United States News Digest
Rice Denounced for Iraq Policy
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was denounced from the floor by a former U.S. diplomat, and ran into a buzz-saw of Republican opposition in her testimony about Iraq to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct. 20. As Rice was testifying, former senior U.S. diplomat Mary Ann Wright stood up and shouted from the audience, "Stop the killing in Iraq. You and Congress have to be responsible." Wright, a senior envoy in the U.S. embassies in Afghanistan and Mongolia, resigned in protest in 2003.
Rice's testimony, in which she avoided answering questions about whether the U.S. would still be in Iraq in 5 or 10 years, was subjected to withering criticism by Republican Senators, as well. Senators appealed for greater candor and more concrete information. "We have to level with the American people," said Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind) said that the administration can no longer assume that creating democratic institutions in Iraq in the short term will diminish the insurgency. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) said the committee had hoped for "more of a grip on reality.... The administration is just determined to cast this as an exercise that is going according to plan, and it isn't." Columnist Dana Milbank reported that when Rice said that "we have made significant progress" in Iraq, Chafee rejoined, "Well, we all wish that were true, but we can't kid ourselves, either."
Iraq War Is Depleting the National Guard
"At the rate we are going, we will bankrupt the National Guard," warned House Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis (R-Va) during a hearing, on Oct. 20, on the role of the National Guard, both domestically and overseas. Two state governors, Dirk Kempthorne (R) of Idaho and Ed Rendell (D) of Pennsylvania, and head of the Government Accountability Office, Comptroller General David Walker, provided testimony documenting the degree to which the National Guard is being taken down under the pressures of the permanent war in Iraq. Both governors testified that equipment shortages, which stem from the Army requirement that Guard units leave their equipment behind when they redeploy back to the U.S. from Iraq, are having significant impact on their states' ability to respond to natural disasters. That equipment amounts to 64,000 pieces, worth $1.2 billion, and includes vehicles, communications gear, and even helicopters. The Army has not had a plan to replace that equipment once those Guard units return to the U.S.
Walker reported that National Guard Bureau officials estimate that non-deployed Guard units have only 34% of their essential war-fighting equipment, as opposed to 75% in 2001. "The significant use of Army National Guard forces for overseas and homeland missions since Sept. 11, 2001, has resulted in declining readiness, weakening the Army National Guard's preparedness for future missions," Walker said.
A panel of DoD, Army, and National Guard officials, following the governors, testified that the Pentagon has now developed a $21 billion plan to re-equip and reorganize all of the Army National Guard's 34 combat brigades to 100% of their equipment requirements by 2012. Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn), who grilled the DoD witnesses on the plan, came to the conclusion that the plan is "encouraging," but that nothing has yet been resolved.
Military Reports Shortages of Physicians, Nurses
For the first time, the Army reports that its medical scholarships this year were not filled for the military medical and dental corps, while the Air Force is facing considerable difficulty in recruiting nurses for military duty. The Navy testified to the House Armed Services Committee on Oct. 20, that they, too, are not receiving the numbers of the health professionals they need. They have deployed all of their surgeons and are concerned that, when faced with another humanitarian mission, they will not have staff for it. The military's shortage coincides with a current, growing, and spreading civilian shortage of physicians, nurses, radiologists, and obstetricians, among others.
FEMA's Brown Needed More Time To Eat
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, held an Oct. 19 hearing on Hurricane Katrina, to take testimony from the only FEMA regional director who was on the ground before, during, and after the hurricane made landfall. That person was Michael Bahamonde, who testified that he sent numerous e-mails to then FEMA director Michael Brown. In those e-mails, he described the worsening crisis at the New Orleans Superdome, including reports that the people inside didn't have toilet paper or food. Brown's response was to reply by e-mail, thanking Bahamonde for the information. Bahamonde testified that, on one occasion, he sent an e-mail telling Brown that there were thousands of people on the streets in New Orleans with no food or water, and estimates were, that many would die within hours. Brown's press secretary wrote back, saying that Director Brown needed more time to eat dinner.
Bahamonde's testimony makes clear that the story that Michael Brown told, about not being informed about the crisis, was just plain lying.
Rebellion in CIA Ranks Against Director Goss
Central Intelligence Agency chief Porter Goss is in trouble and under attack from his colleagues. He has been asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify behind closed doors to explain why the CIA is bleeding and to answer charges the agency is adrift, according to the Oct. 19 New York Times.
When Robert Richer, No. 2 in the Directorate of Operations (DO) resigned from his post last month, he went to the Senate Intelligence Committee, ostensibly questioning Goss's leadership. Subsequently, the head of the European Division of the CIA left his post to take a minor job in the Agency's Energy Department.
Republican Conservatives in Disarray, Flight Forward
A Congressional source outlined to EIR, on Oct. 18, that the Republican conservatives have "blown a gasket," and there is major jockeying for power in the wake of the resignation of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) from the leadership post. DeLay faces criminal charges in Texas. The conservative Republican Study Committee met Oct. 17 and determined to revise the Budget Resolution Conference Report (which originally called for $35 billion in budget cuts), to call for a whopping $50 billion in cuts, in addition to 2% across the board cuts in all appropriations bills. It was known that this would never be agreed to by the Senate.
As it turned out, the package of cuts couldn't be passed by the House either. Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt decided not to bring the legislation to the floor, because he could not guarantee winning 218 votes.
Ohio Republican's Ties to Abramoff Under Investigation
Federal prosecutors are investigating Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), the chairman of the internally powerful House Administration Committee, for his extensive dealings with indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, reported the Washington Post on Oct. 18. As previously reported, Ney took to the House floor in 2000 to promote Abramoff's purchase of SunCruz Casinos cruise lines, and to attack its previous owner Gus Boulis, not long before Boulis was murdered, gangland-style, by gunmen linked to Abramoff's partner Adam Kidan.
The Post also featured Ney's rigging of the bidding to install wireless telephones in the House, in favor of an Israeli start-up telecommunications firm, Foxcom Wireless, over more qualified and experienced companies. Foxcom gave $50,000 to Abramoff's phony charity, the Capital Athletic Foundation, and Abramoff was paid $280,000 to lobby for Foxcom.
This is another potential Israeli spy scandal; at the time of the Ney deal, Foxcom was rumored to be a front for the Israeli government. The chief technology officer (CTO) of Foxcom, now called MobileAccess, spent six years with what is described as "an elite technological unit of the Israeli Army managing mission-critical telecom and datacom system development projects."
Is Depopulation, Genocide in Store for New Orleans?
The well-connected media pimp Robert Novak, in a column on Oct. 17, picked up the Washington Post's disgusting "Louisiana Looters" theme, and combined it with HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson's genocidal depopulation plan for New Orleans, when he asserted that the city will "downsize to around 250,000" people. After all, "Only about 5% of the city's 460,000 residents" have returned, or never left before Katrina hit. The devastation is so complete in the "predominantly African-American" 9th Ward, "where 36% of the residents live below the poverty level" and "their houses, in poor condition before the floodwaters," that these are "not worth replacing." Indeed, "Nobody takes seriously the $250 billion" disaster relief package offered by the Louisiana Congressional delegation, who are "laughed at for begging for open-ended ... expenditures."
Insurance claims will probably be the lowest percentage ... for a natural disaster in the U.S. for the last half-century. Unfortunately, the level of coverage in New Orleans is likely to be somewhere between Western countries and the Third World," said a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, which tracks insurance payouts after natural disasters in the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan. In contrast, on average 62% of economic losses after a disaster are covered, he said.