Friday, August 31, 2007

Jimmy Breslin: Remove Bush over war lies

Remove Bush over war lies

There had been the sound of many feet on a Brooklyn street at the first funeral, of firefighter Joseph Graffa-gnino, and at the second funeral, of firefighter Robert Beddia, a fire engine sounded in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. In my office about an hour later, slips of paper came silently out of a machine, the slips coming from the Department of Defense and carrying the names and ages of the 14 soldiers who were killed in Iraq when their helicopter crashed. Four were under 21 and nine 25 or under. Of course the first thought was how the city at this time could handle such calamity if the 14 dead were New York firefighters or police officers. This gives a good view of the catastrophe that happens in Iraq, day after day.

But as the soldiers die at a time of national Alzheimer's, there was virtually no reaction to the 14.

When anybody you elect tries to end the war, Bush blocks all intentions with a veto or threats of a veto that prevent it. And his Supreme Court is ready to validate whatever he does, this court with its five Catholic justices, and a chief who falls on his face a couple of times that we know of.

Our politicians despair that there can be no way to override Bush and save our young and everybody of any age in Iraq.

Of course there is. By all the energy and dignified disgust of a nation that needs it to keep any semblance of greatness, there is an extraordinary need for an impeachment of this president and his vice president.

You start an impeachment with an investigator who starts to develop a case. That's what got Nixon out. He had the most expensive, elaborate defense in the world, and when they were pressed his assistants folded and Nixon quit. I wonder whether Bush and his people can do any better when pressed.

I have here in front of me a large number of pages that I keep for their significance. They are from a United States Senate hearing and are titled, "In Re Impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton."

He was only the 42nd person in our nation to make the commitment to "faithfully execute" the Office of the President and to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution."

He was being impeached over lying about girls.

Bush the President is our 43rd. He lied to the nation to get us into a war in Iraq that is without end. Every young person who has died leaves drops of blood on Bush's hands and those of everyone around him. He lied to the nation and daily he tries every greasy way to undermine the Constitution he is sworn to uphold. Thus making his oath false.

Clinton's charges seem frivolous. But Bush appears to have committed high crimes and misdemeanors and must be thrown out of office in the disgrace that he is.

Bush, reminiscing the other day over something that further scatters the mind, compared the end of Vietnam with the Iraq war that thrills him so much because it makes him a wartime commander.

I don't know why Vietnam is on his mind. He skipped the thing to have his teeth fixed in Texas. Showing such utter confusion causes questions of how much evil he carries in his mind and how much of stimulants.

He raises the end of Vietnam. If you want to know what that was like, Bernie Edelman, who went from Flatbush to Chu Lai, yesterday opened the book, "Dear America," that he compiled with the New York Vietnam Veterans. The pages consist of letters written by veterans of Vietnam.

One is by Air Force Lt. Richard Van de Geer, a helicopter pilot assigned to assist in the evacuation of Saigon in 1975. This letter is on 15 May 1975, the day he was killed.

"The aircraft that landed on the Midway - landed about 50 feet away from mine - and the man who got out of the aircraft had been quoted approximately a week earlier as saying that any South Vietnamese who had left the country was a coward and that everybody should stay in South Vietnam and fight to the bitter end. This very same man was the first man to arrive on the USS Midway and to my knowledge the first to be recovered by the 7th Fleet. The man was Gen. Nguyen Cao Ky, vice president of the Republic of South Vietnam. Now I really don't have any personal feelings about the war here. I really don't care one way or the other in regard to who is right and who is wrong because that is a waste of time, a waste of thinking. But I did find myself feeling that I wish he had been shot down."

Officially, Lt. Van de Geer was the last man to die in the Vietnam War. His name is listed as last on the memorial in Washington. If Bush wonders from his dentist's chair about the end of Vietnam, Van de Geer gives you a fair idea.

Rewritten surveillance law passed by Congress could give Bush more power for domestic wiretaps

Rewritten surveillance law passed by Congress could give Bush more power for domestic wiretaps
Jason Rhyne
Published: Thursday August 30, 2007

The recently passed law which allows President Bush to continue wiretapping Americans' telephone calls overseas may allow for domestic spying as well, according to a new report commissioned by Congress.

A recently-acquired Congressional Research Service report of the controversial Protect America Act, which formally legalized communications surveillance where one party is overseas, offers nebulous language which is broadly open for interpretation, according to Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News.

The new legislation seems to provide legal latitude that could smooth the way for domestic spying initiatives involving US citizens. Given the Administration's penchant for signing statements, such an open door may be irresistible.

“The new CRS report offers a careful reading of each provision of the Act,” writes Aftergood, who obtained a copy of the CRS review Wednesday. “But instead of fully clarifying its impact, the report serves to highlight just how unclear and indeterminate the new law actually is.”

Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) told RAW STORY by email that she would familiarize herself with the report.

Steven Aftergood points out instances where the CRS summary can’t definitively say what the Act calls for.

Quoting the report, he says, “One provision ‘could conceivably be interpreted’ to apply to parties within the United States. Another provision ‘might be seen to be susceptible of two possible interpretations.’ Still others ‘appear to’ or ‘would seem to’ or ‘may also’ have one uncertain consequence or another.”

“In other words,” he says, “the new law bears the hallmarks of its hasty, poorly-considered origins.”

In an email to RAW STORY Thursday, Aftergood characterized what he thought was a fundamental flaw in the new provisions.

“I would say the most basic problem is that the new law redefines basic legal terms such as 'electronic surveillance,' he wrote. "It adopts new terms such as '[surveillance] directed at' without a clear definition at all. The upshot is that the practical meaning of the law is uncertain in many cases."

