"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

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Can the United States Go Bankrupt?

Think about your personal debt: house payment, car payment, credit card
payments. How much debt can you run up before it's too much? At what
point are you unable to make payments and fall into bankruptcy? You'll
know that once it happens.

But what does the federal government do? They borrow from a number of
sources like:

* Government bonds
* Social Security trust fund
* Other countries

Meanwhile that debtload continues, and grows, and the interest alone is
staggering. So then there's Greenspan & congress making noise about
how the Social Security trust fund will go bankrupt in "X" number of
years if we don't do something. WELL DUH ! Why not leave it alone and
stop "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul"?

Then there's the practice of borrowing from other countries. This gets
tied in to trade agreements, and why? Because, as Bill Clinton put it,
you cannot put restrictive/protective trade restrictions on our
'bankers'. WELL DUH ! First we have to stop this out of control debt and
then we can tell our bankers to buzz off, and then cancel trade agreements
that cause the loss of American jobs.

So what it comes down to is the White House and congress have put the
United States in a flat spin and we falling out of control. It's no
wonder there's an increasing disparity between rich and poor, and it's
only going to get worse. Here's some facts:

The gross national debt is over $7 trillion and will rise by $700
billion this year alone. The national debt is comprised of money borrowed
from and owed to: (1) various government trust funds, including Social
Security, and (2) the public, including individuals, corporations, state,
local and foreign governments, and the Federal Reserve, typically in
the form of bonds or other types of securities.


Here is how congress spends your tax dollars. Check out "defense
spending" (are you aware that the United States has about 5% of the world's
population yet maintains 47% of the entire world's defense spending?)
and 'Treasury Dept' (interest just on the debt):


Now look at how debt has increased since 1987 - sorry if it's hard to
read but sadly when you view numbers in TRLLIONS it gets hard to read:

Current Amount

09/21/2004 $7,355,728,967,314.85


09/20/2004 $7,352,526,313,993.80
09/17/2004 $7,351,169,914,999.47
09/16/2004 $7,347,867,800,168.01
09/15/2004 $7,353,679,708,420.92
09/14/2004 $7,372,477,498,441.96
09/13/2004 $7,371,695,470,163.46
09/10/2004 $7,372,572,002,165.04
09/09/2004 $7,375,299,845,541.56
09/08/2004 $7,376,457,871,529.81
09/07/2004 $7,368,363,360,008.57
09/03/2004 $7,366,776,167,570.79
09/02/2004 $7,365,716,545,609.45
09/01/2004 $7,354,611,427,274.47


08/31/2004 $7,350,950,234,630.15
07/30/2004 $7,316,567,571,232.89
06/30/2004 $7,274,334,972,199.15
05/28/2004 $7,196,382,805,621.99
04/30/2004 $7,133,789,490,581.43
03/31/2004 $7,131,067,950,647.32
02/27/2004 $7,091,943,110,094.84
01/30/2004 $7,009,234,605,728.06
12/31/2003 $7,001,312,247,818.28
11/28/2003 $6,925,065,499,881.34
10/31/2003 $6,872,675,839,106.67

Prior Fiscal

09/30/2003 $6,783,231,062,743.62
09/30/2002 $6,228,235,965,597.16
09/28/2001 $5,807,463,412,200.06
09/29/2000 $5,674,178,209,886.86
09/30/1999 $5,656,270,901,615.43
09/30/1998 $5,526,193,008,897.62
09/30/1997 $5,413,146,011,397.34
09/30/1996 $5,224,810,939,135.73
09/29/1995 $4,973,982,900,709.39
09/30/1994 $4,692,749,910,013.32
09/30/1993 $4,411,488,883,139.38
09/30/1992 $4,064,620,655,521.66
09/30/1991 $3,665,303,351,697.03
09/28/1990 $3,233,313,451,777.25
09/29/1989 $2,857,430,960,187.32
09/30/1988 $2,602,337,712,041.16
09/30/1987 $2,350,276,890,953.00



So then.... Can the United States go bankrupt? This isn't a board game
or intellectual debate. We need to do something NOW before our
*government* bankrupts the country, which would be far worse than the Great

The upcoming November election is our ONLY chance to influence this and
other issues, since clearly, money talks louder than words in
Washington DC. And sadly few if any of us have the money to influence congress.
Please make your vote count.

