"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Free Padilla

Jose Padilla is an American citizen taken into custody on American soil. Padilla has been incarcerated for almost two years (CATO Institute, 'Jose Padilla: No Charges and No Trial, Just Jail' 23 August 2003). He is being held without charges, indictment, trial, lawyer, liberty, or humanity. He has a Constitutional right to each and every one of these things. Fox News informs us that he was planning to use a dirty bomb in America. If so, then execute him. However, we will never know if he is an enemy until he is given a trial, attorney, etc. He is not an enemy combatant, and no proof has been put forward. As of now, he is a non-entity, and guilty because of the words of a government who lied about 9-11, Iraq, the Patriot Act, and many other issues.

As Americans, I do not see how we can rightfully let this continue. We, as Americans, must fight for Jose Padilla's freedom - or at least for a trial by a jury of peers. Any American who does not do so forsakes his own right to be defended when his or her liberty is infringed upon. What's that saying: they came for this group, but it wasn't mine. They came for that group, but it wasn't mine. When they came for my group, no one was left to help. That is what will happen if Jose is not either tried or freed IMMEDIATELY!

Circumstances suggest that Jose Padilla is either a political prisoner, or a prototype. If his words or actions threaten the American Government, then Padilla is being held as a political prisoner. Unfortunately, this may not be the situation. When Padilla's case went to the Supreme Court, it went boxed up with other internment questions, including questions as to the rights of inmates at Guantanamo. The Supreme Court ruled that foreigners, caught on the battlefields of foreign lands, do have a right to a tribunal. Padilla's case was not answered, thereby sentencing an American citizen caught on American soil to one-cell limbo. This gives Americans less rights than our enemies!

I can no longer in good faith accept the federal government's promise that Jose Padilla is a criminal, a terrorist. He is a fellow countrymen, regardless of his race, religion, or political party. If he is tried and found guilty of planning to attack the U.S., then I will, in good conscience, perform the execution myself. One bullet in the head for traitors. Clean, no pain, humanitarian. If, on the other hand, Padilla is not charged with a crime, I reserve the right to release him from his jail. If the government wants to illegally hold him anyway - then Americans should break him out. This would not be a crime, as Padilla's internment for the last two years IS the crime.

Many people want to place their faith in government. To them, I say that history refutes your belief that government is benign. To those who do not support Padilla's trial, you have revoked your own right to a fair trial. If we allow this to happen to Padilla, then we are telling the government that indefinite, baseless internments are par for the course in America. After the next terrorist act on our shores, do we think that Padilla will not have his first cellmates, held under charges issued forth through Fox News?

Erik Fortman

How to Avoid Becoming an Anti-American

A specter is haunting America--the specter of anti-Americanism. All the powers of patriotic America have entered into a corporate alliance to exorcise this specter: draft-deferrers and women-gropers, grammar-challenged and duel-challengers, oil diggers and grave diggers. It is the duty of all upstanding American citizens to fully understand and identify the leading symptoms of anti-Americanism, so that our homes, homeless shelters, reading chambers, torture chambers, chocolate refineries, weapons factories, and places of worship, such as churches, temples, and Wall Street, are completely free from the poison of anti-war sentiment. The patriotic American must save both himself and others from becoming an anti-American American by learning to be an active, honorable, anti-anti-American American. It is with this pressing obligation in mind that the following signs of anti-Americanism have been compiled and exposed.

The most irksome and identifiable feature of the anti-American American is his flagrant abuse of the First Amendment. He deviously twists and distorts his constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech by exercising this right--at a time when an important event is underway, no less: the war in Iraq, and more broadly, the so-called war on terror. It should be obvious to the reasonable American that, in times of war, speaking one's mind is quite a dangerous and reckless act: there is, after all, only so much free speech to go around, and, as our soldiers are busily bringing it to inferior races via cruise missiles and cluster bombs abroad, there is little left for consumption at home.

Muting criticism of our leaders and staying silent about the direction of our country is also a sound tactic for fighting terrorist dead-enders head on. By complacently sitting back and letting the government pass unconstitutional laws that infringe on the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of speech, we demoralize the dark evil-doers by showing to them in no uncertain terms that they can never snatch away our rights and civil liberties: only our own president and Congress can do that, and by enthusiastically allowing this internal process of destruction, we cause great agony for the powerless terrorists.

Patriots should also understand that calling for an end to the war and advocating bringing the troops home puts troops at great risk, endangers their morale, gives comfort to the enemy, and contributes to the clubbing of baby seals. The irresponsibility of attacking the war is crystal clear: over 150,000 Americans are currently enjoying their extended vacations in exotic locales, freeing them from the hellish, tedious troubles of friends, family, home, and the country they grew up in. Could any good American truly wish to deprive them of this luxury? Our soldiers are merrily mixing with different peoples, forging important personal relationships, taking in the pleasant scenery, and making a lasting impression with millions of foreigners. To call for an end to this enchanted cultural exchange program is nothing short of treason.

Calling into question the overall tactics and strategy of the war is equally unconscionable. Decisions about war plans have already been made well in advance by intelligent and competent individuals, who have acquired a very sharp, reasoned understanding of military affairs by carefully observing their fellow countrymen fighting and dying in war from afar, sparing themselves from the deceptive and delusional experience of actual combat. Therefore, to say in reference to the war Iraq - as various wild-eyed leftists do - that "There are no good options," that there is "no sense of the realities on the ground", that "the priorities are all just wrong" is dangerous nonsense. Saying that "we're achieving Bin Laden's ends," that "this is far graver than Vietnam," is also completely outrageous rubbish that appeases the enemy. Former general and National Security Agency chief William Odom and former marine commander and head of US CENTCOM Joseph Hoare should really think hard before saying such things again in the future.

