Wednesday, April 28, 2004
A former US ambassador will this week 'out' a government official who named his wife as a CIA operative. Andrew Buncombe examines the latest 'must-read' memoir tackling the Bush administration
29 April 2004
The Bush administration is bracing itself for the latest memoir by a former insider. Joe Wilson, a former ambassador, will this week reveal the name of the government official who "outed" his wife - revealing her identity as a CIA operative in apparent revenge for his role in proving the White House made false claims about Iraq's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
But in what has increasingly becoming the habit during Mr Bush's presidency, Mr Wilson will not make his claims on television, at a press conference or even in a newspaper column but between the covers of a "must-read" book. His memoir, The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity, is published tomorrow.
Tomorrow is going to be a busy day for Mr Wilson, a former ambassador to several African countries and a member of President Bill Clinton's national security council. For while the initial "scoop" will appear in his book, if precedent is any guide the revelation will quickly be devoured by all other media and Mr Wilson will likely be filling the airwaves and broadcasts that day.
This is dependent, of course, on the "scoop"not being leaked in advance of publication. Mr Wilson knows the score on this and yesterday he declined to spill the beans. "No, I can't do that," he said. He did, however, "reveal" that the movie project of the book was not so far advanced that actors had been selected. "I will say that if this becomes a movie I am happy with that," he added. "This is a story that people should be told."
The story in question has, to a large extent, already been told. A publisher's breathless blurb might read: "Handsome and worldly Joe Wilson - the last US official to meet Saddam Hussein before the Beast of Baghdad was ousted - was dispatched to Niger at the bequest of Vice-President Dick Cheney to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from the African country to develop its nuclear weapons programme.
"Mr Wilson found the claims to be demonstrably false and told senior CIA officials.
"Last summer, after President Bush repeated the false claim in his State of the Union address, Mr Wilson revealed his trip to Niger and his conclusion to the Independent on Sunday and then in a signed op-ed piece in the New York Times". But it is the what happened next that is gripping Washington. After Mr Wilson went public, the White House leaked to the right-wing newspaper columnist, Bob Novak, that the ambassador's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative and that she may have suggested the mission. Both Mr Wilson and the CIA were furious, claiming that Ms Plame had been compromised and her career severely damaged.
Leaking the identity of a CIA operative is a federal offence and the FBI, headed by an outside prosecutor, has for several months been conducting an investigation and has put together a grand jury to consider evidence and hear from witnesses.
Mr Wilson initially claimed it was Mr Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, who leaked his wife's identity, though he has since stepped back somewhat from that allegation. Reports suggest that other potential leakers could be Mr Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby or else John Hannah, a senior national security aide on the Vice-President's staff. Either way, if anyone in the White House is found guilty of the leak to Mr Novak and others, it would be very damaging to Mr Bush as he campaigns for reelection.
While Mr Wilson's book will receive a flurry of attention - and no doubt earn him a nice sum - it is just the latest in a series of "insider accounts" that seek to reveal the truth about what is going on at the White House. While the administrations of both Clinton and Mr Bush Snr (at least towards the end) were as leaky as the proverbial sieve, the current administration has remained remarkably water-tight, with few genuine leaks appearing in newspapers. As a result, books written by former officials such as the Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, have received unprecedented attention and there have been at least half a dozen such tomes published in recent months. Sir Harold Evans, the former Times editor and Random Books publisher, told The New York Times: "In my experience it is quite phenomenal that so many books are coming at us with such force and candour. Normally there is quite a time gap before such books start to appear, so the reconstruction of events has lost some of its bite."
Publishers are responding to the demand and the willingness of readers to buy such titles, many of which have topped the best-seller lists. Editing, production and distribution of volumes is now being done in almost as little time as it takes for a long magazine article to be produced.
Michael Korda, an editor with Simon & Schuster, said: "The mores have changed. Who on earth would say people have to wait a proper period of time before writing their memoirs?"
Less an insider's account of what has happened in the White House than an insider's account of what should happen in the White House and, by extension of the administration's power, elsewhere. The book, by the former chairman of the Pentagon's Defence Policy Board and a former White House speechwriter, calls for those who pose a threat to be neutralised or destroyed. Mr Frum, the speechwriter credited with coining the term "axis of evil," and Mr Perle, a former assistant Secretary of Defence, advocates "an aggressive, activist approach to stomping out terrorism both within America's borders and in other countries as well".
Their plan calls for the US to overthrow the government of Iran, abandon support of a Palestinian state, blockade North Korea, use strong-arm tactics with Syria and China, disregard much of Europe as allies, and sever ties with Saudi Arabia. The book had a limited impact but was seen as a support from the political right for the strike against Iraq at a time when the controversy over the failure to discover WMD continued to rage.
