Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Two really cheerful, happy guys (Hume & Bolton)

The Scorpions

From the Washington Post:

Before the War, CIA Reportedly Trained a Team of Iraqis to Aid U.S.

By Dana Priest and Josh WhiteWashington Post Staff WritersWednesday, August 3, 2005; A12

Before the war in Iraq began, the CIA recruited and trained an Iraqi paramilitary group, code-named the Scorpions, to foment rebellion, conduct sabotage, and help CIA paramilitaries who entered Baghdad and other cities target buildings and individuals, according to three current and former intelligence officials with knowledge of the unit.
The CIA spent millions of dollars on the Scorpions, whose existence has not been previously disclosed, even giving them former Soviet Hind helicopters. But most of the unit's prewar missions -- spray-painting graffiti on walls; cutting electricity; "sowing confusion," as one said -- were delayed or canceled because of poor training or planning, said officials briefed on the unit. The speed of the invasion negated the need for most of their missions, others said.
After Baghdad fell, the CIA used the Scorpions to try to infiltrate the insurgency, to help out in interrogations, and, from time to time, to do "the dirty work," as one intelligence official put it.

In one case, members of the unit, wearing masks and carrying clubs and pipes, beat up an Iraqi general in the presence of CIA and military personnel, according to investigative documents reviewed by The Washington Post and according to several defense and intelligence officials.

Post inquiries about the case prompted the CIA to brief the House and Senate intelligence committees on the unit, said several members of Congress and two defense officials.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, asked if he was satisfied with the information he received on the unit, said, "Yes -- if it existed." But he added: "We're not spending a lot of time going back and dissecting tactical programs."

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise declined to comment on the unit. Defense Department spokesmen referred comments on the unit to the CIA. All former and current government officials interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the classified nature of the Scorpions.

Authorized by a presidential finding signed by President Bush in February or March 2002, the Scorpions were part of a policy of "regime change" in Iraq. The covert members, many of whom were exiles recruited by the Kurds, were trained in target identification, explosives and small arms at two secret bases in Jordan, according to one U.S. government official.

They were sent surreptitiously into Iraq before the war and were in cities such as Baghdad, Fallujah and Qaim to give the impression that a rebellion was underway and to conduct light sabotage, according to the two defense sources and the three former and current intelligence officials.

"They painted X's [for targeting] on buildings and things like that," said one former intelligence officer.
After the initial combat phase of the war, the CIA used the paramilitary units as translators and to fetch supplies and retrieve informants in an increasingly dangerous Iraq where CIA officers largely stayed within the protected Green Zone, according to the officials.

CIA control over the unit became weaker as chaos grew in Iraq. "Even though they were set up by us, they weren't well supervised," said an intelligence official.

"At some point, and it's not really clear how this happened, they started being used in interrogations . . . because they spoke the local dialect" and were caught roughing up detainees, Curtis E. Ryan, an Army investigator, told a military court in Colorado where four soldiers are charged in connection with the death of Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush in 2003.

Many of the paramilitaries did not speak English. When they entered Iraq after the invasion, because they wore civilian clothes and traveled in civilian vehicles, the Scorpion teams were often mistaken for insurgents. On a couple of occasions, U.S. soldiers unknowingly tracked the teams as insurgents and focused on their official safe houses as possible targets until they were discovered to be working with U.S. officials.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hiroshima cover-up

From Editor & Publisher:

In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan almost 60 years ago, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This included footage shot by U.S. military crews and Japanese newsreel teams. In addition, for many years, all but a handful of newspaper photographs were seized or prohibited.The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for 25 years, and the U.S. military film remained hidden for nearly four decades. The full story of this atomic cover-up is told fully for the first time today at E&P Online, as the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings approaches later this week. Some of the long-suppressed footage will be aired on televison this Saturday.

Read the Rest

Bush's year of accomplishment for Special Interests

From Amercian Progress:

A Year of Accomplishment for Special Interests

As he headed to his ranch in Crawford for the month of August, President Bush gave himself a pat on the back. On his radio address Saturday, Bush said, "this year Congress and I have addressed many key priorities." The only problem is, this administration's priorities are different from your priorities. Every major legislative initiative signed by the president this year has been a boon to special interests, but ignored the real needs of the American people. FOR

SPECIAL INTERESTS -- HIGHWAY BILL: On Friday, Congress sent to President Bush a six-year $286.5 billion highway bill which was overflowing with wasteful pork spending. Take the $25 million “Bridge to Nowhere,” connecting two South Carolina towns with a combined population of 2,000. Or the $95 million appropriated to widen a highway in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties in Wisconsin -- "a widening that the state Department of Transportation says is unnecessary for 15 to 20 years and that legislators approved after bypassing the DOT and a commission charged with developing major road projects." And thanks to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), known as "Uncle Ted" for his willingness to spoil his constituents with pork projects, the bill also includes $200 million for a one-mile span linking Ketchikan, Alaska, with Gravina Island (currently, fifty people live on Gravina Island -- "they reach Ketchikan by taking a seven-minute ferry ride") and $1.5 million for a single bus stop in Anchorage, Alaska.FOR

