William Rivers Pitt

Why everyone is running for president: It’s a billion-dollar industry

Because this is the future, running for president of the United States is now a fantastic way to rake in the bucks, whether or not you’ve got that name recognition thing going for you. If you don’t, whatever, CNN and MSNBC need to fill all 24 hours with programming because Andy Warhol was right. If you hold an elected office — or have lots of money already — and declare your candidacy, fear not: Wolf Blitzer’s hair will be calling you for an interview before the echo fades.

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Father’s Day Under Trump: A Grotesque Exercise in the Destruction of Families

His name was Marco Antonio Muñoz, he was 39 years old, and he was a father.

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The Cost of War at the End of an Empire

Picador Publishing recently released a 40th anniversary edition of Philip Caputo's Vietnam masterpiece, A Rumor of War. I was happy to purchase a copy, having read my original copy to tatters some 30 years ago in my ongoing quest to better understand my oft-inscrutable father, and to better understand the war that left such a deep, damaging mark on him.

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Stop Trying to Convince Trump Voters - Start Trying to Win

You have to wonder what Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are thinking today. I'm sure neither were expecting their Sunday to be this quiet. These two stalwart bedrock pillar Senate Republicans dropped a couple of building-sized bricks on the White House last week, and all that came of the resulting DONK was yet another hashtagged rhetorical victory lap by Donald Trump.

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The Painfully Ironic Dilemma: Trump v. Sessions: Who Do You Root For?

I never thought we'd all live this long. My assumption after November was that Donald Trump would have figured out a way by now to blow the mantle off the planet and scatter our collective component elements into the farthest reaches of space. As we are somehow still here, let's take a moment to enjoy the ridiculous steel cage match unfolding between Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. There is so much wrong baked into this situation, so much error and ego and straight-up birdbrained ignorance, that we're left with a simple question.

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Trump Is a Cornered Animal, and He's Dangerous

You have to hand it to this First Family. As advertised, they do nothing small. Buildings wreathed in gold, steaks thicker than city sidewalks, golf courses manicured like supermodels … and scandals rich enough to clot the blood. The present Russia eruption is a sumptuous feast with all the trimmings, served by a court jester named Junior who, as Stephen Colbert recently observed, decided to be his own "Deep Throat" on the front page of every news publication on the planet.

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Why I'm Naming the New Lesion in My Ill Wife's Brain 'Anthem BlueCross' After the Criminals That Denied Her Medicine

This article originally appeared at Truthout, and is reprinted here with their permission.

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I Comitted At Least 2 Marijuana Crimes 20 Years Ago: Enjoyed Myself and Helped a Sick Man Feel Better

The following article originally appeared on Truthout.org
All right with me
Is the way it should be
Is a good thing
Plant that bell
And let it ring...
- Neil Young

It was late September in 1993, and my friends and I were at a campground to enjoy a weekend away from the world. It was unusually cold as I shrugged my way out of the tent, and after answering an insistent call of nature just inside a line of trees to the east of our campsite, I set about the work of getting the fire going again. One by one, my friends emerged from their own tents in various stages of disrepair - the previous night had been a doozy, and more than a few of my crew looked and felt as if they had been devoured and shat out by wolves - to warm themselves by the flames.

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Half the Republicans You Know Are Insane

If I may, I would like to go over some figures with you regarding the current situation in America. I know numbers are boring and often perplexing in the main - I was an English Major, so if you put a pistol to my head and demanded I do long division, the pistol would have a better chance of coming up with the right answer before you painted the wall with my literature degree - but these numbers, I think, speak volumes, and have an unfortunately dramatic bearing on the state of modern American politics.

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Bank Warns Employees About OWS

Far be it from me to accuse Gandhi of missing a note, but in the case of the 'Occupy Wall Street' protests, the Mahatma's famous quote appears to be lacking a few essential words. "First they ignore you," he said, "then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."

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Obama Gets Stem Cell Research Right

In the beginning there is the stem cell; it is the origin of an organism's life. It is a single cell that can give rise to progeny that differentiate into any of the specialized cells of embryonic or adult tissues.
- Stewart Sell, M.D., Senior Scientist, Ordway Research Institute

The Obama administration won its way through to passage of the economic stimulus package, and President Obama will sign the thing on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he's going to Phoenix to kick off a big national push for fixing the foreclosure crisis. There is still a war going on in Afghanistan, and there is still a war going on in Iraq. The White House has wisely decided to stay away from the question of Karl Rove's subpoena and the limits of Bush-era executive privilege claims; the issue is one of separation of powers, and therefore must be handled by the legislative and judicial branches, so the executive branch doesn't wind up getting to determine the limits of its own power.

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After Downing Street

Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. Bush had already made the decision to invade. That's what the leaked secret British intelligence document now known as the Downing Street Minutes tells us from back in time to July of 2002, before discussion of an Iraq invasion had made its way anywhere near public discussion. The decision to invade Iraq had already been made in the summer of 2002, and in order to make that decision a reality, intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of invasion.

It is interesting. The occupation of Iraq has lasted more than 800 days, and debate over the invasion has been going on for more than a thousand days. In that time, revelation after revelation has been put forth exposing the lies and manipulation used by the Bush administration to make this war happen. The first accusations of Bush administration mendacity on this issue were revealed six months before the invasion took place, in an October 8, 2002, article by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay titled "Some Administration Officials Expressing Misgivings on Iraq."

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Take the Long Way Home

I'm very tired.

I am tired of watching the death toll rise on a daily basis in Iraq. Five more American soldiers died on Sunday, and eight more died today. Thirty-three Iraqi civilians were killed by car bombs on Monday, and another 120 were wounded. So far this month, 57 U.S. soldiers have died. 1,644 have been killed since this whole thing started. There is still no accurate accounting of Iraqi dead.

I am tired of trying to figure out a way to jar the American people into understanding how unutterably wretched the situation is over there, so that pressure from the citizenry at large can be brought to bear upon the Administration and this disaster can be brought to an end.

This war does not exist in American living rooms; it is only truly real in the towns that surround Bragg, Ord, Lejeune, and Benning, where the families of the soldiers forced to fight this war live and wait and worry. It is real only at Dover Air Force Base, where the bodies arrive home under a cloak of secrecy, entombed in their 'transfer tubes' and wrapped in the flag.

The war certainly does not exist on my television, and I am tired of that as well. The television news media's consensus-building machine works all day and night on a half-dozen news channels, and according to them, all is fine and dandy. It is amazing how effective these small boxes are at controlling the thoughts, emotions and desires of our population. It is daunting to try to come up with a way to get around their noise.

People ask me if the draft, or advocacy for the draft, would put this war into people's back yards and gather their attention to the matter. Of course it would, I tell them. Vietnam became an issue of pressing national concern because of the draft. It forced people to pay attention, to speak up if they thought the war was wrong, because the next lottery number read over the television might have belonged to their son.

With no draft today, with our volunteer army, most people are not staring down the barrel of having to practice what they preach. Patriotism, nationalism and the kill-em-all ethic is a safe place to stand these days, because no civilian is going to get a letter containing orders to report.

As tempting as it might be for some to try to roll this rock down the hill, the truth of the matter is that the draft is no answer to this problem. First of all, the Bush administration would have to be out of its collective mind to call for one. They have the people right where they want them - snowed, buffaloed and disengaged - and a draft would change that overnight.

A draft would also badly disable our already damaged military. During the Vietnam era, it took six weeks of boot camp to learn how to be a soldier. Today it takes two years, and a sudden flood of raw, unwilling recruits would snarl the works badly. Even if the administration wanted a draft, the armed services would kick and scream until the idea was taken off the table. And speaking of kicking and screaming, anyone advocating for a return of the draft will receive a faceful of angry noise from those mothers and fathers of fallen soldiers who have become the strongest and most eloquent anti-war activists anywhere in the country.

I'm very tired. I am tired of hearing about democracy in Iraq when no such thing exists. I am tired of people like Bush using terms like freedom as an advertising pitch for actions that promote anything but freedom. The word itself sounds like a dead fish in his mouth. I am tired of dead soldiers, dead civilians, I am tired of our highest ideals being used to peddle profiteering by war, and I am so damned tired of trying to shake people into doing something about it before we all go over the cliff.


Except maybe it is happening already. Pew Research came out with some poll numbers the other day that auger towards a swelling of anger and discontent across the country. According to Pew, Bush has an anemic approval rating of 43 percent. Approval for his handling of the economy stands at 35 percent. Only 37 percent of those polled think the Iraq war was a good idea. His numbers, in short, are in freefall; in many categories, his approval ratings have dropped more than 10 points since the snow melted in New England.

Just last night, after weeks of bluster and threats, Senate Republicans defied the wishes of their own majority leader and the political mechanics in the White House, and blinked on the filibuster fight. They didn't have to; enough arm-twisting plus Mr. Cheney in the Senate president's chair would have allowed Frist to kill the filibuster as he had promised. But they looked at their own poll numbers, and saw what damage would be done if they pressed this, and they backed off.

Sure, they got three of their wacko judges onto the appellate court as part of the deal, but the filibuster will be available when - not if, but when - a nominee is put forth to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. In other words, Senate Democrats, working with Republicans who were willing to defy their own leader, saved Roe v. Wade, and kept the GOP from owning the entire government from soup to nuts.