Jewish Peace News

[JPN Commentary: Israel is going to receive some 4,500 bunker-busting "smart bombs" from the United States. While many reports have portrayed this as a run-of-the-mill sale between allies, it is important to note that the money Israel is using to pay for these weapons comes from their annual allocation of US aid. This sum, annually between 2.9 and 3.3 billion dollars, far exceeds any other country's aid. 75% of the grant money must be spent in the US, which, along with aid that the US gives to many other countries in the region as well as straightforward sales to many Middle Eastern countries, gives American corporations involved in weapons and hi-tech trade very good reason to lobby against measures that might bring progress toward a resolution of the ongoing conflict in the region.

Israel already has some of these kinds of bombs, and has used them in the Palestinian territories. The most well known of these incidents was in 2002 when Israel used such a bomb on an apartment building in Gaza, killing its intended target as well as numerous innocents sleeping in the same building (see JVP commentary here). But the sheer quantity of this shipment of bombs indicates that the Palestinians are not the intended target of the weapons. Rather, it is clear that another country is motivating this arms shipment, in this case, Iran. That country's nuclear program has come under intense scrutiny of late. While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed its concern over some reticence on Iran's part in its dealings with them, the IAEA has also noted that they have been granted access to all sites they have requested it for.

In Reuven Kaminer's article below, he lays out some of the framework we are dealing with. The US is mired in a much more difficult situation in Iraq than Bush administration planners (who have repeatedly demonstrated an appalling lack of understanding of the Arab world and the larger Middle East) anticipated. Lest we forget, many American troops are still in Afghanistan, another country where regime change has not been as simple as the US has been portraying (although they have been much more successful in portraying victory there and are not embroiled in anything like the battle they are facing in Iraq). American military resources are stretched thin.

But American ambitions for a re-drawn Middle East are not abated. Far from the populist idea currently gaining ground that the US is fighting its wars for the sake of Israel, the Bush administration is pursuing its own goals in the region. Israel is, of course, quite central to these plans. As Kaminer puts it, "It is just plain convenient for the United States to have in Israel an ally (an "enforcer") which operates beyond the borders of international legality. This is the essence of the 'special relationship' between the two countries."

Israel, of course, remains the only Middle East country with an atomic arsenal, albeit one that neither Israel or the United States will admit exists, though no one from any part of the political spectrum is unaware of its existence. This, naturally, leads Israel's rivals to work to develop their own atomic weapons. While it seems likely that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, there is no conclusive evidence of this, and Iran's non-compliance with the IAEA has consisted of their being somewhat late in granting access to certain sites and withdrawing from a voluntary commitment to cease enhancement projects. These projects for enhancing uranium can be part of weapons development, but they are also a normal part of developing atomic energy for domestic uses. The red flag just isn't there.

It is always best to prevent more countries from obtaining nuclear weapons. But the way to do that in the Mideast is to begin by eliminating Israel's nuclear capacity. As the second article below makes perfectly clear, it is not Israel's nuclear capability that gives it its military superiority, but that capacity does provide the impetus for other countries to expend considerable resources to develop their own. If Israel does attack Iran, it is almost certain to increase the instability in the region, already at a high pitch due to the Iraq occupation. It may well be that the shipment of these bombs is meant as a threat to get Iran to comply more fully with the IAEA. It must be hoped that this is the plan, although this seems unlikely---large quantities of weapons are normally meant to be used.

The US recently backed away from a push to bring the matter of Iran's nuclear potential to the UN Security Council, after numerous requests from Europe that it back off. So, today, Israel called on the UNSC to take up the matter. Again, where it is inconvenient for the US to act, it has a dutiful client to act on its behalf. When asked, Colin Powell said he was "unaware of any plans to attack Iran", but clearly left the door open for such an attack, and definitely did not voice any American opposition to it.

