" of nuclear terrorism and said acidly, "I wonder if he has been advised that liability -- that the liability issue is preventing destruction of enough plutonium for about 10,000 weapons?"
The Bush administration speaks with many voices about securing global stockpiles of nuclear materials. Some of the loudest are skeptical.
"I don't believe that at this point, or for some number of years, there's been a significant risk of a Russian nuclear weapon getting into terrorist hands," Bolton said. "I say that in part because of all the money we've spent . . . but also because the Russians themselves are completely aware that the most likely consequence of losing control of one of their own nuclear weapons is that it will be used in Russia."
Bush has spoken in favor of "cooperative threat reduction programs" funded under 1991 legislation sponsored by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and then-Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.). He has also sought to reduce their budgets. His 2005 budget request would cut the Defense Department's efforts to secure foreign nuclear stockpiles by $41 million, or 9 percent. On the other hand, Bush has added substantially to budgets that pay for "decommissioning" old U.S. nuclear weapons. That appears to account for his assertion in the debate with Kerry that he increased spending on nuclear cleanup programs by 35 percent.
Gallucci, who held arms control posts under presidents from Gerald Ford to Clinton, said he finds himself "on the edge of saying really shocking things."
"If tomorrow morning we lost a city, who of us could have said we didn't know how this could happen?" he said. "I haven't felt like this in all the years I've been in government or the nine since I've been [out]. I am -- I don't want to say scared, because that's not what I want to project, but I am deeply concerned for my family and for all Americans."
British Medical Association Releases Biological Weapons Report
The BMA released a report on the continuing global threat of biological weapons. It raises concerns about the increased threat posed by advances in biotechnology. These concerns could be addressed by strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, but the Bush administration has been an obstacle:
Dando said the Bush administration had turned its back on many international accords, which he asserted was the key reason the convention remained weak.
The powerful U.S. biotechnology industry has put pressure on the administration not to back strong international monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, arguing that they could stifle research, Dando said.
As to the likely effectiveness of the draft protocol, it is certainly true that its provisions on declarations and inspections are relatively weak as compared to the Chemical Weapons Convention. This is due in no small measure to stated U.S. positions. The United States insisted on limiting the scope and number of facilities to be declared. It also favored a cumbersome, time-consuming procedure for launching an investigation of a facility suspected of noncompliance, which could afford the opportunity to clean up a suspect facility prior to its inspection. These and other weaknesses caused some experts, like Amy Smithson of the Stimson Center, to oppose the draft though they supported the creation of a verification regime.
However, if the Bush administration’s concern was that the draft needed to be strengthened, it could have pushed, with a high likelihood of success, for further revision. Its blanket opposition points to the conclusion that the administration simply saw the protocol as yet another mandatory —and therefore unpalatable—multilateral regulation. The conclusion is strengthened by the administration’s subsequent refusal to consider negotiating agreements of narrower scope—for example, one requiring national prosecution of individual violators or one establishing a procedure for challenge inspections.
For another example of ideological administration opposition to verification, see FMCT posts one and two.
David Ignatius has an important op-ed in today's Washington Post. It was nice to get Libya to open up parts of its WMD facilities, but the full throated Bush embrace of Qadaffi seriously undermines his standing as a democracy promotin' human rights crusader.
By touting Gaddafi's supposed conversion, the Bush administration has given him powerful political ammunition. "This is a new lease on life for the regime," says Ashur Shamis, a Libyan opposition journalist based in London who broke the assassination story in January. "Gaddafi interprets it as a climb-down by the U.S. and Britain in his favor," he says. "He is no longer under any pressure to make political changes at home."
In giving new information about the ambush, a senior Iraqi Defense Ministry official seemed to be trying to defuse any tension between the United States and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi over Allawi's statement Tuesday that the ambush "was the outcome of major neglect by some parts of the multinational (forces)."
"The dead national guardsmen are the negligent ones," said the senior official, who asked that his name not be used. He said the guardsmen had taken a shortcut through a dangerous road they should have avoided, and he claimed they left a day earlier than scheduled. "They refused to wait another day for us to provide them security to escort them back to Baghdad," he said.
The U.S. command in Iraq has limited its response to a terse statement, and refused to directly address Allawi's unusually harsh criticism.
