Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Ten Appalling Lies We Were Told About Iraq

By Christopher Scheer, AlterNet
Posted on June 27, 2003, Printed on October 5, 2004
"The Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons."
-- George Bush, Oct. 7, 2002, in a speech in Cincinnati.

There is a small somber box that appears in the New York Times every day. Titled simply "Killed in Iraq," it lists the names and military affiliations of those who most recently died on tour of duty. Wednesday's edition listed just one name: Orenthial J. Smith, age 21, of Allendale, South Carolina.

The young, late O.J. Smith was almost certainly named after the legendary running back, Orenthal J. Simpson, before that dashing American hero was charged for a double-murder. Now his namesake has died in far-off Mesopotamia in a noble mission to, as our president put it on March 19, "disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger."

Today, more than three months after Bush's stirring declaration of war and nearly two months since he declared victory, no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons have been found, nor any documentation of their existence, nor any sign they were deployed in the field.

The mainstream press, after an astonishing two years of cowardice, is belatedly drawing attention to the unconscionable level of administrative deception. They seem surprised to find that when it comes to Iraq, the Bush administration isn't prone to the occasional lie of expediency but, in fact, almost never told the truth.

What follows are just the most outrageous and significant of the dozens of outright lies uttered by Bush and his top officials over the past year in what amounts to a systematic campaign to scare the bejeezus out of everybody:

LIE #1: "The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program ... Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." -- President Bush, Oct. 7, 2002, in Cincinnati.

FACT: This story, leaked to and breathlessly reported by Judith Miller in the New York Times, has turned out to be complete baloney. Department of Energy officials, who monitor nuclear plants, say the tubes could not be used for enriching uranium. One intelligence analyst, who was part of the tubes investigation, angrily told The New Republic: "You had senior American officials like Condoleezza Rice saying the only use of this aluminum really is uranium centrifuges. She said that on television. And that's just a lie."

LIE #2: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." -- President Bush, Jan.28, 2003, in the State of the Union address.

FACT: This whopper was based on a document that the White House already knew to be a forgery thanks to the CIA. Sold to Italian intelligence by some hustler, the document carried the signature of an official who had been out of office for 10 years and referenced a constitution that was no longer in effect. The ex-ambassador who the CIA sent to check out the story is pissed: "They knew the Niger story was a flat-out lie," he told the New Republic, anonymously. "They [the White House] were unpersuasive about aluminum tubes and added this to make their case more strongly."

LIE #3: "We believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." -- Vice President Cheney on March 16, 2003 on "Meet the Press."

FACT: There was and is absolutely zero basis for this statement. CIA reports up through 2002 showed no evidence of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

LIE #4: "[The CIA possesses] solid reporting of senior-level contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda going back a decade." -- CIA Director George Tenet in a written statement released Oct. 7, 2002 and echoed in that evening's speech by President Bush.

FACT: Intelligence agencies knew of tentative contacts between Saddam and al-Qaeda in the early '90s, but found no proof of a continuing relationship. In other words, by tweaking language, Tenet and Bush spun the intelligence180 degrees to say exactly the opposite of what it suggested.

LIE #5: "We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases ... Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints." -- President Bush, Oct. 7.

FACT: No evidence of this has ever been leaked or produced. Colin Powell told the U.N. this alleged training took place in a camp in northern Iraq. To his great embarrassment, the area he indicated was later revealed to be outside Iraq's control and patrolled by Allied war planes.

LIE #6: "We have also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We are concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] for missions targeting the United States." -- President Bush, Oct. 7.

FACT: Said drones can't fly more than 300 miles, and Iraq is 6,000 miles from the U.S. coastline. Furthermore, Iraq's drone-building program wasn't much more advanced than your average model plane enthusiast. And isn't a "manned aerial vehicle" just a scary way to say "plane"?

LIE #7: "We have seen intelligence over many months that they have chemical and biological weapons, and that they have dispersed them and that they're weaponized and that, in one case at least, the command and control arrangements have been established." -- President Bush, Feb. 8, 2003, in a national radio address.

FACT: Despite a massive nationwide search by U.S. and British forces, there are no signs, traces or examples of chemical weapons being deployed in the field, or anywhere else during the war.

LIE #8: "Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets." -- Secretary of State Colin Powell, Feb. 5 2003, in remarks to the UN Security Council.

FACT: Putting aside the glaring fact that not one drop of this massive stockpile has been found, as previously reported on AlterNet the United States' own intelligence reports show that these stocks -- if they existed -- were well past their use-by date and therefore useless as weapon fodder.

LIE #9: "We know where [Iraq's WMD] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat." -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, March 30, 2003, in statements to the press.

