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The Calamity Howler #97

"Sometimes an intended epithet can be turned to good advantage...In the sole surviving issue of the Decatur, Texas Times one finds the way Populists not only accepted the label `calamity howler' but insisted that they had ample reason to howl and would continue to howl until their objectives had been attained." --- THE POPULIST MIND, edited by Norman Pollack

EDITOR\PUBLISHER: A.V Krebs E-MAIL: TO RECEIVE: Send name and address to


Final Investigative Report Prepared at the Direction of Rep John Conyers, Jr.
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
By Frank Rich
By Editor & Publisher Staff
By Maureen Dowd
By the Associated Press


"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron!"               --H. L. Mencken, journalist and satirist (1880 - 1956)

The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, Coverups in the Iraq War, and Illegal Domestic Surveillance. Final Investigative Report Prepared at the Direction of Rep John Conyers, Jr. August, 2006

This summary of the Minority Report was produced at the direction of Representative John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. The Report is divided into two principal parts

Part I, released in draft form in December, 2005, concerns "The Downing Street Minutes and Deception Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Cover-ups in the Iraq War; "and Part II, released in June 2006, concerns "Unlawful Domestic Surveillance and Related Civil Liberties Abuses under the Administration of George W. Bush. " (At the conclusion, we include an Addendum including additional matters which have come to light since Part I of the Report was  issued in December, 2005 and Part II was written in May, 2006).

In preparing this Report we reviewed tens of thousands of documents and materials, including testimony submitted at two hearings held by Rep. Conyers concerning the Downing Street Minutes and warrantless domestic surveillance; hundreds of media reports, articles, and books, including interviews with past and present Administration employees and other confidential sources; scores of government and non-profit reports, hearings, and analyses; numerous letters and materials submitted to Rep. Conyers; staff interviews; relevant laws, cases, regulations, and administrative guidelines; and the Administration's own words and statements.

In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration; and approved domestic surveillance that is both illegal and unconstitutional.

As further detailed in the Report, there is evidence that these actions violate a number of federal laws, including:

* Making False Statements to Congress, for example, saying you have learned Iraq is attempting to buy uranium from Niger, when you have been warned by the CIA that this is not the case.
* The War Powers Resolution and Misuse of Government Funds, for example, redeploying troops and initiating bombing raids before receiving congressional authorization.
* Federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, for example, ordering detainees to be ghosted and removed,

NSA's domestic surveillance programs, we have also found that members of the Bush Administration made a number of misleading statements regarding its operation and scope; the legal justifications proffered by the Bush Administration are constitutionally destabilizing; there is little evidence the programs have been beneficial in combating terrorism and may have affirmatively placed terrorism prosecutions at risk; and the programs appear to have designed and implemented in a manner designed to stifle legitimate concerns.

The Report rejects the frequent contention by the Bush Administration that their pre-war conduct has been reviewed and they have been exonerated. No entity has ever considered whether the Administration misled Americans about the decision to go to war. The Senate Intelligence Committee has not yet conducted a review of pre-war intelligence distortion and manipulation, while the presidentially appointed Silberman-Robb Commission Report specifically cautioned that intelligence manipulation "was not part of our inquiry. "There has also not been any independent"

The National Security Act, for example, failing to keep all Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees "fully and currently informed " of intelligence activities, such as the warrantless surveillance programs.

With regard to the FISA and the Fourth Amendment, for example intercepting thousands of communications "to or from any person within the United States, " without obtaining a warrant.

The Stored Communications Act of 1986 and the Communications Act of 1934, for example, obtaining millions of U.S. customer telephone records without obtaining a subpoena or warrant, without customer consent, and outside of any applicable "emergency exceptions and tolerating and laying the legal ground work for their torture and mistreatment.

Federal laws concerning retaliating against witnesses and other individuals, for example, demoting Bunnatine Greenhouse, the chief contracting officer at the Army Corps of Engineers, because she exposed contracting abuses involving Halliburton.