This, perhaps, is the leading edge of something I have been watching for these last months: A civil war in the ranks of the GOP between the movement fundamentalists and the old-school conservatives. On this filibuster fight, the movement fundamentalists got their lunch eaten by the old-schoolers, and there will be hell to pay.

So yeah, I'm tired. But maybe, just maybe, the clouds are parting a little bit here. It has been a long road to get to this admittedly desolate spot, and it is a longer road ahead. Just put one foot in front of the other, and see where it all winds up.

Will Vote For Food

United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 percent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.

– "U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote," The New York Times, Sept. 4, 1967
In all the media hoopla over Sunday's "election" in Iraq, a few details got missed.

The powerful and influential Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) is not buying the idea that there was some great democratic breakthrough with this vote. AMS spokesman Muhammad al-Kubaysi responded to the election by saying, "The elections are not a solution to the Iraqi problem, because this problem is not an internal dispute to be resolved through accords and elections. It lies in the presence of a foreign power that occupies this country and refuses even the mere scheduling of the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq."

"We have consistently argued," continued al-Kubaysi, "that elections can only occur in a democracy that enjoys sovereignty. Our sovereignty is incomplete. Our sovereignty is usurped by foreign forces that have occupied our land and hurt our dignity. These elections ... are a means of establishing the foreign forces in Iraq and keeping Iraq under the yoke of occupation. They should have been postponed."

Al-Kubaysi likewise raised grave concerns about low turnout in Sunni areas such as Baghdad, Baquba and Samarra, and stated flatly that the deep secrecy that shrouded the candidates themselves invalidated the process. "The voter goes to the polling stations not knowing who he is voting for in the first place," he said. "There are more than 7,700 candidates, and I challenge any Iraqi voter to name more than half a dozen. Their names have not been announced but have been kept secret. Elections should never have been held under these present circumstances."

The American media is painting these newly minted Iraqi voters as flush with the thrill of casting a ballot. In truth, however, some other more pressing motivations lay behind their rush to the polling places. Dahr Jamail, writing for Inter Press Service, reported that "Many Iraqis had expressed fears before the election that their monthly food rations would be cut if they did not vote. They said they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their food supplies. Just days before the election, 52 year-old Amin Hajar, who owns an auto garage in central Baghdad, had said, 'I'll vote because I can't afford to have my food ration cut. If that happened, me and my family would starve to death.'"

"Will Vote For Food" is not a spectacular billboard for the export of democracy.

"Where there was a large turnout," continued Jamail, "the motivation behind the voting and the processes both appeared questionable. The Kurds up north were voting for autonomy, if not independence. In the south and elsewhere Shias were competing with Kurds for a bigger say in the 275-member national assembly. In some places like Mosul the turnout was heavier than expected. But many of the voters came from outside, and identity checks on voters appeared lax. Others spoke of vote-buying bids. More than 30 Iraqis, a U.S. soldier, and at least 10 British troops died Sunday. Hundreds of Iraqis were also wounded in attacks across Baghdad, in Baquba 50 [kilometers] northeast of the capital as well as in the northern cities Mosul and Kirkuk."

Perhaps the most glaring indication that this "election" did little to settle the bloody reality in Iraq came three days before the ballots were cast. In a letter to Congress dated Jan. 28, the neoconservative think-tank/power broker known as Project for the New American Century (PNAC) essentially called for a draft without actually using the 'D' word.

In the last three years, PNAC has gotten every single thing it placed on its wish list back in 2000. This is why its letter is so disturbing. The ideological architects of this disastrous Iraq invasion are stating flatly that the American military is being bled dry, and that the ranks must be replenished before that military can be used to push into Iran, Syria and the other targeted nations. The 'D' word screams out from between the lines. All the lip service paid to the Iraq elections by these people does not contrast well with their cry for more warm bodies to feed into the meat grinder.

Lyndon Johnson was excited about voter turnout in Vietnam in September 1967. Eight years, three presidents and millions of dead people later, that excitement proved to have been wretchedly illusory. There is no reason, no reason whatsoever, to believe that the Iraq election we witnessed this weekend will bring anything other than death and violence to the people of that nation and our soldiers who move among them. History repeats itself only when we are stupid enough to miss the lessons learned in past failures. The wheel is coming around again.

Author's Note: The New York Times article on the Vietnam election in 1967 was first located and published by patachon on the DailyKos blog forum.

This article is excerpted from a longer version available on TruthOut.org.

Worse Than 2000?

Everyone remembers Florida's 2000 election debacle, and all of the new terms it introduced to our political lexicon: Hanging chads, dimpled chads, pregnant chads, overvotes, undervotes, Sore Losermans, Jews for Buchanan and so forth. It took several weeks, battalions of lawyers and a questionable decision from the U.S. Supreme Court to show the nation and the world how messy democracy can be. By any standard, what happened in Florida during the 2000 Presidential election was a disaster.

What happened during the Presidential election of 2004, in Florida, in Ohio, and in a number of other states as well, was worse.

Some of the problems with this past Tuesday's election will sound all too familiar. Despite having four years to look into and deal with the problems that cropped up in Florida in 2000, the "spoiled vote" chad issue reared its ugly head again. Investigative journalist Greg Palast, the man almost singularly responsible for exposing the more egregious examples of illegitimate deletions of voters from the rolls, described the continued problems in an article published just before the election, and again in an article published just after the election.

Four years later, and none of the Florida problems were fixed. In fact, by all appearances, they spread from Florida to Ohio, New Mexico, Michigan and elsewhere. Worse, these problems only scratch the surface of what appears to have happened in Tuesday's election. The fix that was put in place to solve these problems – the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002 after the Florida debacle – appears to have gone a long way towards making things worse by orders of magnitude, for it was the Help America Vote Act which introduced paperless electronic touch-screen voting machines to millions of voters across the country.

At first blush, it seems like a good idea. Forget the chads, the punch cards, the archaic booths like pianos standing on end with the handles and the curtains. This is the 21st century, so let's do it with computers. A simple screen presents straightforward choices, and you touch the spot on the screen to vote for your candidate. Your vote is recorded by the machine, and then sent via modem to a central computer which tallies the votes. Simple, right?

Not quite.

Is there any evidence that these machines went haywire on Tuesday? Nationally, there were more than 1,100 reports of electronic voting machine malfunctions. A few examples:

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Wrestling with a Gorilla

It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired." – Robert Strauss

    I've been working on digesting the results of the election. Mark Moford of the San Francisco Chronicle gave perhaps the best description of how I am feeling: "It simply boggles the mind: we've already had four years of some of the most appalling and abusive foreign and domestic policy in American history, some of the most well-documented atrocities ever wrought on the American populace and it's all combined with the biggest and most violently botched and grossly mismanaged war since Vietnam, and much of the nation still insists in living in a giant vat of utter blind faith, still insists on believing the man in the White House couldn't possibly be treating them like a dog treats a fire hydrant."

    But I wound up getting some help on perspective from an unexpected quarter. I stood in the wind and the rain outside the Boston Public Library in Copley Square for eight hours on Tuesday night with tens of thousands of Kerry supporters, watching the election returns come in on giant screens, listening to speakers whip up the crowd, listening to girls scream while Jon Bon Jovi worked his way through 'Living on a Prayer.' That last bit was one of the low points. There were others.

    As the night wore on and the wind got colder, the returns took a turn for the Bush. When Tom Brokaw came on the big screen and declared that NBC was putting Ohio in the Bush column, you could hear the air go out of the crowd. When the gospel singers came out and started singing 'God Bless America' for the fourth time that night, I decided enough was enough. I walked down to my favorite bar and fired down a pint of Mojo IPA, feeling the outer edges of a truly epic hate-frenzy beginning to work its way into my bones. I shrugged my coat back on, gave the disconsolate bartender a hug, and headed home. On the way, I stopped at the 7/11 and bought a can of Chef Boy-Are-Dee Beef Ravioli.

    That's when the unexpected help showed up. As I was sliding my key into the back door of my apartment building, a young man emerged silently from the bushes behind me. I turned the key, and suddenly it felt like my head had exploded. The man from the bushes had thrown what was later revealed to be a large, 20 lb. cobblestone at me. It bounced off my shoulder, blasted into my jaw, and dropped heavily at my feet.

    I reeled into the door but didn't fall. The fellow, assuming that anyone struck with a 20 lb. rock was ripe for the picking, started to come at me. I turned, and in a moment of truly dumb Braveheart macho testosterone rage, charged the guy. He stepped back in surprise, and then turned to flee. I pursued him down the street, brandishing the can of ravioli over my head while screaming unkind comments about his inappropriate sexual relationship with his mother, until my jaw reminded me that it might be broken.

    After the cops and the EMTs and the x-rays were finished with me, the diagnosis was that nothing was broken or loose. My face is pretty torn up, but I should be able to chew solid food in a couple of days with the help of the Ibuprofen/Percocet cocktail the folks in the emergency room were kind enough to give me. As for the guy who threw the rock, I have no idea where he came from or what he was about. There are a few junkies wandering my neighborhood, so I assume this was an attempted mugging... possibly the first mugging in American history to be thwarted by a thick skull and a can of Chef Boy-Are-Dee.

    Beyond the pain and the big scare, I am actually grateful for what happened. This may seem strange, but getting belted with a boulder did wonders for my perspective. If his aim had been a little better, just a couple of inches to the left, I'd probably be dead right now. I have the rock sitting on my desk in front of me, with an inscription written on it in indelible ink: 'There Are Worse Things Than Losing An Election.' A narrow perspective, to be sure, but a hard one to avoid while living inside my own bruised head.