Above all, the anti-American American attempts to dupe and deceive the unsuspecting citizen with a long list of supposed "root causes" of terrorism which must be recognized and addressed in order to make us safer. Among these supposed "root causes" are our support for tyrannical Arab dictators who suppress their people's rights, backing of a brutal colonial regime in Israel that tortures, occupies, and ethnically cleanses the native population, lack of reparations for enforcing sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, bombing that country into rubble, and then occupying it. Highbrow, snobby leftist liberal elites think there is some kind of "connection" between this behavior of terrorizing others and Islamist terrorism against us.

But this is sheer nonsense: Arabs don't really care much that we've starved, strangled, tortured, beaten, bombed, bulldozed, killed, and maimed them directly or indirectly for decades, because - unlike us - they don't place much value on human life. The real reason they hate us is because of their mindless, reckless hatred of everything that's good in the world (that's us), because we are free, democratic and virtuous.

Which well explains the logic of the current war. For as we let our rights erode with Guantanomization of dissent, as we engage in atrocities like the sadism of Abu Ghraib, as we chain ourselves to interminable terror alerts and color-code warnings of imminent mass death, we will soon lose every last vestige of freedom, democracy, and virtue we currently possess - thus forcing Arab insurgents and terrorists everywhere to fall in love with America, drop their weapons, and sue for peace.

God Bless America! Or Else.


Annan Condemns US Abuses in Iraq

Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, today cited the torture of Iraqi prisoners by US forces as an example of how fundamental laws were being "shamelessly disregarded".
Speaking shortly before George Bush delivered a speech in which he insisted the world was a better place since US action in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr Annan called on member countries to uphold the rule of law at home and abroad, at a time he described as a "fork in the road".

He said the laws being ignored included "those that ordain respect for civilians, for the vulnerable - especially children" and proceeded to implicitly criticise the US by mentioning the "disgraceful abuse" of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail.

Mr Annan also referred to hostage taking and the "cold-blooded massacre" of civilians in Iraq, as well as the school siege in Beslan and population displacement and rape in Darfur. He condemned the actions of Palestinian suicide bombers and "Israel's excessive use of force... in Palestine [where] we see homes destroyed, lands seized, and needless civilian casualties".

UN-bashing has become a popular sport among Republicans in the US, with vice-president Dick Cheney and Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger both taking up the mantle in recent campaign speeches for Mr Bush. However, Mr Annan said: "Today, more than ever, the world needs an effective mechanism through which to seek common solutions to common problems. That is what this organisation was created for."

But Republicans' attitude towards the organisation is unlikely to soften following Mr Annan's assertion that: "Every nation that proclaims the rule of law at home must respect it abroad; and every nation that insists on it abroad must enforce it at home... At times even the necessary fight against terrorism is allowed to encroach unnecessarily on civil liberties."

Mr Annan, who last week called the US-led invasion of Iraq illegal, was speaking on the opening day of a two-week session of the UN General Assembly. He accepted some criticism of the organisation, conceding that the legal framework put in place by the UN was "riddled with gaps and weaknesses".

"Too often it is applied selectively, and enforced arbitrarily," he continued. "It lacks the teeth that turn a body of laws into an effective legal system... Rule of law as a mere concept is not enough. Laws must be put into practice, and permeate their fabrics of our lives."

And with Mr Bush about to get to his feet to deliver his own definition of freedom, Mr Annan concluded his speech with the words: "Each generation has its part to play in the age-long struggle to strengthen the rule of law for all - which alone can guarantee freedom for all. Let our generation not be found wanting."

Adam Jay
Tuesday September 21, 2004

Other Priorities

By April 2004, rapes and assaults of American female soldiers were epidemic in the Middle East. But even after more than 83 incidents were reported during a six-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the 24-hour rape hotline in Kuwait was still being answered by a machine advising callers to leave a phone number where they could be reached.

“Nobody had a telephone number, for crying out loud,” says Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, then commanding general of the 800th Military Police Brigade, who was in Kuwait preparing to bring her unit home after running the military prisons in Iraq.

Military stupidity at its finest, or senior male brass who chose to shrug and look the other way?

Karpinski believes the latter. “Reports of assault ... were mostly not investigated because commanders had other priorities,” Karpinski says. “The attitude of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez,” then the ground commander in Iraq, “permeated the entire chain of command: The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory.”

According to Karpinski, Brig. Gen. Michael J. Diamond, then commander of the 377th Theater Support Command in Kuwait, followed Sanchez’s lead and refused to take any proactive steps toward stopping the rapes.

“When I tried to discuss the gravity of the situation with him, he responded, ‘It’s not always easy being me, you know,’ ” Karpinski says. “My recommendations for some easily implemented actions to reduce this serious problem fell on deaf ears.”

It’s an essential priority of a leader, from corporal to four-star general, to look after the troops. In today’s military – like it or not – that includes females as well as males. And in relatively safe Kuwait, Karpinski notes, women were frequently assaulted on the way to the latrines. There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of night.

“I reminded BG Diamond he was in Kuwait, not the middle of Iraq,” Karpinski told me, “and there was no excuse for not lighting up the walkways to the showers and latrines. He said he had other priorities, and he didn’t want to call attention to the locations of the facilities.”