Federal requirements concerning leaking and other misuse of intelligence, for example, failing to enforce the executive order requiring disciplining those who leak classified information, whether intentional or not.

Federal regulations and ethical requirements governing conflicts of interest, for example, then Attorney General John Aschcroft 's being personally briefed on FBI interviews concerning possible misconduct by Karl Rove even though Mr. Rove had previously received nearly $750,000 in fees for political work on Mr. Ashcroft 's campaigns.

Violating FISA requests, increasing available resources.

* requiring the President to report on the pardon of any former or current officials who could implicate the President or other Administration officials implicated by pending investigations.
* requiring the President to notify Congress upon the declassification of intelligence information.
* providing for enhanced protection for national security whistle-blowers. * strengthening the authority of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

We also make a number of additional recommendations within the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee to help respond to the ongoing threat of terrorism, including:

* increasing funding and resources for local law enforcement and first responders and insuring that anti-terrorism funds are distributed based on risk, not politics.
* implementing the 9-11 Commission Recommendations, including providing for enhanced port, infrastructure, and chemical plant security and ensuring that all loose nuclear materials are secured.

FISA and the criminal code contain the exclusive means for conducting domestic warrantless surveillance and, to the extent that more personnel are needed to process inquiry concerning torture and other legal violations in Iraq; nor has there been an independent review of the pattern of cover-ups and political retribution by the Bush Administration against its critics, other than the very narrow and still ongoing inquiry of Special Counsel Fitzgerald into the outing of Valerie Plame.

There also has been no independent review of the circumstances surrounding the Bush Administration's domestic spying scandals. The Administration summarily rejected all requests for special counsels, as well as reviews by the Department of Justice and Department of Defense Inspector Generals. When the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility opened an investigation, the Bush Administration effectively squashed it by denying the investigators security clearances.

Neither the House nor Senate Intelligence Committee have undertaken any sort of comprehensive investigation, and the Bush Administration has sought to cut off any court review of the NSA programs by repeatedly invoking the state secrets doctrine.

As a result of our findings, we have made a number of recommendations to help prevent the recurrence of these events in the future, including:

* obtaining enhanced investigatory authority to access documentary information and testimony regarding the various allegations set forth in this Report.
* reaffirming that
* banning corporate trade with state sponsors of terrorism and eliminating sovereign immunity protections for state sponsors of terrorism.
* enhancing laws against wartime fraud.

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg     
New York Times
August 2, 2006

When they first met as United States president and Israeli prime minister, George W. Bush made clear to Ariel Sharon he would not follow in the footsteps of his father.

The first President Bush had been tough on Israel, especially the Israeli settlements in occupied lands that Mr. Sharon had helped develop. But over tea in the Oval Office that day in March 2001 --- six months before the September 11 attacks tightened their bond --- the new president signaled a strong predisposition to support Israel.

"He told Sharon in that first meeting that I'll use force to protect Israel, which was kind of a shock to everybody," said one person present, given anonymity to speak about a private conversation. "It was like, OWhoa, where did that come from?' "

That embrace of Israel represents a generational and philosophical divide between the Bushes, one that is exacerbating the friction that has been building between their camps of advisers and loyalists over foreign policy more generally. As the president continues to stand by Israel in its campaign against Hezbollah --- even after a weekend attack that left many Lebanese civilians dead and provoked international condemnation --- some advisers to the father are expressing deep unease with the Israel policies of the son.

"The current approach simply is not leading toward a solution to the crisis, or even a winding down of the crisis," said Richard N. Haass, who advised the first President Bush on the Middle East and worked as a senior State Department official in the current president's first term. "There are times at which a hands-off policy can be justified. It's not obvious to me that this is one of them."

Unlike the first President Bush, who viewed himself as a neutral arbiter in the delicate politics of the Middle East, the current president sees his role through the prism of the fight against terrorism. This President Bush, unlike his father, also has deep roots in the evangelical Christian community, a staunchly pro-Israeli component of his conservative Republican base.