The US and Israel are working hand in glove, but accusations of the US acting for Israeli, rather than American interests are baseless. It is American control over the enormous oil resources of the Gulf region (already well in hand in the small Gulf monarchies and in Kuwait), particularly in light of diminishing confidence in and ties with Saudi Arabia that is at the root of current policy. Iraq, contrary to popular mythology, has not been even a minor threat to Israel since 1991, due to the first Gulf War and more than a decade of sanctions. Iran, which Israel has feared for a long time, has never engaged in overt hostilities with Israel. The extent of their physical conflict has been Iranian backing of Hizbullah in Lebanon. But the loss of its Iranian ally in 1979 still rankles in Washington, and it presents a major obstacle to US control of oil resources. In this, the American client, Israel, is proving quite instrumental. – MP]

Unholy Alliance in the Holy Land

From the desk of Reuven Kaminer

George W. Bush made another feeble attempt to show some sort of 'even handedness' between Israel and the Palestinians in his recent address to the United Nations. However, the very hard facts on the ground give daily evidence that Israel's hard line policy of intransigence towards the international community and international law is funded, sponsored and politically supported by the United States.

Israel is maintaining and even intensifying its policy of targeted assassinations from the air. Every few days we are informed by the Israeli army that it has 'eliminated' such and such 'terrorists'. Both Israeli and Palestinian sources then confirm that additional Palestinians, including women and children, were killed or injured for just being in the vicinity. Targeted assassination has become a routine affair and the fact that Israel had 'progressed' to the use on different occasions of smarter and smarter bombs and even unmanned aircraft missiles for this purpose hardly evoked comment. This extra-judicial means of execution, whereby the Israeli army can kill almost any Palestinian any time and any place, has not caused a ripple in the U.S.-Israeli relationship - though there might have been a negative comment about this sort of activity filed away somewhere in the U.S. Department of State.

Sunday night, September 19, 2004, an Israeli army helicopter missile killed a 'Hamas militant' from the Shati refugee camp. Hospital sources reported that they treated six wounded bystanders who were returning from a mosque. (Ha'aretz, September 20, 2004) A rather routine affair: no need for all the complications related to identification and accusation, no need for a court, a judge or any trial. No prosecution, no deliberation, just plain execution. The technical basis for this sort of thing is the possession of an arsenal of smart bombs, since it would be impossible to maintain that an individual had actually been targeted unless Israel was using one of the high-precision smart bombs.

Just a day later, Ha'aretz correspondent, Aluf Benn reported (Ha'aretz, September 21, 2004) that the U.S. is selling 5,000 smart bombs to Israel. Benn lists the bomb sizes, including, "500 one-ton bunker busters, 2,500 'regular' one-ton bombs, 1,000 half 'tonners' and 500 quarter 'tonners'﾿ [Israeli] government sources said that the deal did not face any difficulties, despite the use Israel made of U.S. made F-16's in some of the assassinations﾿the IDF used a one ton bomb to kill a senior Hamas officer, Salah Shehada, in July 2002 an assassination that also took the lives of fifteen Palestinian civilians, including children."

This morning on Israeli radio, Ariel Sharon reiterated Israel's thinly veiled threats to assassinate Yasser Arafat 'at a time and a place that is convenient to us'. The U.S. President, for his part, preferred a more diplomatic approach and called on the world to stop supporting Arafat. The justification for the 'targeted elimination' of terrorists who were originally defined as 'ticking time bombs' now covers any and all Israeli enemies and opponents. This policy is conducted with the technical ordnance supplied to Israel by the United States. Sharon says that he has the right to assassinate Arafat whenever he sees fit. Sharon doesn't care if the international community will conclude that his threats are actually Washington's real policy towards the elected leader of the Palestinian people.

For Whom These Bunker Busters?

Washington is pushing the United Nations to take action against the Iranian plans to create nuclear fuel. The U.S. is trying to prevent Iran from developing its capacity to produce atomic energy for civilian purposes by arguing that the relevant scientific processes can also then be used to create atomic weapons. However, the Iranian steps seem to be well within the country's rights under the relevant international agreements. The U.S. and other countries refuse to be bothered by 'formalities', which support the Iranian position. But if the U.S. and its Western partners really wanted to speak to the heart of this matter, it would require them to address the very serious challenge of banning nuclear bombs from the entire Middle East. This involves, of course, the 'little problem' of the existence of a serious atomic stockpile of nuclear weapons in Israel. All eyes focus on the Israeli role, but not in the way that one would assume. The United States, instead of opposing the Israeli atomic arsenal, grants total and unqualified protection to Israel's atomic status, directly encouraging the atomic arms race in the region. The U.S. is now playing a new and very dangerous game. It is threatening Iran by proxy and considering a strike against it by surrogate.