FACT: Needless to say, no such weapons were found, not to the east, west, south or north, somewhat or otherwise.

LIE #10: "Yes, we found a biological laboratory in Iraq which the UN prohibited." -- President Bush in remarks in Poland, published internationally June 1, 2003.

FACT: This was reference to the discovery of two modified truck trailers that the CIA claimed were potential mobile biological weapons lab. But British and American experts -- including the State Department's intelligence wing in a report released this week -- have since declared this to be untrue. According to the British, and much to Prime Minister Tony Blair's embarrassment, the trailers are actually exactly what Iraq said they were; facilities to fill weather balloons, sold to them by the British themselves.

So, months after the war, we are once again where we started -- with plenty of rhetoric and absolutely no proof of this "grave danger" for which O.J. Smith died. The Bush administration is now scrambling to place the blame for its lies on faulty intelligence, when in fact the intelligence was fine; it was their abuse of it that was "faulty."

Rather than apologize for leading us to a preemptive war based on impossibly faulty or shamelessly distorted "intelligence" or offering his resignation, our sly madman in the White House is starting to sound more like that other O.J. Like the man who cheerfully played golf while promising to pursue "the real killers," Bush is now vowing to search for "the true extent of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, no matter how long it takes."

On the terrible day of the 9/11 attacks, five hours after a hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon, retired Gen. Wesley Clark received a strange call from someone (he didn't name names) representing the White House position: "I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, 'You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein,'" Clark told Meet the Press anchor Tim Russert. "I said, 'But -- I'm willing to say it, but what's your evidence?' And I never got any evidence.'"

And neither did we.

© 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/16274/

Endangering the National Guard

By David Englin, TomPaine.com
Posted on October 5, 2004, Printed on October 5, 2004

The real scandal about Bush and the National Guard is not what he did—or avoided doing—during Vietnam; it is the damage Bush is doing to the National Guard today through his utter mismanagement of the war in Iraq, thereby risking the security of Americans at home. So declared former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura at a recent event focused on transforming the reserve component of the U.S. military. Last week's presidential debate made it clear that John Kerry agrees. Kerry told our ill-equipped, overstretched, and over-deployed military reserves that "Help is on the way." Ventura’s ire—and Kerry's pledge to the troops and their families—bring into focus an important policy question, which underpinned the conference where Ventura spoke: Is the purpose of the Guard and Reserve to defend the American homeland or to augment the active-duty military wherever in the world it is engaged?

Speaker after speaker at the conference sponsored by the Association of the United States Army, the Center for American Progress and the Center for Peace and Security Studies described the current situation in the Guard and Reserve. The news was not good. In what John Kerry has called a "back-door draft," thousands of Guard and Reserve soldiers are being barred from leaving the supposedly "all volunteer" force when their voluntary service periods are over. Men and women who joined understanding they would be part-time warriors are deploying to combat as much as or more than their active-duty counterparts. A host of elected leaders, senior military officers, government officials and defense policy experts mostly painted a dismal picture of military reserves pushed to the breaking point because of the war in Iraq, and because of the Bush administration’s stubborn refusal to increase the size of the active-duty force.

Relieved to be able to “speak out” now that he is no longer the commander-in-chief of the Minnesota National Guard, Ventura said reservists weren't correctly outfitted for war. “We don’t equip them as frontline combat units,” he said, yet they are being sent into frontline combat with only the equipment supplied by the people of Minnesota. He also lamented the fact that, since Guard and Reserve soldiers tend to be older, they're more likely to have families, and those families often are left behind without the comprehensive support services available on bases to the families of active-duty soldiers.

When Guard or Reserve soldiers are called up and sent overseas to fight, they have no choice but to drop everything—school, career, family—and go to war. With civilian jobs on hold, many families are forced to get by on severely reduced incomes, since family breadwinners often earn better pay and benefits in civilian life than they earn in the military. In many cases, families even have to suffer the indignity of losing their employer-based health insurance. If they are lucky, their civilian jobs will be waiting for them when they return from overseas, which is what the law requires. However, those laws were written when Guard and Reserve troops deployed for a few months here and there over the course of a couple of decades. Because of the war in Iraq, these men and women may be gone for a year or two, come home for a few months, and be called up for war again for who knows how long. Thanks to these excessive deployments and a strained economy, many employers are simply incapable of holding positions open. Add to the family separation and loss of income and benefits the constant fear that your loved one will be killed, and it is easy to understand why many families of Guard and Reserve troops find the pressure unbearable.

