Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Theft by any other name

Halliburton Contracts Illegal - But Bush Busts The Whistleblower

August 31, 2005
By Evelyn Pringle

In October, 2004, Bunnatine Greenhouse, a top military official responsible for making sure the Army Corps of Engineers complies with contracting rules, came forward and revealed that top Pentagon officials showed improper favoritism to Halliburton when awarding military contracts.

The allegations made by this official were first reported by Time magazine.

Greenhouse said that when the Pentagon awarded Halliburton a five-year $7 billion contract, it pressured her to withdraw her objections, actions which she claimed were unprecedented in her experience.

In a letter from her attorney's office, Greenhouse told members of Congress that the Army gave the no-bid contracts to Halliburton's subsidiary KBR for political reasons.

Greenhouse charged that contracts were approved over her reservations, some of which were handwritten on the original contracts, and extensions of contracts were awarded because underlings signed them in collusion with senior officials without her knowledge.

A five-year Iraq contract was awarded less than a month before the invasion, under a clause which allowed for no-bid contracts in the case of a "compelling emergency." Greenhouse contends that she objected to the 5-year terms of the contract, questioning the probability of an emergency lasting for five years.

When her superiors signed off on the contract and sent it back for her approval, she wrote the following message next to her signature: "I caution that extending this sole-source effort beyond a one year period could convey an invalid perception that there is not strong intent for a limited competition."

Federal contracting rules say contracts must be awarded by career civil servants, not political appointees. Greenhouse claimed the Army ignored this requirement when giving contracts to Halliburton and violated "the integrity of the federal contracting program as it relates to a major defense contractor."

"Employees of the U.S. government have taken improper action that favored KBR's interests," Greenhouse wrote. "This conduct has violated specific regulations and calls into question the independence" of the contracting process, she said.

She also said the Army altered documents in order to justify the Halliburton's contract work in the Balkans. In a letter from Michael Kohn, Greenhouse's attorney, to then acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee, Greenhouse charged that on a Balkan's contract, a deputy assistant secretary of the Army had ordered changes in documents to legitimize the contract "for political reasons."

According to Kohn's letter, in January 2002, Greenhouse sent an investigative team to review the Halliburton operation in the Balkans. After which she reported: "The general feeling in the theater is that the contractor (KBR) is 'out of control'" and was able to manipulate Corps of Engineer officials.

The Balkan's contract was scheduled to expire no later than May 27, 2004. However, it was extended without Greenhouse's knowledge, after a search for other contractors was stopped. Although the contract was originally awarded a "compelling emergency" exception, the extended contract was awarded under another exception, that KBR was the "one and only source."

Nothing was ever done about the illegal contracts awarded to Halliburton. Instead, less than a year after she reported these blatant violations of procurement law, Bush decided to bust the whistleblower, Ms Greenhouse.

The August 29, 2005 New York Times reports: "A top Army contracting official who criticized a large, noncompetitive contract with the Halliburton Company for work in Iraq was demoted Saturday for what the Army called poor job performance.

"The official, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse," the Times wrote, "has worked in military procurement for 20 years and for the past several years had been the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq."

Ms Greenhouse's lawyer, Michael Kohn, "called the action an "obvious reprisal" for the strong objections she raised in 2003 to a series of corps decisions involving the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, which has garnered more than $10 billion for work in Iraq," according to the Times.

Whistleblower Told The Truth

When Cheney appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on Sept 14, 2003, he arrogantly stated: "... as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government."

And when Cheney was specifically asked whether he had known about Halliburton's no-bid contract, he said, "I don't know any of the details of the contract because I deliberately stayed away from any information on that."

Those statements were proven false on June, 2004, by an article in Time magazine entitled, "The Paper Trail: Did Cheney Okay a Deal?"

The truth is, Bush and Cheney both were informed that Halliburton would get the contract before it was ever awarded. Time quoted an email sent by the Army Corps of Engineers, that said the contract for construction of oil pipelines was approved by Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith "contingent on informing WH tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office."

The author of the email, Stephen Browning, said in an interview that he wrote the memo after he and retired Lt Gen Jay Garner met with Douglas Feith about plans to declassify the earlier $1.8 million contract with the Halliburton.

According to Browning, Feith told him that he had already informed Cheney's office.

The email was dated March 5, 2003, and Halliburton was awarded the contract three days later without allowing for any bids from other companies.

The email totally contradicts Cheney's televised claims that he had no involvement in Halliburton's contracts whatsoever and proves that Cheney and the White House played a key role in boosting Halliburton into the number one war profiteering position in Iraq.

When confronted with the email, Bush dismissed it by saying the Corp of Engineers was just trying to give the Vice President's office a heads-up on the process. Now I suppose people's opinions could vary as to what the email actually meant, depending on what the definition of co-or-di-na-ted is.

No Political Appointees Were Involved - None

In the heat of the debate over Halliburton contracts, some readers may recall a news conference, where Richard Boucher, spokesman for State Department at the time, explained how decisions are made on military contracts. "The decisions are made by career procurement officials. There's a separation, a wall, between them and political-level questions when they're doing the contracts," he said.

Then the chief counsel of the Army Corp of Engineers appeared on "60 Minutes" where he denied that there was any involvement by political appointees in the Halliburton contract. He specifically said: "The procurement of this particular contract was done by career civil servants."

We also heard from a spokesman from the Department of Defense, Major Joseph Yoswa, who claimed safeguards existed to insure that the process was free of favoritism. "Most important," he said, "career civil servants, not political appointees, make final decisions on contracts," according to The New Yorker.

Next Halliburton spokeswoman, Wendy Hall, stepped up to the mike in August, 2003, and said Halliburton's military contracts were awarded "not by politicians but by government civil servants, under strict guidelines."

Finally, during a hearing on March 11, 2004, before the Government Reform Committee, six senior government officials from the CPA and DOD testified under oath, and were each asked the following question by Republican Committee Chairman, Tom Davis:

"I want to get this on the record, and everybody is under oath. Have you or anyone in your office ever discussed with the Vice President or with his office the award of a contract for Iraqi reconstruction prior to any contract being awarded?"

Every single one of those six officials said "no sir," which means every single one of them lied under oath. I may not know how Cheney got this number of people to lie under oath, but the fact is he did it and nothing was ever done about it.

Three months after the hearing, the June 14, 2004, LA Times reported: "The Pentagon admitted that a $7 billion no-bid contract to extinguish oil fires in Iraq was awarded to Halliburton after a political appointee from the Bush administration recommended the company for the job."

The political appointee referred to was Michael Mobbs, a special assistant to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith.

During the Summer of 2002, the Times wrote, "Mobbs was in charge of the Pentagon's Energy Infrastructure Planning Group (EIPG) to develop a plan for reconstructing Iraq's oil industry."

This is how the Halliburton contract got set up. In November 2002, a Pentagon group led by Mobbs (under Cheney's instruction), came up with the idea to pay Halliburton $1.9 million to develop a secret contingency plan for handling the Iraqi oil industry. Its important to understand that it was this order to develop a contingency plan, that ultimately led to the firm being awarded the $7 billion oil infrastructure contract.

To ensure that Halliburton would get the contract, Cheney used the exact same strategy that he developed back when he was secretary of defense during the first Bush Presidency. The way it works is actually quite simple. Halliburton gets funding to create a market for its services and then it becomes the logical company to carry out the plan when the time for awarding contracts rolls around.

I'm sure no one needs reminding of how well this plan paid off for Cheney when he left office in 1992 and soon thereafter became very gainfully employed with Halliburton. Ten years later, his method of contract manipulation worked like a charm again.

According to testimony at a House oversight hearing, by GAO investigator, William Woods, it was discovered that Michael Mobbs even acknowledged in a memo that the $1.9 million task order would uniquely position Halliburton to win the far larger sole-source contract to actually do the restoration work to Iraqi oil fields.

In fact, Mobbs himself later admitted that he had described the contingency plan in a meeting of the Deputies' Committee to an audience that including Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, Rice's deputy national security adviser, Steven Hadley (the guy who took the fall for the 16 words about uranium in Africa in Bush's state of the union address), the deputy secretaries of state and defense, and the deputy director of the CIA.

On March 8, 2003, Halliburton was awarded the $7 billion contract and the war began on March 20, 2003.

When the topic of the no-bid contract came up in the media, Bush claimed that it was merely a deal to put out oil well fires. However, Pentagon officials were soon forced to admit that it was a very big deal and would in fact amount to billions of dollars for Halliburton. But even then, the story of the day was that the contract was only temporary and would be replaced by competitive bidding shortly.

After months of senseless delays, new contracts were finally awarded on January 16, 2004 but once again, Halliburton netted the top prize. The Parsons Corporation was awarded an $800 million contract, but the $1.2 billion contract went to Halliburton.

During a June 8, 2004, briefing to staff members of the House Committee on Government Reform, Mobbs and Pentagon officials were asked about the specific details of the contracting procedure that was employed with Halliburton.

Before making a final decision, Mobbs admitted that he briefed top officials from several executive agencies, in the Deputies Committee, to make sure they had no objections. According to Mobbs, White House Staff members were also at the meeting. After that meeting, Mobb's said that a White House official told Douglas Feith that the group did not object.

These disclosures prove that Cheney and Bush were informed about the Halliburton contracts on at least two key occasions during the procurement process.

So we've got all these high level officials plotting together for six months to set up a plan to hand Halliburton billions of dollars, and Bush and Cheney expect us to believe that not one of these guys uttered a word about contracts to either one of them.

And the media is no help.

During the Clinton administration, the media chased after a stupid story about a 20-year-old land deal involving $100,000 (hardly the crime of the century) for eight years and to this day, I still have never figured out what they were expecting to find exactly. I do know one thing - it wasn't that the Clintons and their cronies were accused of funneling billions of tax dollars through the bodies of our slain and injured young soldiers, like what is going on right now in the Bush administration.

The media in fact spends very little effort and time investigating and reporting on the real crimes within the current administration, even when they involve fraud and corruption by officials at every level of government who are openly handing our tax dollars to war profiteers to the tune of a billion dollars a month.

I often find myself wondering whether the mainstream media has been bought off entirely.

Who's Next In Line For Retaliation?

The question is, who's next? Greenhouse wasn't the only official to report on the illegal procurement practices of the Bush administration. According to a report on an investigation of Halliburton by the Government Accounting Office titled, Rebuilding Iraq: Fiscal Year 2003 Contract Award Procedures and Management Challenges, contracts worth billions of dollars were awarded to Halliburton without full and open competition, including Iraq's oil infrastructure contract.

The GAO determined that the administration had violated procurement law when it issued various task orders under already existing contracts and that out of eleven task orders examined, more than half were awarded outside the scope of their contracts.

As an example of the inept procurement process, the GAO report described how "a military review board approved a six-month renewal contract with Halliburton worth $587 million in just ten minutes and based on only six pages of documentation."

After wasting millions of tax dollars conducting the investigation, the GAO concluded that the contracts should never have been awarded to the company in the first place, and yet Halliburton remains the number one contractor in Iraq. Go figure.

Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

four years after 9-11

Twenty Things We Now Know Four Years After 9/11

August 30, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers <>

In a few days, it will be four years since the awful events symbolized
by the date "9/11." Time for our annual list of what we've learned from
that tragedy and what followed from it.

Much new information has been revealed this year, with corroborating
documents verifying aspects of the story we only surmised previously. So
without further ado, below are the twenty things we now know four years
after 9/11, based mainly on documented evidence found in the
Bush-friendly mainstream media.

A general assessment before we begin the numbered list: there now is a
widely-accepted foreign and domestic judgment that the Bush
Administration is composed of bumbling, dangerous, close-minded
ideologues. You can see it in the polls (as I write this, Bush's
approval ratings are at his all-time low, at or below 40%) and,
particularly, in how many conservative/traditional Republicans and
former military officers are expressing remorse at having supported this
guy in the 2004 election.

Bush these days still has his true-believer base of about 30%, but he's
extremely vulnerable politically, which is why Rove and his minions are
so desperate right now and are ratcheting up the rhetoric and
smear-tactics against their political enemies. And the desperation helps
us understand why Bush keeps returning to 9/11, the one talisman that he
thinks still may work for him, that singular moment in his history when
many Americans thought he looked good.


We know that 9/11, regardless of the degree of complicity you believe
the Bush Administration was guilty of, was seized on by Bush & Co. as
the event that would be used to justify all that would follow
domestically and in foreign/military affairs. The evidence indicates
that, at the least, the highest circles in the White House knew a
spectacular attack was in the works in the days and weeks preceding 9/11
- warnings were coming into the White House from a host of foreign
leaders and intelligence agencies - but chose to do nothing, presumably
to make use of those events in the service of their hidden agenda.

Similarly, nothing was done as a result of the government's own
intelligence warnings. The August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing,
entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," talked about al-Qaida
wanting to hit the nation's capital, preparations for airline
hijackings, casing of buildings in New York, and terrorists in the U.S.
with explosives. Bush went to ground in Texas, the FBI told Ashcroft to
stop flying commercial jets. The attacks finally came about a month
later, and the Bush forces were ready to make their moves.

