Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Dan Rather as Seen by Mark Morford

Dan Rather Takes A Bullet
While the Right was demonizing the crusty ol' newsman, BushCo got away with murder, again

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Oh, come on.
I mean, really now. Like anyone worth their even remotely sober intellect didn't have, during that entire, cute little "Memogate" scandal, in their mind's eye a slightly oozing picture of BushCo's master puppeteer and most favoritist overfed pit bull Karl Rove, sitting there all puffed up and wheezing and hunched over his grease-stained nail-studded Compaq Presario after yet another three-Martini, four-baby-seal-kabob lunch, hammering out those forged memos about Bush's military ineptitude on his swiped copy of MS Word.

Can't you just see it? Hear the heavy breathing? Smell the gin? Could this picture be very far from the truth? Because, verily, if it ain't the truth, it's hovering over it like a giant elephant-shaped radiation cloud.

And who can't clearly see Rove, the ruthless conspirator and "co-president," grinning like a troll on ether, orchestrating the whole memo maneuver and hiring some GOP flunkies to feed the docs to overly gullible CBS News with the full intent of later discrediting them and screaming abut the bogus "liberal media" and hanging sad wonky ol' Dan Rather out to dry and making a big fat nonsensical media field day of it?

Voilá, the net effect: a total and shockingly efficient deflection of all public attention away from the obvious fact that George W. Bush is, and was, and forever will be an incompetent AWOL serviceman whose meager and embarrassing record pales in comparison to Kerry's outstanding heroism, and adding yet another notch to the Repubs belt of truly outstanding, world-class deceptions.

Conjecture? Mere wishful liberal thinking? Hardly. With Rove, it's never a difficult leap from the seemingly impossible and utterly ruthless to the absolutely soulless and eminently doable.

Look. From doctoring the Florida voter rolls to rigging the Supreme Court to manufacturing the Swift Boat Veterans for Utter B.S. to creating an entirely discredited "flip flop" claim against Kerry to forcing the Democratic presidential candidate to actually defend his stunning Vietnam heroism when not a single member of Bush's team of sneering flying monkeys could be bothered to serve in the military, ever, the proof is frightening and obvious: Rove's GOP spin machine, it is brutal and toxic and alarming.

And this machine, it is beyond more than capable of orchestrating just such a tiny, vicious feat as this pointless "Memogate" nonscandal, given how Karl Rove is the demon god at calculation and redirection and removing all accountability from his candidate and making it appear as though some big media conspiracy is treating Dubya unfairly, even as Rove manipulates that very same media to smear the living hell out of bona fide war heroes, all while shrugging off more than 1,000 dead U.S. soldiers and ignoring the brutal fact that his boy Bush has almost singlehandedly made America the most disrespected and openly loathed major power on the planet.

Do we really not see? Is much of the nation really this gullible and lost and easily misled? Do you already know the answer?

Let's be clear: CBS embarrassed itself silly by claiming those documents are legit. To be sure, their fact-checking abilities are rather appalling and clumsy and not even as good as those of an average major daily American newspaper. And, absolutely, Dan Rather's personality and history of news reportage are, uh, unconventional and more than a little weird, and Rather himself may even be, as Slate suggests, "totally bonkers."

And, furthermore, it may very well be true, as screeching media pundits so desperately want you to believe, that "Memogate" will be some sort of tipping point for major TV-news media, the final straw that broke their aching back of strained credibility, thus creating a huge hole for eager-beaver bloggers and false pundits and wanna-be authorities to rush in and make up the news for themselves without much thought to integrity whatsoever. What fun that will be.

But aren't you noticing something? Something missing? Something huge and obvious and slimy and elephant size and yet somehow utterly ignored during the entire Dan Rather fiasco? Of course you don't -- after all, you're not supposed to. This was the whole point.

It's this: Paperwork or no paperwork, the allegations against Dubya are entirely true. It is common knowledge. Dubya was a family embarrassment. A none-too-bright problem child. A mediocre student and AWOL National Guardsman whose whereabouts can't be accounted for during large chunks of his "service," unless you happened to look in the bars down in Tijuana.

He skipped out on Vietnam due to Daddy's connections and was spoon-fed and coddled, and he binge drank his way through most of his adult life, and no matter how much the GOP fluffs up his threadbare "record," even they can't deny that Bush looks like a spoiled little Texas brat who could no more wear a military uniform with dignity and pride than a drag queen can wear a khaki pantsuit from the Gap.

