Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Halliburton's Activities in Nigeria Frozen

Halliburton's Activities in Nigeria Frozen
Le Nouvel Observateur

Tuesday 21 September 2004

The authorities are accusing the American oil group's local subsidiary of negligence in the disappearance of two radioactive devices.
Nigeria prohibited the American oil services group Halliburton's local subsidiary from running public contracts and froze its current activities in the country, accusing it of negligence in the disappearance of two radioactive devices.

"The federal government has decided on an embargo against the activity of Halliburton Energy Services Nigeria Limited (HENSL) following negligence which led to the loss of two sources of radioactive ionization in Nigeria in 2002," indicated a presidential communiqué.

This communiqué refers to radiation emitting devices that allow oil well measurements to be taken.

Refusal to Cooperate

"Moreover, the company, among other infractions, has refused to cooperate with the governmental authorities to guarantee the return of these radiation sources to Nigeria and to find a solution to this affair," adds the text.

This embargo was approved by President Olusegun Obasanjo in person, his services' communiqué emphasized, offering the further particulars that all contracts concluded between HENSL and the ministries, government agencies and para-governmental agencies are frozen until further notice.

Halliburton, which is active in the oil and gas sectors in Nigeria, acknowledged at the beginning of the month that members of one of its Nigerian subsidiaries had "considered" bribing Nigerian officials, but had found no proof that those bribes were effected.

Halliburton, which up until 2000 was under the direction of present United States Vice President Dick Cheney, has opened an internal inquiry into the conditions under which a natural gas liquefaction plant was built in Nigeria by TSKJ, a company in which Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) holds a 25% participation.

KBR is associated in TSKJ with the French Technip group, the Japanese JGC Corporation, and Snamprogetti Netherlands, a subsidiary of the Italian oil group Eni. Each of these companies holds a 25% share of TSKJ.

The French and American Justice Departments as well as the American Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) have opened inquiries into this case.



The Charleston Gazette

Wednesday 22 September 2004

Bush’s war needs troops.
Alarm is spreading that President Bush may seek a military draft, or mobilize more of the National Guard and Army Reserve, to obtain enough combat troops to wage his bogged-down Iraq war.

Two bills pending in Congress would launch a new draft for all young Americans ages 18 to 26, both male and female, with no college exemption. Also, a new border agreement with Canada is designed to prevent young Americans from fleeing northward to elude the draft.

When Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards spoke in Parkersburg last week, he vowed: “There will be no draft when John Kerry is president.” His declaration drew a standing ovation from the crowd.

Meanwhile, President Bush, campaigning in Missouri, promised that there will be no draft. He said improving military pay, housing and medical care will attract enough recruits to supply the needed fighting forces.

However, Bush plans a sneaky “backdoor draft,” Democrats Kerry and Edwards allege. Speaking Friday in Albuquerque, Kerry said Bush secretly intends a major Guard and Reserve mobilization just after the Nov. 2 election. Kerry charged:

“He won’t tell us what congressional leaders are now saying: that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and Guard units immediately after the election. Hide it from the people, then make the move.”

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a Marine veteran of Vietnam, said Pentagon insiders told him of the mobilization plan. A White House spokesman ridiculed the allegation.

Amid all this wrangling, it’s overwhelmingly clear that Bush’s war is draining America of thousands of young people and billions of dollars — and the nation is forced to meet both needs.

Tragically, the war is a waste. There never was a necessity for it. Bush’s far-right political clique planned to attack Iraq, even before he attained the White House. The 9/11 terrorist strike provided a “cover” — a surge of patriotism that Bush manipulated into justification for war against Iraq. All his pretexts for the invasion turned out to be false.

Although he declared “Mission Accomplished” last year, the fighting grows constantly uglier and more expensive. More than 1,000 young Americans have been killed. Bush needs more and more replacements.

Before the Nov. 2 election, he should tell the American people candidly how many more young soldiers he plans to order into combat — and how he will obtain them.


Doing Nothing

Personal Solutions, Family Solutions
by John Taylor Gatto

“If you have no time for your family you want to ask yourself, 'Why must I always be do-ing something?' God made us human be-ings, not do-ings!”
heard over a car radio between Omaha and North Platte, Nebraska

“Do nothing. Time is too precious to waste,” said Buddha. If that sounds like nonsense stop reading now, but if you feel you've been conditioned like a laboratory rat by the pervasive propaganda of 20th century institutions like schools and banks and hospitals, read on. One quick way to tell if mechanism has invaded your living tissue is to consider how important lists are to your life. Home improvement lists, self-improvement lists, lists of meetings, appointments, responsibilities, things to remember? Does list management fill much of your time?

And does your social life consist of watching actors pretend to be real people or telling your friends what you bought, what you nearly bought, and what you are going to buy? If somewhere along the way your life has come to seem pointless, then read on as I tell you how Janet and I came to do nothing with our farm on purpose. It might help you understand what Buddha had on his mind.

Twenty-eight years ago, after six years of living in Manhattan – I from Pittsburgh and Janet from Oyster Bay – we bought 134 acres of land in rural New York State located midway between Ithaca where I'd gone to school and Cooperstown where the Baseball Hall of Fame is. The land was in Chenango County, in the southeastern corner of the Burned-Over District, an area of great spiritual ferment in the 19th century which had produced the Mormons, the Perfectionists, the Millerites, the incident that launched the Anti-Masonic Party, and a host of other individualistic, quirky movements that attest to how rich life can be in an a-systematic society.

I bought the land with a fellow schoolteacher, sight unseen, in a manner I'll explain in a moment. Chenango County was, is, and always will be, I think, lightly populated, a corn and cow/sheep land not fit for the attention of sophisticated tourists and real estate speculators.

The population of the nearest town to my farm is the same now as it was in 1905 and the whole county has about 50 inhabitants a square mile, about 1/6th less than it had in 1835 in the glory days of the Chenango Canal. Even in 1993 plenty of beautiful land was available there for $500 an acre or less, 90 minutes from Syracuse, two hours of Albany, four hours from New York City. I paid much less than that in 1968 when I acquired the property, about $48 an acre with a 7-year mortgage at 6 percent. That's probably the chief reason I bought the land unseen when I saw the ad in the real estate listings of the Sunday New York Times.

That particular Sunday I had been sitting with friends ranting and raving about how many great bargains are always available if you know what value is. I offered to prove the point on the real estate pages. “Just buy what no one else wants as long as you're sure that the reasons for not wanting it – dirt roads, no running water, things like that – are dumb.” Then I read:

Tumbling Waterfall Retreat 134 acres. 7 year mortgage. 6%. Old barn, pond sites, 5 miles from Oxford, New York. $6500.

The next day I picked up the phone, dialed the agent, and told him I'd wire the down payment that day, $500. If you know your own mind (which isn't a priority of schooling) you don't often need expert advice to make decisions because you are the only real expert on what you need and what you can live with. How did I know the land was any good? That's easy, any good for what? What should it be good for, to make money? I thought it ought to offer a private place away from machinery where you could do just about anything you wanted without interference and nosy neighbours. With a little long-distance research I knew it was good for that so I bought it without worrying. At $500 down and around $100 a month payments almost anyone could have bought that land if they weren't afraid.

What was to be afraid of? The taxes were about $300 a year and a nearby farmer paid $100 to cut off the hay. He paid us to cut our “grass”.

Wild land exists to put us smack in the middle of animal nature, creatures who regulate their lives in a different way than we do ours; it exists to teach seasons, fertility, and that there is no death, just endless translations from one form to another. Wild land gives you back the sky and the harmonies of the planet, but it charges an invisible price for what it has to give – you must leave it wild or it loses its power and becomes a green office.

By the time my wild land came along I was 32 and was just beginning to reach the stage in my own life where I could see that doing things the right way, rationalizing your time on the best principles of human engineering, and living your life from the prison chamber of your mind instead of your heart was a catastrophic mistake. I had already mutilated my family with too many rational decisions by that time and was slowly beginning to care.

The “life” part of life just won't engineer all the way unless you're willing to become a mechanism. All the rewards of the good life that can be counted, like money and titles and honours and complex property requiring expert advice to manage – the material things – were at the bottom disturbingly unrewarding. I hadn't always thought that way for I had gone to two Ivy League colleges specifically to accumulate material and display it as evidence of my worth. And I did that for a while but it left me feeling worthless. A great puzzle for many of us, that irony.