    Without a doubt, a second term for George W. Bush promises to be a debacle of generational proportions. The courts will be stacked with ideological brothers of Antonin Scalia. Roe v. Wade will be cast down. The full frontal assault on the Federal budget, on Social Security, on Medicare, on anything resembling government-subsidized assistance for people who did not get the lion's share of Bush's tax cuts, will continue unabated. The war in Iraq will grind on, and likely be expanded to include Iran and Syria. If those military adventures fare as poorly as what has happened in Iraq, a military draft will not be far off.

    Sidney Blumenthal described it this way: "Now, without constraints, Bush can pursue the dreams he campaigned for – the use of U.S. military might to bring God's gift of freedom to the world, with no more 'global tests,' and at home the enactment of the imperatives of 'the right God.' The international system of collective security forged in World War II and tempered in the Cold War is a thing of the past. The Democratic Party, despite its best efforts, has failed to rein in the radicalism sweeping the country. The world is in a state of emergency but also irrelevant. The New World, with all its power and might, stepping forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old? Goodbye to all that."

    Perhaps the best indicator of what a now-unfettered Bush is going to be like over the next four years came during his Thursday press conference. Associated Press reporter Terence Hunt opened the questioning with a three-part query. Bush responded to his questions by saying, "Now that I've got the will of the people at my back, I'm going to start enforcing the one-question rule. That was three." When another reporter dared to ask a multi-pronged question, Bush's response was, "Again, he violated the one-question rule right off the bat. Obviously you didn't listen to the will of the people." In other words, journalists, sit down and shut up.

    There are a few bright spots to point to in the aftermath. John Ashcroft will reportedly resign his position before the inauguration. While it is certain that Bush will nominate another far-right lunatic to replace him, unless that nominee is Atilla the Hun, any new Attorney General will be an improvement. There is also the brewing fight between the conservatives and the neo-conservatives within the Republican Party. A number of old-style conservatives were secretly hoping for a Kerry victory, because it would give them an opening to purge the GOP of the neo-cons and the far-right religious fundamentalists from the party. Now that Bush has a second term, this fight will probably break wide open.

    Finally, the long fight to bring the glaring problems associated with the new electronic voting machines may finally break fully into the mainstream. There are some ominous discrepancies between the pre-election polls, the exit polls, and the final results out of counties in Florida and Ohio that used the machines. While eating an electoral defeat seems an incredible price to pay for initiating this dialog and investigation, consider the long term. If an investigation into the use of these machines in this election winds up requiring voters be given a paper confirmation of their vote, this democracy will look back on Tuesday November 2, 2004 as a necessary and beneficial trauma.

    Despite these bright spots, the inscription on my memorial rock – 'There Are Worse Things Than Losing An Election' - seems absurd in the face of all this. Maybe it's the concussion talking, but I honestly believe the rock is right. For one thing, worse than losing the election would be a collective acceptance of the reasons we are being given for why the election was lost. We hear from every mainstream media quarter that the election was lost because more people lined up with Bush on the question of 'Values.' There is a degree of truth to this. Eleven states had referendums on the ballot about gay marriage, for one example. The Republican base flooded to the polls to vote against it. This helped Bush, surely, along with some other 'Values'-oriented issues, but this does not account for the final result. He was going to get that vote anyway. There is an elephant in the room here, and ignoring it would be worse than the electoral defeat.

    The result of this election is nothing more or less than the culmination of a three-year terror campaign waged by the Bush administration and his campaign crew. Every day for three years, the American people were bombarded with messages of fear from the administration. Day after day, the Bush administration used September 11 to cow any and all dissent, to bend popular will, to frighten people into thinking that voting against Bush was a vote for death and destruction.

    It worked. Millions of Americans, after three years of state-sponsored fear roaring out of their televisions 24/7/365, went to the polls and solemnly voted against their best interests. Buying into the idea that 'Values' alone determined the election outcome would be a disaster, as would buying into the idea that America is now a center-right nation, as would buying into the argument that Bush now has a mandate. It isn't true. The election turned on Bush's willingness to terrify the people he is supposed to be leading, and any refusal to acknowledge this will compound the wretched result of this election by orders of magnitude.

    It is amazing that this election was as close as it was. Kerry should never have come as close as he did to victory, given the campaign of fear that was waged against the American people by this administration. Worse than losing the election, therefore, would be an acceptance of the idea that all the work, all the shoeleather spent in the movement to vote Bush out was a complete failure. It wasn't. The movement did better than it had any right to, and it still has work to do. Worse than losing the election would be an abandonment of that movement. It isn't over, but has only just begun.

    Howard Dean recently wrote, "There is more to politics than elections. Thousands of young people have discovered, as generations have before them, their efforts matter. Their actions matter because by getting in the game instead of staying on the sidelines, they are empowered, whether or not their candidate wins. Historically, whether through the campaign of Gene McCarthy in 1968 or John McCain in 2000, the enthusiasm and hard work waned after the election. This time we cannot let that happen. Democracy is the most highly evolved system of government ever created by human beings. And like everything else we create, it will wither and die unless we nurture it."

    Now more than ever, the movement that began on December 12, 2000 must continue. Billions of people around the world woke up on Wednesday afraid, fully convinced that the United States of America has finally and completely lost its collective mind. The movement must assure them that we have their back. The soldier and civilian death toll in Iraq continues to climb unabated, and those still alive in that cauldron of violence need to be assured that we have their back. The millions of Americans who do not fit in to Bush's grand evangelical plan for the country need to know that we have their back.

    If despair and despondency still color your world after the election, remember this: Every second-term President since Eisenhower has met with a blizzard of shame and disgrace before they left office. Nixon didn't get to finish his term and needed Ford to keep him out of prison, Reagan needed Bush Sr. to pardon a whole mob of cretins to kill the Iran/Contra scandal, and Clinton was impeached for lying about consensual sex.

    If the first four years of this administration are any indication of what is to come, and if the movement continues to hammer him for the next four years as it has for the last four years, the name of George W. Bush will wind up echoing down the hallways of history as the single worst President the nation has ever known. The name of George W. Bush will stand as a grave warning and a strident reminder of how badly and how quickly things can go wrong in our democracy.

    I'm going to stick around to see that happen. It will take more than a rock, or a lost election, to blow out my pilot light. I'll see you on the battlements.

Promises to Keep

The presidential election of 2004 is finally upon us. After a thousand days of fear, doubt, anger and set-jawed patriotism in the face of everything we as a nation have been forced to deal with, we are down to a single week in which to consider our place and position, a single week to decide where we go from here, a single week to remember where we have been.

John Adams once said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Today in America, politics has become a bloodsport where wishes, inclinations and passions lead us to attack those we disagree with as fools, as dangerous, as less than patriots. Both sides of the political aisle are guilty of recrimination and hyperexaggeration; debate, these days, is done at top voice, a means to shout your opponent down. It is a lessening of us all.

More than 1,100 flag-draped symbolic coffins line the reflecting pool at the base of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2004 in Washington. The tribute is in honor of the American service men and women who have been killed in Iraq to date. In the background is the Washington Monument.

Yet the stubborn facts and evidence remain, and no amount of red-faced bellowing by partisans and paid operatives can change their nature. The following facts are addressed to the fence-sitters, to the undecided voters, to the independent voters, to those who have come to see voting as a waste of time, and to the millions upon millions of Republicans in America who are of good conscience, who voted for George W. Bush four years ago and wonder now at the wisdom of their choice.

These are the facts.

George W. Bush and the members of his administration told us, beginning in September of 2002, that the nation of Iraq was a grave and growing threat to the security of the American people. We were told by this administration that Iraq was in possession of vast stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, that they were vigorously pursuing a nuclear weapon, and that they enjoyed operational connections with the al Qaeda terrorist network.

The implications were clear: Saddam Hussein would be more than happy to deliver these horrible weapons to the same terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11. "It would take just one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country," said Bush in his January 2003 State of the Union address, "to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known." Bush, in that same speech, went on to specify the exact volume of weapons in Iraq which were demanding invasion: 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents – 500 tons equals 1,000,000 pounds – plus nearly 30,000 munitions to deliver these agents, and additionally, a plan to seek uranium from Niger for use in the production of nuclear weapons. If you doubt these facts, please reference the White House website. Their page describing these horrors is still there.

Now, of course, we know better. The American weapons inspection team sent to Iraq by the Bush administration itself – 1,625 inspectors investigating 1,700 suspected weapons sites over two years at a cost of $1 billion – came up completely empty. There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there have been no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since the UN inspections of the mid-1990s, Hussein had no concrete plans to make any weapons of mass destruction, and even if he did, the facilities needed to create such weapons were no longer operational in any way, shape or form. Bush's threat of a "day of horror like none we have ever known" because of these Iraqi weapons was revealed to be devoid of substance.

The push to invade and occupy Iraq was so strong that it overwhelmed other, more pressing matters. The war in Afghanistan remains unfinished to this day because the Bush administration removed vital American military forces from that nation and sent them to fight in Iraq. Because of that decision, the warlords in Afghanistan are powerful again. Because of that decision, opium production in Afghanistan is booming. Because of that decision, Osama bin Laden is still alive and free.

