BF Columnist Maureen Farrell on Lies That Led to the War With Iraq, Failure to Prevent 9/11, and a US Regime Practicing Torture
In 2005, Maureen Farrell wrote a stunning three-part account of lies that have been told to US citizens by the American government over the past several decades. The third installment, reposted below, includes the blatant lies and propaganda used to manipulate the public to support the Iraq War. She also explore many warning that the Bush administration ignored about possible bin Laden hijackings in the US, including the flying of planes into buildings. Links to the first two parts of the installment
Originally Published in December, 2005
MAUREEN FARRELL FOR BUZZFLASH
"All men having power ought to be mistrusted." ~James Madison
January: Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, co-chairs of the U.S. Commission on National Security, brief Bush administration officials on the looming terror threat. Hart later tells Salon that Congress appeared to be ready to act on the commission's recommendations, but Bush said, "'Please wait, we're going to turn this over to the vice president. We believe FEMA is competent to coordinate this effort." The Sept. 11 Commission's recommendations will be similarly ignored. "God help us if we have another attack," chairman Thomas Kean says more than four years later, after the government fails to implement many of the recommendations.
February: During a visit to Cairo, Colin Powell admits that Saddam Hussein "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction" and is "unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."
April: A report entitled, "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century," commissioned by former Secretary of State James Baker, is presented to Vice President Dick Cheney. The study examines America's looming energy crisis and suggests 'military intervention' as a potential remedy.
In April and May, intelligence reports bearing the headlines, "Bin Laden planning multiple operations," "Bin Laden network's plans advancing" and "Bin Laden threats are real" are presented to President Bush.
John O'Neill, the FBI's foremost bin Laden expert, meets with former French intelligence analysts in Paris, reportedly telling them, over the course of two visits, that "the main obstacles to investigating Islamic terrorism [are] U.S. oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia." Two months later, O'Neill makes headlines and on Sept. 11, is among the 3000 killed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Journalist Greg Palast later reports that the FBI was told to "back off" investigations into the Saudis.
German intelligence tells the CIA that Middle Eastern terrorists are training for hijackings and plan on attacking American interests.
White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke gathers top officials from a dozen federal agencies and tells them that "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon."
A CIA intelligence report for President Bush reads, "The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning."
An FBI agent in Phoenix, Arizona warns that suspected Islamic terrorists are attending U.S. flight schools. "Federal authorities have been aware for years that suspected terrorists with ties to Osama bin Laden were receiving flight training at schools in the United States," the Washington Post later reports.
George Bush attends the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, following reports that Osama bin Laden might try to assassinate him -- possibly by flying a plane filled with explosives into a building. Bush stays on a US aircraft carrier because of the threat.
CBS News reports that Attorney General John Ashcroft has stopped flying on commercial airlines due to security concerns.
Condoleezza Rice tells Larry King that the U.S. is able to "keep arms from [Saddam Hussein]" and that Saddam's "military forces have not been rebuilt."
On August 6, President Bush receives a President's Daily Brief headlined "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush petulantly kicks CIA briefer out of his ranch. By this time, he, Dick Cheney, and other top officials have already seen several such warnings.
In late summer 2001, Jordan intelligence intercepts a message stating that a major attack (code-named Big Wedding) is being planned inside the US and that aircraft will be used. The message is forwarded to U.S. authorities.
Suspected "20th hijacker" Zacharias Moussaoui is arrested. An FBI agent later testifies that weeks before Sept. 11, he warned the Secret Service that terrorists might hijack a plane and "hit the nation's capital."
"Hart predicts terrorist attacks on America," Montreal newspapers declare, referring to Sen. Gary Hart's repeated warnings that "the terrorists are coming." On Sept. 6, Hart meets with Condoleezza Rice, reportedly telling her, "Get going on homeland security, you don't have all the time in the world." In 2005, Sept. 11 commissioners adopt Hart's former role. "We believe that another attack will occur. It's not a question of if. We are not as well-prepared as we should be," vice chairman Lee Hamilton says.
The National Security Agency intercepts two messages on Sept. 10. "Tomorrow is zero hour," reads one. "The match begins tomorrow," says the other. NSA does not translate the messages until Sept. 12.
Pentagon officials cancel travel plans for Sept. 11. As Newsweek reports, "On Sept. 10, Newsweek has learned, a group of top Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns." That same day, California mayor Willie Brown receives a similar warning.
The CIA runs "a pre-planned simulation to explore the emergency response issues that would be created if a plane were to strike a building." ("I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile. . . ," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice later says, despite reams of evidence otherwise. FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds later tells Britain's Independent, "I saw papers that show [the] US knew al-Qaeda would attack cities with airplanes.'" )
The Carlyle Group holds its annual investor conference in Washington, DC. Former Secretary of State James Baker and Shafiq bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's brother, are in attendance. "The gathering was the perfect metaphor for Washington's strange affair with Saudi Arabia," author Robert Baer later writes. Further evidence of this "strange affair" surfaces following the 9/11 attacks. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, when the nation's airspace is restricted, the White House allows airplanes to pick up Saudi VIPS, including members of the bin Laden family. And when victims' families file a $1 trillion law suit against the Saudi royal family, James Baker's law firm represents the Saudis.
Donald Rumsfeld attends a meeting. "I had said at an 8:00 o'clock breakfast that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, 10, 12 months, there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people, again, how important it is to have a strong, healthy Defense Department," he later tells Larry King. "And someone walked in and handed a note that said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center." Rumsfeld later tells the 9/11 commission that it took more than two hours for him to "gain situational awareness."