The key neo-con leaders in charge of U.S. foreign/military policy
(Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Perle, Khalizad, et al.) were
founders of, and affiliated with, The Project for The New American
Century; in one of their key reports, they noted that the far-right
should expect their revolution to take a long time, "absent some
catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor." Enter
9/11. (See "A PNAC primer" )

The neo-cons realized that presidents enjoy enormous patriotic support
during wartime, but when the war ends, those leaders lose their
compelling luster, as was the case with Bush #1. Ergo, Bush #2 would
become a PERMANENT wartime president, and those who opposed him could
then be tarred forever with the "unpatriotic" brush, and their political
opposition marginalized. And it worked: the Democrats cowered and gave
Bush virtually everything he wanted, up until relatively recently, when
occasionally they remember they have spines in their bodies and stand up
and fight as an opposition party should.


We know that after 9/11, Bush seemed to bring the entire country along
with him when he launched an attack on Al Qaida and its
Taliban-government supporters in Afghanistan. But there's no oil in that
destitute country - and, as Rumsfeld reminded us, not much worth bombing
- and thus no lessons could be drawn by Middle East leaders from the
U.S. attack. But, as Cheney's secret energy panel was aware, there was
another country in the region that did have oil, and lots of it, and
could be taken easily by U.S. forces; thus Iraq became the object-lesson
to other autocratic leaders in the Middle East: if you do not do our
bidding, prepare to accept a massive dose of "shock & awe": You will be
overthrown, replaced by democratic-looking governments as arranged by
the U.S.

The neo-cons - most from PNAC and similar organizations, such as the
American Enterprise Institute - had urged Clinton to depose Saddam
Hussein in 1998, but he demurred, seeing a mostly contained dictator
there, whereas Osama bin Laden, and those terrorists like him, actually
were successfully attacking U.S. assets inside the country and abroad.

But the PNAC crowd had larger ambitions than simply toppling a brutal
dictator. Among their other recommendations: "pre-emptively" attacking
countries devoid of imminent danger to the U.S., abrogating agreed-upon
treaties when they conflict with U.S. goals, making sure no other nation
(or organization, such as the United Nations) can ever achieve
power-parity with the U.S., installing U.S.-friendly governments to do
America's will, using tactical nuclear weapons, and so on. All of these
extreme PNAC suggestions, once regarded as lunatic, were enshrined in
2002 as official U.S. policy in the National Security Strategy of the
United States of America.


We know that given the extreme nature of the neo-con agenda, the Bush
Administration had its work cut out for them in fomenting support for an
invasion and occupation of Iraq. Therefore, among the first move by
Rumsfeld following 9/11 was to somehow try to connect Saddam to the
terror attacks. The various intelligence agencies reported to Rumsfeld
that there was no Iraq connection to 9/11, that it was an al-Qaida
operation, but that was merely a bothersome impediment. Since the CIA
and the other intelligence agencies would not, or could not, supply the
intelligence needed to justify a war on Iraq, Rumsfeld set up his own
rump intelligence agency, the Office of Special Plans, stocked it with
political appointees of the PNAC persuasion, and soon was stovepiping
cherry-picked raw intel straight to Cheney and others in the White
House. And Cheney, Rice and others in the White House Iraq Group started
the non-existent melding of Saddam Hussein with the events of 9/11.

Based on this sexed-up and phony intelligence, Cheney, Bush, Rice,
Rumsfeld and the others began warning about mushroom clouds over the
U.S., drone planes dropping biological agents over the East Coast, huge
stockpiles of chemical weapons in Iraq, etc. Secretary of State Colin
Powell, the most believable of the bunch, was dispatched to the United
Nations to make the case, which he did, reluctantly, by presenting an
embarrassingly weak litany of surmise and concocted facts. The world
didn't buy it, and the opposition to the U.S. war plan was palpable and
huge: 10 million citizens throughout the world hit the streets to
protest, former allies publicly criticized Bush. Only Tony Blair in
England eagerly hitched his wagon to the Bush war-plan with large
numbers of troops dispatched - as it turned out, over the legal, moral
and political objections of many of his closest aides and advisers.


We know that those advisers warned Blair that he was about to involve
the U.K. in an illegal, immoral and probably unwinnable war - which
would put U.K. and U.S. troops in great danger from potential insurgent
forces. How do we know about these inner workings of the Blair
government? Because a few months ago, someone from inside that body
leaked the top-secret minutes from those war-cabinet meetings, the
so-called Downing Street Memos.

We also learned from those minutes that Bush and Blair agreed to make
war on Iraq as early as the Spring of 2002 - the intelligence, they
decided, would be "fixed around the policy" to go to war - despite their
telling their legislative bodies and their citizens that no decisions
had been made. In fact, the Bush Administration had decided to go to war
a year before the invasion. "Fuck Saddam," Bush told three U.S. Senators
in March of 2002. "We're taking him out."


We know that many of Blair's most senior advisors thought the WMD
argument rested on shaky ground, and that the legality of the war was in
question without specific authorization from the United Nations Security
Council. But the Bush Administration rushed to war anyway - in haste
because the U.N. inspectors on the ground in Iraq were not finding any
WMD stockpiles - without proper planning and with no workable plan to
secure the peace and reconstruct the country after the major fighting.


We know (thanks to the Downing Street Memos) that both the U.S. and U.K.
were well aware that Iraq was a military paper tiger, with no
significant WMD stockpiles or link to Al-Qaida and the 9/11 attacks.
Nevertheless, the major thrust of Bush & Co.'s justification for going
to war was based on these non-existent weapons and 9/11 links. The Big
Lie Technique - repeating the same falsehoods over and over and over -
drummed those lies into our heads day after day, month after month, with
little if any skeptical analysis by the corporate mainstream media,
which marched mostly in lockstep with Bush policy and thinking.
Wolfowitz admitted later that they chose WMD as the primary reason for
making war because they couldn't agree on anything else the citizenry
would accept. But frightening people with talk of nuclear weapons,
mushroom clouds, toxins delivered by drone airplanes and the like would
work like a charm. And so they did, convincing the American people and
Congress that an attack was justified. It wasn't.


We know that the real reasons for invading Iraq had precious little to
do with WMD, Islamic extremism and terrorists coming from inside that
country, installing democracy, and the like; there were no WMD to speak
of, and Saddam, an especially vicious dictator, did not tolerate
religious or political zealotry of any stripe. No, the reasons had more
to do with American geopolitical goals in the region involving oil,
control, support for its ally Israel, hardened military bases and
keeping Iran from having free rein in the region.

As it turned out, by invading and occupying Iraq, it pushed that country
and Iran into a far closer religious and political alliance than would
have been the case if Saddam had been permitted to remain in power. Bush
may have sacrificed thousands of American dead, tens of thousands of
American wounded, and more than 100,000 Iraqis as "collateral damage" -
with the result being that Bush & Co. quietly is willing to accept an
Islamist government more attuned to Teheran than to Washington, one with
precious little regard for human rights, especially involving women.
That is one royal FUBAR.


We know that Bush's war been a thorough disaster - built on a foundation
of lies, and incompetently managed from the start. As a result, the
Occupation has provided a magnet for jihadists from other countries,
billions have been wasted or lost in the corrupt system of organized
corporate looting that ostensibly is designed to speed up Iraq's
"reconstruction," etc. Indeed, so much has Bush's war been botched that
the "realists" in the Administration know they must get out as quickly
as possible if they are to have any hope of exercising their
considerable muscle elsewhere in the Middle East.


We know that Bush's Middle East agenda also is suffering because the
U.S. military is spread way thin over Afghanistan and Iraq, the
desertion rates are high, soldiers are not re-upping at the usual clip,
recruitment isn't working and illegal scams are taken to lure youngsters
into signing up - in short, there are no military forces to spare on the
ground. Either a military draft will be instituted or all future attacks
will have to come from air power or from missiles, which will merely
deliver a message, making the bombed populations even angrier at
America, and with no guarantee of success in forging U.S.-friendly
"democratic" governments in Iran, Syria, et al. In short, we are
witnessing the limits of imperial power in the modern world.


We know that Bush & Co. made sure that there would be no full-scale,
independent investigations of their role in using and abusing the
intelligence that led to war on Iraq.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Republican Pat Roberts, held
hearings on the failures lower down the chain, namely at the CIA and FBI
level, and promised there would be followup hearings on any White House
manipulation of intelligence. But, election over, Roberts says no
purpose would be served to begin such an investigation.

Likewise, the 9/11 Commission did not delve deeply into how the Bush
Administration misused its pre-9/11 knowledge. Bush sent an October 5,
2001 memo to Rumsfeld, Powell, O'Neill, Ashcroft, and the heads of the
CIA and the FBI restricting their talking to Congress about 9/11 and
other "national-security" matters; the only Democrats who could receive
these "sensitive" briefings - meaning they were forbidden to make them
public - were the Senate and House Minority Leaders, and the ranking
members of the Intelligence Committees. Nobody else was to be in the loop.

In short, this secretive administration made sure that everything was
done to head off at the pass any investigations whatsoever. Cheney and
Bush told the minority and majority leaders in Congress that there
should be no 9/11 hearings, for "national security" reasons. Bush & Co.
fought tooth and nail against an independent 9/11 Commission, and
against the families who pushed for it.


We know that Bush has no great love of legitimate democratic processes,
certainly not inside the United States. He much prefers to rule as an
oligarch, but to do that, he had to invent legal justifications that
granted him the requisite power. So he had his longtime lawyer-toady,
Alberto Gonzales, devise a legal philosophy that permits Bush to do
pretty much what he wants - ignore laws on the books, disappear U.S.
citizens into military prisons, authorize torture, etc. - whenever Bush
says he's acting as "commander-in-chief" during "wartime."

And, since "wartime" is the amorphous "war on terrorism," from which
there is no end, Bush is home free. There always will be terrorists
trying to do anti-U.S. damage somewhere around the globe, or inside
America, and the "commander-in-chief" will need to respond. Ergo, goes
this logic, Bush is above the law, untouchable, in perpetuity. (Bush &
Co. also made sure that U.S. officials and military troops would not be
subject to indictment by any international court or war-crimes tribunal.)

Neither Gonzales, nor Bush, has disavowed this legal philosophy of a
dictator-like President being beyond the reach of the law. No doubt, the
issue ultimately will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, to which Bush
has nominated Judge John Roberts, who would be the key swing vote.
Roberts, as author Chris Floyd has noted, recently upheld Bush's
sovereign right to dispose of "enemy combatants" any way he pleases. In
a chilling decision, the appeals panel, of which Roberts was a member,
ruled that the commander-in-chief's arbitrarily-designated "enemies" are
non-persons, with no legal rights. Bush now feels free to subject anyone
he likes to the "military tribunal" system he has concocted.

The fact that Roberts did not recuse himself from ruling on this issue
while he was in the process of being interviewed for the Supreme Court
appointment by the employer being sued in the case, would seem to be an
open-and-shut case of conflict-of-interest. If the Democrats have any
balls, this egregious ethical lapse should serve as an "extraordinary"
reason for a filibuster of his nomination.


We know that Gonzales, then Bush's White House Counsel, and Pentagon
lawyers beholden to Rumsfeld, devised legal rationales that make torture
of suspects official state policy. These Bush-loyalist lawyers also
greatly widened the definition of what is acceptable interrogation
practice - basically anything this side of death or terminally abusing
internal organs. They also authorized the sending of key suspects to
countries specializing in extreme torture. After all this, Bush and
Rumsfeld professed shock - shock! - that those under their command would
wind up torturing, abusing and humiliating prisoners in U.S. care. But
the Administration made sure to stop all inquiries into higher-up
responsibility for the endemic torture. The buck never stops on Bush's
desk - if something goes wrong (and he never will admit to mistakes),
it's always someone else's fault.


We know that the Bush Administration has been able to obtain whatever
legislation it needs in its self-proclaimed "war on terror" by
utilizing, and hyping, the understandable fright of the American people.
The so-called Patriot Act - composed of many honorable initiatives, and
many clearly unconstitutional provisions, cobbled together from those
submitted over the years by GOP hardliners and rejected as too extreme
by Congress - was presented almost immediately to a House and Senate
frightened by the 9/11 attacks and by the anthrax introduced into their
chambers by someone still not discovered. Ridge and Ashcroft emerged
periodically to manipulate the public's fright by announcing another
"terror" threat, based on "credible" but unverified evidence; Ridge, who
has since resigned, recently admitted that there were no good reasons
for many of those supposed "alerts." Meanwhile, Congress (shame on you,
Democrats!) recently made most of the Patriot Act laws permanent! Unless
those can be repealed, that vote will be a nail into the coffin housing
the remains of the Bill of Rights.


The Bush Administration, for its own crass political reasons,
compromised American national security by outing two key intelligence
operatives - one, CIA agent Valerie Plame, who had important contacts in
the shadowy world of weapons of mass destruction (outed by two "senior
Administration officials," apparently in retaliation for her husband's
political comments); revealing the identity of a CIA agent can be a
felony. The other, apparently to show off how successful they were in
their anti-terrorism hunt, was a high-ranking mole close to bin Laden's
inner circle, who could have kept the U.S. informed as to ongoing and
future plans of al-Qaida. That's our war-on-terrorism government at work.

