Monday, October 11, 2004

Soldier Sues to Remain at Home

Kill Me NOW???

A second California Guardsman challenges the military's 'stop-loss' program, which extends enlistments to meet needs in Iraq.
By Rone Tempest
Times Staff Writer

October 11, 2004

SACRAMENTO — Amid yellow ribbons and farewell banners at a ceremony for Iraq-bound troops here last week was one anonymous combat veteran waging a last-minute federal court battle to stay home.

The California National Guard soldier, identified as "John Doe" in a lawsuit filed Oct. 1 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, contends that the military's controversial "stop-loss" program to involuntarily extend enlistments is illegal when applied to National Guard soldiers, about 40,000 of whom are deployed in the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Coupled with a similar action filed Aug. 17 in San Francisco that involves another California National Guard soldier ordered to Iraq, the lawsuit is seen as the first serious court test of the stop-loss program, in which thousands of National Guard and reserve troops have been called on to meet increasing military manpower needs in Iraq.

"Ultimately, this is about fairness," said San Francisco attorney Joshua Sondheimer, who represents both California soldiers. "It is not fair or appropriate to put the burden of having an expanded military on the backs of those people who have already done their duty."

Stop-loss has become a part of the presidential debate, with Democratic candidate John Kerry calling the program a "backdoor draft." And the opposition is not strictly partisan. Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republicans have also spoken against the practice.

But Lt. Col. Michael Jones, chief of recruiting and retention at National Guard headquarters in Washington, said the two soldiers represent the views of a tiny minority of those whose terms of service have been involuntarily extended.

"It is only two individuals out of 200,000 who are taking this action," said Jones, who also said he doubted that any veteran soldiers would be surprised or caught unaware by the involuntary call to duty.

"It's like a doctor who smokes and later claims that he didn't know that cigarettes cause cancer," Jones said. "Every veteran knows he faces possible active duty."

The twin California cases are being taken seriously in Washington, where the Justice Department assigned veteran government attorney Matthew Lepore to handle its arguments.

"Stop-loss is at the heart of the military decision-making process," said Washington attorney Matthew Freedus, a former Navy lawyer and specialist on military law. "If anybody gets traction on this, I think there would be a flood of cases."

That would be bad news for National Guard recruiters. For the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, the nation's oldest reserve fighting force has not met its recruiting goals. Seeking a force of 350,000 troops by September, Army Guard recruiters fell more than 7,000 short.

Andrew Exum, a former Army captain in Iraq and author of a recent book, "This Man's Army," critical of U.S. military policy, says there is a well of discontent among soldiers caught in the stop-loss program

"Several are former soldiers of mine in Iraq right now," Exum said. "I think there is widespread dissatisfaction, especially among the soldiers who have already done one, two or even three combat deployments since 9/11 and now find themselves back in the Middle East for upwards of a year."

Both of the California soldiers now in federal court are combat veterans who signed up under the National Guard "Try One" program reserved for veterans. The program, offered nationwide, allows the recruit to bypass basic training while enjoying military education and family medical benefits on a one-year trial period.

Before the soldiers' one-year enlistment expired, however, they were called up under a stop-loss program for 18-month tours that include training and deployment in Iraq.

The military contends that this involuntary extension of troops was authorized by Executive Order 13223, issued by President Bush on Sept. 14, 2001, in reaction to the terrorists' attacks.

Attorneys for the soldiers, citing the report of the Sept. 11 commission that found no evidence of any "collaborative operational relationship" with the Al Qaeda terrorists, claim the executive order did not cover "nation-building service in Iraq." In the absence of any declaration of war by Congress, the soldiers claim the involuntary call is a violation of their enlistment contract.

"This is not a frivolous lawsuit," said Michael Noone, a military law specialist at Catholic University of America and a former judge advocate in the U.S. Air Force. "I had assumed the government had an ironclad case, but the complaint looks valid on its face. I'm really curious how the government will respond."

Attorneys confirmed that the soldier in the Sacramento case is a member of the Sacramento-based 2668th Transportation Company, which left Wednesday for training at Ft. Lewis in Washington state. The attorneys gave little additional information about the soldier for fear that, if identified, he would face retribution from his superiors.

The only personal detail in the lawsuit is that the soldier is a combat veteran, "married and the father of two young children, and is very involved in the lives and education of his children."

After Chief U.S. District Judge David F. Levi in Sacramento denied a request on Tuesday for an immediate temporary restraining order, the soldier joined his 173 fellow transportation company colleagues at the armory send-off, featuring a pep talk by a California National Guard general and a potluck family supper. Another hearing on the case is expected before the soldier departs for Iraq in late December.

At the armory ceremony, company commander Capt. Torrey Hubred, 36, said he had no idea which of his soldiers initiated the court action.

"I've intentionally tried not to single anyone out," Hubred said. "As far as I know, any of the soldiers who came to me with issues, we were able to work them out." Hubred said all the unit soldiers were present and accounted for at the Sacramento armory on Tuesday.

At the emotional ceremony, a giant chocolate cake, baked for the occasion and decorated with camouflage frosting and plastic soldiers, was topped with the words: "God Bless the Troops of the 2668th Transport." Except for Hubred, none of the other soldiers and families who attended appeared to be aware of the pending court challenge.

Some of the younger soldiers seemed excited about their assignment. "I'm happy to go and get my experience as a competent leader," said Torrance native 2nd Lt. Joseph Ku, 22.

But others, including Vietnam veteran Staff Sgt. Phil Daneau, viewed the assignment more warily.

"I was not expecting to do this at this point in my life," said Daneau, a Sacramento County public assistance official who, at 56, is the oldest of the transportation company soldiers being sent to Iraq.

"This is certainly not what I had planned for," said Daneau's wife, Carla, 57, who waited anxiously at home during her husband's three tours in Vietnam and does not relish the idea of doing it again nearly four decades later.

"We've got a very upset daughter and a lot of other upset friends and family," she said.

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Kill Now, or KILL LATER? Politics Count.


Major Assaults on Hold Until After U.S. Vote

Attacks on Iraq's rebel-held cities will be delayed, officials say. But that could make it harder to allow wider, and more legitimate, Iraqi voting in January.

By Mark Mazzetti
Times Staff Writer

October 11, 2004

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration plans to delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November, say administration officials, mindful that large-scale military offensives could affect the U.S. presidential race.

Although American commanders in Iraq have been buoyed by recent successes in insurgent-held towns such as Samarra and Tall Afar, administration and Pentagon officials say they will not try to retake cities such as Fallouja and Ramadi — where the insurgents' grip is strongest and U.S. military casualties could be the highest — until after Americans vote in what is likely to be an extremely close election.

"When this election's over, you'll see us move very vigorously," said one senior administration official involved in strategic planning, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Once you're past the election, it changes the political ramifications" of a large-scale offensive, the official said. "We're not on hold right now. We're just not as aggressive."

Any delay in pacifying Iraq's most troublesome cities, however, could alter the dynamics of a different election — the one in January, when Iraqis are to elect members of a national assembly.

With less than four months remaining, U.S. commanders are scrambling to enable voting in as many Iraqi cities as possible to shore up the poll's legitimacy.

U.S. officials point out that there have been no direct orders to commanders to halt operations in the weeks before the November 2 U.S. election. Top administration officials in Washington are simply reluctant to sign off on a major offensive in Iraq at the height of the political season.