Four planes are hijacked, three hit their targets, 3000 are killed in the worst terror attacks on American soil. "I don't believe any longer that it's a matter of connecting the dots. I think they had a veritable blueprint, and we want to know why they didn't act on it," Sen. Arlen Specter later says of the government's failure to protect U.S. citizens.
NPR's Congressional correspondent David Welna describes a conversation he had during the evacuation of the Capital building. "I spoke with Congressman Ike Skelton. . . who said that just recently the Director of the CIA warned that there could be an attack -- an imminent attack -- on the United States of this nature. So this is not entirely unexpected," he says. The BBC later states that "the threat of an attack from within America had been considered so small that the entire US mainland was being defended by only 14 planes," with "just four fighter pilots on alert covering the north eastern United States."
Bush's reaction upon seeing the first plane is "That's some bad pilot. After the second plane hits, chief of staff Andrew Card tells Bush, "We are under attack." Bush continues reading My Pet Goat to elementary school students.
Five hours after the attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reportedly tells aides to look for a way to attack Saddam Hussein, even though intelligence points to Osama bin Laden.
President Bush activates a shadow government in underground bunkers, without consulting Congress.
Mid-September to September 30
Anthrax-laced letters are mailed to newsrooms and to two U. S. Senate offices. Five people are killed. After it is disclosed that White House staffers began taking the antibiotic Cipro on Sept. 11 (a week before the first anthrax attack), Judicial Watch chairman Larry Klayman wants to know why.
The Associated Press reports that one of the terrorist's passports is miraculously found amongst the rubble at ground zero and recycles the story three years later. On the first anniversary of Sept. 11, an ATM card belonging to one of the passengers on American Airlines Flight 11 is found at ground zero and sent to his parents. "How could a plastic card survive the fire of the terrorist attack of the Black Tuesday on the USA?" they ask, thinking it a sign from heaven.
Ten days after 9/11, during a highly classified briefing, President Bush is told that there is no credible evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the terror attacks. The State Department later pinpoints countries where al-Qaeda is known to operate. Iraq is not listed among them.
Two weeks after Sept. 11, a secret memo written by Justice Department John Yoo concludes that there are "no limits" to the president's war-making authority and that Bush can "preemptively" attack terrorist groups or countries supporting such groups, even if they have no ties to the 9/11 attacks. "I was dumbfounded by the way the Bush Administration pushed aside the Constitution to launch their war on terrorism," Sam Dash later tells John Dean.
Three weeks after Sept. 11, the Pentagon sets up the top secret Office of Strategic Influence -- an operation designed to plant disinformation in the media. Though the program is later scrapped, reports that the U.S. military is "covertly" paying the Iraqi press to run "news" stories favorable to the US mission in Iraq surface in 2005. "Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it," a Pentagon says regarding the planting of propaganda.
The War on Terror begins on Oct. 7, 2001, with the first strikes in Afghanistan. Though President Bush vows to capture Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," bin Laden's significance is downplayed after he reportedly escapes through the mountains at Tora Bora in late November.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad, the head of Pakistan's intelligence service (ISI), has been fired after being connected to a $100,000 payment wired to Mohamed Atta -- reportedly to help fund the Sept. 11 terror attacks. WSJ's Bernard-Henri Levy later speculates that reporter Daniel Pearl was murdered by the ISI after getting too close to the truth about its ties to al-Qaeda and investigative journalist Gerald Posner addresses possible links between Osama bin Laden, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- with many believing that the 28 pages censored from Washington's official report on 9/11 refer, as Newsweek later explains, to "connections between high-level Saudi princes and associates of the hijackers."
Copper Green, the codename for a program which allegedly involves sexual humiliation and extreme interrogation of detainees, is initiated in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Journalist Seymour Hersh later reports that the directive was approved by Donald Rumsfeld, while Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, says that Dick Cheney was also involved. "The secretary of defense under cover of the vice president's office. . . began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to what we've seen," Wilkerson tells NPR, referring to subsequent abuse scandals.
The Patriot Act is railroaded through Congress and the Senate, without the benefit of committee hearings or extended debate, shortly after Democratic legislators are targeted in yet-to-be solved anthrax attacks. Four years later, early concerns about abuses are realized, with the FBI once again spying on ordinary Americans. Though the Act contains a "sunset clause," in July, 2005, Congress votes to renew the provisions set to expire.
President Bush blocks access to presidential records. Thomas Blanton, the Executive Director of the National Security Archive, later tells Bill Moyers that this is "the first time that vice presidents have ever been given their own executive privilege, separate from the president."
After the Kabul offices of al-Jazeera are bombed, the Guardian asks, "Did the US mean to hit the Kabul offices of Al-Jazeera TV?" Less than two years later, similar questions are raised as the war in Iraq approaches. Before bombing even begins, BBC reporter Kate Adie tells an Irish radio station that the Pentagon is threatening to shoot down independent journalists' satellite uplinks, while author Phillip Knightley says the Pentagon is warning that it "may find it necessary to bomb areas in which war correspondents are attempting to report from the Iraqi side."
Reminiscent of President Bill Clinton's bombing of a Serbian TV station during the war in Kosovo, al-Jazeera's Baghdad offices will be bombed in 2003 and a hotel in Basra being used as a base by al-Jazeera's team of correspondents also will receive direct hits. After Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, which houses foreign journalists, is also targeted, the Committee to Protect Journalists demands an investigation -- as does Amnesty International, which says that the Palestine Hotel is protected under international humanitarian law. When details of an April, 2004 dialogue between Bush and Tony Blair are later leaked to the press (in which Bush reportedly "made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere"), the White House calls the accusation "outlandish" and Britain's attorney general imposes a gag order on the British press.
