Tuesday, August 23, 2005

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Support Traditional Values: Stop War Profiteering NOW!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

George W. Bush: Emotional Handicap

Dubya can't even feel his own pain. Poor Richard knows a poor man when he sees one.


Bush cannot grieve because he doesn't know what death is


Editor's note: The article below was written by novelist E.L. Doctorow for The East Hampton Star, and was originally published on Sept 9, 2004. Since that time the number of American war dead in Iraq has risen to more than 1,800

Yet this president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing — to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends.

A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children. He is the president who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of the dead, he does not feel for the 35 million of us who live in poverty, he does not feel for the 40 percent who cannot afford health insurance, he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills — it is amazing for how many people in this country this president does not feel.

But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest 1 percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the quality of air in coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a-half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class.

And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.

But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember the millions of people here and around the world who marched against the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneous aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over the world most of the time.

But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president?

He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

Doctorow is an award-winning author whose most recent novel, The March, will be published next month bt Random House.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bush Makes Osama's Dreams Come True by Election 2006

Forces of politics, not warfare, will bring Iraq pullout by 2006

E. W. Chamberlain III. E. W. Chamberlain III is a retired Army colonel.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rightly states that we need an Iraqi army to defeat the insurgency, and President Bush says it is not yet up to par, so it could be a while before we're out of there.

The president asks us to be patient and stay the course, and that a pullout may take years.

I'll tell you when we'll be out of Iraq.

We will be out of Iraq before the congressional election of 2006. We'll either be completely out or well on our way out with a specified end date.

Here's why.

The toll of the war in both lives and treasure are going well beyond what we were promised. The elections in Iraq already are proving themselves to have been merely a vote of the majority for the majority with no room for any meaningful minority voice in the emerging government.

Our goal of bringing democracy to Iraq, while worthy, is unattainable. The Shiite clerics won't stand for it.

The clerics, who have taken on the same titles as those used by the Iranian Shiite clerics when they toppled the Shah, have won the elections.

The grand titles being used in Iraq right after the elections, "Ayatollah of the Revolutionary Islamic Council," for example, should have some people in Washington sitting up and taking notice. The Iranians already have visited the newly elected clerics, and it will be but a short time before some agreements between the two countries are formalized.

Washington persists in seeing Iraq as, well, full of just Iraqis.

Washington doesn't differentiate between the religious sects in Iraq, nor does it understand that the concept of a state called "Iraq" was arbitrarily devised by the British and the French in the Balfour Declaration at the end of World War I as those two victors divided the spoils of war.

People in Iraq and Iran are Shiite first, and Iraqis and Iranians second.

But back to the congressional elections of 2006.

As already is evident, even prominent Republicans are openly questioning the war. The Republicans are quickly realizing that their recently won majority in Congress will be a chimera if they blindly acquiesce to what many now see is a failed policy.

The American people are becoming less concerned about jobs as the economy improves, which gives more time for concern about a war that has no discernible end. They too are beginning to ask uncomfortable questions, hence the president's recent and frequent calls to stay the course.

The Republicans in Congress also realize that the new struggle is with the executive branch over power now that the Democrats are in (temporary?) decline. After all, ultimately, it's all about power.

A Republican-dominated Congress will force the president to end the war as a demonstration of their power, or they will lose their ascendancy as the Democrats use the war and its costs and lack of tangible success as a rallying cry in the 2006 elections. The Democrats would be foolish not to.

So, my guess is you can mark your calendar for our troop withdrawal by fall 2006.

Now here are a few other things you may place on your calendar, but they won't have such precise dates.

The first predictable event was that the Shiites would score an overwhelming victory at the polls in January. This was a no-brainer, because they were the only ones participating. The Sunni political parties had seen the handwriting on the wall and had withdrawn from a contest they could not even hope to win. The Kurds participated in the elections and are participating in the development of the constitution, but this will continue only as long as U.S. forces remain on the ground.

Once they are gone, the best the Kurds can hope for is an independent state recognized and supported by the United States in a sea of enemies. The worst they can expect is to be dominated and oppressed by the government in Baghdad, switching one secular dictator for a non-secular one.

So much for democracy in Iraq.

The insurgency in Iraq is Sunni, which many in Washington have yet to figure out. They are fighting us because we provide a focal point for rallying the Sunni people inside and outside of Iraq.

