Priests Protesting Torture at Fort Huachuca Jailed for Justice

by Bill Quigley

TUCSON, Arizona — October 17 — Louis Vitale, 75, a Franciscan priest, and Steve Kelly, 58, a Jesuit priest, were each sentenced today to five months in federal prison for attempting to deliver a letter opposing the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Both priests were taken directly into jail from the courtroom after sentencing.

1017 10Fort Huachuca is the headquarters of military intelligence in the U.S. and the place where military and civilian interrogators are taught how to extract information from prisoners. The priests attempted to deliver their letter to Major General Barbara Fast, commander of Fort Huachuca. Fast was previously the head of all military intelligence in Iraq during the atrocities of Abu Ghraib.

The priests were arrested while kneeling in prayer halfway up the driveway to Fort Huachuca in November 2006. Both priests were charged with trespass on a military base and resisting orders of an officer to stop.

In a pre-trial heating, the priests attempted to introduce evidence of torture, murder, and gross violations of human rights in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and at Guantanamo. The priests offered investigative reports from the FBI, the US Army, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Social Responsibility documenting hundreds of incidents of human rights violations. Despite increasing evidence of the use of torture by U.S. forces sanctioned by President Bush and others, the federal court in Tucson refused to allow any evidence of torture, the legality of the invasion of Iraq, or international law to be a part of the trial.

Outside the courthouse, before the judge ordered them to prison, the priests explained their actions: “The real crime here has always been the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca and the practice of torture around the world. We tried to deliver a letter asking that the teaching of torture be stopped and were arrested. We tried to put the evidence of torture on full and honest display in the courthouse and were denied. We were prepared to put on evidence about the widespread use of torture and human rights abuses committed during interrogations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in Iraq and Afhganistan. This evidence was gathered by the military itself and by governmental and human rights investigations.”

Fr. Vitale, a longtime justice and peace activist in San Francisco and Nevada, said: “Because the court will not allow the truth of torture to be a part of our trial, we plead no contest. We are uninterested in a court hearing limited to who was walking where and how many steps it was to the gate. History will judge whether silencing the facts of torture is just or not. Far too many people have died because of our national silence about torture. Far too many of our young people in the military have been permanently damaged after following orders to torture and violate the human rights of other humans.”

Fr. Kelly, who walked to the gates of Guantanamo with the Catholic Worker group in December of 2005, concluded: “We will keep trying to stop the teaching and practice of torture whether we are sent to jail or out. We have done our part for now. Now it is up to every woman and man of conscience to do their part to stop the injustice of torture.”

The priests were prompted to protest by continuing revelations about the practice of torture by U.S. military and intelligence officers. The priests were also deeply concerned after learning of the suicide in Iraq of a young, devout female military interrogator in Iraq, Alyssa Peterson of Arizona, shortly after arriving in Iraq. Peterson was reported to be horrified by the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

Investigation also revealed that Fort Huachuca was the source of infamous “torture manuals” distributed to hundreds of Latin American graduates of the U.S. Army School of Americas at Fort Benning, GA. Demonstrations against the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca have been occurring for the past several years each November and are scheduled again for November 16 and 17 this year.

Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He served as counsel for Frs. Vitale and Kelly. You can reach Bill at For more about their trial, see

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Anti Family Planning Czar

The Anti-Family Planning Czar

On Monday, President Bush appointed Susan Orr Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a position that gives her oversight of federal family planning programs. Orr, who is currently directing HHS child welfare programs, was touted by the administration as “highly qualified.” Before joining HHS, Orr served as senior director for marriage and family care at the conservative Family Research Council, which opposes family planning, and was an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. In her new role, Orr, who considers contraceptives part of the “culture of death,” will be responsible for “HHS’s $283 million reproductive-health program, a $30 million program that encourages abstinence among teenagers, and HHS’s Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.” Given Orr’s record of opposition to comprehensive family planning services, women’s rights and reproductive health advocates are speaking out strongly against her appointment. “We are appalled,” said Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. “While her resume suggests a commitment to child welfare and children, her professional credentials fail to demonstrate a commitment to comprehensive family planning services for all men and women in need.” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) called her appointment “absurd.” Referring to her as “a virulently anti-family planning radical,” Planned Parenthood has circulated a petition opposing Orr. Unfortunately, though, appointing Orr as an “acting” secretary allows the administration to sidestep the need for Senate confirmation.