After I bought that land I forgot the lesson I'm trying to teach you – or rather Buddha is trying to teach you and me. For five years I raced about digging ponds, chopping trees, clearing paths, pulling rocks, unclogging channels, planting – always making lists, plans, agendas. I was always “improving” things. I loved to drive in the little towns of the county to shop and see movies and sit around bars pretending to be a country gentlemen, but regularly Janet would ask why we couldn't just stay on the land, why did we always have to be going and doing? At first it baffled me, but later as I reflected on it I understood that Janet was keeping score a different way and that intrigued me. Stay on the land and do what? Work, of course, to “improve” it, but then what?

One day after finishing some important project I made a list of all the things I had yet to do according to the Master Plan of my land ambition. There were 50 major projects remaining, and at two a year, which was all I could manage racing back and forth from New York City on weekends and summers, I would be 65 when they were done. According to my schedule I could begin enjoying my land 30 years down the line.

Something was dreadfully wrong. What was wrong was that I was a fool. Like so many of us I was a part in an abstract idea-machine called “progress”; like an accountant I measured success by the bottom line of things done, gotten out of the way, finished, terminated. That's how a computer might be set to keep track of work, but the pleasure of being lies in the process, not the mere product, primarily in “being” and only peripherally in “doing”. In the world we've fashioned built on our envy of machines we've arranged things to reverse the natural order of importance; somewhere deep down everyone understands this, but in avoiding the truth we assign ourselves a miserable destiny trying to be machines. Those who succeed best at this lead horrible lives regardless of appearances. Watching and being part of the natural world and understanding it is the great domestic challenge – without success at this we never have a home – what Nature can give it stops giving when it is over regulated, or exploited with ag-school technology and bulldozers.

We all need the wildness of the non-human planet to restore our spirits, not parks and beaches where the human element is still the central focus and regulation runs rampant. Instead we collect evidence of our domination by mapping it, scheduling it, and controlling it. And all that gives us is a green imitation of city life and square tomatoes.

So now I do nothing with my farm. I go there to let it teach me things. Sometimes I putter but not often because time is too precious to waste. The living quarters are in an old barn with “1906” drawn in the concrete on the milking floor. My original intention was to build a broad covered porch around the whole structure and arrange the inside like a private cathedral with a 50-foot ceiling. Still not a bad idea but now, 27 years later, it remains a barn and that turned out to be a better idea.

There's about 1,200 square feet of open space on the hay floor and way up in the air against the roof is a 20x20 insulated room reached by climbing three banks of wooden straps. Kenny, who was the boyfriend of one of my college students, built the room, roofed and refloored the barn, in exchange for 5 acres of land. Good deal all around.

But much of the time we don't use the insulated room, instead sleeping in the two lovely old beds under the lofty roof with mice racing about the rafters in plain view (not too many), bats squeaking in the eaves, barn swallows twittering, and the most amazing light pouring through inch-wide spaces between the vertical wall boards.

It's very much like living in a bird house. We draw water from a gorge a half-mile away which probably should have been tested but never was; drinking hundreds of gallons, at first tentatively, then with delight, was the test. No water ever tasted like our gorge water run over rocks; I've come to see that participating with the water you drink is a wonderful way to feel good; it took some time to get used to the walk back and forth and to clear away the machined notion that time was somehow being wasted.

Bathing is out of a bucket or in pools and ponds, and the toilet is wherever you are with the details varying according to the person and a proper respect for such things. On Manhattan's famous Upper West Side we have three bathrooms but they give us no better results. In over a quarter-century I can honestly say we never missed running water or plumbing, and the transition from both was effected almost at once. That was surprising, how close to the surface our human good sense is, in spite of all the conditioning and mechanical overlay.

Our barn holds about 3,000 books which must fend for themselves in all seasons housed in many makeshift facilities. All were bought at country auctions for a dollar or two a box, lots of 19th century evangelical stuff, hand-coloured children's books, Crime Club thrillers, whatever – when you read in a barn it's like discovering reading all over again. It's the greatest fun, far beyond television, movies and Broadway shows; having had both over a reasonably long lifetime I feel I can say that honestly.

The main activity on our farm is keeping animals, as it is on many farms, but the difference is we don't own any of them, and they feed themselves. Deer are so plentiful they are a daily experience, snorting, playing like young dogs, hanging out; wild turkey are common, too, and at night they flock by the squadron in the gorge behind the barn; snakes abound but no one has ever been bitten, skunks, turtles, racoons, coyote, fox, mink, one bear, and a large colony of blue herons that land on the pond and fish like pterodactyls off our half-sunken dock. The bear moved in on the stream at the foot of the hill last year. Live and let live works better than regulation; it's nice to have a bear around.

The most unbelievable creatures of all are the night moths. Janet discovered these one night just outside the barn flying in the half-light; their shapes and colors are so divorced from any normal insect life I'm familiar with. I felt transported into a prehistory when the world was new just watching them.

When I used to schoolteach, my kids and I would discuss style a lot, getting a style of your own and how that must be done. I gradually came to feel it was very difficult unless you were alone a lot, had time and space to yourself, were free of the need to attend other people's urgencies all the time – or the urgencies of a commercial world. How can you expect to be unique if every minute you draw models from other people and the shadows of other people drawn from television? How can the unique destiny that is in every one of us exercise itself if you always submit to the scrutiny and judgment of authorities? Authorities on what? Certainly not on you unless you have been diminished into something predictable, tamed by regulation, simplification, and rationalization. A steady diet of that will waste all your time.

Compelling evidence exists that we are meant to be unique individuals who live in harmony with other unique individuals: think of the harmony of snow falling, but the brilliant oneness of each snowflake; think of the harmony of beach sand, but the brilliant oneness of each sandgrain; think of the harmony of a field of grass, but the brilliant oneness of each blade in shape, and even hue. Are we that way, too? Consider your own fingerprint, unlike any on earth, your unique signature – can you think of a reason for evolution to produce such a signal unless the organism is one of a kind? And if you think of God instead of evolution it will be even easier to deduce a purpose in all of this. If people are inherently sortable into a few categories – as industrial civilization makes them out to be – then the fingerprint is a crazy detail, it only makes sense as a guide to the individual experiment that each of us is.

As Buddha said, time is too precious to waste doing much of anything. I'm still learning what that means, but I never might have known about this at all if I hadn't bought a big piece of wild, unregulated scrub land and left it that way. I hope my children's children leave it that way, too, if circumstances allow them to inherit it. I learned just to be from watching sunfish in the pond, birds taking dust baths on the dirt road, frogs watching me as I watched them. Janet once said, “Hey, look at us, we're watching the birds, not just `bird watching'.” It's an important difference.

Of course we do things, too: we eat lots of wild foods that we used to call weeds, we dig up blueberry bushes for gifts, build bonfires at night, transplant wild flowers, stuff like that. I finally figured out why real farms are often messy looking around the buildings, when you kick over something unimportant it doesn't need to be picked up right away, and nothing should ever be thrown away that might be useful tomorrow.

In the time we won back decontrolling our reflexes we came to learn to manage our spirits better; it's impossible to live this way without coming to love nearly everything, and feeling an obligation to it, too. We have a laboratory of nature stretched out daily for our understanding, not our exploitation. The greatest use of wild places isn't in “using” them but just in being there.

Personal solutions exist. Out of personal solutions great solutions can be put together. The one I've described just now is within reach – wild land, the less road-accessible and “improved” the better, is available in abundance within an easy drive of every metropolitan area in North America, much more so today than it was a hundred years ago. Get some as soon as you can, the wilder and scruffier the better. Then do nothing. It will be your school. And it might become your home.

I wish I might have been brought up to live in productive harmony with the land, but lacking that I'm grateful to have discovered the next best thing, to accept stewardship of it until someone better suited to live upon it self-sufficiently comes along.

John Taylor Gatto won Teacher of the Year awards for New York City and New York State in the early 1990s. He is the author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.

We're Being Scared to Death

We're Being Scared to Death
By David Ropeik
David Ropeik is director of risk communication at Harvard University's Center for Risk Analysis.