The Boston Herald reports on those most likely to profit from the War on Terror, pointing to George H. W. Bush and his connection with the Carlyle Group. Former GOP strategist Kevin Phillips later traces how four generations of the Bush family "embroiled the United States in the Middle East through CIA connections, arms shipments, rogue banks, inherited war policies and personal financial links."
Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says concerns about Constitutional protections "aid terrorists" and "scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty"; Lynn Cheney's American Council of Trustees issues a list of 117 anti-American statements, including Rev. Jesse Jackson's observation that the U.S. "build bridges and relationships, not simply bombs and walls."
The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MEHPA), which was introduced to governors of all 50 states in October, is revised, using language that sounds less authoritarian. The plan calls for forced vaccinations and confiscation of citizen's real estate, food and other assets without adequate compensation.
Ahmed Chalabi introduces an Iraqi exile named Curveball to the Defense Intelligence Agency. "Keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say and that the Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about," a CIA official later writes, in an e-mail published in Newsweek. In Nov., 2005, the Los Angeles Times says that the U.S. fell under Curveball's "spell," quoting German intelligence officials who say that the Bush administration "repeatedly exaggerated [Curveball's] claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq."
"Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac." ~George Orwell
White House counsel Alberto Gonzales writes a memo to President Bush, advising him to declare Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters exempt from Geneva Convention safeguards. Citing the War Crimes Act of 1996, which prohibits Americans from committing "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions, Gonzales warns that even top U.S. officials could be susceptible to charges of war crimes without this exemption.
President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney personally ask Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to limit the congressional investigation into Sept. 11. Eighteen months later, Sept. 11 family members claim that the White House continues to thwart every effort to get to the bottom of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Former FEMA deputy director John Brinkerhoff writes a paper for the Anser Institute for Homeland Security defending the Pentagon's desire to deploy troops on American streets.
The Counterintelligence Field Activity Agency (CIFA) is created by the Pentagon. In 2005, the White House pushes for broader powers for CIFA -- including authorizing it to engage in domestic surveillance. "We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [congressional] hearing," Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says.
March: A full year before the start of the war in Iraq, former U.N. official Denis Halliday asserts that "Saddam Hussein is not a threat to the U.S." and that "the whole weapons inspection issue is really just a ruse." When Scott Ritter later makes similar claims, he is accused of drinking Saddam Hussein's Kool-Aid.
May: Veteran FBI agent Colleen Rowley sends a 13 page "whistle blower" letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller describing how FBI officials thwarted an investigation into Zacarias Moussaoui. FBI officials who undermined investigations into Zacarias Moussaoui's computer are later promoted and rewarded.
Peter Kirsanow, a Bush appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, warns that should America be attacked again, the public will clamor for Arab-Americans to be placed in internment camps.
British national security aide Matthew Rycroft meets with Tony Blair and several advisers, writing what will later be referred to as the Downing Street Memo. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," the memo reads.
August: Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee writes a memo, citing William Rehnquist's defense of Nixon's 1970 foray into Cambodia as a precedent for loosening restrictions on torture. The Nation later reports on how this and other memos "facilitate torture as public policy" and, "articulate a philosophy of the presidency best described as authoritarian."
The Bush administration begins to ardently push for war with Iraq, with Bush's Chief of Staff Andrew Card explaining why they waited until September. "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," he says
The Office of Special Plans -- created in the days following Sept. 11 attacks and later compared to a "shadow government" -- begins to rival the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. as the President's main source of intelligence on Iraq. Former Pentagon employee Karen Kwiatkowski later chronicles the rise of the OSP -- speaking out against what she refers to as the "neoconservative coup, a hijacking of the Pentagon." Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a former Bush administration insider, confirms that a secretive "cabal" led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "hijacked foreign policy" and partook in "decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy."
President Bush asserts that Iraq is 'six months away' from building a nuclear weapon" ("I don't know what more evidence we need," he says); One month later, he makes a list of false claims, including the assertion that "Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases." Declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document later prove that the Bush administration knew this information was less than credible.
A story by Judith Miller indicating that Saddam Hussein is seeking high strength aluminum tubes to develop a nuclear bomb runs on the front page of the New York Times. This disinformation is cited by Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice on the Sept 8, 2002 Sunday morning talk shows, with Rice telling CNN, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Miller's ties to Bush administration neoconservatives and Iraqi National Congress head Ahmed Chalabi later raise eyebrows, with author James Bamford asserting that Miller "had been a trusted outlet for the INC's anti-Saddam propaganda for years." A memo from a former colleague describes Miller as "an advocate," whose work "is little more than dictation from government sources . . . filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies."
President Bush releases the "National Security Strategy of the United States," and officially unveils the doctrine of preemption, borrowing heavily from the Project for a New American Century's "Rebuilding America's Defenses" and by proxy, the Wolfowitz Doctrine.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution discloses America's hidden plan for Iraq, including plans for "permanent military bases." Though Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld denies such claims, reports later reveal that the U.S. is building "giant new bases in Iraq."
The US military creates a Northern Command to assist in homeland defense. Gen. Ralph Eberhart, the NORAD commander in charge of air defense on Sept. 11, is later named by George W. Bush to serve at its head. "We should always be reviewing things like Posse Comitatus and other laws if we think it ties our hands in protecting the American people," Eberhart says.