A RECORD AGAINST FAMILY PLANNING: In 2001, Orr embraced a Bush administration proposal to “stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees” to cover a broad range of birth control. “We’re quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease,” said Orr. At the 2001 Conservative Political Action Conference, Orr cheered Bush’s endorsement of former President Ronald Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy,” which required NGOs receiving federal funds to “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” In a 2000 Weekly Standard article, Orr railed against requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. “It’s not about choice,” said Orr. “It’s not about health care. It’s about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.” In 2000, she authored a paper titled, “Real Women Stay Married.” In it, she wrote that women should “think about focusing our eyes, not upon ourselves, but upon the families we form through marriage.” In 1999, Orr referred to child protection as “the most intrusive arm of social services.” Her former employer, the Family Research Council, which championed her appointment yesterday, equates contraception with abortion.

BUSH’S PATTERN OF RADICAL APPOINTMENTS: Orr is the latest in a long line of Bush administration appointments promoting “a conservative political agenda” that often “runs counter to well-established science.” In 2002, Bush appointed W. David Hager, an obstetrician-gynecologist considered “a leading conservative Christian voice on women’s health and sexuality,” to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In his position, Hager “played a key role” in convincing the FDA to overrule the advisory committee’s recommendations and to initially reject allowing emergency contraception, known as Plan B, from being made available over the counter. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called that decision a “dark stain on the reputation of an evidence-based agency like the FDA.” In Nov. 2006, Bush appointed Eric Keroack to the same position Orr plans to fill. Before the appointment, Keroack was the medical director at A Woman’s Concern, a Christian pregnancy counseling group that “supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts.” In March 2007, Keroack resigned from the position to defend himself from accusations of medical fraud.

CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT ON FAMILY PLANNING: These appointments are merely part of a larger conservative assault on family planning. In January, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the Title X Family Planning Act, a bill to amend the Public Health Service Act, prohibiting family planning grants from being awarded to an entity that performs abortions, despite the fact that federal law already prohibits clinics from spending Title X money on abortion services. A similar restriction was attached to the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill, but the measure was soundly defeated. The House bill did include, however, an additional $28 million federal funding for abstinence-only education, which dictates discussing contraceptives only in terms of failure rates while often exaggerating them. The Bush administration recently launched a national ad campaign promoting abstinence-only education, despite a recent federal report concluded that such programs have had “no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.” In March, a new federal law “eliminated price breaks for many university student health centers, driving the cost of some birth-control products from less than $10 a month to $50 or more.”


JUSTICE — MUKASEY SIGNALS SUPPORT FOR MANY OF BUSH’S POLICIES: In his confirmation hearing yesterday, Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey signaled that he would be a departure from his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey said “he will reject White House political meddling and overstepping its authority in terrorism cases.” “I would be uncomfortable with any evidence used in trial that is coerced,” he said. Mukasey expressed his willingness to work with Congress, stating, “I would certainly suggest going to Congress whenever we can.” At the same time, he was “reluctant to say whether he thought the administration’s terrorist surveillance program crossed the legal boundaries of a 1978 law setting limits on government spying in the U.S,” emphasizing that the President could take steps without consulting Congress. Mukasey was also reluctant to say that Guantanamo Bay prison should be closed and said he would not expand habeas corpus rights for detainees. “I’m encouraged by the answers,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT), suggesting that it is likely Mukasey will be confirmed.

INTELLIGENCE — SENATE GRANTS IMMUNITY TO TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANIES ON WIRETAPPING: Yesterday, the Senate reached an agreement with the Bush administration on a government surveillance bill that includes immunity for telecommunications companies who may have broken the law in the past by making client data available to the National Security Agency. President Bush has declared immunity to be a precondition to his signing the bill. But providing immunity “would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants.” Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the lead counsel in one such lawsuit against AT&T, said that these lawsuits are not the work of “typical trial lawyers trying to find a way to get into the pockets of American companies,” as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) claimed. “It’s certainly the goal of the administration and the phone companies to ensure that there’s never a decision about [whether] what’s been going on is legal or not. The telecom cases are the last, best hope,” Cohn said. The House Democratic leadership yesterday had to pull its version of the bill, which does not contain telecom immunity, after Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) introduced an amendment that would have “substantially delayed” the legislation.