On the report's summary page, CRS states that the legislation was enacted "with regard to past abuses of electronic surveillance for national security purposes and to the somewhat uncertain state of the law on the subject," adding that the Act "also creates a mechanism for acquisition, without a court order under a certification by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Attorney General, of foreign intelligence information concerning a person reasonably believed to be outside the United States." Powers conferred by the amendments are set to expire in six months, although they can extended if Congress so chooses.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who voted against the measure, said in a statement after its passage that the bill "does violence to the Constitution of the United States," and "also could produce convictions that may well be overturned because the bill does not heed the instructions from the Supreme Court."

President Bush, meanwhile, commended the bill for giving intelligence professionals "the legal tools to gather information about the intentions of our enemies," and said that, because of the amendments, "America is safer."

If anything, Aftergood writes, the new CRS report may help identify questions Congress may have when it revisits FISA legislation next month.

Read a copy of the CRS report in PDF here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dodd Defends Constitution -- Where are the Others?

Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf

Dodd Defends Constitution -- Where are the Others?

Ten days ago, I wrote in this space about the American Freedom Campaign's launch of a U.S. citizens' democracy movement that will drive the issue of defending the Constitution to the center of the presidential campaign. It's pretty sad that we Americans even have to ask whether a candidate would protect the Constitution if elected -- sad but necessary: in merely six years, however, the Bush administration has dramatically altered the presidency and its powers.

With our democracy crumbling and our liberties threatened, we cannot sit back and hope that the next president will voluntarily reverse the damage now done to the Constitution and the rule of law: history shows that leaders of any party are corrupted by unchecked power and it is not human nature to yield power once it has been aggregated into one's hands.

This situation is simply too dangerous.

We want commitments. From every candidate. And we want the candidates to know that they will only receive our votes if they make this commitment.

The good news is that we have a frontrunner -- in the call-out to defend the Constitution. Yesterday, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) stepped up to the patriot's task and gave the American Freedom Campaign the following statement:

"It's a sad day when a presidential candidate actually has to talk about restoring the Constitution, but that's where we are after this administration's assault on the rule of law -- an assault, by the way, that actually makes us less secure and more isolated by weakening our standing around the world. I have said repeatedly that if elected, the *FIRST THING* I would do after being sworn in is to reverse as much of the damage done to the Constitution by President Bush as possible. And I would immediately do as much as I legally can by executive order."

Chris Dodd is acting like an American. He should be congratulated. But the rest of the candidates should be ashamed -- at least for now. We know they are aware of our efforts, since they have all received thousands of emails from supporters of the American Freedom Campaign. In some cases, calls to the candidates to defend the Constitution have been even more direct.

John Edwards, where are you? Two weeks ago, his wife Elizabeth wrote on Daily Kos that "under John, the Constitution returns." After I asked him to make good on his wife's words by signing the pledge, one of his own supporters posted a link to my blog on Edwards' own campaign blog. Earlier in August, another Edwards campaign blogger urged the former Senator to sign the pledge.

As promised, a week later I called the campaign and let them know we were hoping for his endorsement of the rule of law. Ten days now? No response from Mr. Edwards.

Here is the text of the American Freedom Pledge:

"We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal remedy, we do not tap people's phones and emails without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power.

"I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from assault by any president."

Some people have suggested that this pledge is not strong enough, or that candidates are as likely to break their word after signing this pledge as they would be after taking the oath of office, which similarly contains a commitment to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution." These critiques are fair. But if the alternative is silence, this is not good enough for America.

Candidates -- and Congressmen and women -- take some risks by standing up for the Constitution right now. I asked a librarian to distribute copies of the Constitution -- provided for free -- and she said this would be seen as too controversial. A major TV channel declined to renew a long-running series teaching U.S. kids about democracy because they said they didn't want to be seen as rocking the boat. Many leaders on the Hill have told us off the record that the fear is widespread that standing up for liberty means they think they risk being painted as "soft on terror." And I must note that major interests are served financially by an open-ended war and ever-proliferating surveillance technologies.

So, yeah, it says something if a candidate won't publicly commit to restoring the Constitution.

And a pledge also matters psychologically -- to us. We need reminding of what we have while we can still save it. Every time we are reminded of the personal courage of our founders, our appreciation of the Constitution, now dusty, renews itself. And every time we talk about the disrespect the Bush administration has demonstrated for the Constitution our own personal desires to stand up against these abuses intensifies.

So, Senator Edwards -- we're waiting for a call. Or an e-mail. Or even a comment in this blog entry. Is it too controversial to support the Constitution? Or will you sign your name and be counted -- as the founders did? As many of your supporters already have?

And the rest of the candidates -- will you let Dodd outshine you? Show us you deserve our presidency. Help remind the American people how precious -- and fragile -- our democracy is. Sign the American Freedom Pledge or make as strong a statement as possible about your commitment to defending our Constitution.

We're standing by -- in the millions.

If you want to send an email to the candidates encouraging them to sign the American Freedom Pledge, click here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Leahy Comments on Gonzales Resignation

Leahy Comments on Gonzales Resignation
By Paul Kiel - August 27, 2007, 9:24 AM

From Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT):

“Under this Attorney General and this President, the Department of Justice suffered a severe crisis of leadership that allowed our justice system to be corrupted by political influence. It is a shame, and it is the Justice Department, the American people and the dedicated professionals of our law enforcement community who have suffered most from it.

“The obligations of the Justice Department and its leaders are to the Constitution, the rule of law and the American people, not to the political considerations of this or any White House. The Attorney General’s resignation reinforces what Congress and the American people already know -- that no Justice Department should be allowed to become a political arm of the White House, whether occupied by a Republican or a Democrat.

“The troubling evidence revealed about this massive breach is a lesson to those in the future who hold these high offices, so that law enforcement is never subverted in this way again. I hope the Attorney General’s decision will be a step toward getting to the truth about the level of political influence this White House wields over the Department of Justice and toward reconstituting its leadership so that the American people can renew their faith in its role as our leading law enforcement agency.”

