Thursday, September 16, 2004

How They REALLY Feel About Homeland Security

Senate Conservatives Assault Homeland Security

September 16, 2004

Conservatives in the Senate are failing to protect Americans here at home. They have left gaping holes in our nation's security by refusing to implement common sense, relatively inexpensive solutions to major threats.

That became clear this week as the Senate conservatives killed a series of amendments to the 2005 Department of Homeland Security spending bill. The amendments called for funding increases to secure vulnerable ports, airports, borders, chemical plants and rails, as well as to train and equip firefighters and other emergency responders. The total bill for the vital, extra security was less than $20 billion – a fraction of the $145 billion that the Republicans have spent on the President's war in Iraq.

Given the current threat we continue to face, the conscious decision not to devote adequate resources demonstrates the Senate conservatives feel no sense of urgency when it comes to making us more secure more quickly. A sample of the amendments rejected or tabled follows.

Maritime Safety

Amendment 3596: $300 million for port security.

Amendment 3580: $150 million for port security research and development.

Amendment 3617: $100 million for the Coast Guard operations.

Amendment 3597: $665 million for high-threat urban areas and port security.
Emergency Personnel

Amendment 3609: $70 million systems that allow real-time communication between State and local first responders.

Amendment 3597: $146 million for firefighters.

Amendment 3615: $70 million for identification and tracking of shipments of hazardous materials.
Air, Rail, and Chemical Security

Amendment 3619: $70 million for security at chemical plants.

Amendment 3597: $50 million for the Federal Air Marshals program, $100 million for aviation security, $350 million for rail security.

Amendment 3632: $625 million for discretionary grants for high-threat, high-density urban areas.

Amendment 3655: $350 million to improve security at points of entry into the United States.

Far Graver than Vietnam

By Sidney Blumenthal
The Guardian

Thursday 16 September 2004

Most senior US military officers now believe the war on Iraq has turned into a disaster on an unprecedented scale.

'Bring them on!" President Bush challenged the early Iraqi insurgency in July of last year. Since then, 812 American soldiers have been killed and 6,290 wounded, according to the Pentagon. Almost every day, in campaign speeches, Bush speaks with bravado about how he is "winning" in Iraq. "Our strategy is succeeding," he boasted to the National Guard convention on Tuesday.

But, according to the US military's leading strategists and prominent retired generals, Bush's war is already lost. Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: "Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost." He adds: "Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends."

Retired general Joseph Hoare, the former marine commandant and head of US Central Command, told me: "The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options. We're conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities on the ground. It's so unrealistic for anyone who knows that part of the world. The priorities are just all wrong."

Jeffrey Record, professor of strategy at the Air War College, said: "I see no ray of light on the horizon at all. The worst case has become true. There's no analogy whatsoever between the situation in Iraq and the advantages we had after the second world war in Germany and Japan."

W. Andrew Terrill, professor at the Army War College's strategic studies institute - and the top expert on Iraq there - said: "I don't think that you can kill the insurgency". According to Terrill, the anti-US insurgency, centred in the Sunni triangle, and holding several cities and towns - including Fallujah - is expanding and becoming more capable as a consequence of US policy.

"We have a growing, maturing insurgency group," he told me. "We see larger and more coordinated military attacks. They are getting better and they can self-regenerate. The idea there are x number of insurgents, and that when they're all dead we can get out is wrong. The insurgency has shown an ability to regenerate itself because there are people willing to fill the ranks of those who are killed. The political culture is more hostile to the US presence. The longer we stay, the more they are confirmed in that view."

After the killing of four US contractors in Fallujah, the marines besieged the city for three weeks in April - the watershed event for the insurgency. "I think the president ordered the attack on Fallujah," said General Hoare. "I asked a three-star marine general who gave the order to go to Fallujah and he wouldn't tell me. I came to the conclusion that the order came directly from the White House." Then, just as suddenly, the order was rescinded, and Islamist radicals gained control, using the city as a base.