An End to Evil, by Richard Perle and David Frum. Published by Random House, December 2003
Though written by Mr Suskind, the main and most important source for this book was former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who was fired by the White House in late 2002 after what it considered a series of gaffes. His supporters claimed he was a scapegoat. Mr O'Neill's main claim was that from his very first days in the White House, Mr Bush was planning the ousting of Saddam Hussein, even though there was no evidence that the Iraqi regime had the weapons of mass destruction it was alleged to possess. "In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterise as evidence of weapons of mass destruction," said Mr O'Neill. "There were allegations and assertions by people. I never saw anything in the intelligence that I would characterise as real evidence." The White House was forced onto the defensive, claiming Mr O'Neill was "trying to justify personal views." The Treasury Department requested an investigation.
The Price of Loyalty: George W Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill, by Ron Suskind. Published by Simon and Schuster, January 2004
Written by the White House's former counter-terrorism chief, this book alleged that the Bush administration had repeatedly ignored his warnings about the threat posed by al-Qa'ida in the spring and summer of 2001 and that the plan to invade Iraq diverted attention from the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It claimed that on September 12, having been informed that al-Qa'ida was behind the attacks, Mr Bush demanded: "I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you to, as soon as you can, go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he slinked in anyway." Again told that al-Qa'ida was responsible, Mr Bush continued: "I know, I know ... but see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred." The book's publication coincided with Mr Clarke's testimony to the commission investigating the attacks and added to a growing public perspective that the administration could have done more to prevent the attacks - something that Mr Bush and his senior officials were forced to deny.
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, by Richard Clarke. Published by Simon and Schuster, March 2004
Mrs Hughes was, and probably still is, one of the most powerful women in Washington. A counsellor to President Bush since, as she says, "the motorcade was only one car and he was sometimes the one driving it", she has had an unparalleled view of the operation of power. The book, published as Mr Bush's re-election campaign restarts, is a largely hagiographic account of the US President and his supposed strengths. In it, Mr Bush appears as bold and decisive and yet someone who was prepared to listen. Mrs Hughes left the White House in 2002 to return to Texas and spend more time with her family but will be back in Washington to help Mr Bush's re-election campaign. She said at the time of the book's publication: "I think more highly of the president today and of Mrs Bush than the day I went to work for him." Perhaps because there were no "scoops" in the book, most reviewers of the volume have focused on its portrayal of the difficulties facing women juggling families and all-consuming jobs.
Ten Minutes from Normal, by Karen Hughes. Published by Viking, March 2003
Mr Woodward may not technically be an insider but he is such a part of the Washington establishment that he has unique access to those who are. This volume involved interviews with 75 sources, only two of which - Mr Bush himself and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - are named. It has already created a huge furore in Washington, revealing as it does that Mr Bush secretly ordered a war plan drawn up against Iraq less than two months after US forces attacked Afghanistan and was so worried the decision would be controversial that he did not tell all his senior officials. In the book, Mr Bush is quoted as saying: "I knew what would happen if people thought we were developing a potential war plan for Iraq. It was such a high-stakes moment and ... it would look like that I was anxious to go to war. And I'm not anxious to go to war." The book has also placed Secretary of State Colin Powell in a difficult position, showing him to be ineffective in preventing the war he opposed.
Plan of Attack, by Bob Woodward. Published by Simon and Schuster, April 2004
Mr Wilson, the former US ambassador to several African countries and the deputy head of mission in Baghdad during the build-up to the 1991 Gulf War, has written what is likely to be a hugely controversial memoir detailing his wife's outing as a CIA operative by the White House. Mr Wilson went to Niger at the request of the Vice-President's office to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium. He reported that the claims were false and that documents on which they were based must be fakes. His account was confirmed by the UN nuclear watchdog. Mr Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, are a glamorous fixture in the more liberal circles of Washington and he has been held up as someone who dared expose the false claims. His memoir could be the most damaging yet as it deals with a topic that is currently the focus of a criminal investigation. If a senior White House official is even charged with leaking Ms Plame's identity it would be very awkward for Mr Bush and Dick Cheney.
The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity, by Joseph Wilson. Published by Avalon, April 2004
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Remember, "Mission accomplished?"
All photos were taken within the last week, in and around Falluja, Iraq.
Why are we here?!
Monday, April 26, 2004
And my generation is paying the tab.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Woman loses her job over coffins photo
By Hal Bernton
Seattle Times staff reporter
A military contractor has fired Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of flag-draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers was published in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times.
