December 3, 2005


On the December 1 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder and chairman of the Moral Majority Coalition, commented that Americans United for the Separation of Church and State executive director Rev. Barry W. Lynn "is about as reverend as an oak tree" and "that reverend name gives him respectability." Guest host David Asman repeated the phrase "about as reverend as an oak tree" and said, "I'd never heard that one, Reverend Jerry Falwell, but I'm going to repeat it at some point."

In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Lynn is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

Falwell's comments came during a discussion of the so-called "war on Christmas." During the discussion, Asman brought up a federal court case in which a judge barred the use of sectarian prayer to begin sessions of the Indiana State House of Representatives. On November 30, U.S. District Judge David Hamilton found the invocations to be of a proselytizing nature and, therefore, ruled that if the prayers were to continue, they "must be nonsectarian and must not be used to proselytize or advance any one faith or belief or to disparage any other faith or belief." He also ruled that those offering the prayer "should refrain from using Christ's name or title or any other denominational appeal."

When Asman noted that "a group of religious leaders signed the petition [protesting the prayers]" in the Indiana case, Falwell responded that "the greatest opponents we have to honoring Christ in this country are guys like Reverend Barry Lynn and others who -- he is about as reverend as an oak tree. I've asked him, where is the church you've ever preached in? Well, he likes -- that reverend name gives him respectability."

From the December 1 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

ASMAN: Well, the law isn't always on your side, at least temporarily. We are going to be talking to [Fox senior judicial analyst] Judge [Andrew] Napolitano about this in just a minute, but Indiana ruling that you probably heard about, a judge there, federal judge, this -- agreed with the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] that the prayer that they begin the morning with in the statehouse should be eliminated because of references to Jesus or references to the savior. So sometimes the courts are not in your favor, at least the judges.


ASMAN: By the way, the interesting thing about the Indiana ruling is that Quakers and a group of religious leaders signed the petition. What do you think of that?

FALWELL: Oh, listen, some of the greatest opponents we have to honoring Christ in this country are guys like Reverend Barry Lynn and others who -- he is about as reverend as an oak tree. He's never pastored a church in his life. I've asked him, where is the church you've ever preached in? Well, he likes -- that reverend name gives him respectability.

But the fact is that there are liberals in the pulpits as well as in the politics. And the fact is, free speech is right. Little children should be able to sing "Silent Night" and "Rudolph [the Red-Nosed Reindeer]" in the same setting, and say their prayers over their meals without some bigot thinking that they're breaking the law.

ASMAN: About as reverend as an oak tree. I'd never heard that one, Reverend Jerry Falwell, but I'm going to repeat it at some point. If you don't mind, I'll steal that from you at some point and use it.


ASMAN: Reverend Jerry Falwell from Liberty University. Thanks very much.

Categories: News
Mark Weisbrot says that history is repeating itself in Haiti, as democracy is being destroyed for the second time in the past fifteen years. Amazingly, he says, the main difference seems to be that this time it is being done openly and in broad daylight, with the support of the "international community" and the United Nations.
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In his November 30 speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, President Bush acknowledged that only one Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) battalion is capable of operating independently of the United States-led coalition. Nevertheless, on the December 1 broadcast of NBC's Today, Mary Matalin, a former assistant to Bush and counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, falsely claimed that one-third of the roughly 120 Iraqi army and police battalions cited by Bush as fighting Iraqi insurgents are "working by themselves." Similarly, on the November 30 broadcast of ABC's Nightline, host Cynthia McFadden left unchallenged Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace's false characterization of operations carried out by "[a]lmost 30 battalions" as "independent operations, so to speak."

Noting that "only one Iraqi battalion has achieved complete independence from the coalition," Bush explained in his November 30 speech that in order to achieve independence, Iraqi battalions must acquire the capacity to perform a number of tasks currently carried out by coalition forces. According to Bush, in addition to having the ability to engage the enemy, an independent unit "must also have the ability to provide its own support elements, including logistics, airlift, intelligence, and command and control through their ministries." He added, "Not every Iraqi unit has to meet this level of capability in order for the Iraqi security forces to take the lead in the fight against the enemy."

On Today, Matalin falsely claimed that one-third of Iraqi battalions are operating on their own:

KATIE COURIC (host): The president said there are 120 Iraqi army and police combat battalions operating in Iraq. That's roughly 96,000 troops. But why, if that is the case, is the violence not declining? Is the very presence of U.S. forces in Iraq fueling this insurgency?

MATALIN: Katie, the --you know, I don't know how many different ways to say to Democrats how much progress has been made in just a year. There are over 212,000 Iraqis trained. The two-thirds of those battalions are working side-by-side with the Americans. A third of them are working by themselves. In March there are 400-500 tips from locals. Now there are 4,700 tips. It's human intelligence on the ground. There's progress every day being made standing up the Iraqi armies and security forces, and there's progress being made every day on the political front. We're where about -- in two weeks from tomorrow -- about to have the first self-determined elections in that region. They have the first and only constitution in that region. The per capita income has doubled --

COURIC: Mm-hmm.

MATALIN: It's up 30 percent from where it was before the year. There's progress on every single front -- military, economic, political -- on the president's strategy. It takes time. In three years, they've made enormous progress. That is progress, those are facts. That's not emotion, that's not demagoguery. That is fact.

In fact, Bush claimed in his November 30 speech that of the roughly 120 Iraqi battalions "in the fight against the terrorists ... about 80 Iraqi battalions are fighting side by side with coalition forces, and about 40 others are taking the lead in the fight." Bush said that the 40 battalions "taking the lead" -- apparently the battalions Matalin cited -- receive "some coalition support."