"This was a cold-blooded and systematic massacre by terrorists," the statement read. "They and no one else must be held fully accountable for these heinous acts."
According to James Glanz, William Broad and David Sanger of The New York Times, as much as 380 tons of military grade explosive - mainly RDX and HMX - are missing from the Al Qaqaa military complex. The Iraqi Survey Group has been ordered to investigate the loss.
The explosives were acquired and manufactured by Iraq in the late 80s as part of its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. After the first Gulf War, the UN assumed control of the explosives, though it didn't destroy them "because Iraq argued that it should be allowed to keep them for eventual use in mining and civilian construction." The IAEA oversaw the explosives until 1998, when they were withdrawn. In late 2002, when they returned to Iraq, the vast bulk of the explosives were still there, and the IAEA inventoried them and reported their existence to the Security Council on Jan. 9, 2003. The RDX and HMX was frequently brought up prior to the invasion.
The IAEA left immediately prior to the US invasion. The Bush administration would not allow them back in, despite frequent IAEA admonitions, including a May 2004 missive to L. Paul Bremer warning that Al Qaqaa had probably been looted.
In early October, the IAEA asked "the interim Iraqi government to start the process of accounting for nuclear-related materials still ostensibly under I.A.E.A. supervision, including the Qaqaa stockpile." On October 10, Dr. Mohammed J. Abbas of the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology informed the IAEA that the HMX and RDX was gone. On October 15, the UN forwarded the letter to the US ambassador in Vienna.
When did the theft take place?
Bush campaignistration officials claim that we do not know when the explosives were taken, and that they may have been relocated by Saddam prior to the US invasion. This claim is "supported" by an NBC report that some embedded reporters visited the site during the invasion and did not see any explosives. There were circa 40 truckloads of materials stolen, yet no intelligence supports the claim that the explosive removal took place during the invasion.
The last time the IAEA actually examined the explosives was January 2003:
ElBaradei informed the Security Council on Monday that the last time IAEA inspectors were able to verify the presence of the explosives at Qaqaa was in January 2003, two months before the U.S. invasion began. [WP 10/26/04]
According to Melissa Fleming, the IAEA last saw the ubroken seals at al Qaqaa in March 2003:
"The most immediate concern here is that these explosives could have fallen into the wrong hands," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
The agency first placed a seal over Al-Qaqaa storage bunkers holding the explosives in 1991 as part of U.N. sanctions that ordered the dismantlement of Iraq's nuclear program after the Gulf War. Inspectors last saw the explosives in January 2003 when they took an inventory and placed fresh seals on the bunkers, Fleming said. Inspectors visited the site again in March 2003, but didn't view the explosives because the seals were not broken, she said. [CST 10/26/04]
NBC reported last night that their embedded correspondent didn't see the explosives when the unit she was with made a pit stop at Al Qaqaa:
NBC television reported that one of its correspondents was embedded with the 101st Airborne Division which temporarily took control of the base on 10 April 2003 but did not find any of the explosives.
However, other US outlets, including NBC's own news website, quoted Pentagon officials who said a search of the site after the US-led invasion had revealed the explosives to be intact. [BBC 10/26/04]
Mr. Marshall also posted an interview with the embedded reporter, Lai Ling Jew, who was in Al Qaqaa on April 10th:
AR: Was there a search at all underway or was, did a search ensue for explosive once you got there during that 24-hour period?
LLJ: No. There wasn't a search. The mission that the brigade has was to get to Baghdad. That was more of a pit stop there for us. And, you know, the searching, I mean certainly some of the soldiers head off on their own, looked through the bunkers just to look at the vast amount of ordnance lying around. But as far as we could tell, there was no move to secure the weapons, nothing to keep looters away. But there was - at that point the roads were shut off. So it would have been very difficult, I believe, for the looters to get there. [Josh Marshall]
The significance of the NBC story is now clear: the troops passed through Al Qaqaa without securing any of the explosives:
An NBC News reporter embedded with a U.S. army unit that seized an Iraqi installation three weeks into the war said Tuesday that she saw no signs that the Americans searched for the powerful explosives that are now missing from the site. [AP 10/26/04]
The explosives were apparently gone by May 2003:
Duelfer also said that a U.S. team inspecting the site in May 2003 turned up no evidence of explosives under U.N. seal. "My sense is, it's been looted, it's gone missing," he said of the material. "I don't know the specifics, but it's not there now. [WP 10/26/04]
Why did the theft take place?