Thanks to this new reality, the Army National Guard missed its fiscal year recruiting goal by 5,000 people. Guard and Reserve units are being retrained in crash programs to fill active-duty shortfalls, sometimes by inexperienced trainers, since regular training units have been sent overseas. Morale and cohesion, which are the lifeblood of military units on the battlefield, are starting to erode, and we are on the cusp of a serious problem with the voluntary retention of experienced soldiers. The Army Research Institute projects that only 27 percent of Guard and Reserve soldiers intend to re-enlist—an all-time low.

“This really is about Iraq,” said Dr. Hans Binnendijk, director of the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at National Defense University, lest anyone think otherwise. Binnendijk noted that the National Guard is still struggling to put into each state a 22-person Civil Support Team trained to respond to nuclear, biological or chemical terrorism. He also said that these teams really need to be battalion-sized units (a couple of thousand people) to be capable of responding effectively.

Voicing a point former Secretary of State Madeline Albright also made recently, Ventura argued that the Bush administration is “jeopardizing homeland security” by leaving state governors “woefully short-handed.” With southern Minnesota recently hit by 10 to 12 inches of rain from Hurricane Ivan, he openly wondered if current Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty didn’t use the National Guard to respond to flooding because too many of the units are in combat overseas. Ventura also noted that the men and women who join the Guard have a higher tendency toward professions like law enforcement, fire fighting and emergency medical services. Thanks to the war in Iraq, Guard and Reserve deployments overseas have left communities across the nation short of the first responders needed to cope with everything from terrorist attacks to more mundane crimes and emergencies. “Whose security are we defending the most, Iraq’s, or ours?” Ventura asked.

With a former professional wrestler’s flair for the dramatic, Ventura called the fact that we’re sending Guard and Reserve forces overseas “a flagrant misuse,” because, he said, “The first rule in the military is you protect your homeland first before you venture into enemy territory.”

Bush has clearly mismanaged the Guard and Reserve at the expense of American security. However, the military has been operating under a doctrine put in place after Vietnam that was designed to make it structurally impossible to wage a major war without sending the Guard and Reserve overseas. According to Dr. Bernard Rostker, a senior fellow at the RAND Corporation, this rule—called the Abrams Doctrine—was a reaction to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s refusal to send the National Guard to Vietnam. The Abrams Doctrine was supposed to help keep the United States out of another costly and unpopular war because Guard and Reserve units naturally tend to have closer political relationships with the communities where they are based. More than one presenter at the conference dryly noted the failure of the doctrine on that count when it comes to Iraq.

While uncomfortably unaware of the Abrams Doctrine, Ventura’s common-sense attitude toward the National Guard (“It’s called the ‘National’ ‘Guard’ so its job should be to ‘guard’ the ‘nation’ here at home.”) effectively endorses the most interesting idea to come out the conference: Binnendijk’s proposal for a major restructuring of the Guard and Reserve. Binnendijk would use only the Reserve, which is a federal force in the first place, to supplement the active-duty force in its overseas war-fighting role. He proposes training the state-based National Guard as a homeland security force, only sending it overseas for stabilization and rebuilding operations—versus combat operations—which are very similar to what the National Guard does at home in response to natural disasters.

Jesse Ventura and John Kerry seem to agree that, for the sake of the brave men and women of the military reserves and their families, and for the sake of America's national security, something needs to be done to fix the Guard and Reserve. The problems with the reserve component of the U.S. military boil down to three things: mismanagement by an arrogant, incompetent commander-in-chief; a doctrine not suited to the dual domestic and international challenges of the war on terrorism; and a long-term security environment that demands more troops at home and abroad. The security environment won't change any time soon, but we put our nation at risk if we don't change the other two.

© 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/20083/

There's Something About the Saudis

Sen. Graham: Bush Covered Up Saudi Involvement in 9/11
By Mary Jacoby

Wednesday 08 September 2004

The former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee tells Salon that the White House has suppressed convincing evidence that the Saudi royal family supported at least two of the hijackers.
As the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman during the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and the run-up to the Iraq war, Sen. Bob Graham tried to expose what he came to believe were national security coverups and manipulations by the Bush administration. But he discovered that it was hard to reveal a coverup playing by the rules. Much of the evidence the Florida Democrat needed to buttress his arguments was being locked away, he found, under the veil of politically motivated classification.

Now, as he prepares to retire after 18 years in the Senate, the normally cautious former governor of Florida is unleashing himself in a new book, "Intelligence Matters: The CIA, the FBI, Saudi Arabia and the Failure of America's War on Terror."

In his book, Graham asserts that the White House blocked investigations into Saudi Arabian government support for the 9/11 plot, in part because of the Bush family's close ties to the Saudi royal family and wealthy Saudis like the bin Ladens. Behind the White House's insistence on classifying 27 pages detailing the Saudi links in a report issued by a joint House-Senate intelligence panel co-chaired by Graham in 2002 lay the desire to hide the administration's deficiencies and protect its Saudi allies, according to Graham.