September 22, 2004

Iwonder whether the politicians who are using fear to get themselves elected would stop if they knew the harm they may be doing to people's health. Real physical harm. Making people sick. Perhaps even killing them. Not intentionally, of course, or knowingly. But this kind of "be afraid" message does more than encourage people to think that you are the candidate who will make them safe. It creates stress and may be at least as much of a threat to public health as terrorism itself.

The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute found that, in the period of October through December 2001, about 1,000 more Americans died in motor vehicle crashes than during the same period the year before. Why? Fear of flying certainly played a big role. Though that fear wasn't something created by the government, it demonstrates that when people are afraid, they make choices like driving instead of flying that make them feel safer, even though such choices raise their risk.

Here's another example. Around the 2002 July Fourth holiday — the first post-9/11 national birthday celebration — government warnings suggested an increased likelihood of terrorism. FBI records indicate that requests for handgun purchases in the latter part of June were one-third higher than average. Own a gun if you choose, but let's be honest. The likelihood that a gun will protect you from a terrorist attack is pretty low. But having a gun around does increase the chance of an accident.

Remember when anthrax was in the mail? Tens of thousands of us took antibiotics prophylactically. That made us feel safer, but taking such drugs in advance doesn't do much good — it just helps drug-resistant strains of bacteria proliferate.

And then there are the insidious effects of persistently elevated stress. Chronically elevated stress weakens our immune system. It is associated with long-term damage to our cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems. It impairs formation of new bone cells, reduces fertility and contributes to clinical depression.

Making people afraid threatens their health. Are we stressed more than normal? A poll by the National Mental Health Assn. about the psychological effects of 9/11 (released in January of 2004) found that 49% of Americans described themselves as worried, 41% described themselves as afraid, 8% said they were more often emotionally upset for no apparent reason and 7% were having trouble sleeping. In New York City, evidence suggests increased drug and alcohol abuse and smoking in the three years since the Sept. 11 attacks.

It is hard to estimate how much harm has been caused by all this anxiety. The increased death toll on the roads in late 2001 alone is more than a third of the total number of victims on 9/11. It is entirely plausible to suggest that, because of our fears, as many people have been harmed, and maybe even died prematurely, as died on that awful day.

It's simplistic and overly cynical to say that every government communication about terrorism, such as raising the alert level or announcing an arrest, is political. There are thousands of government workers earnestly trying to protect us. But politicians of both parties who use fear to manipulate our votes contribute to the very harm from which they say they are trying to protect us.

About 75% of Americans say the aim of terrorism is "to create distress and fear." Isn't that just what Vice President Dick Cheney's outrageous recent statements tried to do? Isn't that the potential effect of Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's often excessively alarmist language? Isn't that what happened when Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge credited President Bush for success in the war on terror while raising the alert level last month? And surely Howard Dean's shamelessly political statements after the alert level was raised had a similar effect.

Public health is at stake. And not just mental health. Our physical well-being is on the line here. People are being harmed as politicians frighten us to curry our votes. It is fair to demand that they stop, and we should hold them accountable at the polls if they don't.


Still Unreported: The Pay-off in Bush Air Guard Fix

Wednesday, September 15, 2004
by Greg Palast

In 1968, former Congressman George Herbert Walker Bush of Texas, fresh from voting to send other men’s sons to Vietnam, enlisted his own son in a very special affirmative action program, the ‘champagne’ unit of the Texas Air National Guard. There, Top Gun fighter pilot George Dubya was assigned the dangerous job of protecting Houston from Vietcong air attack.

This week, former Lt. Governor Ben Barnes of Texas 'fessed up to pulling the strings to keep Little George out of the jungle. "I got a young man named George W. Bush into the Texas Air Guard - and I'm ashamed."


That’s far from the end of the story. In 1994, George W. Bush was elected governor of Texas by a whisker. By that time, Barnes had left office to become a big time corporate lobbyist. To an influence peddler like Barnes, having damning information on a sitting governor is worth its weight in gold – or, more precisely, there’s a value in keeping the info secret.

Barnes appears to have made lucrative use of his knowledge of our President’s slithering out of the draft as a lever to protect a multi-billion dollar contract for a client. That's the information in a confidential letter buried deep in the files of the US Justice Department that fell into my hands at BBC television.

Here's what happened. Just after Bush's election, Barnes' client GTech Corp., due to allegations of corruption, was about to lose its license to print money: its contract to run the Texas state lottery. Barnes, says the Justice Department document, made a call to the newly elected governor's office and saved GTech's state contract.

The letter said, "Governor Bush ... made a deal with Ben Barnes not to rebid [the GTech lottery contract] because Barnes could confirm that Bush had lied during the '94 campaign."

In that close race, Bush denied the fix was in to keep him out of 'Nam, and the US media stopped asking questions. What did the victorious Governor Bush's office do for Barnes? According to the tipster, "Barnes agreed never to confirm the story [of the draft dodging] and the governor talked to the chair of the lottery two days later and she then agreed to support letting GTech keep the contract without a bid."

And so it came to pass that the governor's commission reversed itself and gave GTech the billion dollar deal without a bid.

The happy client paid Barnes, the keeper of Governor Bush’s secret, a fee of over $23 million. Barnes, not surprisingly, denies that Bush took care of his client in return for Barnes’ silence. However, confronted with the evidence, the former Lt. Governor now admits to helping the young George stay out of Vietnam.

Take a look at the letter yourself - with information we confirmed with other sources - at

The accusation is consistent with the known facts ... and it fingered Barnes before his corroborating confession. The information was confirmed to me when I first ran the story -- 60 Minutes take note -- five years ago in the Guardian.

Let's assume the accuser is wrong; Barnes never called. Even so, we have, at the least, something just as ugly: a Bush pay-back for favors done. Barnes scratches George's yellow-streaked back; George's Adminstration uses public funds on a stinky no-bid contract which enriches Barnes. This pattern of Governor, then President, Bush finding ways to pay back allies, donors, business partners and political helpers continues a family tradition. Pay-off or pay-back, it's darn disturbing.

And frankly, I don’t care if President Bush cowered and ran from Vietnam. I sure as hell didn’t volunteer … but then, my daddy didn’t send someone else in my place. And I don’t march around aircraft carriers with parachute clips around my gonads talking about war and sacrifice.

More important, I haven't made any pay-outs to reward the silence of those who could change my image from war hero to war zero.

"Time Warner Won't Let Us Air This"

By the way: I first reported this story in 1999, including the evidence of payback, in The Observer of London. US media closed its eyes. Then I put the story on British television last year in the one-hour report, "Bush Family Fortunes." American networks turned down BBC's offer to run it in the USA. "Wonderful film," one executive told me, "but Time Warner is not going to let us put this on the air." However, US networks will take cash for advertisements calling Kerry a Vietnam coward.

The good news is, until Patriot Act 3 kicks in, they can't stop us selling the film to you directly. The updated version of "Bush Family Fortunes," with the full story you still can't see on your boob tube, will be released next month in DVD. See a preview at

See a segment from the film regarding the Draft Dodge

For more on our president’s war years and the $23 million payment, read this excerpt from the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

Subscribe to Greg Palast's reports at

True Conservatives Would Back Kerry


Robert Scheer

September 21, 2004

If they were true to their principles, moderate Republicans and consistent conservatives would be supporting John Kerry. Instead, their acquiescence to the reckless whims of George W. Bush marks a descent into that political abyss of opportunism where partisanship is everything and principle nothing.

How else to explain their cynical support for this shallow adventurer, a phony lightweight who has bled the Treasury dry while incompetently squandering the lives of young Americans in a needless imperial campaign? If Al Gore had been knighted president by the Supreme Court and overseen this mess instead of Dubya, the rational remnant of the Republican Party would be rightly calling for his head.

Instead, a century's worth of conservative ideals are tossed out the window for political expediency. Soaring budget deficits suddenly don't matter, and not a tear is shed for the wasted surplus accumulated during Bill Clinton's tenure. Despite two huge tax cuts for the super-rich, Bush turns out to be a big believer in that old GOP boogeyman, Big Government. An equal-opportunity spendthrift, he throws billions into the sinkhole of Iraq as easily as he doles out corporate handouts.

In the newspapers we read about American mothers and fathers working in deadly Iraq as drivers and security guards because they can't find work at home. More than a million jobs have been lost since the end of the prosperous Clinton era, while real wages are stagnant. The rich have enjoyed unprecedented tax breaks even as the middle class has eroded and millions have fallen below the poverty line.