In addition, Matalin's statement that there are "212,000 Iraqis trained" is misleading, because less than half of them are members of the 120 battalions that Bush said are "in the fight." While Bush did not say how many Iraqi troops were in those battalions, he did note that the battalions are "typically comprised of between 350 and 800 Iraqi forces." In other words, there are between 42,000 and 96,000 (Couric's estimate) Iraqi troops "in the fight."

Pace's Nightline assertion also conflicted with Bush's acknowledgement that only one Iraqi battalion is capable of operating independently of the coalition:

PACE: I think the American people can begin to look at the territory in Iraq and begin to understand how much of Iraq is actually being controlled by Iraqi forces. Today, there's one division that's controlling about 14,000 to 16,000 Iraqi troops, four brigades each of about 3,000 to 4,000. Almost 30 battalions, each of about 700, that are controlling their own territory, independent operations, so to speak. That number will continue to grow. And you can watch the map of Iraq, as the Iraqi police and the Iraqi armed forces take over more and more control of more and more territory.

Pace did not explain what he meant by "so to speak," and McFadden made no attempt to challenge his statement. But Bush noted in his speech that "over 30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility." An October 13 Pentagon report to Congress titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" explained:

At present, the Iraqi Army is in the lead for planning and executing counterinsurgency operations in one Iraqi province that is roughly the size of New Jersey. The ISF also have the lead for 87 square miles in Baghdad and over 450 square miles of battle space in the other Iraqi provinces. Coalition Forces continue to support and assist the ISF in these areas as they move towards the capability for independent operations.

A number of experts, including U.S. military officials, have outlined the extent to which the non-independent Iraqi battalions still require coalition support. On the November 30 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, for instance, host Cavuto interviewed Col. Edward Cardon, an American commander in the training operation. Cavuto referred to "[t]his report ... that 40 battalions are ready to fend for themselves." Cardon corrected him, noting that "40 battalions are, I think, are ready to fight." Cardon explained: "Now, fend for themselves, the problem that we have had here is with -- the Ministry of Defense has not developed as fast as the fighting forces on the ground. And that's where we provide a lot of the assistance and logistics."

On December 1, USA Today reported that Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, Baghdad spokesman for the ISF training program, blamed the lack of independent battalions on the ISF's inability to support its troops:

Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, spokesman in Baghdad for the training program, says that's largely because the Iraqi military lacks what it needs to support its soldiers, no matter how well trained. Iraqi troops often operate in bleak living and working conditions, he says. They lack money to pay for telephone or Internet services. Paychecks are late. Sewage sometimes pools on their bases, a stark contrast to the smooth-running bases of their U.S. counterparts.

"Our mission now is building a bureaucracy," Wellman said. "You can't have a fighting unit survive on the field if they're not being fed or being paid. We have a long way to go with that."

And in a December 1 article (subscription required) in The Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows reported that "[t]he United States is not helping Iraq develop many" of the capabilities necessary to support combat operations and that the ISF will continue to rely on Americans to provide "air support, intelligence and communications networks, and other advanced systems":

When U.S. policy changed from counting every Iraqi in uniform to judging how many whole units were ready to function, a triage decision was made. The Iraqis would not be trained anytime soon for the whole range of military functions; they would start with the most basic combat and security duties. The idea, as a former high-ranking administration official put it, was "We're building a spearhead, not the whole spear."

The rest of the spear consists of the specialized, often technically advanced functions that multiply the combat units' strength. These are as simple as logistics -- getting food, fuel, ammunition, spare parts, where they are needed -- and as complex as battlefield surgical units, satellite-based spy services, and air support from helicopters and fighter planes.

The United States is not helping Iraq develop many of these other functions. Sharp as the Iraqi spearhead may become, on its own it will be relatively weak. The Iraqis know their own territory and culture, and they will be fighting an insurgency, not a heavily equipped land army. But if they can't count on the Americans to keep providing air support, intelligence and communications networks, and other advanced systems, they will never emerge as an effective force. So the United States will have to continue to provide all this.

Finally, a December 1 Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) questioned the extent to which Iraqi battalions were prepared even to take the lead in fighting the insurgency. The Journal noted that Bush had claimed in his speech that in contrast to the 2004 Fallajuh campaign, the recent assault on Tal Afar was "primarily led by Iraqi security forces -- 11 Iraqi battalions, backed by five coalition battalions providing support." However, the Journal reported:

But experts warned against extrapolating too heavily from the Tal Afar assault. They noted that Iraqi forces used in the attack were battle-hardened Kurdish fighters, not new recruits trained by Americans. Iraqi forces played an active role, but the experts said American commanders planned the overall assault and sent U.S. forces into areas where the insurgent presence was believed strongest. And the overall level of combat was far fiercer in Fallujah than in Tal Afar, which insurgents had largely deserted, they noted.

Categories: News
Rami G. Khouri asks whether the current turmoil will produce peaceful Islamists or radical nationalists -- or something in between.
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Three factors have converged to pressure the Bush administration to plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq -- pressure from all major Iraqi groups, from U.S. military leaders, and from U.S. public opinion polls. Unfortunately, a partial reduction of U.S. forces is not sufficient to save Iraq from a civil war, according to Ivan Eland.
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On the November 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News correspondent Major Garrett presented a highly misleading depiction of the heated debate over whether the White House and Congress saw the same intelligence on the Iraqi threat prior to the war. Garrett downplayed the administration's handling of dissenting opinions and ignored entirely the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research's (INR) strong objections to the claim that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. He also falsely reported that a bipartisan presidential commission had concluded that "in almost every instance" the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) -- a daily intelligence report provided to the president but not to Congress -- had presented more alarming assessments on Iraq than the reports provided to lawmakers.