Asked for comment, White House spokesman Taylor Gross said, "The commanders in the field will continue to make the decisions regarding military operations, and will continue to assist the Iraqi people in the pursuit of a more peaceful and safer Iraq."

Pentagon officials said they see a benefit to waiting before an offensive in the so-called Sunni Triangle, the insurgent-dominated region north and west of Baghdad. That would allow more time for political negotiations and targeted airstrikes in Fallouja.

"We're having more impact with our airstrikes than we had expected," said a senior Defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We see no need to rush headlong with hundreds of tanks into Fallouja right now."

Because U.S. commanders no longer have carte blanche to run military operations inside Iraq, they must seek approval from interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who has his own political future to consider — even though he owes his position to the U.S.

U.S. officials said Allawi had backed a broad plan to retake insurgent-controlled cities in Iraq before the January election. Allawi approved the recent successful U.S. offensive in Samarra, which U.S. commanders considered necessary only after a local government installed by Allawi buckled under constant attack by insurgents.

Yet there has been occasional friction between U.S. commanders in Baghdad and the Iraqi government that took power after the U.S.-led coalition handed over sovereignty June 28.

In August, top U.S. officers in Iraq and Pentagon officials were angry when Allawi ordered a halt to a day-old, U.S.-led offensive against Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr's militia as it holed up inside the sacred Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf.

Allawi called the cease-fire to allow time for negotiations with Sadr, which ultimately broke down. U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington argued that such frictions were just part of a gradual process of reducing Iraq's dependence on the U.S. military.

"We made a deal, and that's what you get when you set up an interim government," a senior military official at the Pentagon said. "But the alternative is not recognizing them."

U.S. officials said the recent offensive operation in Samarra went more smoothly than they had expected, and has boosted optimism that more cities can be wrested from insurgent hands before January's election.

"People looked at Samarra and said, 'Wow, this works.' It wasn't nearly as difficult an operation as we had anticipated," the senior Defense official said. "After Samarra, we now believe we can do more."

Just weeks ago, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army Gen. John P. Abizaid of U.S. Central Command began lowering expectations about how comprehensive the January vote would be, suggesting that some rebellious cities such as Fallouja might have to be left out of the balloting.

U.S. officers in Baghdad said that the biggest difference between the Samarra operation and the failed U.S. offensive in Fallouja in April was that select units of the Iraqi national guard held their ground under enemy fire. In April, the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces in Fallouja capitulated soon after the U.S. offensive began.

"You've got to have a credible Iraqi security force that the local populace has confidence in," said Army Col. Bob Pricone, chief of operations at the U.S.-led coalition forces' headquarters in Baghdad. "Four or five months ago, the populace didn't have a lot of confidence in the Iraqi national guard."

Still, Pentagon officials say that it may not be militarily feasible to bring every Iraqi city in the Sunni Triangle under the control of U.S. forces and the Iraqi government in time for the January election. The military view was contradicted by senior State Department officials who declared in recent congressional testimony that there were no plans to exclude any Iraqi city from voting.

"The State Department can talk about people voting everywhere. But securing Iraq in time for the election can't happen without the U.S. military," the Defense official said.

During a recent trip to Washington, Allawi expressed his interest in reclaiming insurgent-controlled cities in the Sunni Triangle in time for the January election, even in light of the potentially negative political impact in Iraq that a bloody military operation could have.

Yet officials say that the man who owes his job to President Bush — and might not have such a warm relationship with a President John F. Kerry — does not want to press his case too hard before the U.S. election.

"A lot of his political future depends on our election," said the senior administration official.

Conversely, much of the future of the U.S. in Iraq may depend on Allawi and his ability to emerge from the shadow of the occupation and ensure that Iraq reaches its own political milestone in January.

For 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq trying to break the will of a deadly insurgency, that means understanding — and sometimes bending to — the needs of U.S. politics and the demands of their Iraqi hosts.

Said Pricone, the operations chief: "We'll work through as many cities as the Iraqi government wants us to."

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Whither OIL????

The Treasury secretary's comments come as three leading OPEC producers vow to increase capacity to meet rising demand.
From Bloomberg News

October 11, 2004

Record oil prices are threatening economic growth, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said Sunday, as OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates vowed to boost their production capacity to meet soaring demand.

Snow said in an interview on CNN that the cost of oil was "creating headwinds for the otherwise very strong economy."

The per-barrel price soared past $53 last week, partly on concern that there may not be enough spare capacity globally to fully cover potential supply disruptions during winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Another factor was the shutdown for the third time in a month of the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port as refiners struggled to boost supplies depleted by Hurricane Ivan.

In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Ibrahim Naimi said the kingdom was "willing to do what it takes to satisfy demand." Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, will maintain spare capacity of 1.5 million to 2 million barrels a day "for the foresee- able future," he said before the start of an energy conference.

Saudi Arabia's additional production would be about enough to make up for a total halt in exports from Iraq, as occurred last year during the U.S.-led invasion of that country.

The kingdom and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries pumped an estimated average of 30.5 million barrels a day in September, up 2% from 29.9 million in August, according to Bloomberg data.

At those levels, the cartel is supplying about 37% of daily global demand of about 80 million barrels. Demand from China and India has pushed up global purchases of oil by more than 2 million barrels a day this year.

"The investment in new capacity has been insufficient and too slow, and it will struggle to keep up with the 3% demand growth that we saw this year," said Youssef Ibrahim, managing director of Strategic Energy Investment Group in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The UAE, the fourth-largest oil producer in the Middle East, will add 300,000 barrels a day of production next year and 700,000 in 2006, its oil minister said at the conference.

"We are investing about $1 billion for every 100,000 barrels a day of extra capacity," Ubayd Saif Nasiri said. "We are doing all we can to cool prices." The UAE is pumping 2.5 million barrels a day, he said.

As for Kuwait, it will soon invite international oil companies to bid for a $7-billion project to double the country's northern oil field capacity to 1 million barrels a day, Oil Minister Sheik Ahmed Fahd al Ahmed al Sabah said in an interview in Abu Dhabi.

The new capacity from the Persian Gulf won't come on stream in time for this winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Crude oil prices may rise further on concern that refiners will fail to secure sufficient imports to make up for a drop in Gulf of Mexico output caused by Hurricane Ivan, according to a Bloomberg survey last week.

In Nigeria, the world's No. 7 producer, oil workers may join a general strike set for today to protest rising fuel prices, the Nigeria Labor Congress said. The country, a member of OPEC, pumped 2.42 million barrels of oil a day last month, according to Bloomberg data.

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Political Thuggery in Ohio......

GOP Dirty Tricks in Ohio?
By Lisa Chamberlain

Saturday 09 October 2004

Voter registration is exploding in the swing state, but a ruling by the obstructionist Republican secretary of state may result in thousands not voting.

On Monday, the final day of voter registration in Ohio, the Board of Elections in Cleveland had a line out the door. "I've never seen anything like this in my life," said John Ryan, head of the Cleveland AFL-CIO. "We did a voter registration drive four years ago. We turned in 14,399 new registration forms, and we were pleased with that. This time, there are about 100,000 newly registered voters. That blows my mind. This is not Arizona with a growing population. People are leaving this area, not coming in."