As soon as we leave, the full force of the insurgency will fall upon the Shiite government of Iraq. It already has started. The suicide car bombings that have killed so many Iraqi civilians are mistakenly tagged as terrorist attacks, when in reality they are attacks against Shiites by the Sunni insurgency.

If a couple of Americans also get killed, so much the better in their view, but the real target is the Shiite population and the Shiite-dominated government.

Probably even before the U.S. withdraws, the "democratically elected" Shiite government in Iraq will be aligned rapidly with Iran and will receive open and massive support. The Saudi Arabian government will continue to support the Sunni insurgency, as it does today, but the support will become open.

The Sunni insurgency eventually will lose as the full weight of a Shiite Iraq and a Shiite Iran overwhelms it. Numbers alone, coupled with a real war of attrition that does not discriminate between combatants and noncombatants or follow any rules of engagement, will result in horrific casualties and defeat.

This will not be the kinder, gentler, American way of war. This will be an Old Testament conflict with no quarter given.

The remnants of the Sunni insurgency will flee to Saudi Arabia. There they will foment discord because the Saudi royal family did not do enough and allowed the Sunnis to be defeated in Iraq. The royal family will be overthrown in a violent revolution in Saudi Arabia led by Sunni clerics who long have chafed under the pro-Western rule of the House of Saud. The Sunni clerics will emerge as the dominant power in Saudi Arabia. Americans and all other Westerners will be killed or, at best, ejected from Saudi Arabia, which has enough native petrochemical engineers and knowledgeable oil field workers, and can find other non-Westerners to run the oil fields. No Westerner need apply.

Of course, we need not fear another attack here at home from Osama bin Laden as all this occurs, because he will have fulfilled his fatwa. The only thing bin Laden ever said he was after was to remove the Westerners from Saudi Arabia, the Land of the Holy Places. This will be done when the clerics assume control of Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden will win the war on terrorism by achieving his goals with our unwitting help.

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bunnatine Greenhouse: Great American Patriot

More Proof the Cheney Administration Hates America.

Army Whistleblower Draws Fire

By DEBORAH HASTINGS, AP National WriterSun Aug 7,12:17 PM ET

In the world as Bunnatine Greenhouse sees it, people do the right thing. They stand up for the greater good and they speak up when things go wrong. She believes God has a purpose for each life and she prays every day for that purpose to be made evident. These days she is praying her heart out, because she is in a great deal of trouble.

Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse is the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting ("PARC" in the alphabet soup of military acronyms) in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lest the title fool, she is responsible for awarding billions upon billions in taxpayers' money to private companies hired to resurrect war-torn Iraq and to feed, clothe, shelter and do the laundry of American troops stationed there.

She has rained a mighty storm upon herself for standing up, before members of Congress and live on C-SPAN to proclaim things are just not right in this staggeringly profitable business.

She has asked many questions: Why is Halliburton — a giant Texas firm that holds more than 50 percent of all rebuilding efforts in Iraq — getting billions in contracts without competitive bidding? Do the durations of those contracts make sense? Have there been violations of federal laws regulating how the government can spend its money?

Halliburton denies any wrongdoing. "These false allegations have been recycled in the media ad nauseam," the company said in response to a list of e-mailed questions from The Associated Press.

Now Bunny Greenhouse may lose her job — and her reputation, which she spent a lifetime building.

She is a black woman in a world of mostly white men; a 60-year-old workaholic who abides neither fools nor frauds. But she is out of her element in this fight, her former boss said.

"What Bunny is caught up in is politics of the highest damn order," said retired Gen. Joe Ballard, who hired Greenhouse and headed the Corps until 2000. "This is real hardball they're playing here. Bunny is a procurement officer, she's not a politician. She's not trained to do this."


Greenhouse has known for a long time that her days may be numbered. Her needling of contracts awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) predated the war in Iraq, beginning with costs she said were spiraling "out of control" from a 2000 Bosnia contract to service U.S. troops. From 1995 to 2000, Halliburton's CEO was Dick Cheney, who left to run for vice president. He maintains his former company has not received preferential treatment from the government.

Since then, she had questioned both the amounts and the reasons for giving KBR tremendous contracts in the buildup to invading Iraq. At first she was ignored, she said. Then she was cut out of the decision-making process.

Last October 6, she was summoned to the office of her boss. Major Gen. Robert Griffin, the Corps' deputy commander, was demoting her, he told her, taking away her Senior Executive Service status and sending her to midlevel management. Not unlike being cast out of the office of bank president into the cubicle of branch manager. Griffin declined to be interviewed by the AP.