It's now clear who at least two of the "senior administration officials"
were who leaked Plame's identity: Karl Rove, Bush's guru, now deputy
chief of staff, and I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. Special
Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is expected to unseal indictments in this
case sometime this fall that either could focus narrowly on perjury
involving Plame's outing, or could be expanded to the broader issue of
the manipulative lies emanating from the machinations of the White House
Iraq Group (Cheney/Libby, Rove, Card, Rice, Hadley, Hughes, Matalin, et
al.) in taking this nation to war. It is possible that Bush and Cheney
and Bolton, among others, could be charged or listed an unindicted


We know that America's voting-machine system - and more importantly,
vote-counting system - is corruptible and likely has been corrupted.
Sophisticated statistical analysis along with wide-scale exit-polling,
suggests strongly that the 2004 election results were fiddled with by
the private companies that tally the votes. These companies are owned by
far-right Republican supporters. But the same objection would be lodged
if Democrats owned the companies. There are no good reasons to
"outsource" vote-counting to private corporations - who refuse to permit
inspection of their proprietary software, and whose technicians have
behaved suspiciously on election nights in 2000 in Florida, in 2002 in
Georgia, and in Ohio and Florida in 2004. This doesn't even mention the
GOP dirty-tricks department whose function has been, by hook or by
crook, to lower the number of potential Democrat voters, especially
minority voters. Note: Unless the vote-counting system can be changed
soon - and the vote-tallying scandal will not be adequately dealt with
by voter-verified receipts - the integrity of our elections will be
suspect into the far future.


We know that the Bush Administration paid off its backers (and itself)
by giving humongous tax breaks, for 10 years out, to the already wealthy
and to large corporations. In addition, corporate tax-evasion was made
easier vis offshore listings. All this was done at a time when the U.S.
economy was in recessionary doldrums and when the treasury deficit from
those tax-breaks was growing even larger from Iraq war costs. So far as
we know, the Bush Administration has no plans for how to retire that
debt and no real plan (other than the discredited "trickle-down" theory)
for restarting the economy and creating well-paying jobs for skilled
workers, so many of whom have had their positions outsourced to foreign


We know that the Hard-Right conservatives who control Bush policy don't
really care what kind of debt and deficits their policies cause; in some
ways, the more the better. They want to decimate and starve popular
social programs from the New Deal/Great Society eras, including, most
visibly, Head Start, Social Security, Medicare (and real drug coverage
for seniors), student loans, welfare assistance, public education, etc.
(Especially egregious is the education scam known as "No Child Left

Since these programs are so well-approved by the public, the destruction
will be carried out stealthily with the magic words of "privatization,"
"deregulation," "choice" and so on, and by going to the public and
saying that they'd love to keep the programs intact but they have no
alternative but to cut them, given the deficit, weak economy and
"anti-terrorist" wars abroad. Bush's whirlwind tour trying to sell his
Social Security "reform" plan has backfired badly, but he's still
pushing a good many of those ideas, just in case he can slip it in
somewhere, maybe by tying it somehow to Saddam Hussein and 9/11.


We know that Bush environmental policy - dealing with air and water
pollution, mineral extraction, national parks, and so on - is an
unmitigated disaster, more or less giving free rein to corporations
whose bottom line does better when they don't have to pay attention to
the public interest.


We know from "insider" memoirs and reports by former Bush Administration
officials - Joseph DeIulio, Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, et al. - that
the public interest plays little role in the formulation of policy
inside the Bush Administration. The motivating factors are mainly greed
and control and remaining in political power. Further, they say, there
is little or no curiosity to think outside the political box, or even to
hear other opinions.


We know that this attitude ("my mind is made up, don't bother me with
the facts") shows up most openly in how science is disregarded by the
Bush Administration (good example: global warming) in favor of
faith-based thinking. Some of this non-curiosity about reality may be
based in fundamentalist religious, even apocalyptic, beliefs. Much of
Bush's bashing of science is designed as payback to his fundamentalist
base, but the scary part is that a good share of the time he actually
believes what he's saying, about evolution vs. intelligent-design,
stem-cell research, abstinence education, censoring the rewriting of
government scientific reports that differ from the Bush party line,
cutbacks in research & development grants for the National Science
Foundation, etc., ad nauseum. This closed-mind attitude helps explain,
on a deeper level, why things aren't working out in Iraq.


Finally (although we could continue forever detailing the crimes and
misdemeanors of this corrupt, incompetent Administration), we know that
more and more, the permanent-war policy abroad and police-state tactics
at home (the shredding of Constitutional rights designed to protect
citizens from a potential repressive government) are taking us into a
kind of American fascism domestically and an imperial foreign policy
overseas. All aspects of the American polity are infected with the
militarist know-nothingism emanating from the top, with governmental and
vigilante-type crackdowns on protesters, dissent, free speech, freedom
of assembly, etc. happening regularly on both the local and federal
levels. More and more, America is resembling Germany in the early 1930s,
group pitted against group while the central government amasses more and
more power and control of its put-upon citizens.

Bush has had a rough first year of his second term. It's as if the
public blinders are starting to come off, and the true nature of this
man and his regime are finally starting to hit home and he is seen for
what he is: an insecure, arrogant, dangerous, dry-drunk bully who is
endangering U.S. national interests abroad with his reckless war in
Iraq, his wrecking of the U.S. economy at home, and with his
over-reaching in all areas.

If a Democratic president and vice president had behaved similarly to
Bush and Cheney, they'd have been in the impeachment dock in a minute.
If the Plame-Iraq indictments come down as expected, a momentum for
impeachment of Bush and Cheney will be generated.

Our job now is to keep that political momentum building to get rid of
these guys, while we try to organize a pro-democracy, anti-imperialist
movement for change in this country that is inclusive, non-dogmatic, and
capable of winning elections. That may or may not involve the Democratic

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has
taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San
Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers
<>. For comments, write <>.

Crisis Papers Archive

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Monday, August 29, 2005

new Bush report card

United States Grammar School Second Term Report to Parents

August 27, 2005
Satire by Nancy Greggs

Dear Mr. And Mrs. G.H.W. Bush,

We have repeatedly attempted to reach you in order to discuss your son, Georgie, and his failing second term with us, and are still awaiting an appropriate response. We are experiencing more than the usual problems with your son’s behaviour, and we really don’t believe that scribbling “Love It or Leave It” on our previous letters to you and faxing them back to us serves any productive purpose.

So it is with a sense of grave and gathering threat that I must insist you read and respond to the following, as things here are now completely out of control.

While it seemed a foregone conclusion that Georgie would not be returning for a second term (due to his abysmal performance last term), we have nevertheless been forced to abide by the decision of the student body, who voted on the issue last November. Amazingly, Georgie was able to garner as much as 220% of the votes in certain classrooms. In one glaringly suspect instance, a student named “Diebold” (who, to this day, we have not been able to confirm as a pupil here, due to a complete lack of any paper record) cast more votes for your son than we have students.

We had hoped this matter would receive some attention in our teachers’ newsletter, The Mainstream News Media, but apparently other more important events superseded the questionable outcome of our little voting process, including the break-up of two of our teachers, Mr. Brad and Ms. Jen, and a ticket sale drive for our 4th Graders’ school play, “The Runaway Bride”.

First and foremost, we must inform you that Georgie’s already poor grades have plummeted even further. On his most recent exams in our Telling the Truth to America and The Handling of Iraq courses, he scored the lowest marks we have ever seen. In years past, when we could count on the School Board to act appropriately, Georgie would have been expelled from our institution based on these marks alone.

Along with failing grades in every subject (Economics, Homeland Security, Immigration Enforcement, etc.), Georgie’s attitude can only be described as arrogant and dismissive. When reproached by his teachers and fellow students for his unacceptable behaviour, Georgie counters with nonsensical outbursts about having "capital to spend" and an "overwhelming Conservative mandate". Quite frankly, we are at our wits’ end trying to understand what it is he’s talking about, but we strongly suspect that illegal drugs and/or participation in some religious cult might be behind these incredibly inane comments.

While our entire teaching staff has tried to placate Georgie (and honestly, at least half of the staff should know better), his demands are getting more outrageous every day. He is now insisting that our science class on human reproduction include what he calls the “stork theory”. To be perfectly candid, his thought processes seem to lack any discernable design at all, intelligent or otherwise.

Georgie’s attitude towards schoolwork continues to be lackadaisical at best. By way of example, on a recent pop quiz on Current Events (i.e. the Economy, the War In Iraq, dealing with Iran and North Korea, US Job Losses, etc.), Georgie scribbled the words “We’ve turned the corner,” in response to every single question.

Instead of focusing on his studies, Georgie spends an inordinate amount of his time in the schoolyard, engaging in his own questionable pastimes. His favourite seems to be his “collections”, whereby he talks other students into donating money for what he describes as “just causes” and “necessary actions”. A few inquiries into where these funds were going turned up several checks in staggeringly large denominations, made payable to someone called “Halib Burton”. Needless to say, a full investigation is now underway; only a simpleton would not see immediately that there is something untoward happening there.

Georgie has also attempted to lure other students into some kind of scheme involving the privatization of their lunch money – thankfully, cooler heads have prevailed and the more he talks about the idea, the less interest the other students have in the entire enterprise. Actually, we have been encouraged by the fact that most of Georgie’s ideas are receiving the same tepid response – it’s as though the other pupils have finally caught on to the fact that for the most part, Georgie really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

We attempted last term, obviously without success, to warn you about Georgie’s habit of choosing his friends from among the most objectionable students. Regrettably, he has fared no better in this regard this term than in the last.

Georgie has been associating with a gang of thugs who call themselves ‘The Foxes’. These children are known for spreading false rumours about students they don’t like, as well as distributing totally false information to pupils who are studying for exams. This has resulted in more than a few failing grades.

In addition, many of these hooligans continually harass other students who are not part of Georgie’s group, and the name-calling is now totally out of hand. To be perfectly frank, we don’t know which aspect of this is more disturbing: the vileness of the things these children say, or the fact that Georgie is too cowardly to say them himself and relies on others to do his “dirty work” for him.

Although we are not particularly looking forward to Georgie’s remaining three years with us, we find some comfort in the fact that many of his friends will not, in all likelihood, be returning to our institution next fall, as it seems doubtful they will be able to pass their mid-term exams. We are hopeful that this loss of support from his usual cronies will cause Georgie to tone down his arrogant rhetoric, and bring an end to some of his more scatterbrained schemes.

Moving to another topic for just a moment, we want to remind you that we are still engaged in discussions with our legal counsel about ridding ourselves of Georgie’s lap dog, KarlRover, who your son insists on taking everywhere, despite the animal’s penchant for vicious behaviour. KarlRover has bitten and mauled one student too many, and we are looking forward to the removal of this filthy, uncontrollable animal in the not too distant future.

In addition to the aforementioned, I am prompted to write to you due to a most disturbing report regarding your son’s failure to complete his assignments in a timely manner. One of our teachers, Ms. C. Sheehan (classes include “Civic Responsibility 101” and “Speaking Out – Patriotism in Action”) assigned Georgie a simple task over the summer holidays; i.e. an oral essay on “What is Meant by a ‘Noble Cause’”.

Lest you think this was an onerous assignment, Ms. Sheehan did not place any restrictions on the length or brevity of the essay – Georgie was free to respond in as few words as he felt he could comfortably pronounce – the only proviso being that the essay was to be delivered in a one-on-one presentation.

As of this writing, Georgie has steadfastly refused to complete this assignment. We were informed by his friend, Scottie, that Georgie is on a ‘working’ summer vacation and is too busy to address this task. However, many of us have seen Georgie riding his bike, playing ‘rancher’, and attending parties over the past several weeks.

This type of conduct is disturbing to everyone, and has left a wide-spread perception amongst the student body that perhaps Georgie isn’t the compassionate little boy he has always so staunchly held himself out to be. We leave this matter in your capable hands, and trust that you will advise your child appropriately.

As you are undoubtedly aware, this will be Georgie’s last term with us. In view of the problems he has displayed academically and socially, we must hereby inform you that any applications for admittance into our program on behalf of your other children will not be accepted. This may seem a harsh position to take, but to be quite blunt, we feel that our institution’s heretofore sterling reputation has suffered enough.

Yours Truly,

Ms. J.Q. Public

Assistant Principal

Thursday, August 25, 2005

American Fascisti Legion

Alvin Owsley 1923 Commander in Chief of the American Legion:

"If ever needed the American Legion stands ready to protect our
country's institutions and ideals as the Fascisti dealt with the
destructionists who menaced Italy."

Asked whether that meant taking over the government, he replied:

"Exactly that. The American Legion is fighting every element that
threatens our democratic government-soviets, anarchists, I.W.W.,
revolutionary socialists and every other Red ... Do not forget that the
Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States."