Graham's allegations - supported by the Republican vice chairman of the House-Senate 9/11 investigation, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, but not his co-chairman, Rep. Porter Goss, Bush's nominee to become director of the CIA - are not new. But his book states them more forcefully than before, even as Graham adds new insight into Bush's decision to invade Iraq, made apparently well before the president asserted he had exhausted all options.

In February 2002, Graham writes, Gen. Tommy Franks, then conducting the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan (and later to speak in prime time on behalf of Bush's candidacy at the Republican National Convention in New York), pulled the senator aside to explain that important resources in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, such as Predator drones, were being quietly redeployed to Iraq. "He told me that the decision to go to war in Iraq had been made at least 14 months before we actually went into Iraq, long before there was authorization from Congress and long before the United Nations was sought out for a resolution of support," Graham tells Salon.

Graham voted against the congressional war resolution authorizing force to topple Saddam Hussein. In 2003 he briefly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, arguing that Bush had diverted resources from the hunt for America's real enemies with his joy ride in Iraq. (Graham dropped out before the primaries.)

Graham's book is being embraced by the John Kerry campaign, which arranged for him to discuss his conclusions with reporters in a conference call Tuesday. Dozens of journalists called in. This past Sunday, Graham appeared on "Meet the Press," and afterward Kerry issued a statement: "These are serious allegations being made by a well-respected and informed leader. If the White House and the FBI did in fact block an investigation into the ties between the Saudi government and the 9/11 hijackers, then this would be a massive abuse of power."

Salon spoke with the senator by telephone on Tuesday, his voice already growing hoarse on the first day of a heavy book promotion tour.

You write about the Bush administration's suppression of the joint House-Senate intelligence panel's findings on Saudi Arabian links to 9/11. What exactly was suppressed, and why? Or at least tell us what you can, given that the information is still classified.

In general terms it included the details of why we [on the committee] had raised suspicion that the Saudi government and various representatives of Saudi interests had supported some of the hijackers - and might have supported all of them. My own personal conclusion was that the evidence of official Saudi support for at least two of the terrorists in San Diego was, as one CIA agent said, incontrovertible. That led us to another question: Why would the Saudis have provided that level of assistance to two of the 19 [hijackers] and not the other 17? There wasn't an adequate attempt to answer that question. My feeling was there wasn't anything to justify that discrepancy, and so there was a strong possibility that such assistance had been provided to others of the terrorists, but we didn't know about it. Then there's another question: If there was this infrastructure in place that was accessed by the terrorists, did it disappear as soon as 9/11 was completed? There's no reason to believe that it did.

Your investigation in Congress focused on a Saudi national named Omar al-Bayoumi, who had provided extensive assistance to two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, when they lived in San Diego. You say al-Bayoumi was apparently a covert agent of the Saudi government, and from that you conclude there was official Saudi support for the plot. Yet the independent 9/11 commission came to a different conclusion. Its executive director, Philip Zelikow, has said his investigation had more access to information than yours - including the opportunity to interview al-Bayoumi. And the commission concluded he had nothing to do with the attacks, that his contacts with the hijackers were coincidental.

Let me say that what we know about this comes primarily from FBI and CIA reports that were in the file in San Diego. And in those files, FBI agents referred to Bayoumi as being a Saudi Arabian agent or Saudi Arabian spy. In the summer of 2002, a CIA agent filed a report that said it was "incontrovertible" that terrorists were receiving assistance, financial and otherwise, from Saudis in San Diego. No. 2: Bayoumi was supposed to be working for a firm that was a subcontractor for the Saudi civil aviation authority. Yet he never showed up for work. His boss tried to fire him, and he received a letter from the Saudi civil aviation authority demanding that he be retained on their payroll despite the fact he wasn't performing any services. And the subcontracting company that employed Bayoumi was owned by a Saudi national who, according to documents seized in Bosnia, was an early financial backer of al-Qaida. Now, that's rather suspicious.

Also suspicious is the number of telephone conversations between Bayoumi and Saudi government representatives. It was a very substantial number that remains classified. Then, the event that really raised our suspicions was that shortly after Alhazmi and Almihdhar flew from Bangkok [Thailand] to Los Angeles [after attending an al-Qaida conference in Malaysia that resulted in their being added to a CIA watch list], Bayoumi tells various persons that he was going to Los Angeles to "pick up some visitors." He drives from San Diego to Los Angeles with a friend. His first stop in Los Angeles was at the consulate of the Saudi government, where he stays for an hour and meets with a diplomat named Fahad al-Thumairy, who subsequently was deported for terrorist-related activities.