Former CIA counterintelligence chief Vincent Cannistraro tells the Guardian that "cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements" and that "CIA assessments are being put aside by the Defense department in favor of intelligence they are getting from various Iraqi exiles." Between Chalabi's faulty intelligence, Curveball's questionable influence, Dick Cheney's CIA "visits" and the batch of fibs being concocted at the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, it's difficult to believe that Mr. Cheney is truly outraged when he later describes accusations that the Bush administration misled the public as "dishonest," "reprehensible" and "not legitimate".
Congress authorizes the use of force against Iraq. "I am very disturbed by President Bush's determination that the threat from Iraq is so severe and so immediate that we must rush to a military solution. I do not see it that way," Senator Jim Jeffords says. Jeffords is one of only 23 Senators voting against the Iraq resolution.
Senator Paul Wellstone is killed in a plane crash. Though his amendment preventing companies using overseas tax shelters from getting homeland security contracts passes the Senate "seemingly unanimously on voice votes," the amendment is later gutted from the final homeland security legislation.
During the run up to the November elections, Vietnam veteran and triple amputee Max Cleland is shamelessly depicted as "unpatriotic" for voicing concerns over homeland security legislation. Though polls show Cleland leading Republican candidate Saxby Chambliss," Chambliss defeats the Georgia senator in a surprising upset. A former worker in Diebold's Georgia warehouse later contends that the company installed "patches on its machines before the state's 2002 gubernatorial election that were never certified by independent testing authorities or cleared with Georgia election officials." During the 2002 midterm elections, e-voting continues to produce disturbing glitch-induced results; Exit polls are scrapped.
After the 32 page Homeland Security Bill balloons to nearly 500 pages overnight, and is railroaded through the Senate and Congress, it is signed into law. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) says the bill "expands the federal police state," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) says it represents "the most severe weakening of the Freedom of Information Act" in 36 years.
Following months of intensive lobbying by Sept 11 family members, an independent commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks is finally formed. Henry Kissinger is initially chosen to head the commission, but is later replaced by Gov. Thomas Kean. "This was not something that had to happen," Kean later says of the Sept. 11 attacks.
In the wake of Jose Padilla's May arrest, the Washington Post warns that the Bush administration "is developing a parallel legal system" without the protections "guaranteed by the ordinary system." When Padilla is finally charged four years later (minus the chilling "dirty bomb' allegations made by Attorney General John Ashcroft on American TV), his attorneys vow to take the case to the Supreme Court. "Americans need to wake up," former Reagan official Paul Craig Roberts later writes. "The only danger to Americans in Iraq is the one Bush created by invading the country. The grave threat that Americans face is the Bush administration's police-state mentality."
The Washington Post reports on America's alleged use of torture to interrogate detainees at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.
"America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War." ~ John LeCarre.
The Economist reports that "American intelligence agents have been torturing terrorist suspects, or engaging in practices pretty close to torture." In Nov. 2005, the publication lambastes the Bush administration for its hypocrisy and deceit on the torture issue. "To add a note of farce to the tragedy, the administration has had to explain that the CIA is not torturing prisoners at its secret prisons in Asia and Eastern Europe -- though of course it cannot confirm that such prisons exist," the magazine says.
Bush delivers his State of the Union with those infamous "16 words" claiming that Iraq is attempting to purchase uranium from Niger. Bush's claim about Saddam's "high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production" is also included, even though it too has already been debunked.
Richard Clarke resigns and later vents his frustrations to Larry King. Citing President Bush's confession to Bob Woodward that he "didn't feel a sense of urgency" regarding terrorism, Clarke asks, "Well, how can you not feel a sense of urgency when George Tenet is telling you in daily briefings, day after day, that a major al Qaeda attack is coming?"
President Bush addresses the UN, saying that "We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons, the very weapons the dictator tells the world he does not have." In an ironic twist, the Pentagon later admits that US forces used white phosphorus during the 2004 assault on Fallujah. -- an act Guardian columnist George Monbiot deems "a war crime within a war crime within a war crime."
Confidential draft legislation entitled "The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003," is leaked to the Center for Public Integrity and Executive Director Chuck Lewis deems it "five to ten times" worse than the original PATRIOT Act.
At least a 10 million people take to streets worldwide to protest against the impending war in Iraq. Hundreds of retired military officers, the Pope, the majority of Christian churches and an ex-president also warn against military action in Iraq. By late 2005, Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom says he believes the invasion of Iraq "will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history," while Martin van Creveld, one of the world's most influential military historians,
accuses Bush of "launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them."
After a study commissioned by NBC says that television host Phil Donahue "seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives," Donahue is canceled, despite having MSNBC's highest ratings. Some say that the media purposely marginalizes anti-war voices while others blame a "climate of fear and self-censorship" for its shameful performance. CNN's Christiane Amanpour later admits that television reporters were "intimidated by the [Bush] administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News."
The Army War College's strategic study on "Reconstructing Iraq" warns against unseating Saddam without a clear post-invasion plan. "Without an overwhelming effort to prepare for occupation, the US may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making," the study says. In 2005, the Downing Street Memo confirms that there was "little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action," while Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, says that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and "certain people in the Defense Department" were responsible for the 'post invasion planning,' which, he says, "was as inept and incompetent as perhaps any planning anyone has ever done."