IMMIGRATION — WOMAN’S FAMILY ARRESTED AFTER SHE SPEAKS OUT ON IMMIGRATION REFORM: Last week, USA Today published an article in which Tam Tran, the daughter of a political refugee from Vietnam, described her family’s struggle to gain legal status in the United States. Three days later, immigration officers arrived at her home before dawn and took her entire family into custody. The arrests immediately raised eyebrows. Tran’s family was detained on a “years-old deportation order” and had been “reporting to immigration officials each year to obtain work permits.” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Immigration Subcommittee, “said she believes the family was targeted because Tran testified before Lofgren’s panel earlier this spring” in support of immigration reform. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said that Tran’s testimony before Congress “absolutely, unequivocally had nothing to do” with her family’s arrest. But after being pressed on why a family in regular contact with immigration officials would be forcibly arrested in the middle of the night, Kelly Nantel, an ICE official, could only offer the excuse that agents “did not understand the complexity of the case.” Lofgren posed the question, “Would [Tran] and her family have been arrested if she hadn’t spoken out?”


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is still under the microscope from the Kentucky press over his office’s involvement in smearing Graeme Frost. In an editorial entitled “McConnell versus truth,” The Courier-Journal writes, “It’s clear what Mitch McConnell knew and when he knew it. It’s clear he deceived the public.”

“Under pressure to help override President Bush’s veto, at least five of the eight House Democrats who voted initially against expanding a popular children’s health insurance program now say they’ll switch sides.”

“The Pentagon is preparing to alert eight National Guard units that they should be ready to go to Iraq or Afghanistan beginning late next summer.” A National Guard official explained, “You create holes when you surge units forward, and someone has to fill them.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed the Iraq war yesterday, stating, “it’s absolutely pointless to fight with a people.” “It is absolutely unacceptable to keep the occupation force in place in Iraq for eternity,” he added, emphasizing his support for a “date for withdrawal.”

The head of the Federal Communications Commission is pushing a plan to repeal a rule “that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.” The plan would “be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates,” including Rupert Murdoch.

“It is likely that Blackwater will not compete to keep the job” of escorting U.S. diplomats outside the protected Green Zone after May, according a U.S. official. “[T]here is a mutual feeling that the Sept. 16 shooting deaths mean the company cannot continue in its current role.”

Alberto Gonzales was briefed extensively about a criminal leak investigation despite the fact that he had reason to believe that several individuals under investigation in the matter were potential witnesses against him in separate Justice Department inquiries.”

And finally: On election night 2006, eight-year old Sarah Maria Santorum wept on national television when her dad lost his Senate race. Country singer Martina McBride on Monday released a song, For These Times, inspired in part by the girl’s tears. “I always tell my children that good things come from bad things,” Rick Santorum said in an interview this week.

Bush says he found Inner Peace in Iraq?


Bush Has the Nerve To Say He Found

Inner Peace on Iraq


By Mark Danner, The New York Review of Books and TomDispatch
Posted on October 18, 2007, Printed on October 18, 2007

Introduction note by Tom Dispatch editor Tom Engelhardt.

“I made my arguments and went down in flames. History will prove me right.”

Yes, that was George W. Bush. No, he wasn’t talking about Iraq. The date was September 1993 and Bush, then managing general partner of the Texas Rangers, had voted against “realignment and a new wild-card system” at a Major League Baseball owners meeting. “Bush,” writes Jerry Crasnick of, “was the lone dissenter in a 27-1 vote.”

Skip a few years to February 2003, when Bush found himself involved in another owners’ meeting involving “realignment” — in this case, of the Middle East — and what was certainly an attempt to install a new “wild-card system.” Again, he cast his lone vote. At stake was the fate of the planet and, unlike in 1993, it didn’t matter, in the end, how the other owners, then gathering at the United Nations, voted.