There seem to be a number of cumulative rationales. We didn't have enough troops. We didn't adequately plan to secure critical facilities. We shunned the IAEA - which knew what needed protecting - going so far as to ignore their specific warnings.
Not enough troops, not enough concern:
David Kay, a former weapons inspector in Iraq for the US government who led the Iraq Survey Group that searched for weapons of mass destruction, said that although his team of 1,400 investigators found no such weapons, they found small amounts of HMX and RDX -- and hundreds of square miles of other conventional munitions -- at unguarded sites across Iraq.
"The RDX, HMX, is a superb explosive for terrorists," Kay said. "The danger is that it's gone somewhere else in the Middle East."
However, Kay's team had a mandate only to search for weapons of mass destruction, not to secure conventional arms, so he could do little beyond referring the caches to the US-led coalition.
"The military did not view guarding these sites as their responsibility," Kay said, recalling that he witnessed US troops guarding the gates of the Tuwaitha nuclear facility while Iraq civilians carried away radioactive pipes and metal drums through other exits.
"There just were not enough troops to guard the number of sites. It was just crazy."
At the time, there was no major insurgency and US military officials felt the war had been won, Kay said, so the Department of Defense did not fear that the weapons that disappeared in widespread looting would be used against US soldiers. [Boston Globe 10/26/04]
They knew that the explosives were there:
Kay said he stressed the danger of leaving the weapons sites unguarded in his testimony to Congress. Since late fall of last year, the military has put out contracts seeking companies that will secure and destroy the weapons, Kay said, but the process has gone slowly.
The location of the explosives at Qaqaa had been so well known to inspectors that they appeared routinely in reports written by ElBaradei to the Security Council.
"Qaqaa was a well-known site even before the first Gulf War as a place where Iraqis were doing nuclear research," said Milhollin, who said he learned that in 1989 the Department of Defense had brought three Iraqis from the site to Oregon to train them in HMX detonations. "It was certainly a leading candidate to be inspected after the first Gulf War and to be secured after the second." [Boston Globe 10/26/04]
They just didn't care:
"After the collapse of the regime, our liberation, everything was under the coalition forces, under their control," Dr. Omar said. "So probably they can answer this question, what happened to the materials."
Officials in Washington said they had no answers to that question. One senior official noted that the Qaqaa complex where the explosives were stored was listed as a "medium priority" site on the Central Intelligence Agency's list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. "Should we have gone there? Definitely," said one senior administration official.
In the chaos that followed the invasion, however, many of those sites, even some considered a higher priority, were never secured. [NYT 10/25/04]
The IAEA's attention was a negative for the ideologues in the administration:
Melissa Fleming [spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency] says the IAEA was concerned about the stockpile, which was held 30 kilometres south of Baghdad, and the agency made warnings about it at the time of the Iraq invasion last year.
MELISSA FLEMING: Yes, a couple of times we did. First of all, it's important to note that it was a well-known site. It was inspected frequently and often by the IAEA, and it was mentioned in several statements by Mr ElBaradei to the Security Council. It was of concern directly after the invasion, when it was clear that the main nuclear site, Tuwaitha, was being looted. And so this was a site that we did alert the US to as one important to protect.
DAVID HARDAKER: And what was the response from the United States at the time?
MELISSA FLEMING: It received this information, there's been… there was no comment.
DAVID HARDAKER: So there was no assurance that they were in fact securing it, or were aware of the need to secure it?
MELISSA FLEMING: No. We, in many instances, raised our voice and our concern about the potential for looting in general at sites that contained material and items that were under IAEA verification previously, and that could have either proliferation significance or that could be dangerous for the population. [Australia BC 10/26/04]
Cirincione says that the Bush administration's desire to "punish" the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, was partly responsible for the disaster. "This is where the ideology of the administration has really hurt U.S. national security," he says. "The administration didn't like the inspection reports they were getting out of the IAEA before the war, and they were determined to punish and humiliate them." [Salon 10/26/04]
The administration knew it was there. Why didn't they do anything about it? It was arrogance. I think you have to say that this is not incompetence as much as it is arrogance. They simply did not believe that they were going to have an insurgent or terrorist problem after taking the country. Even when the insurgency began, apparently there was no effort to try to go back and secure these materials. [Salon 10/26/04]
This is where the ideology of the administration has really hurt U.S. national security. They wanted to make a point that they didn't need international inspections or the help of international authorities, that the U.S. could do it alone or in cooperation with its few selected Coalition partners who would play along. They rebuffed repeated IAEA requests to come in and help account for and secure the nuclear materials. Now we're suffering the price.