As the occupation of Iraq ground on, as the promises that we would be greeted as liberators were rendered hollow by a steadily rising death toll among our soldiers and their civilians, the rationale for war proffered by the Bush administration began to drift. It wasn't about weapons of mass destruction anymore. It was about bringing freedom and democracy, and about bringing hope to a beleaguered populace that had lived long under a tyrant.

Leave aside the long argument about the efficacy of bringing democracy by the point of a sword, leave aside the reality that nothing approximating democracy is going to take root in Iraq while an American-installed government with no credibility among the Iraqi people sits in power, and leave aside the reality that no kind of true democratic election is going to take place in Iraq because large swaths of that nation are beyond the control of any government, are still at war with the American army, and will never see a ballot.

The fact remains that bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq was not the reason given to the American people for why war was necessary, and necessary now. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, we were made to feel fear because Saddam Hussein was going to give his weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, and they were going to use those weapons against us.

Millions of people in America did not go out and buy plastic sheeting and duct tape to support democracy and freedom in Iraq. Millions of Americans bought plastic sheeting and duct tape because their government terrified them into believing a poison cloud would envelop them and their families at any moment.

It comes down to this. George W. Bush and his administration desired a reckoning with Saddam Hussein from the moment they took office. Powerful administration officials like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz had been advocating for an invasion and occupation of Iraq for many years, well before they ever took office. They used the fear and uncertainty that came after Sept. 11 to arrange that reckoning. They used Sept. 11 against their own people, against us all, deliberately and with intent.

Three new terms have entered the American political lexicon in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of Iraq: Abu Ghraib, Valerie Plame and transfer tube.

Abu Ghraib is, of course, the chamber of horrors well-known to the American people by now. Under the instruction of American soldiers and private military contractors, innocent Iraqi civilians were tortured, raped and murdered in the prison once used by Saddam Hussein for the same purposes. Photographs of these degradations were broadcast far and wide, delivering a crippling blow to the reputation of the United States.

The investigations which followed these revelations have revealed that such abuses were not relegated solely to Abu Ghraib, but had taken place in military detention facilities from Afghanistan to Cuba. Forty-five troops have been recommended for court martial, and some 23 others face summary discharge. Yet the officers who ordered or allowed all this to take place have thus far escaped any serious censure. The civilian leaders in Washington, whose lawyers argued that torture isn't really torture and is therefore acceptable in war, bear as much of the burden of responsibility for this as the soldiers who put the policy to living flesh. They, too, have not been called to account.

Where does the awful reality of Abu Ghraib fit into the global puzzle that is this war on terror? Philip Carter, writing for Washington Monthly, said it best. "America suffered a huge defeat the moment those photographs became public," writes Carter. "Copies of them are now sold in souks from Marrakesh to Jakarta, vivid illustrations of the worst suspicions of the Arab world: that Americans are corrupt and power-mad, eager to humiliate Muslims and mock their values. The acts they document have helped to energize the insurgency in Iraq, undermining our rule there and magnifying the risks faced by our soldiers each day. If Osama bin Laden had hired a Madison Avenue public relations firm to rally Arabs' hearts and minds to his cause, it's hard to imagine that it could have devised a better propaganda campaign."

If the story of Abu Ghraib strikes at the heart of our reputation worldwide, the story of Valerie Plame reaches into the guts of our ability to defend ourselves at home. Plame was a deep-cover CIA agent running a network dedicated to tracking any person, nation or group that would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. Her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was dispatched in February of 2002 to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking uranium there for use in a nuclear weapons program. Wilson returned from Niger after a diligent investigation and reported to the CIA, the office of the National Security Advisor, the State Department and the office of Vice President Cheney that the claims had no merit whatsoever.

In January of 2003, during the same State of the Union speech in which he spoke of that "day of horror" and described Iraq's weapons by the numbers, Bush used the debunked Niger uranium claim as further evidence that the invasion of Iraq was an absolute imperative. Wilson, in July of 2003, exploded the administration's Niger-uranium claim in a detailed editorial in the New York Times. Days later, his wife Valerie Plame was exposed to several reporters as a deep-cover agent by operatives for the White House. Plame's operations against those who would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists were wrecked. Her intelligence network was destroyed. The front company she worked out of, Brewster Jennings & Associates, was likewise exposed, a fact that had the corollary effect of ruining the operations and networks of any other agents working under the cover of that office.

The White House agents who blew Plame's cover did so for one reason, and one reason alone: To intimidate and silence any government analysts or whistleblowers who might go to the press and contradict the Bush administration's carefully crafted story line about the threat posed by Iraq. A number of people had come forward before Wilson wrote his article, but few came after Plame was attacked. It is one thing to put yourself at risk by taking on the Bush administration, but it is another thing entirely to be shown that the decision to do so puts your family in the line of fire.

Beyond the fact that our capacity to track and interdict the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists was damaged by the outing of Valerie Plame – and isn't that the reason we went to war in Iraq in the first place? – there is the damage done to our overall capacity to watch a world filled with threats. The Bush administration ignored the data and warnings coming from the American intelligence community before the war, because that data did not fit the decision for war which had already been made, and then scapegoated the intelligence community after their story line did not match reality. The attack upon Valerie Plame is but one example of the administration's dangerous misuse and abuse of our intelligence services. Today, the CIA is at war with the White House because of this. In no way does this deplorable situation heighten our security here at home.

Finally, there are the transfer tubes. One thousand one hundred and six transfer tubes have been put to use by the American military since the invasion of Iraq was undertaken 17 months ago. You may not have heard of these things, because the Bush administration has forbidden the press from taking pictures of them. The term itself is a bland Pentagon-created euphemism. Once upon a time, "transfer tubes" were called coffins.

It has been widely reported since Monday that almost 400 tons of high explosives disappeared from a storage facility in Iraq called al Qaqaa. The International Atomic Energy Agency voiced public warnings about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured. These warnings went unheeded; American soldiers were used to guard petroleum facilities after the invasion, and were used to tear down statues in politically helpful photo-opportunities in Baghdad. The explosives were left unprotected.

How much of the stuff has been used in the last 17 months to kill American troops? How many of the 1,106 are dead because of a decision to ignore the al Qaqaa facility? Because of the woeful ineptitude of the Bush administration in managing the occupation and in guarding the borders of Iraq, that country has become the terrorist haven it never was before March of 2003. How much of this missing material has fallen into the hands of people who would use it to explode airplanes and buildings, along with American soldiers in convoys and military bases?

When a man or woman raises their right hand and swears the oath, when they don the uniform of the United States military and take up arms in the common defense of us all, they are promising to give their lives. They stand and deliver, and the honor and nobility of their service goes beyond description. The only promise they expect in return is that their lives will not be spent by their leaders for anything less than the greatest need.

That promise has not been kept by George W. Bush and his administration. The failure to secure the al Qaqaa facility is but one example of this. Some have argued that 1,106 dead American soldiers in Iraq is a paltry number compared to the death toll absorbed by American troops in places like Normandy and Iwo Jima. Some have argued that, compared to annual murder rates in places like Detroit and Los Angeles, 1,106 dead American soldiers is statistically insignificant.

One American soldier sent home to his family in a transfer tube after dying in an unnecessary and mismanaged war is exactly one American soldier too many. No manipulation of statistics can alter this last, heartbreaking, stubborn fact. If nothing else touches you, if the missing weapons of mass destruction and the deliberate use of fear and the shame of Abu Ghraib and the abuse of our intelligence services and the re-creation of Iraq into a terrorist stronghold does not touch you, if the fact that all of this combined has birthed a world where we are all far less safe does not move you, remember that promise.

They made it. We must keep it.

Fabricating Terror

Let me get this straight.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge came barnstorming out on Sunday with a blizzard of warnings about looming terror attacks against targets in New York, New Jersey and Washington DC. Our nifty color-coded alert system was raised to Orange, or High. Headlines from coast to coast blared the bad news, and the stock market began Monday by giving itself a sound beating.

Late Monday night, however, had articles popping up on the Washington Post and the New York Times. This was the Post's midnight take: "Most of the al-Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert Sunday was conducted before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and authorities are not sure whether the casing of the buildings has continued, numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials said yesterday... 'There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new,' said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. 'Why did we go to this level? I still don't know that.'"

The data was three years old.

Tom Ridge, in his Sunday remarks, said, "President Bush has told you, and I have reiterated the promise, that when we have specific credible information, that we will share it. Now this afternoon, we do have new and unusually specific information about where al-Qaeda would like to attack."

The data was three years old.

"The quality of this intelligence," said Ridge on Sunday, "based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen and it is alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information."

The data was three years old.

"As of now," said Ridge on Sunday, "this is what we know: reports indicate that al-Qaeda is targeting several specific buildings, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the District of Columbia; Prudential Financial in Northern New Jersey; and Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange in New York."

The data was three years old.

"I certainly realize that this is sobering news," said Ridge on Sunday, "not just about the intent of our enemies, but of their specific plans and a glimpse into their methods."

The data was three years old.

"But we must understand," said Ridge on Sunday, "that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the President's leadership in the war against terror."

The data was three years old.

Furthermore, according to the Washington Post, "Several officials also said that much of the information compiled by terrorist operatives about the buildings in Washington, New York and Newark was obtained through the Internet or other 'open sources' available to the general public, including some floor plans."

The data was three years old, gathered on the Internet, and delivered to the American people in tones of doom, as if the hammer were about to fall at any moment.