Moreover, Garrett misrepresented the scope of this ongoing debate by focusing solely on the issue of intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear capabilities. In fact, members of Congress who have challenged the claim that they saw the same intelligence as the White House have also cited their lack of access to intelligence regarding the purported ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

On the issue of whether the Bush administration hid dissenting views from lawmakers, Garrett cited only the Department of Energy's (DOE) objections to specific claims regarding Iraq's nuclear weapon capabilities. Garrett noted that DOE had expressed doubts about the administration's claim that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes designed to enrich uranium and countered that DOE had nonetheless "agreed Iraq was pursuing nuclear weapons." He then aired a clip of Charles Duelfer, former head of the Iraq Survey Group, who stated, "[T]here was a large consensus in terms of the overall direction that the Saddam regime wanted to go, which was, it was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program."

But Garrett failed to inform his viewers why those challenging the "same intelligence" claim have cited the DOE dissent -- because it is known to have been omitted from numerous intelligence reports provided to Congress. An October 3, 2004, New York Times article reported that the CIA had delivered 15 assessments on the aluminum tubes to Congress between April 2001 and September 2002, but that "not one of them informed senior policy makers of the Energy Department's dissent." The article noted that "the dissenting views were repeatedly discussed in meetings and telephone calls" between Bush administration and intelligence officials. Garrett further downplayed the divisions in the intelligence community over Iraq's nuclear capabilities by failing to note that INR had voiced aggressive objections to the claim Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear programs -- a fact that contradicts Duelfer's depiction of a "large consensus."

On the issue of those intelligence reports available to the White House and not to Congress, Garrett reported that a bipartisan presidential commission concluded that the PDB "in almost every instance" presented more aggressive assessments than those provided to lawmakers. But the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, chaired by former Sen. Charles Robb (D-VA) and Reagan appointee Judge Laurence H. Silberman, received only a "limited cross-section" of the PDBs provided to President Bush on the Iraqi threat:

As part of its investigation, this Commission was provided access, on a limited basis, to a number of articles from the President's Daily Brief (PDB) relating to Iraq's WMD programs. Although we saw only a limited cross-section of this product, we can make several observations about the art form.

Further, of that "limited cross-section" to which it was granted access, the Robb-Silberman commission examined only PDB articles that "concerned Iraq's weapons programs" and not those PDBs pertaining to the purported ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. A November 22 National Journal article reported that in a PDB dated September 21, 2001, the president was informed that the intelligence community had scant evidence connecting Saddam Hussein's regime to Al Qaeda. The White House has refused to turn this and numerous other relevant PDBs over to Congress, despite repeated requests by the Senate Intelligence Committee. This has led Sen. Edward D. Kennedy (D-MA) to propose legislation requiring the Bush administration to provide the Senate and House intelligence committees copies of the PDBs spanning a three-year period.

While Garrett addressed the claim that the White House and Congress saw different intelligence on Iraq's weapons capabilities, he ignored entirely the allegation that the Bush administration had access to far more information regarding the alleged Iraq-Al Qaeda connection -- a crucial facet of this ongoing debate. In his report, Garrett played a clip of Sen. Richard J. Durbin's (D-IL) comments at a November 14 press conference. But he overlooked the fact that Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), at the same press conference, had noted that the Bush administration had apparently suppressed the intelligence community's serious doubts about the existence of any substantial Iraq-Al Qaeda ties:

LEVIN: Listen to the Defense Intelligence Agency's assessment before the war on this issue. We just released this last week: "Saddam's regime is intensely secular and wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a movement it cannot control." That's what the Defense Intelligence Agency was saying. So for this administration now to say that its statements before the war about the relationship between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein reflected the consensus in the intelligence community is just as misleading as statements that they have made in other regards relative to the whole weapons of mass destruction issue.

The vice president apparently will not hold a press conference on this issue. I don't know how he can get away with not answering questions. The president surely hasn't held many where he is asked to explain his statements relative to the relationship that he claimed existed between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, which persuaded the majority of the American people to believe something that wasn't true.

A November 16 Knight Ridder article further reported how the administration had ignored numerous "secret U.S. intelligence assessments" that undermined claims regarding the alleged relationship. The article also noted that the White House's use of alternative intelligence sources had fueled the administration's use of this claim in its case for war with Iraq:

As for prewar intelligence on Iraq, senior administration officials had access to other information and sources that weren't available to lawmakers.


Moreover, officials in the White House and the Pentagon received information directly from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group, circumventing U.S. intelligence agencies, which greatly distrusted the organization.

The INC's information came from Iraqi defectors who claimed that Iraq was hiding chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, had mobile biological-warfare facilities and was training Islamic radicals in assassinations, bombings and hijackings.

The White House emphasized these claims in making its case for war, even though the defectors had shown fabrication or deception in lie-detector tests or had been rejected as unreliable by U.S. intelligence professionals.

All of the exiles' claims turned out to be bogus or remain unproven.

War hawks at the Pentagon also created a special unit that produced a prewar report - one not shared with Congress - that alleged that Iraq was in league with al-Qaida. A version of the report, briefed to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and top White House officials, disparaged the CIA for finding there was no cooperation between Iraq and the terrorist group, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence disclosed.

After the report was leaked in November 2003 to a conservative magazine, the Pentagon disowned it.

In fact, a series of secret U.S. intelligence assessments discounted the administration's assertion that Saddam could give banned weapons to al-Qaida.

From the November 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

GARRETT: The accusation on protest signs and from some Democrats in Congress: the president lied about the Iraqi threat. The administration's response: Congress saw the same intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and backed the Iraq war. Democrats disagree.

DURBIN [video clip]: For the president to suggest that even as members of the Intelligence Committee, we have the same intelligence at our disposal as he did is just plain wrong.