Three weeks before the start of the war, Gen. Eric Shinseki testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that the U.S. will need several hundred thousand troops to occupy post-invasion Iraq. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz calls this estimate "wildly off the mark" and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld deems it "far off the mark."
Veteran State Department official John Brady Kiesling resigns. "Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson," he writes. "We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security."
Josh Marshall discloses the "startling amount of deception" in the neoconservatives' plans for the Middle East -- with chaos being the desired goal. Paul Wolfowitz later admits that the WMD rationale was made for "bureaucratic reasons" and was "the one reason everyone could agree on."
President Bush warns the Mexican government that there will be a "certain sense of discipline" if it doesn't support the U.S. position on Iraq and a leaked secret document shows that the U.S. plans to bug key UN security council member's phones and e-mails. Despite intensive "arm twisting," the UN refuses to legitimize Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dick Cheney appears on Meet the Press, making one last sales pitch for the approaching war in Iraq. "We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons," he says. The alternative media later exposes 10 "appalling lies" about the war in Iraq, while the foreign press comes up with 20.
Rand Beers, the National Security Council's senior director for combating terrorism, resigns. "The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism," he later asserts. "They're making us less secure, not more secure."
Operation Iraqi Freedom begins on March 20, 2003. "An illegitimate war, a country in defiance of the UN. That was supposed to be Iraq's role in this drama. Instead, it seems to be the U.S. part," asserts Canada's Globe and Mail. "With each passing day, the U.S.-led coalition of the willing. . . looks more like the coalition of the bribed and the kicking
and screaming." The coalition weakens in 2005, when Italy, Hungary, Norway, and other US allies begin pulling troops from Iraq.
Paul Wolfowitz promises that Iraqi's oil revenues will pay for the country's post-war reconstruction. "There's a lot of money to pay for this that doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money," he tells the House Appropriations Committee. "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." In May, 2005, the Christian Science Monitor reports that the U.S. government is spending approximately $5 billion a month in Iraq.
Eight days after the invasion, Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace puts a crinkle in the "cakewalk" myth when he tells the Washington Post, that "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against."
Saddam's Hussein's statue is toppled in Baghdad on April 9 and photos later reveal that the event was not the mob scene depicted on American television. Private Jessica Lynch and sports icon Pat Tillman are also later used for U.S. propaganda.
Army secretary Thomas White resigns, at Donald Rumsfeld's request. Rumsfeld is reportedly furious with White for agreeing with Gen. Shinseki regarding the number of troops needed to occupy post-invasion Iraq.
The Los Angeles Times speaks out against U.S. detention policies, comparing Uncle Sam's network of secret prisons to a "gulag." Newsday, the Seattle Times and other media outlets also use the "g" word in subsequent op-eds. In 2005, Amnesty International's secretary general Irene Khan issues a press statement, announcing that the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo "has become the gulag of our times." This charge is accompanied by allegations of "ghost detentions," which Khan says do not merely evoke "images of" Stalin's camps, but actually "bring back" the "practice of 'disappearances' so popular with Latin American dictators in the past."
George Bush lands on the USS Lincoln, with a "Mission Accomplished" banner in the background. Conservatives lambaste Democrats for making fools of themselves in their criticism of Mr. Bush in his flight suit -- with some braying about the "victorious" commander-in-chief's manly attributes.
June: President Bush makes a speech in honor of the International Day in Support of Torture Victims. "I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture," he says. More than two years later, after Bush asserts "We do not torture," people can't believe their ears. "Fine," Kevin Drum responds. "Then shut down the black sites, tell Dick Cheney to stop lobbying against the McCain amendment, and allow the Red Cross unfettered access to prisoners in our custody."
Responding to the insurgency in Iraq, President Bush says, "Bring 'em on." By late 2005, more than 2,100 soldiers are killed in the war in Iraq
Ambassador Joseph Wilson's Op- ed, "What I didn't find in Africa," appears in the New York Times. When columnist Robert Novak "outs" CIA agent Valerie Plame eight days later, former Nixon counsel John Dean immediately weighs in. "If I thought I had seen dirty political tricks as nasty and vile as they could get at the Nixon White House, I was wrong. . .this is arguably worse," he writes. "Nixon never set up a hit on one of his enemies' wives."
Select documents from Dick Cheney's secretive energy task force are released, proving that the Vice President was "examining Iraq's oil assets two years before the latest war began."
August: Iran-contra figure John Poindexter, chosen to head the Pentagon's controversial Total Information Awareness Program, resigns amidst controversy concerning plans to develop an online futures market for predicting terrorist attacks.
November: Gen. Tommy Franks warns that if terrorists unleash "a weapon of mass destruction. . . somewhere in the Western world" it may "begin to militarize our country" and "unravel the fabric of our Constitution."
"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. " ~ George Orwell
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concludes that the Bush administration "systematically misrepresented" the threat from Iraq's weapons programs. Former senior US weapons inspector David Kay says major stockpiles of WMD probably didn't exist in Iraq.
Military analyst David Segal says that the volunteer army is "stretched too thin" and "closer to being broken today than ever before in its 30-year history." One year later, the Project for a New American Century writes a letter to Congress, citing a statement by the chief of the Army Reserve, that "overuse" in Iraq and Afghanistan could be leading to a "broken force." PNAC says that we "are close to exhausting current U.S. ground forces" and that Congress needs to act. Many see this as a call for a return of the draft. By the close of 2005, however, Rep. John Murtha calls for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq --saying that the Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth."
A study from RABA Technologies finds that Diebold voting machines have security problems that could allow for the manipulation of elections.