That people are moving to other states is due in no small part to the fact that Cleveland is now the poorest big city in the country, with a poverty rate of 31.3 percent, according to a recent Census report. The rest of Ohio isn't faring much better, with poverty rates in Cincinnati at 21.1 percent, Toledo at 20.3 percent and Columbus at 16.5 percent. For those who can't leave, voting seems to have taken on an urgency not seen in many years, if not decades.

With the registration deadline past, the focus for the numerous groups in Ohio that are working to mobilize voters has now shifted to making sure those voters get to the polls and, once they get there, are able to vote. Conventional wisdom has always held that the hard part is getting people signed up and to the polls. But with millions of dollars being spent by groups such as America Coming Together, MoveOn PAC, 21st Century Democrats and others on such efforts, a more important problem may be getting those votes counted -- a fear given definite shape thanks in no small part to Ohio's obstructionist Republican secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell.

While there had been a lot of hand-wringing among elected officials, voting rights groups and the public over electronic voting, Ohio passed a law in May requiring that all new machines have a paper receipt by 2006. This, of course, won't occur until after the 2004 presidential election, but the change has had a deterrent effect on a switch to electronic voting machines. According to Petee Talley, who is chairing the Ohio Voter Protection Coalition, made up of labor, civil rights, voting rights, retiree and community organizations: "Ninety-five percent of Ohio's voters will be voting on the same equipment they did the last time."

So, befitting the state's anachronistic Rust Belt economy, tactics have turned to good old-fashioned voter suppression and intimidation rather than high-tech tampering. In a recent campaign stop in Cleveland, Sen. John Kerry suggested that such intimidation was already underway. His comments came on the heels of Blackwell's backpedaling on his decision to enforce an archaic law requiring that all new registrations be on postcard-weight paper. But it seems Blackwell may have several more tricks up his sleeve.

"What's happening in Ohio," says Talley, "is that the secretary of state has issued a statement saying that provisional ballots should not be issued if voters are in the wrong polling location." With tens of thousands of newly registered voters, confusion about where to go is likely. Withholding provisional ballots -- which the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002 in the wake of the 2000 election debacle, specifically mentions as an alternative voting method when valid registration is in doubt -- will result in many people simply not voting.

We "sent a letter to the secretary of state saying that it's a violation of the Help America Vote Act," says Talley. Not getting an adequate response, the Ohio Voter Protection Coalition filed a lawsuit on Tuesday. The Ohio Democratic Party has already sued on this issue, and a judge is expected to issue a ruling on that suit by Oct. 15.

Provisional ballots might seem like small potatoes in the scheme of things. But one professor at Case Western Reserve University -- site of the recent vice presidential debate in Cleveland -- has crunched some numbers and he's not at all convinced this issue is of little consequence.

Using data from the 2000 election, the professor, Norman Robbins, calculates conservatively that as many as 13,000 Clevelanders will have to use a provisional ballot as a result of clerical and other errors. The typical discard rate for provisional ballots means that nearly 2,300 of those will be invalidated. But this doesn't include all the people who show up at the wrong polling place and don't get a provisional ballot at all. Multiply this by the eight urban areas around Ohio and the potential for disenfranchisement is high. Considering that Al Gore lost Ohio by 165,000 votes and Ralph Nader (who will not be on the ballot) took 117,857 votes, it could impact the election not just in Ohio, but affect the outcome of the national race.

"Who does this provisional ruling affect most?" asks Robbins. "People who move. Census data shows that low-income people are 90 percent more likely to move. If you're poor, you're twice as likely to have to vote provisionally. On top of that, when they get a provisional ballot, they're likely to encounter [poll workers] who give them unclear information on a complex form. That's already difficult.

"Now, if you're in the wrong precinct, don't bother voting because your provisional ballot is going to be thrown out, even if it was a clerical error that got you into provisional world. These are the people who are most likely going to have two jobs. They're not going to be able to go to another poll. They might have kids in day care. They may have no car. This ruling disproportionately targets one part of the Ohio population." And they are, needless to say, most likely Democratic voters.

Ohio's secretary of state was also sued because 21 counties were wrongly informing ex-felons that they had no right to vote. According to Robbins, the secretary of state's office agreed to inform all ex-felons of their voting rights in time for the registration deadline, but then backed out based on a "distorted" interpretation of the law.

And then there is the specter of hanging chads if the race in Ohio is close enough to trigger a recount. Sixty-eight counties in Ohio (out of

88) will vote using punch card ballots. (In fact, it was little noted at the time, but Cleveland also had its very own butterfly ballot in 2000, and it was as poorly designed as Theresa LePore's in Palm Beach County, Fla.). Again using the 2000 election as a guidepost, Robbins says punch card ballots have nearly a 4 percent error rate. With some 300,000 voters in Cleveland, that's nearly 8,000 lost votes, factoring in the turnout rate. He is critical of Blackwell for doing very little to educate voters about how to use punch card machines, and points to Los Angeles as having undertaken a model educational campaign that greatly reduced the error rate.

"In 2002, the Federal Election Commission said that these error rates were unacceptable," says Robbins. Blackwell "knew the majority of counties would be using punch cards, and he'd done nothing to improve that situation until a week ago. What they're doing now is good, but it's very late in the day and he had to be badgered into it."

Blackwell has defended himself and his office by saying that these criticisms did not surface until recently. But Robbins says the voter coalition he's been working with sent letters to Blackwell on July 29 and again on Sept. 2, pointing out the problems and making suggestions.

Finally, of course, there is the specter of voter intimidation, something that -- until Florida 2000 -- some people didn't believe ever happened in the United States, even though it occurred not only during the civil rights movement but has been going on covertly since Reconstruction after the Civil War.

"As someone who's worked in Democratic politics in Ohio, I've seen these tactics done for years," says Mike Casey, who runs Tigercomm, a media consulting firm in Cleveland, and is working with a newly established group called Citizens Against Un-American Voter Intimidation. "Every election cycle, you hear after the fact about the white sheriffs who sat there for five hour with guns holstered who are there to intimidate. They're there to shave 1 percent off. With all this voter registration activity going on, some people don't want those people to vote."

But the Ohio Democratic Party, which has been keeping the heat on Blackwell, doesn't think voter intimidation is going to be much of a problem this year. "There have been claims of that in Cincinnati and other places," says Dan Trevas, a spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party. "But this is going to be such a heavily attended and watched election, the ability to intimidate voters is going to be very difficult, especially in places that really matter, like large cities."

Given a recent alarming report by the NAACP and People for the American Way, the Ohio Democratic Party's cavalier attitude may be misplaced. Citing intimidation tactics outlined in the report, such as sending security teams to minority polling places, wrongly demanding I.D.'s and taking photos of voters, the New York Times concluded, "The suppression of minority votes is alive and well in 2004, driven by the sharp partisan divide across the nation. Because many minority groups vote heavily Democratic, some Republicans view keeping them from registering and voting as a tactic for victory -- one that has a long history in American politics."

"Basic democratic rights are being tampered with by political thugs," says Casey. "Think about that. It's the most un-American thing you can possibly do, besides spy for al-Qaida. So we're trying to pay heightened, advanced attention to things that rarely surface until Election Day. It's after everything is decided [that] some evidence comes to light, and there's some reporting by an exhausted press corps, but it's already over. If you don't call attention to it beforehand, to hold people accountable, then this activity pays."