GARRETT: In fact, the president did review intelligence reports Congress never saw. The CIA produced the president's daily brief or PDB. But they painted an even more dire picture of Iraq's potential threat. The bipartisan Robb-Silberman Report said the president's daily briefs on Iraq were, quote, "even more misleading," unquote, than the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, given to Congress. "These daily reports were, if anything, more alarmist and less nuanced than the NIE," the commission said, adding the reports', quote, "drumbeat of repetition, left an impression of many corroborating reports when in fact there were very few sources." The commission found no evidence of pressuring or coercing intelligence analysts, but it did conclude that the daily intelligence brief, quote, "seemed to be selling intelligence in order to keep its customers, or at least the first customer, interested." In other words, Congress received less aggressive assessments than the president, but they were still bleak.

DUELFER [video clip]: The bulk of them all agreed that there were existing stocks of biology, existing stocks of chemical, and for the most part they all agreed there was a nuclear program. The question was how they were going about it.

GARRETT: Duelfer's post-war survey found no biological or chemical weapons stockpiles, no nuclear weapons program. Despite this massive intelligence failure, Duelfer concludes no conspiracy was afoot.

DUELFER [video clip]: You can fault the intelligence community for many things, but for shaping its conclusions to fit the desires of the political leadership, I don't think that's right. I think that's wrong.

GARRETT: Critics accuse the administration of ignoring negative or conflicting reports. They often cite Iraq's 2001 purchase of aluminum tubes. The CIA and Pentagon concluded they were part of a renewed nuclear weapons program. The Department of Energy disagreed, saying the tubes were not well suited for a nuclear program, but probably destined for Iraqi artillery, which turned out to be the right call. Even so, the Energy Department, based on other evidence, agreed Iraq was pursuing nuclear weapons.

DUELFER [video clip]: There was a disagreement on some of the elements, but there was a large consensus in terms of the overall direction that the Saddam regime wanted to go, which was it was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.

GARRETT: Democrats have recently said their lack of access to these presidential daily briefs constitute a crucial missing link in their understanding of the Iraq threat. But as Duelfer and the bipartisan Robb-Silberman Commission have already concluded, in almost every instance, these daily reports would have made lawmakers more alarmed, not less.

Categories: News
Stephen Zunes says that the "Out Now!" slogan serves to pressure a change of course in Iraq -- but it is too simplistic to adopt as a policy.
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In a segment on the December 1 editions of CNN's The Situation Room and Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN national correspondent Bruce Morton misrepresented a report by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) that Vice President Dick Cheney has regularly exempted his office from official travel disclosure requirements. Morton left viewers with the false impression that Cheney and his aides have refrained from taking part in junkets regularly paid for by private sources. To the contrary, Cheney's office has participated in hundreds of these events and appearances but has refused to accept reimbursement for the trips -- which would require disclosing the details of each -- and instead has left taxpayers with the tab.

A recent study by CPI found that industry groups had paid millions of dollars since 1999 to send White House officials on special-interest junkets around the world. In his report on the CPI findings, Morton detailed the types of trips taken by officials in both the Bush and Clinton administrations. Then he stated: "Vice President Cheney reported no such travel. All his staffers' trips were apparently paid for by the taxpayer."

But Morton's assertion that Cheney "reported no such travel" and took only taxpayer-funded trips left the false impression that the vice president and his staff took only trips that are typically covered by taxpayer dollars and not the type of trips taken by their colleagues and predecessors that are ordinarily paid for by private entities. In fact, CPI found that Cheney's office took the same type of trips typically paid for by outside sources -- including travel for speeches at think tanks, trade organizations, and academic institutions -- but labeled them "official travel." In many cases, the organizers or sponsors offered to reimburse Cheney's travel expenses, but his office refused to accept payment.

Morton followed his statement that Cheney "reported no such travel" with a clip of CPI senior writer Bob Williams, who said: "Basically what you have with Mr. Cheney's office is, there's no disclosure, there is no way of really knowing where they went." But while this clip addressed the fact that Cheney's trips were exempt from disclosure, it ignored the central finding in the CPI study: that by refusing reimbursement, Cheney and his staffers were both avoiding disclosure of trips that would otherwise have been disclosed and were sticking taxpayers with the tab for those trips that would otherwise have been reimbursed. Therefore, it did not correct Morton's misrepresentation of the study.

A November 16 CPI press release explained the implications of the Office of the Vice President's policy of unilaterally exempting itself from the travel disclosure rules followed by the executive branch:

It's not as if those in Cheney's office don't indulge in the type of junkets that are routinely funded by private sources. Instead of accepting reimbursement for such trips like other government travelers, it appears that his office labels them "official travel." As a result, however, the public is kept largely unaware of where he and his staff are traveling, with whom they are meeting with [sic] and how much it costs, even though tax dollars are covering the bill.

CPI also detailed the extent of Cheney's travel since he took office in 2001. The organization described the hundreds of trips as representing "untold millions in travel costs":

Cheney's office also appears to have stuck taxpayers with untold millions in travel costs rather than accepting trip sponsors' funds that the rules would require to be disclosed.


According to the White House Web site, Cheney made 275 speeches and appearances between 2001 and June 1, 2005, including 23 speeches to think tanks and trade organizations and 16 at colleges and universities. Before his term in office, the cost associated with travel, lodging and food for the vice president and his staff to attend such events was routinely reimbursed by the sponsor and reported to the Office of Government Ethics, which collects and distributes travel disclosure reports for the executive branch per disclosure rules. During the Clinton administration, former Vice President Al Gore's office disclosed more than $1 million in outside-funded travel from 1997 to 2000.