After Iraq, the United States appetite for another land war in the region has been greatly diminished. But, the Bushites don't like to admit failure. "Some American analysts warn that the international community has only a year or two to stop the Iranian program from achieving self-sufficiency." So what can be done? "One concern is that Israel, a member of the International Atomic Energy that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is presumed to have nuclear weapons, may decide to take the matter into its own hands, if diplomacy fails from deterring Iran from becoming a nuclear power." The information is from an article, by International Herald Tribune correspondent, Graig S. Smith, who goes on to comment on the bunker busters supplied to Israel: "Those bombs could be used to destroy Iran's underground nuclear facilities." (IHT, September 22, 2004) Israel 'may take matters into its own hands.' But the Israeli hands are not empty – they hold United States bunker busters. It is just plain convenient for the United States to have in Israel an ally (an "enforcer") which operates beyond the borders of international legality. This is the essence of the 'special relationship' between the two countries

Jerusalem, September 22, 2004


Israel's nukes serve to justify Iran's

Deterring the deterrents

By Jonathan Power, International Herald Tribune

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


LONDON: The more nuclear arms are lying around, the more the chances of them being used. So to persuade Iran to forgo nuclear weapons is a laudable objective. But for the United States, Britain and France to insist on it is hypocritical.

These Western powers have argued convincingly for decades that nuclear deterrence keeps the peace - and themselves maintain nuclear armories long after the cold war has ended. So why shouldn't Iran, which is in one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods, have a deterrent too?

And where is the source of the threat that makes Iran, a country that has never started a war in 200 years, feel so nervous that it must now take the nuclear road? If Saddam Hussein's Iraq, with its nuclear ambitions, used to be one reason, the other is certainly Israel, the country that hard-liners in the United States are encouraging to mount a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear industry before it produces bombs.

The United States refuses to acknowledge formally that Israel has nuclear weapons, even though top officials will tell you privately that it has 200 of them. Until this issue is openly acknowledged, America, Britain and France are probably wasting their time trying to persuade Iran to forgo nuclear weapons.

The supposition is that Israel lives in an even more dangerous neighborhood than Iran. It is said to be a beleaguered nation under constant threat of being eliminated by the combined muscle of its Arab opponents.

There is no evidence, however, that Arab states have invested the financial and human resources necessary to fight the kind of war that would be catastrophic for Israel. And there is no evidence that Israel's nuclear weapons have deterred the Arabs from more limited wars or prevented Palestinian intifadas and suicide bombers.

Nor have Israel's nuclear weapons influenced Arab attitudes toward making peace. In the 1973 Arab war against Israel and in the 1991 Gulf war, they clearly failed in their supposed deterrent effect. The Arabs knew, as the North Vietnamese knew during the Vietnam War, that their opponent would not dare to use its nuclear weapons.

Israelis say that they need nuclear weapons in case one day an opportunistic Egypt and Syria, sensing that Israel's guard is down, revert to their old stance of total hostility and attack Israel. But, as Zeev Maoz has argued in the journal International Security, these countries keep to their treaty obligations.

Egypt did not violate its peace treaty with Israel when Israel attacked Syria and Lebanon in 1982. Syria did not violate the May 1974 disengagement agreement with Israel even when its forces were under Israeli attack. Nor did Egypt, Jordan and Syria violate their treaty commitments when the second Palestinian intifada broke out in September 2000.

Since its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, Egypt has reduced its defense spending from 22 percent of its gross national product in 1974 to a mere 2.75 percent in 2002. Syria's has fallen from 26 percent to 6.7 percent. The combined defense expenditures of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon amount to only 58 percent of Israel's. It is the Arabs who should be worried by Israel's might, rather than the other way round.