Healthcare costs are spiraling, nothing has been done to shore up Social Security and Medicare against the impending flood of retiring baby boomers, and the number of those without medical insurance is a national embarrassment — though perhaps not to the former governor of Texas, a state that far and away leads the country in this disquieting statistic.

Bush's startling inattention to our serious problems is explained away by reference to the new burden of the war on terror. How odd, then, to note that it was Bush's preoccupation with Iraq both before and after 9/11 that has left us so vulnerable to Muslim hatred and terrorist attacks. Before Sept. 11, 2001, ignored warnings and flaccid response; afterward, a campaign of lies to justify a military occupation at the Muslim world's heart.

Instead of making the U.S. safer, the hasty and unilateral dive into the Iraq quagmire shredded the post-9/11 international unity of purpose indispensable to any serious effort to root out terrorism.

But don't take my word for it: That the occupation of Iraq is a festering disaster was finally acknowledged by some Republican senators on Sunday's talk shows in the wake of the latest depressing prognostications of U.S. intelligence agencies.

"The fact is, we're in deep trouble in Iraq," Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) conceded. "We made serious mistakes," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blamed the glaring failures in Iraq on "the incompetence in the administration."

Unfortunately, the solution offered by these Republican critics was an escalation of the U.S. military effort, the root cause of the rising anti-U.S. nationalism in Iraq that is crossing ethnic, religious and regional lines. A true conservative would heed George Washington's warning to avoid such foreign entanglements. This is why in 2000, candidate Bush, pretending to be conservative, said he was against "nation-building." Now, led by radical ideologues way outside the conservative mainstream, he's got us trying to build two nations — and failing — with many in his administration hoping to take on a few more in a second term. Talk about flip-flopping.

On Monday, Kerry made his strongest case yet that Bush was leading us dangerously astray. "Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight," Kerry said, calling Iraq a "profound diversion" from the war on terror. "The satisfaction we take in [Saddam Hussein's] downfall does not hide this fact: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."

Kerry has now framed the debate we need to have concerning American priorities. And in their hearts, responsible Republicans and independents must now realize that Kerry is right.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at

Article licensing and reprint options

Cash-Strapped Pentagon Taps Emergency Fund


A $25-billion account was to have been an 'insurance policy' unneeded this year. But insurgents in Iraq changed the equation.
By John Hendren
Times Staff Writer

September 22, 2004

WASHINGTON — A relentless insurgency in Iraq has prompted the Pentagon to begin spending money from a $25-billion emergency fund that Bush administration officials had once said would not be needed this fiscal year, officials said Tuesday.

Unable to tap into regular 2005 funding until the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, the Pentagon has already spent more than $2 billion from the emergency fund.

President Bush requested the emergency funds from Congress in May to pay for a war that is longer and more violent than he and his Pentagon strategists had predicted. The money will help pay for equipment for troops heading to Iraq this fall.

The need to dip into the fund, which also covers the war in Afghanistan, highlights the intensity of an Iraqi insurgency that has virtually wrested control of several cities — most notably the western Sunni Triangle hotbed of Fallouja and the northern city of Samarra — from 135,000 American troops and allied forces still operating in Iraq.

"It shows the pace of operations is far greater than anticipated," said Stanley E. Collender, a former House and Senate budget analyst and now general manager of Financial Dynamics, a business communications firm in Washington.

"The cost is much greater than expected. All of the early estimates were based on the idea that we'd get in and out quickly, and that hasn't happened."

Although Army and Marine officials warned Congress in February of a looming funding shortfall, administration officials at that time said they would not need additional money for Iraq and Afghanistan this year.

In May, however, the administration sought the $25-billion emergency fund — calling it an "insurance policy" that probably would not be needed.

Overriding an administration request that the money be available beginning Oct. 1, Congress made the funds accessible immediately.

The war in Iraq is costing about $4.4 billion a month and reached a total of $86.2 billion as of June, according to Pentagon figures.

If the additional funds were not available this month, the armed services either would have to cut other programs to shift money to the war or face the prospect of new troops going to battle without sufficient body armor, armored Humvees and other protective gear. That, administration officials insist, will not happen.

"The president said that our troops in the field are going to have what they need when they need it, and the Department of Defense is using the resources Congress provided to ensure that they'll have the equipment they need this fall," said Chad Kolton, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The announcement follows the Bush administration's move early this month to seek congressional approval for diverting $3.3 billion earmarked for reconstruction of Iraq's infrastructure into programs focused mainly on establishing law and order by shoring up Iraqi security forces.

The disclosure that the continuing insurgency has forced the administration to turn to the emergency fund to cover spending on security poses a potential embarrassment as Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi arrived in the United States on Tuesday and met with Bush and members of the United Nations in New York.

Allawi plans to address Congress on Thursday.

The military spending shortfalls have fueled recent bipartisan criticism of the administration's war spending strategy on Capitol Hill since Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker warned in February that a shortfall would force the Army to shift money from other current and future projects to cover the funding gap.

The administration has insisted on funding much of the war through emergency spending bills, a move that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized in February, saying that it "deceives the American people about the size of the deficit and the debt that we are incurring."

The administration originally asked for $87 billion in emergency spending in 2003 for the fiscal year that will end next week, but a report by the congressional Government Accountability Office in July said the Pentagon would face a $12.3-billion shortfall in war expenses by the end of September.

Congress approved the extra $25 billion as spending for fiscal 2005, but made it available for immediate use.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at

Unanchored in Turbulent Time

Portrait of George Bush in '72:
By Sara Rimer
The New York Times

Monday 20 September 2004

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Nineteen seventy-two was the year George W. Bush dropped off the radar screen.

He abandoned his once-prized status as a National Guard pilot by failing to appear for a required physical. He sought temporary reassignment from the Texas Air National Guard to an Alabama unit but for six months did not show up for training. He signed on as an official in the losing campaign of a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, and even there he left few impressions other than as an amiable bachelor with a good tennis game and a famous father.

"To say he brought in a bunch of initiatives and bright ideas," said a fellow campaign worker, Devere McLennan, "no he didn't."

This year of inconsequence has grown increasingly consequential for President Bush because of persistent, unanswered questions about his National Guard service - why he failed to take his pilot's physical and whether he fulfilled his commitment to the Guard. If anything, those issues became still murkier this past week, with the controversy over the authenticity of four documents disclosed by CBS News and its program "60 Minutes" purporting to shed light on that Guard record.

Still, a wider examination of his life in 1972, based on dozens of interviews and other documents released by the White House over the years, yields a portrait of a young man like many other young men of privilege in that turbulent time - entitled, unanchored and safe from combat, bouncing from a National Guard slot made possible by his family's prominence to a political job arranged through his father.

In a speech on Tuesday at a National Guard convention, Mr. Bush said he was "proud to be one of them," and in his autobiography he writes that his service taught him respect for the chain of command. But a review of records shows that not only did he miss months of duty in 1972, but that he also may have been improperly awarded credit for service, making possible an early honorable discharge so he could turn his attention to a new interest: Harvard Business School.

Mr. Bush, nearly 26, went to Alabama in mid-May 1972 to work on the campaign of Winton M. Blount, a construction magnate known as Red who was a friend of Mr. Bush's father. The Democratic opponent was Senator John J. Sparkman, chairman of the Senate banking committee, a legendary power in what was still a solidly Democratic South.

Mr. Bush, while missing months of the Guard duty that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, was the political director of the Blount campaign, which accused Mr. Sparkman - a hawk on the war - and the national Democrats of supporting "amnesty for all draft dodgers" and of showing "more concern for coddling deserters than for patriotic American young men who have lost their lives in Vietnam." In the last week of the race, the Blount campaign ran a radio advertisement using an edited recording of Mr. Sparkman that made him appear to support forced busing of schoolchildren, which he opposed.

Although campaign records list Mr. Bush as third in command, people who worked in the race said he was not involved in those tactics or with the overall agenda. Mr. Bush's connection was Jimmy Allison, a political operative from Midland, Tex., who was running the campaign and was a close friend of George H. W. Bush, having managed the elder Mr. Bush's 1966 Congressional victory in Houston.