February: On Feb. 26, Major General Antonio Taguba publishes his internal Army report regarding charges of abuse by U.S. military personal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. These findings are later made public when photos depicting instances of abuse appear in the media. Additional Abu Ghraib photos reportedly show American soldiers raping a female prisoner, videotaping Iraqi guards raping young boys, and beating a prisoner almost to death. The military initially tries to pass the scandal off as the actions of a "few bad apples," but as Seymour Hersh later writes: "The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld."
Mother Jones predicts that Ohio will be the #1 election day hotspot to watch. "Ohio could become as decisive this year as Florida was four years ago," the magazine says.
After the Federal Marriage Amendment banning gay marriage is defeated, House leaders cite an obscure provision of the U.S. Constitution (Article III, Section 2) and vote to pass the Marriage Protection Act, a bill which will prevent the Supreme Court from considering the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The New York Times calls its "a radical assault on the Constitution" and Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jay Bookman calls it "a power grab of breathtaking consequences."
April: During the 2004 election primaries, the Associated Press reports that e-voting failures have "shaken confidence in the technology installed at thousands of precincts" -- with as many as 20 states introducing legislation calling for paper receipts on voting machines.
Nick Berg, an American who often worked on a tower near Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison, is beheaded on tape. The video raises more questions than it answers.
Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi's Baghdad compound is raided by Iraqi and American authorities. U.S. officials say they have "evidence Chalabi passed intelligence to Iran about U.S. operations in Iraq" -- information that, as one official puts it, "could get Americans killed." Though still under investigation by the FBI, Chalabi is greeted with open arms by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice in Nov. 2005, and speaks at the American Enterprise Institute, where Lynn Cheney serves as a board member. Photos of Chalabi arriving at the Pentagon and at the State Department are strictly forbidden.
A series of FOX e-mails are leaked to the press, revealing the network's less than fair and balanced underbelly. In Nov, 2005, FOX runs a scroll asking, "Why All The Fuss About Torturing People?"
The Sept. 11 Commission issues its report, and is criticized for downplaying the roles played by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and for omitting information regarding "Able Danger" -- a counterterrorism unit that existed from 1999 until it was "unceremoniously axed" in Feb. 2001. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer later says that "there was a significant amount of information that was totally deleted or not provided to the 9/11 commissioners" and shares the frustration he felt at not being able to share information with the FBI -- especially since he knew that four of the hijackers, including Mohammed Atta, were in America a year before the attacks. (It's still unclear, however, how, without this information, the FBI knew exactly which ATM machine in Portland Maine would reap a picture of Atta on 9/11.). Sept. 11 widow Kristen Breitweiser later calls the 9/11 report "utterly hollow" and James Ridgeway, author of The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11: What the 9/11 Commission Report Failed to Tell Us, compares Patrick Fitzgerald's Plamegate investigation to its 9/11 counterpart -- saying that while Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame have the satisfaction of seeing Scooter Libby "under indictment and out of a job " there "is no such whiff of justice" for the Sept. 11 victims and their families.
Walden O'Dell, the chief executive of Diebold, promises that he's "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year"; a demonstration on e-vote insecurity teaches Howard Dean how easy it is to steal an election.
The Washington Times reports that high ranking officials from the former Office of Special Plans are investigated by the FBI, "on suspicion that one of them passed highly classified U.S. military information to the government of Israel. . . "
September: Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who also happens to be co-chair of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, blocks new voter registration in his state.
Just months after Nicholas Kristof writes back to back articles on the possibility of "an American Hiroshima," the International Atomic Energy Agency tells the UN that equipment which could be used to make a nuclear bomb has disappeared from Iraq. The equipment, which had been part of Saddam Hussein's nuclear bomb program before the first Gulf War (and had been under the IAEA's watch since 1991), is reportedly dismantled and carted away during Operation Iraqi Freedom. "It's equipment that is very specialized, very hard to come by, that's tightly controlled, so it could be very helpful for [those] seeking to build weapons," proliferation expert Jon Wolfsthal tells Christian Science Monitor. "It's very troubling that any of this stuff should be unprotected, let alone go missing," he says.
In the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, Seymour Hersh reports that U.S. has been "disappearing" people since December, 2001 and in 2005, the Washington Post confirms that the CIA is using a Soviet-era compound to interrogate captives. "The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba" the Post reports.
Stanford computer specialist David Dill tells Newsweek that the risk of a stolen election is "extremely high."
On election night, polls show John Kerry winning, and the following day, Ohio's results are called into question. The GOP proposes to do away with exit polls, for being "unreliable," but a University of Pennsylvania professor places odds that the exit polls were that wrong in that many states at 250 million to one. Pollster John Zogby later likens the 2004 presidential election to 1960's suspicious contest. "Something is definitely wrong," Zogby says, adding "we're talking about the Free World here."
President Bush provides a tape of himself, sitting in the White House, commenting on his impending victory on election night - even though no sitting president has ever addressed the nation while polls were still open. The Bush family filmed a similar made-for-TV moment in 2000, when they promised that Florida would go to George W. Bush.
Warren County, Ohio, locks down its administration building, blocking anyone from observing the vote count.
The day after the election, the AP reports on "problems with electronic voting machines," with citizens complaining that though they intended to choose John Kerry, computers registered for President Bush instead. Researchers at the highly respected UC Berkeley say that electronic voting machines may have added between 130,000 to 260,000 (or more) votes to President Bush's tally in Florida, while researchers at John Hopkins University had previously reported that Diebold machines functioned "below even the most minimal security standards" and were "unsuitable for use in a general election."
