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Saturday, December 03, 2005

W.'s Head in the Sand by Maureen Dowd

December 3, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

W.'s Head in the Sand
By MAUREEN DOWD

In the Christmas spirit, the time has come for the reality-based community to reach out to the White House.

The Bush warriors are so deluded, they're even faking their fakery.

This week, the president presented a plan-like plan for "victory" in Iraq, which Scott McClellan rather pompously called the unclassified version of their supersecret master plan. But there would be no way to achieve victory from this plan even if it were a real plan. If this is what they're telling themselves in the Sit Room, we're in bigger trouble than we thought.

Talk about your unknown unknowns, as Rummy would say.

The National Strategy for Victory must have come from the same P.R. genius who gave President Top Gun the "Mission Accomplished" banner about 48 hours before the first counterinsurgency war of the 21st century broke out in Iraq.

It's not a military strategy - classified or unclassified. It's political talking points - and not even good ones. Are we really supposed to believe that anybody, even the most deeply delusional Bush sycophant, believes the phrase "Our strategy is working"?

The president talked about three neatly definable groups of insurrectionists. But as Dexter Filkins reported in yesterday's New York Times, there are dozens, perhaps as many as a hundred, groups fighting the U.S. Army in Iraq, and they have little, if anything, in common.

Mr. Bush's presentation claimed that the U.S. was actually making progress in Iraq. But outside the Bush-Cheney-Rummy bubble, 10 more marines were killed by a roadside bomb outside Falluja, for a total of 2,125 U.S. military deaths so far.

The administration must realize it needs a real exit strategy, because it's advertising for one. The U.S. Agency for International Development is offering more than $1 billion for anyone - anyone at all - who can come up with a plan to pacify and rebuild 10 Iraqi cities seen as vital in the war.

Maybe the White House should apply - Usaid's proffer says the "invitation is open to any type of entity."

When Bush officials weren't telling us fairy tales about the big, bad W.M.D. in Iraq, they were assuring us that the unprovoked war would be a kindness for Iraq, giving it democracy. But they are not just failing to bring democracy to Iraq as they help Iranian-backed mullahs install an Islamic republic with Saddamist torture chambers. They are also degrading democracy in America.

They've tarnished American moral leadership with illegal detentions, torture, secret C.I.A. prisons in countries only recently liberated from the Soviet gulag, and Soviet-style propaganda both at home and in Iraq.

Guess the Bush administration didn't learn anything this fall when federal auditors said it had violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of its education polices. Bush officials got right back into the fake news business, paying to plant propaganda in the Iraqi press. They outsourced this disinformation campaign to something called the Lincoln Group - have they no shame?

You have to admire Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman. He kept a straight face when he called the U.S. "a leader when it comes to promoting and advocating a free and independent media around the world." He added, "We've made our views very clear when it comes to freedom of the press."

Exceedingly clear. The Bushies don't believe in it. They disdain the whole democratic system of checks and balances.

At the Naval Academy, President Bush talked about how well the Iraqi security forces were fighting. He claimed that 40 Iraqi battalions were taking the lead in the fight against insurgents, and that in the battle of Tal Afar this year, "the assault was primarily led by Iraqi security forces - 11 Iraqi battalions backed by 5 coalition battalions providing support."

Anderson Cooper of CNN swiftly produced Time magazine's Baghdad bureau chief, Michael Ware, who was embedded with the U.S. military during the entire Tal Afar battle. "With the greatest respect to the president, that's completely wrong," Mr. Ware said, adding: "I was with Iraqi units right there on the front line as they were battling with Al Qaeda. They were not leading."

He also told Mr. Cooper: "I have had a very senior officer here in Baghdad say to me that there's never going to be a point where these guys will be able to stand up against the insurgency on their own."

Mr. Ware recalled that in a battle two weeks ago, he saw an Iraqi security officer put down his weapon and curl up into a ball when he was under attack. "I have seen that on - on many, many occasions," he said.

Curling up in a ball. Good National Strategy for Victory.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bullet Points Over Baghdad by PAUL KRUGMAN

December 2, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

Bullet Points Over Baghdad
By PAUL KRUGMAN
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was supposed to provide the world with a demonstration of American power. It didn't work out that way. But the Bush administration has come up with the next best thing: a demonstration of American PowerPoint. Bullets haven't subdued the insurgents in Iraq, but the administration hopes that bullet points will subdue the critics at home.

The National Security Council document released this week under the grandiose title "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" is neither an analytical report nor a policy statement. It's simply the same old talking points - "victory in Iraq is a vital U.S. interest"; "failure is not an option" - repackaged in the style of a slide presentation for a business meeting.

It's an embarrassing piece of work. Yet it's also an important test for the news media. The Bush administration has lost none of its confidence that it can get away with fuzzy math and fuzzy facts - that it won't be called to account for obvious efforts to mislead the public. It's up to journalists to prove that confidence wrong.

Here's an example of how the White House attempts to mislead: the new document assures us that Iraq's economy is doing really well. "Oil production increased from an average of 1.58 million barrels per day in 2003, to an average of 2.25 million barrels per day in 2004." The document goes on to concede a "slight decrease" in production since then.

We're not expected to realize that the daily average for 2003 includes the months just before, during and just after the invasion of Iraq, when its oil industry was basically shut down. As a result, we're not supposed to understand that the real story of Iraq's oil industry is one of unexpected failure: instead of achieving the surge predicted by some of the war's advocates, Iraqi production has rarely matched its prewar level, and has been on a downward trend for the past year.

What about the security situation? During much of 2004, the document tells us: "Fallujah, Najaf, and Samara were under enemy control. Today, these cities are under Iraqi government control."

Najaf was never controlled by the "enemy," if that means the people we're currently fighting. It was briefly controlled by Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. The United States once vowed to destroy that militia, but these days it's as strong as ever. And according to The New York Times, Mr. Sadr has now become a "kingmaker in Iraqi politics." So what sort of victory did we win, exactly, in Najaf?

Moreover, in what sense is Najaf now under government control? According to The Christian Science Monitor, "Sadr supporters and many Najaf residents say an armed Badr Brigade" - the militia of a Shiite group that opposes Mr. Sadr and his supporters - "still exists as the Najaf police force."

Meanwhile, this is the third time that coalition forces have driven the insurgents out of Samara. On the two previous occasions, the insurgents came back after the Americans left. And there, too, it's stretching things to say that the city is under Iraqi government control: according to The Associated Press, only 100 of the city's 700 policemen show up for work on most days.

There's a lot more like that in the document. Refuting some of the upbeat assertions about Iraq requires specialized knowledge, but many of them can be quickly debunked by anyone with an Internet connection.

The point isn't just that the administration is trying, yet again, to deceive the public. It's the fact that this attempt at deception shows such contempt - contempt for the public, and especially contempt for the news media. And why not? The truth is that the level of misrepresentation in this new document is no worse than that in a typical speech by President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney. Yet for much of the past five years, many major news organizations failed to provide the public with effective fact-checking.