Funny how that little point got lost. Because, oh right, that crusty and peculiar 73-year-old CBS newscaster, he's the real devil here. And forget Bush's stunning record of flip-flops and lies. It's Kerry who can't make up his mind. And forget all those dead U.S. soldiers who've lost their lives for no justifiable reason whatsoever -- it's, uh, Cat Stevens who's the real threat. Nice.

Clearly, Rove has sold his soul to the devil. After all, his results are brilliant and troubling. You know your cold-blooded re-election campaign is a crushing success when American support for BushCo's handling of this hideous war is actually on the rise, while simultaneously every report, and every military general and think tank and former ally, claims the situation in Iraq is more brutal and desperate and irreconcilable than ever, and that Bush has botched nearly every single piece of war policy imaginable. This is how you know.

And do you hear that? That cackling, hissing laughter? It's coming from the brilliantly orchestrated Repubs, all giddy like greased pigs at how they can so effortlessly switch the attack to some cranky CBS newscaster and let some small-minded neoconservative millionaire attack-dog bloggers get his screeching 15 minutes of fame, as meanwhile, once again, Bush gets off scot-free, the entire point lost, his absolutely miserable weak little character and embarrassing military career instantly forgotten, again. Applause, Karl. You've done it again.

But let us not give up quite so easily. Let us not discount the massive wave of unprecedented unrest in this nation, a dissonant and mutinous anger not seen since Vietnam, emerging like a flame from the sense that we are being -- and have been -- regularly, massively duped, and lied to, and misled, and brutalized, and this shall not stand.

After all, the way to defeat any screaming demon of Rove is simply to stop. Stop running and stop thinking he has all the angles, and turn and face the snarling pasty-faced demon, and rally your legion of thinking voters and scream your truth and hold your ground, and then watch the big monster phantasm of God and war and blood dissolve into a sticky miasma of screeching reeking gases and bloody hunks of polemical mud, signifying nothing. Are you ready?


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Iraq Study Sees Rebels' Attacks as Widespread

September 29, 2004


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 28 - Over the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks by insurgents have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants.

The sweeping geographical reach of the attacks, from Nineveh and Salahuddin Provinces in the northwest to Babylon and Diyala in the center and Basra in the south, suggests a more widespread resistance than the isolated pockets described by Iraqi government officials.

The type of attacks ran the gamut: car bombs, time bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, small-arms fire, mortar attacks and land mines.

"If you look at incident data and you put incident data on the map, it's not a few provinces, " said Adam Collins, a security expert and the chief intelligence official in Iraq for Special Operations Consulting-Security Management Group Inc., a private security company based in Las Vegas that compiles and analyzes the data as a regular part of its operations in Iraq.

The number of attacks has risen and fallen over the months. Mr. Collins said the highest numbers were in April, when there was major fighting in Falluja, with attacks averaging 120 a day. The average is now about 80 a day, he said.

But it is a measure of both the fog of war and the fact that different analysts can look at the same numbers and come to opposite conclusions, that others see a nation in which most people are perfectly safe and elections can be held with clear legitimacy.

"I have every reason to believe that the Iraqi people are going to be able to hold elections," said Lt. Col. William Nichols of the Air Force, a spokesman for the American-led coalition forces here.

Indeed, no raw compilation of statistics on numbers of attacks can measure what is perhaps the most important political equation facing Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and the American military: how much of Iraq is under the firm control of the interim government. That will determine the likelihood - and quality - of elections in January.

For example, the number of attacks is not an accurate measure of control in Falluja; attacks have recently dropped there, but the town is controlled by insurgents and is a "no go" zone for the American military and Iraqi security forces. It is a place where elections could not be held without dramatic political or military intervention.

The statistics show that there have been just under 1,000 attacks in Baghdad during the past month; in fact, an American military spokesman said this week that since April, insurgents have fired nearly 3,000 mortar rounds in Baghdad alone. But those figures do not necessarily preclude having elections in the Iraqi capital.

Pentagon officials and military officers like to point to a separate list of statistics to counter the tally of attacks, including the number of schools and clinics opened. They cite statistics indicating that a growing number of Iraqi security forces are trained and fully equipped, and they note that applicants continue to line up at recruiting stations despite bombings of them.

But most of all, military officers argue that despite the rise in bloody attacks during the past 30 days, the insurgents have yet to win a single battle.

"We have had zero tactical losses; we have lost no battles," said one senior American military officer. "The insurgency has had zero tactical victories. But that is not what this is about.

"We are at a very critical time," the officer added. "The only way we can lose this battle is if the American people decide we don't want to fight anymore."