In the 1930s several of its leaders, including its original bankroller
Irenee Du Pont, plotted a fascist coup against the Government of
Franklin D. Roosevelt called the Business Plot.

Owsley also invited Mussolini to speak at almost every yearly convention
of the Legion during his time at it's helm.

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universal truths

1. Regardless of what you might accomplish in life, the size of your funeral is still going to be determined by the weather.

2. If two pills are required, three will come out of the bottle.When attempting to put the third pill back in the bottle, two will go in.

3. The better the radio reception, the more religious the station.

4. The barcode in the checkout line won't work on an item you are embarrassed to be buying.

5. Those who have all the answers usually don't know what the questions are.

6. Mind the real objective: why worry about low tire pressure when you are out of gas?

7. Integrity is like oxygen: the higher you go, the less there is of it.

8. A minor operation is one that is done on someone else.

9. The fancier the restaurant, the smaller the piece of pie.

10. Travel Rule: the words "magical" and "enchanting" in travel ads mean your drinks will cost four times more that they're worth plus you'll get sand fleas.

"In life you are given two ends, one to think with and the other to sit on. Your success in life depends on which end you use most. Heads you win, tails you lose."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Veteran in Salt Lake City at a Bush speech.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Veterans only

Check out this site

" By Colonel Daniel K. Cedusky, AUS, Retired

I was a Soldier: That's the way it is, that's what we were...are. we put it,
simply, without any swagger, without any brag, in those four plain words.

We speak them softly, just to ourselves. Others may have forgotten
They are a manifesto to mankind; speak those four words anywhere in the
world -- yes, anywhere -- and many who hear will recognize their meaning.

They are a pledge. A pledge that stems from a document which said: "I
solemnly Swear", "to protect and defend" and goes on from there, and from a
Flag called "Old Glory".

Listen, and you can hear the voices echoing through them, words that sprang
white-hot from bloody lips, shouts of "medic", whispers of "Oh God!",
forceful words of "Follow Me". If you can't hear them, you weren't, if you
can you were.

"Don't give up the ship! Fight her till she dies... Damn the torpedoes! Go
ahead! . . . Do you want to live forever? . . . Don't cheer, boys; the poor
devils are dying."
Laughing words, and words cold as January ice, words that when spoken, were
meant, .. "Wait till you see the whites of their eyes". The echo's of I was
a Soldier.

You can hear the slow cadences at Gettysburg, or Arlington honoring not a
man, but a Soldier, perhaps forgotten by his nation...Oh! Those Broken
You can hear those echoes as you have a beer at the "Post", walk in a
parade, go to The Wall, visit a VA hospital, hear the mournful sounds of
tap, or gaze upon the white crosses, row upon row.
But they aren't just words; they're a way of life, a pattern of living, or a
way of dying.

They made the evening, with another day's work done; supper with the wife
and kids; and no Gestapo snooping at the door and threatening to kick your
teeth in.
They gave you the right to choose who shall run our government for us, the
right to a secret vote that counts just as much as the next fellow's in the
final tally; and the obligation to use that right, and guard it and keep it
They prove the right to hope, to dream, to pray; the obligation to serve.
These are some of the meanings of those four words, meanings we don't often
stop to tally up or even list.

Only in the stillness of a moonless night, or in the quiet of a Sunday
afternoon, or in the thin dawn of a new day, when our world is close about
us, do they rise up in our memories and stir in our sentient hearts.
And we are remembering Wake Island, and Bataan, Inchon, and Chu Lai, Knox
and Benning, Great Lakes and Paris Island, Travis and Chanute, and many
other places long forgotten by our civilian friends.
They're plain words, those four. Simple words.
You could carve them on stone; you could carve them on the mountain ranges.
You could sing them, to the tune of "Yankee Doodle."
But you needn't. You needn't do any of those things, for those words are
graven in the hearts of Veterans, they are familiar to 24,000,000 tongues,
every sound and every syllable. If you must write them, put them on my

But when you speak them, speak them softly, proudly, I will hear you, for I
I was a Soldier, I AM A VETERAN.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Spineless weasel

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Jersey Girls, Wings of Justice Honorees

Monday, August 15, 2005

Read this

A re-run worth another look
Published on Wednesday, May 21, 2003 by
The Truth Will Emerge
by US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Remarks - May 21, 2003

"Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again, - -
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers."

Truth has a way of asserting itself despite all attempts to obscure it.  Distortion only serves to derail it for a time.  No matter to what lengths we humans may go to obfuscate facts or delude our fellows, truth has a way of squeezing out through the cracks, eventually.

But the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter.  The danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized.  The reality is that, sometimes, it is easier to ignore uncomfortable facts and go along with whatever distortion is currently in vogue.  We see a lot of this today in politics.  I see a lot of it -- more than I would ever have believed -- right on this Senate Floor.

Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this Senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing International law, under false premises.  There is ample evidence that the horrific events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated to switch public focus from Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda who masterminded the September 11th attacks, to Saddam Hussein who did not.  The run up to our invasion of Iraq featured the President and members of his cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ laden death in our major cities.  We were treated to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussein's direct threat to our freedoms.  The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 911.  It was the exploitation of fear.  It was a placebo for the anger.

Since the war's end, every subsequent revelation which has seemed to refute the previous dire claims of the Bush Administration has been brushed aside.  Instead of addressing the contradictory evidence, the White House deftly changes the subject.  No weapons of mass destruction have yet turned up, but we are told that they will in time.  Perhaps they yet will.  But, our costly and destructive bunker busting attack on Iraq seems to have proven, in the main, precisely the opposite of what we were told was the urgent reason to go in.  It seems also to have, for the present, verified the assertions of Hans Blix and the inspection team he led, which President Bush and company so derided.  As Blix always said, a lot of time will be needed to find such weapons, if they do, indeed, exist.  Meanwhile Bin Laden is still on the loose and Saddam Hussein has come up missing.

The Administration assured the U.S. public and the world, over and over again, that an attack was necessary to protect our people and the world from terrorism.  It assiduously worked to alarm the public and blur the faces of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden until they virtually became one.

What has become painfully clear in the aftermath of war is that Iraq was no immediate threat to the U.S.  Ravaged by years of sanctions, Iraq did not even lift an airplane against us.  Iraq's threatening death-dealing fleet of unmanned drones about which we heard so much morphed into one prototype made of plywood and string.  Their missiles proved to be outdated and of limited range.  Their army was quickly overwhelmed by our technology and our well trained troops.

Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission of diligently searching for WMD. They have so far turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons, and the occasional buried swimming pool.  They are misused on such a mission and they continue to be at grave risk.  But, the Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a preemptive invasion  has become more than embarrassing.  It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power.  Were our troops needlessly put at risk?  Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary?  Was the American public deliberately misled?  Was the world? 

What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are "liberators." The facts don't seem to support the label we have so euphemistically attached to ourselves.  True, we have unseated a brutal, despicable despot, but "liberation" implies the follow up of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common people.  In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of "liberation," we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years.

Despite our high-blown claims of a better life for the Iraqi people, water is scarce, and often foul, electricity is a sometime thing, food is in short supply, hospitals are stacked with the wounded and maimed, historic treasures of the region and of the Iraqi people have been looted, and nuclear material may have been disseminated to heaven knows where, while U.S. troops, on orders, looked on and guarded the oil supply.

Meanwhile, lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and refurbish its oil industry are awarded to Administration cronies, without benefit of competitive bidding, and the U.S. steadfastly resists offers of U.N. assistance to participate.  Is there any wonder that the real motives of the U.S. government are the subject of worldwide speculation and mistrust?

And in what may be the most damaging development, the U.S. appears to be pushing off Iraq's clamor for self-government.  Jay Garner has been summarily replaced, and it is becoming all too clear that the smiling face of the U.S. as liberator is quickly assuming the scowl of an occupier.  The image of the boot on the throat has replaced the beckoning hand of freedom.  Chaos and rioting only exacerbate that image, as U.S. soldiers try to sustain order in a land ravaged by poverty and disease.  "Regime change" in Iraq has so far meant anarchy, curbed only by an occupying military force and a U.S. administrative presence that is evasive about if and when it intends to depart.

Democracy and Freedom cannot be force fed at the point of an occupier's gun.  To think otherwise is folly.  One has to stop and ponder.  How could we have been so impossibly naive?  How could we expect to easily plant a clone of U.S. culture, values, and government in a country so riven with religious, territorial, and tribal rivalries, so suspicious of U.S. motives, and so at odds with the galloping materialism which drives the western-style economies?

As so many warned this Administration before it launched its misguided war on Iraq, there is evidence that our crack down in Iraq is likely to convince 1,000 new Bin Ladens to plan other horrors of the type we have seen in the past several days.  Instead of damaging the terrorists, we have given them new fuel for their fury.  We did not complete our mission in Afghanistan because we were so eager to attack Iraq.  Now it appears that Al Queda is back with a vengeance. We have returned to orange alert in the U.S., and we may well have destabilized the Mideast region, a region we have never fully understood.  We have alienated friends around the globe with our dissembling and our haughty insistence on punishing former friends who may not see things quite our way. 

The path of diplomacy and reason have gone out the window to be replaced by force, unilateralism, and punishment for transgressions.  I read most recently with amazement our harsh castigation of Turkey, our longtime friend and strategic ally.  It is astonishing that our government is berating the new Turkish government for conducting its affairs in accordance with its own Constitution and its democratic institutions.

Indeed, we may have sparked a new international arms race as countries move ahead to develop WMD as a last ditch attempt to ward off a possible preemptive strike from a newly belligerent U.S. which claims the right to hit where it wants.  In fact, there is little to constrain this President.  Congress, in what will go down in history as its most unfortunate act, handed away its power to declare war for the foreseeable future and empowered this President to wage war at will.

As if that were not bad enough, members of Congress are reluctant to ask questions which are begging to be asked.  How long will we occupy Iraq?  We have already heard disputes on the numbers of troops which will be needed to retain order.  What is the truth?  How costly will the occupation and rebuilding be?  No one has given a straight answer.  How will we afford this long-term massive commitment, fight terrorism at home, address a serious crisis in domestic healthcare, afford behemoth military spending and give away billions in tax cuts amidst a deficit which has climbed to over $340 billion for this year alone?  If the President's tax cut passes it will be $400 billion.  We cower in the shadows while false statements proliferate.  We accept soft answers and shaky explanations because to demand the truth is hard, or unpopular, or may be politically costly. 

But, I contend that, through it all, the people know.  The American people unfortunately are used to political shading, spin, and the usual chicanery they hear from public officials.  They patiently tolerate it up to a point.  But there is a line.  It may seem to be drawn in invisible ink for a time, but eventually it will appear in dark colors, tinged with anger.  When it comes to shedding American blood - - when it comes to wreaking havoc on civilians, on innocent men, women, and children, callous dissembling is not acceptable.  Nothing is worth that kind of lie - - not oil, not revenge, not reelection, not somebody's grand pipedream of a democratic domino theory.

And mark my words, the calculated intimidation which we see so often of late by the "powers that be" will only keep the loyal opposition quiet for just so long.  Because eventually, like it always does, the truth will emerge.  And when it does, this house of cards, built of deceit, will fall.



"The rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious." -- Joseph Goebbels

"See in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." -- George W. Bush

Bush on Iraqi women's liberation was nothing but BUSHIT!

New dark age for Iraqi women

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor
Sunday August 14, 2005


Earlier this year I was in Iraq's second city, Basra,
lunching with a group of Iraqi women professionals. It
was the time of the elections, and the conversation
turned to women's rights. Since the fall of Saddam,
the women complained, their freedoms had gradually
been eroded, not by official diktat but by groups of
Shia radicals who had invaded hospitals, universities
and schools, insisting that women wore headscarves and
behaved as men saw fit.
It was a story I heard again and again across the once
cosmopolitan city from middle-class professional women
who told me they intended to vote for the secular list
headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi for fear
of what would happen if the 'religious' Shia list
swept to a majority.

It was not to be. Allawi and the largely secular views
he represented have lost out to a new sense of
religiosity and resurgence of tribal authority that is
on the march across Iraq south of Kurdistan.

Now women from Basra to Kirkuk are facing a renewed
assault on their freedoms as Iraq's politicians
squabble over a new constitution that will at best
fudge women's rights, and at worst hugely undermine
them, despite the guarantee of a quota for
representation by women in Iraq's new parliament.

The principal of equality that existed in what was
once one of the Middle East's most secular countries,
and guaranteed women's rights even in the midst of
Saddam's atrocities, is now under threat in the
negotiation of the very constitution that many hoped
would guarantee equality. Ironically, it is with the
tacit agreement of millions of largely poorly educated
Iraqi women.

The major Shia religious parties want to replace the
secular civil law that now governs marriage, divorce,
child custody and inheritance with Sharia law. A draft
of the constitution published earlier this month in
the newspaper run by the Supreme Council for Islamic
Revolution in Iraq frames sexual equality specifically
in terms of 'the provisions of Islamic Sharia' rather
than Iraq's civil legal code. Even if, as has been
suggested, the new constitution results in a parallel
system where women can choose Sharia or the civil
code, women's rights activists fear they may be forced
by male relatives to choose a system that is not in
their interests.