Meanwhile, the male latrines were well-marked and well-lighted.

“A female soldier coming off night shift took a shower and was standing at the sink brushing her teeth,” Karpinski says. “A male soldier entered the tent brandishing a long blade knife. He had a scarf ... over his head. He threatened her, and she tried to run. Another female soldier heard her scream and nearly bumped into the would-be attacker as he was running out of the tent. They actually cornered him, but CID (military cops) released him the next day because the intended victim was not certain she could identify him.”

“I told BG Diamond to post notices everywhere alerting women to this attack and reminding them to take a buddy everywhere after dark. He refused. He once again didn't want to call attention to the attack! These were male soldiers attacking female soldiers.”

Only after abused soldiers started calling home and contacting the press, their parents and Congress, did the secretary of defense finally appoint a Sexual Assault Task Force last February to “undertake a 90-day review of all sexual assault policies and programs.”

The Pentagon report – wrapped up in thousands of words of butt-covering politically correct double talk – contains sentences like the following: “It must develop performance metrics and establish an evaluation framework for regular review and quality improvement.” And probably nothing much will come out of this exercise in bureaucracy except the creation of yet another costly, ineffectual head shed. But it does confirm that in the past two years alone, there were more than 2,100 sexual assaults throughout the U.S. military.

Karpinski says: “There were countless such situations all over the theater of operations – Iraq and Kuwait – because female soldiers didn’t have a voice, individually or collectively. Even as a general I didn’t have a voice with Sanchez, so I know what the soldiers were facing. Sanchez did not want to hear about female soldier requirements and/or issues.”

Of course, this problem would go away in a drill-sergeant minute if the guys wearing eagles and stars had the proper incentive - such as promotions based on who has the lowest rape numbers.

-- Eilhys England contributed to this column.

Col. David H. Hackworth (USA Ret.) is SFTT.org co-founder and Senior Military Columnist for DefenseWatch magazine. For information on his many books, go to his home page at Hackworth.com, where you can sign in for his free weekly Defending America. Send mail to P.O. Box 11179, Greenwich, CT 06831. His newest book is “Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts.” © 2004 David H. Hackworth. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.

The American Tragedy

Why Americans back the war

THE WAR IN IRAQ goes from worse to catastrophic. Hundreds of Iraqis were killed last week, as were two dozen US soldiers. Planned elections in January point less to democracy than civil war. Kidnapping has become a weapon of terror on the ground, matching the terror of US air attacks. An American "take-back" offensive threatens to escalate the violence immeasurably. The secretary general of the United Nations pronounced the American war illegal.

In the United States, an uneasy electorate keeps its distance from all of this. Polls show that most Americans maintain faith in the Bush administration's handling of the war, while others greet reports of the disasters more with resignation than passionate opposition. To the mounting horror of the world, the United States of America is relentlessly bringing about the systematic destruction of a small, unthreatening nation for no good reason. Why has this not gripped the conscience of this country?

The answer goes beyond Bush to the 60-year history of an accidental readiness to destroy the earth, a legacy with which we Americans have yet to reckon. The punitive terror bombing that marked the end of World War II hardly registered with us. Then we passively accepted our government's mad embrace of thermonuclear weapons. While we demonized our Soviet enemy, we hardly noticed that almost every major escalation of the arms race was initiated by our side -- a race that would still be running if Mikhail Gorbachev had not dropped out of it.

In 1968, we elected Richard Nixon to end the war in Vietnam, then blithely acquiesced when he kept it going for years more. When Ronald Reagan made a joke of wiping out Moscow, we gathered a million strong to demand a nuclear "freeze," but then accepted the promise of "reduction," and took no offense when the promise was broken.

We did not think it odd that America's immediate response to the nonviolent fall of the Berlin Wall was an invasion of Panama. We celebrated the first Gulf War uncritically, even though that display of unchecked American power made Iran and North Korea redouble efforts to build a nuclear weapon, while prompting Osama bin Laden's jihad. The Clinton administration affirmed the permanence of American nukes as a "hedge" against unnamed fears, and we accepted it. We shrugged when the US Senate refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, with predictable results in India and Pakistan. We bought the expansion of NATO, the abrogation of the ABM Treaty, the embrace of National Missile Defense -- all measures that inevitably pushed other nations toward defensive escalation.

The war policy of George W. Bush -- "preventive war," unilateralism, contempt for Geneva -- breaks with tradition, but there is nothing new about the American population's refusal to face what is being done in our name. This is a sad, old story. It leaves us ill-equipped to deal with a pointless, illegal war. The Bush war in Iraq, in fact, is only the latest in a chain of irresponsible acts of a warrior government, going back to the firebombing of Tokyo. In comparison to that, the fire from our helicopter gunships above the cities of Iraq this week is benign. Is that why we take no offense?

Something deeply shameful has us in its grip. We carefully nurture a spirit of detachment toward the wars we pay for. But that means we cloak ourselves in cold indifference to the unnecessary suffering of others -- even when we cause it. We don't look at any of this directly because the consequent guilt would violate our sense of ourselves as nice people. Meaning no harm, how could we inflict such harm?