House Democrats ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate voting machine irregularities. The GAO issues its report in 2005, finding that concerns about electronic voting machines are valid -- with votes being lost and miscounted during recent elections. Rep. John Conyers also examines "What Went Wrong in Ohio."
2005 "Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions." ~ Ulysses S. Grant
Columnist and frequent TV talk show guest Armstrong Williams is paid $241,000 by the Bush administration to promote its No Child Left Behind legislation. "This happens all the time," Armstrong tells the Nation's David Corn in Jan. 2005, adding that "there are others." The General Accounting Office later finds that the Bush administration violated the law by engaging in "covert propaganda" within the U.S.
During a news conference, Jeff Gannon, of Talon News and GOPUSA, asks President Bush how he could deal with Senate Democrats "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality." Bloggers smell a rat. Within a month, the mainstream media also begin to question how Gannon, a gay escort, was given clearance to attend White House briefings -- even before he was a "reporter." CBS asks if there is a "Rove-Gannon connection."
February: An article by Deon Roberts bemoans the fact that expenditures for hurricane and flood protection projects in New Orleans have been reduced by 44.2 percent since 2001. When President Bush later says that "nobody could anticipate a breach of the levee," after Hurricane Katrina, the Baltimore Sun cites research studies and articles by the Scientific American, National Geographic and Louisiana journalists who have been "doing precisely that for decades," and says that Bush "should be laughed out of town as an impostor."
March: Lawmakers introduce the Constitutional Restoration Act of 2005 which states that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over "any matter" regarding public officials who acknowledge "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."
May: The Downing Street Memo is leaked to the Times of London. One month later, Congressional Democrats hold an informal hearing, trying to draw attention to accusations that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" during the lead up to the war in Iraq. Revisionists later cite Bill Clinton's Iraqi Liberation Act as proof that the "official policy" of the US was set in 1998, failing to mention that the goal, as Paul Wolfowitz testified, was to "help the Iraqi people liberate themselves." In marked contrast to mushroom cloud claims made before the Iraq invasion, Wolfowitz also tells Congress that "Saddam is in a position of great weakness."
July: Vice President Cheney visits key Republicans, lobbying them to reject John McCain's amendment preventing the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners.
President Bush bypasses the Senate and appoints John Bolton Ambassador to the UN, despite that fact that Bolton's appointment has been blocked for months by Senators demanding that the Bush administration release classified pertaining to Bolton's past, including, as the Guardian puts it, "claims that he tried to manipulate US intelligence to support his hawkish views."
Four years after signing their first "friendship treaty" in more than half a century, Russia and China conduct their first joint military exercises. Two months later, a security bloc led by both countries calls for the U.S.to set a deadline for the withdrawal of its troops from Central Asia.
Bunnatine Greenhouse, an Army Corps of Engineers officer who was openly critical of the Pentagon's decision to award Halliburton no-bid contracts is demoted.
Hurricane Katrina is met with a disastrous response. Newsweek later explores the underlying dysfunction that plagues the Bush presidency, in an attempt to answer how "the president of the United States could have even less 'situational awareness' . . . than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century." Though pundits start blaming local and state authorities, FEMA reportedly turns away generators, trailer trucks of water and gallons of diesel fuel, while urging first responders not to respond.
As government officials issue statements that do not jive with televised images coming out of New Orleans, journalists finally cut through the government-issued pabulum, presenting vivid and emotional depictions of the horror unfolding at the convention center and elsewhere.
After admitting that he did not realize that thousands of people were stranded at the New Orleans convention center without food or water (though it had been reported on all US television stations), FEMA Director Michael Brown resigns -- while staying on the government's payroll. When Brown's e-mails are leaked to the press, the public gets a better understanding of the "fashion god" Bush applauded for doing a "heck of a job." 'Can I quit now?' Brown asks as Katrina batters New Orleans.
The military conducts a highly classified "Granite Shadow demonstration" in Washington, DC. --raising more red flag regarding the "military's extra-legal powers" and the end of Posse Comitatus.
On Sept. 24, 2005, during a massive anti-war rally in Washington, DC, six biological-weapons sensors detect small amounts of deadly bacteria called Francisella tularensi, one of a half a dozen biological agents officials fear could be used against U.S. citizens. Some question if Uncle Sam isn't once again using U.S. citizens as guinea pigs, as was the case in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Pentagon develops plans to give the military a larger role in responding to "catastrophic" events within the U.S. -- even though such action is illegal under Posse Comitatus.
The New York Times reports that more than 80 percent of FEMA's $1.5 billion in post-Katrina contracts have been "awarded without bidding or with limited competition" and criticizes these "Cronies at the Til" -- pointing to the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root in particular. Halliburton's stock value triples between the March 2003 start of the war in Iraq and Sept. 2005.
Captain Ian Fishback, the decorated West Point graduate who testified to the inhumane treatment of detainees before and after Abu Ghraib, is sequestered and interrogated at Fort Bragg, along with fellow whistle-blowers. "If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession," Fishback writes to Sen. John McCain, adding, "I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is 'America.'"
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is indicted on conspiracy charges. Before stepping down from his leadership role, DeLay frequently caters to the Religious Right -- calling for the rightful role of religion in public places, facilitating the flow of Christian Right legislation and personally addressing Christian Zionists. His ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former aide Michael Scanlon shed a spotlight on the Republican playbook, which, as Salon explains, involves a three-prong strategy: "target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives."