Categories: News
Charles V. Peña says that exiting Iraq may be a prerequisite for victory.
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On the December 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC political analyst and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan argued in favor of "deception, misinformation, disinformation, deceit, [and] propaganda" in times of war, during a discussion about a November 30 New York Times report that the Pentagon has been paying Iraqi newspapers to run its own positive stories about the war and paying Iraqi journalists to write similar reports.

In a lengthy debate with Hardball host Matthews and MSNBC political analyst Ron Reagan, Buchanan said that "the Pentagon and our guys over there have got every right to have good news put into the media and get to the people of Iraq, even if it's got to be planted or bought."

When Matthews asked Buchanan if he minds being deceived, Buchanan replied, "During wartime, no ... I mean, there's things you have to do in wartime, we may not like it, but they're necessary in the long run."

Buchanan also rejected the notion that, in order to establish a working press in Iraq, the United States should "tie our hands and say, look, we want objective journalists who run by the Columbia School of Journalism standards and it's wrong simply to buy a couple of Baghdad journalists and say put this in your paper so we can get it out? "

Buchanan is a 1962 graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism, founded in 1912 by Joseph Pulitzer, who maintained that "[o]ur republic and its press will rise and fall together."

The weblog Think Progress has detailed additional instances in which conservative commentators have similarly defended the Pentagon's program.

From the December 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Is this a tempest in a teapot, or is this bad news for us in the PR war over there? The battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqis?

BUCHANAN: Well, what hurts in the PR war is that it was exposed. The battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis is part of this war. And the Pentagon and our guys over there have got every right to have good news put into the media and get to the people of Iraq, even if it's got to be planted or bought. I mean, the idea that somehow Marines out there fighting, giving their lives are now guilty of seducing the Baghdad press corps --

MATTHEWS: No, they're not accused of being guilty; they're being accused of being to do it as a part of their duty.

BUCHANAN: There's nothing -- they ought to do it.


BUCHANAN: Ron, the blowup of this thing is the problem. By way of deception, thou shalt make war [reportedly the motto of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad]. For heaven sakes, you don't think [Gen. Dwight D.] Eisenhower was putting out phony stories to British journalists about [Gen. George] Patton coming for the Pas-de-Calais [instead of Normandy during World War II]? I mean, deception, misinformation, disinformation, deceit, propaganda -- these are all instruments of war. We sent out guys over there to fight and die, and you're telling me we can't put out stories that put a good light on what's being done there to try to bring the Iraqi people toward us? The crime here, Chris, if there is one, is the exposure of this thing and the damage done.

MATTHEWS: You mean it should have been kept secret.

BUCHANAN: If you had done that in World War II and exposed all the guys on our payroll --

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you this. These stories -- as you know, in newspapers today and blogging and everything, we know that anything that appears in print gets online. What happens in that starts coming back to the United States and we start believing it? Then we're being propagandized, we're propagandizing ourselves, aren't we? Is that OK?

BUCHANAN: Chris, I mean, there's worse things that happened than us being propagandized. We're at war.

MATTHEWS: I'm not saying it's the end of the world. I'm saying, is it the right thing to be doing?

BUCHANAN: It is. It's the necessary to do to try to win the hearts and minds. Everything you can. The problem here is it was exposed.

REAGAN: It is a foolish thing to do and don't -- I wouldn't be surprised if we find out that the Iraqi people are way ahead of us on this story. I wouldn't be surprised if we found out that most Iraqi people assumed that a lot of what's showing up in their papers, these good-news stories, are being ginned up by the Americans, and they're not buying them to begin with.

BUCHANAN: Ron, let me ask you something. If we can't put $10 million on the table and buy Aljazeera to give us good press, would you not do it today, if you were in this war?

REAGAN: No, I wouldn't.

BUCHANAN: You wouldn't do it?

REAGAN: No. We're supposed to be fighting for truth and liberty and freedom and justice. We're spending money over there in Iraq to train journalists to have an actual free press, and with the other hand we're undermining that very effort. This is a foolish thing to be doing.

BUCHANAN: Look -- you don't think we need a propaganda campaign to get out our message as best we can in a region of the world where we're hated, and what people believe and understand and come to know will decide whether we win or lose this war? We're to tie our hands and say, look, we want objective journalists who run by the Columbia School of Journalism standards, and it's wrong simply to buy a couple of Baghdad journalists and say, "Put this in your paper so we can get it out"?

REAGAN: If there's so much good news coming out of Iraq, why do we have to pay the Iraqi journalists to report it? They should be doing that on their own --


BUCHANAN: Because a lot of military say the American journalists are not reporting the good news. Our own people report that. Our troops over there are making these statements. For heaven sakes, we are -- maybe we shouldn't have gone to war, but if you go to war, you back up your troops with everything you can, and that includes propaganda.

MATTHEWS: You don't buy this whole notion of creating democracies, do you, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Listen, if you're going to put --

MATTHEWS: It's not like you don't like this little fly in the ointment. You don't like the notion.

BUCHANAN: Look, I think the United States in World War II probably bought an awful lot of newsmen. The end of it was democracy in Germany and Japan, but during wartime, you tie your hands?


BUCHANAN: Look, I assume that many of these reports told the truth about what's going on, that we are making progress. But during the Cold War, I am sure the Central Intelligence Agency, just like the Soviet Union, was over there in Europe and giving money to journalists when they had the confrontations in the late '40s over whether the communists were going to take power. And elections are ours where we were supporting parties, we were doing our level best. All of the tools of democracy to try to save democracy. It is not illegitimate. Chris, we are in a real world.


MATTHEWS: Do you mind being deceived?

BUCHANAN: Look, during wartime --

MATTHEWS: Do you mind being deceived?