After that one-hour meeting, he and that companion go to a Middle Eastern restaurant in Los Angeles to have lunch. They overhear Arabic being spoken at a nearby table. They invite the two young men who are at that table to come and join them. It turns out those two young men are Alhazmi and Almihdhar, two of the 9/11 terrorists. When I asked the staff director of the 9/11 commission about this, he thought it was just a coincidence that they met at this restaurant. I did some independent research. There are at least 134 Middle Eastern restaurants in Los Angeles. So the statistical odds of these two groups meeting at the same Middle Eastern restaurant at the same time are staggering.

You don't believe the meeting was a coincidence?

I'm almost certain this was a prearranged meeting. Later, Bayoumi takes the two terrorists to San Diego, where he introduces them to people who arrange for them to obtain [phony] Social Security cards and flying lessons.

Did the White House specifically request classification of the section on the Saudis?

Technically, it was done by the CIA, but it was at the direction of the White House. I cannot tell you with 100 percent certainty, but I am 90 percent sure that was the case. The White House played a heavy role throughout not only our investigation but the investigation of the 9/11 commission.

You obviously don't believe the Bush administration was justified in classifying the 27 pages.

No. Sen. Shelby, who was the vice chairman of the [Senate intelligence] committee and who is a Republican, reread those pages shortly after they were classified. And I also reread them. Independently, we both came to the same assessment that 95 percent of the material that had been classified could have been released to the public. It did not represent concealment of national secrets or of sources and methods by which information is obtained.

Why do you think the White House is so intent on keeping that information from the public?

I think there are several possible reasons. One is that it did not want the public to be aware of the degree of Saudi involvement in supporting the 9/11 terrorists. Second, it was embarrassing that that support took place literally under the nose of the FBI, to the point where one of the terrorists in San Diego was living at the house of a paid FBI informant. Third, there has been a long-term special relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and that relationship has probably reached a new high under the George W. Bush administration, in part because of the long and close family relationship that the Bushes have had with the Saudi royal family.

In the book, you describe being furious with the FBI for blocking your committee's attempts to interview that paid FBI informant. You write that the panel needed the bureau to deliver a congressional subpoena to the informant because he was in the FBI's protective custody and could not be located without the bureau's cooperation. But the FBI refused to help. What happened? And what do you think the bureau was trying to hide?

We had just finished a hearing and had asked various representatives of the FBI to come into a conference room and discuss our strong interest in being able to interview the San Diego informant. It was clear that the FBI representatives were not going to voluntarily allow that to happen, and we had already prepared a subpoena, which I had in my coat pocket. I walked over to the principal representative for the FBI, Ken Wainstein, and I was approaching him with this subpoena, he clasped his hands tightly behind his back. I tried to hand him the subpoena, but he acted as if it were radioactive. Finally he said he didn't want to take the subpoena, but he would get back to us on the following Monday. Well, nobody ever got back to us. It was the only time in my senatorial experience that the FBI has refused to deliver a legally issued congressional subpoena.

Later, the FBI congressional affairs officer sent a letter to [co-chairman] Porter Goss and me, saying, "The administration would not sanction a staff interview with the source, nor did the administration agree to allow the FBI to serve a subpoena on the source." What that tells me is the FBI wasn't acting on its own but had been directed by the White House not to cooperate.

Did the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, play any role in what you describe as the support network for these two hijackers? As you know, Bandar is a great friend of the Bush family.

Most of the things that he did are, frankly, still classified. But he has clearly demonstrated that he has a close relationship with President Bush. You have no doubt seen that famous picture of the two of them together at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. And then there's the fact that within a few hours after 9/11, Prince Bandar was able to gain access to the president to make the case for why 140 or so Saudis should be given permission to leave the United States immediately.

Did the Saudi Embassy play a role?

I'm going to have to defer answering that question. Those things that still have not been made available to the public, such as this issue of what Prince Bandar's participation was, I did not include in the book.

It sounds then as if the role of Bandar and the Saudi Embassy is addressed in those 27 classified pages of the panel's report?

Most of it would be addressed there, yes.

Most of it? That implies you know other relevant information that's not in the classified report.

Yes. Some information came to our attention too late to be included in the report, or it was not directly related to the events of 9/11.

Let's move from 9/11 and the Saudis to the invasion of Iraq. Do you believe the president misled the American public about the justification for the invasion and the urgency of the security threat?

If he believed the evidence that was being presented to him - that there were 550 sites in Iraq where weapons of mass destruction were being either produced or stored - then he was very noncurious about finding out what the basis of that information was. He should have pursued the credibility of the intelligence before he committed us to taking one of the most serious actions any country can take. The user of intelligence has the responsibility to challenge the credibility of the intelligence. When [then CIA director] George Tenet said it was a slam-dunk that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the president supinely accepted that.