As reported on the Bloomberg newswire, Laura Bush and the daughters Barbara and Jenna Bush held a photo-op at the Citigroup Center in New York City on Monday, the first day of Ridge's new Orange alert. This was one of the target buildings, according to Ridge. George W. Bush sent his entire family to the very place that was supposedly about to be blown to smithereens?

I don't think so.

George W. Bush and his administration officials are using terrorism – the fear of it, the fight against it – to manipulate domestic American politics. They are, as they have every day for almost three years now, using September 11 against their own people. They are also getting stumblingly obvious about it. We are being lied to, clumsily, again.

Do you doubt it? Recall, if you will, the report in July by John Judis, Spencer Ackerman, and Massoud Ansari of the New Republic titled 'July Surprise.'

The report read, "This spring, the administration significantly increased its pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed to be hiding in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan.

"A succession of high-level American officials – from outgoing CIA Director George Tenet to Secretary of State Colin Powell to Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca to State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black to a top CIA South Asia official – have visited Pakistan in recent months to urge General Pervez Musharraf's government to do more in the war on terrorism."

The kicker appears in the next paragraph: "A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed TNR that the Pakistanis 'have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs (High Value Targets) before [the] election is [an] absolute must.'

What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: 'The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington.'... But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that 'it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July' – the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston."

Three Days in Spain

The winds of change are blowing furiously through Spain today, as terrorism and war take center stage for the first time since September 11 as the determining factors in a democratic election.

It began in horror with the bombing of Spanish commuter trains and the deliberate slaughter of 200 people on Thursday. Thousands more were wounded in the blasts, and the entirety of the nation was hurled into the blackest mourning. The government of Jose Maria Aznar has attempted to connect the bombings to the Basque separatist group ETA, but evidence -- including a videotaped claim of responsibility -- is pointing towards al Qaeda as the perpetrators.

The reasons Aznar's government wanted to see the attacks connected to ETA instead of al Qaeda were found in the streets of Spain by the thousands on the Saturday after the bombs went off. Madrid was awash with protesters demanding answers from Aznar as to who was responsible. They thronged the streets holding signs reading 'Paz,' and carried a banner reading 'Your War, Our Corpses.' There were protests in Andalucia, Barcelona and other cities, as well. If the attacks could be connected to ETA, the resulting fury would be directed towards the Basque separatists. If the attack was perpetrated by al Qaeda, however, that fury would roar towards Aznar himself.

He would be held personally responsible for those deaths because he involved Spain in the invasion of Iraq despite the disapproval of some 80% of Spain's citizens. If the attack was perpetrated by al Qaeda, it would be seen as revenge for Spain's role in Iraq. As the Spanish people wanted no part of that war, and as Aznar brought them into that war against their wishes, the blood of those people, according to those thousands of protesters, would be dripping from his fingers.

Much of the mainstream media's coverage of these protesters suggested that the crowds had been usurped by anti-war activists, that the majority of the protest was aimed at the bombers and not Aznar's government. But then, on Sunday, the people of Spain went to the polls for the parliamentary elections. Turnout for the vote was extraordinarily high. The results appear to prove beyond dispute that the anti-war sentiment seen in the crowds on Saturday was not the exception, but the rule.

There were several parties on the ballot on Sunday, the two most prominent being Aznar's Popular Party and the Socialists. Before the bombing, it was widely believed that Aznar's hand-picked successor for the prime minister's spot, Mariano Rajoy, would win handily, and that the conservative Popular Party would retain its majority in the 350-member Congress of deputies. By 6:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, however, conventional wisdom had been turned on its head. With 96% of the votes counted, the Socialist Party had taken 163 seats, Aznar's Popular Party had taken 148 seats, and Rajoy had given a concession speech for himself and his defeated party. It was a reversal of epic and stunning proportions.

There are a number of lessons to be taken from the incredible turn of events over the last 100 hours, few of which are comforting.

The timing of the attack on Thursday is deeply troubling. If al Qaeda was indeed responsible, the terrorist organization certainly planned the blast to happen on the eve of the election. While many may rejoice at the repudiation of a party that brought its nation to war against the will of the people, the fact remains that this repudiation came after 200 people died. Terrorism, slaughter and fear owned the ballot boxes in Spain on Sunday, a precedent that is simply horrifying.

America's role in the Iraq invasion itself played a central role in the Thursday attacks, and bears a lion's share of responsibility for the horror. George W. Bush sprinted to attack a nation that posed no threat to his country, or Spain, or any other. He has poured hundreds of billions of dollars and nearly 600 American lives into the endeavor, in no small part because of now-debunked claims that Iraq and al Qaeda enjoyed an operational alliance.

Had Bush chosen to press the fight against al Qaeda itself, and not against toothless red herrings like Iraq, it is entirely possible that the bombings in Spain would never have happened. The force and funding of American wrath would have been brought to bear against actual terrorists, severely impeding actions like the one which so shook Spain. Had Bush chosen to press the fight against al Qaeda itself, and not Iraq, Spain and Aznar and all those dead would not now be on the forefront of the carnage.

Again, many will find some grim satisfaction in this, but the facts augur a deepening gloom. Clearly, the Iraq war has not made America or the world safer. It has, in fact, further imperiled many nations and many peoples. The people of Spain were right to resist it. The hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans who took to the streets to resist it were right to resist it. The 30 million people who protested in every capitol on Earth on February 15th were right to protest it.

Though they have been proven right, there is no comfort in it, for as the terror in Spain has demonstrated, the people of the world face more of a threat now than ever before. This will be further articulated on March 20th, as yet more protests to mark the first year of the war will again boil in the streets of the world. The war grinds on, and the consequences continue to claw at us all.

In the horror and woe there are three thin linings of silver. The first is this: Although a constitutional monarchy modeled much after the United Kingdom, Spain is showing all the signs of a young and healthy democracy -- engaged, concerned, and vital. The protests and voter turnout are evidence enough of this. Surely, the 80% who opposed involvement in Iraq show they are a vocal populace who enjoy the mantle of democratic reform bestowed a generation ago.

Their constitution was ratified in December 1978 after a three year process that began upon Franco's death and subsequent acquisition of the reins by King Juan Carlos during the interim. The last 25 years have seen Spain eager to become a player with the other Western modern European nations like the UK, France, or Germany. The first step was joining NATO in 1982, and since, the pendulum of power in the prime minister's seat has veered between the Socialist Party on the left and the conservative -- center-right by U.S. standards -- Popular Party. The pendulum swung back on Sunday. The nation is a young and healthy modern republic, coming closer with each year to being the player in the European Union it wants to be.

The second lining is this: When the bombs went off in Spain, that nation and the world faced a tipping point. The fear and horror could have compelled the Spanish people to support their government and its role in the farcical War on Terror. They could have allowed themselves to be swept up in hysteria and lined up behind leaders who have, thus far, done everything wrong. They did not do this. They did, in fact, overwhelmingly repudiate their government and its war. This came at a terrible cost in blood, but had they done otherwise, the precedent as witnessed and potentially followed by the world could have spiraled beyond even a semblance of control.

The third lining is this: The bombing took place on Thursday. Two days later, the people of Spain were battering down the doors of government offices demanding information, demanding truth. "We cannot vote without knowing who are the assassins," cried the protesters. "The government is hiding information. They think we're idiots." Emilio Jimenez Tomas of Madrid, in a comment given to the New York Times as he surveyed the wreckage left behind by the bombings, said, "Look at this. This is an election and the government pretends that they don't know anything about who really did it. They've been lying to us and we won't know the real truth until after the election."

Two days. That was all it took for the people of Spain to become impatient, to pressure their government for the truth. When they did not get it, they threw that government out on its ear. For America, a nation approaching the 1,000th day in which their government has not provided the truth of September 11th, this is a lesson to be taken deeply to heart.

My thanks to historian Laurin Suiter for providing background on Spain's democracy.

William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor of truthout. He is the author of 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'

Two Loud Words

There have always been 'third-rail' issues in American politics, subjects that, if touched upon, will lead to certain political death. For a long while, and until very recently, Social Security was one of these issues.

A new one, surrounding the attacks of September 11, has been born in this political season. If September 11 is discussed, the only allowable sub-topic to be broached is whether or not the Bush administration is capable of keeping us safe from another onslaught.

Friday's edition of the Boston Globe had a case in point on the front page. An article titled 'For Bush, Readiness is Key Issue' stated that, "In speech after speech, President Bush has emphasized his administration's pledge never to forget the lessons of Sept. 11. He says the top goal of his administration is to prevent another attack." The Globe article contained, in the next paragraph, the standardized rejoinder: "And while Democratic opponents of the administration are unanimous in their hope that that vulnerability is not exposed with deadly results, they have also argued that Bush has done far too little to protect the country from another attack. He has refused to adequately reimburse state and local officials for homeland security costs, they argue, and has ignored dangerous gaps in air cargo and port security."

Thus, the 'preparedness-gap' becomes the whittled-down talking point du jour. This is a whiff of colossal proportions, the implications of which will echo down the halls of history unless someone develops enough spine to speak the truth into a large microphone. The talking point is not difficult to manage. It was splashed in gaudy multi-point font across the front page of the New York Post in May of 2002.

Two words: 'Bush Knew.'