Sunday, August 26, 2007



Whether or not you believe that governments carry out "false flag" terror, you might reasonably assume that the 9/11 Commission investigated September 11th, and concluded that Osama Bin Laden and his group of terrorists were solely responsible.Unfortunately, a quick look at the government's investigations reveals that -- not only has there never been a real investigation -- but the behavior of government representatives in willfully obstructing all attempts at investigation comprises evidence of guilt. Specifically, in all criminal trials, evasiveness, obstruction, and destruction of evidence all constitute strong circumstantial evidence that the accused is guilty or, at the very least, not to be believed. 9/11 is no different.

For example, the former director of the FBI says there was a cover up by the 9/11 Commission.
And the 9/11 Commissioners knew that military officials lied to the Commission, and considered recommending criminal charges for such false statements, yet didn't bother to tell the American people (free subscription required).

Indeed, the co-chairs of the Commission now admit that the Commission largely operated based upon political considerations.

9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton says "I don't believe for a minute we got everything right", that the Commission was set up to fail, that people should keep asking questions about 9/11, that the 9/11 debate should continue, and that the 9/11 Commission report was only "the first draft" of history.

9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey said that "There are ample reasons to suspect that there may be some alternative to what we outlined in our version . . . We didn't have access . . . ."
9/11 Commissioner Timothy Roemer said "We were extremely frustrated with the false statements we were getting"

Former 9/11 Commissioner Max Cleland resigned from the Commission, stating: "It is a national scandal"; "This investigation is now compromised"; and "One of these days we will have to get the full story because the 9-11 issue is so important to America. But this White House wants to cover it up".

The Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission, who led the 9/11 staff's inquiry, said "I was shocked at how different the truth was from the way it was described .... The tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years.... This is not spin. This is not true."

But let's back up and look at the 9/11 Commission in more detail. Preliminarily, President Bush and Vice-President Cheney took the rare step of personally requesting that congress limit all 9/11 investigation solely to "intelligence failures", so there has never been a congressional probe into any of the real issues involved.

The administration also opposed the creation of a 9/11 commission. Once it was forced, by pressure from widows of 9-11 victims, to allow a commission to be formed, the administration appointed as executive director an administration insider, whose area of expertise is the creation and maintenance of "public myths" thought to be true, even if not actually true, who was involved in pre-9/11 intelligence briefings, and who was one of the key architects of the "pre-emptive war" doctrine. This executive director, who controlled what the Commission did and did not analyze, then limited the scope of the Commission's inquiry so that the overwhelming majority of questions about 9/11 remained unasked (see this article and this article).

The administration then starved the commission of funds, providing a fraction of the funds used to investigate Monica Lewinsky, failed to provide crucial documents (and see this article also), refused to share much information with the Commission, refused to require high-level officials to testify under oath, and allowed Bush and Cheney to be questioned jointly.

More importantly, the 9-11 Commission refused to examine virtually any evidence which contradicted the administration's official version of events. As stated by the State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism, who was the point man for the U.S. government's international counterterrorism policy in the first term of the Bush administration, "there were things the [9/11] commission[s] wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about."

For example, the 9-11 Commission report fails to mention the CIA director's urgent warnings to top administration officials in July 2001 of an impending attack (indeed, the 9-11 Commission was briefed on these warnings, but denied they knew about them until confronted with contrary evidence). Moreover, numerous veteran national security experts were turned away, ignored, or censored by the 9/11 commission, even though they had information directly relevant to the commission's investigation. And the 9/11 Commission Report does not even mention the collapse of World Trade Center building 7 or any explosions in the buildings (the word "explosion" does not appear in the report). There are literally hundreds of other examples of entire lines of evidence which contradict the government's account which were ignored by the Commission.

A very well-documented book by a distinguished professor shows that the 9-11 Commission was a whitewash. According to law professor Richard Falk of Princeton, the author of this book "establishes himself, alongside Seymour Hersh, as America's number one bearer of unpleasant, yet necessary, public truths" (Seymour Hersh, as you might know, is the Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal). See a synopsis of the book here; and a summary of a portion of the book here.

Indeed, the very 9-11 widows who had pressured the administration to create the 9/11 Commission now "question the veracity of the entire Commission’s report", and have previously declared it a failure which ignored 70% of their detailed questions and "suppressed important evidence and whistleblower testimony that challenged the official story on many fronts".
Moreover, the former head of the fire science and engineering division of the agency now investigating the world trade center disaster, who is a professor of fire protection engineering, wrote that the world trade center buildings could not have collapsed due to jet fuel fires, that evidence was being destroyed, and that there was no real investigation into the collapses. He has called for a new investigation.

And a leading firefighters' trade publication called the investigation concerning the world trade center a "half-baked farce". In addition, the official investigators themselves were largely denied funding, access to the site and the evidence contained there, or even access to such basic information as the blueprints for the world trade center.

Indeed, the blueprints for the world trade center are apparently STILL being withheld from reporters and the public, and the government agency in charge of the investigation has grossly mischaracterized the structure of the buildings.

And the government agency tasked with examining the collapse of the World Trade Centers did NOT investigate any anomalies in the collapse of the buildings, failing to even examine any of the following evidence: the buildings’ impossible near free-fall speeds and symmetrical collapses; the unexplained fact that the core of the North Tower failed first; the apparent demolition squibs; the fact that the buildings turned to dust in mid-air; the presence of molten metal in the basement areas in large pools in all of the buildings; the unexplained presence of unusual compounds in the steel; the unexplained swiss-cheese like holes in the steel; and the unexplained straightening out of the upper 34 floors of the South Tower after they had precipitously leaned over and started toppling like a tree.

Indeed, an article from a respected civil engineering trade journal states:
"World Trade Center disaster investigators are refusing to show computer visualizations [i.e. models] of the collapse of the Twin Towers despite calls from leading structural and fire engineers".