So Mr. Bush's new public relations offensive on Iraq is a test. Are the news media still too cowed, too addicted to articles that contain little more than dueling quotes to tell the public when the administration is saying things that aren't true? Or has the worm finally turned?

There have been encouraging signs, notably a thorough front-page fact-checking article - which even included charts showing the stagnation of oil production and electricity generation! - in USA Today. But the next few days will tell.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bush Hits Rewind by BOB HERBERT

December 1, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

Bush Hits Rewind
By BOB HERBERT

It's weird. It's like watching a computerized model of a president. Somebody programs George W. Bush, carefully embedding the information to be dispensed over the next several hours, and then he goes out and addresses the nation - as a computerized bundle of administration talking points.

"We will never back down," said Mr. Bush in his speech at the U.S. Naval Academy yesterday. "We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory."

I don't think there were many people who believed him. Members of Mr. Bush's own party are nervously eyeing next year's Congressional elections. They would abandon Iraq in a heartbeat if it meant the difference between getting re-elected or having to hunt for a real job.

This war (which has already cost the lives of more than 2,100 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis) was cynically launched (it was never about Sept. 11) and incompetently fought (we have never sent enough troops or sufficient equipment), and will be brought to a close by people obsessed not with the security of the United States and the welfare of the troops, but with the political calendar.

"I will settle for nothing less than complete victory," said Mr. Bush. He then dutifully defined victory as follows:

"Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation."

Those were some of yesterday's talking points. Here's today's reality: the $6-billion-a-month U.S. military mission in Iraq is unsustainable, as is the political support for the war. There is now a virtual consensus that a significant American troop withdrawal will get under way in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces are ill equipped, understaffed and widely infiltrated by private militia members and insurgents. In many ways, it's an amateurish operation.

As Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who served in the 82nd Airborne, told reporters this week:

"Without an effective ministry that can keep track of soldiers and police, pay those soldiers and police, apply those soldiers and police and essentially provide the foundation, then you're going to have some tactically trained units, but they're not going to be a coherent or effective force."

Despite the rosy scenarios offered by President Bush, American-style democracy is nowhere in sight in Iraq. Among other things, the evidence of horrific human rights abuses by Iraqi forces allied with us - including kidnappings, torture and murders - is increasing.

In short, the picture in Iraq is not a pretty one, and there is no indication that substantial improvements are coming soon.

If the president gets any of this, you couldn't tell it by his appearance yesterday. He stuck to his talking points. "To all who wear the uniform," he said, "I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your commander in chief."

We may not cut and run in Iraq, but with the G.O.P. sweating out next year's elections, the plans are already under way for American forces by the tens of thousands to cut and speed-walk toward the exits. Mr. Bush could have been honest about this yesterday, but he chose not to be.

If the administration does not address this inevitable pullout, or pullback, seriously, it will be conducted as incompetently as the post-invasion operation.

The inevitable drawdown of U.S. forces is hardly a secret. In addition to the political pressures coming from the G.O.P., there's the fact that we don't have enough people in the military - and can't entice enough people into the military - to back up the president's blithe promises.

Senator Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, said in an op-ed article in The Washington Post that it was likely that 50,000 troops would be redeployed out of Iraq by the end of next year and "a significant number" of the remainder in 2007.

A president who's little more than a bundle of talking points cannot possibly maintain the long-term trust and confidence of the public. There's a disturbing remoteness to President Bush that seems especially odd in a politician who was selected by his party because of his supposed ability to project warmth and the kind of fundamental authenticity that his Democratic opponents lacked.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Waning Power of Roe v. Wade

November 29, 2005

The Waning Power of Roe v. Wade

Although the landmark ruling survives, the right to abortion has been steadily eroding.

by Dorothy Samuels

A lot has happened since January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, its momentous 7-to-2 decision that recognized a woman's constitutional right to make her own child-bearing decisions and legalized abortion nationwide. The cold war ended, and so did apartheid in South Africa. E-mail, cell phones, iPods and Diet Coke appeared. There have been six new presidents in the White House, including two named George Bush.

Yet for all that has happened in the nearly 33 years since the court declared that the constitutional right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, one thing hasn't changed: America remains locked in a bitter and seemingly never-ending battle over abortion. Even though polls show that a healthy majority of Americans still support Roe's essential holding, three decades of clinic violence and relentless harassment, combined with strategic court challenges and muscular political action by anti-choice forces have taken a serious toll.

Technically, Roe v. Wade still stands. But for the moment, at least, its well-organized and well-funded opponents are winning the ground war.

Thanks in large part to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the practical-minded conservative jurist whom Judge Samuel Alito, Jr. has been nominated to replace, Roe v. Wade's core holding, placing the abortion decision in the hands of women and their doctors up until fetal viability, remains the law of the land. But wide-ranging restrictions and dwindling access to safe and legal abortion services is rendering reproductive rights merely theoretical for a growing number of women around the country - especially those who are poor, young, or live in rural areas.

Incrementally, and largely under the national radar, formidable obstacles have been placed in the way of women trying to access abortion services. As a result, the fundamental right the Roe decision supposedly protects is progressively disappearing in much of the nation.

Among the most significant roadblocks:

• A shortage of trained doctors and health care facilities offering abortion services.

• Mandatory waiting periods and demeaning state-scripted "counseling" sessions that lack a real medical justification and sometimes require two clinic trips on separate days, creating a special hardship for poor women who lack transportation to easily make multiple clinic visits, and who live in areas without a nearby abortion provider.

• Parental notification and consent laws that are supposed to improve family communication but actually serve to jeopardize the health and well-being of frightened young women, including victims of incest and other abuse who have good reason not to inform the adults in their life.

• Longstanding restrictions on the use of Medicaid, and other government money, to help women pay for abortions.

• So-called "TRAP laws," which single out abortion providers for onerous and expensive "safety" rules enacted for the purpose of harassing existing providers, and deterring the development of new providers.

The driving force behind these restrictions has been state legislatures, which have enacted more than 400 measures restricting abortions in the last decade alone. But in November 2003, Congress passed the first federal ban on an abortion procedure - an only slightly modified version of Nebraska's "partial birth" ban the Supreme Court rightly struck down just three years before, with Justice O'Connor casting the deciding vote. The majority found that the broad and imprecise measure, which spawned copycat legislation in at least 30 states, could be read to ban the most common abortion procedure used after the first trimester, and also lacked the constitutionally-required exception to protect the health of the woman.

With Justice O'Connor about to leave the court, and anti-abortion Republicans holding the upper hand in the judicial nomination process, there has naturally been a lot of speculation about whether Roe v. Wade will survive. Roe's future is undeniably crucial. The situation for women seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy would be far worse if Justice O'Connor had not cast the crucial fifth vote in 1992 to save Roe from being overturned. A ruling directly toppling Roe would once again give states authority to ban abortion, and a detailed 2004 analysis by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a leading pro-choice legal advocacy group, suggests as many as 30 states would do so.