The first President Bush came to the Oval Office with long diplomatic experience, strong ties to Arab leaders and a realpolitik view that held the United States should pursue its own strategic interests, not high-minded goals like democracy, even if it meant negotiating with undemocratic governments like Syria and Iran.

The current President Bush has practically cut off Syria and Iran, overlaying his fight against terrorism with the aim of creating what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls "a new Middle East." In allying himself so closely with Israel, he has departed not just from his father's approach but also from those of all his recent predecessors, who saw themselves first and foremost as brokers in the region.

In a speech Monday in Miami, Mr. Bush offered what turned out to be an implicit criticism of his father's approach.

"The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East," Mr. Bush said. "For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive. And as we saw on September the 11th, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States."

Now, as Mr. Bush faces growing pressure from Arab leaders and European allies to end the current wave of violence, these differences between father and son have come into sharp relief.

"There is a danger in a policy in which there is no daylight whatsoever between the government of Israel and the government of the United States," said Aaron David Miller, an Arab-Israeli negotiator for both Bush administrations, who has high praise for James A. Baker III, the first President Bush's secretary of state. "Bush One and James Baker would never have allowed that to happen."

Other advisers who served the elder Mr. Bush are critical as well, faulting the current administration for having "put diplomacy on the back burner in the hope that unattractive regimes would fall," in the words of Mr. Haass.

Whether the disagreement extends to father and son is unclear. The president has been generally critical of the Middle East policies of his predecessors in both parties, but has never criticized his father explicitly. The first President Bush has made it a practice not to comment on the administration of his son, but his spokesman, Tom Frechette, said he supports the younger Mr. Bush "100 percent."

Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser, who has been openly critical of the current president on Iraq, did not return calls seeking comment. He wrote an opinion article in The Washington Post on Sunday calling on the United States to "seize this opportunity" to reach a comprehensive settlement for resolving the conflict of more than half a century between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Baker also did not return calls.

The differences between father and son are partly to do with style.

"Bush the father was from a certain generation of political leaders and foreign policy establishment types," said William Kristol, the neo-conservative thinker who worked for the first Bush administration and is now editor of The Weekly Standard. "He had many years of dealings with leading Arab governments; he was close to the Saudi royal family. The son is less so. He's got much more affection for Israel, less affection for the House of Saud."

That affection, Mr. Bush's aides say, can be traced partly to his first and only trip to Israel, in 1998. It was a formative experience for Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas. He took a helicopter ride  his guide, as it happened, was Mr. Sharon, then the foreign minister  and, looking down, was struck by how tiny and vulnerable Israel seemed.

"He said that when he took that tour and he looked down, he thought, OWe have driveways in Texas longer than that, " said Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary. "And after the United States was attacked, he understood how it was for Israel to be attacked."

Others say Mr. Bush cannot help looking at Israel through the prism of his Christian faith. "There is a religiously inspired connection to Israel in which he feels, as president, a responsibility for Israel's survival," said Martin S. Indyk, who was President Clinton's ambassador to Israel and kept that post for several months under President Bush. He also suggested that Republican politics were at work, saying Mr. Bush came into office determined to "build his Christian base."

But the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, dismissed that idea, telling reporters last week that Mr. Bush does not view the current conflict through a "theological lens."

Mr. Bush has to some extent played the traditional peacemaker role in the region, especially in dealing with relations between Israel and the Palestinians. He called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state, set out a "road map" to achieving a lasting peace and was critical of some of Mr. Sharon's policies.

But he has drawn a sharp distinction between the Palestinian people and Israel's conflicts with what he regards as terrorist organizations. He came into office refusing to meet with Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, and cut off Mr. Arafat entirely in early 2002, after the Israeli Navy captured a ship carrying weapons intended for the Palestinian Authority. That foreshadowed the way he is now dealing with Hezbollah.