The article goes on to state "a leading U.S. structural engineer said 'By comparison [to the modeling of fires] the global structural model is not as sophisticated' . . . The software used has been pushed to new limits, and there have been a lot of simplifications, extrapolations and judgement calls . . . it would be hard to produce a definitive visualization from the analysis so far.'”. In other words, the government refused to release a visual model of the collapses, and even the non-visual computer models which the government used to examine why the trade centers collapsed are faulty.

The same journal points out that "Some engineers . . . have accused NIST of repeatedly changing its explanation of the collapse mechanism."

See also this question and answer exchange at a recent government press conference (skip to 1 minute and 23 seconds into the video). And this short video on building 7 and the subsequent investigation (you may wish to disregard brief partisan portion). And did you know that investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House? Or that a former FBI translator who Senators Leahy and Grassley, among others, have claimed is credible, and who the administration has gagged for years without any logical basis -- has stated that "this administration knowingly and intentionally let many directly or indirectly involved in that terrorist act [September 11th] go free – untouched and uninvestigated"?

Or have you heard that the FBI long ago found and analyzed the "black box" recorders from the airplanes which hit the Twin Towers, but has consistently denied that they were ever found?
Or did you know that the tape of interviews of air traffic controllers on-duty on 9/11 was intentionally destroyed by crushing the cassette by hand, cutting the tape into little pieces, and then dropping the pieces in different trash cans around the building as shown by this NY Times article (summary version is free; full version is pay-per-view) and by this article from the Chicago Sun-Times? And amazingly, many years after the FBI stated it did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute Bin Laden for 9/11, that agency apparently still does not have hard evidence linking Bin Laden to the crime.

Still think the government really investigated and disclosed what happened on 9/11?
Indeed, there are even indications that false evidence may have been planted to deflect attention from the real perpetrators.

NEXT: But no high-level officials question the official story, right?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

General Pace, You Can Save the US - by Arresting Bush for "Conduct Unbecoming"

General Pace, You Can Save the US - by Arresting Bush for "Conduct Unbecoming"

Posted August 25, 2007 | 03:08 AM (EST)

General Peter Pace
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
400 Joint Staff Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20318-0400

Dear General Pace,

I note with admiration your courage in making clear your private concerns about the safety of the US military and the longterm danger to US national security caused by the President's stubborn refusal to acknowledge the quagmire in Iraq.

Though you are Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President's principal military advisor - President Bush has shown his disdain for your honesty and wisdom. Though you are a decorated Vietnam war hero - who has served his nation honorably for four decades - the President is dispensing with your services. You have one month left in your position before you are tossed out by the President.

President Bush is going to ignore your advice. Just as he has ignored the advice of other Generals who have had the courage to respectfully point out how terribly wrong he is in respect of the Iraq War and the safety of the US military he is sworn to protect. Highly-decorated colleagues of yours such as General Anthony Zinni (Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command), General Eric Shinseki (Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army) and General John Abizaid (Commander of the U.S. Central Command).

General Pace - you have the power to fulfill your responsibility to protect the troops under your command. Indeed you have an obligation to do so.

You can relieve the President of his command.

Not of his Presidency. But of his military role as Commander-In-Chief.

You simply invoke the Uniform Code Of Military Justice.

The United States Code: Title 10, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 47, Subchapter X, Section 934.

Article 134 reads:

"Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court."

Article 133 reads:

"Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

A gentleman is understood to have a duty to avoid dishonest acts, displays of indecency, lawlessness, dealing unfairly, indecorum, injustice, or acts of cruelty.

To be crystal clear - I am NOT advocating or inciting you to undertake any illegal act, insurrection, mutiny, putsch or military coup. You are an honorable patriotic man.

I am NOT advocating or inciting you to interfere with any of the civilian duties of the President. That would not be a legal action by you.

However you have the legal responsibility - under Article 134 of the Uniform Code Of Military Justice - to protect the troops under your command by relieving the President of his MILITARY command.

If you have reason to believe that the President is responsible for "disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces" and for "conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital" then you have the obligation to act.

In addition to relieving him of his command as Commander-In-Chief, you also have authority to place the President under MILITARY arrest.

Article 7 of the Uniform Code Of Military Justice specifically says:

(b) Any person authorized under regulations governing the armed forces to apprehend persons subject to this Code may do so upon reasonable belief that an offense has been committed and that the person apprehended committed it.

(c) All officers, warrant officers, petty officers, and noncommissioned officers shall have authority to quell all quarrels, frays, and disorders among persons subject to this Code and to apprehend persons subject to this Code who take part in the same.

I understand that it would not be an action to undertake lightly.

In all your 39 years of service you have shown total loyalty to the chain of command.

However, given the current imperilment of US troops, and the "Conduct Unbecoming Of An Officer And A Gentleman" of this President - you have a greater responsibility to your nation, your code of honor and to the US Constitution.

I wish you well as you prepare to undertake the most heroic action of your distinguished career.

General Pace - please save the US.

Respectfully yours,

Martin Lewis

Taliban Push Poppy Production to a Record Again

Taliban Push Poppy Production to a Record Again

Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Locals, human and bovine, at an American-financed agricultural fair in Helmand Province that showcased alternative crops.

Robert Fisk: Even I question the 'truth' about 9/11

Robert Fisk: Even I question the 'truth' about 9/11

Published: 25 August 2007

Each time I lecture abroad on the Middle East, there is always someone in the audience – just one – whom I call the "raver". Apologies here to all the men and women who come to my talks with bright and pertinent questions – often quite humbling ones for me as a journalist – and which show that they understand the Middle East tragedy a lot better than the journalists who report it. But the "raver" is real. He has turned up in corporeal form in Stockholm and in Oxford, in Sao Paulo and in Yerevan, in Cairo, in Los Angeles and, in female form, in Barcelona. No matter the country, there will always be a "raver".