But a lot of people who were opposed to the war on the grounds that Saddam was already contained did believe there were probably weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What did you believe?

I was suspicious [about the intelligence], but I was prepared to accept the word of the president of the United States. But my reason for voting against the war was really a more strategic one: that al-Qaida was a greater threat to Americans than was Saddam Hussein, and that we should stay on the task of al-Qaida until we had finished it. I didn't think we should get into a situation where our prestige and reputation would suffer in the entire Middle East and into what now appears to be a quagmire which has no end in sight.

Along those lines, you said that in a meeting at the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., in February 2002, Gen. Tommy Franks, who was then conducting the war in Afghanistan, told you that resources were already being shifted quietly to Iraq. Additionally, you write that Franks told you that Somalia and Yemen, not Iraq, were the next logical targets in any action to combat terrorism.

Yes. I had just received a briefing on Afghanistan when Gen. Franks invited me to come into his office, just the two of us. He told me that military and intelligence resources were being redeployed from Afghanistan to Iraq. What that suggested to me was [first] that the decision to go to war in Iraq had been made at least 14 months before we actually went to Iraq, and long before there was authorization from Congress and long before the United Nations was sought out for a resolution of support. Secondly, it suggested we couldn't fight the two wars concurrently to victory, but that it would take redeployment of personnel from Afghanistan to Iraq to make that a successful invasion. Third, it suggested that somebody - I assume the president - had decided that Iraq was a higher priority for the United States than was completing the war in Afghanistan.

Why do you think Franks told you this?

I don't know what his motivation was, but we had just heard a report on the status of the war in Afghanistan, which was very upbeat, [saying] we were making a lot of progress. So one motivation may have been to caution me that things in reality weren't necessarily what they appeared to be.

Do you believe the White House manipulated the intelligence to persuade the public to back the invasion? "Manipulate" may be too strong a word for you. But it took a request from you and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to get the intelligence community to produce a National Intelligence Estimate on the danger posed by Iraq, a step that would seem an obvious one to take, considering the stakes to the nation.

I am comfortable with the word "manipulate." There was a chapter that did not become known until three or four months ago that occurred in May 2002. Various leaders of the CIA were called down to the White House and told that the White House wanted to have a public document that could be released under the CIA's label but which would make the case for going to war with Iraq. I think one of the reasons they didn't want to do a formal National Intelligence Estimate was because it would be done not by the CIA alone but by all of the members of the intelligence community, and it was likely to reach a different conclusion. At least it would contain dissenting opinions and caveats that wouldn't be in a CIA public document.

This description of the CIA is one that is under the complete control of the White House, an agency that is not independent but highly politicized.

That's right. It is the expression of the leadership of the intelligence agencies, trying to placate their masters in the administration.

A later inquiry conducted by the Senate intelligence committee under your successor as chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., looked at the quality of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and concluded that it was execrable. Yet the Republicans on the panel blocked any probe of whether the administration pressured the intelligence agencies to manufacture the conclusions it sought to justify a war that it had already decided to wage. If you had still been the top Democrat on the committee, would you have insisted that the White House and the agencies be included in that probe?

I think Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D-W.Va.], who is the vice chairman of the committee, did insist, and the effect of that was to make clear to him that there would be no investigation of anything if he persisted. I think he decided the better course was to agree to just do the first component if there was a commitment to do the rest at a reasonably close later date.

You retire at the end of this year. What's next for you?

First, I'll be working on letting the American people know about the opportunity they have to better understand the intelligence matters of the United States by buying this book. (Laughs.) Then, I'll teach at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard for a year and after that come back to Florida to establish a policy center at one or more universities in Florida.


Where Is Paul? Ou Est Paulo?

The Falling Scales Paul Krugman

October 5, 2004
Last week President Bush found himself defending his record on national security without his usual protective cocoon of loyalty-tested audiences and cowed reporters. And the sound you heard was the scales' falling from millions of eyes.

Trying to undo the damage, Mr. Bush is now telling those loyalty-tested audiences that Senator John Kerry's use of the phrase "global test" means that he "would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions." He's lying, of course, as anyone can confirm by looking at what Mr. Kerry actually said. But it may still work - Mr. Bush's pre-debate rise in the polls is testimony to the effectiveness of smear tactics.

Still, something important happened on Thursday. Style probably mattered most: viewers were shocked by the contrast between Mr. Bush's manufactured image as a strong, resolute leader and his whiny, petulant behavior in the debate. But Mr. Bush would have lost even more badly if post-debate coverage had focused on substance.