His father's pre-September 11 policies were more concerned with the traditional goals of peace, or at least stability, in the Middle East. Relations between the first President Bush and his Israeli counterpart, Yitzhak Shamir, hit a low point when Mr. Bush refused Israel $10 billion in loan guarantees to resettle Soviet Jews. And Mr. Baker, as secretary of state, was once so frustrated with Israeli officials that he scornfully recited his office phone number and told them to call when they were serious about peace in the Middle East.

But Mr. Bush has enjoyed singularly warm relations, particularly after September 11. "It is this event, September 11, that caused the president to really associate himself with Israel, with this notion that now, for the first time, Americans can feel on their skin what Israelis have been feeling all along," said Shai Feldman, an Israeli scholar at Brandeis University who has been in Tel Aviv since the hostilities began. "There is huge, huge appreciation here for the president."

By Frank Rich      
New York Times
July 30, 2006

As America fell into the quagmire of Vietnam, the comedian Milton Berle joked that the fastest way to end the war would be to put it on the last-place network, ABC, where it was certain to be canceled. Berle's gallows humor lives on in the quagmire in Iraq. Americans want this war canceled too, and first-and last-place networks alike are more than happy to oblige.

CNN will surely remind us today that it is Day 19 of the Israel-Hezbollah war --- now branded as Crisis in the Middle East --- but you won't catch anyone saying it's Day 1,229 of the war in Iraq. On the Big Three networks' evening newscasts, the time devoted to Iraq has fallen 60% between 2003 and this spring, as clocked by the television monitor, the Tyndall Report. On Thursday, Brian Williams of NBC read aloud a "shame on you" e-mail complaint from the parents of two military sons anguished that his broadcast had so little news about the war.

This is happening even as the casualties in Iraq, averaging more than 100 a day, easily surpass those in Israel and Lebanon combined. When Nouri al-Maliki, the latest Iraqi prime minister, visited Washington last week to address Congress, he too got short TV shrift --- a mere five sentences about the speech on ABC's "World News."

The networks know a rerun when they see it. Only 22 months earlier, one of Mr. Maliki's short-lived predecessors, Ayad Allawi, had come to town during the 2004 campaign to give a similarly empty Congressional address laced with White House-scripted talking points about the war's progress. Propaganda stunts, unlike "Law & Order" episodes, don't hold up on a second viewing.

The steady falloff in Iraq coverage isn't happenstance. It's a barometer of the scope of the tragedy. For reporters, the already apocalyptic security situation in Baghdad keeps getting worse, simply making the war more difficult to cover than ever. The audience has its own phobia: Iraq is a bummer.

"It is depressing to pay attention to this war on terror," said Fox News's Bill O'Reilly on July 18. "I mean, it's summertime." Americans don't like to lose, whatever the season. They know defeat when they see it, no matter how many new plans for victory are trotted out to obscure that reality.

The specter of defeat is not the only reason Americans have switched off Iraq. The larger issue is that we don't know what we --- or, more specifically, 135,000 brave and vulnerable American troops  are fighting for. In contrast to the Israel-Hezbollah war, where the stakes for the combatants and American interests are clear, the war in Iraq has no rationale to keep it afloat on television or anywhere else. It's a big, nightmarish story, all right, but one that lacks the thread of a coherent plot.

Certainly there has been no shortage of retrofitted explanations for the war in the three-plus years since the administration's initial casus belli, to fend off Saddam's mushroom clouds and vanquish Al Qaeda, proved to be frauds. We've been told that the war would promote democracy in the Arab world. And make the region safer for Israel. And secure the flow of cheap oil. If any of these justifications retained any credibility, they have been obliterated by Crisis in the Middle East.

The new war is a grueling daily object lesson in just how much the American blunders in Iraq have undermined the one robust democracy that already existed in the region, Israel, while emboldening terrorists and strengthening the hand of Iran.