His – or her – question goes like this. Why, if you believe you're a free journalist, don't you report what you really know about 9/11? Why don't you tell the truth – that the Bush administration (or the CIA or Mossad, you name it) blew up the twin towers? Why don't you reveal the secrets behind 9/11? The assumption in each case is that Fisk knows – that Fisk has an absolute concrete, copper-bottomed fact-filled desk containing final proof of what "all the world knows" (that usually is the phrase) – who destroyed the twin towers. Sometimes the "raver" is clearly distressed. One man in Cork screamed his question at me, and then – the moment I suggested that his version of the plot was a bit odd – left the hall, shouting abuse and kicking over chairs.

Usually, I have tried to tell the "truth"; that while there are unanswered questions about 9/11, I am the Middle East correspondent of The Independent, not the conspiracy correspondent; that I have quite enough real plots on my hands in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Iran, the Gulf, etc, to worry about imaginary ones in Manhattan. My final argument – a clincher, in my view – is that the Bush administration has screwed up everything – militarily, politically diplomatically – it has tried to do in the Middle East; so how on earth could it successfully bring off the international crimes against humanity in the United States on 11 September 2001?

Well, I still hold to that view. Any military which can claim – as the Americans did two days ago – that al-Qa'ida is on the run is not capable of carrying out anything on the scale of 9/11. "We disrupted al-Qa'ida, causing them to run," Colonel David Sutherland said of the preposterously code-named "Operation Lightning Hammer" in Iraq's Diyala province. "Their fear of facing our forces proves the terrorists know there is no safe haven for them." And more of the same, all of it untrue.

Within hours, al-Qa'ida attacked Baquba in battalion strength and slaughtered all the local sheikhs who had thrown in their hand with the Americans. It reminds me of Vietnam, the war which George Bush watched from the skies over Texas – which may account for why he this week mixed up the end of the Vietnam war with the genocide in a different country called Cambodia, whose population was eventually rescued by the same Vietnamese whom Mr Bush's more courageous colleagues had been fighting all along.

But – here we go. I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It's not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93's debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I'm not talking about the crazed "research" of David Icke's Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster – which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.

I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering – very definitely not in the "raver" bracket – are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be "fraudulent or deceptive".

Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11. Initial reports of reporters that they heard "explosions" in the towers – which could well have been the beams cracking – are easy to dismiss. Less so the report that the body of a female air crew member was found in a Manhattan street with her hands bound. OK, so let's claim that was just hearsay reporting at the time, just as the CIA's list of Arab suicide-hijackers, which included three men who were – and still are – very much alive and living in the Middle East, was an initial intelligence error.

But what about the weird letter allegedly written by Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian hijacker-murderer with the spooky face, whose "Islamic" advice to his gruesome comrades – released by the CIA – mystified every Muslim friend I know in the Middle East? Atta mentioned his family – which no Muslim, however ill-taught, would be likely to include in such a prayer. He reminds his comrades-in-murder to say the first Muslim prayer of the day and then goes on to quote from it. But no Muslim would need such a reminder – let alone expect the text of the "Fajr" prayer to be included in Atta's letter.

Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious "war on terror" which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East. Bush's happily departed adviser Karl Rove once said that "we're an empire now – we create our own reality". True? At least tell us. It would stop people kicking over chairs.

AP: Iraq Body Count Running Double 2006 Pace


AP: Iraq Body Count Running Double 2006 Pace

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Iraqi Prime Minister Blasts American Critics

Iraqi Prime Minister Blasts American Critics

capt6b028be65825496ca0cb6bb15113b101mideast_syria_iraq_dam102.jpg AP Via Yahoo:

Iraq’s prime minister lashed out Wednesday at U.S. criticism, saying no one has the right to impose timetables on his elected government and that his country “can find friends elsewhere.”

Bush on Tuesday said he was frustrated with Iraqi leaders’ inability to bridge political divisions. But he added that only the Iraqi people can decide whether to sideline al-Maliki.

“No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people,” he said at a news conference in Damascus at the end of the three-day visit to Syria.

“Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria. We will pay no attention. We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere,” al-Maliki said. Read more…

ThinkFast: August 22, 2007 »

White House manual released recently discloses extensive instructions given to White House staffers in the art of “deterring potential protestors” from Bush’s public appearances. The manual demonstrates “that the White House has a policy of excluding and/or attempting to squelch dissenting viewpoints from presidential events,” said ACLU lawyer Jonathan Miller.

President Bush, who avoided military duty in Vietnam, will open a new theme in support of sticking with the battle of Iraq today by warning Iraq critics against committing the errors of Vietnam. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded that “the fundamental difference” between the conflicts is that Bush generated support for “the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses.”

A U.S. Army helicopter crashed north of Baghdad early Wednesday morning, killing all 14 soldiers onboard, the military said. The AP reports it is the deadliest crash since January 2005.

The Pentagon has seen a “sharp drop” in black active-duty recruits since the Iraq war began, falling to “to 13 percent in 2006 from 20 percent in 2001, the last year before the invasion of Iraq began to seem inevitable.” A recent CBS News poll found that 83 percent of blacks believe the United States was wrong to invade Iraq, compared to just 46 percent of whites.

Yesterday, Crandall Canyon mine co-owner Robert Murray said that while he plans to “abandon any effort” to mine at the site of the initial collapse where six miners were trapped, he believes “that other parts of the mine remained safe for work and that mining should resume.” An MSHA official said he was “shocked that the subject was even brought up.” expand post »

Waxman Confirms Existence Of Rove’s Politicization ‘Teams’

Waxman Confirms Existence Of Rove’s Politicization ‘Teams’

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported on Karl Rove’s politicization of the federal government. The article highlighted that Rove had organized “asset deployment teams” that allowed the White House “to coordinate the travel of Cabinet secretaries and senior agency officials” to secure GOP victories:

In practical terms, that meant Cabinet officials concentrated their official government travel on the media markets Rove’s team chose, rolling out grant decisions made by agencies with red-carpet fanfare in GOP congressional districts, and carefully crafted announcements highlighting the release of federal money in battleground states.