It is, frankly, amazing that this has fallen down the memory hole. Recall two headlines from that period. The first, from the UK Guardian on May 19, 2002, was titled 'Bush Knew of Terrorist Plot to Hijack US Planes.' The first three paragraphs of this story read:

"George Bush received specific warnings in the weeks before 11 September that an attack inside the United States was being planned by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, US government sources said yesterday. In a top-secret intelligence memo headlined 'Bin Laden determined to strike in the US', the President was told on 6 August that the Saudi-born terrorist hoped to 'bring the fight to America' in retaliation for missile strikes on al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998. Bush and his aides, who are facing withering criticism for failing to act on a series of warnings, have previously said intelligence experts had not advised them domestic targets were considered at risk. However, they have admitted they were specifically told that hijacks were being planned."

Another story on the topic came from the New York Times on May 15, 2002, and was titled 'Bush Was Warned bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes.'

Unlike the Guardian piece, the Times chose to lead the article with the Bush administration's cover story; one the administration has stuck with to this day:

"The White House said tonight that President Bush had been warned by American intelligence agencies in early August that Osama bin Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft but that the warnings did not contemplate the possibility that the hijackers would turn the planes into guided missiles for a terrorist attack. 'It is widely known that we had information that bin Laden wanted to attack the United States or United States interests abroad,' Ari Fleischer, the president's press secretary, said this evening. 'The president was also provided information about bin Laden wanting to engage in hijacking in the traditional pre-9/11 sense, not for the use of suicide bombing, not for the use of an airplane as a missile.'"

Yes, we were warned, said the Bush administration, but who could have conceived of terrorists using airplanes for suicide bombings?

A lot of people, actually.

According to a Time Magazine story that appeared on Friday, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is balking at requests to testify before Thomas Kean's September 11 commission under oath. She also wants her testimony to be taken behind closed doors, and not in public. The crux of her hesitation would appear on the surface to be her comments of May 16 2002, in which she used the above-referenced excuse that no one "could have predicted that they would try to use a hijacked airplane as a missile." If that excuse is reflective of reality, why does she fear to testify under oath?

Perhaps Ms. Rice fears testifying because too many facts are now in hand, thanks in no small part to the work of 9/11 widows like Kristen Breitweiser, which fly in the face of the administration's demurrals. For example, in 1993, a $150,000 study was commissioned by the Pentagon to investigate the possibility of an airplane being used to bomb national landmarks. A draft document of this was circulated throughout the Pentagon, the Justice Department and to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In 1994, a disgruntled Federal Express employee broke into the cockpit of a DC-10 with plans to crash it into a company building in Memphis.

That same year, a lone pilot crashed a small plane into a tree on the White House grounds, narrowly missing the residence. An Air France flight was hijacked by members of the Armed Islamic Group, which intended to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower. In September 1999, a report titled "The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism" was prepared for U.S. intelligence by the Federal Research Division, an arm of the Library of Congress. It stated, "Suicide bombers belonging to al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and Semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House."

Throughout the spring and early summer of 2001, intelligence agencies flooded the government with warnings of possible terrorist attacks against American targets, including commercial aircraft, by al Qaeda and other groups. A July 5, 2001 White House gathering of the FAA, the Coast Guard, the FBI, Secret Service and INS had a top counter-terrorism official, Richard Clarke, state that "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon." Donald Kerrick, who is a three-star general, was a deputy National Security Advisor in the late Clinton administration. He stayed on into the Bush administration. When the Bush administration came in, he wrote a memo about terrorism, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The memo said, "We will be struck again." As a result of writing that memo, he was not invited to any more meetings.

In a late November interview, former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal said, "Richard Clarke was Director of Counter-Terrorism in the National Security Council. He has since left. Clark urgently tried to draw the attention of the Bush administration to the threat of al Qaeda. Right at the present, the Bush administration is trying to withhold documents from the 9/11 bipartisan commission. I believe one of the things that they do not want to be known is what happened on August 6, 2001. It was on that day that George W. Bush received his last, and one of the few, briefings on terrorism. I believe he told Richard Clarke that he didn't want to be briefed on this again, even though Clarke was panicked about the alarms he was hearing regarding potential attacks. Bush was blithe, indifferent, ultimately irresponsible."

"The public has a right to know what happened on August 6," continued Blumenthal, "what Bush did, what Condi Rice did, what all the rest of them did, and what Richard Clarke's memos and statements were. Then the public will be able to judge exactly what this presidency has done."

George W. Bush is going to run in 2004 on the idea that his administration is the only one capable of protecting us from another attack like the ones that took place on September 11. Yet the record to date is clear. Not only did they fail in spectacular fashion to deal with those first threats, not only has their reaction caused us to be less safe, not only have they failed to sufficiently bolster our defenses, but they used the aftermath of the attacks to ram through policies they couldn't have dreamed of achieving on September 10. It is one of the most remarkable turnabouts in American political history: Never before has an administration used so grisly a personal failure to such excellent effect.

Never mind the final insult: They received all these warnings and went on vacation for a month down in Texas. The August 6 briefing might as well have happened in a vacuum. September 11 could have and should have been prevented. Why? Because Bush knew.

This administration must not be allowed to ride their criminal negligence into a second term. Someone needs to say those two words. Loudly. After all, Bush has proven with Social Security, and with September 11, that third rails can be danced across. All it takes is a little boldness.

William Rivers Pitt, managing editor of truthout.org, is the author of three books: "War On Iraq" (Context Books), "The Greatest Sedition is Silence" (Pluto Press), and "Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in August from Context Books.

We Caught the Wrong Guy

Saddam Hussein, former employee of the American federal government, was captured near a farmhouse in Tikrit in a raid performed by other employees of the American federal government. That sounds pretty deranged, right? Perhaps, but it is also accurate. The unifying thread binding together everyone assembled at that Tikrit farmhouse is the simple fact that all of them -- the soldiers as well as Hussein -- have received pay from the United States for services rendered.

It is no small irony that Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad, the monster under your bed lo these last twelve years, was paid probably ten thousand times more during his time as an American employee than the soldiers who caught him on Saturday night. The boys in the Reagan White House were generous with your tax dollars, and Hussein was a recipient of their largesse for the better part of a decade.

If this were a Tom Clancy movie, we would be watching the dramatic capture of Hussein somewhere in the last ten minutes of the tale. The bedraggled dictator would be put on public trial for his crimes, sentenced to several thousand concurrent life sentences, and dragged off to prison in chains. The anti-American insurgents in Iraq, seeing the sudden futility of their fight to place Hussein back into power, would lay down their arms and melt back into the countryside. For dramatic effect, more than a few would be cornered by SEAL teams in black face paint and discreetly shot in the back of the head. The President would speak with eloquence as the martial score swelled around him. Fade to black, roll credits, get off my plane.

The real-world version is certainly not lacking in drama. The streets of Baghdad were thronged on Sunday with mobs of Iraqi people celebrating the final removal of a despot who had haunted their lives since 1979. Their joy was utterly unfettered. Images on CNN of Hussein, looking for all the world like a Muslim version of Charles Manson while getting checked for head lice by an American medic, were as surreal as anything one might ever see on a television.

Unfortunately, the real-world script has a lot of pages left to be turned. Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, reached at his home on Sunday, said, "It's great that they caught him. The man was a brutal dictator who committed terrible crimes against his people. But now we come to rest of story. We didn't go to war to capture Saddam Hussein. We went to war to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons have not been found." Ray McGovern, senior analyst and 27-year veteran of the CIA, echoed Ritter's perspective on Sunday. "It's wonderful that he was captured, because now we'll find out where the weapons of mass destruction are," said McGovern with tongue firmly planted in cheek. "We killed his sons before they could tell us."

Indeed, reality intrudes. The push for war before March was based upon Hussein's possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 1,000,000 pounds of sarin gas, mustard gas, and VX nerve gas, along with 30,000 munitions to deliver these agents, uranium from Niger to be used in nuclear bombs, and let us not forget the al Qaeda terrorists closely associated with Hussein who would take this stuff and use it against us on the main streets and back roads of the United States.

When they found Hussein hiding in that dirt hole in the ground, none of this stuff was down there with him. The full force of the American military has been likewise unable to locate it anywhere else. There is no evidence of al Qaeda agents working with Hussein, and Bush was forced some weeks ago to publicly acknowledge that Hussein had nothing to do with September 11. The Niger uranium story was debunked last summer.

Conventional wisdom now holds that none of this stuff was there to begin with, and all the clear statements from virtually everyone in the Bush administration squatting on the public record describing the existence of this stuff looks now like what it was then: A lot of overblown rhetoric and outright lies, designed to terrify the American people into supporting an unnecessary go-it-alone war. Said war made a few Bush cronies rich beyond the dreams of avarice while allowing some hawks in the Defense Department to play at empire building, something they have been craving for more than ten years.

Of course, the rhetoric mutated as the weapons stubbornly refused to be found. By the time Bush did his little 'Mission Accomplished' strut across the aircraft carrier, the occupation was about the removal of Saddam Hussein and the liberation of the Iraqi people. No longer were we informed on a daily basis of the "sinister nexus between Hussein and al Qaeda," as described by Colin Powell before the United Nations in February. No longer were we fed the insinuations that Hussein was involved in the attacks of September 11. Certainly, any and all mention of weapons of mass destruction ceased completely. We were, instead, embarking on some noble democratic experiment.