But the single-minded focus on Roe - and the tea-leaf reading about where Judge Alito really stands on it - is distracting from the even more immediate practical threat to women's reproductive freedom posed by the rapidly spreading web of anti-choice restrictions and regulations. There has been a stealthy backdoor repeal of Roe underway for years. As Judge Alito's confirmation hearing draws closer, the discussion of Roe's future should broaden into one about the whole array of ways in which abortion rights are under assault.

I. What Roe v. Wade Established

Although Roe is a famous case, its precise holding is not well understood. The court struck down a Texas law that made most abortions illegal. But it neither endorsed abortion nor closed its eyes to the profound nature of the abortion decision or "the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires." What the court actually did was to strike an astute constitutional compromise: the Roe decision declared that a woman's right to choose whether to terminate her pregnancy is a fundamental liberty interest but that it must be balanced against the fetus's growing potential for life.

To establish a framework for evaluating abortion restrictions, the decision divided pregnancy into three trimesters, and delineated the degree of allowable regulation during each. In the first trimester, the court left the abortion decision solely to a woman and her doctor. In the second trimester, the decision permitted state regulations that were narrowly tailored to promote the health of the woman. In the third trimester - the point at which the fetus becomes viable outside the mother's womb - the decision recognized the state's authority to impose regulations to protect the fetus, or even ban abortion, provided exceptions were made to protect the life and health of the woman.

It has become fashionable, even among self-proclaimed supporters of abortion rights, to bash Roe v. Wade, and its author, Justice Harry Blackman, for unwarranted "judicial activism" and "legislating from the bench." These critics fault the Roe majority for inventing a new privacy right found nowhere in the Constitution, and using it to overturn abortion restrictions in 46 states. According to many critics, Roe was also a strategic mistake, truncating a percolating debate in state legislatures nationwide that would have ended criminal restrictions on abortion by democratic vote instead of judicial fiat.

These criticisms make for pithy sound bites, but they don't hold up. It's true that dividing pregnancy into three stages and coming up with different levels of permissible regulations for each may have given the decision a legislative feel. But courts engage in this sort of line-drawing all the time. The trimester framework made concrete Roe's sensible balance between the right of women to control their bodies and government's legitimate interest in protecting potential life. The decision recognized that the government's interest increases as a pregnancy proceeds, but prevented government from imposing abortion restrictions prior to viability, except to protect a woman's health, thereby preserving meaningful reproductive choice. That's a far better approach than allowing government to smother the abortion option with needless regulation starting in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, as subsequent abortion rulings have done.

Wrong as well is the claim that the court engaged in unwarranted judicial activism when it grounded Roe v. Wade in a constitutional right to privacy "broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." The ruling is not perfect: Justice Blackmun, who served as general counsel to Minnesota's renowned Mayo Clinic before becoming a judge, may have been better at articulating the harm done by interfering with a doctor's ability to administer medical treatment than the harm inflicted on the woman. But Roe's conclusion that a woman's right to decide whether to become a parent deserves the highest level of constitutional protection required no giant jurisprudential leap. The Roe ruling flowed naturally from a line of previous privacy decisions that protected certain intimate personal decisions from government interference. The most notable of these, the 1965 case, Griswold v. Connecticut, struck down a statute that made it a crime for married couples to use birth control.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who did much to advance the legal rights of women as a lawyer bringing test cases in the 1970's, suggested in a well-publicized 1993 lecture at New York University Law School that Roe would have been more persuasive had it been grounded on the argument that abortion bans violate the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. Her point, that the inability of women to control their reproductive destiny prevents them from participating as equals in the nation's political, social, and economic life, is a sound one, and Justice Blackmun and other pro-choice justices eventually came to embrace it. Upon his retirement in 1994, Justice Blackmun aptly described his much-beloved and much-reviled ruling in Roe as a necessary step toward "the full emancipation of women." But for the court to have relied on that equality claim way back in 1973 would have meant propelling the court's equal protection approach to a whole new level. Lawyerly and professorial objections aside, the offense to women's dignity and privacy inherent in laws prohibiting abortion in the first phases of pregnancy, is something most people, women in particular, seem to get.

Critics of Roe's reasoning but not its legal outcome - including Justice Ginsburg - have also wondered aloud whether abortion rights would be more secure today if the decision had been less expansive, giving state legislatures more time to liberalize abortion laws on their own. The extent to which courts should defer to elected legislatures on emerging rights issues is an interesting question. But any suggestion that Roe short-circuited a political process that was moving apace to end the criminalization of abortion is wildly inaccurate. As my New York Times colleague Linda Greenhouse recounts in her recent book, "Becoming Justice Blackmun," when the court took up Roe v. Wade, "(f)our states - New York, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii - had repealed all criminal penalties for abortions performed by licensed doctors, up to specified points in pregnancy. Thirteen other states had passed 'reform' laws, expanding the circumstances under which abortion was permissible. But thirty-three states continued to outlaw nearly all abortions; in many of these states, there was little prospect for change." Had the Supreme Court waited for the states to act, in other words, we would probably still be waiting.

The New York experience is telling. Three years before Roe v. Wade, in 1970, New York became the second state to legalize abortion, following on the heels of Hawaii, which repealed its criminal abortion law earlier that same year. But even in "liberal" New York, overcoming the heavy opposition, much of it from the Catholic Church, wasn't easy. The bill that Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed into law cleared the state Assembly by just a single vote. Two years later, after the upstate Republican who cast that decisive vote was defeated for re-election, the Legislature approved a partial repeal of the state's enlightened new abortion law, which was stopped from going into effect only by a gubernatorial veto. Nationally, whatever momentum there was toward meaningful abortion law reform seemed to quickly peter out. Between 1971 and 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade, not a single additional state moved to repeal its criminal prohibition on abortion early in pregnancy. This was noted by the prominent constitutional scholar, Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, in his 1990 book, "Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes." "There is little evidence," Professor Tribe concluded, "that the United States was on the verge of emerging, in the early 1970's, from the long shadow of shame that had branded women as blameworthy for extramarital sex and nonprocreative sex and that condemned them for choosing abortion even when the choice was a painful and profoundly reluctant one."

On a more philosophical level, there are some issues that should not be left in the political arena, to be decided with finality by a majority vote. A woman's right to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy in the earliest phases is surely one of them. The recognition of basic rights - such as the right to control one's reproductive choices - should not be a popularity contest.

II. Justice O'Connor's 'Undue Burden,' and the Erosion of Roe

Roe v. Wade established a single national standard making abortion legal, But it also accelerated the abortion wars.

Opponents of Roe turned to Congress, but met with only limited success. Their efforts to get a constitutional amendment declaring that human life begins at conception failed. So did their campaign for a dangerous court-stripping plan, which sought to take away the federal courts' power to strike down state abortion restrictions. Anti-choice forces did, however, get new prohibitions passed on the use of federal money to pay for abortions, which create severe hardships for poor women to this day.

Anti-abortion groups became even more energetic at the state level. The political and religious right joined forces to push through a succession of state limitations aimed at making it harder for women to obtain an abortion, and serving up test cases they hoped would lead to the overturning of Roe. The court, its membership now changed from the bench that decided Roe, rejected some of these restrictions, but it approved others, on the fictional ground that they did not significantly interfere with the woman's choice.