In a country where the most basic human rights - to
life, freedom from intimidation, freedom from torture,
a fair judicial process, and freedom of confession -
are routinely abused, the issue of women's rights is
low on the agenda, except for those who would
proscribe them. Whatever happens over the next few
days with the finalisation of a draft constitution,
any nods it makes towards equality are likely to be
vague, and are unlikely to improve the lot of most
Iraqi women.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Mrs. Sheehan is not the only parent with questions

A soldier’s father wrestles with the ambiguities of
Issue of 2005-07-04
Posted 2005-06-27

On November 8, 2003, at around 7:40 p.m., a convoy of
two Humvees drove out of the front gate of the
American base at Al Rashid Military Camp, in southeast
Baghdad. The mission was to pick up a sergeant who was
attending a meeting at the combat-support hospital
inside the Green Zone, the secure area where the
Americanled occupation authority was situated. The
convoy belonged to the scout platoon of Headquarters
Company, 2-6 Infantry, First Armored Division. In the
rear left seat of the lead vehicle sat a
twenty-two-year-old private named Kurt Frosheiser.

Frosheiser was from Des Moines, Iowa. The son of
divorced parents, he had a twin brother, Joel, and a
married older sister, Erin. During high school, he had
been a rebellious, indifferent student, and by the age
of twenty-one he had become a community-college
dropout, living with his sister and her family,
delivering pizza, and partying heavily. He had a
brash, boyish smile and his father’s full mouth and
thick-lidded eyes; he liked Lynyrd Skynyrd and the
Chicago Cubs; and one day in January, 2003, he flew
through the door with the news that he had just
enlisted in the Army.

His father, Chris, who also lived in Des Moines,
wasn’t thrilled to hear it. The Frosheisers were not a
military family; Chris, fifty-eight, a salesman’s son
from Chicago with a flat Midwestern accent, had joined
the Army reserve in 1969, mainly to avoid going to
Vietnam. But he wasn’t the kind of father to impose
his views on his children—he never pushed Kurt to
share his own interest in history and politics—and he
didn’t try very hard to talk Kurt out of joining up.
Their relationship was what mattered, and his son
needed his support. A few weeks later, Kurt dropped by
his father’s apartment around two in the morning,
after a night out drinking, and said, “I want to be
part of something bigger than myself.”

Kurt watched the invasion of Iraq on TV, looking,
according to his sister, more serious than she had
ever seen him. He had an option to get out of serving,
but he left home on April 16th for basic training at
Fort Knox, Kentucky. In June, the family drove down to
see him on Family Day, and Chris was stunned by the
transformation: his son stood at perfect attention on
Pershing Field for forty-five minutes in his dress
uniform. It was the same in August, when they attended
graduation: Private Frosheiser, marching, singing with
his classmates, “Pick up your wounded, pick up your
dead.” Chris found the words chilling, but the music,
the sharpness of the formation, the bearing of his
son, filled him with pride. After the ceremony, Kurt
told his father, “You weren’t hard-core enough for
me.” Chris always lingered in the gray areas, asking
questions; Kurt wanted the clear light of an oath and
an order.

They all drove back to Des Moines for their last two
weeks together before Kurt would join the First
Armored Division, based in Baumholder, Germany. He
partied every night, but the departure hung over
everyone, and on the last night, when Erin dropped him
off at one final party and turned to look at him, he
said, “I know,” and ran off.

Late that night, Kurt told his father, “Well, old man,
I’m probably not going to see you for two years.” They
both started to cry, and Chris ran his hand through
his son’s crew cut. “I know I’m going to be in some
deep shit,” Kurt said. “But you know me, I’m a
survivor.” Chris knew that the words were meant only
to comfort him. His son said, “Live your life, old

In Germany, Kurt was bored and eager to join the rest
of the division, which was already in Iraq. Once, on
the phone with his father, he noted that weapons of
mass destruction might not be found. “We’re fucked,
aren’t we?” he said. His father responded that there
might be other reasons for the war, such as democracy
in the Middle East. (Condoleezza Rice, the
national-security adviser, had offered this rationale
in a speech that Chris, a devoted viewer of C-span,
had seen.) Chris told him that the W.M.D. threat might
just have been the easiest rationale to sell to the
public. Kurt wasn’t really interested in the politics
of the war anyway. He was more concerned about
confronting guerrilla warfare. His officers at
Baumholder had warned the soldiers not to pick up
trash bags, and not to take packages that kids would
rush up to give them.

Suddenly, Kurt was on a transport plane to Kuwait,
where he awaited deployment for a few days. By the end
of October, he was in Baghdad. On November 6th, he
managed to get online and e-mailed his sister:

Our secter that we patrol is a good one we don’t get
shot at that much nor do we find IEDs (improvised
explosive devices) thats their main way of attacking
us. They usually put them in bags but now their
putting them in dead animals or in concrete blocks to
hide them better. It’s kinda scary knowing their out
there but like I said our secter is pretty secure so
Ill be allright.

Writing to his father about his first mission in
Baghdad, an uneventful night operation, Kurt was more

I found myself thinking that Im in a country where a
lot of soldiers lost their lives but where we at it
was so quiet except all friggin dogs barking the
Iraqis hate dogs so they’re all wild probubly never
had a bath their whole lives this country is a shit
hole they dont have plumbing so they dig little canels
and let all the shit and piss run into the streets . .
. theyre places that smell so bad you almost throw up.
from what I see its goin to take alot longer then
Rumsfeld and G.W are saying to get this shit hole up
and running.

He spoke to his father once, briefly, on the phone.
“I.E.D.s, old man, I.E.D.s,” he said.

On the evening of November 8th, Kurt was sitting on
his bunk, sorting and counting his ammunition, when
word came of a mission to the combat-support hospital.
He was training for his license as a Humvee driver,
and he was eager to experience driving through Baghdad
by night. In his short time with the battalion, he had
earned a reputation as a hard worker who was quick to
volunteer. He and his best friend in the unit, Private
Matt Plumley, a Tennesseean, raced each other to the
vehicle. Because the right rear door was hard to open,
they both headed for the left. Kurt got there first.

The convoy left the base and began cruising north,
toward downtown Baghdad. Five minutes later, on the
left shoulder of the dark highway, thirty feet ahead
of the convoy, two 130-mm. artillery shells packed
with Russian C-4 explosives detonated, in a flash of
light, black smoke, flying dirt. Hot chunks of
shrapnel tore through the legs of the lead Humvee’s
driver, Private First Class Matt Van Buren, but he
accelerated a few hundred yards along the highway,
thinking that he would try to make it to the hospital.
Then Staff Sergeant Darrell Clay, who was sitting next
to him, told him to stop.

In the back of the Humvee, Kurt was slumped in his
seat. Plumley checked Kurt’s pulse, and found none.
Kurt had been looking out the window, which had no
glass. His head was turned to the left, and a small
piece of metal had penetrated the right side of his
skull just below his Kevlar helmet, breaching his
brain. Private Kurt Frosheiser was taken by helicopter
to the combatsupport hospital in the Green Zone, where
he was pronounced dead, at 8:17 p.m.

At six-thirty the next morning, a Sunday, the phone
rang in Chris Frosheiser’s cramped apartment, where he
had been living since his divorce. The caller was a
lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard; he was
two blocks away and trying to find the address. “I
have a message from the Army,” he said tersely. The
previous week, Chris Frosheiser had asked an officer
what to expect if something happened to Kurt; the
officer had said that he would receive a phone call if
Kurt was wounded, a visit if he had been killed.
Frosheiser met the lieutenant colonel outside the
building and invited him in, hoping it was all a
mistake, and they briefly made small talk in the
living room. Frosheiser went to the kitchen for a cup
of coffee. When he returned, the lieutenant colonel
suddenly stood at attention: “I regret to inform you
that your son Kurt was killed as a result of action in

On November 11th, Veterans Day, Kurt’s battalion
gathered in formation at the base in southeast Baghdad
for a memorial service. A captain, Robert Swope, later
wrote an account of the ceremony:

At 1430 the ceremony is supposed to begin, but it
doesn’t start until 1448 because we have to wait for a
couple generals to arrive. The memorial ceremony
begins with an invocation by the chaplain, and then
the battalion commander and the company commander both
speak. Two privates who knew the soldier follow them.
One of the privates chokes and starts tearing up while
giving his tribute. I look around me out into a sea of
sad faces and in the very back of the battalion
formation I see that one of the female soldiers
attached to our unit is crying.
A bagpiper plays a crappy version of “Amazing Grace”
and halfway through it doesn’t even sound much like
the song anymore. . . . The chaplain reads a few
verses from the Bible, and then gives a memorial
message and prayer. It’s followed by a moment of
Then, the acting First Sergeant for the company does
roll call, yelling out the names of various soldiers
in the unit. They all answer, one after another, that
they are present. When he comes to the private who
died, everything is quiet.
He calls out again his name, and still there is no
answer. He does it a final time, using his full name
and rank:
“Private First Class Kurt Russell Frosheiser!”
And then the mournful melody of “Taps” begins. Midway
through the bugler begins slowly walking away, letting
the music softly fade out in the distance. Seven
soldiers with seven rifles fire off three series of
blanks, giving Private Frosheiser a twenty-one-gun
When they’re finished the battalion commander walks up
to the memorial, which is an M-16 with a bayonet
attached and driven into a wooden stand. Resting on
top of the butt stock is a helmet and hanging down are
a pair of dog tags with Kurt’s name, social security
number, blood type, and religion on them. Directly in
front of the M-16 and in the center of the memorial
stand sit a pair of tan combat boots. To the left and
to the right are a bronze star and purple heart
ensconced in their silk and velvet cases.
This is the second time I’ve had to go to a ceremony
like this so far this year, and I don’t feel
comfortable doing it. I walk up to the memorial the
way I did last April for the other soldier in my
company. I don’t lower my head and pray or whisper
anything, as so many others do before me. I don’t lean
over and touch the tip of his boots like the sergeant
major ahead of me just did. I just salute and then
turn and walk away.

Chris Frosheiser initially wanted to escort his son’s
body back from Baghdad, or at least meet it at Dover
Air Force Base, in Delaware. In the end, it was enough
to receive the coffin at the Des Moines airport with
thirty family members and friends and see Kurt’s face
one more time. At the wake, Frosheiser tried to say
that his son’s courage filled him with awe, but he
wasn’t able to express himself well. Kurt received a
military funeral after a Catholic service, and was
buried nearby, in Glendale Cemetery.

A few days before the funeral, Kurt’s mother, Jeanie
Hudson, had told the local paper, “He loved this land
and its principles. He loved Iowa. It’s an honor to
give my son to preserve our way of life.” She had
become an evangelical Christian, and she said that
Kurt had volunteered to fight the forces of evil. For
Chris Frosheiser, this was too apocalyptic, suggesting
some kind of religious war; he was a Catholic, but he
thought that mixing politics and religion—whether
Islam or Christianity—was dangerous. Anyway, Kurt had
not spoken of the war this way. On the night after
Kurt’s death, Iowa’s governor, Tom Vilsack, had called
to offer condolences and said that he hoped the
country’s policies were as good as its people.
Frosheiser was troubled by the thought that it might
not be so. In January, 2004, one of Kurt’s friends
from Fort Knox wrote him in an e-mail, “I don’t
suppose he was in an up-armored HMMV, was he? Probably
not, Uncle Sam wouldn’t give us Joe’s the good stuff.”
Frosheiser didn’t know the answer, but thinking about
it only deepened his grief.

Frosheiser dreamed that he was in the Army with Kurt.
It was unclear whether they were father and son or
friends; both of them were sitting on the right side
of the Humvee and, when the explosion came, they fell
out together and everything was O.K. He was nagged by
the thought that he hadn’t had time to send Kurt a
book he had requested, Tolkien’s “The Return of the
King.” On his wrist he wore Kurt’s watch, still set to
Baghdad time, with an alarm that went off at 6:30
a.m.—9:30 p.m. in Des Moines.

Frosheiser was a lifelong Democrat. In 1968, as a
student at Drake University, he had supported Robert
Kennedy for President. He couldn’t identify with the
antiwar movement, though; he thought that Vietnam was
a terrible waste but not a reason to hate your
country. Even the Eugene McCarthy campaign struck him
as too élite, too unconventional, and when McCarthy
said that Kennedy was “running best among the less
intelligent and less educated people” it touched the
resentful nerve of a lower-middle-class college kid.
The Tom Haydens of the world were going to make it no
matter how they spent their youth; the Chris
Frosheisers had to be more careful.