BUCHANAN: During wartime, no. If the president of the United States in wartime says -- why do we military censorship? To save lives, Chris. I mean, there's things you have to do in wartime, we may not like it, but they're necessary in the long run.


BUCHANAN: Who's responsible for safeguarding the ethics of Baghdad journalists, for heaven sakes?

REAGAN: What do you know about Baghdad journalists? You just said that these people are risking their lives.

BUCHANAN: If a guy will buy a story for $200, give it to him, for heaven sakes.

Categories: News
In this issue: Slowdown in Health Benefit Costs Continues; Democrat's Report Says Medicare Drug Benefit Doesn't Offer Lowest Prices; CMS Proposes End to Coverage of Obesity Surgery for Medicare Patients 65 and Older; and more.
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A December 2 Washington Post article misleadingly suggested that a recent poll showed public support for Republicans' position on when to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq -- that is, only once specific conditions are met in the country. The Post contrasted the results of a November 21 RT Strategies poll* with those of an October 13 Pew Research Center poll, suggesting that the RT poll showed support for the Republican position, while the Pew poll showed opposition to it. In fact, the RT poll shows that the public is split on the issue, with the difference between those who support the Republican position and those who oppose it within the poll's margin of error.

From the December 2 Post article:

House Republican leaders, meanwhile, are touting a bipartisan poll in November by RT Strategies that found half of registered voters support a withdrawal of troops only when the nation's goals are met, compared with 15 percent who want an immediate withdrawal and 29 percent who want a specific, public timetable for withdrawal. But a Pew Research Center poll in October found that 52 percent favored a withdrawal timetable, while 43 percent opposed one. An additional 1 percent said that U.S. troops should get out now.

As written, the Post article emphasizes the plurality of voters in the RT poll who support the Republican position on when to withdraw U.S. troops -- a plurality that, in the Post's construction, appears significant: 50 percent to 29 percent to 15 percent. But the Post, like the RT Strategies poll, set up a false dispute: those who favor immediate withdrawal versus those who favor a timetable for withdrawal versus those who favor neither. In fact, no prominent political figure -- not House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), not Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) -- has said that the U.S. should "withdraw our troops immediately, regardless of the impact," the wording the poll used. Given the wording of the poll question, a more meaningful report of its results would have contrasted the combined support for a timetable and for immediate withdrawal with support for, as the Post put it, "a withdrawal of troops only when the nation's goals are met." Such a comparison finds that, according to the poll, 50 percent support a withdrawal "only when the nation's goals are met," while 44 percent support immediate withdrawal (15 percent) or a timetable for withdrawal (29 percent) -- a split that is within the poll's 3.1 percent margin of error. Moreover, among political independents, the results are even more closely split: 48 percent support the Republican position while 49 percent oppose it (17 percent support an immediate withdrawal and 32 percent support setting a timetable for withdrawal).

* The Post cited the poll's results for registered voters (available here.) The results shown in RT Strategies' press release and topline are for all respondents.

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Common Cause, the Center for Digital Democracy and Free Press filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The groups seek copies of any correspondence between the White House and CPB officials and other evidence uncovered in recent Inspector General investigations.
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On the December 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly invited right-wing pundit Ann Coulter on the show to discuss "far-left smear websites." O'Reilly introduced the segment with a declaration that "we are closely watching far-left smear websites to make sure they are held accountable for damaging people," but he noted that "our policy is not to name the websites, because, well, they're beneath contempt."

He then claimed that "smear sites" "intimidate people with whom they disagree. ... They really want to just bludgeon anybody with whom they disagree." Coulter agreed but admitted that "one thing that perplexes me is why they want to keep me off only CNN." Media Matters for America has urged its supporters to ask CNN to stop featuring Coulter due to her history of false, misleading, and inflammatory statements.

After mentioning Media Matters President and CEO David Brock, Coulter attacked such websites, calling them "little Nazi block watchers," stating: "They tattle on their parents, turn them in to the Nazis."

She complained that several conservative pundits have security details when going to speak at college campuses and stated, "No liberal has to have security. Though I'd like to change that." She also claimed, "I think what mostly encourages violence is [liberals'] incapacity to formulate an argument." As Media Matters has documented, Coulter has said, "I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days" to talk to liberals.

Finally, O'Reilly and Coulter resoundingly agreed:

O'REILLY: All right. Be careful, Ann. They're bad people.

COULTER: Thank you.

O'REILLY: They are bad people.

COULTER: They are bad people.

O'REILLY: And that's not an ideological statement. They are bad human beings, doing what they're doing.

From the December 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight, as we told you last week, we are closely watching the far-left smear websites to make sure they are held accountable for damaging people, something they do on a regular basis.

Now, our policy is to not name the websites, because, well, they're beneath contempt. They want that kind of publicity.


O'REILLY: Yeah, but on a policy basis, what they're trying to do on these far-left smear sites is intimidate people with whom they disagree, and then choke off their ability to get their message out. I mean, freedom of speech means nothing to these people. They really want to just bludgeon anybody with whom they disagree, or am I wrong?

COULTER: No, you're right, though. I mean, the one thing that perplexes me is why they want to keep me off only CNN. You know, why not Fox? Why not MSNBC?

O'REILLY: Well, they know that Fox isn't going to play their game.

COULTER: David Brock has something against MSNBC?

O'REILLY: Yeah, they know Fox isn't going to play their game.

COULTER: What about MSNBC?

O'REILLY: Nobody watches them, with all due respect. I mean, it's true. Nobody watches the network. It doesn't mean anything.

COULTER: Well, I think it's an excellent use for George Soros's money to keep republishing the things I say on CNN.

O'REILLY: OK, but to answer your question, CNN is perceived to be a left-wing outlet, and they don't like your voice on the left-wing outlet. But, you know, aren't liberals or far-left people supposed to be champions of freedom of speech? Isn't that what the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] is all about?