In this political season, the momentous issue of American-sponsored death is an inch below the surface, not quite hidden -- making the election a matter of transcendent importance. George W. Bush is proud of the disgraceful history that has paralyzed the national conscience on the question of war. He does not recognize it for what it is -- an American Tragedy. The American tragedy. John Kerry, by contrast, is attuned to the ethical complexity of this war narrative. We see that reflected in the complexity not only of his responses, but of his character -- and no wonder it puts people off. Kerry's problem, so far unresolved, is how to tell us what we cannot bear to know about ourselves. How to tell us the truth of our great moral squandering. The truth of what we are doing today in Iraq.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe. His most recent book is "Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War."

© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

So Far, You Can Fool Most of the People Most of the Time

Despite all of the death and mayhem in Iraq and counterproductive results in the war on terror, the ever-chipper President Bush soldiers on with upbeat assessments of those efforts in campaign appearances. And the ever-gullible American voter is apparently willing to believe him.

Just as it is “unpatriotic” these days to criticize the U.S. military during a war, it is equally politically incorrect to criticize the pitifully uninformed American public. To ingratiate themselves with voters, politicians usually crow about the “inherent wisdom of the American people.” But that wisdom is sorely lacking on national security issues.

Despite John Kerry’s criticism of Bush on such matters, a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that voters still trust Bush more than Kerry to deal with the war in Iraq by 53 percent to 37 percent. The same poll shows that they also have greater trust in Bush to prosecute the war on terrorism by an even bigger margin-57 percent to 35 percent. A USA Today/CNN Gallup Poll shows similar results: 54 percent to 41 percent on Iraq and 61 percent to 34 percent on the war on terrorism.

Granted, Kerry’s congressional vote in favor of the Iraq War and the Kerry campaign’s general incompetence have legitimately hindered his attempts to distinguish himself from Bush on such issues. But given the stark realities, one would expect the numbers to be reversed.

The Bush administration has been responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 U.S. service personnel, the wounding of 7,000 more and the deaths of perhaps 10,000 Iraqis (a crude estimate because the Pentagon refuses to release figures) in an unneeded war that was sold on false pretenses. If a war is unnecessary, then the perpetrators must assume responsibility for even unintended casualties and destruction (what the U.S. military euphemistically calls “collateral damage”) and horrific excesses, such as the Abu Ghraib prison abuses, not directly authorized by the leader. (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here). Like the roadside bombs in Iraq, all of the administration’s justifications for the war have exploded in its face. A new report by Charles Duelfer, the administration’s new chief weapons inspector-who replaced David Kay, the old chief weapons inspector, who quit when no “weapons of mass destruction” were found-has recently confirmed what has been obvious: no super weapons will ever be found in Iraq. And despite the administration’s constant and brazen false innuendos to the contrary, the 9/11 Commission confirmed the views of most in the U.S. intelligence community: that no operational collaboration occurred between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Yet the American people still seem to believe this charade. The fallback justification of bringing republican government to Iraq and the Middle East now looks ridiculously hollow. Even President Bush has been using the word “stability” more and “democracy” less in describing U.S. goals in Iraq.

But even stability is in question. A rash of new studies paint an ominous picture for Iraq’s future. For example, a National Intelligence Estimate done for the president listed tenuous stability as the best outcome of three possible scenarios. Even more dire, a study by the Chatham House, a prestigious British research institute, predicted that a fragmented Iraq was the “default scenario.”

These predictions are based on the realities on the ground, not the continued Pollyanna rhetoric of the Bush administration. Attacks on American forces alone-not to mention the much more frequent attacks on the bumbling Iraqi security forces-have skyrocketed from 15 per day in October 2003, to 30 in December 2003, 45 in June 2004, and almost 90 in August 2004. Security in Iraq’s cities is already more dicey than in Vietnamese cities during that war. Important Iraqi urban areas are under the control of the insurgents, and those still under U.S. control are not safe. Such realities will most likely make the scheduled January 2005 elections impossible.

Also, the administration did not use enough troops to close the porous borders to prevent guerrilla infiltration from neighboring countries. Furthermore, the administration pretends that the insurgents are exclusively criminals, foreign terrorists, or former Saddam loyalists, discounting the more likely and ominous possibility that many are normal Iraqis who are angered by a foreign invasion and occupation of their country.

As for the war on terrorism, the two top leaders of al Qaeda have escaped capture for three years, and the pace and lethality of the group’s post-9/11 attacks have exceeded those of its pre-9/11 strikes, according to the anonymous senior U.S intelligence officer who wrote the book Imperial Hubris. Although no catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil has occurred since September 11, excessive optimism is misplaced because such events are rare and al Qaeda’s planning horizon is long. The respite that al Qaeda received from the diversion of U.S. Special Forces and intelligence assets to the invasion of Iraq helped the organization survive; the subsequent Mesopotamian mess has been a recruiting poster for radical Islamist terrorists worldwide that has enabled the group to thrive.

On November 2, whether voting for Bush or his opponent, voters should focus on the president’s actual record of undermining U.S. security rather than his duplicitous and sunshiny rhetoric.

Ivan Eland

Haiti Flood Toll From Jeanne at Least 622

GONAIVES, Haiti (Sept. 21) - The death toll from a tropical storm that devastated parts of Haiti rose to 622 late Monday as search crews recovered hundreds of bodies carried away by raging weekend floods or buried by mud or the ruins of their homes, officials said.

The bodies of at least 500 people killed by Tropical Storm Jeanne were filling morgues in Gonaives, according to Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, a spokesman for the U.N. mission. Fifty-six were killed in northern Port-de-Paix and 17 died in the nearby town of Terre Neuve, officials said.