But it's the collapse of the one remaining (and unassailable) motivation that still might justify staying the course in Iraq --- as a humanitarian mission on behalf of the Iraqi people --- that is most revealing of what a moral catastrophe this misadventure has been for our country. The sad truth is that the war's architects always cared more about their own grandiose political and ideological ambitions than they did about the Iraqis, and they communicated that indifference from the start to Iraqis and Americans alike. The legacy of that attitude is that the American public cannot be rallied to the Iraqi cause today, as the war reaches its treacherous endgame.

The Bush administration constantly congratulates itself for liberating Iraq from Saddam's genocidal regime. But regime change was never billed as a primary motivation for the war; the White House instead appealed to American fears and narcissism --- we had to be saved from Saddam's W.M.D. From "Shock and Awe" on, the fate of Iraqis was an afterthought. They would greet our troops with flowers and go about their business.

Donald Rumsfeld boasted that "the care" and "the humanity" that went into our precision assaults on military targets would minimize any civilian deaths. Such casualties were merely "collateral damage," unworthy of quantification. "We don't do body counts," said Gen. Tommy Franks. President Bush at last started counting those Iraqi bodies publicly  with an estimate of 30,000 --- some seven months ago. (More recently, The Los Angeles Times put the figure at, conservatively, 50,000.) By then, Americans had tuned out.

The contempt our government showed for Iraqis was not just to be found in our cavalier stance toward their casualties, or in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. There was a cultural condescension toward the Iraqi people from the get-go as well, as if they were schoolchildren in a compassionate-conservatism campaign ad. This attitude was epitomized by Mr. Rumsfeld's "stuff happens" response to the looting of Baghdad at the dawn of the American occupation.

In "Fiasco," his stunning new book about the American failure in Iraq, Thomas E. Ricks, The Washington Post's senior Pentagon correspondent, captures the meaning of that pivotal moment perfectly: "The message sent to Iraqis was far more troubling than Americans understood. It was that the U.S. government didn't care --- or, even more troubling for the future security of Iraq, that it did care but was incapable of acting effectively."

As it turned out, it was the worst of both worlds: we didn't care, and we were incapable of acting effectively. Nowhere is this seen more explicitly than in the subsequent American failure to follow through on our promise to reconstruct the Iraqi infrastructure we helped to smash. "There's some little part of my brain that simply doesn't understand how the most powerful country on earth just can't get electricity back in Baghdad," said Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi exile and prominent proponent of the war, in a recent Washington Post interview.

The simple answer is that the war planners didn't care enough to provide the number of troops needed to secure the country so that reconstruction could proceed. The coalition authority isolated in its Green Zone bubble didn't care enough to police the cronyism and corruption that squandered billions of dollars on abandoned projects.

The latest monument to this humanitarian disaster was reported by James Glanz of The New York Times on Friday: a high-tech children's hospital planned for Basra, repeatedly publicized by Laura Bush and Condi Rice, is now in serious jeopardy because of cost overruns and delays.

This history can't be undone; there's neither the American money nor the manpower to fulfill the mission left unaccomplished. The Iraqi people, whose collateral damage was so successfully hidden for so long by the Rumsfeld war plan, remain a sentimental abstraction to most Americans.

Whether they are seen in agony after another Baghdad bombing or waving their inked fingers after an election or being used as props to frame Mrs. Bush during the State of the Union address, they have little more specificity than movie extras.

Chalabi, Allawi, Jaafari, Maliki come and go, all graced with the same indistinguishable praise from the American president, all blurring into an endless loop of instability and crisis. We feel badly ... and change the channel.

Given that the violence in Iraq has only increased in the weeks since the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist portrayed by the White House as the fount of Iraqi troubles, any Americans still paying attention to the war must now confront the reality that the administration is desperately trying to hide. "The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists and Saddamists and terrorists," President Bush said in December when branding Zarqawi Public Enemy No. 1. But Iraq's exploding sectarian warfare cannot be pinned on Al Qaeda or Baathist dead-enders.