This morning, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote to the heads of 18 federal agencies who attended the briefings, confirming the existence of the teams:

As part of our investigation, the Committee has received documents that confirm the existence of this “asset deployment team.” According to the documents, the White House invited 18 federal agencies, including yours, to asset deployment meetings in 2003.

Those efforts extended up to the 2006 midterm elections. In his letter, Waxman reveals an e-mail from the White House Surrogate Scheduler “asking 18 federal agencies to provide press clippings from events that the agency heads did at the suggestion of the White House Office of Political Affairs.” The text of the e-mail reads:

WH Liaisons -

If you could, please have your press shops send me any good clips from the media on surrogate events your principals have done (Secretary and Sub-Cabinet), especially if they were as a result of an OPA request.

Folks over here get very excited when they see the results of all the hard work you and your agencies do on these events.

The White House has already admitted that roughly 20 agencies received PowerPoint briefings created by Rove’s office “that included slides listing Democratic and Republican seats the White House viewed as vulnerable.”

The existence of the “asset redeployment teams” adds more fuel to the controversy surrounding Rove’s unparalleled politicization schemes.

Waxman requested that information from the agencies concerning the details of meetings and coordination with the White House be turned over by Sept. 7

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

CIA Report Blames Tenet for 9/ll Failure

CIA Report Blames Tenet for 9/ll Failure

Brian Ross Reports:

Ciareportblam_mn_2 Former CIA director George Tenet "bears ultimate responsibility" for failing to create a strategic plan to stop al Qaeda prior to 9/ll, according to a review by the CIA's inspector general that was made public today, more than two years after it was written.

The report says that while Tenet wrote he wanted "no resources or people spared" in going after al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, neither he, nor his deputy, "followed up these warnings and admonitions by creating a documented, comprehensive plan to guide the counterterrorism effort."

"I know now why Tenet worked so hard to kill this report," said former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, now an ABC News consultant.

In a written statement, Tenet, who received the Medal of Freedom from President Bush, said the report was "flat wrong." Tenet said the inspector general failed to interview him. "He fails to understand how intensely I pushed the counterterrorism issue," Tenet said.

The current CIA director, Gen. Mike Hayden, said the report was being made public "against his wishes" but as required by law. Hayden said he, like his predecessor Porter Goss, had no plans to punish CIA officials cited in the report.

Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.

In recounting intelligence failures prior to 9/ll, the inspector general said there was neither "a single point of failure nor a silver bullet" that would have enabled the CIA to predict or prevent the 9/ll attacks.

But the report concludes there were "failures to implement and manage important processes, to follow through with operations, and to properly share and analyze critical data."

The report says Tenet "did not use all his authorities in leading the IC's (intelligence community's) strategic effort" against bin Laden.

"That's not fair," said ABC News consultant Clarke. "Of course there was a strategic effort, and he did raise the issue at the highest levels of government."

Vote: Do you think Tenet is to blame for failing to stop al Qaeda before 9/11?

And the report provides new details of the CIA's failure to alert the FBI that two al Qaeda operatives, who would be among the 9/ll hijackers, had entered the United States.

According to the report, "some 50 to 60" inside the CIA read "one or more of six Agency cables" that reported the two men had flown through Bangkok to Los Angeles.

The cables "were read by overseas officers and Headquarters personnel, operations officers and analysts, managers and junior employees," the report says, but over the course of 18 months, no one from the CIA shared the information with the FBI or sought to put the names on the State Department's terror watch list.

"That so many individuals failed to act in this case reflects a systemic breakdown," the report concludes. "Basically, there was no coherent, functioning watch listing program," it says.

Watch the full report on "World News Tonight With Charles Gibson."

Former CIA officer: US to attack Iran within 6 months

Former CIA officer: US to attack Iran within 6 months
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Tuesday August 21, 2007

Fox News asked former CIA field officer Bob Baer on Tuesday whether the US is "gearing up for a military strike on Iran." Baer has written a column for Time indicating that Washington officials expect an attack within the next six months.

"I've taken an informal poll inside the government," Baer told Fox. "The feeling is we will hit the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps." His Time column also suggested that "as long as we have bombers and missiles in the air, we will hit Iran's nuclear facilities."

Baer explained that what his sources anticipate is "not exactly a war." He said the administration is convinced "that the Iranians are interfering in Iraq and the rest of the Gulf" but that "if there is an attack on Iran it would be very quick, it would be a warning."

"We won't see American troops cross the border. ... If this is going to happen, it's going to happen very quickly and it's going to surprise a lot of people," said Baer. "I hope I'm wrong frankly, but we're going to see."

The following video is from Fox's America's Newsroom, broadcast on August 21.

Lieberman Shrugs Off Failed Iraq Predictions, Now Claims ‘Road To Victory’ Goes Through Syria

Lieberman Shrugs Off Failed Iraq Predictions, Now Claims ‘Road To Victory’ Goes Through Syria

liebermanSen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) writes today in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. “road to victory” in Iraq goes through Damascus, and urges Congress to “send a clear and unambiguous message to the Syrian regime“:

The United States is at last making significant progress against al Qaeda in Iraq–but the road to victory now requires cutting off al Qaeda’s road to Iraq through Damascus. […]

It is therefore time to demand that the Syrian regime stop playing travel agent for al Qaeda in Iraq.

When Congress reconvenes next month, we should set aside whatever differences divide us on Iraq and send a clear and unambiguous message to the Syrian regime, as we did last month to the Iranian regime, that the transit of al Qaeda suicide bombers through Syria on their way to Iraq is completely unacceptable, and it must stop.

Lieberman’s approach to confronting terror in the Middle East has only produced more violence and chaos. Shortly after the Iraq invasion — a move that Lieberman championed — he claimed the war would bolster the U.S. ability to take on Syria:

With victory in Iraq all but certain, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman said Tuesday the United States should use what he called “very aggressive diplomacy” to handle Syria and other countries suspected of harboring terrorists.

