“House Democratic leaders have coalesced around legislation that would require troops to come home from Iraq within six months if that country’s leaders fail to meet promises to help reduce violence there,” the AP reports. “The plan would retain a Democratic proposal prohibiting the deployment to Iraq of troops with insufficient rest or training or who already have served there for more than a year. Under the plan, such troops could only be sent to Iraq if President Bush waives those standards and reports to Congress each time.”
Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign says it “inadvertently” asked MySpace to delete all grassroots MySpace accounts dedicated to McCain. McCain’s eCampaign director wrote that “a member of my team miscommunicated the campaign’s plans to MySpace, leading to the removal of all the pro-McCain grassroots pages created by supporters like you. … I am extremely disappointed and sorry that this has happened.” Last night, McCain announced his intention to run for president — not on the web, like several other candidates have done, but on The Late Show with David Letterman.
On Sunday, it will have been 2,000 days since the 9/11 terror attacks — 2,000 days that Osama bin Laden has spent on the loose, living in freedom.
Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked about new U.S. intelligence showing that bin Laden is in Pakistan actively re-establishing al Qaeda training camps.
At first Snow claimed that this was “an intelligence matter that I’m not going to be able to go into,” despite the fact that the new National Intelligence Director had testified about this topic the day before. He then suggested that bin Laden may now be “marginalized.” A reporter responded, “Isn’t he the leader of al Qaeda?” Snow answered, “Well, I don’t know. It’s a real question about who assumes operational command.” Watch it:
Last month, Vice President Cheney referenced the #3 leader of al Qaeda “underneath Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri.” In December, Snow himself referred to al Qaeda as “the bin Laden organization.” Moreover, President Bush, Tony Snow, and other White House officials frequently quote bin Laden as proof that al Qaeda considers Iraq “the central battlefield in the war on terror.”
Only when the Bush administration is asked to face the truth about the threat that bin Laden poses do they pretend he might be a bit player. Otherwise, they’re happy to use his propaganda to justify their failing policies.
Transcript: Read more
The Houston Chronicle’s Julie Mason provides some insight into how the White House advance team prepared for Bush’s visit to the Gulf Coast today:
One thing Bush likes to do in the Gulf Coast is hand out American flags to families rebuilding their houses. Long before he shows up, Bush’s advance team scouts the non-hostile property owners in a neighborhood, and later, the president drops by and gives the family a flag. The White House thinks this makes for good pictures — and maybe it did, a month after the storm. But a year and half later, with the region still a mess and so many people displaced, it seems a little tone-deaf to be handing out flags — politically, it does invite comparisons to what Bush isn’t doing in the region.
Today, the Army announced the commander of Walter Reed hospital, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, has been relieved of command. According to the press statement making the announcement, Army surgeon general Kevin Kiley will be Weightman’s temporary replacement.
Kiley ran Walter Reed before becoming the Army’s surgeon general. During that time, Kiley ignored multiple complaints about the facility from soldiers and veterans groups. From this morning’s Washington Post:
[A]s far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army’s top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.
Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he ran into Kiley in the foyer of the command headquarters at Walter Reed shortly after the Iraq war began and told him that “there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and people not getting the care they need.”
“I met guys who weren’t going to appointments because the hospital didn’t even know they were there,” Robinson said. Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer. [...]
On Feb. 17, 2005, Kiley sat in a congressional hearing room as Sgt. 1st Class John Allen, injured in Afghanistan in 2002, described what he called a “dysfunctional system” at Walter Reed in which “soldiers go months without pay, nowhere to live, their medical appointments canceled.”
Even now, Kiley has claimed the problems at Walter Reed’s infamous Building 18 “weren’t serious” and he has attacked the media’s coverage of the issue as “one-sided.” “I want to reset the thinking that while we have some issues here, this is not a horrific, catastrophic failure at Walter Reed,” Kiley has said.
Articles in today’s Washington Post and New York Times raise questions about the accuracy of the Bush administration’s claims in 2002 that North Korea had a uranium enrichment program, a charge they used to justify breaking off negotiations.
In July 2004, then-Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly testified before Congress that North Korea was pursuing a uranium enrichment program. But just last week, Kelly’s successor — Christopher Hill — said that, in order to produce highly enriched uranium, “It would require a lot more equipment than we know that [North Korea has] actually purchased.”