"The water is high. As it goes down, we expect to find more bodies,'' Kongo-Doudou said.

Dieufort Deslorges, a spokesman for the government civil protection agency, reported another 49 bodies recovered in other villages and towns, most in the northwest.

"We expect to find dozens more bodies, especially in Gonaives, as ... floodwaters recede,'' Deslorges told The Associated Press.

Two days after lashing Haiti, Jeanne regained hurricane strength over the open Atlantic on Monday but posed no immediate threat to land. Since it developed last week, Jeanne has been blamed for at least 647 deaths, including 18 in the Dominican Republic and seven in Puerto Rico.

"I lost my kids and there's nothing I can do,'' said Jean Estimable, whose 2-year-old daughter was killed and another of his five children was missing and presumed dead. "All I have is complete despair and the clothes I'm wearing,'' he said, pointing to a floral dress and ripped pants borrowed from a neighbor.

Many of the bodies stacked in Gonaives' flood-damaged General Hospital were children.

In Gonaives, a city of about a quarter million, people waded through ankle-deep mud outside the mayor's office, where workers were shoveling out mud and doctors treated the wounded.

Deslorges said the town's situation as "catastrophic.'' He said survivors "need everything from potable water to food, clothing, medication and disinfectants.''

A school bus lay smashed against a utility pole and waterlines up to 10-feet high showed the passage of the storm waters, which turned some roads into fast-flowing rivers. Floodwaters destroyed homes and crops in the Artibonite region that is Haiti's breadbasket.

Katya Silme, 18, said she, her mother and six siblings spent the night in a tree because their house was flooded.

"The river destroyed my house completely, and now we have nothing. We have not eaten anything since the floods,'' she said.

Silme said she saw neighbors swept away in the waters Saturday. As she spoke, two dead children lay on a nearby porch, their faces covered with cloths.

Ronald Jean-Marie, 38, said the waters tore down the concrete walls of his home in Raboteau slum and that his neighbors, a woman and her two young children, disappeared in the fast-moving current.

The storm came four months after devastating floods along the southern border of Haiti and neighboring Dominican Republic. Some 1,700 bodies were recovered and 1,600 more were missing and presumed dead.

Floods are particularly devastating in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, because it is almost completely deforested, leaving few roots to hold back rushing waters or mudslides.

Gonaives also suffered fighting during the February rebellion that led to the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and left an estimated 300 dead.

Argentine troops who are among more than 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti treated at least 150 people injured by the floods in Gonaives, mostly for cuts on feet and legs, said Lt. Cmdr. Emilio Vera.

One man stood outside the flooded base used by the troops and asked soldiers to remove 11 bodies that were floating in his house, including four brothers and a sister.

"I would like to see if the soldiers could do something about these bodies,'' said Jean-Saint Manus, a 30-year-old student. "The door was closed. Everybody was trapped inside.''

Equipment including the X-ray machine was covered with mud at Gonaives' General Hospital, said Dr. Pierre-Marie Dieudonne, a doctor with the Catholic agency Caritas. He said there was a great need for antibiotics, food and water.

Three trucks carrying Red Cross relief supplies from tents to blankets rolled in Monday, but two were mobbed by people who grabbed blankets and towels. U.N. troops stood by watching. Only one truck arrived intact with tents at the mayor's office.

People tripped over each other to grab tiny bags of water thrown from a Red Cross truck in front of City Hall.

"Everyone is desperate,'' said Pelissier Heber of the Artibonite Chamber of Commerce. "The international community is not doing anything so there's a general panic. The population is really mad because they were expecting more from the United Nations.''

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue toured some flooded areas Sunday and declared Gonaives a disaster area, calling for international aid. The U.S. Embassy announced $60,000 in immediate relief.

At 11 p.m., Jeanne was about 405 miles east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, with winds near 85 mph, moving northeast at about 7 mph.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Karl and Tropical Storm Lisa remained far out in the Atlantic and were not immediate threats to land. Karl's sustained winds diminished to 120 mph, making it a Category 3 hurricane. Lisa had winds of 60 mph.

09/21/04 00:27 EDT

Letter from Senator John Kerry

Dear Felix,

This election is about choices. The most important choices a president makes are about protecting America at home and around the world. A president's first obligation is to make America safer, stronger and truer to our ideals.

Three years ago, the events of September 11 reminded every American of that obligation. That day brought to our shores the defining struggle of our times: the struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism. And it made clear that our most important task is to fight and to win the war on terrorism.

In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straight forward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies. But billions of people around the world yearning for a better life are open to America's ideals. We must reach them.

To win, America must be strong. And America must be smart. The greatest threat we face is the possibility Al Qaeda or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon.

To prevent that from happening, we must call on the totality of America's strength -- strong alliances, to help us stop the world's most lethal weapons from falling into the most dangerous hands. A powerful military, transformed to meet the new threats of terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And all of America's power -- our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, the appeal of our values -- each of which is critical to making America more secure and preventing a new generation of terrorists from emerging.

National security is a central issue in this campaign. We owe it to the American people to have a real debate about the choices President Bush has made and the choices I would make to fight and win the war on terror.

That means we must have a great honest national debate on Iraq. The president claims it is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.

This month, we passed a cruel milestone: more than 1,000 Americans lost in Iraq. Their sacrifice reminds us that Iraq remains, overwhelmingly, an American burden. Nearly 90 percent of the troops -- and nearly 90 percent of the casualties -- are American. Despite the president's claims, this is not a grand coalition.