These rulings, culminating with the court's splintered 1989 decision upholding Missouri's aggressive attempt to restrict abortion in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, fueled concerns that there was no longer a court majority that favored keeping Roe intact. When a closely-divided court issued its much-anticipated 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, supporters of reproductive freedom breathed a sigh of relief. The decision, co-written by Justice O'Connor, sustained Roe's core holding that "a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability."

But buried in the victory were seeds of defeat. The Casey majority sustained Roe's bottom line, but, alas, not its overall approach.

The Casey decision abandoned Roe's trimester framework. Instead, it told states they could impose restrictions throughout a pregnancy so long as they do not impose an "undue burden" on women seeking an abortion. In making this change, the 5-to-4 majority significantly watered down the constitutional protection afforded women's private reproductive decisions.

In practice, the "undue burden" test crafted by Justice O'Connor has invited states to come up with ever more creative schemes to impede the exercise of the abortion right with needless regulation beginning in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, delaying abortions and increasing medical risks for many women, foreclosing abortion choice entirely for others.

In Casey itself, for example, the Supreme Court upheld Pennsylvania's requirement that a physician must provide a woman with state-scripted information about abortion 24-hours in advance of a non-emergency abortion. To a majority of justices, the rule's insulting assumption about women's decision-making and its interference with physicians' professional judgment sounded benign. But forcing overburdened physicians to provide biased "counseling" drives up abortion costs, turns physicians into propagandists for the state while making them less willing to perform abortions, and, overall, contributes to the isolation and unfair stigmatization of women seeking vital reproductive health care.

By upholding Pennsylvania's restrictions, the court sent a clear message to anti-abortion forces: if they got abortion restrictions passed at the state level, there was a good chance those restrictions would survive constitutional challenge.

III. Chipping Away at Abortion Rights, State by State

Opponents of abortion took up the Casey court’s invitation. They increased their activity at the state level, accelerating their push for restrictions that would erode abortion rights to varying degrees, but that lawyers could argue did not impose an “undue burden.” The accumulated impact of all these efforts, which show no sign of letting up, is now being felt in many states. For example, in addition to the three decades old federal prohibition that prevents federal Medicaid funding of nearly all abortions for low-income women, 11 states now restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for public employees. Rules in 4 states limit abortion coverage by private insurance plans to cases in which carrying the pregnancy to term would endanger the woman’s life, although those who can afford it are free to purchase additional coverage for non-emergency abortions. At this point, 43 states have enacted some form of parental involvement law, requiring either parental consent or notice before a minor obtains an abortion. Fully nine of these laws including the New Hampshire parental consent statute that is the subject of a major test case now pending before the Supreme Court have been enjoined by courts, and presently are not being enforced, owing either to their purposeful omission of an adequate exception to protect a minor’s health or because of state constitutional issues.

Some 31 states mandate that women receive "counseling" before an abortion, and 18 of them specify how the slanted, and oft-times inaccurate or misleading information designed to dissuade women from having an abortion is to be delivered. In 23 of the states requiring abortion "counseling", women are required to wait a specified period of time after the session - most often 24 hours - before getting the procedure. Greatly compounding the hardship these rules create for women, 6 states deter women from exercising their right of choice by requiring that the "counseling" be provided in person instead of by phone or over the Internet, thereby insuring that women must make two clinic visits before having the procedure.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen states are currently enforcing regulatory schemes - so-called TRAP laws - singling out abortion doctors and clinics for overly-stringent regulation. In a scary new initiative, anti-abortion strategists have begun reviving an abusive tactic from the past - deploying health inspectors to abortion clinics to review and copy unredacted medical files containing highly personal details of patients' histories without any apparent valid regulatory justification.

The early evidence suggests that these sort of barriers have done just what their drafters intended - impeded women from getting abortions. For example, in a 2001 challenge to an Indiana law requiring medical personnel to deliver state-mandated information on abortion "in the presence" of pregnant women at least 18 hours before an abortion, the federal trial judge found the law effectively blocked approximately 10 to 13 percent of Indiana women who wanted abortions from obtaining them. A 1997 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association cited by the judge reported on the impact of a Mississippi law that required pregnant women make at least two clinic visits before obtaining an abortion. It found that the total rate of abortion for residents of Mississippi, the nation's poorest state, decreased by approximately 16 percent in the first year after the law took effect. Because of the delays it created, the proportion of Mississippi abortions that occurred second trimester increased by about 40 percent. A 2-to-1 ruling by a federal appeals panel subsequently reversed the trial court's rejection of the in-person counseling requirement, but without persuasively countering the factual reality of its "undue burden."

IV. The Scary Mississippi Model

For people residing in blue states, with pro-choice legislative majorities, the threat posed by anti-abortion forces may seem remote. But in states where abortion rights enjoy less political support, women's right to control their reproductive choices are only what the courts say they are. Even with Roe still the law of the land, the situations in these states is not good. Consider the bleak terrain for women confronting an unwanted pregnancy today in Mississippi, the subject of "The Last Abortion Clinic," a valuable documentary by Raney Aronson-Rath that aired recently on P.B.S.

By piling restriction upon restriction, Mississippi has all but outlawed abortion in the state. Today, Mississippi currently has just one functioning abortion clinic, down from six just a decade ago. Even that clinic's survival is now in jeopardy.

Making matters worse, many of Mississippi's anti-abortion extremists also oppose birth control. Their activism is inflicting a cruel double-whammy on impoverished women who are denied access both to abortion services and to the contraceptives they need to avoid become pregnant in the first place - a situation hardly unique to Mississippi, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, other states are seeking to follow Mississippi's legislative lead. And bad as things are in Mississippi, some parts of the country have gone even further to promote a "culture of life" that pays no heed to the negative impact for women's health and lives when reproductive choice is severely encumbered or denied. According to a 2004 ranking of the states by a leading anti-abortion legal advocacy group, Americans United for Life, three states are ahead of Mississippi when it comes to implementing abortion restrictions and a range of other anti-abortion measures.

V. The Future of the Constitutional Right

There has been a lot of discussion already about whether Judge Alito would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade - a goal he explicitly embraced in a memo he wrote 20 years ago and there will be no doubt be more when his confirmation hearings begin in January. His position on Roe is important. But replacing Justice O'Connor with an anti-Roe justice should still leave at least five votes in support of letting Roe stand. The more urgent concern raised by Judge Alito's nomination is that he could join with other conservatives on the court to continue to poke holes in the right to abortion, further weakening Roe without formally discarding it.

Opponents of abortion rights have become adept at passing laws that are progressively narrowing the right to abortion in America. On Nov. 23, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld in its entirety the state's waiting-period law that will, like others around the country, make it incrementally more difficult for many women to exercise their reproductive rights.