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) asked intelligence officials to comment on U.S. assessments of North Korean programs to enrich uranium. Joseph DeTrani, the DNI’s mission manager for North Korea walked back previous claims that North Korea had a uranium enrichment program:
Sir, we had high confidence. The assessment was with high confidence that, indeed, they were making acquisitions necessary for, if you will, a production-scale [HEU] program. And we still have confidence that the program is in existence — at the mid-confidence level, yes, sir, absolutely.
The New York Times today explains what “mid-confidence level” means:
Under the intelligence agencies’ own definitions, that level “means the information is interpreted in various ways, we have alternative views” or it is not fully corroborated.
The story of the Bush administration’s handling of intelligence pertaining to North Korea’s nuclear program has received too little attention for an administration with little credibility on threat intelligence. The administration’s handling of the issue offers yet another reason why two-thirds of the American people do not trust its intelligence claims about threats to the United States.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall calls it “a screw-up that staggers the mind.”
Earlier in the week, the Senate decided to “hold off debating a repeal of the 2002 Iraq war authorization.” Now, it will not debate the war for at least two weeks.
Today on MSNBC, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), a strong advocate for redeployment from Iraq, urged the Senate to “use the power of the purse” to end the war. He added, “You know what? If the Democrats don’t use their power, when we’re in the majority in both houses, we’re going to start owning this war. It is George Bush’s war, but if we don’t get serious we’re going to start owning this war.” Watch it:
Transcript: Read more
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers today issued subpoenas to four former U.S. Attorneys who have been fired by the Bush Administration. “The former U.S. Attorneys are alleging very serious charges against the Administration and we need to hear from them,” Chairman Conyers said. A full overview of the attorney scandal in today’s Progress Report.
Yesterday, the Army Times reported that soldiers at Walter Reed say they have been told “they must not speak to the media.” Editor & Publisher reported subsequently that the military press crackdown was more widespread than Walter Reed, and that “many of the denials are apparently in reaction to the potential negativity of a planned story.”
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Army spokesman Paul Boyce insisted that the Army Times report is inaccurate, and that injured vets are “free to exercise their First Amendment right” and speak with the media. But upon further questioning, Boyce acknowledged that if patients at Walter Reed wanted to speak to reporters inside the hospital, they must first receive approval from the hospital’s press relations office.
What if reporters want to speak to a reporter without getting approval from a PR office? “They can go to Starbucks,” Boyce said. Asked whether this was a reasonable solution for patients recuperating from physical and mental trauma, Boyce said yes. “It’s just a short trip, and many of them want to get out [of the hospital] anyway.”
Boyce repeatedly justified the restrictions on patients’ activities by citing the fact that Walter Reed hospital is a “government building.” ThinkProgress contacted several legal analysts and none of them could explain why this would justify media restrictions.
Glenn Greenwald on the war party’s bizarre refusal to actually come out and say that it favors war with Iran:
For that reason, Stuttaford has been repeatedly asking the Warriors what they think we ought to do about Iran if negotiations are so misguided, and they keep refusing to answer. Finally Rubin was forced to address the question, and he began this way: “What would I suggest? When it comes to economic measures, Patrick Clawson provides some useful suggestions.” He does not, of course, say that we should confine ourselves to those “economic measures,” because that’s not what he believes. He thus proceeds to reject various other measures (while never saying which ones he favors) and then finishes with this pronouncement:
Nor do I believe it in U.S. interests to acquiesce to the Revolutionary Guard and Office of the Supreme Leader with nuclear arms. Their ideology matters; it would be unwise to project our own values upon those circles in Iran which would control such capability. With regard to much more precise options, such things are better discussed in private, and I would be glad to do so.
So Rubin is unwilling to say publicly what he thinks the U.S. should do with regard to Iran. He is willing to unveil his great insights only in secret, closed-door meetings at the AEI at shadowy gatherings of our nation’s neoconservative foreign policy geniuses, but is not willing to advocate those ideas to his fellow citizens in public forums.
Only Rubin is dumb enough to get caught up in this precise phrasing, but the basic pattern is everywhere.