American government officials explain that optimistic assessments about Iraq from President Bush and Prime Minister Allawi can be interpreted as a declaration of a strategic goal: that, despite the attacks, elections will be held. The comments are meant as a balance to the insurgents' strategy of roadside bombings and mortar attacks and gruesome beheadings, all meant to declare to Iraq and the world that the country is in chaos, and that mayhem will prevent the country from ever reaching democratic elections.

In a joint appearance last week in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Bush and Dr. Allawi painted an optimistic portrait of the security situation in Iraq.

Dr. Allawi said that of Iraq's 18 provinces, "14 to 15 are completely safe." He added that the other provinces suffer "pockets of terrorists" who inflict damage in them and plot attacks carried out elsewhere in the country. In other appearances, Dr. Allawi asserted that elections could be held in 15 of the 18 provinces.

Both Mr. Bush and Dr. Allawi insisted that Iraq would hold free elections as scheduled in January.

"The question is not whether there are attacks," said one Pentagon official. "Of course there are. But what are the proper measurements for progress?"

Statistics collected by private security firms, which include attacks on Iraqi civilians and private security contractors, tend to be more comprehensive than those collected by the military, which focuses on attacks against foreign troops. The period covered by Special Operations Consulting's data represents a typical month, with its average of 79 attacks a day falling between the valleys during quiet periods and the peaks during the outbreak of insurgency in April or the battle with Moktada al-Sadr's militia in August for control of Najaf.

During the past 30 days those attacks totaled 283 in Nineveh, 325 in Salahuddin in the northwest and 332 in the desert badlands of Anbar Province in the west. In the center of Iraq, attacks numbered 123 in Diyala Province, 76 in Babylon and 13 in Wasit. There was not a single province without an attack in the 30-day period.

Still, some Iraqis share their prime minister's optimism when it comes to the likelihood that elections, and a closely related census, can be carried out successfully amid so much violence. "We are ready to start," said Hamid Abd Muhsen, an Iraqi education official who is supervising parts of the census in Baghad. "I swear to God."

James Glanz reported from Baghdad for this article and Thom Shanker from Washington.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

We Like To Hand-Pick the Leaders of Iraq and Afghanistan, Don't We?

Monday, Sep. 27, 2004
President Bush and interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi insisted last week that Iraq would go ahead with elections scheduled for January, despite continuing violence. But U.S. officials tell TIME that the Bush team ran into trouble with another plan involving those elections — a secret "finding" written several months ago proposing a covert CIA operation to aid candidates favored by Washington. A source says the idea was to help such candidates — whose opponents might be receiving covert backing from other countries, like Iran — but not necessarily to go so far as to rig the elections. But lawmakers from both parties raised questions about the idea when it was sent to Capitol Hill. In particular, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi "came unglued" when she learned about what a source described as a plan for "the CIA to put an operation in place to affect the outcome of the elections." Pelosi had strong words with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in a phone call about the issue.

Rice spokesman Sean McCormack says, "I cannot in any way comment on classified matters, the existence or nonexistence of findings." But, McCormack says, "there have been and continue to be concerns about efforts by outsiders to influence the outcome of the Iraqi elections, including money flowing from Iran. This raises concerns about whether there will be a level playing field for the election. This situation has posed difficult dilemmas about what action, if any, the U.S. should take in response. In the final analysis, we have adopted a policy that we will not try to influence the outcome of the upcoming Iraqi election by covertly helping individual candidates for office." A senior U.S. official hinted that, under pressure from the Hill, the Administration scaled back its original plans. "This was a tough call. We went back and forth on it in the U.S. government. We consulted the Hill on this question ... Our embassy in Baghdad will run a number of overt programs to support the democratic electoral process," as the U.S. does elsewhere in the world.

From the Oct. 04, 2004 issue of TIME magazine

Even William Safire is Alarmed....Whoa, Nellie!


How We Really Support our Troops?

Some Gratitude
Bush lies about health-care coverage to the National Guard soldiers he’s been putting in harm’s way.
By Mark Goldberg
Web Exclusive: 09.28.04

During his recent speech at the National Guard Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas, President Bush touted his pride and steadfast support for his erstwhile brothers in arms. Not surprisingly, the president’s speech was filled with invocations of September 11 heroism and resolute statements in favor of freedom. But the speech also included some nuggets of actual policy intended to highlight the administration’s ongoing efforts to address pressing quality-of-life issues for reservists.

“We're improving benefits and the quality of life for our nation's citizen-soldiers,” Bush said. “ … We have expanded health-care benefits for Guard and Reserve forces and their family members, giving them access to the military's TRICARE system for up to 90 days before they report and 180 days after deactivation -- and I will ask Congress to make that expansion permanent.”