The Abu Ghraib Supplementary Documents

The Center for Public Integrity posts classified documents that form the basis of the Taguba report

By Alexander Cohen

WASHINGTON, October 8, 2004 — The military's mission at Abu Ghraib was inadequately planned almost from conception. It was subordinated to political and intelligence goals and bogged down at every level by inadequate resources and hostile conditions, according to classified documents reviewed and now posted by the Center for Public Integrity.

The documents, the first installment of background materials from Army Major General Anthony Taguba's investigation into abuses of military detainees in Iraq, were provided to the Center by Rolling Stone contributor Osha Gray Davidson. The Center plans to post the second installment of the documents later this month.

Including high-level policy memos, special investigations and witness testimony, the documents describe attacks, prisoner riots, interrogation methods and the torture and deaths of detainees. They reveal that the torture and abuse of inmates at the prison by military police, exposed in April 2004 news accounts of the classified report, took place under the guidance of military intelligence with little direct supervision from overburdened senior officers.


Currently, the U.S. government has detained thousands of individuals in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries suspected of ties to terrorism. Bush administration officials have suspended basic human rights protections, including provisions of the Geneva Conventions, and have detained U.S. citizens and other individuals and approved new harsh interrogation techniques. Incidents at Abu Ghraib and other locations have included sleep deprivation, hooding of prisoners, forced nudity and violent sexual abuse, the use of dogs on prisoners and beatings. Military intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency and other, unnamed agencies interrogating prisoners were found to be involved in prisoner abuse, but government investigations conducted so far—some of which have documented the similarity of abuses in different detention areas to the government's proposed interrogation techniques—have absolved high officials of direct responsibility.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld waits to testify on the abuse of detainees in Iraq at Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, May 7, 2004. (photo: Jerry Morrison/DOD)

The Taguba report, though publicly available, is still classified. The CIA, conducting its own investigation, has not released any information, and the U.S. government has stalled Freedom of Information Act requests for the background materials for the Taguba and other investigations. The documents being posted by the Center offer the most complete, first-hand account ever made available.

The 800th Military Police Brigade assumed responsibility for all Iraqi detention operations during the summer of 2003 under a new commander, reservist Brigadier General Janis Karpinski. Mobilized since January, Karpinski's unit was already significantly understaffed and many of its soldiers were beyond their initial six-month tours of duty. The Brigade's 320th Battalion, assigned to Abu Ghraib under Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Phillabaum, had also already been investigated, and four soldiers charged, for a prior incident of prisoner abuse at Camp Bucca, located in the south of Iraq near Umm Qasr.

Taguba cited Karpinski's poor leadership in several areas in his report, including stating that though Karpinski claimed to have visited detention facilities, her appointment calendar showed such visits were infrequent. However, the testimony of her chief aide, Lieutenant Elvis Mabry, indicates that she was frequently visiting facilities prior to November and the calendar he provided, though hard to read, shows at least nine visits from June through October. Taguba also blamed Karpinski for not removing Phillabaum after she temporarily relieved him of command in October, though she stated that she lacked sufficient capable officers and had little choice.

"Boots on the Ground"
The 320th Battalion assumed operations at Abu Ghraib in July 2003, taking over from another MP unit. An investigative report from June, known as a 15-6, reported a riot during the second week in one of the two outside camps housing prisoners, Camp Vigilant. Prisoners threw rocks and tent poles, protesting conditions, including insufficient water with local temperatures running well over one hundred degrees. Subduing them, the MPs killed at least one prisoner and injured several others. A prisoner also escaped through a fence by spreading apart the concertina wires with cardboard. The report explained that the prisoners slept on the cardboard and that "this was good for preventive medicine." Another riot occurred in November in the second camp, Ganci, when an incident quickly spread to engulf all eight compounds. According to the serious incident report filed, guards fired upon the prisoners, killing four and injuring eight.

Designed to operate from the rear beyond hostilities, the Battalion dealt with almost daily external assaults. During July, the 280-acre prison complex was the target of numerous assaults including seven mortar attacks during a two-week period as well as rocket propelled grenade attacks and several incidents of gunfire. Other serious incident reports from the compound describe a mortar attack on August 16th that injured 62 prisoners and killed three and another attack on an outside military intelligence tent on September 20 that severely injured 12 soldiers and killed one.

The prison faced numerous internal security issues as well, relying on contractors and Iraqi Correctional Officers. In an incident on November 24, an Iraqi prisoner in the wing used for security detainees fired on Sergeant William Cathcart and several other soldiers, with a pistol smuggled in by one of the Iraqi guards. According to squad leader Sergeant Robert Elliott, an investigation would later conclude that several of the guards were Fedayeen operatives. A "SPOT" report from January 30, 2004, also reported the failure of 15 Iraqi guards to show up for work.

Human Rights Violations and Early Warnings
Amidst the chaos, members of the 205th military intelligence brigade were establishing interrogation operations, eventually using part of the main prison building, nicknamed the "hard site," and two sheds for interrogation of prisoners of special security value. The January 2004 Criminal Investigation Division investigation and depositions that preceded Taguba's report would document that most of the alleged prisoner abuse occurred in these areas. The investigation—which readers should be warned is extremely graphic in its details—lists the involvement of more than 10 soldiers and civilian contractors in abusing more than 20 detainees, including repeated, severe beatings—some of injured detainees, as well as nudity, sexual abuse including raping and sodomizing detainees, forced food and sleep deprivation and various methods of humiliation.

Maj. Gen. George Fay discusses his investigation into the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison, during an Aug. 25, 2004, press conference. At right is Lt. Gen. Anthony Jones, the lead investigator for the Fay report. (photo: R. D. Ward/DOD)

Much of the abuse was conducted by members of the 372nd military police company who arrived at the prison in September, but the documents record the presence, direction and participation of military intelligence as well. They also describe members of covert intelligence agencies and military units hiding some detainees, including one who died in custody, from human rights organizations in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

An August 2004 report in the Lancet accused medical personnel of complicity in abuses, and the documents provide some new support for those charges. One detainee, for example, received several beatings, had his kidney, back and legs jumped on, and was sodomized with a police baton. A comparison of detainee identification numbers with serious incident reports reveals that a detainee with the same number was evacuated on December 2 to a combat army surgical hospital on suspicion of a ruptured appendix. Another detainee, shot during the incident with Sergeant Cathcart on November 24, stated that he was beaten on his injured legs, a statement corroborated by Sergeant Reuben Layton. Layton, who witnessed the beating by Corporal Charles Graner while treating the detainee, said that he did not report that and other incidents because he knew military intelligence was involved in some of them and thought they were sanctioned.

CID testimony would also reveal the use of military dogs in interrogations, including an incident in which a prisoner was bitten. Witnesses indicated that Colonel Thomas Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, approved the use of those dogs for interrogations, contrary to his statements in his deposition. In fact, a November 30th memo from Pappas to coalition commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez specifically requests the use of muzzled dogs in an interrogation. Sanchez would state that he never specifically approved a request to use dogs in an interrogation.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld takes a tour of the Abu Ghraib prison, on May 13, 2004. (photo: Jerry Morrison/DOD)

Many of the problems eventually revealed at Abu Ghraib were uncovered in a November 6th evaluation by Major General Donald Ryder. Visiting military detention centers run by the 800th, Ryder's team found that human rights, health, sanitation, and security conditions met "minimal standards," but that most units were undermanned, noting that "the prison staff lacks resources to provide basic necessities," and that "current physical lay-out conditions in many facilities are abysmal." The team found major sanitation problems at Abu Ghraib, including trash-strewn compounds (one had even been built above a disintegrating landfill), and flimsy tents that provided little protection from the weather and enemy attacks. Their report suggested that future detention operations at the prison were not sustainable, finding that "the area is not conducive to the long term management of detainees."