Israel's nuclear weapons are politically unusable and militarily irrelevant, given the real threats it faces. But they have been very effective in allowing India, Pakistan, Libya, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, North Korea and now Iran to think that they, too, had good reason to build a nuclear deterrent.

Four of these nations have dismantled their nuclear arms factories, which shows that nuclear policies are not cast in stone. The way to deal with Iran is to prove to its leadership that nuclear weapons will add nothing to its security, just as they add nothing to Israel's.

This may require a grand bargain, which would mean the United States offering a mutual nonaggression pact, ending its embargo over access to the International Monetary Fund and allowing American investment in Iran. It would also mean America coming clean about Israel's nuclear armory and pressuring Israel to forgo its nuclear deterrent.

If Western powers want to grasp the nettle of nuclear proliferation, they need to take hold of the whole plant, not just one leaf.

Jonathan Power is a commentator on foreign affairs.


Jewish Peace News Editors:
Judith Norman
Alistair Welchman
Mitchell Plitnick
Lincoln Shlensky
Ami Kronfeld
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
John Wilner
Joel Beinin

Cheney's Cat's Paw

Porter Goss as CIA Director?

There is, thankfully, a remnant of CIA professionals who still put objective analysis above political correctness and career advancement. Just when they thought there were no indignities left for them to suffer, they are shuddering again at press reports that Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) may soon be their new boss.

That possibility conjures up a painful flashback for those of us who served as CIA analysts when Richard Nixon was president. Chalk it up to our naivete, but we were taken aback when swashbuckling James Schlesinger, who followed Richard Helms as CIA director, announced on arrival, "I am here to see that you guys don't screw Richard Nixon!" To underscore his point, Schlesinger told us he would be reporting directly to White House political adviser Bob Haldeman (Nixon's Karl Rove) and not to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.

No doubt Goss would be more discreet in showing his hand, but his appointment as director would be the ultimate in politicization. He has long shown himself to be under the spell of Vice President Dick Cheney, and would likely report primarily to him and to White House political adviser Karl Rove rather than to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Goss would almost certainly follow lame-duck director George Tenet's practice of reading to the president in the morning and become an integral part of the "White House team." The team-membership phenomenon is particularly disquieting.

If the failure-prone experience of the past few years has told us anything, it is that being a "team member" in good standing is the kiss of death for the CIA director's primary role of "telling it like it is" to the president and his senior advisers. It was a painful moment of truth when former Speaker Newt Gingrich--like Cheney, a frequent visitor to CIA headquarters--told the press that Tenet was "so grateful to the president that he would do anything for him."

The Whore of Babylon

One need look no farther than what has become known as a latter-day Whore of Babylon - the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of Oct. 1, 2002, the very title of which betrayed a politically correct, but substantively wrong, conclusion: "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction." And bear in mind that it was only several months after President Bush decided to attack Iraq that Tenet commissioned that estimate. Not unreasonably, Congress was wondering about the views of the intelligence community, and the White House wanted congressional acquiescence in the war it had decided to launch.

No problem. "Slam-dunk" Tenet, following White House instructions, ensured that the estimate was cooked to the recipe of Cheney's tart speech of August 26, 2002. "We know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," Cheney said, and the estimate Tenet signed gave belated endorsement--with "high confidence," no less--to that lie.

The intelligence process, of course, was not the only thing undermined. So was the Constitution. Various drafts of that NIE, reinforced with heavy doses of "mushroom-cloud" rhetoric, were used to deceive congressmen and senators into ceding to the executive their prerogative to declare war--the all-important prerogative that the framers of the Constitution took great care to reserve exclusively to our elected representatives in Congress.

What was actually happening was clear to intelligence analysts, active and retired. We Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity were not the only ones to expose it--as clearly and often as the domesticated US media would allow.

But what about CIA alumnus Porter Goss, then in his sixth year as chairman of the House intelligence oversight committee? Republican party loyalist first and foremost, Goss chose to give an entirely new meaning to "oversight." Even when it became clear that the "mushroom cloud" reporting was based mostly on a forgery, he just sat back and watched it all happen. Like Br'er Fox, he didn't say nothin'.