SPECIAL INTERESTS -- CAFTA: President Bush hailed the final passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement by saying that the House "has acted to advance America's economic and national security interests by passing the CAFTA-DR agreement." But the combined economies of the six other CAFTA nations "only equal that of New Haven, Conn." and "account for barely one percent of U.S. trade." The biggest winners in the so-called CAFTA victory are the drug and telecommunications industries, not the American worker. Meanwhile, "the Bush administration's fiscal irresponsibility with tax cuts and unnecessary spending priorities has crippled our ability to help workers retrain and compete on the international stage." Furthermore, President Bush "has tightened the eligibility requirements for [the Trade Adjustment Assistance program], denying many workers even the modest resources available under that program," "pursued policies that leave many workers who qualify for TAA benefits without access to this program," and essentially taken the safety net out from under real workers with real families directly affected by CAFTA.

FOR SPECIAL INTERESTS -- ENERGY BILL: Next up was energy legislation that lavished the fossil-fuel industries with $515 million in new subsidies, including "$125 million to reimburse oil and gas producers for 115% of the costs of remediating, reclaiming, and closing orphaned wells." The House managed to add $35 billion of pork to the energy bill in just the last three weeks before it was passed – "a total of $88.9 billion in subsidies to industry over 10 years in the bill." Despite these handouts, Congress admits the bill will "do nothing in the short term to drive down high gasoline and other energy prices or significantly reduce America's growing reliance on foreign oil." A 2004 analysis by the administration's Energy Information Administration found that the Bush-backed energy bill will actually raise gas prices and increase oil demand nearly 14 percent by 2010.FOR

SPECIAL INTERESTS -- BANKRUPTCY BILL: Then came the "bankruptcy reform" monstrosity, which made it more difficult for average Americans suffering from financial misfortune to declare bankruptcy. The credit card industry, which took in $30 billion in profits last year and doled out more than $7.8 million to candidates in the 2004 election cycle, lobbied relentlessly for the bill, pushing the fiction that bankruptcies occur because of "irresponsible consumerism" (in bill sponsor Charles Grassley's (R-IA) words). In fact, "ninety percent of all bankruptcies are triggered by the loss of a job, high medical bills or divorce." In recent years, personal bankruptcy rates have shot to record highs amid a weak labor market and declining health insurance coverage. The bill created several "new hurdles" that will make it harder and more expensive for Americans to recover from such episodes, while failing to stop the actual abuses that plague the system.

FOR SPECIAL INTERESTS -- IRAQ SUPPLEMENTAL: Even the Iraq supplemental spending was covered with special interest fingerprints. Though the bills were passed without any provisions to hold the White House accountable for its flailing Iraq strategy, and failed to deal with the equipment shortfalls plaguing our troops, they did offer major cash for questionable contracts and corrupt and incompetent corporations. At the same time, the Pentagon has pursued "back-door budgeting for the wars." Gordon Adams, director of security policy studies at George Washington University, referenced "reduced training, exercises and operating tempo, slowdowns in maintenance, [and] delays on maintaining facilities" as ways that the Pentagon has tried to get around paying for the bloated war costs. Other strategies appear to be not paying soldiers what they are owed and deducting money for debts that do not even exist.

FOR SPECIAL INTERESTS -- TORT REFORM: And finally, there was the so-called "tort reform" legislation, pushed by conservatives who claimed "the prospect of big jury awards in medical malpractice cases was causing insurance rates to soar and doctors to abandon their practices." If you scrape away the overheated rhetoric and look at the reality, however, a very different picture emerges. The legislation has no real effect on the cost of health care: the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of health care spending, and that capping medical malpractice would affect private health insurance premiums by a measly one half of 1 percent. Moreover, the caps would "disproportionately affect" children and seniors who live on fixed incomes. According to the CBO, it also would "undermine incentives for safety" while at the same time making it "harder for some patients with legitimate but difficult claims to find legal representation."

Crazy Rummy

Christian Science Monitor Commentary

I really liked this commentary

Bush give the Press the Middle Finger (or thumb?)

LINK to video

From Press Briefing with Scott McClellan:

Q Scott, The Washington Post this morning reports that, "Many days, no doubt, he" -- that's you, Scott -- "he harbors his own desires to finger his feelings about reporters." (Laughter.) That's what they reported. And my question is, since The Post also reports that "The President suddenly thrust his right hand into the air and extends a finger." White House officials yesterday said it was his thumb. Could this be interpreted as the traditional thumbs-up signal, or is it a mistake to confuse the President's thumb with his middle finger?
I have a follow up.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, okay, I found all this kind of preposterous --

Q It was in The Washington Post.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and the story that was run there. Clearly, if you look at it and if you were there, you would recognize that the President was giving a thumbs-up. Someone in the media had asked something to the effect of, how does it look on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the President gave the thumbs-up.
I don't know how someone is trying to divine my inner thoughts, but despite some of the back and forth that we engage in today and other times, even with people like David -- (laughter) -- I have great respect for the job that you all do. And you all -- you all know the way I deal with you all and I know the way the President acts. And that's -- it's just preposterous to make that kind of suggestion.