A kind sentiment, but these words becloud the fact that the Bush administration has consistently fought legislation that would guarantee permanent access to the military’s health-care system for reservists throughout their entire career in the Guard.

All full-time military personnel are eligible for the military’s TRICARE health plan, as are reservists called up for active duty. After reservists are deactivated, however, they generally lose their TRICARE coverage following a short, transitional grace period. Having the option to buy into the military's the military’s TRICARE coverage would be attractive to many reservists and their families, as it offers comprehensive policies at very low cost.

In 2002, a General Accounting Office report found that as many as one-fifth of the nation’s 1.2 million part-time soldiers lacked health insurance. This startled many lawmakers into action, and, in May 2003, Senators Tom Daschle and Lindsay Graham successfully pushed for an amendment to the Senate’s version of the fiscal year 2004 Defense Authorization bill that would protect reservists from going uninsured by allowing them to buy into TRICARE when not on active duty.

Though the “Graham-Daschle amendment” had overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate, the administration sought to scuttle the proposal as it moved to the House. That June, in a letter to Representative Duncan Hunter, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called the Senate’s efforts to expand TRICARE a “troubling provision” because the amendment amounted to an unfunded entitlement that would drain resources from other, presumably more important Department of Defense activities.

House Republicans agreed with Rumsfeld, and they successfully stripped down the amendment in conference committee. In its stead, the Republican answer was to extend TRICARE coverage to reservists from 60 to 180 days following their deactivation and to 90 days prior to their mobilization -- but the GOP only allowed this on a temporary demonstration basis lasting one year.

To the National Guard Association, minimally extending TRICARE to recently deactivated reservists is not commensurate with the sacrifices made by reservists and their families. According to the association’s Web site, 42 percent of the forces deployed to Iraq will be National Guard or Reserve members later this year. “We feel that if the administration is asking this much of guardsmen and women,” one representative from the organization told me, “they should at least be open to the option of allowing reservists to buy into TRICARE for as long as they remain in the Guard.”

Alas, this administration is not. The Graham-Daschle amendment again passed the Senate’s version of the FY 2005 Defense Authorization bill by a 75-to-25 margin, and again the Bush administration came out forcefully against it. The amendment contains two provisions, one which would make reservists and their families eligible for TRICARE coverage regardless of their mobilization status, and another that would require the Department of Defense to pay civilian health-care premiums for active-duty reservists, along with their dependents, who elect to maintain their civilian health-care plan.

In all, the Pentagon estimates that this would cost a little less than $2 billion per year for the next five years. Though this is a relatively small amount by Pentagon standards, the Bush administration has expressed its hostility toward allocating Defense Department funds to pay for these provisions. In a letter to the Senate Arms Services Committee dated June 28, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz claimed that the costs of the Graham-Daschle amendment “could only come at the expense of other higher-priority defense needs.”

But by the National Guard Association’s estimates, reservists constitute nearly one-half of all forces participating in homeland defense and “global war on terrorism missions.” As a spokeswoman at the National Guard Association told me, “Guardsmen and women are being used in a different way than in the past. They train just as hard as full-time soldiers, and, as we see in Iraq, are deployed for long periods of time.”

The temporary expansion of TRICARE that President Bush referred to in his speech is set to expire in December (that is, a month after the election). The president’s calculated remarks to the National Guard Association were meant to give rhetorical support to “expanding” health-care availability to reservists, while still opposing legislation that addresses the health-care crisis facing uninsured reservists in a meaningful way.

For his part, John Kerry is much less ambiguous about his intentions to expand TRICARE to reservists. Though he missed the Graham-Daschle votes while on the campaign trail, he’s supported the amendment’s intentions. In his speech to the same association two days later, John Kerry offered the kind of clarity on this issue that his campaign has been so sorely lacking in other areas. “When you sign up for the Guard,” he said, “you should be eligible for TRICARE every day that you serve -- before, during, and after mobilization. End of story.”

Once again, the Graham-Daschle amendment will likely be held up in conference committee later this legislative session, and given the administration’s opposition, its fate remains unclear. As casualty rates mount in Iraq, and with part-time soldiers taking on more and more of the burden of defending our country, the president ought to make it a priority that no citizen-soldier goes uninsured.

Mark Goldberg is a Prospect writing fellow.

Copyright © 2004 by The American Prospect, Inc. Preferred Citation: Mark Goldberg, "Some Gratitude", The American Prospect Online, Sep 28, 2004. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. Direct questions about permissions to