From Sycophant Tenet to Professional Politician

This is what CIA would get with Porter Goss at the helm. Appointing Goss would administer the coup de grAcntce to intelligence analysts trying to survive while still speaking truth without fear or favor. The only saving grace for them would be the likelihood that they would be spared "multiple visits" by Cheney to the inner sanctum where it used to be possible to produce unvarnished analysis without vice presidents and other policy makers looking over their shoulders to ensure they "had thought of everything." Goss, who has a long history of subservience to Cheney, could be counted upon to play the Cheney/Gingrich/et al. role himself.

Don't Throw Me in That Briar Patch

Last month when Tenet was let go, administration officials indicated that a permanent replacement would not be named until after the election. They indicated they wanted to avoid washing the dirty linen of intelligence once again in public. Evidently, they had not yet checked with Karl Rove.

The Democrats warn smugly that an attempt by the administration to confirm a new CIA director could become an embarrassing referendum on CIA's recent performance, but they miss the point entirely--and show, once again, that they can't hold a candle to Rove for political cleverness. The name of the administration's game is to blame Iraq on intelligence failures, and Goss already did so last week in what amounted to his first campaign speech for the job of director. Consider court historian Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack, which Condoleezza Rice and other officials have promoted. Rice has publicly confirmed Woodward's story about Tenet misleading the president by claiming the evidence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk."

While there is ample evidence of ineptitude on Tenet's part, his obsequious ejaculation in this now-famous vignette obscures the fact that President Bush had unleashed the dogs of war well before checking to see if there was any credible intelligence to justify doing so. As the election nears, it serves the administration quite well to keep the focus on intelligence shortcomings and to make it appear that the president was misled - on weapons of mass destruction, for example. And Porter Goss is precisely the right person to cooperate in this effort. I can imagine Rove laughing up his sleeve last week at word that the Democrats are urging Senate minority leader Tom Daschle (.) to prepare for extensive confirmation hearings this fall. (In my mind's eye I can see Rove musing, Bring --em on!)

The Senate Intelligence Committee Report

The report due out this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating intelligence performance regarding the long-sought-after Iraqi weapons of mass destruction is said to be scathing in its criticism of CIA. No problem. This too will help keep the focus where the White House wants it - the more so since committee chair and Republican stalwart Pat Roberts (R-KS) can be counted on to do whatever Cheney and Rove tell him to do. It was not until Roberts was instructed to give Tenet the cold shoulder that the latter began to see the handwriting on the wall.

As for Porter Goss, he was happy to let the Senate intelligence committee take the lead in investigating intelligence performance on key issues like weapons of mass destruction and, before he decided to promote his candidacy for director, he generally chose to keep his committee's head (and his own) down. With good reason. The myriad shortcomings in intelligence work appeared on his somnolent watch; by any reasonable standard, he bears some responsibility for impaired oversight - not only on Iraq, but on 9/11 as well.

The 9/11 Commission Report

Republicans handpicked by Cheney also dominate the 9/11 Commission, which is supposed to issue its report by July 26. Although commission chair, Thomas Kean and vice-chair Lee Hamilton have sought to appear nonpartisan, they have already caved in to White House pressure to alter the findings of commission staff.

At stake was no less an issue than whether the vice president usurped Bush's power as commander-in-chief in ordering the shoot-down of suspicious airliners on Sept. 11, 2001. The staff found no hard evidence to support Cheney's claim that he called Bush and got his authorization. According to Newsweek, 'some staffers flat out didn't believe a call ever took place,' and an early staff draft reflected deep skepticism.

The White House lobbied vigorously to change the offending passage, with spokesman Dan Bartlett insisting, 'We didn't think it was written in a way that clearly reflected the accounting the president and vice president had given to the commission.' Kean and Hamilton backed down and removed some of the offending language. 'The report was watered down,' one staffer admitted to Newsweek.

Watch for more watering down. By now Kean and Hamilton have doubtless been warned by the White House that if the highly controversial staff report that there is 'no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States' is allowed to stand, this would place further strain on the legal underpinnings of the war on Iraq. On March 19, 2003, the day the war began, President Bush sent a letter to Congress in which he said that the war was permitted under legislation authorizing force against those who 'planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.'