He didn’t join the backlash that elected Nixon and
Reagan, however; he remained a liberal, mostly on
economic grounds. For many years, he worked in the
insurance business without enthusiasm; in 1993, he
started a new career, as the Salvation Army’s director
of social services in Des Moines. “I wanted to do
something more meaningful—kind of like Kurt,”
Frosheiser said. Meanwhile, he had grown increasingly
unhappy with the “weakness” of Democratic leaders and
the anti-military views of much of the Party’s base.
After Kurt’s enlistment and then his death, the
feeling deepened into estrangement. Frosheiser
venerated those who put on a uniform and served. He
was uneasy with friends who called Iraq “another
Vietnam,” and he couldn’t tolerate hearing that Kurt’s
life had been wasted. When a local Catholic peace
group got in touch to offer condolences and let him
know that Kurt’s picture, along with those of other
fallen Iowans, would be on display at a weekly
candlelight vigil, Frosheiser told the group not to
use Kurt’s photograph. But when he bought a long-life
candle at a Christian bookshop and told the cashier
that it was for his son’s grave, and she said, “Thank
you for your sacrifice,” that, too, sounded wrong.

That winter, in the Iowa caucuses, Frosheiser
supported Senator John Edwards; he had misgivings
about John Kerry. When a friend called Kerry’s vote
against the eighty-seven-billion-dollar war
appropriation a “protest vote,” Frosheiser said, “Kind
of a serious issue to be casting protest votes on.” He
wondered if Kerry could hold steadfast in Iraq under
pressure from the Party’s dissenting base. If not,
what would Kurt’s death mean then? When President Bush
said in a speech, “We will hold this hard-won ground,”
he found the language inspiring. Kerry’s rhetoric did
not inspire him. Frosheiser kept remembering Lincoln’s
1862 Message to Congress: “As our case is new, so we
must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall
ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” He
longed to hear words like these from a wartime leader;
politics required the art of explanation. But Bush,
who had made so many mistakes, was unable to admit or
see his errors, even as the war was getting worse; he
had the best education money could buy, but he seemed
to know little about the world. Frosheiser admired men
who seemed driven more by patriotism than by ideology,
such as Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, of the 9/11
Commission, and Senators Joe Lieberman and John
McCain. Iraq was too important to be left to the

Not long after Kurt’s death, Chris Frosheiser read a
piece I wrote for this magazine about Kurt’s
battalion. Frosheiser was looking for some way to
comprehend Kurt’s short life and his death in Iraq.
After I got back from Iraq, we began a correspondence
by e-mail. Frosheiser’s letters were full of the
restless questions, the constant return to the same
inconclusive themes, of a man who has suffered a
trauma and is determined to feel every contour of it:

April 1, 2004: Democrats need a foreign policy and a
national security strategy to back it up. . . . Now, I
have gone on too long and not answered your questions
very well. It shows my ambivalence and the difficulty
in talking beyond the personal. Sorry. May I write
more later? I can’t go on now. . . . I have reread
Truman’s “Truman Doctrine” speech and Marshall’s
Harvard Commencement speech of June 1947. I admired
them and those policies. I must avoid bitterness. In
honor of Kurt and the other soldiers, bitterness seems

May 15, 2004: Sometimes I think about Kurt being in
Baghdad, Iraq, as part of something called “Operation
Iraqi Freedom.” Kurt said he wanted to be a part of
something larger than himself. He was in the middle of
something so huge it nearly defies understanding.
There is more to be said about this, I just don’t know
what it is. My son died for something. And there is
honor in simply enlisting, let alone serving in Iraq.

August 28, 2004: Next Tuesday, George Bush will be
campaigning near Des Moines, in a farm community
called Alleman, Iowa. Apparently, the campaign invited
us as Kurt’s family to be there. Joel and I talked
about it and Erin too. And we will attend. It is a
tribute to Kurt, I think. It may or may not be
construed as support for Bush. But, you know, I will
put my Democratic loyalty up against anyone’s. As a
tribute to Kurt I am entitled to shake hands with the
President. Besides, it is still a bit odd I think that
very little was said to me, a loyal Democrat, by
leading Democrats, about Kurt’s service. I know a guy
who was the state party chair and who was an early
Edwards supporter. I had expressed an interest in
talking to Edwards about Kurt’s service. It was never
arranged. I thought someone like Edwards should speak
to someone who lost a child in combat. Is there a
larger issue exposed here? About Democrats and the
soldiers? Sometimes it feels like I don’t have a
party. John Kerry did send a card to both Jeanie and
me, but I really think there is an ill-at-ease sense
among activist Democrats about the “warriors” because
of opposition to the war.

September 5, 2004: In follow-up to my previous e-mail
about meeting Dubya, it didn’t happen. Out of a sense
of obligation to honor Kurt, to receive his Commander
in Chief’s offer of tribute and condolences I went. We
were just part of the crowd. . . . We did get to hear
the “stump speech,” a longer version of which he gave
to the Convention. He speaks of the “war against
terror” as if it includes Iraq, no distinguishing
between them. . . . I will be happy when the election
is over. I can’t take much more of the hyperbolic

September 11, 2004: Grandson Colin spent the night
last night. We ate popcorn, visited Borders, watched
Star Wars, and this morning took a dip in the pool (a
bit cool). Life goes on, ready or not. I have to say
that Kurt is never out of my thoughts. Ever. That may
not be healthy but it is the way it is. I am 57 years
old, George, I may never fully recover from this. And
maybe I shouldn’t.

October 4, 2004: A better Iraq? Is it possible? Why
did we go into Iraq? What justifies our remaining?
American lives have been lost, precious lives, for
what? Can something be achieved that is worthy of the
sacrifice? Are there things not known to anyone other
than the President and his advisers? No one in the
Senate or any of the “attentive” and “informed”
organizations? That would justify the sacrifice? And
how much more sacrifice can be justified? For us to
turn Iraq over to civil war would be hard to take. I
don’t have the right to advocate continued involvement
because of my sacrifice—that would lead to more, many
more. What is best for America and Iraq? What is
reality on the ground in Iraq? What is possible to
achieve? Can Kerry and a team of his choosing do it?
It is a great leap of faith.
And most of the time none of this matters to me. I
want my son. My son.

The home front of the first two years of the Iraq war
was not like that of the Second World War, and it was
not like that of Vietnam. It didn’t unite Americans
across party lines against an existential threat.
(September 11th did that, but not Iraq.) There were no
war bonds, no collection drives, no universal call-up,
no national mobilization, no dollar-a-year men. Nor
did the war tear the country apart. Almost as soon as
it began, the American antiwar movement quietly
capitulated. On the first and second anniversaries of
the invasion, there were large demonstrations in
Europe and parts of the Middle East and Asia, but in
this country organized opposition was muted by the
imperative to support the troops. Candlelight vigils
like the one in Des Moines, which displayed the
photographs of fallen Iowans, strived for a tone of
respectful dissent.

In the media, Iraq generated words as bitter as any
event in modern American history. But most Americans
didn’t turn against other citizens, any more than they
joined together in a common cause. Iraq was a
strangely distant war. It was always hard to picture
the place; the war didn’t enter the popular
imagination in songs that everyone soon knew by heart,
in the manner of previous wars. The one slender
American novel that the war has inspired so far,
“Checkpoint,” by Nicholson Baker—a dialogue over lunch
in a Washington hotel room between two old friends,
one of whom is preparing to assassinate President
Bush—has nothing to do with Iraq and everything to do
with the ugliness of politics in this country. Michael
Moore, the left’s answer to Rush Limbaugh, made a
hugely successful movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” in which
Saddam’s Iraq was portrayed in a crudely fantastical
light—a happy place where children flew kites. Iraq
provided a blank screen onto which Americans projected
anything they wanted, in part because so few Americans
had anything directly at stake there. The war’s
proponents and detractors spoke of the conflict
largely in theoretical terms: imperialism, democracy,
unilateralism, weapons of mass destruction,
preëmption, terrorism, totalitarianism,
neoconservatism, appeasement. The exceptions were the
soldiers and their families, who carried almost the
entire weight of the war.

Whereas the street fights of the late nineteen-sixties
were the consequence of Vietnam, the word fights of
this decade were not the consequence of Iraq—if
anything, it was the other way around. It was the
first blogged war, and the characteristic features of
the form—instant response, ad-hominem attack,
remoteness from life, the echo chamber of friends and
enemies—helped define the tone of the debate about
Iraq. One of the leading bloggers, Andrew Sullivan,
responded to the news of Saddam’s capture, in
December, 2003, by writing, “It was a day of joy.
Nothing remains to be said right now. Joy.” He had
just handed out eleven mock awards to leftists who
expressed insufficient happiness or open unhappiness
at the news. In response to an Iraqi blogger’s
declaration of heartfelt thanks to the coalition
forces, Sullivan, sitting at his computer in
Washington, wrote, “You’re welcome. . . . The men and
women in our armed forces did the hardest work. They
deserve our immeasurable thanks. But we all played our
part.” Sullivan’s joy was, in fact, vindictive and
narcissistic glee. (He has since had second thoughts
about the Administration’s conduct of the war.)
Similarly, as the insurgency sent Iraq into tumult
most antiwar pundits and politicians, in spite of the
enormous stakes and the awful alternatives, showed no
interest in helping Iraq become a stable democracy.
When Iraqis risked their lives to vote, Arianna
Huffington dismissed the elections as a “Kodak
moment.” It was Bush’s war, and, if it failed, it
would be Bush’s failure.

Iraq was too complicated for the simple answers each
political side offered. The American invasion brought
death, chaos, and occupation to Iraq; it also ended a
terrible tyranny and ushered in the possibility of
hope. American forces achieved local successes in
rebuilding infrastructure and setting up new
institutions of government; they also lost ground
every day in the estimation of Iraqis. The war had
something to do with national security, something to
do with oil, and something to do with democracy. Few
Iraqis I met felt compelled to rifle through the
contradictions and settle on one story line; many of
them acknowledged that America, while ridding them of
Saddam, had acted out of its own self-interest. But in
America there were comparatively few people who could
handle the kind of cognitive dissonance with which
Iraqis lived every day.

Some journalists visited Iraq simply to reinforce
their preconceptions. In the summer of 2003,
Christopher Hitchens, who had just published a book
with the premature title “A Long Short War: The
Postponed Liberation of Iraq,” flew in with the
entourage of Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of
Defense, spent several days in Wolfowitz’s wake, and
came back to tell Fox News that the postwar
reconstruction was succeeding splendidly, with the
Americans busy rebuilding the place, gathering
intelligence, apprehending Baathists, and making
friends with the people—none of which was appearing in
press coverage. “I felt a sense of annoyance that I
had to go there myself to find any of that out,”
Hitchens told the Fox interviewer. The following
March, with the long short war showing signs of
turning into a short long war, Fred Barnes, the
executive editor of the strenuously pro-war Weekly
Standard, parachuted into the Green Zone and
discovered that the only thing wrong with Operation
Iraqi Freedom was Iraqis. “They need an attitude
adjustment,” Barnes wrote. “Americans I talked to in
ten days here agree Iraqis are difficult to deal with.
They’re sullen and suspicious and conspiracy-minded.”
Before the invasion, hawks like Barnes had described
Iraqis as heroic figures, but now something had to
explain all the bumps in the road. A successful
democracy would emerge in Iraq, Barnes said, only
after “an outbreak of gratitude for the greatest act
of benevolence one country has ever done for another.”
Naomi Klein, a columnist for the bitterly antiwar
Nation, visited Baghdad at the same time as Barnes and
found that the insurgency was mushrooming because the
occupation authority was “further opening up Iraq’s
economy to foreign ownership”—in other words, because
Iraqis shared her own anti-globalization views.

America had become too politically partisan, divided,
and small-minded to manage something as vast and
difficult as Iraq. Condoleezza Rice and other leading
officials liked to compare Iraq with postwar Germany.
But there was a great gulf between the tremendously
thoughtful effort of the best minds that had gone into
defeating Fascism and rebuilding Germany and Japan,
and the peevish, self-serving attention paid to Iraq.
One produced the Army’s four-hundred-page manual on
the occupation of Germany; the other produced talking

In the aftermath of September 11th, President Bush was
granted what few Presidents ever get: national unity
and the good will of both parties. In the days that
followed the terror attacks, something like a popular
self-mobilization emerged. Yet President Bush did
nothing to harness the surge of civic energy, or to
frame the new war against Islamist radicalism as a
national struggle. The war on terror should have been
the job not only of experts in the intelligence
agencies and Special Forces but also of ordinary
American citizens. And the war demanded more than a
military campaign—it required intellectual,
diplomatic, economic, political, and cultural efforts
as well. “The Bush Administration has chosen to
prosecute this war in a way that the average citizen
won’t feel the burden,” Andrew Bacevich, a professor
of international relations at Boston University and a
retired Army officer, told me. “The global war on
terrorism, a task that’s supposed to be equal to that
of the greatest generation, is being fought by 0.5 per
cent of the citizenry—predominantly people who don’t
exercise a lot of clout in our domestic politics.”
Bacevich, in his recent book “The New American
Militarism,” proposes reviving the role of the
citizen-soldier by, for example, tying college
scholarships to national military service. “The
political leadership of the country needs to expend
political capital to make clear that support for the
global war on terrorism must come from all sectors of
society,” he said. “Then they need to put their money
where their mouth is and encourage their children to
join. If this is such a great cause, let us see one of
the Bush daughters in uniform. That would send a
powerful message. But it’s considered in bad taste
even to suggest such a thing.”