Ryder also pointed out that units "did not receive corrections specific training" during mobilization. While he didn't find that military police units were deliberately applying inappropriate confinement procedures, he did find "a wide variance in standards." Units with corrections officers were singled out as more effective in running prisons, finding that "military police generally lack the requisite institutional knowledge." Noting that "management of multiple disparate groups of detained persons in a single location by members of the same unit invites confusion about handling, processing and treatment," Ryder's report recommended segregating different detainees and consolidating security detainees at Abu Ghraib. He also recommended against using military police in interrogations or procedures, "clearly separating the actions of the guards from those of the military intelligence personnel."

Setting the conditions
An investigation by Major General Geoffrey Miller reveals the interest of high-level officials in obtaining valuable intelligence from the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities in Iraq. Miller, the head of intelligence and interrogation operations at Guantanamo Bay, arrived in late August with interrogation experts from Guantanamo, military intelligence and the CIA. Seeking to "rapidly exploit internees for actionable intelligence," the team made three main recommendations: that interrogation operations needed a "unified strategy to detain, interrogate, and report information," that on-site analysts be integrated into interrogation operations, and that detention operations must "act as an enabler for interrogation." Calling for "one command authority," the report specified establishing a center to "consolidate both detention and strategic interrogation operations and result in synergy between MP and MI resources," and recommended using military police to set interrogation conditions. The report also noted a lack of both written guidelines and effective detainee processing and release procedures, calling for expanded training and procedures to create a "safe, secure and humane environment that supports the expeditious collection of intelligence." The team, concluding its evaluation on September 9th, predicted a "significant improvement" in intelligence operations by early October.

Following the Miller evaluation, two memos on interrogation rules and procedures were issued by Sanchez. The second, issued October 12, 2003, was reportedly penned after Central Command disallowed some interrogation procedures detailed in the earlier September 14 memo. Approved interrogation techniques listed in the second memo included segregation of detainees and deliberately trying to frighten them. Sanchez instructed interrogators to "completely control the interrogation environment," including the detainee's food, clothing and shelter, and to work in "close cooperation with detaining units." Listed safeguards to protect detainees included allowing adequate sleep, food and water and muzzling any military working dogs. The use of techniques that were not listed by the general required his approval and review by the Coalition's judge advocate.

Major General Antonio Taguba (photo: DOD)

Meanwhile, efforts to fulfill the recommendations and goals of the Miller evaluation were proceeding. In September, intelligence operations were consolidated under the Joint Interrogation and Detention Center at the prison and the head of the center, Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, told investigators that the interrogation center had been put together at the direction of the White House specifically to consolidate intelligence information regarding possible terrorist activity. As the head of the JIDC, Jordan was questioned by Taguba about his knowledge of abuses that took place in the facility and told Taguba that he had little knowledge of abuses and hardly set foot in the facility, a statement contradicted by the testimony of numerous other witnesses, including Sergeant Shannon Snider, who wrote in a sworn statement that Jordan visited the interrogation wing "almost daily." In spite of Colonel Pappas's role as the overall head of military intelligence at the facility, Jordan would also tell investigators that he acted in a liaison role and ultimately reported to Major General Barbara Fast, the head of intelligence operations at Coalition headquarters.

Aggravating accountability issues, military intelligence was given control over the base on November 19th—that in spite of Ryder's specific recommendations to clearly separate detention and intelligence operations. A briefly worded order assigned control of the facility to Colonel Pappas. That order further muddied the waters regarding overall responsibility for the base. Brigadier General Karpinski, for example, insisted that it gave overall control to Colonel Pappas. Pappas disagreed, claiming in his depositions that he was solely responsible for issues relating to the defense of the facility and the security of its detainees and personnel. The testimony of other soldiers also reveals considerable confusion over the extent of military intelligence authority. Sergeant Elliot would tell investigators that command authority "just depended [on] who was around at the time."

Both Pappas and Jordan testified to receiving considerable pressure to extract information from detainees, which led to friction with some of the MPs assigned to escort prisoners to the interrogation area. Shortly after the 19th, MPs stopped officially escorting prisoners, though different parties gave different reasons for that action in testimony. Karpinski and Major Michael Sheridan both testified that in addition to the manpower issues mentioned by Pappas and Jordan, he stopped escorts after personally witnessing the interrogation of a naked male prisoner, an incident he reported to both the 320th MP Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Phillabaum, and to the 372nd Company commander, Capt. Donald Reese.

Major Sheridan and other interviewed soldiers also testified that they tried to obtain written guidance from interrogation officers on proper limits to interrogations. Snider of the 372nd MP Company told investigators that he unsuccessfully asked for written guidelines from several military intelligence officers including Captain Carolyn Wood, Chief Warrant Officer Edward Rivas and the Judge Advocate for military intelligence at the base. Fellow company member Sergeant Keith Comer agreed, writing in his sworn statement that military intelligence produced very little in writing.

Lieutenant Colonel Jordan indicated in his testimony that Colonel Pappas was similarly reluctant to keep a record regarding "ghost detainees"—prisoners held without record on behalf of various intelligence agencies and special military units, including the CIA, the Iraqi Survey Group and Delta Force. Jordan claimed that, in a meeting with Pappas, he, Captain Wood, Chief Rivas and Major David DiNenna of the 320th MP Battalion all asked for a memo detailing agreements to hide the OGA detainees (OGA is short for "Other Government Agencies," a euphemism for the CIA). Jordan also revealed his role in persuading Red Cross inspectors on a second visit to the prison that their safety would be easier to guarantee if they interviewed detainees in a central location instead of their cells. It would later be revealed that several detainees were hidden in interrogation cells from the Red Cross during this visit.

Despite efforts to hide documentation about the ghost detainees, some officers outside of Abu Ghraib became aware that prisoners were being kept off the books. Legal officer Colonel Ralph Sabatino, a judge advocate working with the Coalition Provisional Authority, told investigators that he observed 11 secret security internees when he visited the prison security wing in early January 2004, undocumented in violation of the Geneva Conventions. He also recounted an embarrassing diplomatic incident, later publicized, of three detainees sought by the Saudi government who were hidden at the prison for several weeks.

Shortly after Sabatino's visit, Specialist Joseph Darby of the 372nd MP Company alerted Army investigators to the numerous incidents of prisoner abuse that had been taking place in the interrogation facilities at Abu Ghraib. At that point, according to a report submitted by the 205th, Abu Ghraib's main building housed 865 prisoners, while the interrogation operation included 43 detained alleged Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam operatives. That month, Major General Taguba was ordered to begin an investigation, which commenced with his appointment at the end of January.

On September 15, a federal district court judge upheld an ACLU demand for the release of records of prisoner abuse, ordering the Defense Department to produce or identify them by October 15, 2004.

Read the work that won the 2002 Investigative Reporters and Editors national book award. "The scope of this investigation is breathtaking," the judges wrote.
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Among Black Voters, a Fervor to Make Their Ballots Count

October 11, 2004


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Her bus was coming, but Charlotte Marshall had not yet finished talking about what mattered to her in the election. Social Security and health insurance, definitely. The Vietnam War, absolutely not. And she had still more to say.

