Open eyes, open ears, open mind
November 07, 2003
ABC, watch out . . .
Jessica Lynch confirms to Diane Sawyer in an interview to be broadcast on ABC on Tuesday that the U.S. Army made up most of the stuff it told the press about her capture and 'rescue'.

However, ABC had better hope Tuesday gets here quickly, or the GOP might demand that they burn it. After all, they managed to get the CBS miniseries 'The Reagans' canned in order to protect the myth of Ronald Reagan's greatness; they almost certainly want to protect the myth of Jessica Lynch's rescue.
No, really. The outrage. Where is it?
Maybe it's just me, but I think the Republicans' tacit approval of war profiteering is absolutely disgraceful. When I first read about this in The Hill, I thought the press coverage would be huge.

Well, I just ran a search against all of my favorite 'liberal' and moderate news sources, and none of them picked up the story. I also searched ("Conservative News and Information"), with equal lack of success.

So I sent the following letter to every single columnist at Townhall (this didn't take as long as it sounds). I hope I make it clear in this letter why this is such a big deal, in case anyone out there is confused.

I just read an article in The Hill which details how congressional Republicans stripped an anti-profiteering amendment out of the bill authorizing $87.5 billion for Iraq reconstruction.

I am amazed that Republicans are not lining up to vigorously support such an amendment. For one thing, the traditional Republican value of fiscal responsibility demands that we make certain that every taxpayer dollar which is spent is spent wisely (after all, "it's our money"). For another, if we're going to invest $87.5 billion in Iraq, we owe it to our fighting men and women that they get the best possible support that money can buy (support our troops!).

And finally, I want to believe that all Americans, whether Republican, Democrat or independent, consider war profiteering to be tantamount to treason. For that reason alone, we should all support stringent safeguards which insure that any company found guilty of such activity is severely punished.

I certainly hope that you will use your position as a prominent conservative commentator to bring this issue to your readers' attention and urge support for the follow-up stand-alone bill introduced by Vermont senator Patrick Leahy which contains the anti-profiteering measure.

Thank you.
No, I don't expect to get (m)any responses, but if I get any at all, I'm sure they will be interesting.

Guess I'll work on liberal columnists next. Unfortunately, I don't know of a good single location, like Townhall, where they all hang out . . .
November 06, 2003
If you want a vision of what the future will be like . . .
. . . read this analysis in The Economist. A brief summary: George Bush has set this country down the road to unprecedented budget deficits for the foreseeable future, and all of the Republican optimism that a strong economy will erase the deficits is dead wrong.

In fairness, The Economist also points out that none of the Democrats running for the nomination have an economic plan which will solve the problem.

Their conclusion? "Long after Dubya is back on his ranch, Americans will be trying to recover from the mess he created."
Back channel to Baghdad
According to The New York Times, Iraqi officials made numerous attempts to strike a deal with the U.S. to avoid war, the last of which came in early March 2003. The Times summarizes the Iraqi offer thus:

The story also mentions that Iraq offered to hand over Abdul Rahman Yasin, indicted for the 1993 WTC bombing, and even offered the promise of democratic elections within 2 years.

Of course, Saddam Hussein has a long and distinguished history of getting out of tight situations by making promises and then failing to follow through, and there's every reason to view these offers with skepticism. On the other hand, the hard fact of U.S. troops massing on Iraq's border did make the Iraqis more cooperative with the inspections regime than they had been at any time in the previous 10 years. It's possible that America could have used its very big stick to coerce Iraq into genuine, peaceful reforms. Granted, it would have taken a great deal of time, and diligence, and oversight, and an extended U.S./UN presence in the region. But we're facing the same thing now, only with a lot more death and destruction.

Too bad we'll never know how things might have turned out.
Clean air, clear skies, healthy forests . . .
The New York Times is reporting that the EPA has decided to drop investigations into more than 50 power plants charged with violating the Clean Air Act. The reason is that the EPA has revised its rules about the conditions under which plants need to install anti-polluting technology. Under the new rules:

      ". . . any renovation project that costs less than 20 percent of the power-generating unit's
    value will be exempt, and no pollution controls will need to be added even if the project
    increases emissions."

The Times states that "The Bush administration has said its goal is to ensure cost-effective improvements to air quality," but it seems quite clear that the real goal is to ensure that their buddies in the power and oil industries will no longer be bothered with pesky requirements which protect the environment.

The Washington Post reports that the number of cases/investigations to be dropped could be as high as 83. Of course, the EPA insists that investigations which are currently in litigation will move forward. Sure they will.
November 05, 2003
Let's See Some OUTRAGE!!!
Back in May, The Nation wrote an editorial on the topic of war profiteering. It was very illuminating.

      "During World War II Harry Truman referred to some forms of war profiteering as 'treason.'
    When he heard rumors of such profiteering, Truman got into his Dodge and, during a Congressional recess,
    drove 30,000 miles paying unannounced visits to corporate offices and worksites. The Senate committee he
    chaired launched aggressive investigations into shady wartime business practices and found 'waste,
    inefficiency, mismanagement and profiteering,' according to Truman, who argued that such behavior was
    unpatriotic. Urged on by Truman and others in Congress, President Roosevelt supported broad increases in
    the corporate income tax, raised the excess-profits tax to 90 percent and charged the Office of War
    Mobilization with the task of eliminating illegal profits."