"If you are a Muslim and the community is under occupation by a non-Islamic power it becomes a religious requirement to resist that occupation," Terrill explained. "Most Iraqis consider us occupiers, not liberators." He describes the religious imagery common now in Fallujah and the Sunni triangle: "There's talk of angels and the Prophet Mohammed coming down from heaven to lead the fighting, talk of martyrs whose bodies are glowing and emanating wonderful scents."

"I see no exit," said Record. "We've been down that road before. It's called Vietnamisation. The idea that we're going to have an Iraqi force trained to defeat an enemy we can't defeat stretches the imagination. They will be tainted by their very association with the foreign occupier. In fact, we had more time and money in state building in Vietnam than in Iraq."

General Odom said: "This is far graver than Vietnam. There wasn't as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the war that was not constructive for US aims. But now we're in a region far more volatile, and we're in much worse shape with our allies."

Terrill believes that any sustained US military offensive against the no-go areas "could become so controversial that members of the Iraqi government would feel compelled to resign". Thus, an attempted military solution would destroy the slightest remaining political legitimacy. "If we leave and there's no civil war, that's a victory."

General Hoare believes from the information he has received that "a decision has been made" to attack Fallujah "after the first Tuesday in November. That's the cynical part of it - after the election. The signs are all there."

He compares any such planned attack to the late Syrian dictator Hafez al-Asad's razing of the rebel city of Hama. "You could flatten it," said Hoare. "US military forces would prevail, casualties would be high, there would be inconclusive results with respect to the bad guys, their leadership would escape, and civilians would be caught in the middle. I hate that phrase collateral damage. And they talked about dancing in the street, a beacon for democracy."

General Odom remarked that the tension between the Bush administration and the senior military officers over Iraqi was worse than any he has ever seen with any previous government, including Vietnam. "I've never seen it so bad between the office of the secretary of defence and the military. There's a significant majority believing this is a disaster. The two parties whose interests have been advanced have been the Iranians and al-Qaida. Bin Laden could argue with some cogency that our going into Iraq was the equivalent of the Germans in Stalingrad. They defeated themselves by pouring more in there. Tragic."


Jump to TO Features for Friday September 17, 2004
Today's TO Features -------------- BREAKING: U.S. Military Running Out of Guard, Reserve Troops Two Americans, Briton Abducted in Iraq Military Leaders: "Bush's War is Already Lost" Kerry: Bush Lying to America about Iraq t r u t h o u t Home

Iraq and Its Future


September 16, 2004
U.S. Intelligence Shows Pessimism on Iraq's Future

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 - A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday.

The estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war, the officials said. The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose stability would remain tenuous in political, economic and security terms.

"There's a significant amount of pessimism," said one government official who has read the document, which runs about 50 pages. The officials declined to discuss the key judgments - concise, carefully written statements of intelligence analysts' conclusions - included in the document.

The intelligence estimate, the first on Iraq since October 2002, was prepared by the National Intelligence Council and was approved by the National Foreign Intelligence Board under John E. McLaughlin, the acting director of central intelligence. Such estimates can be requested by the White House or Congress, but this one was initiated by the intelligence council under George J. Tenet, who stepped down as director of central intelligence on July 9, the government officials said.

As described by the officials, the pessimistic tone of the new estimate stands in contrast to recent statements by Bush administration officials, including comments on Wednesday by Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, who asserted that progress was being made.

"You know, every step of the way in Iraq there have been pessimists and hand-wringers who said it can't be done," Mr. McClellan said at a news briefing. "And every step of the way, the Iraqi leadership and the Iraqi people have proven them wrong because they are determined to have a free and peaceful future."

President Bush, who was briefed on the new intelligence estimate, has not significantly changed the tenor of his public remarks on the war's course over the summer, consistently emphasizing progress while acknowledging the difficulties.