There was no security or logistical reason why the administration couldn't have let the IAEA back in -- it was ideology. The administration didn't like the inspection reports they were getting out of the IAEA before the war and they were determined to punish and humiliate them.
As it turns out, the IAEA was absolutely correct in its reports on Iraq before the war. The U.N. intelligence was far better than the U.S. intelligence. They got it right. We should've listened. [Salon 10/26/04]
The significance of the theft:
"This is not just any old warehouse in Iraq that happened to have explosives in it; this was a leading location for developing nuclear weapons before the first Gulf War," said Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project, a nonprofit organization that has followed Iraq's attempts to procure weapons of mass destruction for more than a decade. "The fact that it had been left unsecured is very, very discouraging. It would be like invading the US in to order to get rid of [weapons of mass destruction] and not securing Los Alamos or [Lawrence] Livermore [National Laboratory]." [Boston Globe 10/26/04]
Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the destructive consequences of the administration's failure to secure the site could be almost incalculable. "This is thousands and thousands of potential terrorist attacks," Cirincione told Salon. "It's like they knocked off the Fort Knox of explosives." [Salon 10/26/04]
While the White House sought to minimize the importance of the loss of the HMX and RDX - two commonly used military explosives that can also be used to bring down airplanes or to create a trigger for nuclear weapons - the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, took the unusual step on Monday of writing to the United Nations Security Council to report that the explosives were gone. He usually sends a report every six months, and his last was just a few weeks ago.
"He doesn't do that to report trivia," a European diplomat familiar with Dr. ElBaradei's views said. "It's something that is considered grave."
Dr. ElBaradei said his agency, whose inspectors were barred from returning to Iraq by the Bush administration after the invasion, had informed the multinational force in Iraq of the disappearance 10 days ago, hoping for "an opportunity to attempt to recover the explosives before this matter was put into the public domain." However, he noted Monday's news coverage and said he had to inform the full Security Council. [Sanger NYT 10/26/04]
What is the Bush Campaignistration saying about it?
Mr. Bush never mentioned the disappearance of the high explosives during a long campaign speech in Greeley, Colo., about battling terrorism. Instead, evoking images of the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and traveling with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, at his side, Mr. Bush made an impassioned appeal to voters to let him "finish the work we have started." But he also charged that his opponent had abandoned the defense principles of Democrats like John F. Kennedy. [Sanger NYT 10/26/04]
Bush didn't address the missing explosives. [KR 10/26/04]
Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney also neglected to mention the missing weapons cache in Iraq while campaigning in western Minnesota, a conservative part of a key swing state.
Instead, Cheney questioned Kerry's truthfulness, citing a report that cast doubt on Kerry's assertion that he had met independently with members of the United Nations Security Council before the war in Iraq. [KR 10/26/04]
In several sessions with reporters, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, alternately insisted that Mr. Bush "wants to make sure that we get to the bottom of this" and tried to distance the president from knowledge of the issue, saying Mr. Bush was informed of the disappearance only within the last 10 days. White House officials said they could not explain why warnings from the international agency in May 2003 about the stockpile's vulnerability to looting never resulted in action. At one point, Mr. McClellan pointed out that "there were a number of priorities at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom." [Sanger NYT 10/26/04]
The Republicans mounted a similarly vociferous counterattack, charging Mr. Kerry with seizing on the loss of 380 tons of high explosives and never mentioning what Mr. McClellan called "more than 243,000 tons of munitions" that had been destroyed since the invasion. "Coalition forces have cleared and reviewed a total of 10,033 caches of munitions; another 163,000 tons of munitions have been secured and are on line to be destroyed," he said. [Sanger NYT 10/26/04]
Asked about accusations from the Kerry campaign that the White House had kept the disappearance secret until The Times and CBS broke the story on Monday morning, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said the White House had decided "to get all the facts and find out exactly what happened in this case, and then whether there are other cases."