Our troops have served with extraordinary bravery, skill and resolve. Their service humbles all of us. When I speak to them when I look into the eyes of their families, I know this: we owe them the truth about what we have asked them to do and what is still to be done.

In June, the president declared, "The Iraqi people have their country back." Just last week, he told us: "This country is headed toward democracy. Freedom is on the march."

But the administration's own official intelligence estimate, given to the president last July, tells a very different story.

According to press reports, the intelligence estimate totally contradicts what the president is saying to the American people.

So do the facts on the ground.

Security is deteriorating, for us and for the Iraqis.

42 Americans died in Iraq in June -- the month before the handover. But 54 died in July -- 66 in August and already 54 halfway through September.

And more than 1,100 Americans were wounded in August -- more than in any other month since the invasion.

We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever widening war-zone. In March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times. In August, they attacked 2,700 times -- a 400% increase.

Falluja, Ramadi, Samarra, even parts of Baghdad -- are now "no go zones" -- breeding grounds for terrorists who are free to plot and launch attacks against our soldiers. The radical Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who is accused of complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in the suburbs of Baghdad.

Violence against Iraqis from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation is on the rise.

Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.

Residents of Baghdad are suffering electricity blackouts lasting up to 14 hours a day.

Raw sewage fills the streets, rising above the hubcaps of our Humvees. Children wade through garbage on their way to school.

Unemployment is over 50 percent. Insurgents are able to find plenty of people willing to take $150 for tossing grenades at passing U.S. convoys.

Yes, there has been some progress, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our soldiers and civilians in Iraq. Schools, shops and hospitals have been opened. In parts of Iraq, normalcy actually prevails.

But most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives. So they're sitting on the fence instead of siding with us against the insurgents.

That is the truth -- the truth that the commander in chief owes to our troops and the American people.

It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger. But it's essential if we want to correct our course and do what's right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

I know this dilemma first-hand. After serving in war, I returned home to offer my own personal voice of dissent. I did so because I believed strongly that we owed it those risking their lives to speak truth to power. We still do.

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell. But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war. The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.

The president has said that he "miscalculated" in Iraq and that it was a "catastrophic success." In fact, the president has made a series of catastrophic decisions from the beginning in Iraq. At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction.

The first and most fundamental mistake was the president's failure to tell the truth to the American people.

He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war. And he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on our soldiers and our citizens.

By one count, the president offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

His two main rationales -- weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection -- have been proved false by the president's own weapons inspectors and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.

The president also failed to level with the American people about what it would take to prevail in Iraq.

He didn't tell us that well over 100,000 troops would be needed, for years, not months. He didn't tell us that he wouldn't take the time to assemble a broad and strong coalition of allies. He didn't tell us that the cost would exceed $200 billion. He didn't tell us that even after paying such a heavy price, success was far from assured.

And America will pay an even heavier price for the president's lack of candor.

At home, the American people are less likely to trust this administration if it needs to summon their support to meet real and pressing threats to our security.

Abroad, other countries will be reluctant to follow America when we seek to rally them against a common menace -- as they are today. Our credibility in the world has plummeted.

In the dark days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Europe to build support. Acheson explained the situation to French President de Gaulle. Then he offered to show him highly classified satellite photos, as proof. De Gaulle waved the photos away, saying: "The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me."

How many world leaders have that same trust in America's president, today?

This president's failure to tell the truth to us before the war has been exceeded by fundamental errors of judgment during and after the war.

The president now admits to "miscalculations" in Iraq.

That is one of the greatest understatements in recent American history. His were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment -- and judgment is what we look for in a president.

This is all the more stunning because we're not talking about 20/20 hindsight. Before the war, before he chose to go to war, bi-partisan Congressional hearings... major outside studies... and even some in the administration itself... predicted virtually every problem we now face in Iraq.

This president was in denial. He hitched his wagon to the ideologues who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of his own party and the uniformed military. The result is a long litany of misjudgments with terrible consequences.

The administration told us we'd be greeted as liberators. They were wrong.

They told us not to worry about looting or the sorry state of Iraq's infrastructure. They were wrong.

They told us we had enough troops to provide security and stability, defeat the insurgents, guard the borders and secure the arms depots. They were wrong.

They told us we could rely on exiles like Ahmed Chalabi to build political legitimacy. They were wrong.

They told us we would quickly restore an Iraqi civil service to run the country and a police force and army to secure it. They were wrong.

In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and under-performed. This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, an absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence. And the president has held no one accountable, including himself.

In fact, the only officials who lost their jobs over Iraq were the ones who told the truth.

General Shinseki said it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. He was retired. Economic adviser Larry Lindsey said that Iraq would cost as much as $200 billion. He was fired. After the successful entry into Baghdad, George Bush was offered help from the UN -- and he rejected it. He even prohibited any nation from participating in reconstruction efforts that wasn't part of the original coalition -- pushing reluctant countries even farther away. As we continue to fight this war almost alone, it is hard to estimate how costly that arrogant decision was. Can anyone seriously say this president has handled Iraq in a way that makes us stronger in the war on terrorism?

By any measure, the answer is no. Nuclear dangers have mounted across the globe. The international terrorist club has expanded. Radicalism in the Middle East is on the rise. We have divided our friends and united our enemies. And our standing in the world is at an all time low.