Mr. Allison's widow, Linda, who volunteered in the Blount campaign, said she became curious about the young Mr. Bush's job after noticing his coming into the office late and leaving early.

"I asked Jimmy, 'What does Georgie do?' '' Mrs. Allison, 73, said in an interview, repeating the account she had given to Salon, the online publication. "He just said George had called him and told him that Georgie was having some difficulties in Houston. Big George thought it would be beneficial to the family and George Jr. for him to come to Alabama to work on the campaign with Jimmy."

Wandering Pleasure-Seeker

In Houston, nearly five years out of Yale, Mr. Bush had been adrift, without a career or even a long-running job. He had been rejected by the University of Texas law school and had briefly considered, then abandoned, a run for the Texas Legislature. Acquaintances recall him tooling around town in his Triumph sports car, partying with a crowd of well-to-do singles.

His jobs had mostly come through family ties, and in 1971 he was hired as a management trainee at Stratford of Texas, an agricultural and horticultural conglomerate owned by a Bush family friend, Robert H. Gow. Mr. Bush's immediate supervisor, Peter Knudtzon, then Stratford's executive vice president, recalls him as a smart, dutiful worker who, while lacking direction, was keenly interested in the process of politics - "how people get elected, where the power is."

Every so often, he would take off work to fly with the National Guard. His entree to the Guard had come through Ben Barnes, then the lieutenant governor of Texas, who has said that he helped get Mr. Bush, among other well-connected young men, a slot at the request of a Bush family friend. When Mr. Bush applied, in 1968, one of the forms he filled out asked if he would volunteer for overseas duty; he checked "I 'do not' volunteer for overseas."

And he got off to a splashy start. After basic training and a year at flight school in Georgia, he was assigned to Ellington Air Force Base outside Houston, where he flew F-102 fighter jets. In March 1970, with his father, himself a World War II Navy pilot, in Congress, the Texas Air National Guard issued a news release announcing that the young Mr. Bush "doesn't get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed," but from "the roaring afterburner of the F-102." As he wrote in his autobiography, "It was exciting the first time I flew, and it was exciting the last time." In a November 1970 evaluation, his squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, called him a "top-notch" pilot and a "natural leader."

By 1972, though, something had changed; the excitement seemed to have waned. Mr. Bush's flying buddy from Ellington, Dean Roome, said Mr. Bush may have been frustrated because the unit's growing role as a training school left young pilots fewer opportunities to log hours in the air. Others who knew him believe he simply lost interest. He was once again at loose ends, without a regular job, having left Stratford after a year or so, unhappy in the company's buttoned-down atmosphere.

Whatever precisely was drawing Mr. Bush away from flying, it was then, in the spring of 1972, that the Alabama job came along. He had worked for Jimmy Allison before - on a 1968 Senate campaign in Florida - but this would be his first full-time job in the family business, politics.

Still, there was the matter of his commitment to the Guard. Moving to Alabama meant taking a temporary leave from his Texas unit; Guard officials say it was not unusual for civilian officers to take jobs away from their home states. Mr. Bush did not wait to line up a spot with an Alabama unit before arriving in Montgomery in mid-May.

Mr. Bush first tried to join the 9921 Air Reserve Squadron in Montgomery, which was classified as a "standby reserve unit." Unlike his unit in Texas, the Alabama unit had no planes and its members were neither paid nor required to attend monthly drills.

In July, though, senior Guard officials rejected Mr. Bush's transfer, saying he had to continue with a "ready reserve unit," which requires monthly attendance. In that same period - the precise timing is not clear - he did something that brought his dwindling flying ambitions to a close: he failed to take the annual physical exam required of all pilots.

In his 1999 book, "A Charge to Keep," Mr. Bush did not mention the missed physical or the suspension. "I was almost finished with my commitment in the Air National Guard," he wrote, "and was no longer flying because the F-102 jet I had trained in was being replaced by a different fighter." In fact, when he missed his physical he had almost two years left in the Guard.

Later, an aide to Mr. Bush explained that he had missed his physical because he was waiting to get examined by his personal physician. But pilots were required to be examined by military doctors.

More recently the White House has said that he did not take the physical because Alabama units were not flying the F-102. But his second application to transfer to Alabama - after the rejected transfer in July - was filed in September 1972, at least two months after he had missed his physical.

Whatever the reason, on Sept. 5, Mr. Bush was notified that he was suspended from flying "for failure to accomplish annual medical examination."

By that time, still without an Alabama unit, he had not attended a required monthly drill for almost five months, according to records released by the White House. Under the law at the time, he could have been sent to Vietnam. But in the relatively relaxed world of the Guard, and with hardly anyone being called up for active duty anymore, officials took no action. He was free to stay in Montgomery and work on the Blount campaign.

Richard Nelson, who had been Mr. Blount's political director, remembers briefing Mr. Bush when he arrived in town. "He was a bright young man," Mr. Nelson recalled. "I knew who his father was."

The months in Montgomery were part of what Mr. Bush has described as his "nomadic" years, when he "kind of floated and saw a lot of life." No one remembers him worrying about his Guard status - or, for that matter, much of anything else. He worked the phones in the Montgomery office and drove around the state meeting with county chairmen. He played tennis at Winton Blount's mansion and partied with the other young campaign workers at watering holes like the Top of the Star, at the Montgomery Holiday Inn.

Kay Blount Pace, 52, the candidate's daughter, said Mr. Bush did not act like the son of the man who was then the United States ambassador to the United Nations. "This was just Joe Blow - cute, fun George Bush, who fit in with the campaign," Ms. Pace said.

Murphy Archibald, a nephew of Winton Blount's, remembers Mr. Bush rolling into the office at noon and joking about how much he had had to drink the night before.

"I found him to be far younger than his age," recalled Mr. Archibald, a Democrat in Charlotte, N.C., who had gone to Vietnam in 1968.

One way or another, Vietnam ran through the lives of the young campaign workers in Montgomery. Devere McLennan said he figured he got lucky when, after enlisting in the Marines, he washed out of Quantico with a bad back. Another campaign worker, Emily Marks, had a college boyfriend who had been killed by a land mine in Vietnam a couple of years before. In 1972, Ms. Marks, the daughter of an old Montgomery family, was dating George Bush, and she remembers that he was in the Guard but could offer no detailed recollections. "A lot of people were doing Guard duty," she said in an interview.

That September, grounded from flying but still obligated to his Guard service, he wrote to his Texas squadron commander, Colonel Killian, asking for permission to perform his monthly drills with the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery for September, October and November, according to documents released by the White House.

"We told him that was O.K. with us," said Bobby W. Hodges, then a commander in the Texas Guard. He was told he would have to do drills there, Mr. Hodges added. "He may or may not have done it. I don't know."

Payroll records released by the White House show that in addition to being paid for attending a drill in Alabama the last weekend in October, Mr. Bush was also paid for a weekend drill after the Blount election, on Nov. 11 and 12, and for meetings on Nov. 13 and 14.

But there are no records from the 187th indicating that Mr. Bush, in fact, appeared on those days in October and November, and more than a dozen members of the unit from that era say they never saw him. The White House said last week that there were no records from the Alabama unit because Mr. Bush was still officially part of the Texas Guard. But Mr. Hodges, the former Texas commander, said the 187th "should have a record of his drills."

Mr. Bush's former campaign colleagues remember being aware that he had some relationship with the Guard. Mr. McLennan recalled going with Mr. Bush to the dry cleaner to pick up his Guard uniforms. Joe Holcombe, who managed the Montgomery office, remembers Mr. Bush missing a meeting at the candidate's house.

"Jimmy said, 'He's with the Guard,' '' Mr. Holcombe said.

A Fight Between Hawks

That fall, political observers were predicting a big victory for the incumbent, but the Blount campaign fought hard.

Although both candidates were hawks in a fiercely pro-military state, Mr. Blount tried to align his opponent with George McGovern, the Democratic Party's antiwar presidential candidate. Then, a few days before the election, the Blount campaign broadcast a radio commercial in which Mr. Sparkman, a staunch segregationist, was heard saying "busing is all right."

