Four Western oil companies — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, and BP — are in the final stages of “talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields.” The New York Times writes:
The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India [...]
There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.
These current contracts are reportedly a “foothold” in Iraq for companies striving for more lucrative, longer-term deals.
But five months later, implementation of the law is bogged down by infighting between politicians, and the committee once tasked with hunting out Baathists in government has found itself in the odd position of overseeing the process of rehiring them or offering them state pensions.
The government has still not appointed a seven-member panel to replace the deBaathification Committee, whose enthusiastic purge of Baathists from government posts prompted minority Sunni Arabs to accuse them of conducting a witch-hunt.
Juan Cole writes that though the Reuters story is “a refutation of the whole Kagan-Bush-McCain victory narrative of the ‘surge’ or troop escalation,” he doesn’t expect it to be “even be mentioned on American television.”
At today’s House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights hearing on torture, Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, told Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) that over 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody, with up to 27 of these declared homicides:
NADLER: Your testimony said 100 detainees have died in detention; do you believe the 25 of those were in effect murdered?
WILKERSON: Mr. Chairman, I think the number’s actually higher than that now. Last time I checked it was 108.
A February 2006 Human Rights First report found that although hundreds of people in U.S. custody had died and eight people were tortured to death, only 12 deaths had “resulted in punishment of any kind for any U.S. official.”
In recent days, several conservatives, in an attempt to push for expanded oil drilling, have parroted the talking point that China is drilling near Cuba, just off the coast of Florida. In reality, “China is not drilling in Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico waters, period,” as Jorge Piñon, an energy expert at the University of Miami, explained.
Nevertheless, as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) calls for lifting a ban on offshore oil drilling, the McCain campaign continues to parrot the false line. On CNBC last night, McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer stated:
When you think about the fact that we’ve got China and Cuba drilling closer to the United States — the coastal United States — when American companies aren’t allowed to drill. It’s just insane.
This afternoon on MSNBC, she made similar comments:
And remember, you’ve got China and Russia drilling closer to American coastlines than American companies are allowed to drill.
In recent days, however, several prominent conservatives, including columnist George Will (who originally made the specious claim), have publicly rejected the talking point:
Vice President Cheney: “It is our understanding that, although Cuba has leased out exploration blocks 60 miles off the coast of southern Florida…no Chinese firm is drilling there.”
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL): The China-Cuba connection is “akin to urban legend.”
But Pfotenhauer continues to push a false claim that even her conservative allies no longer use. Not surprisingly, according to Senate lobbying disclosures, Pfotenhauer previously was a lobbyist for Koch Industries, a major energy company involved in oil exploration.
In a new interview with the Washington Post, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said that he will be giving the House Judiciary Committee 30 days to act on his 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush, otherwise he will go back to the House floor with double as many:
“The minute the leadership said ‘this is dead on arrival’ I said that I hope they believe in life after death; because I’m coming back with it,” Kucinich vowed in an interview with the Sleuth this week. “It’s not gonna die. Because I’ll come back with more articles. Not 35, but perhaps 60 articles.“
Chris Bowers notes an interesting finding: If you take the current Obama-McCain national polling matchup and compare it to the Kerry-Bush result in 2004, you’ll see an 8.1 percent swing in favor of the Democrats in the national popular vote. And if you apply an 8.1 percent swing in favor of the Democrats in each state, you get a map that’s really the same as the map produced by the current state-by-state polling:
Not the most earth-shattering result on the planet, but a useful reminder that even though in principle the Electoral College allows for crazy divergences from the popular vote result, in practice gains in national polling tend to be distributed fairly evenly. So if you want to keep tabs on the race over the summer months there’s probably no need to bother with the state-by-state polls.
In a op-ed yesterday attempting to cast doubt on man-made global warming, Washington Times columnist and editor emeritus Wesley Pruden opened with a line stating that the AIDS virus is “the gifts of the gays“:
We were all supposed to be dead now, done in by AIDS, the gift of the gays. After that it was SARS, bequeathed to the world by China. Then it was avian flu, which, to be fair to the alarmists, did in fact result in the deaths of millions. The millions were all chickens, true, but chickens have feelings, too. You could ask the folks at PETA.
As Media Matters has documented, Pruden has a history of writing that heterosexuals having AIDS is a “myth,” even though the U.N. reported that, in 2005, 32 percent of all new AIDS infections in the U.S. were contracted by heterosexuals. (HT: Huffington Post)
For weeks if not months now, a troll by the name of Richard Steven Hack has been popping up in comments alleging that I’m dodging his “two questions” about Iran and so on and so forth. In fact, I just didn’t know what his questions were! Now I know:
So he’s STILL ducking my two questions. What’s so hard about answering my two questions, Matt? You either believe (or don’t know whether) Iran has a nuclear weapons program, or you don’t. You either believe that a military response is appropriate if Iran DOES have such a program, or you don’t.
Obviously I have no personal knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program, but I accept the judgment of the Intelligence Community that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program. And if Iran does restart its nuclear weapons program, I don’t think bombing Iran would be an appropriate response. It seems to me that I’ve written extensively on both of these questions over the years, though not explicitly in response to Mr RSH. I hope this is the last we’ll hear of me “ducking” these topics.
Earlier today, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith refused to appear at a House Judiciary hearing. But while he didn’t have the time for Congress, he did have the time to appear on Bill Bennett’s radio show this morning.
During the interview, Bennett asked Feith if the Bush administration exaggerated the case for war with “the mushroom clouds and so on.” “Did we overstate the case?” asked Bennett. “I think that we did not,” replied Feith, though he conceded, “There were errors made in the presentation”:
BENNETT: One, did we overstate the case, the mushroom clouds and so on? Was there exaggeration? Not inaccuracy about the weapons, but did we overblow it?
FEITH: I think that we did not. I don’t think that administration officials purposely overstated, I do think there were errors made in the presentation and the main error was of course relying on the CIA’s assessment that we would find not just the chemical and biological weapons programs, but actual stockpiles.
Feith went on to claim that it is a common misconception that “the Bush administration officials came into office hell bent on war.” Listen here:
Feith’s claim that there was no “exaggeration” by the White House before the war is yet another example of his misremembering the facts in an effort to save his tattered reputation. In fact, the New York Times article earlier this month on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the administration’s pre-war claims was titled, “Senate Panel Finds Iraq Intelligence Exaggerations.”
Here are just a few examples of the exaggerations found by the Senate Intelligence Committee:
- Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.
- Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.
- Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.
Feith’s claim that Bush administration officials were not “hell bent” on war is contradicted by others who served in the administration. For instance, in 2004, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill told CBS News that “from the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go.”