“I certainly hope military action won’t be necessary against Syria,” Lieberman said. “I would guess that it will not be, and part of the reason it will not be is because we were willing to use our power in Iraq and made a very strong point there.” [AP, 4/15/03]

In an April 9, 2003 interview with NBC, Lieberman said the U.S. had “earned some strength” in its position vis a vis Syria because of the “mighty display of force in Iraq.” In fact, the very opposite of Lieberman’s prediction has occurred. The war in Iraq has bolstered the Assad regime in Syria, which now rests more comfortably knowing U.S. military options are limited. Moreover, Syria’s influence in the region has grown, not diminished, as a result of the Iraq war.

In an attempt to begin to repair the administration’s disastrous course in the Middle East, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Damascus recently to personally address U.S. concerns about Syria’s influence in Iraq. Pelosi delivered a “clear and unambiguous message” to Bashar Assad, “insisting that his government block militants seeking to cross into Iraq and join insurgents there.”

Lieberman’s response to Pelosi’s efforts to address Syrian support for terror was to attack, criticize, and smear her. Falsely implying Syria was behind 9/11, Lieberman said he “strongly disagreed” with Pelosi’s trip, calling it a “mistake” and “bad for the United States of America.” Lieberman has argued that talking Syria is like the “local fire department asking arsonists to help put out the fire.” His “message” to Syria should be viewed as such — not diplomacy, but rather another step towards military confrontation.

Roadside Bomb Kills Second Iraqi Governor In Nine Days


Roadside Bomb Kills Second Iraqi Governor In Nine Days

Monday, August 20, 2007

Newsday Editorial: "So here's a summary of the artful dodge: If the government won't confirm it monitored your calls, the case has to be dismissed. If you can prove you were targeted, the government can withhold evidence and the case has to be dismissed. If you already have the evidence you need, the government can bar its use and the case has to be dismissed. The administration shouldn't be allowed to duck accountability for what could be ongoing violations of the rights of millions of Americans." 8/19

FISA law grants powers well beyond wiretapping

FISA law grants powers well beyond wiretapping.

The New York Times reports that broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping. The legislation may allow, without court approval, certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records. More:

The dispute illustrates how lawmakers, in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought.

It also offers a case study in how changing a few words in a complex piece of legislation has the potential to fundamentally alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a landmark national security law. […]

Several legal experts said that by redefining the meaning of “electronic surveillance,” the new law narrows the types of communications covered in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, by indirectly giving the government the power to use intelligence collection methods far beyond wiretapping that previously required court approval if conducted inside the United States. […]

For instance, the legislation would allow the government, under certain circumstances, to demand the business records of an American in Chicago without a warrant if it asserts that the search concerns its surveillance of a person who is in Paris, experts said.

Matt Cooper Says Rove DID Leak Valerie Plame’s Identity To Him: UPDATED!

Matt Cooper Says Rove DID Leak Valerie Plame’s Identity To Him: UPDATED!


Following Karl Rove’s appearance this morning on “Meet The Press” David Gregory (who is involved in the Plame scandal. More on that later.) held a round table discussion which included former Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper. Cooper, who was dead center in the Valerie Plame scandal, stops just short of calling Karl Rove a liar, insisting that he did, in fact, leak Valerie Plame’s name to him in 2003.

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Karl Rove’s denial from earlier in the program:

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Gregory: Matt Cooper, let’s pick up on an aspect of the interview with, with Karl Rove having to do with the leak case, the CIA leak case, that you were part of as well. And something’s that’s very interesting, he, he went out of his way to say, “I would not have been a confirming source on this kind of information” and taking issue with, with Novak’s testimony in his column that he knew who Valerie Plame was. He said he would never confirm that information. That’s different from your experience with him.

Cooper: Yeah, I, I think he was dissembling, to put it charitably. Look, Karl Rove told me about Valerie Plame’s identity on July 11th, 2003. I called him because Ambassador Wilson was in the news that week. I didn’t know Ambassador Wilson even had a wife until I talked to Karl Rove and he said that she worked at the agency and she worked on WMD. I mean, to imply that he didn’t know about it or that this was all the leak…

Gregory: Or that he had heard it from somebody else…

Cooper: …by someone else, or he heard it as some rumor out in the hallway is, is nonsense.

Gregory: But he makes no apologies to Valerie Plame.

Cooper: Karl Rove never apologizes. That’s not what he does..

John Amato: Cooper calls Rove a liar, plain and simple—in a dissembling way of course…

Think Progress has Rove on FOX propaganda….

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bill Moyers: 'Greed and God won four elections in a row' for Rove

Bill Moyers: 'Greed and God won four elections in a row' for Rove

David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Thursday August 16, 2007

Bill Moyers will consider the departure of Karl Rove in a video essay released early by PBS to RAW STORY. Moyers, a Texan like Rove and Bush, is not easily swayed by the commentators and administration figures who have been quick to describe Rove as "brilliant ... mastermind ... boy genius."

"Karl Rove figured out a long time ago," says Moyers, "that the way to take an intellectually incurious, draft-averse naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket and make him governor of Texas was to sell him as God's anointed."

"Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat," explains Moyers. "Never mind that in stroking the base's bigotry of true believers you coarsen both politics and religion."

"Rove was also shaking down corporations for campaign cash," Moyers continues. "Crony capitalism became a biblical injunction. Greed and God won four elections in a row. ... But the result has been to leave Texas under the thumb of big money, with huge holes ripped in its social contact, and the US government in shambles."

Moyers' final reaction to Rove's departure is to wonder, given that Rove has "confessed to friends his own agnosticism ... how all those folks on the Christian right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a skeptic, a secular manipulator."

The following video will appear on Friday on PBS's Bill Moyers Journal.