Ms. Bartlett went on to say, "So doing it piecemeal - I don't think that would have been the responsible thing." He said that so far, no other large-scale cases of looting of explosives had been found. [Sanger NYT 10/26/04]
On Monday afternoon, Ken Mehlman, the Bush campaign manager, wrote a letter to supporters saying that "every day brings a new charge against the president and every charge is pulled right from the headlines of The New York Times."
"John Kerry will say anything he believes will help him politically," Mr. Mehlman wrote, "and today he is grasping at headlines to obscure his record of weakness and indecision in the war on terror." [Sanger NYT 10/26/04]
Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, also contended that The Times had chosen to run the article at the end of the campaign, though he argued that the explosives probably disappeared about 18 months ago. The Times article said it was based on a letter reporting the missing explosives dated two weeks ago, on Oct. 10, sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency by the Iraqi interim government. The Times and CBS confirmed the facts in the letter in an interview with the Iraqi minister of science and technology, Rashad M. Omar. [Sanger NYT 10/26/04]
On Monday evening, Nicolle Devenish, the spokeswoman for the Bush campaign, noted a section of the Times report indicating that American troops, on the way to Baghdad in April 2003, stopped at the Al Qaqaa complex and saw no evidence of high explosives. Noting that the cache may have been looted before the American invasion, she said Mr. Kerry had exaggerated the administration's responsibility.
"John Kerry presumes to know something that he could not know: when the material disappeared," Ms. Devenish said. "Since he does not know whether it was gone before the war began, he can't prove it was there to be secured." [Sanger NYT 10/26/04]
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said that securing the site had been ''a priority" but that ''given the number of arms and the number of caches and the extent of militarization of Iraq, it was impossible to provide 100 percent security for 100 percent of the sites, quite frankly."
Ereli said the US military had destroyed 243,000 tons of munitions and was in the process of destroying 160,000 tons more. [Boston Globe 10/26/04]
Senator Wellstone's plane crashed two years ago today, almost to the minute. I was working on the campaign at the time, and heard about the crash via a phone call from my father in Kentucky, who had been watching CNN.
Via Pandagon, John Diamond of USA Today has a comprehensive look at pre-war intelligence on the risk of a protracted insurgency. The data points:
"On Point," an "official Army report" on the Iraq war, tells of the first use of guerilla tactics at "precisely 9 a.m. on March 22, 2003."
"Intelligence reports compiled in January 2003 [by the National Intelligence Council] predicted that an American invasion would result in a divided Iraq prone to internal violence, and increased sympathy in the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives, the New York Times reported on Tuesday." [Reuters 9/28/04] See alsoGuardian 9/29/04; NYT via IHT 9/28/04.
Army War College report to the Army's No. 2 general a month before the invasion: "The longer U.S. presence is maintained, the more likely violent resistance will develop...A force initially viewed as liberators can rapidly be relegated to the status of invaders." A short version of the report is available here [PDF]; the full version is available here.
British foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning told Tony Blair in March 2002: "There is a real risk that the administration underestimates the difficulties." [Telegraph 9/18/04]
Tim Golden of the NYT, matching Dana Priest's WP article and raising her one, has a comprehensive look at the origins of the military tribunal system created by the administration. It originated in a team of partisan Republicans to guarantee "that we'll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve," according to Cheney - so that the VP could indulge his sadism. Had pragmatic considerations really been paramount, the interagency process wouldn't have been circumvented; real experts wouldn't have been excluded from the process.
Many of the Pentagon's uniformed lawyers were angered by the implication that the military would be used to deliver "rough justice" for the terrorists.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice had moved steadily into line with the due-process standards of the federal courts, and senior military lawyers were proud and protective of their system. They generally supported using commissions for terrorists, but argued that the system would not be fair without greater rights for defendants.
"The military lawyers would from time to time remind the civilians that there was a Constitution that we had to pay attention to," said Admiral Guter, who, after retiring as the Navy judge advocate general, signed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of plaintiffs in the Guantánamo Supreme Court case."