Her performance was poor, said a letter he presented. This was a surprise. Her previous job evaluations had been exemplary, she said. The basic theme was that she was "difficult," and "nobody likes you," she said.

If she didn't want the new position, she could always retire with full benefits, the letter noted.

Over my dead body, said Greenhouse.

"I took an oath of office. I took those words that I was going to protect the interests of my government and my country. So help me God," she says. "And nobody. Has the right. To take away my privilege. To serve my government. Nobody."

She has hired lawyer Michael Kohn, who successfully represented Linda Tripp in her claim that the Pentagon leaked personal information after she secretly taped Monica Lewinsky's confessions of a sexual affair with President Bill Clinton.

Two weeks after Greenhouse's trip to the woodshed, Kohn wrote an 11-page letter to the acting Secretary of the Army, requesting an independent investigation of "improper action that favored KBR's interests."

He also asked that his client be protected against retaliation under whistleblower statutes.

Then he reminded the Army secretary of Federal Acquisition Requirement 3.101: "Government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach ... with complete impartiality and with preferential treatment for none."

The status of an independent investigation by the Defense Department is unclear. "As a matter of policy, we do not comment on open and ongoing investigations," said Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rose-Ann Lynch.

Halliburton is also under federal investigation for alleged favoritism by the Bush administration. FBI agents questioned Greenhouse for nine hours last November about that probe. In March, a former employee was indicted for taking bribes while working for KBR in Iraq.

Company spokeswoman Melissa Norcross said KBR has "delivered vital services for U.S. troops and the Iraqi people at a fair and reasonable cost, given the circumstances."

Meanwhile, Greenhouse has been placed under a 3-month performance review ending in September.


When Gen. Ballard hired her in 1997 she was overqualified — three master's degrees and more than 20 years of contracting experience in private industry, the Army and the Pentagon.

"She is probably the most professional person I've ever met, " Ballard said. "And she plays it straight. That created problems for her after I left."

Ballard used her, he said, to help him revolutionize the Corps — by ending the old-boys practice of awarding contracts to a favored few, and by imposing private industry standards on a mammoth, 230-year-old government agency with 35,000 workers. He felt the Corps, which had overseen everything from building hydroelectric dams to the Soo Locks to the Manhattan Project, needed a hard boot into the new age of contracting.

"The Corps is a tough organization. And I'll tell you, it's not easy to be a woman in this organization, and a black one at that," said Ballard, who was the first black leader of the Corps.

He is not optimistic about her future.

"I think you can put a fork in it," he said. "Her career is done."

At Corps headquarters, few speak to her, she said, and her bosses write down what she says at departmental meetings.

Sometimes, as she walks down a hall, someone will mutter, "Go for it, Bunny," or "Give 'em hell," she said. "They pass by saying this while they're looking straight ahead," she recounted, and chuckled.

In a city where politics is everything, including blood sport, she refuses to play. Right down to her clothes.

Bunny Greenhouse does not subscribe to the Capitol chic of a dowdy Janet Reno jacket and skirt or a boxy Hillary Clinton suit with buttons the size of quarters. On a sweltering summer day, seated in her lawyer's Georgetown office, Greenhouse wears a vibrant pink-and-black shirt, tight-fitting trousers with creases that could cut butter, and a blazer with a shredded-fabric flower.

Her bag — overflowing with files, papers, pens, wallet, cell phone — rivals the weight of a bound copy of the federal budget. Underestimate her at your peril.

"I have never gone along to get along. And I'm willing to suffer the consequences," she said.

Her contracting staff was sharply reduced, she said, and her superiors have gone behind her back, most notably in issuing an emergency waiver — on a day she was out of the office — that allowed KBR to ignore requests from Department of Defense auditors who issued a draft report in 2003 concluding KBR overcharged the government $61 million for fuel in Iraq.

"They knew I would never have signed it," she said.

The Army Corps of Engineers declined to comment on Greenhouse's complaints. "It's a personnel matter," said Corps spokeswoman Carol Sanders. "We're not going to go point-by-point with Ms. Greenhouse's accusations.

"They want me out," Greenhouse said.


In her job, Greenhouse is mandated by Congress to get the best quality at the cheapest price from the most qualified supplier. Over her objections, KBR was awarded three multibillion-dollar war-related contracts, two of them without competitive bidding.