Kean is already backing off. A few days after the release of the staff report he emphasized repeatedly that it is only an 'interim report.' He added that not only is it 'not finished,' but also the commissioners themselves have not been involved in it so far.

Democrat Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste does not see it this way. As Kean was talking to ABC's This Week, Ben-Veniste told NBC's Tim Russert, 'There was no Iraqi involvement in 9/11. That's what our commission found. That's what our staff, which includes former high-ranking CIA officials, who know what to look for (found).'

Ah, but what about the additional information that Cheney says he 'probably' has? Kean was quick to note that the final report will include whatever 'new information' becomes available. In other words, there are already ample signs that the Republican commissioners will continue to succeed in watering down findings critical of the administration, while highlighting those critical of intelligence performance.

Goss on 9/11

With respect to the various investigations into 9/11, Goss was thrust into the limelight by Cheney, who initially opposed any investigation at all. In February 2002, Cheney went so far as to warn that if Congress decided to go ahead with an investigation, administration officials might not show up to testify. When folks started talking about the need for a genuinely independent commission, though, Cheney acquiesced in the establishment of the congressional joint committee as the lesser evil and took reassurance from the fact that Goss could be counted on to keep the lid on--and, when necessary, run rings around co-chair Sen. Bob Graham, (D-FL).

Porter Goss performed that task brilliantly, giving clear priority to providing political protection for the president. Goss acquiesced when the White House and CIA refused to allow the joint committee to report out any information on what President Bush had been told before 9/11--ostensibly because it was "classified." This gave rise to thinly disguised, but eloquently expressed, chagrin on the part of the committee staff director, who clearly had expected stronger backing in her negotiations with White House officials.

As a result, completely absent from the committee's report was any mention of the President's Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001, which bore the title "Bin Laden determined to strike in US," even though the press had already reported the title and the gist of that damning piece of evidence. Small wonder that the families of 9/11 victims were outraged and pressed even harder for an independent investigation.

And a First for a Congressional Committee

The most notable (and bizarre) achievement of the joint committee was inviting the FBI to investigate members of Congress. In June 2002, Cheney called Goss and Graham to chastise them for a media leak of sensitive information from intercepted communications. A CNN report had attributed the leak to "two congressional sources," and Cheney was livid.

Goss admitted to being "chagrined" over Cheney's call. He and Graham promptly bypassed normal congressional procedures and went directly to Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking him to investigate the leak. Little thought apparently was given to the separation of powers between the executive and congressional branches, or the fact that Congress has its own capability for such investigations.

Next thing you know, the FBI is crawling all over Capitol Hill, questioning members of the joint committee that is investigating the FBI, CIA, et al., and asking members of Congress to submit to lie-detector tests. Shaking his head, Sen. John McCain (R-NM) noted the ludicrousness of allowing the FBI to build dossiers on lawmakers who are supposed to be investigating the FBI. He and others joined those pushing for the creation of an independent 9/11 commission.

That Goss and Graham could be so easily intimidated by Cheney speaks volumes.

Bottom Line

West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee is right in saying, "We need a director who is not only knowledgeable and capable but unquestionably independent." And politicians need not apply. Rockefeller would rule out "any politician from either party." But who pays attention to minority members these days--ranking or non-ranking?

Rockefeller might add, if only for the record, that another prerequisite for a director of the CIA is prior experience managing a large, complex organization. Tenet had none; neither does Goss.

There seems a better than even chance the Bush administration will nominate Goss, and use the nomination hearings as yet another forum at which to blame the Iraq debacle on faulty intelligence. And, as a bonus for Bush, if there is time before the election, it would seem a safe bet that Goss will be able to bring to heel recalcitrant analysts who are still "fighting the problem," still staring in disbelief at the given wisdom (given, apparently, only to the Pentagon and White House) that Iraq and al-Qaeda were in bed with each other. Nor should anyone rule out the possibility that Goss will see to it that 'weapons of mass destruction' are found--perhaps as an October surprise.

Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and a contributor to CounterPunch's unsparing new history of the Afghanistan/Iraq wars, Imperial Crusades.