The most dangerous figure in Iraq, the home-grown radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is an acolyte of neither Osama bin Laden nor Saddam but an ally of Iran who has sworn solidarity to both Hezbollah and Hamas. He commands more than 30 seats in Mr. Maliki's governing coalition in Parliament and 5 cabinet positions.

He is also linked to death squads that have slaughtered Iraqis and Americans with impunity since the April 2004 uprising that killed, among others, Cindy Sheehan's son, Casey. Since then, Mr. Sadr's power has only grown, enabled by Iraqi "democracy."

That the latest American plan for victory is to reposition our forces by putting more of them in the crossfire of Baghdad's civil war is tantamount to treating our troops as if they were deck chairs on the Titanic. Even if the networks led with the story every night, what Americans would have the stomach to watch?

By Editor & Publisher Staff
August 06, 2006

A study of declassified Army documents by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday found that the killings of civilians by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam war were far more numerous than previously known --- and went largely unpunished. In total, 320 incidents of abuse by U.S. soldiers are substantiated.

"Abuses were not confined to a few rogue units," the Times reported. "They were uncovered in every Army division that operated in Vietnam."

Atrociities by U.S. troops in Iraq are currently gaining wide attention.

A Pentagon task force in the early 1970s compiled a file with 9000 documents. Records reveal seven massacres in Vietnam from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died, excluding the 1968 massacre in My Lai.

There were 78 other attacks on non-combatants in which at least 57 people were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.

The Times report includes, available online (at, sworn statements by witnesses, investigators' reports, a list of "verified civilian slayings," and a memo by John Dean, President Nixon's counsel, among other material.

One-fourth of the 203 soldiers accused of harming Vietnamese civilians or prisoners were court-martialed, but only 23 were convicted, according to the Times.

Retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns, a Vietnam veteran who served on the task force, told the Times he once supported keeping the records secret but now believes they deserve wide attention in light of alleged attacks on civilians and abuse of prisoners in Iraq.

"We can't change current practices unless we acknowledge the past," said Johns.

Records of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group were held at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, first released in 1994 and then forgotten. The Times said that a freelance journalist from New Jersey, Nick Turse, "came across the collection in 2002 while researching his doctoral dissertation for the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia University."

By Maureen Dowd         
New York Times
August 5, 2006

The enunciation of a clear sentence about the war in Iraq by Hillary Clinton means that there must be an election coming up.

Until now, she has been unsubtly subtle about the most urgent issue facing the country, sending signals rightward, sending signals leftward, tacking here, tacking there. Some days she seemed to be signaling whether she intended to signal.

But now, suddenly, she's a woman of passion, a model of concerned clarity. After an eon of calculated silence on most of the big moral questions of the day, there is a calculated breaking of the silence. The enigma won't play anymore. It's time for the drama.

But the drama played like "The Taming of the Shrew," with the only question being, who was the shrew?

Hillary was trying to bring Rummy to heel, and Rummy was trying to exert manly control over Hillary.

The junior senator from New York staged a drama in three acts, first sending a letter summoning the reluctant Rummy to appear before the Armed Services Committee; then hectoring him with a litany of his "numerous errors in judgment"; and finally at the end of the day, like the Queen of Hearts, delivering her climactic demand for his head.

"I just don't understand why we can't get new leadership that would give us a fighting chance to turn the situation around," Senator Clinton said after the hearing, summing up a truth acknowledged by everyone except W. and Dick Cheney, and particularly felt at the Pentagon, where the deeply unpopular defense chief has gone from self-styled matinee idol to self-destructing idle martinet.

During the hearing, Hillary unmanned Rummy, as Shakespeare would say, accusing him of incompetence, impotence and improbity.

"You did not go into Iraq with enough troops to establish law and order,'' she said. "You disbanded the entire Iraqi Army. Now we're trying to recreate it. You did not do enough planning for what is called phase four and rejected all the planning that had been done previously to maintain stability after the regime was overthrown. You underestimated the nature and strength of the insurgency, the sectarian violence and the spread of Iranian influence."