According to an account in The Birmingham News, the Blount campaign had produced the commercial by deleting part of Mr. Sparkman's lengthy answer to a question about busing during a radio interview, and switching a question and answer on the subject. The Blount campaign maintained at the time that the interview had simply been compressed for time's sake, but the Sparkman campaign said the tape was doctored to inject racial innuendo. Blount campaign workers say these tough tactics had the mark of Mr. Allison.

Mr. Bush's own retelling of the Blount campaign leaves out any negative aspects. He described Mr. Allison, who died in 1978, as "a wonderful friend" and "a mentor in a way." He wrote that "I witnessed firsthand the effects of populist campaigning." Gov. George Wallace, who was shot that spring, taped a radio commercial for Mr. Sparkman casting Mr. Blount as an elitist multimillionaire who lived in a mansion with 26 bathrooms.

Winton Blount lost in a landslide. "A good man went down to defeat," Mr. Bush wrote.

A Return to Houston

After the election, Mr. Bush returned to Houston, moving out of his small rented bungalow in Montgomery. He left the place a mess, with a broken light fixture and piles of debris, according to Mary Smith, whose husband was the bungalow's caretaker. Ms. Smith said her husband, who has since died, sent Mr. Bush a bill for professional cleaning but never heard back.

By January 1973, Mr. Bush had a new job, with an inner-city youth program organized by John L. White, a former professional football player who knew his father. And he continued his erratic relationship with the National Guard, where he had 18 months left of his six-year commitment.

A review of records raises questions about whether he was properly credited for his service. Documents released by the White House show that he was paid for drills in January, April and several days in early May 1973. These drills were in Alabama, the White House said, and his old friend Emily Marks, now Emily Marks Curtis, said she remembered Mr. Bush returning to Montgomery for Guard duty.

But Mr. Bush had been authorized to drill in Alabama only from September through November 1972.

By the summer of 1973, Mr. Bush had decided to go to Harvard Business School. According to documents released by the White House, he wanted an early discharge from the Guard but did not have enough service points for 1972 and 1973, since he had missed months of training. Guardsmen were required to earn 48 points each fiscal year, or four points for each weekend drill every month.

Although missed drills can be made up, regulations at the time said it had to be done within 30 days and in the same fiscal year. As the time for his early discharge neared, Mr. Bush was lacking enough points; according to records for July 1973, he attended drills on 18 days that month.

When questions arose about Mr. Bush's Guard service, the White House asked a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Albert C. Lloyd Jr., to review his record. In a memorandum released by the White House in February, Mr. Lloyd wrote that from May 1973 through May 1974, Mr. Bush accumulated 35 training points and 15 points for being a Guard member "for a total of 56 points.'' It is not clear how Mr. Lloyd came up with 56, instead of 50. Another military document released by the White House indicates that Mr. Bush had earned only 38 points from May 1973 until his discharge that October.

A retired Army colonel, Gerald A. Lechliter, who has prepared an extensive analysis of Mr. Bush's National Guard record, described Mr. Lloyd's memorandum as "seemingly an attempt to whitewash Bush's record." Mr. Lloyd declined comment last week.

Mr. Lechliter, who describes himself as a political independent, also said that Mr. Bush was not entitled to 20 credits he received from Nov. 13, 1972, until July 19, 1973, because the service was being made up improperly.

Mr. Lechliter also said that Mr. Bush should not have been paid for these sessions. "That would appear to be a fraud," he said in an interview last week.

However the points added up, on Oct. 1, 1973, Mr. Bush was awarded an honorable discharge. By that time he was already at Harvard.


Arrests at GOP Convention are Criticized

By Michael Powell and Michelle Garcia
Washington Post

Monday 20 September 2004

Many in N.Y. released without facing charges.
New York - One late August evening, Alexander Pincus pedaled his bicycle to the Second Avenue Deli to buy matzo ball soup, a pastrami-on-rye and potato latkes for his sweetheart, who was sick with a cold.

He would not return for 28 hours. As Pincus and a friend left the deli, they inadvertently walked into a police blockade and sweep of bicycle-riding protesters two days before the Republican National Convention began. "I asked an officer how I could get home," Pincus recalled. "He said, 'Follow me,' and we went a few feet and cops grabbed us. They handcuffed us and made us kneel for an hour."

Police carted Pincus to a holding cell topped with razor wire and held him for 25 hours without access to a lawyer. The floor was a soup of oil and soot, he said, and the cell had so few portable toilets that some people relieved themselves in the corner. Pincus said a shoulder was dislocated as police pulled back his arms to handcuff him. "Cops kept saying to us, 'This is what you get for protesting,' " said Pincus, whose account of his arrest is supported in part by deli workers and a time-stamped food receipt.

Pincus was one of 1,821 people arrested in police sweeps before and during the Republican convention, the largest number of arrests associated with any American major-party convention. At the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968, which unlike New York's was marked by widespread police brutality, cops made fewer than 700 arrests.

In the days after the convention, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly stated that "every NYPD officer did a great job." But interviews with state court officials, City Council representatives, prosecutors, protesters and civil libertarians - and a review of videos of demonstrations - point to many problems with the police performance. Officers often sealed off streets with orange netting and used motor scooters and horses to sweep up hundreds of protesters at a time, including many who appear to have broken no laws. In two cases, police commanders appeared to allow marches to proceed, only to order many arrests minutes later.

Most of those arrested were held for more than two days without being arraigned, which a state Supreme Court judge ruled was a violation of legal guidelines. Defense attorneys predict a flood of civil lawsuits once protesters have settled the misdemeanor charges lodged against them.

"The overriding problem during the convention was the indiscriminate arrests . . . of people who did nothing wrong," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said at a City Council hearing last week. "They were arrested because they were . . . participating in a lawful demonstration."

Police officials declined to talk about these problems last week, citing a pending court case. But the city's criminal justice coordinator, John Feinblatt, said in an interview that city lawyers tried to weed out the unjustly arrested and that the volume of arrests - more than 1,100 on one day - overwhelmed the police department. More broadly, Bloomberg and Kelly defended the vast majority of the arrests as justified and described holding cells as clean and humane.

Bloomberg, in interviews during convention week, said that protesters expected prisons to look like "Club Med." Kelly said police encountered other delays as they tried to find separate cells for a large number of female detainees.

The first mass arrests came three days before the Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 convention, when police swooped down on Critical Mass, a loosely knit collective of bicyclists who periodically flood city streets and slow traffic. Police usually tolerate the disruption, but that night officers arrested more than 200. Kelly told New York magazine that he wanted to send protesters a message.

The next few days were quiet, and a quarter-million-strong march went forward Aug. 29 without incident.

But the mood changed Aug. 31, when police made 1,128 arrests. Anarchists had pledged a day of resistance, blocking traffic. Police arrested hundreds, and civil liberties lawyers on the scene described most arrests as lawful.

But farther downtown on the same day, the War Resisters League, a decades-old pacifist group, was readying a peaceful march from Ground Zero to Madison Square Garden, where it intended to conduct a civil disobedience "die in."

A video provided by the New York Civil Liberties Union shows police commanders laying out the ground rules: As long as protesters did not block traffic, they would not get arrested during the walk north. (No permit is required for a march on a sidewalk as long as protesters leave space for other pedestrians to pass.) Within a block or two, however, the video shows marchers lined up on the sidewalk, far from an intersection, as a police officer announces on a bullhorn: "You're under arrest."

"They came with batons, bicycles, they came with netting," said the Rev. G. Simon Harak, a Jesuit priest. "The kind of forces you expect to be turned on terrorists was unleashed on us."

Police arrested 200 people, saying they had blocked the sidewalk.

About the same time Tuesday, several other groups of protesters started walking two abreast from Union Square, the city's historic protest soapbox, to Madison Square Garden. However, several demonstrators say - and photographs show - that police soon stopped them, asked them to raise their hands and arrested them.

Throughout the week, police also picked up dozens of people who appeared to have nothing to do with demonstrations, the New York Civil Liberties Union said. Among those swept up by police were several newspaper reporters, two women shopping at the Gap, a feeder company executive out for dinner with a friend, and Wendy Stefanelli, a costume designer with the TV show "Sex and the City," who was walking to get a drink with a friend.

She saw a police officer pushing a demonstrator against a wall and asked him to lay off. Police flooded the street, and she was arrested. "I don't know how this could happen," Stefanelli, 35, told the City Council last week. "I was coming from work."