Silicio was let go yesterday for violating U.S. government and company regulations, said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the contractor that employed Silicio at Kuwait International Airport.
"I feel like I was hit in the chest with a steel bar and got my wind knocked out. I have to admit I liked my job, and I liked what I did," Silicio said.
Her photograph, taken earlier this month, shows more than 20 flag-draped coffins in a cargo plane about to depart from Kuwait. Since 1991, the Pentagon has banned the media from taking pictures of caskets being returned to the United States.
That policy has been a lightning rod for debate, and Silicio's photograph was quickly posted on numerous Internet sites and became the subject of many Web conversations. Times Executive Editor Michael R. Fancher yesterday appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" news show with U.S. Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., who supported the Pentagon policy prohibiting such pictures.
As a result of the broader coverage, The Times received numerous e-mails and phone calls from across the country — most of which supported the newspaper's decision.
Pentagon officials yesterday said the government's policy defers to the sensitivities of bereaved families. "We've made sure that all of the installations who are involved with the transfer of remains were aware that we do not allow any media coverage of any of the stops until (the casket) reaches its final destination," said Cynthia Colin, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
Maytag also fired David Landry, a co-worker who recently wed Silicio.
Silicio said she never sought to put herself in the public spotlight. Instead, she said, she hoped the publication of the photo would help families of fallen soldiers understand the care and devotion that civilians and military crews dedicate to the task of returning the soldiers home.
"It wasn't my intent to lose my job or become famous or anything," Silicio said.
The Times received Silicio's photograph from a stateside friend, Amy Katz, who had previously worked with Silicio for a different contractor in Kosovo. Silicio then gave The Times permission to publish it, without compensation. It was paired with an article about her work in Kuwait.
Silicio, 50, is from Edmonds and previously worked as an events decorator in the Seattle area and as a truck driver in Kosovo. Before the war started, she went to work for Maytag, which contracts with the Air Mobility Command to provide air-terminal and ground-handling services in Kuwait.
In Kuwait, Silicio pulled 12-hour night shifts alongside military workers to help in the huge effort to resupply U.S. troops. These workers also helped transport the remains of soldiers back to the United States.
Her job put her in contact with soldiers who sometimes accompanied the coffins to the airport. Having lost one of her own sons to a brain tumor, Silicio said, she tried to offer support to those grieving over a lost comrade.
"It kind of helps me to know what these mothers are going through, and I try to watch over their children as they head home," she said in an earlier interview.
Since Sunday, Silicio has hunkered down in Kuwait as her employer and the military decided her fate.
Maytag's Silva said the decision to terminate Silicio's and Landry's employment was made by the company. But he said the U.S. military had identified "very specific concerns" about their actions. Silva declined to detail those concerns.
"They were good workers, and we were sorry to lose them," Silva said. "They did a good job out in Kuwait and it was an important job that they did."
Landry, in an e-mail to The Times, said he was proud of his wife, and that they would soon return home to the States.
Monday, April 19, 2004
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
During last night's prime time press conference, President Bush once again
claimed that "there was nobody in our government, at least, and I don't
think the prior government that could envision flying airplanes into
buildings" (1). But just minutes later at the same press conference the
president proved he was not telling the truth.
Specifically, Bush said the reason he supposedly requested intelligence
briefings before 9/11 "had to do with the Genoa G-8 conference I was going
to attend" in 2001. Bush was referring to the fact that, prior to that
conference, he was warned that "Islamic terrorists might attempt to kill him
and other leaders by crashing an airliner into the summit" meetings (2).
His statement that "the prior government" had not taken precautions against
terrorists using planes as weapons is also contradicted by the facts. The
Wall Street Journal recently reported that under President Clinton, "the
federal government had on several earlier occasions taken elaborate, secret
measures to protect special events from just such an attack" (3) after
receiving intelligence warnings (4).
At the press conference, Bush also claimed to have no "inkling whatsoever"
(5) about an attack before 9/11. But the Washington Post today reports that
newly-declassified information shows that the president did not just receive
one intelligence briefing about an imminent Al Qaeda attack, but "a stream"
of repeated warnings (6). In April and May 2001, for example, the
intelligence community titled some of those reports "Bin Laden planning
multiple operations," "Bin Laden network's plans advancing" and "Bin Laden
threats are real." The CIA explicitly told the Administration that upcoming
attacks would "occur on a catastrophic level, indicating that they would
cause the world to be in turmoil."