The campaign for president has entered its final leg crackling with rare energy on the streets, in workplaces and in homes, perhaps with no greater vigor than among black Americans like Mrs. Marshall, who works for Stein Mart, a discount store.

It was nearly time for Mrs. Marshall to board, so she spoke quickly, definitively and passionately about the bleakness of Iraq. Finally, she turned to the voting process.

No matter whom she ends up choosing - maybe Senator John Kerry, said Mrs. Marshall, or perhaps President Bush, to untangle his Iraqi knot - she will work Election Day as a poll watcher. "What happened in 2000 got me into it," she said.

Like Mrs. Marshall, many African-Americans are speaking about the fundamental act of voting this year with rekindled fervor, throwing a high-wattage backlight behind the issues and personalities of the campaign. The disqualified ballots, excluded voters and contentious ending of the 2000 election - when black precincts in Florida had votes rejected at three times the rate of white precincts - have formed a galvanizing memory. "We feel betrayed," said Rod Owens, 22, a student at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. "We're looking for revenge."

Mr. Owens, active in a young Democrats group on his campus, put the matter more bluntly than most, but the determination to vote and make it count appears to cross boundaries of age, class and geography. African-Americans, for four decades the most reliable reservoir of Democratic support in presidential elections, now are also part of a torrent of new voter registrations in swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and elsewhere.

[Aware of how essential black voters' turnout is for his campaign, Mr. Kerry attended services yesterday at two black churches in Florida. With the Revs. Jesse L. Jackson and Al Sharpton at his side, he told worshipers at his second stop, a Baptist church in Miami, that he had a team of lawyers, led by African-Americans, poised to respond to any charges of disenfranchisement. "We have an unfinished march in this nation," he said, invoking the civil rights struggle.]

Here in Jacksonville, as the Oct. 4 registration deadline approached, new voters in black neighborhoods were signing up at a pace two-thirds faster than in 2000. In Philadelphia, election officials report the greatest surge of registrations in 21 years, resulting in more than 70,000 new voters added to the rolls since April, with growth heaviest in African-American sections. In Ohio, new registrations in Democratic strongholds, many of them African-American areas, have increased 250 percent over 2000.

In interviews here in north Florida, in southwest Philadelphia and elsewhere, at bus stops, on porches, in sleek law offices, some two dozen African-American voters spoke about the broad band of issues that define their personal stakes in this campaign: the war in Iraq and what it means to a son or grandson in the military; the economy and how it shapes a bricklayer's week; the tax code and its effect on an independent businessman's prospects; and the seats of aging Supreme Court justices, watched warily by a generation of business executives, many of whom began their climb to prosperity in a society freshly opened by the federal bench.

"I have a son with the military, in a combat-ready unit," Mrs. Marshall said. "I'm scared to death every day. I'm disappointed about the Bush program. I was all for it when he said we were going to fight terror. But they know for a fact where that 9/11 attack originated, and it wasn't Iraq. If they had concentrated all that effort in Afghanistan, maybe by now they would have him, that other fool" - meaning Osama bin Laden.

The voters interviewed - habitual Democrats, for the most part - spoke about John Kerry with polite reserve, as if he were a distant cousin, more rumor, so far, than actual family relation. "I guess he's all right, but he's no Bill Clinton, downright homey-like," said Eddie West, a maintenance worker with the Salvation Army in Jacksonville.

Black voter participation has been increasing in recent presidential elections, and 57 percent of eligible black voters turned out in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. In 2000, Mr. Bush received one vote from African-Americans for every nine cast for Al Gore, the lowest share for any Republican since 1964, according to exit polls.

Both Mr. Bush and the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie, have pledged to do better, and Republican officials are emphasizing home ownership and business opportunities before black audiences.

While both parties maintain they hope for a heavy vote from African-Americans, Democrats say history shows that would be to their benefit.

"We will equal the 2000 turnout or do better," said Bill Lynch, a deputy campaign manager for Mr. Kerry. "The community is not going to vote for George Bush in any real numbers. But we've got to get them excited about John Kerry."

Over the last 15 years or so, a rising black middle class has dispersed from cities into integrated suburbs, creating a demand for political messages that reflect the diverse circumstances of African-Americans.

During a town hall meeting with Mr. Kerry in Jacksonville last month, Robert and Anna Lee sat impassively in the rear, offering mild applause, not rising to join ovations. Even so, both Lees said they had no reluctance about supporting Mr. Kerry, who is seen by some as stiff and distant.

"Would I want to go have coffee with him?" Mr. Lee said, shrugging. "That kind of thing doesn't bother me. I'm just not satisfied where I see us going on the international scene."

The Lees moved to Florida from Michigan after Mr. Lee retired from the Internal Revenue Service. Mrs. Lee said she was astounded by Florida's problems in the 2000 election. "It seemed to have affected our people more," she said.

When Mr. Kerry took questions, the Rev. James Sampson, a Baptist minister, spoke of what many in his community perceived to be a feeble effort in north Florida by Mr. Gore's camp in the recount of 2000. About 27,000 votes were disqualified in Duval County, many from black neighborhoods in Jacksonville.

"Will you fight till every vote in Florida is counted?" Mr. Sampson asked.

"I will fight," Mr. Kerry said, "until the last dog dies." The crowd roared.

At a private gathering on Sept. 20 in midtown Manhattan with a small group of black executives and lawyers, Mr. Kerry heard discussion of "race and poverty, minority businesses, health care," said Gordon J. Davis, a partner with the law firm of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae who once served as parks commissioner in the Koch administration. "The message was, these issues are very important to us, but we want you to win. We can debate those after you win.''

Mr. Davis continued: "The next two, three, four appointments to the Supreme Court will be made by the next president. The people in that room had the benefits of growing up in the civil rights revolution."

In southwest Philadelphia, Terrance Carter and Thomas Robinson, replacing a brick wall in a backyard, took a break to chat about the campaign. Both men said they had turned to construction work after they lost jobs - Mr. Carter with food service for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Mr. Robinson with a pharmaceutical packing company.

Mr. Carter scoffed at assertions that Mr. Bush's tax cuts had spurred the economy. "Bush is a spoiled rich boy," he declared. "It's all about a lack of jobs. I don't see no growth; I don't see nothing to be stimulated."

An Army veteran, Mr. Carter said he saw the invasion of Iraq as tantamount to "strong-arming people" and said he thought Mr. Kerry would be able to persuade the United Nations to take on a bigger role in Iraq.

"You don't hear about bin Laden at all any more," Mr. Carter said. "Couple more weeks, near to the election, you'll hear about threats."

Mr. Robinson nodded, and said: "You hear code orange. Or code red."

"Make it up as you go along," Mr. Carter said. "As long as Bush is in office, everybody's a threat."

At his home on Hazel Avenue in Philadelphia, Larry Moore, a purchasing consultant, said that he was concerned about Iraq, the environment, the Supreme Court and the tax code but that Mr. Kerry's plans seemed vague. "Now that we're in Iraq, can Kerry do anything to get us where we need to be faster?" Mr. Moore asked.

On taxes, he said: "I think the code needs to be more equitable. But people should not be penalized for working hard or because they end up doing well."

Across Hazel Avenue, June Fike, who is retired from the Campbell Soup Company, spoke about the unsettled affairs in Iraq.