Bush’s rhetoric sometimes soared, but his actions
showed that he had a narrow strategy for fighting the
war, which amounted to finding and killing terrorists
and their supporters. His other political agendas,
such as tax cuts and energy policy, stirred bitter
fights and disrupted the clarity and unity of
September 11th. Whatever national cohesion that
remained by mid-2002 came undone in the buildup to the
invasion of Iraq. The White House forced a
congressional vote on a war resolution one month
before the 2002 midterm elections, in an atmosphere of
partisan invective; Republicans on the floor of the
House and Senate accused their dissenting Democratic
colleagues of Chamberlain-like appeasement of Saddam.
Meanwhile, Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
working with his Republican colleague Richard Lugar,
drafted a war resolution that stood a better chance of
getting bipartisan support; it placed a few
constraints on the Administration’s ability to act,
making it slightly less likely that America would go
to war without international participation. The White
House maneuvered to block the Biden-Lugar bill and got
its own passed, on a more partisan vote. The strategy
of Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove paid off in
November, when the Republicans regained the Senate and
added to their majority in the House. But the
Administration left behind an embittered Democratic
minority and an increasingly divided electorate, just
as it was preparing to take the country into a major
land war.

In the fall of 2002, it still might have been possible
for President Bush to construct an Iraq policy that
united both parties and America’s democratic allies in
defeating tyranny in Iraq. Such a policy, however,
would have required the Administration to operate with
flexibility and openness. The evidence on
unconventional weapons would have had to be laid out
without exaggeration or deception. The work of U.N.
inspectors in Iraq would have had to be supported
rather than undermined. Testimony to Congress would
have had to be candid, not slippery. Administration
officials who offered dissenting views or pessimistic
forecasts would have had to be heard rather than
silenced or fired. American citizens would have had to
be treated as grownups, and not, as Bush’s chief of
staff, Andrew Card, once suggested, as ten-year-olds.

After the invasion, European allies would have had to
be coaxed into joining an effort that desperately
needed their help. French, German, and Canadian
companies would have had to be invited to bid on
reconstruction contracts, not barred by an order
signed by Paul Wolfowitz (who once wrote that American
leadership required “demonstrating that your friends
will be protected and taken care of, that your enemies
will be punished and that those who refuse to support
you will live to regret having done so”). American
contractors close to the Pentagon would have had to be
subjected to extraordinary scrutiny, to avoid even the
appearance of corruption. The U.N. would have had to
be brought into Iraq as an equal partner, not as a
tool of American convenience. The top American
civilian in Iraq might even have had to be a Democrat,
or a moderate Republican such as the retired general
Anthony Zinni, whom a senior Administration official
privately described as the best-qualified person for
the job. (“You’ve got to rise above politics,” the
official told me. “You’ve got to pick the best team.
You’ve got to be like Franklin Roosevelt.”) The
occupation authority would have had to favor hiring
not political appointees but competent, non-partisan
experts. It would have had to put the interests of
Iraqi society ahead of the White House agenda.

And when no weapons of mass destruction were found in
Iraq the Administration would have had to admit it.
The President would have had to scratch evasive
formulations like “weapons of mass destruction-related
program activities” from his State of the Union
address. Officials and generals who were responsible
for scandal and failure would have had to be fired,
not praised or promoted. When reporters asked the
President to name one mistake he had made in Iraq, he
would have had to name five, while assuring the
country that they were being corrected. He would have
had to summon all his rhetorical skill to explain to
the country why, in spite of the failure to find
weapons, ending tyranny in Iraq and helping it to
become a pioneering democracy in the Middle East was
morally correct, important for American security, and
worthy of a generational effort. In fact, he would
have had to explain this before the war, when the
inspectors were turning up no sign of weapons, and
thus allow the country to have a real debate about the
real reason for the war, so that when the war came it
would not come amid rampant suspicions and surprises,
and America would not be alone in Iraq.

The Administration’s early insistence on Iraq’s
imminent threat to national security later made it
difficult for many Americans to accept broader
arguments about democracy. “What would be worth it?”
Chris Frosheiser asked. “W.M.D. imminence? Yeah.
Linked to Al Qaeda? Yeah. After that? We’re concerned
about humanitarianism in Iraq, and the Kurds and all.
But democracy in Iraq?” He wasn’t so easily convinced.

What prevented open and serious debate about the
reasons for war was, above all, the character of the
President. Bush’s war, like his Administration, was
run with an absence of curiosity and self-criticism,
and with a projection of absolute confidence. He
always conveyed the impression that Iraq was a
personal test. Every time a suicide bomber detonated
himself, he was trying to shake George W. Bush’s will.
If Bush remained steadfast, how could America fail? He
liked to call himself a wartime President, and he kept
a bust of his hero Winston Churchill in the Oval
Office. But Churchill led a government of national
unity and offered his countrymen nothing but blood,
toil, tears, and sweat. Bush relentlessly pursued a
partisan Republican agenda while fighting the war, and
what he offered was optimistic forecasts, permanent
tax cuts, and his own stirring resolve.

I asked Richard Perle, the former chairman of the
Defense Policy Board and a leading war proponent,
whether top Administration officials ever suffered
doubts about the Iraq War. “We all have doubts all the
time,” Perle said. “We don’t express them, certainly
not in a public debate. That would be fatal.”
Expressing doubts in public would empower opponents.
In public, Perle himself essentially said, “I told you
so.” Soon after the invasion, he told a French
documentary filmmaker, “Most people thought there
would be tens of thousands of people killed, and it
would be a long and very bloody war. I thought it
would be over in three weeks, with very few people
killed. Now, who was right?” As the war became longer
and bloodier, Perle was still right, but in a
different way: If only ten thousand Iraqi National
Congress members had gone in with the Americans as he
had wanted, if only Ahmad Chalabi had been installed
at the head of an interim government at the start, all
these problems could have been avoided. None of the
war’s architects publicly uttered a syllable of

Leslie Gelb worked in the Pentagon during the last
years of the Johnson Presidency, and he directed the
writing of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of
the Vietnam War which had been commissioned by Robert
McNamara, the Defense Secretary, before leaving
office. I expressed my doubts to Gelb that Donald
Rumsfeld, Bush’s Defense Secretary, had commissioned a
secret history of the Iraq war. “You can bet your
bippy,” Gelb said, laughing. “It’s not accidental that
President Bush, during the campaign, couldn’t answer
the question whether he ever made a mistake. I’ve
never seen those folks say they were wrong. Vietnam
was a liberals’ war. This is not.” Comparing Bush to
his own boss, Gelb went on, “Johnson was a tragic
figure. He was driven by the imperative not to lose
the war. He knew he couldn’t win. Bush is Johnson
squared, because he thinks he can win. Bush is the one
true believer, a man essentially cut off from all
information except the official line.”

Chris Frosheiser once told me, “I don’t expect to hear
Bush say he made a mistake, but I want to hear
something that shows he knows what the hell he’s
doing. And I still don’t hear that from him. That gets
back to the soldier’s oath.” He was referring to the
oath of personal obedience that Kurt had sworn to the
Commander-in-Chief. “It implied that the President
must be very wise and knowledgeable and have foresight
before deploying men, because he’s going to be
responsible for them.”

The strategy of projecting confidence served the
President well in domestic politics. Steadfastness in
wartime is an essential quality, and after the 2004
election no one could reasonably doubt his ability as
a politician. For him, the result also proved his
critics wrong. “We had an accountability moment, and
that’s called the 2004 election,” Bush said. But in
Iraq, which had a reality of its own, the approach
didn’t work as well.

When Bush spoke—as he did in his acceptance speech at
the Republican Convention in September, 2004, and
again in his inaugural address in January, 2005—about
the power of freedom to change the world, he sounded
deep notes in the American psyche. But Iraq itself,
which was visibly deteriorating, looked nothing like
the President’s exalted vision. Bush’s assertions that
the war was succeeding forced the entire government to
fall in line or risk the White House’s wrath. So
agencies sometimes issued prettified reconstruction
reports—even when Iraq’s electricity grid remained in
terrible shape. War is less tolerant of untruth than
domestic politics is. Bush’s imperviousness to
unpleasant facts actually made defeat in Iraq more

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s envoy in Baghdad,
watched governments in Washington and London try to
bend Iraq to their own political needs and concluded
that the Coalition Provisional Authority was hampered
by its creators. “You have to make decisions judged
against the criteria within and about Iraq, not within
and about any other political context,” Greenstock
told me. “If you want the American and British publics
to be happy about the results in Iraq, you don’t say,
‘What do they want next?’ You look at Iraq, and you
produce the substance that will make them happy. You
don’t produce the presentation that might make them
happy tomorrow.”

When Bush’s first chief of the postwar operation, the
retired general Jay Garner, was replaced by L. Paul
Bremer III and recalled from Iraq, in May, 2003, he
was taken by Rumsfeld to the White House for a
farewell meeting with the President. The conversation
lasted forty-five minutes, he told me, with
Vice-President Dick Cheney and Rice sitting in for the
second half, and yet the President did not take the
chance to ask Garner what it was really like in Iraq,
to find out what problems lay ahead. When Garner had
come back from northern Iraq in 1991, after leading
the effort to save Kurdish refugees following the Gulf
War, he had answered questions for four or five days.

Bush thanked Garner for his excellent service. Garner
told Bush, “You made a great choice in Bremer.”
Garner’s end-of-duty report had assured the President
that most services in Iraq would be restored within a
few weeks. Anyone listening to the conversation could
only conclude that Operation Iraqi Freedom was a

“You want to do Iran for the next one?” the President
joshed as the meeting came to an end.

“No, sir, me and the boys are holding out for Cuba,”
Garner said.

Bush laughed and promised Garner and the boys Cuba.

Garner shook hands with the President, then with the
Vice-President, who had said nothing the whole time.
He told me that he caught Cheney’s “wicked little
smile” on his way out, adding, “I think the President
only knows what Cheney lets in there.”

On the day before the 2004 election, the senior
Administration official told me that Bush “was
enshrouded by yes- men and yes-women. George
Tenet”—the former director of the C.I.A.—“is at the
top of the list: people who can smell the political
angle and furnish the information that will give the
President what the political angle is. No one ever
walks into the Oval Office and tells them they’ve got
no clothes on—and persists.” He went on, “I think it’s
dangerous that we have an environment where our
principal leader cannot be well informed.”

When a transport helicopter was shot down near Falluja
in November, 2003, killing fifteen soldiers who were
flying out on leave, the public waited for the
President to make a statement about the single worst
combat incident of the war. Bush said nothing for two
days, until, when pressed by reporters while he was
touring wildfire damage in California, he put his hand
over his heart and said, “I am saddened any time that
there’s a loss of life. I’m saddened. Because I know a
family hurts. And there’s a deep pain in somebody’s
heart. But I do want to remind the loved ones that
their sons and daughters—or the sons, in this
case—died for a cause greater than themselves, and a
noble cause, which is the security of the United
States.” The President seemed not to know that two of
the soldiers in the helicopter were women. Ronald
Reagan or Bill Clinton would never have missed such a
detail. It wasn’t indifference on Bush’s part. It was
a deliberate strategy of not being told too much, not
getting bogged down in the day-to-day problems of the
war, not waiting up past midnight for the casualty
figures to come in, like Lyndon Johnson in the
Situation Room. Not knowing kept the President from
appearing distracted and discouraged. And,
politically, it worked. Bush never seemed to be a
President under siege.

To downplay the mounting death count in Iraq, the
Administration enforced a ban on the filming or
photographing of coffins arriving at Dover Air Force
Base. The decision achieved a political success by
keeping the death toll an unreality for those
Americans who were not personally linked to a soldier.
It played its part in making Iraq a remote war.

I asked Chris Frosheiser what he thought about the
policy. He said, “We need to see the coffins, the
flag-draped coffins. The hawks need to see it. They
need to know there’s a big price to pay. If they don’t
have skin in the game, they need to see it. And the
doves need to see the dignity of the sacrifice. They
don’t always see that.” He wanted to collect Kurt’s
posthumous medals, his folded funeral flag, his
autopsy report, and a photo of the head wound, and
take them on the road, making fifteen-minute
presentations around the country. He would tell those
who supported the war, “Suit up and show up.” He would
tell war opponents about the nobility of a soldier’s
duty. Or he wouldn’t say anything at all. He simply
wanted people to see.

The idea of diminishing the threat from the Middle
East by spreading democracy, beginning with Iraq, had
occurred to the Bush Administration before W.M.D.s
turned out not to exist. Some officials had been
promoting the notion for years, and the President had
made the argument in a speech before the American
Enterprise Institute a month before the invasion. But
this was hardly the casus belli that the
Administration had presented to the American people.
When the Administration changed its rationale later
on, without ever admitting to the shift, it had every
appearance of a bait-and-switch.