COULTER: No, of course not. They're Nazi block watchers. This is what they're good at.

O'REILLY: They're Nazi what?

COULTER: Block watchers, you know. They tattle on their parents, turn them in to the Nazis. They're little Nazi block watchers.

O'REILLY: See, this is why they don't want you on CNN there. You're calling them Nazis. They don't --

COULTER: Coincidentally, Sean Hannity doesn't want me on CNN either. I think he might be paying for this website.

O'REILLY: Why not? Why doesn't Hannity want you on CNN?

COULTER: Because he only wants me on his show.

O'REILLY: Oh, he wants full control of you. OK. Now, you're --

COULTER: Which he basically has.


O'REILLY: OK. So you believe that these people want to hurt you, and now you have to have security with you?

COULTER: It's not just me. It's David Horowitz. It's [MSNBC contributor and former Republican presidential candidate] Pat Buchanan. It's [Weekly Standard editor] Bill Kristol. If you go speak at a college campus, I promise you, if you don't have a security detail, they will physically attack you, because they are the party of ideas, and they're so intellectual their ideas just can't fit on a bumper sticker. You know, everything else they're always saying about themselves. But when it actually comes time to formulate a counterargument, all they can do is throw food.

O'REILLY: All right. But it gets to be frightening. And I -- look, in my own case, I have to have security, and obviously --

COULTER: Any conservative does.

O'REILLY: Yeah, but I think liberals, some -- well, I don't know. Look, there's no question --

COULTER: No liberal has to have security. Though I'd like to change that.

O'REILLY: Well, there's no -- let me just ask you this. Do you believe that these smear sites on the Internet are encouraging violence against you and others?

COULTER: They may be intended to. I think what mostly encourages violence is their incapacity to formulate an argument.

O'REILLY: All right. That's a different thing.

COULTER: And they do have the reaction of a 4-year-old.

O'REILLY: So you don't believe that they actually want to see you harmed, these left-wing smear sites?

COULTER: Oh, I do think they -- oh, the websites? Well, who knows? It's all kind of a mix. I think they want to keep me off CNN because -- I don't know why it's just CNN. Like I say, why not the Cooking Channel? I'm going to have to start my own petition to keep Ann Coulter off all stations.

O'REILLY: All right. Be careful, Ann. They're bad people.

COULTER: Thank you.

O'REILLY: They are bad people.

COULTER: They are bad people.

O'REILLY: And that's not an ideological statement. They are bad human beings, doing what they're doing.

Categories: News
CodePink New York next big project is lobbying our junior senator Hillary Clinton to listen to her constituents and to begin speaking out against the war. Things are happening very fast on Capitol Hill these days -- Representative Murtha’s call for the troops to come home now is sending shockwaves through Washington—and continued pressure on our elected representatives will certainly hasten the end of this war.
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On the November 30 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America, falsely claimed that Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU), has said, "if a church is burning down, the local community could not send the fire engine to put the fire out because that would violate, quote, separation of church and state." Robertson's comments came during a segment with Fox News' John Gibson, in which they were discussing the so-called "war" on Christmas and a perceived anti-Christian bias toward acknowledging the holiday.

On numerous occasions over the past several years, Robertson has accused Lynn of claiming that the Constitution prohibits a locality from sending fire trucks to burning churches (see here and here). But in a November 2002 "Memo to Pat and Jerry" written in Church and State, AU's official publication, Lynn denied the charges:

Robertson, for example, continues to tell national television audiences that I believe that a public fire department can't go to a burning church without violating the separation of church and state. He apparently uses this "anecdote" to demonstrate my radical, wacky beliefs.

Trouble is (for him), I never said it and don't believe it. Journalists who have heard the claim and bothered to research the point fail to find evidence of me saying it. The reason is that fictional attributions don't show up in Internet news databases.

Even the religious organization, Focus on the Family, has noted that this claim is false. A 2000 article in the Focus on the Family's Citizen magazine stated:

It also should be said that despite Lynn's often-bombastic rhetoric, he's been on the receiving end of some pretty strong language himself, some of it unjustified. (One Christian conservative leader [presumably Robertson] has mistakenly suggested that Lynn would say a burning church shouldn't be able to call the fire department lest it violate the bounds of church-state separation.)

From the November 30 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club:

ROBERTSON: Barry [Lynn] is -- Barry says that if a church is burning down, the local community could not send the fire engine to put the fire out because that would violate, quote, separation of church and state. He is fanatical.

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Join Scott Ritter, former UN Weapons Inspector and author of Iraq Confidential (Nation Books), and Lila Garrett, host of KPFK's "Connect the Dots," for an incisive discussion on how to extract ourselves from the Iraq quagmire. A book sale and signing will follow the event. When: Monday, December 57:30-9:00 PM Doors open 6:30 PM. Seating is first-come, first-served. Where: Venice United Methodist Church1020 Victoria AvenueVenice, CA (1 block north of Venice Blvd. at Lincoln Blvd.) Suggested donation: $10 (nobody turned away) For more information call (310) 842.8794 or visit
Categories: News

In a December 1 column, Washington Times chief political correspondent Donald Lambro twisted data from an already flawed poll to suggest that "Americans want to finish what we've started [in Iraq] and want the Iraqi government to have every chance to show they can take over their own security." Lambro mischaracterized the findings of a November 21 RT Strategies poll, apparently conflating two questions and twisting its already questionable results. In addition, New York Times columnist David Brooks cited the same poll in his December 1 column (subscription required) without noting its flaws.