Think about it for a minute. Consider where we were... and where we are. After the events of September 11, we had an opportunity to bring our country and the world together in the struggle against the terrorists. On September 12, headlines in newspapers abroad declared "we are all Americans now." But through his policy in Iraq, the president squandered that moment and rather than isolating the terrorists, left America isolated from the world.

We now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat to our security. It had not, as the vice president claimed, "reconstituted nuclear weapons."

The president's policy in Iraq took our attention and resources away from other, more serious threats to America.

Threats like North Korea, which actually has weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear arsenal, and is building more under this president's watch -- the emerging nuclear danger from Iran -- the tons and kilotons of unsecured chemical and nuclear weapons in Russia -- and the increasing instability in Afghanistan.

Today, warlords again control much of that country, the Taliban is regrouping, opium production is at an all time high and the Al Qaeda leadership still plots and plans, not only there but in 60 other nations. Instead of using U.S. forces, we relied on the warlords to capture Osama bin Laden when he was cornered in the mountains. He slipped away. We then diverted our focus and forces from the hunt for those responsible for September 11 in order invade Iraq.

We know Iraq played no part in September 11 and had no operational ties to Al Qaeda.

The president's policy in Iraq precipitated the very problem he said he was trying to prevent. Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are operating against our troops. Iraq is becoming a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States.

We know that while Iraq was a source of friction, it was not previously a source of serious disagreement with our allies in Europe and countries in the Muslim world.

The president's policy in Iraq divided our oldest alliance and sent our standing in the Muslim world into free fall. Three years after 9/11, even in many moderate Muslim countries like Jordan, Morocco, and Turkey, Osama bin Laden is more popular than the United States of America.

Let me put it plainly: The president's policy in Iraq has not strengthened our national security. It has weakened it.

Two years ago, Congress was right to give the president the authority to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. This president, any president would have needed the threat of force to act effectively. This president misused that authority.

The power entrusted to the president gave him a strong hand to play in the international community. The idea was simple. We would get the weapons inspectors back in to verify whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And we would convince the world to speak with one voice to Saddam: disarm or be disarmed.

A month before the war, President Bush told the nation: "If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully. We will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act with allies at our side and we will prevail." He said that military action wasn't "unavoidable."

Instead, the president rushed to war without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work. He went without a broad and deep coalition of allies. He acted without making sure our troops had enough body armor. And he plunged ahead without understanding or preparing for the consequences of the post-war. None of which I would have done.

Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious? Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is no -- because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.

Now the president, in looking for a new reason, tries to hang his hat on the "capability" to acquire weapons. But that was not the reason given to the nation; it was not the reason Congress voted on; it's not a reason, it's an excuse. Thirty-five to forty countries have greater capability to build a nuclear bomb than Iraq did in 2003. Is President Bush saying we should invade them?

I would have concentrated our power and resources on defeating global terrorism and capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. I would have tightened the noose and continued to pressure and isolate Saddam Hussein -- who was weak and getting weaker -- so that he would pose no threat to the region or America.

The president's insistence that he would do the same thing all over again in Iraq is a clear warning for the future. And it makes the choice in this election clear: more of the same with President Bush or a new direction that makes our troops and America safer. It is time, at long last, to ask the questions and insist on the answers from the commander in chief about his serious misjudgments and what they tell us about his administration and the president himself. If George W. Bush is re-elected, he will cling to the same failed policies in Iraq -- and he will repeat, somewhere else, the same reckless mistakes that have made America less secure than we can or should be.

In Iraq, we have a mess on our hands. But we cannot throw up our hands. We cannot afford to see Iraq become a permanent source of terror that will endanger America's security for years to come.

All across this country people ask me what we should do now. Every step of the way, from the time I first spoke about this in the Senate, I have set out specific recommendations about how we should and should not proceed. But over and over, when this administration has been presented with a reasonable alternative, they have rejected it and gone their own way. This is stubborn incompetence.

Five months ago, in Fulton, Missouri, I said that the president was close to his last chance to get it right. Every day, this president makes it more difficult to deal with Iraq -- harder than it was five months ago, harder than it was a year ago. It is time to recognize what is -- and what is not -- happening in Iraq today. And we must act with urgency.

Just this weekend, a leading Republican, Chuck Hagel, said we're "in deep trouble in Iraq ... it doesn't add up ... to a pretty picture [and] ... we're going to have to look at a recalibration of our policy." Republican leaders like Dick Lugar and John McCain have offered similar assessments.

We need to turn the page and make a fresh start in Iraq.

First, the president has to get the promised international support so our men and women in uniform don't have to go it alone. It is late; the president must respond by moving this week to gain and regain international support.

Last spring, after too many months of resistance and delay, the president finally went back to the U.N. which passed Resolution 1546. It was the right thing to do -- but it was late.

That resolution calls on U.N. members to help in Iraq by providing troops, trainers for Iraq's security forces, a special brigade to protect the U.N. mission, more financial assistance, and real debt relief.

Three months later, not a single country has answered that call. And the president acts as if it doesn't matter.

And of the $13 billion previously pledged to Iraq by other countries, only $1.2 billion has been delivered.

The president should convene a summit meeting of the world's major powers and Iraq's neighbors, this week, in New York, where many leaders will attend the U.N. General Assembly. He should insist that they make good on that U.N. resolution. He should offer potential troop contributors specific, but critical roles, in training Iraqi security personnel and securing Iraq's borders. He should give other countries a stake in Iraq's future by encouraging them to help develop Iraq's oil resources and by letting them bid on contracts instead of locking them out of the reconstruction process.