Here's one underreported example: So far, Mr. Bush has paid no political price for his shameful penny-pinching on domestic security and his refusal to provide effective protection for America's ports and chemical plants. As Jonathan Chait wrote in The New Republic: "Bush's record on homeland security ought to be considered a scandal. Yet, not only is it not a scandal, it's not even a story."

But Mr. Kerry raised the issue, describing how the administration has failed to protect us against terrorist attacks. Mr. Bush's response? "I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises."

Oh, yes we do. According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, Mr. Bush's tax cuts, with their strong tilt toward the wealthy, are responsible for more than $270 billion of the 2004 budget deficit. Increased spending on homeland security accounts for only $20 billion. That shows the true priorities of the self-proclaimed "war president." Later, Mr. Bush, perhaps realizing his mistake, asserted, "Of course we're doing everything we can to protect America." But he had already conceded that he isn't.

It's also not clear whether voters have noticed the collapse of Mr. Bush's cover story for the disastrous decision to invade Iraq. In Coral Gables, Mr. Bush asserted that when Mr. Kerry voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam, he "looked at the same intelligence I looked at." But as The Times confirmed last weekend, the Bush administration suppressed intelligence that might have raised doubts in Congress.

The case for war rested crucially on one piece of evidence: Saddam's purchase of aluminum tubes that, according to Condoleezza Rice, were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." But the truth, never revealed to Congress, was that most of the government's experts considered the tubes unsuited for a nuclear program and identical to the tubes used by Iraq for other purposes. Yes, Virginia, we were misled into war.

Now it's Dick Cheney's turn.

Mr. Cheney's manufactured image is as much at odds with reality as Mr. Bush's. The vice president is portrayed as a hardheaded realist, someone you can trust with difficult decisions. But his actual record is one of irresponsibility and incompetence.

Case in point: Mr. Cheney completely misread the nature of the 2001 California energy crisis. Although he has stonewalled investigations into what went on in his task force, there's no real question that he placed his trust in the very companies whose market-rigging caused that crisis.

In tonight's debate, John Edwards will surely confront Mr. Cheney over that task force, over domestic policies and, of course, over Halliburton. But he can also use the occasion to ask more hard questions about national security.

After all, Mr. Cheney didn't just promise Americans that "we will, in fact, be welcomed as liberators" by the grateful Iraqis. He also played a central role in leading us to war on false pretenses.

No, that's not an overstatement. In August 2002, when Mr. Cheney declared "we now know Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," he was being dishonest: the administration knew no such thing. He was also being irresponsible: his speech pre-empted an intelligence review that might have given dissenting experts a chance to make their case.

So here's Mr. Edwards's mission: to expose the real Dick Cheney, just as Mr. Kerry exposed the real George Bush.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

Pension Failures Foil 6-Figure Retirements, Too


October 5, 2004


Tom Paulsen worked for 36 years as a trucking executive, and when he retired two years ago, he thought he had secured a comfortable life. He had a 12-acre farm near Sacramento and a pension of $151,000 a year, his payoff for years of working 70-hour weeks.

Then three months later his company, Consolidated Freightways, filed for bankruptcy and the federal government took over its pension plan. Mr. Paulsen's pension fell to $22,000. To pay his expenses, which include $9,000 for health insurance, he has had to divide up the farm and offer most of it for sale.

Mr. Paulsen, 61, is just one of more than 500,000 Americans whose pension plans have failed in the last three years and been taken over by the federal government, leaving many without health insurance and some, like Mr. Paulsen - high earners who retire early - with pensions much lower than those they had counted on.

"The average person is not going to feel overly sorry for me, and I don't expect it," Mr. Paulsen said, acknowledging that he still has investments and savings. "But I moved nine times for the company and expected a lot more. There were a lot of sleepless nights."

As major airlines and old-line industrial companies use bankruptcy to stay alive, or simply go out of business, many workers are being thrown into a federal safety net that does not always protect them.

Among those hard hit are commercial airline pilots, who by law cannot fly passengers after they turn 60. Pilots typically retire with pensions of $100,000 or more, based on their final salaries and years of service. But the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the agency that takes over failed pension funds, usually matches the payments only for workers who retire at age 65 and earn pensions of up to $45,000 a year. The limits are set by Congress.

People who retire early or earn more can feel singled out precisely for their success. In the most recent count, in 1999, those people accounted for 7 or 8 percent of those relying on the agency, but that percentage is expected to rise when the retirees of the last few years are counted.

J. B. Cockrell, 63, retired from United Airlines in 2001 with a pension of about $100,000. But in August the airline announced it was likely to discontinue its pension plans for employees, following the lead of Pan American World Airways and U.S. Airways. Mr. Cockrell fears what will happen next.

"This is something my wife and I are relying on," he said. If the government takes over, he said, his pension might not even cover the mortgage on his home.