"If you look at the war news, it's just -- " She paused, shaking her head, searching her mind for the words to match her distress. "I get heart trouble from it. I got a grandson, 22, he had a birthday last week. He is in the National Guard. They said it was for home security, so he signed up, but they changed it. Now they got him down in Fort Hood, getting ready to ship him out."

Leon Williams, a friend who was listening to Mrs. Fike, confessed to a soft spot for the president.

"I like Kerry, but Bush, he ain't no bad guy," Mr. Williams said. "He just got us in a jam."

"Jam?" said Mrs. Fike. "That's what you call it, a jam? We got in something looks like we can't get out of."

Kimberlyn Short, a voting canvasser from America Coming Together, a group aligned with the Democrats, approached Mrs. Fike and learned that both her 89-year-old mother and 94-year-old father would be voting this year. When Ms. Short asked if she would need help getting them to the polls, Mrs. Fike gave a firm no. "You look after some others who don't have anyone," Mrs. Fike said. "I don't care if it snows six feet high, we're getting out of here to vote."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company |

Mary Landrieu fight Corporate Greed

October 11, 2004
A Senator's Outrage Delays Passage of Corporate Tax Bill

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 - The Senate cleared a path on Sunday for a bill to hand out about $140 billion in corporate tax breaks, but it was blocked from a final vote by a fight over a provision aimed at helping reservists on duty in Iraq.

The 633-page bill, which has already been passed by the House, is loaded with hundreds of provisions that provide benefits to a wide range of interests, including the General Electric Company, oil drillers, shipbuilders, cruise ship operators, importers of ceiling fans, corn farmers, tobacco farmers and even foreign gamblers.

Despite widespread criticism of the bill as a Christmas tree of special-interest provisions, the House passed it by a vote of 280 to 141 on Friday, and the Senate voted, 66 to 14, on Sunday to cut off a potential filibuster.

But Senate leaders were blocked for a day by Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, who was furious that the final bill did not include $2 billion in tax credits for companies that keep paying employees who are called to active duty from military reserves and the National Guard.

Ms. Landrieu said she would insist that the Senate use the full 30 hours of debate allowed under its rules. Still, the bill is expected to pass easily once it comes up for a vote on Monday.

The largest provisions of the corporate tax bill would repeal a $5 billion annual tax break for exporters that has been declared illegal by the World Trade Organization, and replace it with a tax reduction for manufacturers in the United States.

The bill's tax breaks are worth about $140 billion over 10 years, but it is supposed to raise the same amount of money by closing tax shelters, raising customs fees and eliminating the old tax benefit.

On Friday night, Senate leaders overcame objections by opponents of the bill, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who were angry that it would provide a $10 billion buyout for tobacco farmers without subjecting tobacco products to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.

Opponents could not muster enough votes to block the bill through a filibuster, so Mr. Kennedy and his allies settled for separate voice votes in favor of tobacco regulation and against new overtime rules.

But those bills are unlikely to become law because the House has not passed similar measures.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Catholic Dilemma.....Bush or Kerry?

October 11, 2004
Voting Our Conscience, Not Our Religion

South Bend, Ind. — For more than a century, from the wave of immigrants in the 19th century to the election of the first Catholic president in 1960, American Catholics overwhelmingly identified with the Democratic Party. In the past few decades, however, that allegiance has largely faded. Now Catholics are prototypical "swing voters": in 2000, they split almost evenly between Al Gore and George W. Bush, and recent polls show Mr. Bush ahead of Senator John Kerry, himself a Catholic, among white Catholics.

There are compelling reasons - cultural, socioeconomic and political - for this shift. But if Catholic voters honestly examine the issues of consequence in this election, they may find themselves returning to their Democratic roots in 2004.

The parties appeal to Catholics in different ways. The Republican Party opposes abortion and the destruction of embryos for stem-cell research, both positions in accord with Catholic doctrine. Also, Republican support of various faith-based initiatives, including school vouchers, tends to resonate with Catholic voters.

Members of the Democratic Party, meanwhile, are more likely to criticize the handling of the war in Iraq, to oppose capital punishment and to support universal heath care, environmental stewardship, a just welfare state and more equitable taxes. These stances are also in harmony with Catholic teachings, even if they may be less popular among individual Catholics.

When values come into conflict, it is useful to develop principles that help place those values in a hierarchy. One reasonable principle is that issues of life and death are more important than other issues. This seems to be the strategy of some Catholic and church leaders, who directly or indirectly support the Republican Party because of its unambiguous critique of abortion. Indeed, many Catholics seem to think that if they are truly religious, they must cast their ballots for Republicans.

This position has two problems. First, abortion is not the only life-and-death issue in this election. While the Republicans line up with the Catholic stance on abortion and stem-cell research, the Democrats are closer to the Catholic position on the death penalty, universal health care and environmental protection.

More important, given the most distinctive issue of the current election, Catholics who support President Bush must reckon with the Catholic doctrine of "just war." This doctrine stipulates that a war is just only if all possible alternative strategies have been pursued to their ultimate conclusion; the war is conducted in accordance with moral principles (for example, the avoidance of unnecessary civilian casualties and the treatment of prisoners with dignity); and the war leads to a more moral state of affairs than existed before it began. While Mr. Kerry, like many other Democrats, voted for the war, he has since objected to the way it was planned and waged.

Second, politics is the art of the possible. During the eight years of the Reagan presidency, the number of legal abortions increased by more than 5 percent; during the eight years of the Clinton presidency, the number dropped by 36 percent. The overall abortion rate (calculated as the number of abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44) was more or less stable during the Reagan years, but during the Clinton presidency it dropped by 11 percent.

There are many reasons for this shift. Yet surely the traditional Democratic concern with the social safety net makes it easier for pregnant women to make responsible decisions and for young life to flourish; among the most economically disadvantaged, abortion rates have always been and remain the highest. The world's lowest abortion rates are in Belgium and the Netherlands, where abortion is legal but where the welfare state is strong. Latin America, where almost all abortions are illegal, has one of the highest rates in the world.

None of this is to argue that abortion should be acceptable. History will judge our society's support of abortion in much the same way we view earlier generations' support of torture and slavery - it will be universally condemned. The moral condemnation of abortion, however, need not lead to the conclusion that criminal prosecution is the best way to limit the number of abortions. Those who view abortion as the most significant issue in this campaign may well want to supplement their abstract desire for moral rectitude with a more realistic focus on how best to ensure that fewer abortions take place.

In many ways, Catholic voters' growing political independence has led to a profusion of moral dilemmas: they often feel they must abandon one good for the sake of another. But while they may be dismayed at John Kerry's position on abortion and stem-cell research, they should be no less troubled by George W. Bush's stance on the death penalty, health care, the environment and just war. Given the recent history of higher rates of abortion with Republicans in the White House, along with the tradition of Democratic support of equitable taxes and greater integration into the world community, more Catholics may want to reaffirm their tradition of allegiance to the Democratic Party in 2004.

Mark W. Roche is dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame.

Webs of Illusion - Bob Herbert NY Times

It's understood that incumbents campaigning for re-election will spotlight the good news and downplay the bad. The problem for President Bush, with the election just three weeks away, is that the bad news keeps cascading in and there is very little good news to tout.

So the president and his chief supporters have resorted to the odd tactic of claiming that the bad news is good.