There has been a lot of talk, but not enough outrage, about the way the U.S. has contracted corporations to provide services to our troops and for Iraq's reconstruction. First of all, there are literally hundreds of private companies involved in some aspect of troop support or Iraq's reconstruction. The potential for abuse is greater than at any other time in U.S. history. The most disturbing stories, however, involve no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel. Since a company with a no-bid contract doesn't have to worry about some competitor undercutting their contract price (remember the free enterprise system?), there's a significant potential to inflate costs at the expense of taxpayers.

And of course, the most serious problem surrounds Dick Cheney's huge conflict of interest given his continuing financial ties to Halliburton in the form of stock options. That Cheney can hold these options and still continue to claim, with a straight face, that he has "gotten rid of all my financial interest" in Halliburton is cause enough for a Truman-style investigation, but somehow I don't see Cheney driving 30,000 miles --- or even lifting a finger --- to insure that our tax dollars are being spent prudently.

However, the congressional magazine The Hill just reported today on a story which underlines the deep contrast between the Roosevelt and George W. Bush administrations on this issue. An amendment to the $87.5 billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq, authored by Democrats, would have imposed severe penalties for any corporation found guilty of war profiteering. Who could possibly oppose such an amendment? There was sufficient Republican support in the Senate to pass the amended bill, but it was stripped out in conference due to lack of support by Congressional Republicans. Why did the House Republicans reject it? One reason given was that they were "'uneasy' about adding this kind of criminal law without input from the White House and the Department of Justice." The Bush administration, apparently, does not have an opinion about whether this amendment is a good idea.

Why, I can just hear Bush's defenders now: "You see, Bush and Cheney can't possibly be assisting Halliburton and Bechtel in war profiteering, because the administration doesn't care about war profiteering!"
November 04, 2003
CBS wimps out
Unbelieveable. Rush Limbaugh can accuse Hillary Clinton of murder for days on end, but conservatives get their undies in a bunch when a docudrama about their beloved Ronnie isn't sufficiently reverential.
Conspiracy theories
I haven't posted in a few days, because quite honestly, I haven't come across anything I felt was worth posting. But as I mentioned a few posts back, I've had some thoughts about 9/11 rolling around in my gut, and I thought I'd throw some of them out now.

This decision was spurred by a story in Scotland's Sunday Herald, which suggests that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and did nothing to stop them. I hesitate to even mention this story for obvious reasons: it lends support to the various conspiracy theories that the Jews were behind the attack, or that the Jews are secretly planning to take over the world, and more broadly, it is a very serious thing to charge that anyone who had advance knowledge of the attacks would have stood passively by and allowed them to happen.

Due to the sensitive nature of this story, I've done some research and corroborated most of the claims. The Jewish Week confirms that indeed, five Israeli citizens were arrested within hours of the 9/11 attacks. These men were in possession of a white van which contained, among other things, more than $4000 in cash and at least one pair of box cutters of the type used in the attacks. These men had also taken pictures of themselves, smiling, with the wreckage of the towers in the background.

Other sources (given above) cite the FBI's conclusion that at least two of the five men were Mossad operatives, and that Urban Moving Systems, the company the men worked for was really a front for Mossad. Shortly after the five men were arrested, Urban Moving Systems closed up shop and the putative owner fled to Israel. In fact, the Jewish newspaper The Forward reports that the Israeli government has since acknowledged the operation and apologized to the U.S. for conducting espionage on American soil without permission.

Apparently, they weren't alone. According to a report by Intelligence Online (subscription required) that there were around 20 Israeli intelligence cells operating in the U.S., and "according to the FBI, Arab terrorists and suspected terror cells lived in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as in Miami and Hollywood, Florida, from December 2000 to April 2001 in direct proximity to the Israeli spy cells." At least two of the 9/11 hijackers were among the cells under Israeli surveillance. The Forward mentions this story, and states that while the FBI officially denies that the Israelis, posing as art students, had any connection to Israeli intelligence, it also quotes knowledgeable sources who believe that the Intelligence Online report is correct. So is it possible that Mossad agents were trailing the al-Qaeda cells inside the U.S. as they planned the attacks, and yet weren't able to figure out what they were up to?

Of course, this does not prove that Mossad had advance knowledge of the attacks. Indeed, a single report doesn't definitively prove that Mossad was even conducting a spy operation on Al-Qaeda cells in the U.S., much less that Mossad knew what Al-Qaeda was planning. But the fact that The Forward, a venerable Jewish newspaper with no obvious axe to grind with Israel, is reporting these things gives them credibility. And credible reports such as this merit further investigation.

In the same way, there are a lot of serious questions raised about the Bush administration's behavior in the days and months prior to 9/11. We know that urgent warnings from Richard Clarke and George Tenet prior to the attacks went largely unheeded. That would be the same Richard Clarke who was the counterterrorism chief under Bill Clinton, and who worked hard to convince the Bush administration of the urgent need to attack al-Qaeda --- a need which was largely ignored until September 4, 2001. And we know that on August 6, 2001, Bush received a memo which prominently stated "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," and which suggested that the strike would involve hijacked airplanes.

Add to this a whole host of unanswered questions about the events of 9/11, and the fact that the administration appears to be stonewalling the independent commission investigating 9/11 (a commission whose creation Bush opposed, you'll recall), and doubt starts to creep into my mind. By all means, we should be willing to grant the Bush administration, indeed, any administration, the presumption that they took all appropriate actions based on the information they had.

But when an administration is so secretive, and so willing to attack the patriotism of anyone who questions them, you have to wonder what they're hiding. Certainly the report of the five Israelis raises serious questions. The actions of the Bush administration raise serious questions.

It's time the media got involved in aggressively asking those questions, and it's time we the people got answers.

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