The bottom line on Iraq is whether an attack against Saddam Hussein helps or hinders the Republican Party's chances in midterm elections next November. A quick air strike on Iraq with no U.S. casualties might make Bush look extra special tough. But any protracted campaign on Iraq involving a large number of casualties and large numbers of troops would raise serious questions, not the least of which would be the administration's casting aside of the War Powers Act, under which it is supposed to consult with Congress. As it now stands, the OPEC states in the Middle East are generally opposed to an invasion, and they have pegged the price of oil in such a way that fuel costs are likely to rise here whatever happens. If they get pissed and throw down an embargo, gas prices would go through the roof. That probably would be instant death to Republican congressional contenders, who, no matter what, will still be defending themselves for doing nothing during the recession.
Meanwhile, Democrats are slowly beginning to frame their election-year challenge to the president on a range of different issues. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle issued a mild criticism of Bush for not telling Congress he was setting into motion a secret shadow government that, for now, does not include either Congress or the judiciary. (Such shadow cabinets have hovered over D.C. for years.) Over the weekend, Daschle seemed almost stern in another threat to subpoena homeland security czar Tom Ridge to try to learn what he plans to do with all the money Bush wants to give him.
And there are less publicized moves afoot in other areas. George Miller in the House is leading an effort to tackle the Enron mess by revising the 401(k) laws to mandate that workers sit with employers on boards that run these pension funds. The GOP doesn't want workers running anything. Miller's proposed legislation will allow the Dems to look like defenders of the little guy, even if they aren't. On defense, Rhode Island's Jack Reed, who heads the key House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, is claiming that Bush's missile defense program could cost "a prodigious sum of money" (some say $150 billion), and all for a system that couldn't block attacks on the U.S. or its forces abroad.
Last week, the conservatives sent guru William Bennett into the fray, setting up a new organization to target people they consider to be too critical of the war effort. The group, which operates out of Bennett's Empower America, is called Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT). It promises to "take to task those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the war we are facing." Likely targets are liberal members of Congress. And it poses the war against terror as a crusade against radical Islam, which it calls "an enemy no less dangerous and no less determined than the twin menaces of fascism and Communism we faced in the 20th century."
Bennett told the Voice on Monday that he wanted to keep "enthusiasm" for the war going strong, adding, "This war can take longer than World War II, and we just want to make sure we all are together at the end."
This looks like a rather feeble attempt by the neoconservatives, some of whom are ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute, to start up a blacklist. Bennett disagreed. "It's not a blacklist, it is a wrong-list," he said. "We just think that these people are wrongheaded, unhelpful, and misguided. We live in a free country, so we have the right to debate and go back and forth with them. I am sure I am not going to make president Jimmy Carter shut up if I say that I don't agree with him." And he promised the list would grow. "We don't add them," he said cheerfully. "They add themselves."
Many people have already expressed disgust at the apparent timidity of the Jefferson County and Denver, Colorado, police to put their lives on the line during the Columbine massacre three years ago. On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 12 kids, one teacher, and themselves, wounding 23 others. At least one victim is believed to have bled to death while waiting hours for rescuers to make their move.
Newly found FBI diagrams suggest that the cops themselves were shooting wildly into the school while the students were waiting inside to be rescued. Diagrams show where different bullets were lodged and where they came from (the material's posted at www.alternewswire.com/columbine). Police bullets went into the library, the teachers' lounge, corridor, and front door. In addition, one student appears to have been shot through the chest while standing outside the school. At least one cop told his parents the boy was killed by police fire.
Randy Brown, the father of a Columbine student, presented the diagrams to a commission reviewing evidence last month. He and other parents had discovered them on a CD-ROM they obtained through a Freedom of Information request. It is his contention that the cops are hiding evidence at least in part to cover their asses.
The diagrams suggest that the police fired into rooms that even the authorities admit Klebold and Harris were never in. And the cops didn't enter the school until after Harris and Klebold had allegedly committed suicide.
Information has dribbled out only in bits and pieces. Several parents filed suit for damages and to obtain information from the authorities, but the courts threw out the case. A year after the killings, the local police issued a report, and subsequently Governor Bill Owens appointed a commission to inquire into what happenedbut it had no subpoena power. The state legislature recently voted down a request to set up an investigation.
Last December, a Denver paper reports, five Columbine families asked a federal district court to reinstate their suits because of a "pattern of obstruction and falsification." The families also alleged that a Denver SWAT team member killed one of the students. The suits were thrown out of federal court, but the families have appealed. The police officer has denied any wrongdoing.
Jefferson County district attorney Dave Thomas has not only failed to convene a grand jury since the shootings, but he also signed off on the behavior of some of the cops before any serious investigation could have been put together.
President Bush may have frightened most of America with big talk about nuclear war, but people in Afghanistan and Pakistan think they've already been nuked by depleted-uranium (DU) bombs.
"The use of reprocessed nuclear waste in the U.S. air strikes against the Taliban poses a serious risk of radiation poisoning to the human lives in Afghanistan and Pakistan," said the Pakistan Weekly Independent last November. Added Dawn, Pakistan's big English-language paper, on November 12: "A leading military expert told Dawn that since October 7 the United States Air Force has been raining down depleted uranium shells at targets inside Afghanistan, especially against the Taliban front lines in the north. . . . 'There is widespread radiation in many areas that could adversely affect tens and thousands of people in the two countries for generations to come,' he said."
The U.S. reportedly employed munitions containing depleted uranium during the Gulf War in 1991 and more recently during NATO's campaign in the Balkans and in Vieques, as part of military exercises. In Afghanistan, there have been reports of DU in bunker bombs and other munitions; some contain a "mystery" metal, either tungsten (most of which comes from China) or depleted uranium.
A 1994 report to Congress by the secretary of the army said, "Like naturally occurring uranium, DU has toxicological and radiological health risks." The report goes on to say that "in combat, DU wound contamination and fragment implantation become more significant pathways of entry. Based on the lessons learned in Desert Storm, the army is developing procedures to better manage the internal exposure potential for DU during combat."
Carl Conetta, co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives in Washington, told the Voice that while experts argue, it seems possible that depleted uranium inhaled by a child could result in cancers later in life. He, too, suspected that hundreds of DU bombs are being used. He noted that chances are that depleted uranium is being used, if only because it's cheaper than tungsten.
But who's using it? In January 2001, a French TV documentary reported that the DU in munitions may come from a contaminated reprocessing plant in Paducah, Kentucky. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a French publication in January that the U.S. had found radiation in Afghanistanbut that it was from DU warheads belonging to Al Qaeda. On Monday a spokesperson for the U.S. Central Command said that it has "not used depleted uranium in Afghanistan." Dai Williams, a DU researcher, has told reporters that if Al Qaeda is responsible, there may be even more of a risk: That could mean the DU might have come from Russia, and it could be even dirtier than that from Paducah.
Over Ma Bush's Knee "I spanked," former first lady Barbara Bush told a Tallahassee, Florida, audience last week. "I didnt whip, but I spanked. Thank heaven no one knew it, or Id be in jail." Additional reporting: Gabrielle Jackson, Meritxell Mir, and Michael Ridley
"I spanked," former first lady Barbara Bush told a Tallahassee, Florida, audience last week. "I didnt whip, but I spanked. Thank heaven no one knew it, or Id be in jail."
Additional reporting: Gabrielle Jackson, Meritxell Mir, and Michael Ridley
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.