The capture of Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqis dancing in the streets of Baghdad, feeds nicely into these newly minted explanations. Mr. Bush and his people will use this as the propaganda coup it is, and to great effect. But a poet once said something about tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

"We are not fighting for Saddam," said an Iraqi named Kashid Ahmad Saleh in a New York Times report from a week ago. "We are fighting for freedom and because the Americans are Jews. The Governing Council is a bunch of looters and criminals and mercenaries. We cannot expect that stability in this country will ever come from them. The principle is based on religion and tribal loyalties," continued Saleh. "The religious principle is that we cannot accept to live with infidels. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, said, `Hit the infidels wherever you find them.' We are also a tribal people. We cannot allow strangers to rule over us."

Welcome to the new Iraq. The theme that the 455 Americans killed there, and the thousands of others who have been wounded, fell at the hands of pro-Hussein loyalists is now gone. The Bush administration celebrations over this capture will appear quite silly and premature when the dying continues. Whatever Hussein bitter-enders there are will be joined by Iraqi nationalists who will now see no good reason for American forces to remain. After all, the new rhetoric highlighted the removal of Hussein as the reason for this invasion, and that task has been completed. Yet American forces are not leaving, and will not leave. The killing of our troops will continue because of people like Kashid Ahmad Saleh. All Hussein's capture did for Saleh was remove from the table the idea that he was fighting for the dictator. He is free now, and the war will begin in earnest.

The dying will continue because America's presence in Iraq is a wonderful opportunity for a man named Osama bin Laden, who was not captured on Saturday. Bin Laden, it has been reported, is thrilled by what is happening in Iraq, and plans to throw as much violence as he can muster at American forces there. The Bush administration spent hundreds of billions of dollars on this Iraq invasion, not one dime of which went towards the capture or death of the fellow who brought down the Towers a couple of years ago. For bin Laden and his devotees, Iraq is better than Disneyland.

For all the pomp and circumstance that has surrounded the extraction of the former Iraqi dictator from a hole in the ground, the reality is that the United States is not one bit safer now that the man is in chains.

There will be no trial for Hussein, at least nothing in public, because he might start shouting about the back pay he is owed from his days as an employee of the American government. Because another former employee of the American government named Osama is still alive and free, our troops are still in mortal danger in Iraq.

Hussein was never a threat to the United States. His capture means nothing to the safety and security of the American people. The money we spent to put the bag on him might have gone towards capturing bin Laden, who is a threat, but that did not happen. We can be happy for the people of Iraq, because their Hussein problem is over. Here in America, our Hussein problem is just beginning. The other problem -- that Osama fellow we should have been trying to capture this whole time -- remains perched over our door like the raven.

William Rivers Pitt is the managing editor of truthout.org.

The Dog Ate My WMDs

After several years teaching high school, I've heard all the excuses. I didn't get my homework done because my computer crashed, because my project partner didn't do their part, because I feel sick, because I left it on the bus, because I had a dance recital, because I was abducted by aliens and viciously probed. Houdini doesn't have as many tricks. No one on earth is more inventive than a high school sophomore backed into a corner and faced with a zero on an assignment.

No one, perhaps, except Bush administration officials forced now to account for their astounding claims made since September 2002 regarding Iraq's alleged weapons program.

After roughly 280 days worth of fearful descriptions of the formidable Iraqi arsenal, coming on the heels of seven years of UNSCOM weapons inspections, four years of surveillance, months of UNMOVIC weapons inspections, the investiture of an entire nation by American and British forces, after which said forces searched "everywhere" per the words of the Marine commander over there and "found nothing," after interrogating dozens of the scientists and officers who have nothing to hide anymore because Hussein is gone, after finding out that the dreaded 'mobile labs' were weather balloon platforms sold to Iraq by the British, George W. Bush and his people suddenly have a few things to answer for.

You may recall this instance where a bombastic claim was made by Bush. During his constitutionally mandated State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, Mr. Bush said, "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent." Nearly five months later, those 500 tons are nowhere to be found. A few seconds with a calculator can help us understand exactly what this means.

500 tons of gas equals one million pounds. After UNSCOM, after UNMOVIC, after the war, after the US Army inspectors, after all the satellite surveillance, it is difficult in the extreme to imagine how one million pounds of anything could refuse to be located. Bear in mind, also, that this one million pounds is but a part of the Iraqi weapons arsenal described by Bush and his administration.

Maybe the dog ate it. Or maybe it was never there to begin with, having been destroyed years ago by the first UN inspectors and by the Iraqis themselves. Maybe we went to war on a big lie, one that killed over 3,500 Iraqi civilians to date, one that killed some 170 American soldiers, one that has been costing us one American soldier's life per day thus far.

If you listen to the Republicans on Capitol Hill, however, this is all just about "politics." An in-depth investigation into how exactly we came to go to war on the WMD word of the Bush administration has been quashed by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Closed-door hearings by the Intelligence Committee are planned next week, but an open investigation has been shunted aside by Bush allies who control the gavel and the agenda. If there is nothing to hide, as the administration insists, if nothing was done wrong, one must wonder why they fear to have these questions asked in public.

The questions are being asked anyway. Thirty five Representatives have signed House Resolution 260, which demands with specificity that the administration back up its oft-repeated claims about the Iraqi weapons arsenal with evidence and fact. The guts of the Resolution are as follows:

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All He Left Unsaid

On Tuesday night, the wretched specter of Sept.11 returned to Logan airport, departure point for the planes that took down the Twin Towers. Hours before George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union speech, a commercial aircraft had to be emptied, and its passengers re-screened, after a box cutter was discovered in a seat pocket.

During his speech, Bush attempted to tout the actions he has taken to secure the nation against terrorism. He spoke of the Homeland Security Department, increased border patrols, and 50,000 new airport security screeners in place across the country. He failed, of course, to mention the devious Total Information Awareness database that came along with Homeland Security, and he failed to mention how bitterly he fought to keep those 50,000 screeners out of the airports, because they would be federalized workers and thus able to unionize.

So much went unsaid during his speech. That box cutter at Logan, however, spoke volumes.

The first 25 minutes of the Bush speech were dedicated to domestic and economic issues. These are proving to be the Achilles heel of this administration, just as they were the last time a Bush occupied the Oval Office.

Bush began by touting the education reform bill passed several months ago with the help of Senator Ted Kennedy, but failed to mention the degree to which Kennedy has since distanced himself from that bill and the added flaws he never agreed to. He spoke of holding corporate criminals to account, failing to mention the incredible number of Enron executives -- including his beloved Kenny-Boy -- who still walk free and clear across the nation they defiled with their fraud and deceit.

Bush had words of great praise for the trillion-dollar tax cut he foisted during his first year in office, and rattled off a number of demands for Congress to make those cuts permanent. Don't wait one year or three years or five years, he said, but cement those cuts today. He failed to mention the soaring deficits these tax cuts have caused, and likewise failed to mention that the cuts did not one single solitary thing to help this flagging economy.

Bush went on to roll out his new tax cut, aimed at stock dividends, which will once again benefit the wealthiest Americans. He failed to mention how the budget will handle this added stress; likewise, he failed to mention the fact that a number of prominent Republicans, along with virtually every Democrat and a mob of economists, saw this new tax cut concept as essentially flawed and dead on arrival. Every man and woman who wants a job must have one, said Bush. He ignored the millions of jobs that have been lost by Americans since he took office.

After an inordinate amount of praise for his tax cuts, and no mention of how the budget can survive them, Bush went on to rhetorically spend billions and billions of dollars he does not have on hand. He proposed an end to the "marriage penalty," then went on to propose $1.2 billion in spending to develop hydrogen-powered automobiles.

He did not explain how he can afford any of this, and likewise failed to parse the hypocrisy of touting hydrogen cars while his new tax plan provides tens of thousands of dollars worth of write-offs for owners of gas-guzzling SUVs.

Another $450 million will go to a mentor program for children whose parents are in prison; $600 million will go to another drug treatment program. A whopping $15 billion will go to the noble cause of mitigating the catastrophic AIDS crisis in Africa, but not a word was spared to explain where this money will be found. The mother of all financial boondoggles, the Ballistic Missile Shield, got its due to no one's great surprise.

At one point during the reading of this fiduciary laundry list, Bush demanded fiscal responsibility from the government. A roving camera caught House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi bursting into laughter when that line came across.

Using a raft of semantics, Bush proposed that Medicare be moved into the HMO system, with newly minted Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist smiling from the crowd. He failed to mention how much HMOs loathe caring for senior citizens. He proposed the development of cleaner energy technology while increasing energy reliance at home, but failed to explain that this was code for the despoiling of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.

The faith-based initiative earned a return appearance in the Bush speech, with much talk of compassion and service. He failed to describe the degree to which such a program will annihilate the absolutely necessary separation between church and state. The federal government will be offering services to those Americans who "deserve" attention, and the rest will be left to the whims of religious institutions.

To be sure, this was a generalized list, filled with hyperbole and great praise for the failed economic plans of the last two years. Upon arriving at the subject of foreign policy and war, however, Mr. Bush shifted gears. In every way, his delivery became more dynamic, his voice more like a man standing before a congregation of the faithful. Nearly every line was met with crashing applause from his Republican allies arrayed before him.

Bush spoke of liberating Afghanistan, but failed to mention that this was done with the overwhelming approval and support of the international community. He spoke again of chasing terrorists across the globe.

"The war goes on," said Bush, "and we are winning."

He listed a number of al Qaeda agents who had been detained without providing much in the way of specifics, and stated that some 3,000 suspected terrorists were under arrest and many more have been dealt with: "Put it this way," said Bush. "They are no longer a problem."