The effort to eliminate abortion rights by regulation and restriction has already progressed too far, and there are cases heading toward the court's docket that will give Justice O'Connor's replacement plenty of opportunity to make things substantially worse. What the court needs is a Justice who will prevent abortion rights from eroding any further. Judge Alito's record contains strong hints he is not that person - including his vote as a federal appellate judge that a provision requiring an adult woman to notify her husband before obtaining an abortion posed no problem under the court's "undue burden" standard.

When senators question Judge Alito, they should try to determine whether he would vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, but that should only be the beginning of their inquiry about his abortion views. Even if he votes to keep Roe, he will have plenty of opportunity to erode women's ability to control their reproductive destiny, one decision at a time.

It's regrettable that the country is facing yet another confirmation proceeding dominated by the issue of abortion. The time and energy both sides spend brawling over abortion rights would be much better spent working on an effective common agenda to reduce unwanted pregnancies. But the primary fault here lies not with abortion rights supporters, but with the vocal and tenacious minority on the other side who still refuse to bow to the legitimacy of Roe's wise compromise, and who believe their personal moral opposition to abortion gives them a mandate to try to shut down abortion access locally and pack the Supreme Court with anti-abortion justices in order to deny that option to others.

Attempting to turn back the clock to the days of dangerous back alley abortions, and deny women the reproductive freedom essential to their full participation in the nation's civic life is a moral issue, too. Not to mention an undue burden.

The Autumn of the Patriarchy by Maureen Dowd

November 30, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

The Autumn of the Patriarchy
By MAUREEN DOWD

In the vice president's new, more fortified bunker, inside his old undisclosed secure location within the larger bunker that used to be called the West Wing of the White House, Dick Cheney was muttering and sputtering.

He wasn't talking to the pictures on the wall, as Nixon did when he finally cracked. Vice doesn't trust those portraits anyway. The walls have ears. He was talking to the only reliable man in a city of dimwits, cowards, traitors and fools: himself.

He hurled a sheaf of news reports with such force it knocked over the picture of Ahmad Chalabi that he keeps next to the picture of Churchill. Winston Chalabi, he likes to call him.

Vice is fed up with all the whining and carping - and that's just inside the White House. The only negativity in Washington is supposed to be his own. He's the only one allowed to scowl and grumble and conspire.

The impertinent Tom DeFrank reported in New York's Daily News that embattled White House aides felt "President Bush must take the reins personally" to save his presidency.

Let him try, Cheney said with a sneer. Things are nowhere near dire enough for that. Even if Junior somehow managed to grab the reins to his presidency, Vice holds Junior's reins. So he just needs to get all these sniveling, poll-driven wimps and losers back on board with the master plan.

Things had been going so smoothly. The global torture franchise was up and running. Halliburton contracts were flowing. Tax cuts were sailing through. Oil companies were raking it in. Alaska drilling was thrillingly close. The courts were defending his executive privilege on energy policy, and people were still buying all that smoke about Saddam's being responsible for 9/11, and that drivel about how we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here. Everything was groovy.

But not anymore. Cheney could not believe that Karl had made him go out and call that loudmouth Jack Murtha a patriot. He was sure the Pentagon generals had put the congressman up to calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. Is the military brass getting in touch with its pacifist side? In Wyoming, Vice shoots doves.

How dare Murtha suggest that Cheney dodged and dodged and dodged and dodged and dodged the draft? Murtha thinks he knows about war just because he served in one and was a marine for 37 years? Vice started his own war. Now that's a credential!

It always goes this way with the cut-and-run crowd. First they start nitpicking the war, complaining about little things like the lack of armor for the troops. Then they complain that there aren't enough troops. Well, that would just require more armor that we don't have. Then they kvetch about using incendiary weapons in a city like Falluja. Vice likes the smell of white phosphorus in the morning.

What really enrages him is all the Republicans in the Senate making noises about timetables. Before you know it, it's going to be helicopters on the rooftop at the Baghdad embassy.

Just because Junior's approval ratings are in the 30's, people around here are going all wobbly. Vice was 10 points lower and he wasn't worried. Numbers are for sissies.

Why do Harry Reid and his Democratic turncoats think they can call the White House on the carpet? Do they think Vice would fear to lie about lying about the rationale for going to war? A real liar never stops lying.

He didn't want to have to tell the rest of the senators to go do to themselves what he had told Patrick Leahy to go do to himself.

Now all these idiots are getting caught, even Scooter. DeLay's on the ropes and the Dukester is a total embarrassment, spending bribes on antique commodes and a Rolls-Royce. Vice should never have let an amateur get involved with defense contracts.

Republican moderates are running scared in the House, worried about re-election. Even senators seem to have forgotten which side their bread is oiled on. Ted Stevens let oil company executives get caught lying about the energy task force meeting, while Vice can't even get a little thing like torture chambers through the Senate. What's so wrong with a little torture?

And now John Warner wants Junior to use fireside chats to explain his plan for Iraq. When did everybody get the un-American idea that the president is answerable to America?

Vice is fed up with the whining of squirrelly surrogates like Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson on behalf of peaceniks like George Senior and Colin Powell. If Poppy's upset about his kid's mentor, he should be man enough to come slug it out.

Poppy isn't getting Junior back, Vice vowed, muttering: "He's my son. It's my war. It's my country."

(And the bad news is: this man is our vice president.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What's to Be Done About Darfur? Plenty

November 29, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

What's to Be Done About Darfur? Plenty
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
In 1915, Woodrow Wilson turned a blind eye to the Armenian genocide. In the 1940's, Franklin Roosevelt refused to bomb the rail lines leading to Auschwitz. In 1994, Bill Clinton turned away from the slaughter in Rwanda. And in 2005, President Bush is acquiescing in the first genocide of the 21st century, in Darfur.

Mr. Bush is paralyzed for the same reasons as his predecessors. There is no great public outcry, there are no neat solutions, we already have our hands full, and it all seems rather distant and hopeless.

But Darfur is not hopeless. Here's what we should do.

First, we must pony up for the African Union security force. The single most disgraceful action the U.S. has taken was Congress's decision, with the complicity of the Bush administration, to cut out all $50 million in the current budget to help pay for the African peacekeepers in Darfur. Shame on Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona - and the White House - for facilitating genocide.

Mr. Bush needs to find $50 million fast and get it to the peacekeepers.

Second, the U.S. needs to push for an expanded security force in Darfur. The African Union force is a good start, but it lacks sufficient troops and weaponry. The most practical solution is to "blue hat" the force, making it a U.N. peacekeeping force built around the African Union core. It needs more resources and a more robust mandate, plus contributions from NATO or at least from major countries like Canada, Germany and Japan.

Third, we should impose a no-fly zone. The U.S. should warn Sudan that if it bombs civilians, then afterward we will destroy the airplanes involved.

Fourth, the House should pass the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. This legislation, which would apply targeted sanctions and pressure Sudan to stop the killing, passed the Senate unanimously but now faces an uphill struggle in the House.

Fifth, Mr. Bush should use the bully pulpit. He should talk about Darfur in his speeches and invite survivors to the Oval Office. He should wear a green "Save Darfur" bracelet - or how about getting a Darfur lawn sign for the White House? (Both are available, along with ideas for action, from www.savedarfur.org.) He can call Hosni Mubarak and other Arab and African leaders and ask them to visit Darfur. He can call on China to stop underwriting this genocide.