1. President Addresses the Nation in Prime Time Press Conference,
2. "Italy Tells of Threat at Genoa Summit", Los Angeles Times, 09/27/2001,
3. Wall Street Journal, 04/01/2004.
4. "Report Warned Of Suicide Hijackings", CBS News, 05/10/2002,
5. President Addresses the Nation in Prime Time Press Conference,
6. "Panel Says Bush Saw Repeated Warnings", Washington Post, 04/14/2004,
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Anyway, my local democratic party HQ opened this week. It is really exciting for me. When I walked in today, to sign up to volunteer, oh it was just so refreshing to see all the flags and stuff. It's been four years since I walked into the HQ, and it just sends chills through my body to walk in. I have such a passion for working there I could literally live there. I will be there quite often in the next few months and I hope you will volunteer with your local democratic party. Even if your quite busy please just come in and work an hour or two a week or if you can't do that just put a bumper stick or your car, put up a yard sigh, make a donation. There are tons of ways to help.
Thursday, April 01, 2004
March 14, 2004
By Mike Glover
Quincy, IL -
In the city that saw a historic 19th century debate, John Kerry called for monthly debates with President Bush to elevate the tenor of a campaign that's opened with a relentlessly negative tone.
"Surely, if the attack ads can start now, at least we can agree to start a real discussion about America's future," said Kerry, speaking Saturday to about 500 people packed into a school gymnasium.
"America shouldn't have to put up with eight months of sniping," said Kerry. "We need to get off that detour and back into the true path of democracy."
Kerry put a lock on the Democratic presidential nomination Saturday as he reached the 2162 delegates needed to become the party's candidate to take on Bush, according to a delegate tally by The Associated Press. He did it by picking up the last 162 he needed through superdelegate endorsements and pledges to vote for him at the convention and then padded it with 32 won in the Kansas caucuses.
Though eight months remain until the presidential election, Bush has launched an attack ad campaign bashing Kerry, and Kerry has fired back with a campaign of his own. For months, Kerry has bashed Bush as he campaigned against his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"We confront big issues - as big as any in our history - and they call for a new and historic commitment to a real and informed exchange of ideas," said Kerry. He argued that "2004 can't be just another year of politics as usual."
Kerry made his call in Quincy, the largest city to host the 1858 series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas during a Senate campaign eventually won by Douglas. On Oct. 13 of that year, 20,000 people gathered at Quincy to hear the sixth of what would be seven debates between the two men.
"Both candidates laid out their positions plainly and honestly," said Kerry. "They clashed but over differences in policy, not personal attacks."
Kerry argued the Lincoln-Douglas debates included "sharp exchanges, but they were a serious, honest discussion of important questions of the day, sparking enormous public interest."
Voters of that earlier era were energized by the Lincoln-Douglas debates, he said.
"Today campaigns too often generate more heat than light, firing up partisans while leaving increasing numbers out in the cold," said Kerry. "Everyone in politics shares the blame, but I have come here today because I believe this campaign should be different."
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign dismissed the debate suggestion, arguing that Kerry is largely responsible for the campaign's tenor.
"After calling Republicans crooks and liars, running 17 negative ads over 15,000 times and spending $6.3 million attacking the president, John Kerry is calling for a civil debate on the issues," said Schmidt. "John Kerry should finish the debate with himself."
The dynamic of this year's presidential contest is unique. Kerry emerged from the nominating season relatively quickly and without suffering deep scars from the primary process. That left him as the presumptive nominee months before the two political parties officially award their nominations at national conventions.
With his Democratic rivals dispatched, Kerry has been free to focus his fire on Bush, and Bush has returned the favor, launching an attack ad campaign this week accusing Kerry of being a big-spending liberal who is weak on national security issues.
Kerry said voters are yearning for a return to the days when candidates discussed issues the way that Lincoln and Douglas did, noting the two men left Quincy together on a steamship headed for their next debate.
"Maybe George Bush and I won't travel on the same boat or the same airplane," said Kerry. "But we can give this country a campaign that genuinely addresses our real issues and treats voters with respect."
Kerry said he views the race in light of his hard-fought 1996 Senate campaign against then-Gov. William Weld, a race where the two held a series of eight debates.
"Millions tuned in and millions said the debates helped them make informed decisions on the issues," said Kerry.
Kerry's call is unlikely to have much impact on the series of presidential debates to be held next fall, with an independent commission controlling the debate schedule. There likely will be three debates between Bush and Kerry, and one debate between the vice presidential candidates.
In addition to underscoring the debate history, Kerry was spending his day campaigning in a Midwestern industrial state that's important in the fall campaign. After Illinois, Kerry was scheduled to fly to Pennsylvania and Ohio, also key swing states.
"Who knows, maybe after it's all over George Bush and I will be able to sit down together at a Red Sox-Rangers game and shake hands as friends," said Kerry. "That would be an election where all Americans would win in the end."