"We have two children in college," Mr. Cockrell said. "If we lose the pension, we'll have to sell our home and move someplace less expensive."

Workers or retirees can face tremendous uncertainty as their pension plans teeter or fail. Because the rules are complicated, workers going through a company bankruptcy often have little real sense of how complete their insurance coverage will be. In some cases, the coverage is linked to the amount in the dying pension fund, which companies often do not disclose.

Thirty years ago, Congress approved legislation to ensure that when a company promised a pension, it made good. Since 1974, companies have had to fund pensions according to federal rules, and the government has insured the benefits.

But tens of thousands of companies, many of them small businesses, have exempted themselves from those requirements by terminating their pension funds and offering other types of retirement benefits that are not so heavily regulated. These benefits are not guaranteed.

And of the companies that still sponsor traditional pension plans, hundreds have gone bankrupt and defaulted, including giants like Bethlehem Steel and Polaroid.

The pension agency has now taken over company plans for one million workers and retirees, and has been stretched to a deficit of $9.7 billion. As more pension plans fail, some retirees worry about the security of even their insured incomes.

At the same time, a growing number of companies are discontinuing their retiree medical benefits, which are not covered by government insurance, and for which companies are not required to set aside money.

"For most people, the big hit is losing their health benefits," said Chris Dagg, a staff lawyer at the Mid-Atlantic Pension Counseling Project in New York City, which assists low-income pensioners.

Sheldon Buckler, 73, a retired Polaroid executive in Newton, Mass., recalled that when the company declared bankruptcy in 2001, rumors swept the workforce. "I heard you'd lose 90 percent, or very little, or half," Mr. Buckler said. "I knew I didn't understand it."

Mr. Buckler had retired in 1994, with an annual pension "in the very low six-figure range," he said. About half of it came from the company's regular plan and half from a supplemental plan for executives.

Executive plans are not insured by the government, so Mr. Buckler lost most of that part of his benefit. And since the remainder still exceeded the insurance limits, he lost about 10 percent of that, too.

He has not had to change his lifestyle, he said, in part because he and his wife continue to work. But he has had to reduce the money he planned to give to his children and grandchildren. He feels the system let him down.

"We felt cheated," Mr. Buckler said. "You work all your life with the expectation that you've earned certain benefits, then someone can pull the rug out. After 30 years with the company, you're just another creditor."

When government officials proposed creating the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in the 1970's, corporations lobbied against it, arguing that few would require its benefits, while all companies with pension plans would have to pay its premiums. Some unions fought it, too, because they thought the funding requirements would divert money away from wages.

Bill Wickert, now 72 and living in Virginia, lobbied against the proposal on behalf of Bethlehem Steel. Now he is one of its beneficiaries. "Thank goodness we lost," he said.

When Bethlehem Steel's pension failed in 2002, the government covered most of Mr. Wickert's standard pension, though he lost an executive compensation package that was not covered. He and his wife have had to give up their car, a Chrysler Sebring, replacing it with a less expensive truck, and at the moment they have no life insurance.

Meanwhile, thousands of rank-and-file steelworkers lost benefits for a different reason. Their pension fund was regulated and insured, but it offered special supplements in case of plant closings. These were not contemplated by Congress when it created the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, so they were not insured.

Nor did Congress create any insurance coverage - or even any funding rules - for retiree medical benefits, which are often promised along with pensions. As a result, retirees whose pensions have been fully covered by the pension benefit corporation - typically lower earners who could not afford early retirement - have often lost their health benefits when their companies have gone bankrupt.

Don Badie, 68, retired from Acme Steel in 1989 after 31 years of working on the furnace, with a pension of $22,000 a year. When Acme's pension plan failed in 2002, the government covered him in full. But at about that time, Mr. Badie went to pick up a prescription for his wife and found that she was no longer covered. His own bills are covered under a program for veterans and by Medicare.

Besides buying prescription drugs for his wife, he said, "I'm out of pocket $3,700 for a breast biopsy and $700 for a CAT scan."

As a result, the Badies are eating cheaper foods and do not travel, Mr. Badie said. "Now I sit waiting for the hurricanes to blow through," he said from his home in Cape Coral, Fla.

"We had 260,000 steelworker retirees lose their health care," he added. "I was fortunate. A lot of people I know have had to go back to work. Most are at Publix, bagging groceries."

Mr. Paulsen, the retired trucking executive, has also gone back to work, starting an auto restoration company with one of his sons, who was laid off from his job as a mechanic at United Airlines. He hopes to sell most of his farm in the spring.

"We're not starving," Mr. Paulsen said. "But I anticipated that the pension would be there and I would not have to work."

He added: "I thought restoring cars was going to be my hobby in retirement. But now it's a business."

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