This will be difficult. I and others have repeatedly recommended this from the very beginning. Delay has made only made it harder. After insulting allies and shredding alliances, this president may not have the trust and confidence to bring others to our side in Iraq. But we cannot hope to succeed unless we rebuild and lead strong alliances so that other nations share the burden with us. That is the only way to succeed.

Second, the president must get serious about training Iraqi security forces.

Last February, Secretary Rumsfeld claimed that more than 210,000 Iraqis were in uniform. Two weeks ago, he admitted that claim was exaggerated by more than 50 percent. Iraq, he said, now has 95,000 trained security forces.

But guess what? Neither number bears any relationship to the truth. For example, just 5,000 Iraqi soldiers have been fully trained, by the administration's own minimal standards. And of the 35,000 police now in uniform, not one has completed a 24-week field-training program. Is it any wonder that Iraqi security forces can't stop the insurgency or provide basic law and order?

The president should urgently expand the security forces training program inside and outside Iraq. He should strengthen the vetting of recruits, double classroom training time, and require follow-on field training. He should recruit thousands of qualified trainers from our allies, especially those who have no troops in Iraq. He should press our NATO allies to open training centers in their countries. And he should stop misleading the American people with phony, inflated numbers.

Third, the president must carry out a reconstruction plan that finally brings tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.

Last week, the administration admitted that its plan was a failure when it asked Congress for permission to radically revise spending priorities in Iraq. It took 17 months for them to understand that security is a priority, 17 months to figure out that boosting oil production is critical, 17 months to conclude that an Iraqi with a job is less likely to shoot at our soldiers.

One year ago, the administration asked for and received $18 billion to help the Iraqis and relieve the conditions that contribute to the insurgency. Today, less than a $1 billion of those funds have actually been spent. I said at the time that we had to rethink our policies and set standards of accountability. Now we're paying the price.

Now, the president should look at the whole reconstruction package, draw up a list of high visibility, quick impact projects, and cut through the red tape. He should use more Iraqi contractors and workers, instead of big corporations like Halliburton. He should stop paying companies under investigation for fraud or corruption. And he should fire the civilians in the Pentagon responsible for mismanaging the reconstruction effort.

Fourth, the president must take immediate, urgent, essential steps to guarantee the promised elections can be held next year.

Credible elections are key to producing an Iraqi government that enjoys the support of the Iraqi people and an assembly to write a Constitution that yields a viable power sharing arrangement.

Because Iraqis have no experience holding free and fair elections, the president agreed six months ago that the U.N. must play a central role. Yet today, just four months before Iraqis are supposed to go to the polls, the U.N. Secretary General and administration officials themselves say the elections are in grave doubt. Because the security situation is so bad and because not a single country has offered troops to protect the U.N. elections mission, the U.N. has less than 25 percent of the staff it needs in Iraq to get the job done.

The president should recruit troops from our friends and allies for a U.N. protection force. This won't be easy. But even countries that refused to put boots on the ground in Iraq should still help protect the U.N. We should also intensify the training of Iraqis to manage and guard the polling places that need to be opened. Otherwise, U.S forces would end up bearing those burdens alone.

If the president would move in this direction, if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and forces, train the Iraqis to provide their own security, develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people, and take the steps necessary to hold credible elections next year -- we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years.

This is what has to be done. This is what I would do as president today. But we cannot afford to wait until January. President Bush owes it to the American people to tell the truth and put Iraq on the right track. Even more, he owes it to our troops and their families, whose sacrifice is a testament to the best of America.

The principles that should guide American policy in Iraq now and in the future are clear: We must make Iraq the world's responsibility, because the world has a stake in the outcome and others should share the burden. We must effectively train Iraqis, because they should be responsible for their own security. We must move forward with reconstruction, because that's essential to stop the spread of terror. And we must help Iraqis achieve a viable government, because it's up to them to run their own country. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

On May 1 of last year, President Bush stood in front of a now infamous banner that read "Mission Accomplished." He declared to the American people: "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." In fact, the worst part of the war was just beginning, with the greatest number of American casualties still to come. The president misled, miscalculated, and mismanaged every aspect of this undertaking and he has made the achievement of our objective -- a stable Iraq, secure within its borders, with a representative government, harder to achieve.

In Iraq, this administration's record is filled with bad predictions, inaccurate cost estimates, deceptive statements and errors of judgment of historic proportions.

At every critical juncture in Iraq, and in the war on terrorism, the president has made the wrong choice. I have a plan to make America stronger.

The president often says that in a post 9/11 world, we can't hesitate to act. I agree. But we should not act just for the sake of acting. I believe we have to act wisely and responsibly.

George Bush has no strategy for Iraq. I do.

George Bush has not told the truth to the American people about why we went to war and how the war is going. I have and I will continue to do so.

I believe the invasion of Iraq has made us less secure and weaker in the war against terrorism. I have a plan to fight a smarter, more effective war on terror -- and make us safer.

Today, because of George Bush's policy in Iraq, the world is a more dangerous place for America and Americans.

If you share my conviction that we can not go on as we are that we can make America stronger and safer than it is then November 2 is your chance to speak and to be heard. It is not a question of staying the course, but of changing the course.

I'm convinced that with the right leadership, we can create a fresh start and move more effectively to accomplish our goals. Our troops have served with extraordinary courage and commitment. For their sake, and America's sake, we must get this right. We must do everything in our power to complete the mission and make America stronger at home and respected again in the world.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

John F. Kerry