The double talk reached a fever pitch last week after the release of two devastating reports - the comprehensive report by Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector, which destroyed any remaining doubts that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; and the Labor Department's dismal employment report for September, which heightened concerns about the strength of the economic recovery and left Mr. Bush with the dubious distinction of being the first president since Herbert Hoover to stand for re-election with fewer people working than at the beginning of his term.

Mr. Bush turned the findings of the Duelfer report upside down and inside out, telling crowds at campaign rallies that it proved Saddam Hussein had been "a gathering threat." It didn't matter that the report, ordered by the president himself, showed just the opposite. The truth would not have been helpful to the president. So with a brazenness and sleight of hand usually associated with three-card-monte players, he pulled a fast one on his cheering listeners.

Vice President Cheney had an equally peculiar response to the report, which said Iraq had destroyed its illicit weapons stockpiles in the early 1990's. Referring to the president's decision to launch the war, Mr. Cheney said, "To delay, defer, wait wasn't an option."

The September jobs report, released on the same day as Mr. Bush's second debate with Senator John Kerry, was deeply disappointing to the White House. Just 96,000 jobs were created, not even enough to keep up with the monthly expansion of the working-age population.

The somber findings forced the president's spin machine into overdrive. Reality, once again, was shoved aside. The administration's upbeat public response to the Labor Department report was described in The Times as follows: "The White House hailed it as evidence of continued employment expansion, saying that it validated Mr. Bush's strategy of pursuing tax cuts to support a recovery from the 2001 economic downturn."

In the president's parallel universe, things are always fine.

Mr. Bush sold his tax cuts as a mighty force for job creation. They weren't. The Times article that reported the sunny White House response to the disappointing job creation figures also said: "In September, an estimated 62.3 percent of the working-age population was employed, two full percentage points below the level at the beginning of the recession in March 2001. That difference represents over 4.5 million people without work."

Hyperbole is part of every politician's portfolio. But on the most serious matters facing the country, Mr. Bush's administration has often gone beyond hyperbole to deliberate misrepresentations that undermine the very idea of an informed electorate. If unpleasant realities are not acknowledged by the officials occupying the highest offices in the land, there is no chance that the full resources of the government and the people will be marshaled to meet those challenges.

The president continues to behave as if he's in denial about the war. Iraq remains a tragic mess and the electorate needs to know that.

In yesterday's Week in Review section, The Times's Dexter Filkins wrote movingly from Baghdad about the reporters trying to cover the war. There's been a relentless expansion, he said, of areas that reporters dare not venture into because they are too dangerous. Most European reporters have left the country, and there are far fewer Americans than just a few months ago.

Forty-six reporters have been killed and Mr. Filkins himself has been attacked by a mob, shot at and detained by the Mahdi Army.

If Mr. Bush has a plan to clean up the mess in Iraq, he should say so. If he has a strategy - besides more tax cuts - to bolster employment in the U.S., he should tell us. If he's in touch with the real world in which these and other very serious problems exist, he might consider letting us know.

Spinning gets old after a while. A president who spends too much time spinning webs of illusion can find himself trapped in them.


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company |


Defeating the Rightwing Tide in the Federal Courts
by Meteor Blades
Sun Oct 10th, 2004 at 20:42:30 GMT

Many Americans who had in the past opined that there was at best a paper-thin difference between Republicans and Democrats joined the Anybody But Bush club for one reason alone: They were worried about the precarious balance of power on the Supreme Court. A Democrat in the White House, any Democrat, would guarantee that no new Antonin Scalias or Clarence Thomases or William Rehnquists would be appointed in the next four years. Thus were objections – even significant objections - to this candidate or that one put aside.

Not that there was any scarcity of other fuel for the ABB locomotive. From foreign policy to tax policy, from the economy to health care, from the environment to social issues, the Bush Administration had engendered more ferocious animosity than any Republican President since Nixon.

But some holdouts seeking a Democrat who would embody their perception of the perfect candidate argued that all those Bush policies could be reversed, the impacts ameliorated even if we had to wait until 2009 to do it. But, whether one agrees with such arguments or not, they fall definitively apart over the status of the Supreme Court. Choices for new lifetime justices now could influence the course of American politics until mid-century. Rehnquist, for instance, has served on the court for 33 years. Seven of the nine current justices were appointed by Republicans.

As Kynn notes in his excellent Diary on Dred Scott, we’ve got a President committed to nominees who would curtail reproductive rights. And, whatever his demurrers about no litmus tests, we know from previous statements that Bush would nominate far right justices whose damage would extend well beyond what they decide on abortion.

The Supreme Court is hardly the only concern, however. Typically, the Court hears fewer than 100 cases each year. Thousands are heard in the federal appellate courts, which means these judges have the final say on constitutional questions. Ten of the 13 federal circuit courts are controlled by Republican appointees, and two others are close. On the federal district courts, 356 of the 680 judges are Republican appointees. They, of course, are also appointed for life. You can see the breakdown at the excellent Alliance for Justice site.

You don’t have to read far in the mainstream media to find a familiar theme: the courts are controlled by liberals. In fact, however, from 1969 to 2004, Republican presidents appointed 975 federal judges and Democrats appointed 615.

Despite all the whining about blocked confirmations of Bush’s federal court nominees, the Senate has confirmed 226, 88% of those put forward. The current vacancy rate in the federal court system is 2%, 28 judges, the lowest in 20 years. In the last six years of Bill Clinton’s terms, thanks to the machinations of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and others, 35% of the nominees were blocked.

How big a difference does it make? Plenty. Just one example. The non-partisan Environmental Law Institute studied the 325 cases brought in district and appellate courts under the National Environmental Policy Act from January 21, 2001, through June 30, 2004. Some excerpts from its report:

JUDGING NEPA: A “Hard Look” at Judicial Decision Making Under the National Environmental Policy Act

■ federal district court judges appointed by a Democratic president ruled in favor of environmental plaintiffs just under 60% of the time, while judges appointed by a Republican president ruled in their favor less than half as often – 28% of the time;

■ district judges appointed by President George W. Bush have an even less favorable attitude toward environmentalists’ NEPA suits, ruling in their favor only 17% of the time;

■ when industry or pro-development interests sue under NEPA, the results are almost exactly reversed: judges appointed under a Democratic administration rule in favor of pro-development plaintiffs 14% of the time, while Republican-appointed judges rule in favor of such plaintiffs almost 60% of the time.

An even more striking pattern can be discerned in the federal circuit courts, in which three-judge panels decide appeals from the district courts. Here, the study found that:

■ circuit court panels with a majority of judges appointed by a Democratic president (those with two or three such judges) ruled in favor of environmental plaintiffs 58% of the time.

■ In contrast, Republican-majority panels ruled in favor of environmental plaintiffs just 10% of the time – only one-sixth as often.

These results suggest that judges’ political affiliations often have a pronounced impact on their disposition of NEPA claims.This is especially significant given the federal judiciary’s central role in defining and enforcing NEPA’s obligations.The results call into question whether NEPA is meeting its core purpose of providing a transparent environmental impact assessment process that generates information about proposed federal actions regardless of which administration proposes them, who objects to them, or who hears any dispute about them.
Happily, we now have something far better going for us than ABB, a good candidate with an even chance of making another Bush a one-term president. Instead of merely holding the line, we can count on reversing the tide of rightwingery in the federal courts