The catastrophic results of this realignment effort, we now know well; that Bush again believes history will prove him “right,” we also know. Whatever documentation may exist for that 1993 baseball meeting, recently we received a striking document from February 22, 2003 — a transcript, published in the Spanish newspaper El País, of a conversation at the President’s “ranch” in Crawford, Texas, between Bush and Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. This was less than a month before the President launched his invasion of Iraq. As recorded, his was a remarkable performance, a window into the Presidential mind — and, as with the famed Downing Street Memo when no one else in the mainstream was willing to publish it, the New York Review of Books is publishing this transcript, newly translated, in its upcoming issue. (It can now be read at the Review’s website.)

The invaluable Mark Danner, who has covered the Iraq War and the Bush administration for the New York Review of Books, has written an illuminating piece on what we can now see of a President, at the edge of an invasion, and eerily “at peace with himself.” More than four-and-a-half years and the same President later, it remains a chilling vision of the man the Supreme Court put in charge of what his followers once loved to hail as the planet’s “lone superpower,” its New Rome. Thanks to the kindness of the editors of the Review, it is posted below. Tom

“The Moment Has Come to Get Rid of Saddam” Bush’s Faith Run Over by History
By Mark Danner

[This essay appears in the November 8, 2007 issue of the New York Review of Books and is posted here with the kind permission of the editors of that magazine.]

The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism.
— Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar to President Bush, from the Crawford Transcript of February 22, 2003

Surely one of the agonizing attributes of our post-September 11 age is the unending need to reaffirm realities that have been proved, and proved again, but just as doggedly denied by those in power, forcing us to live trapped between two narratives of present history, the one gaining life and color and vigor as more facts become known, the other growing ever paler, brittler, more desiccated, barely sustained by the life support of official power.

At the center of our national life stands the master narrative of this bifurcated politics: the Iraq war, fought to eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist, brought to a quick and glorious conclusion on a sunlit aircraft carrier deck whose victory celebration almost instantly became a national embarrassment. That was four and a half years ago; the war’s ending and indeed its beginning, so clearly defined for that single trembling instant, have long since vanished into contested history.

The latest entry in that history appeared on September 26, when the Spanish daily El País published a transcript of a discussion held on February 22, 2003 — nearly a month before the war began — between President Bush and José María Aznar, then prime minister of Spain. Though the leaders met at Mr. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, some quickly dubbed the transcript Downing Street Memo II, and indeed the document does share some themes with that critical British memorandum, mostly in its clear demonstration of the gap between what President Bush and members of his administration were saying publicly during the run-up to the war and what they were saying, and doing, in more private settings. Though Hans Blix, the UN chief inspector whose teams were then scouring Iraq for the elusive weapons, had yet to deliver his report — two weeks later he would tell the Security Council that it would take not “years, nor weeks, but months” to complete “the key remaining disarmament tasks” — the President is impatient, even anxious, for war. “This is like Chinese water torture,” he says of the inspections. “We have to put an end to it.”

Even in discussing Aznar’s main concern, the vital need to give the war international legitimacy by securing a second UN resolution justifying the use of force — a resolution that, catastrophically, was never achieved — little pretense is made that an invasion of Iraq is not already a certainty. “If anyone vetoes,” the President tells Aznar,

“we’ll go. Saddam Hussein isn’t disarming. We have to catch him right now. Until now we’ve shown an incredible amount of patience. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we’ll be militarily ready…. We’ll be in Baghdad by the end of March.”

The calendar has already been determined — not by the inspectors and what they might or might not find, nor by the diplomats and what they might or might not negotiate, but by the placement and readiness of warplanes and soldiers and tanks.