Sixth, President Bush and Kofi Annan should jointly appoint a special envoy to negotiate with tribal sheiks. Colin Powell or James Baker III would be ideal in working with the sheiks and other parties to hammer out a peace deal. The envoy would choose a Sudanese chief of staff like Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a leading Sudanese human rights activist who has been pushing just such a plan with the help of Human Rights First.

So far, peace negotiations have failed because they center on two groups that are partly composed of recalcitrant thugs: the government and the increasingly splintered rebels. But Darfur has a traditional system of conflict resolution based on tribal sheiks, and it's crucial to bring those sheiks into the process.

Ordinary readers can push for all these moves. Before he died, Senator Paul Simon said that if only 100 people in each Congressional district had demanded a stop to the Rwandan genocide, that effort would have generated a determination to stop it. But Americans didn't write such letters to their members of Congress then, and they're not writing them now.

Finding the right policy tools to confront genocide is an excruciating challenge, but it's not the biggest problem. The hardest thing to find is the political will.

For all my criticisms of Mr. Bush, he has sent tons of humanitarian aid, and his deputy secretary of state, Robert Zoellick, has traveled to Darfur four times this year. But far more needs to be done.

As Simon Deng, a Sudanese activist living in the U.S., puts it: "Tell me why we have Milosevic and Saddam Hussein on trial for their crimes, but we do nothing in Sudan. Why not just let all the war criminals go. ... When it comes to black people being slaughtered, do we look the other way?"

Put aside for a moment the question of whether Mr. Bush misled the nation on W.M.D. in Iraq. It's just as important to ask whether he was truthful when he declared in his second inaugural address, "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors."

Mr. Bush, so far that has been a ringing falsehood - but, please, make it true.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

In Niceville U.S.A., Tone on Iraq Changes

In Niceville U.S.A., Tone on Iraq Changes
By JOHN VINOCUR
International Herald Tribune

Things have a way of slopping together in the all-talk, Christian contemporary, news/talk, country/oldie, adult contemporary, true gospel AM airwaves propagating above the K-Mart parking lot on Route 20.

A $59 offer from a "star registry" to get an asteroid officially named after you in time for Christmas segues into the claim that since nobody would take a broken foot to a dentist, smart folks hire Keith Vanover, the Florida Panhandle's specialist DUI/DWI lawyer, to handle their drunk-driving citations.

Where Okaloosa and Walton counties align, deep in a part of America where George W. Bush has been held in reverence by more than 70 percent of the voting population, the background audio can get easily turned into a hyper-caricature of how a redneck, conservative world is supposed to sound: commercials for Abner's chicken restaurant and rant-level commentary going after the liberals.

In fact, next to K-Mart there's an Italian deli called Joey Tomato's with terrific sandwiches and a photo of Jacob Javits, the old New York (liberal Republican) senator, on the wall.

And last weekend, a voice from the car radio was saying, stop arguing about how we got in there, George Bush needs a better plan on Iraq right now. A steadying hand moved to the knob to hold the wobbling signal. I got this much:

Americans should ask themselves what would have happened if we had pulled out of Germany after killing Hitler, the voice said. We didn't then, and we can't quit Iraq now either. The thing is, it went on, the president has to explain how we win. So people understand.

To the Panhandle's ears, here was a new kind of admonition from inside the conservative reservation, representing a real change in tone. If much of official Washington appears to be finally engaging in a deep debate on the American military presence in Iraq, that's a development. But it's the unmistakable on-air legitimization here of real concern about Iraq that may convince the president he has a problem in his rock-hard constituencies.

A little more than a year ago, Niceville, its cheery Welcome Wagon of a name, its air force base, its colony of retired colonels, and its locals' strong ties to the Christian right wing, all made the town an early campaign stop for Bush on his way to re-election.

The mood on Iraq was such then that Jim Anders, the Republican Party chairman in neighboring Walton County, proclaimed that Neville Chamberlain would have been a Democrat.

Okaloosa and Walton went, as expected, on the high side of 70 percent for Bush. When hurricanes, although not Katrina, whacked the Panhandle's coast on the Gulf of Mexico, even Democrats said federal and state aid seemed adequate. Unemployment here for 2005 was running at about 3 percent last month. And Susan MacManus, who watches the region's politics from the University of South Florida, said the local congressional seats seemed locks for the GOP in 2006.

All the same, Jim Anders, having breakfast at the Doughnut Hole over near the beach in Destin, seems a different guy these days. Sure, he said at first, there was uncertainty about Iraq, and look how Lincoln, that Republican, had a hard time during the Civil War.

But just suppose, Anders was asked, you got a call from Dubya and he wanted to know what his support was like down here. What do you say?

"I support you."

Full stop. Pause. Anders moved the conversation to what he felt was some wavering in the economy, a sense of diminished vibrancy, something less entrepreneurial making the rounds. O.K.

But when the question came back to Iraq a second time, Anders leapt over both a strategy for the present and the idea of winning. His response was not a cave-in, but an attempt at a phrase that would skirt the president's here-and-now misery.

He said, "I think Bush is sincerely working hard to get us out of Iraq, and I think he will."

Ray Padgett seems a different man too now. A retired Coca-Cola executive, he moved back to the pineywoods near DeFuniak Springs and became Walton County Democratic chairman before the 2004 elections. With a real homeboy's sense of redneck sensibilities, and experience in the great world beyond, he thought he could make a political dent.

Padgett resigned last month. He said he had become frustrated not being able to speak his mind. In the context of Washington's party-linked partisan political debate on Iraq, he said, that means being able to say out loud how he backs Representative John Murtha's call for an immediate withdrawal of American forces.

Padgett explained he was appalled to see how most Democrats in Congress gave lip service to Murtha's status as an elder, but fled from real support of his position.

But what about the local section of Bush's kamikaze constituency, Padgett's friends from way back, all Republicans, how do they feel now about the president's handling of Iraq?

"We've got a group I call the Old Farts Club," Padgett said. "We get together regularly. What's changing is what's not said. They're not proselytizing like they used to."

Back to Niceville, driving through Panhandle air-time taking time off from the moment's new touch of reflectiveness on Iraq: voices talking instead about proposed boycotts, one of San Francisco because of an army recruiter being refused access to a city school, another against department store chains that reject the word Christmas in their advertising.

At Joey Tomato's, an air force colonel who retired in July, and promised an hour of his opinions on Iraq and Bush in a straight trade for anonymity, said "the perception here is we are not solving the problem."

Like Anders and Padgett, I had spoken to him a year ago about people made nervous by George Bush. Then the colonel described America as being full of guys who think Bush's being judgmental and decisive is terrible "when it's being judgmental and decisive that will save us."

Now, the colonel said, "I fault him strategically. You've got to take the battle to the roots."

That meant to Syria, or even Iran in order to win in Iraq.