Together, they are worth as much as $20 billion — the entire cost of the Manhattan Project, adjusted to today's dollars.

Greenhouse's most strenuous complaints were over the Restore Iraqi Oil contract, estimated at $7 billion, originally planned to handle oil field fires that might be started by Saddam Hussein's troops. When that failed to happen, it morphed into an agreement to repair oil fields and import fuel for civilians and soldiers.

The contract was given to KBR in March 2003. In Greenhouse's view, that process violated federal regulations concerning fair and open bidding. Halliburton denies that.

A month before KBR got the contract — and three weeks before the U.S. invaded Iraq — she had demanded KBR officials be ejected from a Pentagon meeting attended by high-ranking officials from the Corps and the Defense Department. "They should not have been there," she said. "We were discussing the terms of the contract."

Later, she would tell Democratic members of Congress: "The abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have ever witnessed during the course of my professional career."

At the Corps, Greenhouse said she was told KBR was the only qualified firm.

With the country on the brink of war, she reluctantly signed the RIO contract. But next to her signature, she boldly wrote an objection to the only thing she felt she could challenge — the contract's length, five years. One year would have been more than fair, she said. After that, it should have been put out for bid among contractors with top security clearances.

"I caution that extending this sole source contract beyond a one-year period could convey an invalid perception that there is not strong intent for a limited competition," she penned in neat cursive.

In June, she was asked to testify before the Democratic Policy Committee — formed by Democrats who said their efforts to get the Republican-controlled Congress to investigate alleged war profiteering had been repeatedly denied.

She was joined by a former Halliburton employee who said KBR fed spoiled food to American troops and charged the government for thousands of meals it never served.

Halliburton would not specifically address the former employee's claims. Norcross said taking care of troops is "our priority."

"I thought she was very courageous to come forward and blow the whistle," Rep. Henry Waxman (news, bio, voting record) of California said of Greenhouse. "The administration ran around her and ignored her. We owe her a debt of gratitude."

And if she is forced out?

"I would find that outrageous," Waxman replied. "They should be promoting her."

Greenhouse is a registered independent. Her husband, Aloyisus Greenhouse, is retired after a long Army career as a senior procurement officer. They have three grown children.

Bunny grew up in the segregated South, where her parents taught her and her siblings to be proud and hardworking. Her brother is Elvin Hayes, the Hall of Fame basketball player. She followed her husband's military postings, moving and moving and then moving again. In each place she found her own way, and her own job.

Her husband watches what is happening to her and tries to bite his lip.

"Bunny has a lot of faith. She really believes that someone will stand up and say, 'This is wrong.' But I don't think a person exists like that in the Department of Defense."

But in her world, Bunny Greenhouse's faith still beams.

"I simply believe that we have callings and purposes in this life. I walk through this life for a purpose. I wake up every day for a purpose. And every day I say, 'Here I am. Send me.' "

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

They have a free press in Europe? What's that like?

Well, it's official; there's trouble right here in the land of the free.

Mr. Bush can not only use taxpayer's money to set up Soviet-Style propaganda events, but he can have US citizens kicked out of these public meetings by strong-armed stooges impersonating Secret Service Agents. That, at least, was the conclusion last week by the US Justice Department Attorney who said there was not enough evidence to prosecute an unnamed man who kicked three people out of one of Mr. Bush's "town hall" meetings in Denver this past March. The White House, by the way, refuses to release the mystery thug's name.

And here in the good old USA no one seems to give a damn.

Hundreds of billions of dollars and nearly two thousand American dead to bring democracy to Iraq, but no need to go overboard with that freedom stuff here at home, thank you.

Apparently, after years of government funded "Mission Accomplished," propaganda events, government-produced fake news casts, government-funded journalists/shills, and a phoney reporter planted into the White House press corps, we're just fresh out of outrage.

A series of fake town hall meetings in which First Amendment Rights are violated just isn't the stuff of headlines anymore.

So now, the Bush machine routinely sets up stages with fake props and Soviet-style backdrops, invites only registered Republicans; excludes anyone who might – just possibly might – not be an ardent supporter; pre-screens the questions; then hires goons to patrol the audience and strong-arm and illegally arrest anyone who doesn't look ... well ... right (as in Right wing), trampling the First Amendment in the process. These taxpayer-supported campaign events they call a town meeting.

The only thing missing is the Brown Shirts.