When did war become a certainty? The gradations of the President’s attitudes are impossible to chart, though as far back as the previous July, the head of British intelligence, Sir Richard Dearlove, on his famous consultations in Washington, had detected “a perceptible shift in attitude.” As Dearlove was quoted reporting to the British cabinet in the most famous passage in the Downing Street Memo:

“Military action was now seen as inevitable. 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 NSC had no patience with the UN route….”1

It is on this point — the need of the Europeans to have a UN resolution justifying force, and thus a legal, or at least internationally legitimate, war, and the deep ambivalence among Bush administration officials about taking “the UN route” — that much of the drama of the Crawford transcript turns, making it into a kind of playlet pitting the sinuous, subtle, and sophisticated European, worried about the great opposition in Europe, and in Spain in particular, to an American-led war of choice with Iraq (“We need your help with our public opinion,” Aznar tells Bush), against the blustery, impatient, firing-straight-from-the-hip American cowboy. Bush wants to put out the second resolution on Monday. Aznar says, “We’d prefer to wait until Tuesday.” Bush counters, “Monday afternoon, taking the time zone differences into account.” To Bush’s complaint that the UN process was like “Chinese water torture,” Aznar offers soothing understanding and a plea to take a breath:

Aznar: I agree, but it would be good to be able to count on as many people as possible. Have a little patience.”Bush: My patience has run out. I won’t go beyond mid-March.

Aznar: I’m not asking you to have indefinite patience. Simply that you do everything possible so that everything comes together.”

Aznar, a right-wing Catholic idealist who believes in the human rights arguments for removing Saddam Hussein, finds himself on a political knife edge: more than nine Spaniards in ten oppose going to war and millions have just marched through the streets of Madrid in angry opposition; he is intensely concerned to gain a UN resolution making the war an internationally sanctioned effort and not just an American-led “aggression.” Bush responds to his plea for diplomacy with a rather remarkable litany of threats directed at the current temporary members of the Security Council. “Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola, and Cameroon have to know,” he declares, “that what’s at stake is the United States’ security and acting with a sense of friendship toward us.” In case Aznar doesn’t get the point, he describes to the Spaniard what each nation will suffer if it doesn’t recognize “what’s at stake”:

“[Chilean President Ricardo] Lagos has to know that the Free Trade Agreement with Chile is pending Senate confirmation, and that a negative attitude on this issue could jeopardize that ratification. Angola is receiving funds from the Millennium Account that could also be compromised if they don’t show a positive attitude. And Putin must know that his attitude is jeopardizing the relations of Russia and the United States.”

What is striking about this passage is not only how crude and clumsy it is, with the President of the United States spouting threats like a movie gangster — he presumably wants the Spaniard to convey them directly to the various leaders — but how ineffective the bluster turned out to be. None of these countries changed their position on a second resolution, which, in the event, was never brought before the Security Council to what would have been certain defeat. Bush, in making the threats, did the one thing an effective leader is supposed always to avoid: he issued an order that was not obeyed, thus demonstrating the limits of his power. (The Iraq war itself, meant as it was to “shock and awe” the world and particularly U.S. adversaries, did much the same thing.)

Along with bluster comes stern self-righteousness. Aznar asks whether “there’s a possibility of Saddam Hussein going into exile” — “the biggest success,” he tells the President, “would be to win the game without firing a single shot” — and Bush answers that there is: the Egyptians

“say he’s indicated that he’s willing to go into exile if they let him take $1 billion and all the information that he wants about the weapons of mass destruction.”

And would such exile, asks Aznar, come with a “guarantee” (presumably against prosecution or extradition)? “No guarantee,” declares Bush. “He’s a thief, a terrorist, a war criminal. Compared to Saddam, Milosevic would be a Mother Teresa.” Though it’s hard to evaluate whether Saddam was really willing to leave Iraq — the Egyptians, Saudis, and others who were then touting the possibility all had an interest in seeing Saddam leave and the Sunni power structure remain in place — it is inconceivable that he would do so without some sort of guarantee, a possibility Bush forecloses.

What is most interesting in this passage, and indeed in the entire transcript, is what it reveals about Bush’s attitudes and character. One moment he blusters and threatens, the next he speaks reverently and self-righteously about how he is guided by “a historic sense of responsibility”:

“When some years from now History judges us, I don’t want people to ask themselves why Bush, or Aznar, or Blair didn’t face their responsibilities. In the end, what people want is to enjoy freedom. Not long ago, in Romania, I was reminded of the example of Ceausescu: it took just one woman to call him a liar for the whole repressive system to come down. That’s the unstoppable power of freedom. I am convinced that I’ll get that resolution.”