The poll Lambro cited reported that 70 percent of respondents believe that Democratic senators' criticism of President Bush's Iraq war policy hurts U.S. troop morale in Iraq, while 13 percent believe it helps morale. But Lambro apparently conflated two separate polling questions to falsely claim that "70 percent" of Americans think a rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq would hurt troop morale:

We've all heard the polling questions that tell us a strong majority of Americans now think President Bush's decision to go into Iraq was mistaken. In light of the rising toll of U.S. casualties, that is an understandable view. But some polls ask a related question that suggests another view.

One poll last month by the bipartisan RT Strategies asked Americans if the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq would help or hurt troop morale. A stunning 70 percent said a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces would hurt morale over there while 14 percent said it would help.

This strongly suggests Americans want to finish what we've started and want the Iraqi government to have every chance to show they can take over their own security. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thinks that will come "fairly soon."

In fact, the poll did not ask whether withdrawing troops from Iraq would hurt morale. The poll included a question addressing Democratic criticism of the president's Iraq policy, along with an unrelated question addressing whether the United States should withdraw its troops from Iraq. The first question asked, "Thinking about the war in Iraq, when Democratic Senators criticize the President's policy on the war in Iraq, do you believe it HELPS the morale of our troops in Iraq or HURTS the morale of our troops in Iraq?"; the second asked, "And thinking about the future of our policies in Iraq, do you believe the U.S. military should ... [w]ithdraw our troops immediately, regardless of the impact ... [w]ithdraw our troops as the Iraqi government and military meet specific goals and objectives ... [or s]et a fixed publicly available timetable for withdrawal."

Lambro's distortions notwithstanding, the data from the RT poll is itself suspect. Media Matters for America has previously noted that the poll did not allow for the possibility that criticism of Bush's Iraq policy has no effect on troop morale, nor did it address the fact that -- according to a November 4-7 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll -- 57 percent of Americans now believe the president misled the public when he made the case for war in Iraq. This perception could also have a substantial effect on troop morale, an issue the pollsters ignored.

In his December 1 New York Times column, Brooks also cited the results of the RT poll, using them to support his assertion that the American public disapproves of Democrats' performance:

The hammer of disapproval has fallen hardest on the Republicans, of course, but the public is just as eager to think the worst of the Democrats. Seventy percent of Americans say Democratic criticism of the war is hurting troop morale, according to a poll by RT Strategies. Most Americans cynically believe that Democrats are leveling their attacks on the war to gain partisan advantage, while only 30 percent believe that they are genuinely trying to help U.S. efforts.

Categories: News
Why is the ‘war on drugs’ failing? Join us as we talk about one of the major social justice issues confronting our society today. In 1965, Senator Robert F. Kennedy said, “Solving [the drug problem] really means solving poverty and broken homes, racial discrimination and inadequate education, slums and unemployment...." According to US government estimates, more than 90 million Americans have used an illicit drug (including both major presidential candidates in 2000 and 2004). On the other hand, those who bear the brunt of the drug war in overwhelmingly disproportionate numbers are the poor and people of color. The US ‘war on drugs’ has caused tremendous collateral damage, destroyed the concept of equal justice and still failed to reduce hardcore drug abuse and addiction. This forum will examine the many shortcomings and harmful consequences of the US ‘war on drugs’. Sanho Tree, director of IPS’ Drug Policy Project, will lead the forum. When: Monday, December 5, 2005 6:45-8:45pm Where: 733 15th Street NW, Suite 1020 Washington DC (Metro Center or McPhearson Square) Registration:
Categories: News

In her December 1 nationally syndicated column, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter attacked Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA), who recently offered a resolution calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, by questioning his military service. Murtha, a retired U.S. Marine colonel who served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, received the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Coulter questioned Murtha's medals, writing that he "refuses to release his medical records showing he was entitled to his two Purple Hearts."

Coulter's slander of Murtha was reminiscent of tactics used by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth), who smeared Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), another decorated Vietnam veteran, during his 2004 presidential campaign. The group claimed that Kerry's five combat medals were undeserved despite extensive documentation to the contrary.

From Coulter's December 1 column, in which she objected to the praise* a number of Republican government officials bestowed upon Murtha:

What is this? Special Olympics for the Democrats? Can't Republicans disagree with a Democrat who demands that the U.S. surrender in the middle of a war without erecting monuments to him first? What would happen if a Democrat were to propose restoring Saddam Hussein to power? Is that Medal of Freedom territory?

I don't know what Republicans imagine they're getting out of all this love they keep throwing at Democrats. I've never heard a single liberal preface attacks on Oliver North with a recitation of North's magnificent service as a Marine. And unlike Murtha, who refuses to release his medical records showing he was entitled to his two Purple Hearts, we know what North did. (These Democrat military veterans are hardly shrinking violets when it comes to citing their medals, but they get awfully squeamish when pressed for details.)

A May 12, 2002, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article reported that "Marine Corps casualty records show that Murtha was injured in 'hostile' actions near Danang, Vietnam, on March 22, 1967 and May 7, 1967. In the first incident, his right cheek was lacerated, and in the second he was lacerated above his left eye. Neither injury required evacuation."

Coulter went on to compare Murtha to George Lincoln Rockwell, a World War II Navy pilot who founded the American Nazi Party:

Sen. Teddy Kennedy [D-MA] didn't issue a 20-minute soliloquy on what a wonderful man Judge Robert Bork was as a human being before attacking his judicial philosophy. Kennedy just laid into Bork like he was George Lincoln Rockwell.

Speaking of which, George Lincoln Rockwell, former head of the American Nazi Party, served in the military during World War II. Are we obligated to praise his war service before disputing his views?

*Republican praise of Murtha came after the White House attacked him for advocating troop withdrawal. In a November 17 statement, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said of Murtha: "[I]t is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party. The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists."

Categories: News