President Bush announces that the U.S. military may be used to enforce quarantines if there is an outbreak of Bird Flu. Dr. Irwin Redlener, associate Dean of Columbia University's School of Public Health for Disaster Preparedness, calls Bush's plan an "extraordinarily draconian measure" and says "the translation of this is martial law in the United States."
The U.S. Senate votes 90-9 to enact legislation preventing the "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of detainees, but the White House threatens to veto this legislation --- with Vice President Dick Cheney later once again lobbying lawmakers "for a CIA exemption" to McCain's amendment.
Plamegate investigator Patrick Fitzgerald indicts Scooter Libby on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements. Two days later, the New York Times addresses the larger implications of the indictment, saying it " lifts a veil on how aggressively Mr. Cheney's office drove the rationale against Saddam Hussein and then fought to discredit the Iraq war's critics."
A UN audit reports that the U.S. should repay up to $208 million to Iraq for contract work assigned to Kellogg, Brown and Root, recalling a similar controversy from 1967, when the General Accounting Office faulted "Vietnam Builders" Brown & Root for accounting lapses amid "allegations of overcharging, sweetheart contracts from the White House and war profiteering."
Ohio's 2005 election raises eyebrows once again, as polls on certain referendums do not match the reality in the ballot box. Journalist Robert C. Koehler, one of the few high profile journalists to question the 2004 election, blasts the mainstream media for refusing to adequately address voting irregularities. "Hmm, we have widespread confusion in the voting process, a recent GAO report that cites many glaring insecurities in e-voting, and our own polls indicating big victories that turn into big defeats," he writes. "Could it be ...? Nah! What are we thinking? This is the world's greatest democracy. Relax."
The US Senate votes 49 to 42 to overturn the US Supreme Court's 2004 ruling that allows prisoners held at Guantanamo to challenge their detentions. "U.S. Can Confine Citizens Without Charges, Court Rules," announces the Washington Post. "The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist," Winston Churchill said, more than a half a century ago -- describing practices currently supported by American lawmakers.
"Reporters Without Borders" publishes its annual worldwide press freedom index, showing that the U.S. ranks 44th in freedom of the press -- down from 22nd place the previous year and 17th place in 2002.
Admiral Stansfield Turner, a former CIA director, blasts the Bush administration's policies. "I am embarrassed that the USA has a vice president for torture," he says. "I think it is just reprehensible." Stansfield apparently missed the chapter in CIA history where the agency imported extreme interrogation methods from the Nazis - a secret Dick Cheney once reportedly tried to cover up.
After it's discovered that the U.S. is paying Iraqi papers to publish pro-American propaganda, concerns about the use of propaganda and its effect on policy and domestic opinion are addressed by author James Bamford on the Dec. 1, 2005 edition of Hardball:
JIM BAMFORD:. . . The entire lead-up to the Iraq war was created by a propaganda company, by a public relations company, the Rendon Group. It was the Rendon Group, a private public relations company in the U.S. that created the INC, the Iraqi National Congress, that helped put Chalabi in there, that funneled CIA money into the INC.
MATTHEWS: Was the Rendon -- I know Rendon from campaigns past, but he worked with Carter and all. But let me ask you this. Is Rendon involved in influencing American media opinion, or is it always domestic -- over there, I mean, Iraqi opinion?
BAMFORD: Well, it's international opinion, but the thing is there's no firewall between international communications and U.S. that connect Europe to the United States or up there in the Internet.
Bamford later puts this in an historical context...
MATTHEWS: So what did the Rendon Group and the INC people do?
BAMFORD: Well, they were the ones who created this opposition for us, for the opposite, Saddam Hussein. It's sort of like if the Kennedy administration during Bay of Pigs, outsourced the invasion to J. Walter Thompson's public relations company.
The Sept. 11 Commission issues a report card, grading the federal government's performance on measures to make America safer. Uncle Sam receives more Ds and Fs than As and Bs. "While the terrorists are learning and adapting, our government is still moving at a crawl," says former Governor Tom Kean. "Four years after 9/11, we are not as safe as we could be, and that's simply not acceptable." Former commissioner Jamie Gorlick also weighs in. "You remember the sense of urgency that we all felt in the summer of 2004. The interest has faded," she says. "You could see that in the aftermath of Katrina. We assumed that our government would be able to do what it needed to do and it didn't do it."
So, there you have it. The good news, however, is that despite government distortions and PR campaigns, polls show that the majority of Americans are finally waking up to some uncomfortable truths about the war in Iraq and the people who misled us into it. And as America's founders so rightly understood, the country's citizens, armed with the truth, are the best defense against a government run amok. "The U.S. still has a strong civil society that could, at least in theory, overcome the entrenched interests of the armed forces and the military-industrial complex," historian Chalmers Johnson wrote. "I fear, however, that the U.S. has indeed crossed the Rubicon and that there is no way to restore Constitutional government short of a revolutionary rehabilitation of American democracy. Without root and branch reform, Nemesis awaits. She is the goddess of revenge, the punisher of pride and arrogance, and the United States is on course for a rendezvous with her."
What will it take for us to again equate Truth and Justice with the American Way? And worse yet, what will happen if we don't start demanding more accountability and transparency from our leaders? "When people think of fascism, they imagine rows of goose-stepping storm troopers and puffy-chested dictators. What they don't see is the economic and political process that leads to the nightmare," Paul Bigioni recently wrote.
MAUREEN FARRELL FOR BUZZFLASH