She pointed out that the administration succeeds only in achieving the opposite of its aims  with the number of American troops in Iraq scheduled to increase, not decrease, and the violence and instability spreading.

She cited the administration's reality disconnect on the Taliban in Afghanistan, where every new claim of success has been followed by new evidence of failure. The Taliban have been written out of the war by administration flackery, but they keep coming back like Mel Gibson's hangovers and apologies.

She tartly summed up: "Because of the administration's strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?"

There was a pause while Rummy summoned all the condescension he usually reserves for doltish reporters.

"My goodness,'' he exhaled finally, firing off a defense that could have been translated as: "Where do I start educating you on your utterly superficial understanding of the enemy, you harridan hippy-dippy Henny Penny?"

The Pentagon rank and file have tuned out Rummy, whose only transformation so far has been to transform himself into a dangerous, deluded codger. But when the respected General Abizaid admitted that "it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war," it was clear Iraq was already in one. It opened up a river of talk across the river about what people there had long been afraid to say: that Rummy's jutting jaw is not going to cut it. There needs to be an alternative strategy to keep our kids from having to fight their way out of a sectarian conflagration.

When Hillary and Rummy square off, it is a gladiatorial contest of two masters at hauteur, self-righteousness, scriptedness, infighting and belief in their own manifest destiny.

Hillary wants to avoid Joe Lieberman's fate by arguing that how the administration went about this war has caused all the problems, not that it went to a needless war she supported. Her stratagem avoids the lie that set off all the other lies, and leaves Hillary risking a John Kerry problem, being both for the war and against it.

It's going to be a tough triangulation. Even Bill never had to squirm his way out of something as hard as this.

By the Associated Press
August 6, 2006

The mayor of Hiroshima on Sunday called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons as he marked the 61st anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack, which killed more than 140,000 people in the Japanese city.

Expressing concerns over the global proliferation of nuclear weapons, Tadatoshi Akiba urged the government of Japan --- the only nation to suffer atomic bomb attacks --- to take a leading role in the effort to eliminate nuclear arsenals.

"Sixty-one years have passed since radiation, heat rays and an atomic blast created hell on earth," Akiba said in a speech at Hiroshima Peace Park, near the bomb's epicentre.

"But the number of nations enamoured of evil and enslaved by nuclear arms has increased. The only role nuclear weapons have is to be demolished."

A bell rang at 8:15 a.m PT, marking the time when the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped its deadly payload on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. It was the first atomic bomb ever used in war.

About 45,000 survivors, residents, visitors and officials from around the world prayed for the bombing victims by observing a minute of silence in Hiroshima, 692 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.

Hundreds of doves were released afterward.

An estimated 140,000 people were killed instantly or died within a few months after the Hiroshima bombing. Three days later, another U.S. warplane dropped a plutonium bomb on the city of Nagasaki, killing about 80,000 people.

This year's anniversary comes amid concerns over North Korea's recent missile tests, Iran's suspect nuclear program and intensified fighting in the Middle East.

Akiba urged Japan, a participant in the stalled six-nation talks on North Korea, to "forcefully insist that nuclear arms-possessing nations fulfill their obligation to sincerely carry out negotiations aimed at nuclear disarmament."

He also urged the government to observe Japan's pacifist constitution, which bans the use of force in international disputes and prohibits Tokyo from keeping a military for warfare. It was drafted by U.S. occupation forces after the Second World War and has not been changed since 1947.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's ruling party is proposing constitutional changes to make it easier for the Japanese military to fight if it comes under attack and to participate in international peacekeeping.

"We will observe the pacifist clause of the constitution, maintain the principle of nuclear nonproliferation and lead international efforts to achieve lasting global peace," Koizumi said Sunday in the memorial speech.

Ceremonies will also be held on Wednesday's anniversary of the Nagasaki attack.

Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, bringing the Second World War to an end.

Editor's Note: This story from the CBC.CA News contains figures that correct those figures sited in Issue #96 of THE CALAMITY HOWLER.