Mr. Bush's opponent, Senator John Kerry, criticized the administration's optimistic public position on Iraq on Wednesday and questioned whether it would be possible to hold elections there in January.

"I think it is very difficult to see today how you're going to distribute ballots in places like Falluja, and Ramadi and Najaf and other parts of the country, without having established the security,'' Mr. Kerry said in a call-in phone call to Don Imus, the radio talk show host. "I know that the people who are supposed to run that election believe that they need a longer period of time and greater security before they can even begin to do it, and they just can't do it at this point in time. So I'm not sure the president is being honest with the American people about that situation either at this point.''

The situation in Iraq prompted harsh comments from Republicans and Democrats at a hearing into the shift of spending from reconstruction to security. Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, called it "exasperating for anybody look at this from any vantage point," and Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said of the overall lack of spending: "It's beyond pitiful, it's beyond embarrassing. It is now in the zone of dangerous."

A spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on any new intelligence estimate.

All the officials who described the assessment said they had read the document or had been briefed on its findings. The officials included both critics and supporters of the administration's policies in Iraq. But they insisted they not be identified by name, agency or branch of government because the document remained highly classified.

The new estimate revisits issues raised by the intelligence council in less formal assessments in January 2003, the officials said. Those documents remain classified, but one of them warned that the building of democracy in Iraq would be a long, difficult and turbulent prospect that could include internal conflict, a government official said.

The new estimate by the National Intelligence Council was approved at a meeting in July by Mr. McLaughlin and the heads of the other intelligence agencies, the officials said.

Its pessimistic conclusions were reached even before the recent worsening of the security situation in Iraq, which has included a sharp increase in attacks on American troops and in deaths of Iraqi civilians as well as resistance fighters. Like the new National Intelligence Estimate, the assessments completed in January 2003 were prepared by the National Intelligence Council, which is led by Robert Hutchings and reports to the director of central intelligence. The council is charged with reflecting the consensus of the intelligence agencies. The January 2003 assessments were not formal National Intelligence Estimates, however, which means they were probably not formally approved by the intelligence chiefs.

The new estimate is the first on Iraq since the one completed in October 2002 on Iraq's illicit weapons program. A review by the Senate Intelligence Committee that was completed in July has found that document to have been deeply flawed.

The criticism over the document has left the C.I.A. and other agencies wary of being wrong again in judgments about Iraq.

Declassified versions of the October 2002 document included dissents from some intelligence agencies on some crucial questions, including the issue of whether Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. The government officials who described the new estimate on the prospects for Iraq would not say if it had included significant dissents.

On Wednesday night, Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council, confirmed the existence of the intelligence estimate, but he declined to discuss its contents in detail because they were classified. But he said the document "makes clear why it is so important to stand with the Iraqi people as they face these challenges.''

Mr. McCormack said that in describing "different possible scenarios for Iraq's political and economic future over the course of 18 months,'' the document had made clear that "Iraq's future will be determined by a number of different factors, include the nation's economic progress, the effectiveness of Iraq's political structure, and security and stability.''

He added: "In the past, including before the war to liberate Iraq, there were many different scenarios that were possible, including the outbreak of civil war. It hasn't happened. The Iraqi people continue to defy the predictions of pundits and others.''

Separate from the new estimate, Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued other warnings on Wednesday about the American campaign in Iraq, saying the administration's request to divert more than $3 billion to security from the $18.4 billion aid package of last November was a sign of trouble.

"Although we recognize these funds must not be spent unwisely," the committee chairman, Mr. Lugar said, "the slow pace of reconstruction spending means that we are failing to fully take advantage of one of our most potent tools to influence the direction of Iraq."

Less than $1 billion has been spent so far.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, one of the harshest critics of the Iraq policies, was far more outspoken. "The president has frequently described Iraq as, quote, 'the central front of the war on terror,' " Mr. Biden went on. "Well by that definition, success in Iraq is a key standard by which to measure the war on terror. And by that measure, I think the war on terror is in trouble."

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