He did not get it, of course. Despite his strong conviction, neither Chile nor Angola nor Russia proved ready to change their votes, threat or no threat. There is a difference between being sure and being right. Bush’s conviction, here as elsewhere, came not from an independent analysis of the facts — of the interests and intentions of the nations involved — but from the wellspring of faith. He has confused rhetoric, however uplifting, and reality. Aznar, the sophisticated European, comments wryly on this. It is the most Jamesian moment in the playlet of Crawford; one can almost see the subtly arched eyebrow:

Aznar: The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism.Bush: I am an optimist, because I believe that I’m right. I’m at peace with myself. It’s up to us to face a serious threat to peace.”

It is worrying, as Aznar remarks, to rely on optimism grounded only in belief. The Spaniard knows that gaining that second Security Council resolution, and thus the critical international legitimacy for the war, will be very hard; in many nations, launching a war against Iraq, particularly before the UN inspectors have finished their work, is deeply unpopular. Faith cannot replace facts, nor can a historic sense of mission. Both may be personally comforting — they plainly are to George W. Bush — but they don’t obviate the need to know things.

Bush came to office a man who knew little of the world, who had hardly traveled outside the country, who knew nothing of the practice of foreign policy and diplomacy. Two years later, after the attacks of September 11 and his emergence as a self-described “war president,” he has come to know only that this lack of knowledge is not a handicap but perhaps even a strength: that he doesn’t need to know things in order to believe that he’s right and to be at peace with himself. He has redefined his weakness — his lack of knowledge and experience — as his singular strength. He believes he’s right. It is a matter of generations and destiny and freedom: it is “up to us to face a serious threat to peace.” For Bush, faith, conviction, and a felt sense of destiny — not facts or knowledge — are the real necessities of leadership.

So Bush is confident — confident about winning the second resolution and thus international legitimacy; confident, because “we’re developing a very strong humanitarian aid package,” that “there’s a good basis for a better future” in a “post-Saddam Iraq.” In fact, of course, at the very moment he is telling these things to the Spanish prime minister in Crawford, Texas, the postwar planning in Washington is a shambles, consisting of little more than confusion and savage internecine warfare between the Defense and State Departments.

The plan for governance in “post-Saddam Iraq” does not exist, all discussion of it having been paralyzed by a bitter dispute between officials in the Pentagon, State Department, and CIA that the President will never resolve. The Iraqi “civil society” that he tells Aznar is “relatively strong” will soon be decimated by the prolonged looting and chaos that follows on the entry of American troops into Baghdad. The “good bureaucracy” he boasts about in Iraq will shortly be destroyed by a radical de-Baathification ordered by the American proconsul that he almost certainly never approved. The Iraqi army that he decides in early March will be retained and used for reconstruction will instead be peremptorily dissolved, to catastrophic effect.

If these radical departures from the President’s chosen plan have dampened his optimism and faith — or indeed have even led him to try to discover what happened — there is no evidence of it. When Bush’s latest biographer, Robert Draper, asked him why the Iraqi army had not been kept intact, as the President had decided it should be, Bush replied, “Yeah, I can’t remember. I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?'”3

“This is the policy, what happened?” As a subtitle for a history of the Iraq war, one could certainly do worse. Prime Minister Aznar is gone now, having been fatally weakened by his support for the Iraq war and the failure to obtain United Nations support for it; almost exactly a year after the war began, jihadists targeted the Madrid train station, killing nearly two hundred Spaniards and sending the prime minister to electoral defeat. Tony Blair, the star of the Downing Street Memo, is gone as well, his popularity having never recovered from his staunch support of the war. George W. Bush, on the other hand, nearly five years after he launched the war, remains confident of victory, just as he was confident he would win that second UN resolution. There is no sign that his confidence is any more firmly rooted in reality now than it was then. Instead of reality we have faith — in himself, in the deity, in “the unstoppable power of human freedom.” He stands as lead actor in his own narrative of history, a story that grows steadily paler and more contested, animated solely by the authority of official power. George W. Bush remains, we are told, “at peace with himself.”