The former military man said, "Bush needs to be more vocal, to stand at his own bully pulpit and say exactly what he's doing. That's his shortcoming right now."

In the heart of the Panhandle, where there are often Great Certainties and a craving for no-ifs-or-buts, I heard confusion about that lack of direction for two days. Among the president's faithful, that could be called slippage on once-consecrated ground.

Dishonest, Reprehensible, Corrupt ... by Frank Rich

November 27, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

Dishonest, Reprehensible, Corrupt ...
By FRANK RICH

GEORGE W. BUSH is so desperate for allies that his hapless Asian tour took him to Ulan Bator, a first for an American president, so he could mingle with the yaks and give personal thanks for Mongolia's contribution of some 160 soldiers to "the coalition of the willing." Dick Cheney, whose honest-and-ethical poll number hit 29 percent in Newsweek's latest survey, is so radioactive that he vanished into his bunker for weeks at a time during the storms Katrina and Scootergate.

The whole world can see that both men are on the run. Just how much so became clear in the brace of nasty broadsides each delivered this month about Iraq. Neither man engaged the national debate ignited by John Murtha about how our troops might be best redeployed in a recalibrated battle against Islamic radicalism. Neither offered a plan for "victory." Instead, both impugned their critics' patriotism and retreated into the past to defend the origins of the war. In a seasonally appropriate impersonation of the misanthropic Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life," the vice president went so far as to label critics of the administration's prewar smoke screen both "dishonest and reprehensible" and "corrupt and shameless." He sounded but one epithet away from a defibrillator.

The Washington line has it that the motivation for the Bush-Cheney rage is the need to push back against opponents who have bloodied the White House in the polls. But, Mr. Murtha notwithstanding, the Democrats are too feeble to merit that strong a response. There is more going on here than politics.

Much more: each day brings slam-dunk evidence that the doomsday threats marshaled by the administration to sell the war weren't, in Cheney-speak, just dishonest and reprehensible but also corrupt and shameless. The more the president and vice president tell us that their mistakes were merely innocent byproducts of the same bad intelligence seen by everyone else in the world, the more we learn that this was not so. The web of half-truths and falsehoods used to sell the war did not happen by accident; it was woven by design and then foisted on the public by a P.R. operation built expressly for that purpose in the White House. The real point of the Bush-Cheney verbal fisticuffs this month, like the earlier campaign to take down Joseph Wilson, is less to smite Democrats than to cover up wrongdoing in the executive branch between 9/11 and shock and awe.

The cover-up is failing, however. No matter how much the president and vice president raise their decibel levels, the truth keeps roaring out. A nearly 7,000-word investigation in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times found that Mr. Bush and his aides had "issued increasingly dire warnings" about Iraq's mobile biological weapons labs long after U.S. intelligence authorities were told by Germany's Federal Intelligence Service that the principal source for these warnings, an Iraqi defector in German custody code-named Curveball, "never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so." The five senior German intelligence officials who spoke to The Times said they were aghast that such long-discredited misinformation from a suspected fabricator turned up in Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations and in the president's 2003 State of the Union address (where it shared billing with the equally bogus 16 words about Saddam's fictitious African uranium).

Right after the L.A. Times scoop, Murray Waas filled in another piece of the prewar propaganda puzzle. He reported in the nonpartisan National Journal that 10 days after 9/11, "President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda."

The information was delivered in the President's Daily Brief, a C.I.A. assessment also given to the vice president and other top administration officials. Nonetheless Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney repeatedly pounded in an implicit (and at times specific) link between Saddam and Al Qaeda until Americans even started to believe that the 9/11 attacks had been carried out by Iraqis. More damning still, Mr. Waas finds that the "few credible reports" of Iraq-Al Qaeda contacts actually involved efforts by Saddam to monitor or infiltrate Islamic terrorist groups, which he regarded as adversaries of his secular regime. Thus Saddam's antipathy to Islamic radicals was the same in 2001 as it had been in 1983, when Donald Rumsfeld, then a Reagan administration emissary, embraced the dictator as a secular fascist ally in the American struggle against the theocratic fascist rulers in Iran.

What these revelations also tell us is that Mr. Bush was wrong when he said in his Veterans Day speech that more than 100 Congressional Democrats who voted for the Iraqi war resolution "had access to the same intelligence" he did. They didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief that Mr. Waas uncovered. They didn't have access to the information that German intelligence officials spoke about to The Los Angeles Times. Nor did they have access to material from a Defense Intelligence Agency report, released by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan this month, which as early as February 2002 demolished the reliability of another major source that the administration had persistently used for its false claims about Iraqi-Al Qaeda collaboration.

The more we learn about the road to Iraq, the more we realize that it's a losing game to ask what lies the White House told along the way. A simpler question might be: What was not a lie? The situation recalls Mary McCarthy's explanation to Dick Cavett about why she thought Lillian Hellman was a dishonest writer: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' "

If Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney believe they were truthful in the run-up to the war, it's easy for them to make their case. Instead of falsely claiming that they've been exonerated by two commissions that looked into prewar intelligence - neither of which addressed possible White House misuse and mischaracterization of that intelligence - they should just release the rest of the President's Daily Briefs and other prewar documents that are now trickling out. Instead, incriminatingly enough, they are fighting the release of any such information, including unclassified documents found in post-invasion Iraq requested from the Pentagon by the pro-war, neocon Weekly Standard. As Scott Shane reported in The New York Times last month, Vietnam documents are now off limits, too: the National Security Agency won't make public a 2001 historical report on how American officials distorted intelligence in 1964 about the Gulf of Tonkin incident for fear it might "prompt uncomfortable comparisons" between the games White Houses played then and now to gin up wars.

SOONER or later - probably sooner, given the accelerating pace of recent revelations - this embarrassing information will leak out anyway. But the administration's deliberate efforts to suppress or ignore intelligence that contradicted its Iraq crusade are only part of the prewar story. There were other shadowy stations on the disinformation assembly line. Among them were the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, a two-man Pentagon operation specifically created to cherry-pick intelligence for Mr. Cheney's apocalyptic Iraqi scenarios, and the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), in which Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and the Cheney hands Lewis Libby and Mary Matalin, among others, plotted to mainline this propaganda into the veins of the press and public. These murky aspects of the narrative - like the role played by a private P.R. contractor, the Rendon Group, examined by James Bamford in the current Rolling Stone - have yet to be recounted in full.

No debate about the past, of course, can undo the mess that the administration made in Iraq. But the past remains important because it is a road map to both the present and the future. Leaders who dissembled then are still doing so. Indeed, they do so even in the same speeches in which they vehemently deny having misled us then - witness Mr. Bush's false claims about what prewar intelligence was seen by Congress and Mr. Cheney's effort last Monday to again conflate the terrorists of 9/11 with those "making a stand in Iraq." (Maj. Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations for Centcom, says the Iraqi insurgency is 90 percent homegrown.) These days Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney routinely exaggerate the readiness of Iraqi troops, much as they once inflated Saddam's W.M.D.'s.