Bloomberg has acknowledged that police may have arrested some innocent bystanders, but he suggested that it was partly their fault.

"If you go to where people are protesting and don't want to be part of the protest, you're always going to run the risk that maybe you'll get tied up with it," he said on a weekly radio show on WABC.

Police hauled those arrested to newly built holding cells in a former bus depot on the Hudson River. In interviews, two dozen protesters from six states described floors covered in oil and officers who denied access to family and lawyers.

During this time, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne twice stated to The Washington Post that most protesters had been released after six or seven hours. Only on Thursday, the last day of the convention, did he acknowledge the much longer delays.

Last Friday, Feinblatt, the city's criminal justice coordinator, attributed the problems to a glut of arrests. Other city officials have spoken of state delays in processing fingerprints.

But senior police officials had said for months that they anticipated 1,000 arrests a day during the convention. Citing such warnings, state court officials, prosecutors and Legal Aid lawyers doubled staffing and opened extra courtrooms during convention week.

"What happened for several days is that we had resources available and we simply were not getting the bodies produced, the defendants in the courtroom," said David Bookstaver, spokesman for the state office of court administration.

State officials also released figures showing that they had processed 94 percent of all fingerprints within one hour.

The backlog created a legal crisis for the city. State Supreme Court Judge John Cataldo held officials in contempt of court. "These people," Cataldo said of those arrested, "have already been victims of the process."

His order resulted in the release of almost 500 people. Tricia Schriefer of Milwaukee had spent two days trying to find her daughter, Claire, 19, a college student who had been arrested Aug. 31. Tricia Schriefer called the police and city offices, only to be told that her daughter was in a legal twilight.

Her daughter was finally released - without charges - after Cataldo issued his ruling. "To be held for 50 hours and not be charged . . . it's pretty outrageous," Schriefer said. "It's just counter to everything I had understood about our legal process."

Since the convention ended, protesters have flocked daily into Manhattan Criminal Court, where most of them are accepting misdemeanors and violations - charges that would typically carry no jail term. The difference between them and someone caught double-parking is that the protesters already had spent two days in jail.

"Too many New Yorkers were willing to look away," said Norman Siegal, a civil liberties lawyer who is representing Pincus. "We don't lose our rights overnight with a big bang; we lose them incrementally over time."


Crude Dudes

By Linda McQuaig
The Toronto Star

Monday 20 September 2004

U.S. oil companies just happened to have billions of dollars they wanted to invest in undeveloped oil reserves.
From his corner office in the heart of New York's financial district, Fadel Gheit keeps close tabs on what goes on inside the boardrooms of the big oil companies. An oil analyst at the prestigious Wall Street firm Oppenheimer & Co., the fit, distinguished-looking Gheit has been watching the oil industry closely for more than 25 years.

Selling the modern world's most indispensable commodity has never been a bad business to be in - particularly for the small group of companies that straddle the top of this privileged world. But never more so than now.

"Profit-wise, things could not have been better," says Gheit, "In the last three years, they died and went to heaven .... They are all sitting on the largest piles of cash in their history."

But to stay rich they have to keep finding new reserves, and that's getting tougher. Increasingly it means cutting through permafrost or drilling deep underwater, at tremendous cost. "The cheap oil has already been found and developed and produced and consumed," says Gheit. "The low-hanging fruit has already been picked."

Well, not all the low-hanging fruit has been picked.

Nestled into the heart of the area of heaviest oil concentration in the world is Iraq, overflowing with low-hanging fruit. No permafrost, no deep water. Just giant pools of oil, right beneath the warm ground. This is fruit sagging so low, as it were, that it practically touches the ground under the weight of its ripeness.

Not only does Iraq have vast quantities of easily accessible oil, but its oil is almost untouched. "Think of Iraq as virgin territory .... This is bigger than anything Exxon is involved in currently .... It is the superstar of the future," says Gheit, "That's why Iraq becomes the most sought-after real estate on the face of the earth."

Gheit just smiles at the notion that oil wasn't a factor in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He compares Iraq to Russia, which also has large undeveloped oil reserves. But Russia has nuclear weapons. "We can't just go over and ... occupy (Russian) oil fields," says Gheit. "It's a different ballgame." Iraq, however, was defenceless, utterly lacking, ironically, in weapons of mass destruction. And its location, nestled in between Saudi Arabia and Iran, made it an ideal place for an ongoing military presence, from which the U.S. would be able to control the entire Gulf region. Gheit smiles again: "Think of Iraq as a military base with a very large oil reserve underneath .... You can't ask for better than that."

There's something almost obscene about a map that was studied by senior Bush administration officials and a select group of oil company executives meeting in secret in the spring of 2001. It doesn't show the kind of detail normally shown on maps - cities, towns, regions. Rather its detail is all about Iraq's oil.

The southwest is neatly divided, for instance, into nine "Exploration Blocks." Stripped of political trappings, this map shows a naked Iraq, with only its ample natural assets in view. It's like a supermarket meat chart, which identifies the various parts of a slab of beef so customers can see the most desirable cuts .... Block 1 might be the striploin, Block 2 and Block 3 are perhaps some juicy tenderloin, but Block 8 - ahh, that could be the filet mignon.

The map might seem crass, but it was never meant for public consumption. It was one of the documents studied by the ultra-secretive task force on energy, headed by U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, and it was only released under court order after a long legal battle waged by the public interest group Judicial Watch.

Another interesting task force document, also released under court order over the opposition of the Bush administration, was a two-page chart titled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfields." It identifies 63 oil companies from 30 countries and specifies which Iraqi oil fields each company is interested in and the status of the company's negotiations with Saddam Hussein's regime. Among the companies are Royal Dutch/Shell of the Netherlands, Russia's Lukoil and France's Total Elf Aquitaine, which was identified as being interested in the fabulous, 25-billion-barrrel Majnoon oil field. Baghdad had "agreed in principle" to the French company's plans to develop this succulent slab of Iraq. There goes the filet mignon into the mouths of the French!

The documents have attracted surprisingly little attention, despite their possible relevance to the question of Washington's motives for its invasion of Iraq - in many ways the defining event of the post-9/11 world but one whose purpose remains shrouded in mystery. Even after the supposed motives for the invasion - weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda - have been thoroughly discredited, talk of oil as a motive is still greeted with derision. Certainly any suggestion that private oil interests were in any way involved is hooted down with charges of conspiracy theory.

Yet the documents suggest that those who took part in the Cheney task force - including senior oil company executives - were very interested in Iraq's oil and specifically in the danger of it falling into the hands of eager foreign oil companies, rather than into the rightful hands of eager U.S. oil companies.

As the documents show, prior to the U.S. invasion, foreign oil companies were nicely positioned for future involvement in Iraq, while the major U.S. oil companies, after years of U.S.-Iraqi hostilities, were largely out of the picture. Indeed, the U.S. majors would have been the big losers if U.N. sanctions against Iraq had simply been lifted. "The U.S. majors stand to lose if Saddam makes a deal with the U.N. (on lifting sanctions)," noted a report by Germany's Deutsche Bank in October 2002.

The disadvantaged position of U.S. oil companies in Saddam Hussein's Iraq would have presumably been on the minds of senior oil company executives when they met secretly with Cheney and his task force in early 2001. The administration refuses to divulge exactly who met with the task force, and continues to fight legal challenges to force disclosure. However a 2003 report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded that the task force relied on advice from the oil industry, whose close ties to the Bush administration are legendary. (George W. Bush received more money from the oil and gas industry in 1999 and 2000 than any other U.S. federal candidate received over the previous decade.)

The Cheney task force has been widely criticized for recommending bigger subsidies for the energy industry, but there's been little focus on its possible role as a venue for consultations between Big Oil and the administration about Iraq. One intriguing piece of evidence pointing in this direction was a National Security Council directive, dated February 2001, instructing NSC staff to co-operate fully with the task force. The NSC document, reported in The New Yorker magazine, noted that the task force would be considering the "melding" of two policy areas: "the review of operational policies towards rogue states" and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." This certainly implies that the Cheney task force was considering geopolitical questions about actions related to the capture of oil and gas reserves in "rogue" states, including presumably Iraq.