But here in the land of the free, nary a peep of protest is heard, nary a discouraging word is printed or uttered by the Democrats or the press.

For the last four years, the Democrats have been doing their best deer-in-the-headlights imitation, and the press has been chasing various White House wag-the-dog stories or faux terrorist alerts that just seem to crop up when the spotlight focuses on their lies, deceptions, or their gross incompetence -- or when an election is in the offing. In short, the American press has been either fooled or intimidated, and the Democrats have been dazed and confused.

If you want to see democracy in action these days, you've got to look to Europe.

Recently, British MP George Galloway road into town and gave Norm Coleman and his fellow neoconservative propagandists a public spanking. Coleman and the rest of the right wing whackos have had such and easy time manipulating the press and intimidating Democrats for the past four years they must have felt like they'd been mugged.

But Mr. Galloway showed the Democrats how to confront demagoguery – with a strong dose of the truth. No head down, poll driven spins, or weak-kneed attempts to appeal to both sides. No deer-in-the-headlights stares, or weeks of Bob Shrumm inspired contemplation. He called a liar a liar and he set the record straight in plain, but eloquent language. Then he called a spade a spade – the UN food for oil "scandal" has always been a smokescreen, an attempt to besmirch Kofi Anan and the UN for no other reason than that neocons hate the UN. He pointed out that our own national contribution to sleaze, corruption, mismanagement and sheer greed in Iraq dwarfs anything the UN has done.

Hopefully, the Democrats were taking notes.

Mr. Galloway isn't the only European showing how a free people act.

For example, when the White House tried to set up one of their pre-scripted propaganda events in Germany this past February the Germans would have none of it.

A "town hall" meeting with the German people in the town of Mainz was supposed to be the PR highlight of the President's February trip. The White House had spent a week talking it up, but when the Germans –a people who know a bit about the corrosive effects of propaganda – refused to allow Bush's handlers to review and screen all questions in advance, the White House quietly dropped the event, according to Spiegel.

Mr. Bush and the American people got another lesson in how a free people act on his recent trip to Europe in May to celebrate the defeat of the Nazis. A group of students in the Netherlands showed just how gloriously cantankerous a free people can be. At a meeting near Maastricht, Mr. Bush tried flying without a net, in an unscripted question and answer session with the Dutch youth. After a half hour of tough questions, worried White House aids cleared the room of reporters before allowing the session to continue. No transcript of the remaining questions was kept, no summary was released.

And it took an Irish journalist to show our spin-dried press how a real free press acts. In July of last year, Irish TV journalist Carole Coleman was granted an interview with George Bush just prior to his trip to Ireland and the US-European Summit meeting. There in the White House map room, Ms. Coleman did the unthinkable: she asked tough follow-up questions when Mr. Bush gave canned non-responses. She had the unmitigated gall to point out that "... the world has become a more dangerous place because you have taken the focus off al Qaeda and diverted [it to] Iraq," and when Mr. Bush raised the specter of WMDs she did what no American journalist has seemed able or willing to do – she interrupted him to point out there were no WMDs found in Iraq.

Imagine the nerve of this woman, expecting the leader of the free world to answer tough questions, stick to facts not fantasy, and to be accountable for his actions. Well, of course, when the interview was over, an outraged White House lodged a formal complaint with the Irish Embassy. Now, as Molly Ivins likes to say, let's pause a moment and wrap our minds around this – the leader of the free world lodged an official complaint with the Irish Embassy because ... one of their journalists asked him some tough questions, expected him to respond, and applied a standard of factual accuracy to his answers.

Apparently the White House believes this free press stuff is fine in theory, as long as it's not practiced.

Here again, contrast this with our press, who act like sheep on prozac when given the opportunity to question the President.

There is trouble here in the land of the free. It starts with a cowed opposition party that's forgotten that honesty and integrity are moral values, but spinning, poll watching and pandering aren't.

It extends to a press that's forgotten that the First Amendment Rights they were given come with a codicil – the requirement to relentlessly pursue the truth, and a commitment to tell it.

And it ends with a public content to be fed a steady diet of J-Lo/Jacko non-news, wag-the-dog wedge issues, and infotainment talk shows in lieu of the truth.

But Mr.Galloway and his European friends may have shown us that politics doesn't have to be a boring and predictable Kabuki dance – practiced with integrity on all sides, it's more engaging than the runaway bride or the latest missing damsel (whites, only please) in distress.

John Atcheson can be reached at atchman@comcast.net