Nevertheless, the idea deserved to be taken seriously
by the political opposition at home and by America’s
allies. A few Democrats, like Biden and Ambassador
Richard Holbrooke, took up the idea without diluting
their criticism of the Administration’s conduct in
Iraq. This was a difficult mental balancing act, but
it was also important, because what Iraqis and
democracy needed most was a thoughtful opposition that
could hold the Bush Administration to its own
promises. Yet most of the war’s critics, including
leaders of the Democratic Party, refused to engage in
debate. They turned the subject back to the missing
weapons, or they scoffed at the Administration’s
sincerity, or they muttered about the dangers of
utopianism, or they said nothing. As a result, the
Administration never felt concerted pressure from the
left to insure that Iraq emerged from the war with a
viable democracy.

The lack of dialogue between the Republicans and the
Democrats brought out the destructive instincts of
each party, and Iraq got the worst of it. Abdication
also left the Democratic Party in a bad position, both
morally and politically. The Party’s fortunes during
the election year came to depend on Iraq’s turning
into a disaster. When a journalist pointed this out to
the antiwar candidate Howard Dean, he said, “I’m
hoping against it, but there’s no indication that I
should be expecting anything else.” An informed
argument that the American presence in Iraq could only
make matters worse deserved a hearing, and some
Democrats believed that heavy civilian casualties were
reason enough for ending the war. But most critics
offered a detached and complacent negativism. The
election year proved to be the year in which Iraq did
turn into a disaster, yet the Democrats failed to
benefit, in part because they had nothing to offer
instead. Chris Frosheiser ended up voting for Kerry by
a hair, more out of party loyalty than anything else,
but, between Bush’s attempts at Lincolnian rhetoric
and Kerry’s unconvincing multi-point plans, a slender
majority of American voters went for jury-rigged hope.
And yet month after month the war grew less popular.

The cynicism on both sides was bound to reach the
troops in Iraq. For many enlisted men and women, the
mission became harder to understand and justify. Last
summer, at the American base outside Mahmudiya, an
insurgent stronghold in an area south of Baghdad which
soldiers had nicknamed the Triangle of Death, I talked
with several of Kurt Frosheiser’s platoon buddies,
including Matt Plumley, who had been next to him in
the Humvee the night he was killed. We sat in a
stifling trailer. They were privates, all but one of
them in their early twenties, and they expressed a
tender and fatalistic affection for the young man they
called Fro.

“That incident woke me up,” Marcus Murphy, a blond,
soft-spoken Indianan, said. “These people are trying
to kill us.”

“It’s amazing,” Plumley said. “We’re here trying to

Latrael Brigham, a black soldier from Texas, took
Kurt’s death as a failure of leadership. “I was pissed
off, because we’re riding around here with messed-up
equipment. If you send men to war, you have to prepare
them and equip them so they can fight. And have a
vision of the aftermath of the war, have a plan about
how you’re going to finish it. And not just jump into
it. And not put the whole burden on us Americans.

“We got ourselves into something,” Brigham went on. “I
wish I could have some real answers to why we’re here,
but I don’t think I’ll ever have them. Not any time

Plumley, Kurt’s best friend in the unit, had a shy
manner, and his voice had a Southern twang. He was
less ready than Brigham to write the whole thing off.
“If everyone here hated us, there’d be I.E.D.s every
five inches,” he said.

Brigham said, “I don’t see us changing hundreds of
years of religion, and I don’t see us bringing
democracy to the region. We might be here ten
years—depends on the casualties, the body bags coming

Murphy said, “What this country needs is a big civil
war. There’s so many religions—we need to leave and
let them work it out themselves.”

“I think we might have did it too fast,” Plumley said.

“I love our democracy, but we can’t impose it,”
Brigham said.

“I would hate if we did pull out,” Plumley told him.
“That would be very selfish for our country. We done
messed it up.”

Brigham said, “I don’t think we’re going to be here
long enough. The insurgency’s going to get worse. We
can’t stop it. There’s always going to be more of

I asked the soldiers about the meaning of Kurt’s
death. Plumley said that there was a reason that he
was alive instead of Kurt, but he didn’t know what it

Brigham remembered Kurt arriving at basic training,
out of shape, and beating him by two minutes in the
two-mile run. But Kurt had worked hard to become a

“I never seen him in a bad mood,” Plumley said.

“I think about Fro every day,” Brigham said.

Plumley was smiling, remembering his friend. He had
been the speaker at the Veterans Day memorial who
couldn’t hold back his tears, and for the first few
days he had felt depressed. “Then I thought, How would
Fro want me to be if he could see me? Every time I
don’t want to do something or think it’s stupid, I say
to myself, ‘Would Fro think that? No.’ So he gives me
a lot of drive.”

They were all quiet. Then they asked how Kurt’s family
was doing.

For Chris Frosheiser, Iraq posed an unanswered
question about his son and his country. He didn’t need
to be proved right; he needed to find out what was
right, in order to honor Kurt and the other soldiers
who had died in Iraq. The war that had taken his son
became an essential connection to his son, and he
wanted to feel a connection, also, to the soldiers
with whom Kurt had served and to the country where he
had died. Nothing irritated Frosheiser more than when
someone urged him to get on with his life. He searched
obsessively, even frantically, through poems, song
fragments, magazines (he read not just the New
Republic but the left-wing In These Times and the
right-wing American Enterprise), Army documents,
e-mails, the First Armored Division Web site, American
history books, tomes on the theory of a just war,
Kurt’s belongings, and his own memories. “What was my
son involved in? Was it right?” he asked. “I’m looking
for an account of it that can sit well in my mind and
in my heart. I’m proud of Kurt’s service. But the
whole thing—were these guys misused? And for what?” He
never made it easy for himself.

Frosheiser wrote to me not just as a father but as a
citizen as well. Our e-mail exchange, however, didn’t
prepare me for the raw grief I encountered when I went
to see him last year in Des Moines, over Memorial Day
weekend. Within minutes of picking me up at the
airport, Frosheiser was in tears; he was in tears when
I left his apartment, two days later. His narrow blue
eyes were always red-rimmed behind glasses, his fair
skin raw with faint lines etched into his cheeks, his
nose stuffed up. His sentences were often interrupted
by a nervous laugh that broke into a sob before he
regained control.

The Sunday before Memorial Day, we drove a few miles
northeast of Des Moines to the new development of
Altoona, where Erin, his daughter, lives. Neighbors
were having a cookout in their driveway. (They had
continued bringing over food and taking out Erin’s
trash months after Kurt’s funeral.) Erin smiled kindly
at her father when she saw that he was upset. “Not
already, Dad.” After dinner, we went to Erin’s house
and sat around the dining-room table, where, spread
out, were photos of Kurt in his youth; his graduation
portrait from Fort Knox, in which he was standing in
front of a Bradley armored fighting vehicle; his
combat patches; his “Killed in Action” banner, framed
in red; his Purple Heart and Bronze Star; and his
tricornered funeral flag, in a wooden frame.

Erin, a woman in her early thirties with a direct
gaze, was having difficulty explaining things to her
small children. Her five-year-old son, Colin, kept
asking, “Why didn’t he shoot them? Why are they
there?” Her three-year-old, Madelyn, wouldn’t remember
Kurt when she grew up.

Erin had been trying hard to picture Iraq: the lives
of Iraqi mothers, the dangers they lived with. “I have
trouble imagining anyone’s life but mine,” she said.
“Does that sound selfish? Sometimes I fear it’s going
to keep going until we blow up the world. And I wish
we had a better plan.” When she first saw the photos
from Abu Ghraib, she said, “I thought, They blew up my
brother—more power to them. Then more rational
thoughts came up: We’re trying to win them over, and
this humiliation isn’t helping our cause.” She
supported the war, but on a bad day in April, 2004,
when twelve Americans were killed, she said to
herself, “We’ve got to get out. I don’t want other
families to go through what we went through. But what
do you accomplish? Because we lost Kurt for nothing,

For her father, the great challenge was simply to keep
going. “This one-day-at-a-time thing works for me,” he
said. “I get in trouble when I start thinking, How am
I going to get through these days and weeks and

“Most days, I just pretend like it didn’t happen,”
Erin said.

“Me, too. Sometimes I think it didn’t happen—just for
a minute. Then I know it did.”

The alarm on Kurt’s watch went off.

Frosheiser and I drove back to Des Moines. His
apartment felt smaller than it was, because it lacked
natural light and had become the cluttered repository
for many of Kurt’s things—his clothes and sports gear,
his CDs stacked next to his father’s old records and
books, his memorial spurs, plaques, medals, flags.
Frosheiser had been sleeping on the living-room couch,
as if keeping a vigil, since the day Kurt left for
basic training. I slept in Kurt’s room. A dust-covered
black U.S. Army shaving kit was on the toilet tank; in
the closet, desert and jungle fatigues hung above
desert combat boots, winter-weather boots, and a
guitar. It was a long time before I fell asleep.

The grave was a patch of dark earth and green grass,
surrounded by the graves of veterans of earlier wars;
little Memorial Day flags were planted in each of them
and fluttered in the breeze of a beautiful Midwestern
spring morning. Frosheiser, in nylon blue sweats,
saluted. “Hey, buddy,” he said, kneeling to run his
hand over the stone marker, which was engraved with a
cross and the words

Kurt Russell Frosheiser
PV2 US Army
Jul 10 1981 Nov 8 2003
Purple Heart

“It was hard to keep the snow off it because it kind
of built up all winter,” he said. “When the dirt was
soft, you could press it and leave your handprints.
That was a good thing.” He was talking to the grave
now. “It’s less painful trying to forget it, but you
have to keep remembering. Random thing, just a random
thing. Kurt said, ‘Live your life, old man,’ and that
could mean I’d be a bitter son of a gun, and I don’t
want that. That could very easily happen.” He was
adjusting the long-life candle under blue glass. “We
know that people live on in our hearts, but do they
live on in another way? We just don’t know the answer
to that.” He slowly got to his feet, and we walked
back to the car. “What does it all mean? It means
nothing. How we respond is what it means.”

A Memorial Day ceremony was taking place in a park
next to the state capitol, and was attended by a small
crowd, including a number of old men in veterans’
caps. A woman from the committee that had organized
the event recognized Frosheiser and escorted him over
to a row of folding chairs, where he exchanged awkward
greetings with his ex-wife. Jeanie was wearing a
jacket bearing an image of the American flag and the
words “These Colors Don’t Run,” but her face was
crumpled with grief. A politician gave a short speech,
and then the names of the Iowans who had been killed
in Iraq—fourteen of them—were read. Frosheiser stood
in line to place a rose beneath an M-16 that had been
stuck, bayonet first, into the ground with a helmet
perched on top, as had been done at the service in

After the ceremony, we drove across the state, toward
the Illinois border, to the high-school graduation
party of his ex-wife’s niece. (Frosheiser wanted to
keep family relationships as strong as possible,
especially now.) We passed grain silos, seed
factories, and fields of early corn and baled hay
speckled with the shadows of fleecy white clouds
racing across a blue sky. The pleasures of the road
seemed to free Frosheiser’s thoughts from the
morning’s burdens. “I wonder what Bush in private
thinks about being against nation-building and now
being waist-deep in it,” he said. “What is
that—paradox, or irony?” Since America was extending
itself so deeply into other countries, Frosheiser
said, the country needed to create a whole cadre of
citizens who had been educated in the humanities and
were capable of working overseas. “I was thinking of
that song the other day, ‘Ain’t Gonna Study War No
More.’ Maybe we should study it. Otherwise, we’re
going to screw it up. Because it’s going to be our
kids and grandkids doing it.” He had heard the new
Bush foreign policy described as Wilsonian, an
inspiring term. “There’s this phrase, ‘America the
great and the just.’ Reagan used to talk about ‘the
city on the hill.’ The first time I heard Condi Rice
talking about democracy in Iraq, I got chills up my
back. But then you ask, ‘How do you do it? Is it
necessary?’ ” Frosheiser drove in silence for a while,
and when he spoke again his voice was quieter. “That’s
where I kind of run up against a wall with regard to

I asked him what he meant.

“Kurt’s life—was he worth that? I’d say no. He was
more important than that. So I pull back.”

That night, back at his apartment in Des Moines, we
were watching CNN—thirteen Memorial Day-weekend deaths
in Iraq—when the phone rang. It was Matt Van Buren,
the driver of Kurt’s Humvee, calling from Germany,
where he was still recovering from his shrapnel
wounds. Frosheiser muted the sound and sat up in his
rocking chair. The stress of the day had left him with
a headache. “I’m not sure what I can ask you,” he said
to Van Buren. “Let me know if I go too far.” On the
other end, Van Buren was describing that night.
Frosheiser said, “He got whacked on the head pretty
good. He never had much of a chance—I understand that.
He got hit in the wrong place.”

I was watching the muted television: terror attacks in
Saudi Arabia, gun battles outside Najaf, Special
Forces operations in Afghanistan, Memorial Day
ceremonies in America. Without sound, these felt like
scenes from a war that had already receded into

“He wasn’t able to talk after he was hit, was he?”
Frosheiser asked. Listening, he broke into a sob. “But
he was trying? Yeah, that sounds like him. I believe
it. Yeah, I believe it.”