It seems likely then that Big Oil, through the Cheney task force, was involved in discussions with the administration about getting control of oil in Iraq. Since Big Oil has sought to distance itself from the administration's decision to invade Iraq, this apparent involvement helps explain the otherwise baffling level of secrecy surrounding the task force.

It's interesting to note that the Cheney task force deliberations took place in the first few months after the Bush administration came to office - the same time period during which the new administration was secretly formulating plans for toppling Saddam. Those early plans were not publicly disclosed, but we know about them now due to the publication of several insider accounts, including that of former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill. So, months before the attacks of 9/11, the Bush White House was already considering toppling Saddam, and at the same time it was also keenly studying Iraq's oil fields and assessing how far along foreign companies were in their negotiations with Saddam for a piece of Iraq's oil.

It's also noteworthy that one person - Dick Cheney - was pivotal both in advancing the administration's plans for regime change in Iraq and in formulating U.S. energy policy.

As CEO of oil services giant Halliburton Company, Cheney had been alert to the problem of securing new sources of oil. Speaking to the London Petroleum Institute in 1999, while still heading Halliburton, Cheney had focused on the difficulty of finding the 50 million extra barrels of oil per day that he said the world would need by 2010. "Where is it going to come from?" he asked, and then noted that "the Middle East with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."

Cheney's focus on the Middle East and its oil continued after he became Bush's powerful vice-president. Within weeks of the new administration taking office, Cheney was pushing forward plans for regime change in Iraq and also devising a new energy policy which included getting control of oil reserves in rogue states. His central role in these two apparently urgent initiatives is certainly suggestive of a possible connection between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a desire for the country's ample oil reserves - the very thing that is vehemently denied.

One reason that regime change in Iraq was seen as offering significant benefits for Big Oil was that it promised to open up a treasure chest which had long been sealed - private ownership of Middle Eastern oil. A small group of major international oil companies once privately owned the oil industries of the Middle East. But that changed in the 1970s when most Middle Eastern countries (and some elsewhere) nationalized their oil industries. Today, state-owned companies control the vast majority of the world's oil resources. The major international oil companies control a mere 4 per cent.

The majors have clearly prospered in the new era, as developers rather than owners, but there's little doubt that they'd prefer to regain ownership of the oil world's Garden of Eden. "(O)ne of the goals of the oil companies and the Western powers is to weaken and/or privatize the world's state oil companies," observes New York-based economist Michael Tanzer, who advises Third World governments on energy issues.

The possibility of Iraq's oil being reopened to private ownership - with the promise of astonishing profits - attracted considerable interest in the run-up to the U.S. invasion. In February 2003, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell held the world's attention with his dramatic efforts to make the case that Saddam posed an imminent threat to international peace, other parts of the U.S. government were secretly developing plans to privatize Iraq's oil (among other assets). A confidential 100-page contracting document, drawn up by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Treasury Department, laid out a wide-ranging plan for a "Mass Privatization Program ... especially in the oil and supporting industries."

The Pentagon was also working on plans to open up Iraq's oil sector. In the fall of 2002, months before the invasion, the Pentagon retained Philip Carroll, a former CEO of Shell Oil Co. in Texas, to draft a strategy for developing Iraqi oil. Carroll's plans apparently became the basis of a proposed scheme, which became public shortly after the war, to redesign Iraq's oil industry along the lines of a U.S. corporation, with a chairman, chief executive and a 15-member board of international advisers. Carroll was chosen by Washington to serve as chairman, but the plans were shelved after they encountered stiff opposition inside Iraq.

Still, the prospect of privatizing Iraq's oil remained of great interest to U.S. oil companies, according to Robert Ebel, from the influential Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Ebel, former vice-president of a Dallas-based oil exploration company, retains close ties to the industry. In an interview in his Washington office, Ebel said it was up to Iraq to make its own decisions, but he made clear that U.S. oil companies would prefer Iraq abandon its nationalization. "We'd rather not work with national oil companies," Ebel said bluntly, noting that the major oil companies are prepared to invest the $35 to $40 billion to develop Iraq's reserves in the coming years. "We're looking for places to invest around the world. You know, along comes Iraq, and I think a lot of oil companies would be disappointed if Iraq were to say `we're going to do it ourselves' "

Along Comes Iraq?

How fortuitous. U.S. oil companies just happened to have billions of dollars that they wanted to invest in undeveloped oil reserves when Iraq presented itself, ready for invasion.

Along comes Iraq, indeed.

In the past 14 decades, we've used up roughly half of all the oil that the planet has to offer. No, we're not about to run out of oil. But long before the oil runs out, it reaches its production peak. After that, extracting the remaining oil becomes considerably more difficult and expensive.

This notion that oil production has a "peak" was first conceived in 1956 by geophysicist M. King Hubbert. He predicted that U.S. oil production would peak about 1970 - a notion that was scoffed at at the time. As it turned out, Hubbert was dead on; U.S. oil production peaked in 1970, and has been declining ever since. Hubbert's once-radical notion is now generally accepted.

For the world as a whole, the peak is fast approaching. Colin Campbell, one of the world's leading geologists, estimates the world's peak will come as soon as 2005 - next year. "There is only so much crude oil in the world," Campbell said in a telephone interview from his home in Ireland, "and the industry has found about 90 per cent of it."

All this would be less serious if the world's appetite for oil were declining in tandem. But even as the discovery of new oil fields slows down, the world's consumption speeds up - a dilemma Cheney highlighted in his speech to the London Petroleum Institute in 1999. For every new barrel of oil we find, we are consuming four already-discovered barrels, according to Campbell. The arithmetic is not on our side.

Particularly worrisome is the arithmetic as it applies to the U.S. With its oil production already long past peak, and yet its oil consumption rising, the U.S. will inevitably become more reliant on foreign oil. This is significant not just for Americans, but for the world, since the U.S. has long characterized its access to energy as a matter of "national security." With its unrivalled military power, the U.S. will insist on meeting its own voracious energy needs - and it will be up to the rest of the world to co-operate with this quest. Period.

Canada plays a greater role in this "keep-the-U.S.-energy-beast-fed" scenario than many Canadians may realize. A three-volume report prepared by a bipartisan Congressional team and CSIS, the Washington think tank, highlights how important Canada is in the U.S. energy picture of the future. The report, The Geopolitics of Energy into the 21st Century, notes that Canada is "the single largest provider of energy to the United States," and that "Canada is poised to expand sharply its exports of oil to the United States in the coming years."

Fine as long as Canada doesn't want to change its mind about this. Well, in fact, Canada can't change its mind about this - a point celebrated in the report. When Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, we gave up our right to cut back the amount of oil we export to the U.S. (unless we cut our own consumption the same amount). Interestingly, Mexico, also a party to NAFTA, refused to agree to this section, and was granted an exemption.

The U.S. report points out that that, under NAFTA, Canada is not allowed to reduce its exports of oil (or other energy) to the U.S. in order to redirect them to Canadian consumers. Redirecting Canadian oil to Canadians isn't permitted - regardless of how great the Canadian need may be. Some outside observers, like Colin Campbell over in Ireland, find the situation striking. "You poor Canadians are going to be left freezing in the dark while they're running hair dryers in the U.S.," says Campbell. It's a situation that comforts the U.S. senators, congressmen and think-tank analysts who wrote the report. With obvious satisfaction, they conclude: "There can be no more secure supplier to the United States than Canada."

Alas, for the U.S., not every part of the world is as pliant as Canada. Most of the world's oil is in the Middle East. And while different oil regions will reach their production peaks at different times, the Middle East will peak last, underlying Cheney's point that the region is where "the prize ultimately lies." Whoever controls the big oil reserves of the Middle East will then be positioned to, pretty much, control the world.

But we're supposed to believe that, as the Bush administration assessed its options just before invading Iraq in the spring of 2003, the advantages of securing vast, untapped oil fields - in order to guarantee U.S. energy security in a world of dwindling reserves and to enable U.S. oil companies to reap untold riches - were far from mind. What really mattered to those in the White House, we're told, was liberating the people of Iraq.


Adapted from It's The Crude, Dude: War Big Oil, And The Fight For The Planet, by Linda McQuaig, 2004. Published by Doubleday Canada. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Toronto-based political commentator Linda McQuaig is a past winner of a National Newspaper Award and an Atkinson Fellowship for journalism in public policy. Her column appears Sundays on the Star's op-ed page.