1. Dearlove’s consultations had taken place on July 20, 2002, in Washington and at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and he reported to a meeting of the British “war cabinet” at Ten Downing Street three days later. See Mark Danner, The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War’s Buried History (New York Review Books, 2006), pp. 6-7 and pp. 88-89.

2. And not just for George Bush. The mystique of leadership — of faith over facts — pulled others along in its wake. Condoleezza Rice, for example, makes a curious appearance in the discussion, assuring the President and the Spanish prime minister that she has “the impression” that Hans Blix, whose report is due the following week, “will now be more negative than before about the Iraqis’ intentions.” In fact, quite the opposite: Blix will tell the Security Council that “the key remaining disarmament tasks” can be achieved not in “years, nor weeks, but months.” Here is what Blix told the Security Council on March 7, 2003:

“How much time would it take to resolve the key remaining disarmament tasks? While cooperation can and is to be immediate, disarmament and at any rate the verification of it cannot be instant. Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude, induced by continued outside pressure, it would still take some time to verify sites and items, analyse documents, interview relevant persons, and draw conclusions. It would not take years, nor weeks, but months. Neither governments nor inspectors would want disarmament inspection to go on forever. However, it must be remembered that in accordance with the governing resolutions, a sustained inspection and monitoring system is to remain in place after verified disarmament to give confidence and to strike an alarm, if signs were seen of the revival of any proscribed weapons programmes.”

Blix’s conclusions were not only not “more negative than before about the Iraqis’ intentions”; he suggests that inspections of all the suspect sites could be completed in a matter of months. President Bush, needless to say, is not willing to wait for months, or even for weeks, for the additional inspections to be completed. What would have happened if he had been? On the one hand, the administration’s willingness to delay might have secured a deal whereby additional countries would have supported “all means necessary” to deal with Saddam. On the other, the inspectors, given more time, would have discovered no weapons, likely leading the administration to argue that the inspections themselves were useless — not that the weapons didn’t exist. But the momentum for war would have been blunted.

3. According to the New York Times account of this exchange:

“Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein — era military, ‘The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.'”But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, ‘Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, “This is the policy, what happened?”‘ But, he added, ‘Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,’ referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.”

See Jim Rutenberg, “In Book, Bush Peeks Ahead to His Legacy,” The New York Times, September 2, 2007, and Robert Draper, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush (Free Press, 2007), p. 211.

Mark Danner, who has written about foreign affairs and politics for two decades, is the author of The Secret Way to War, Torture and Truth, and The Massacre at El Mozote, among other books. He is Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs, Politics, and the Humanities at Bard College. His writing on Iraq and other subjects appears regularly in the New York Review of Books. His work is archived at

Mark Danner is a New Yorker staff writer and a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley. His most recent book is “Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.”

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Ron Paul supports HOME SCHOOLING

 Don’t think for one sec the others do….they aren’t even talking about it.


The Democrats have made me cringe for the last time. I can’t stomach them any longer.


And no thanks to your evil experimental vaccines for my kids either.



Home Schooling

My commitment to ensuring home schooling remains a practical alternative for American families is unmatched by any Presidential candidate.

Returning control of education to parents is the centerpiece of my education agenda. As President I will advance tax credits through the Family Education Freedom Act, which reduces taxes to make it easier for parents to home school by allowing them to devote more of their own funds to their children’s education.

I am committed to guaranteeing parity for home school diplomas and advancing equal scholarship consideration for students entering college from a home school environment.

We must have permanency in the Department of Defense Home School Tier 1 Pilot Program, providing recruitment status parity for home school graduates. I will use my authority to prevent the Department of Education from regulating home school activities.

I will veto any legislation that creates national standards or national testing for home school parents or students. I also believe that, as long as No Child Left Behind remains law, it must include the protections for home schoolers included in sec. 9506 (enshrining home schoolers’ rights) and 9527 (guaranteeing no national curriculum).

Federal monies must never be used to undermine the rights of homeschooling parents. I will use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to encourage a culture of educational freedom throughout the nation.