"We're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," the vice president said of his critics. "We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them." But according to a Harris poll released by The Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, 64 percent of Americans now believe that the Bush administration "generally misleads the American public on current issues to achieve its own ends." That's why it's Mr. Cheney's and the president's own words that are being thrown back now - not to rewrite history but to reveal it for the first time to an angry country that has learned the hard way that it can no longer afford to be without the truth.

Age of Anxiety by Paul Krugman

ovember 28, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

Age of Anxiety
By PAUL KRUGMAN

Many eulogies were published following the recent death of Peter Drucker, the great management theorist. I was surprised, however, that few of these eulogies mentioned his book "The Age of Discontinuity," a prophetic work that speaks directly to today's business headlines and economic anxieties.

Mr. Drucker wrote "The Age of Discontinuity" in the late 1960's, a time when most people assumed that the big corporations of the day, companies like General Motors and U.S. Steel, would dominate the economy for the foreseeable future. He argued that this assumption was all wrong.

It was true, he acknowledged, that the dominant industries and corporations of 1968 were pretty much the same as the dominant industries and corporations of 1945, and for that matter of decades earlier. "The economic growth of the last twenty years," he wrote, "has been very fast. But it has been carried largely by industries that were already 'big business' before World War I. ... Every one of the great nineteenth-century innovations gave birth, almost overnight, to a major new industry and to new big businesses. These are still the major industries and big businesses of today."

But all of that, said Mr. Drucker, was about to change. New technologies would usher in an era of "turbulence" like that of the half-century before World War I, and the dominance of the major industries and big businesses of 1968 would soon come to an end.

He was right. Consider, for example, what happened to America's steel industry. In the 1960's, steel production was virtually synonymous with economic might, as it had been for almost a century. But although the U.S. economy as a whole created lots of wealth and tens of millions of jobs between 1968 and 2000, employment in the U.S. steel industry fell 60 percent.

And as industries went, so did corporations. Many of the corporate giants of the 1960's, companies whose pre-eminence seemed permanent, have fallen on hard times, their places in the business hierarchy taken by new players. General Motors is only the most famous example.

So what? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: why does it matter if the list of leading corporations turns over every couple of decades, as long as the total number of jobs continues to grow?

The answer is the reason Mr. Drucker's old book is so relevant to today's headlines: corporations can't provide their workers with economic security if the companies' own future is highly insecure.

American workers at big companies used to think they had made a deal. They would be loyal to their employers, and the companies in turn would be loyal to them, guaranteeing job security, health care and a dignified retirement.

Such deals were, in a real sense, the basis of America's postwar social order. We like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, not like those coddled Europeans with their oversized welfare states. But as Jacob Hacker of Yale points out in his book "The Divided Welfare State," if you add in corporate spending on health care and pensions - spending that is both regulated by the government and subsidized by tax breaks - we actually have a welfare state that's about as large relative to our economy as those of other advanced countries.

The resulting system is imperfect: those who don't work for companies with good benefits are, in effect, second-class citizens. Still, the system more or less worked for several decades after World War II.

Now, however, deals are being broken and the system is failing. Remember, Delphi was once part of General Motors, and its workers thought they were totally secure.

What went wrong? An important part of the answer is that America's semi-privatized welfare state worked in the first place only because we had a stable corporate order. And that stability - along with any semblance of economic security for many workers - is now gone.

Regular readers of this column know what I think we should do: instead of trying to provide economic security through the back door, via tax breaks designed to encourage corporations to provide health care and pensions, we should provide it through the front door, starting with national health insurance. You may disagree. But one thing is clear: Mr. Drucker's age of discontinuity is also an age of anxiety, in which workers can no longer count on loyalty from their employers.

Cut Our Losses by Bob Herbert

November 28, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

Cut Our Losses
By BOB HERBERT

Washington — Jack Murtha is as tough as they come, but he's seen enough of the misguided, mismanaged, mission impossible war in Iraq to know that it's not sustainable, not worth the continued killing and butchering and psychological maiming of thousands of American G.I.'s.

"I mean, this was a war done on the cheap and we're paying a heavy price for it," he said in an interview just before Thanksgiving.

Mr. Murtha is the Pennsylvania congressman, former marine and traditional war hawk whose call for a quick withdrawal of American troops from Iraq has intensified the national debate over the war. He makes weekly visits to wounded troops in military hospitals, and when he talks about their suffering it sometimes seems as if his own heart is breaking.

"These kids are magnificent," he said. "They've done their duty."

He talked about the former Notre Dame basketball player Danielle Green, a left-handed guard ("heck of a player") who lost her left hand in a rocket attack in Baghdad. And he recalled a young marine who was trying to defuse a bomb when it exploded. "It blinded him and took his hands off," said Mr. Murtha. "It killed the guy behind him."

In Congressman Murtha's view, the troops who have displayed so much valor and made so many sacrifices in Iraq deserved better from their leadership here at home. "We went in with insufficient forces," he said. "We had people in the wrong [specialties], people driving trucks who couldn't back trucks up. We had security forces without radios. I found 40,000 troops without body armor."

He has no faith in President Bush's repeated calls to stay the course. "The number of incidents have gone from 150 a week to 772 a couple of weeks ago," he said. As additional U.S. forces have been deployed, casualty rates have increased, not decreased. And his many conversations with G.I.'s have convinced him that American fighting men and women don't have much confidence in their Iraqi allies.

"They don't trust them - that's all there is to it," said Mr. Murtha. The disparagement of Iraqi security forces by American troops was so widespread that Mr. Murtha was surprised when one soldier "started talking about how good they are, how much they've improved, and so forth."

It was a miscommunication. The congressman soon realized that the soldier was talking about how much the insurgents had improved; how they had become more sophisticated, and thus "more deadly."

Mr. Murtha, 73, is a Democrat who has maintained good ties over the years with Republicans and has extraordinary contacts within the Defense Department and the military. He's a decorated Vietnam War veteran (Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts) who retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves after 37 years of service.

He said he's convinced that there is nothing more the military can accomplish in Iraq. It's the presence of the American troops themselves, inevitably seen by the Iraqis as occupiers, that continues to fuel the insurgency.

"Our military captured Saddam Hussein and captured or killed his closest associates," he said. "But the war continues to intensify."

When he went public with his proposal to pull American troops out of Iraq (he would establish a "quick reaction" force elsewhere in the region, perhaps in Kuwait), he said:

"Our military and their families are stretched thin. Many say that the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on their third deployment. Recruitment is down, even as our military has lowered its standards. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care."

Equipment shortages at premier military bases in the U.S., including Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, are so severe, Mr. Murtha told me, "that the troops don't have the equipment they need to train on."

We need to cut our losses in Iraq. The folly of the Bush crowd and its apologists is now plain for all to see. Congressman Murtha is right, the war is not sustainable. Even Republicans in Congress are starting to bail out on this impossible mission. They're worried - not about the welfare of the troops, but about their chances in the 2006 elections.

To continue sending people to their deaths under these circumstances is worse than pointless, worse than irresponsible. It's a crime of the most grievous kind.