Partial transcript:

What struck me about my fellow Texan, Karl Rove, is that he knew how to win elections as if they were divine interventions. You may think God summoned Billy Graham to Florida on the eve of the 2000 election to endorse George W. Bush just in the nick of time, but if it did happen that way, the good lord was speaking in a Texas accent.

Karl Rove figured out a long time ago that the way to take an intellectually incurious draft-averse naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket and make him governor of Texas, was to sell him as God’s anointed in a state where preachers and televangelists outnumber even oil derricks and jack rabbits. Using church pews as precincts Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat -- a battering ram, aimed at the devil’s minions, especially at gay people.

It’s so easy, as Karl knew, to scapegoat people you outnumber, and if God is love, as rumor has it, Rove knew that, in politics, you better bet on fear and loathing. Never mind that in stroking the basest bigotry of true believers you coarsen both politics and religion.

At the same time he was recruiting an army of the lord for the born-again Bush, Rove was also shaking down corporations for campaign cash. Crony capitalism became a biblical injunction. Greed and God won four elections in a row - twice in the lone star state and twice again in the nation at large. But the result has been to leave Texas under the thumb of big money with huge holes ripped in its social contract, and the U.S. government in shambles - paralyzed, polarized, and mired in war, debt and corruption.

Rove himself is deeply enmeshed in some of the scandals being investigated as we speak, including those missing emails that could tell us who turned the attorney general of the United States into a partisan sockpuppet. Rove is riding out of Dodge city as the posse rides in. At his press conference this week he asked God to bless the president and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism; he wished he could believe, but he cannot. That kind of intellectual honesty is to be admired, but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a skeptic, a secular manipulator. On his last play of the game all Karl Rove had to offer them was a hail mary pass, while telling himself there’s no one there to catch it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An Early Clash Over Iraq Report

An Early Clash Over Iraq Report
Specifics at Issue as September Nears

By Jonathan Weisman and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 16, 2007; A01

Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration's progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense.

White House officials did not deny making the proposal in informal talks with Congress, but they said yesterday that they will not shield the commanding general in Iraq and the senior U.S. diplomat there from public congressional testimony required by the war-funding legislation President Bush signed in May. "The administration plans to follow the requirements of the legislation," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in response to questions yesterday.

The skirmishing is an indication of the rising anxiety on all sides in the remaining few weeks before the presentation of what is widely considered a make-or-break assessment of Bush's war strategy, and one that will come amid rising calls for a drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq.

With the report due by Sept. 15, officials at the White House, in Congress and in Baghdad said that no decisions have been made on where, when or how Petraeus and Crocker will appear before Congress. Lawmakers from both parties are growing worried that the report -- far from clarifying the United States' future in Iraq -- will only harden the political battle lines around the war.

White House officials suggested to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that Petraeus and Crocker would brief lawmakers in a closed session before the release of the report, congressional aides said. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would provide the only public testimony.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) told the White House that Bush's presentation plan was unacceptable. An aide to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said that "we are in talks with the administration and . . . Senator Levin wants an open hearing" with Petraeus.

Those positions only hardened yesterday with reports that the document would not be written by the Army general but instead would come from the White House, with input from Petraeus, Crocker and other administration officials.

"Americans deserve an even-handed assessment of conditions in Iraq. Sadly, we will only receive a snapshot from the same people who told us the mission was accomplished and the insurgency was in its last throes," warned House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.).

"That's all the more reason why they would need to testify," a senior Foreign Relations Committee aide said of Petraeus and Crocker. "We would want them to say whether they stand by all the information in the report." He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not cleared to speak to reporters.

The legislation says that Petraeus and Crocker "will be made available to testify in open and closed sessions before the relevant committees of the Congress" before the delivery of the report. It also clearly states that the president "will prepare the report and submit the report to Congress" after consultation with the secretaries of state and defense and with the top U.S. military commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador.

But both the White House and Congress have widely described the assessment as coming from Petraeus. Bush has repeatedly referred to the general as the one who will be delivering the report in September and has implored the public and Republicans in Congress to withhold judgment until then. In an interim assessment last month, the White House said that significant progress has been shown in fewer than half of the 18 political and security benchmarks outlined in the legislation.

Several Republicans have hinted that their support will depend on a credible presentation by Petraeus, not only of tangible military progress but of evidence that the Iraqi government is taking real steps toward ethnic and religious reconciliation. One of them, Sen. John W. Warner (Va.), left for Iraq last night with Levin for his own assessment.

Petraeus and Crocker have said repeatedly that they plan to testify after delivering private assessments to Bush. U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad appeared puzzled yesterday when told that the White House had indicated that the two may not be appearing in public. They said they will continue to prepare for the testimony in the absence of instructions from Washington. "If anything, we just don't know the dates/times/or the committees that the assessment will be presented to," a senior military official in Baghdad said in an e-mail yesterday.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee aide said that, ideally, both Crocker and Petraeus would testify before that panel. The Senate committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee have also requested that Rice appear at a separate hearing but have received no response. A spokeswoman for Levin said that the senator expects at least Petraeus to testify before the Armed Services Committee but would be happy to have Crocker as well.

Although the reports from Petraeus and Crocker are the most eagerly awaited, several other assessments are also required by the May legislation. The Government Accountability Office is due to report on Iraqi political reconciliation and reconstruction by Sept. 1. An independent committee, headed by retired Marine Gen. James Jones, has been studying the training and capabilities of the Iraqi security forces and will report to Congress early next month. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said that the chiefs are making their own assessment of the situation in Iraq and will present it to Bush in the next few weeks.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him in Iraq yesterday, Petraeus said he is preparing recommendations on troop levels while getting ready to go to Washington next month. He declined to give specifics.

"We know that the surge has to come to an end," Petraeus said, according to the Associated Press. "I think everyone understands that, by about a year or so from now, we've got to be a good bit smaller than we are right now. The question is how do you do that . . . so that you can retain the gains we have fought so hard to achieve and so you can keep going."

Staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.