He failed to describe the premises upon which those 3,000 were detained, and likewise failed to mention that in the process of rendering those others "non-problematic," his war in Afghanistan sent more civilians to their deaths than were lost on Sept. 11.

The last 20 minutes of Bush's speech were dedicated almost exclusively to the looming conflict in Iraq. He leveled a damning finger at Saddam Hussein, accusing him of hiding anthrax, VX, botulinin toxin and other terrible weapons. He failed to provide an iota of evidence to back up these assertions, and on a number of occasions trotted out "evidence" that had been debunked by the UN inspectors and the CIA.

Bush raised the dire threat of a nuclear-capable Iraq, but failed to note that the nuclear inspectors in Iraq have given that nation a totally clean bill of health. He likewise failed to mention that his administration and the Pentagon have approved the use of nuclear weapons in Iraq as mainstream tactical battlefield tools.

Bush on several occasions linked Hussein directly to al Qaeda, painting at one point a picture of 19 hijackers directed by Hussein commandeering aircraft and loading them with chemical or biological weapons. He offered no proof of this. He failed to mention that Hussein is a secular dictator who has spent the last 30 years crushing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq; failed to mention the death threats levied against Hussein by al Qaeda; and failed to mention the absolute fact that Hussein would never be so stupid as to give weapons or aid to blood enemies. Were he to do so, he would find those weapons immediately turned against him.

Bush failed to mention how the American economy could handle the billions of dollars needed to support the war, the inevitable oil shock that would come as a result of the war, the billions more needed for his missile shield, the billions needed to push his new tax cut through, the billions needed to make his old tax cut permanent, and the billions needed to pay for the new programs he proposed.

Bush failed to explain why so many admirals and generals, including Generals Zinni and Schwartzkopf, have spoken about the recklessness of this war plan. He failed to mention the inevitable blowback of terrorism that America would suffer should this war take place, especially if it takes place with a "coalition of the willing" that does not include a UN sanction.

At no time, and in no way, did George W. Bush mention the name Osama bin Laden.

State of the Union speeches are political events, filled with pomp and circumstance and tradition. When a President proposes new policies and new challenges, and backs those proposals up with beneficial actions, the politics of the speech are worth their weight in gold. As the elder Bush discovered, after his empty speech of 1992, baseless rhetoric with no follow-up is as the crack of doom.

Bush cannot afford the domestic policies he has proposed, and charts a deadly path to war abroad. There was so much left unsaid during this speech. Those empty spaces may prove, in the end, to be his downfall.

William Rivers Pitt is the author of "War On Iraq" (with Scott Ritter) and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available in May 2003 from Pluto Press. He teaches high school in Boston, MA. Scott Lowery contributed research to this report.

Bush Nominates Himself to Chair 9/11 Investigation

George W. Bush has tapped Thomas Kean to chair the independent investigation into the attacks of September 11th. This nomination comes in the wake of the choice of Henry Kissinger for that post, and his sudden departure. Kissinger, considered a master of secrets and a war criminal to boot, was an odd pick for the post, to say the least. He resigned rather than give up the list of clients he has served since leaving public life, as the 9/11 victims families had demanded and the protocols of security clearance had required. One wonders what manner of Kissinger clients could have caused a 'conflict of interest' in a terrorism investigation, but that question will have to wait.

In a perfect world, Kean would be a standard-issue Republican. He is President of Drew University. He served from 1982 through 1990 as Governor of New Jersey, enjoying high popularity among his constituents and warm relations with labor groups. He is the former chairman of the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation; he is a board member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Kean led the U.S. delegation to the World Conference on Education for All in Thailand in 1990; he was vice chairman for the U.S. delegation to the Fourth U.N. World Conference on Women in 1995; he served on the advisory board to the President's Initiative on Race from 1997 to 1998; he is currently chairman of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy; he served as a board member of America's Promise, a foundation for improving America's youth created by Presidents Clinton, Bush, Carter, Ford and Reagan (who was represented at the group's inception by his wife, Nancy).

That is an impressive record.

Kean is also a director for the petroleum giant Amerada Hess, the food services corporation Amarak, and the Pepsi Bottling Group. Kean is likewise a board member of the Fiduciary Trust Company International. He is a former board member for the CIT Group and United Health Group.

It is his association with Hess that has drawn concern from 9/11 victims groups, because Hess has business agreements with Saudi Arabia and oil exploration facilities in Indonesia and Malaysia. The latter countries are widely believed to be home to al Qaeda terrorists, while the former has become notorious for its association with Wahabbi fundamentalism, Osama bin Laden, and a majority of the 9/11 hijackers. Kristen Breitweister, the co-chairman of Sept. 11 Advocates, who lost her husband in the World Trade Center attacks, said of Kean's nomination: "I'm collecting all the information so when we meet with all the commissioners we'll be able to properly ask all the questions. I'm not even at a point where I'm considering whether or not he would be good at it."

There can be no question that Kean's nomination is a quantum improvement over Kissinger. However, it was a curious choice. Kean has been out of politics since 1990, and is a virtual unknown on the national stage. It is clear that he enjoys philanthropic work, but it is also clear that he has strong ties to some heavy hitters in the business community and the petroleum industry. He has not the massive ego of Kissinger, nor aspirations to high office, having gotten out twelve years ago, after deciding that the political rat race had become distasteful. He has virtually no experience in foreign policy, intelligence, or national security matters.

In many ways, this was a non-nomination. Kean has much to lose and little to gain from chairing this investigation. In the final analysis, it appears that Bush has nominated someone who will be easily controlled by the administration. Kean does not possess, by dint of experience, the wherewithal to ask the difficult questions that must be pressed if this investigation is to be successful. His is not, and never has been, the kind of boat-rocker that will be necessary to pry the truth from the administration, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and the Department of Defense.

It is vital in this to remember that the Bush administration thwarted this independent investigation for 18 months, until they got the two things they wanted. One was a requirement that any subpoenas would be issued only after six of the ten people on the commission voted for it. The commission is composed of five Democrats and five Republicans. If a particular subpoena seems to cut too close to the political bone, the Republicans on the committee need only stand shoulder to shoulder to stop it.

The other requirement the Bush administration demanded was the right to pick the chairman of the commission. One need look no further than the first choice, Henry Kissinger, to see the reasons for this. Ostensibly, this investigation has been proposed so that nothing like 9/11 ever happens again. The Bush administration chose Kissinger to see this mission through, demonstrating that they are far more interested in keeping secrets than they are in getting to the bottom of this.

Now, we have Thomas Kean, a man with no training or background in any of the areas necessary to the investigation, a man who does not appear capable of taking on the intelligence community and the administration, much less the five other Republicans who will have veto power over the issuance of subpoenas. It is difficult to imagine Thomas Kean pushing hard for answers to questions like these:

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Osama Is Under Your Bed

It's been a nervous week. Every night before bed, I've taken a broom handle and thrust it under my bed. Each time, I'm waiting for the "Oof!" Osama is under there, I just know it. If the President says it, it must be true, right? One of these nights, I'll bust that Osama in the ribs with my handle. Just you wait. I'm keeping my feet under the covers, though. You know, just in case.

It happens like clockwork these days: A significant piece of legislation comes before Congress that was ostensibly drafted to help defend the nation against terrorism. Line items within the legislation do away with previously sacrosanct personal freedoms outlined within the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Should said legislation pass, the power of the federal government to arrest and detain citizens without trial or access to attorney, to search private homes without warrant or notice, to tap telephone and computer communications, and to keep vital information secreted away from the eyes of the public, would be greatly enhanced.

In the days leading up to the mandated Congressional debate regarding said legislation, terror warnings suddenly bloom like nightshade. The White House or the FBI or the CIA, or all three in concert, ratchet up the national tension level with forecasts of doom and death and fire from unknown quarters. Said legislation passes without so much as leaving a wake in its path, nothing explodes, and everyone goes on with their lives in the belief that they just narrowly dodged a bullet. At the conclusion of the process, the foundations of American freedom have been redacted, edited, clipped and round-filed.

The PATRIOT Act was passed in such a fashion. When that bill came up, the entire country was collecting its mail with oven mitts on to avoid exposure to anthrax, despite the fact that Democratic Senators like Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle were the intended targets of this assassination attempt. The media got its dose of the poison, ensuring that all publicly aired conversation regarding the legislation would be coated with a veneer of hysteria. All of us were going to get 'thraxed, and so let us pass this ruinously contra-constitutional legislation without even reading it. I'd bet some serious folding green that many of the Senators who voted the thing into existence a year ago still haven't read it.

Sometimes, this has happened when no legislation is pending. Sometimes, this happens when Mr. Bush and his pals feel they have too much light on them. When Time and Newsweek came out with blazing cover stories, and the headline "Bush Knew," when word got out that the administration had been warned specifically and in detail about terrorist plans to hijack airplanes and slam them into buildings, all of a sudden the threat siren began howling. They're going to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge! They're going to blow up the Statue of Liberty! Run for your lives!

Needless to say, those structures still stand. No one is talking about "Bush Knew" anymore, though.


Like clockwork this happens. Cut this phenomenon with Occam's Razor -- "all things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one" -- and the word 'coincidence' becomes hard to spit out.

It happened again last week.

Legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security has wended its way toward Congressional approval. If passed, this legislation would signal the largest reorganization of the federal government since the passage of the National Security Act in 1947. Line items within the legislation:

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