"If the Geneva Conventions debate raised Mr. Yoo's stature, it had the opposite effect on lawyers at the State Department, who were later excluded from sensitive discussions on matters like the interrogation of detainees, officials from several agencies said.
"State was cut out of a lot of this activity from February of 2002 on," one senior administration official said. "These were treaties that we were dealing with; they are meant to know about that."
The State Department legal adviser, William H. Taft IV, was shunned by the lawyers who dominated the detainee policy, officials said. Although Mr. Taft had served as the deputy secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, more conservative colleagues whispered that he lacked the constitution to fight terrorists.
"He was seen as ideologically squishy and suspect," a former White House official said. "People did not take him very seriously."
Golden joins Priest in exposing the OLC, and Yoo in particular:
In past administrations, officials said, the Office of Legal Counsel usually weighed in with opinions on questions that had already been deliberated by the legal staffs of the agencies involved. Under Mr. Bush, the office frequently had a first and final say. "O.L.C. was definitely running the show legally, and John Yoo in particular," a former Pentagon lawyer said. "He's kind of fun to be around, and he has an opinion on everything. Even though he was quite young, he exercised disproportionate authority because of his personality and his strong opinions."
The GOP war on civil liberties was born in their war against Clinton.
That challenge resounded among young lawyers who were settling into important posts at the White House, the Justice Department and other agencies. Many of them were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal fraternity. Some had clerked for Supreme Court justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia in particular. A striking number had clerked for a prominent Reagan appointee, Lawrence H. Silberman of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
One young lawyer recalled looking around the room during a meeting with Attorney General John Ashcroft. "Of 10 people, 7 of us were former Silberman clerks," he said."
Where is Silberman now? He's in charge of the investigation into Iraq intelligence failures. He was involved in the original October surprise, the legal exoneration of many of the Iran Contra criminals, and the Clinton snipe hunt.
CIA Removing Detainees from Iraq, Violating Geneva
Dana Priest reports that Jack L. Goldsmith, former director of the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote a March 19, 2004 draft opinion allowing "the CIA to take Iraqis out of the country to be interrogated for a 'brief but not indefinite period.'" The legal contortionists in the Office of Legal Counsel were again offering an ex post rationalization for unacceptable on the ground behavior.
Michael Byers, a professor and international law expert at the University of British Columbia, said that creating a legal justification for removing protected persons from Iraq "is extraordinarily disturbing."
"What they are doing is interpreting an exception into an all-encompassing right, in one of the most fundamental treaties in history," Byers said. The Geneva Convention "is as close as you get to protecting human rights in times of chaos. There's no ambiguity here."
Update, 10/24/04, 10:48 AM EST: The AP on the reaction to Priest's reporting:
Sen. John McCain said interrogations can help extract crucial information from detainees on plans for attacks against Americans. But international law, including the Geneva Conventions, must be followed, he said.
"These conventions and these rules are in place for a reason because you get on a slippery slope and you don't know where to get off," McCain, R-Ariz., told ABC's "This Week."
"The thing that separates us from the enemy is our respect for human rights," he said.
Update, 10-24-04, 12:29 PM EST: Laura Rozen reacts, fleshing out Jack Goldsmith a bit. It seems he belongs to the same claque of FedSoc anti-International lawyers as Yoo.
Police said insurgents appeared to have intercepted the soldiers as they were traveling home on leave and forced them to lie on the ground before shooting them.
"They were all executed, we found them executed," Interior Ministry spokesman Adnan Abdul-Rahman said.
He said the soldiers had been traveling in three minibuses, which were all burned-out wrecks after the attack. [Reuters]
The soldiers, who had just received American training in Kirkush, are "believed to have been killed about sundown Saturday on a road about 95 miles east of Baghdad near the Iranian border," according to Interior Ministry spokesman Adnan Abdul-Rahman [AP]. The soldiers were ordered to lie down with their hands behind their heads, in four orderly rows of about a dozen, then shot in the back of the head [NYT].
The AP states that the police list the dead at 51 and that they may have been members of the national guard rather than the army. It quotes Diyala's deputy Gov. Aqil Hamid al-Adili on infiltration:
"There was probably collusion among the soldiers or other groups. Otherwise, the gunmen would not have gotten the information about the soldiers' departure from their training camp and that they were unarmed," he said.