Saturday, July 31, 2004

 

A Reminder


Kerry and Bush


John Kerry


George W. Bush

 

Contribute


 

Hey George...


Can you hear me now? Just you wait for the debates.

 

The Next President Of The United States




That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong to any ideology and it doesn't belong to any political party. It belongs to all the American people.

- John F. Kerry

 

I Just Don't Get This Administration

U.S. Shifts Stance on Nuclear Treaty
White House Resists Inspection Provision


In a significant shift in U.S. policy, the Bush administration announced this week that it will oppose provisions for inspections and verification as part of an international treaty that would ban production of nuclear weapons materials.

For several years the United States and other nations have pursued the treaty, which would ban new production by any state of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. At an arms-control meeting this week in Geneva, the Bush administration told other nations it still supported a treaty, but not verification.

Administration officials, who have showed skepticism in the past about the effectiveness of international weapons inspections, said they made the decision after concluding that such a system would cost too much, would require overly intrusive inspections and would not guarantee compliance with the treaty. They declined, however, to explain in detail how they believed U.S. security would be harmed by creating a plan to monitor the treaty.

Arms-control specialists reacted negatively, saying the change in U.S. position will dramatically weaken any treaty and make it harder to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. The announcement, they said, also virtually kills a 10-year international effort to lure countries such as Pakistan, India and Israel into accepting some oversight of their nuclear production programs.

The announcement at the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament comes several months after President Bush declared it a top priority of his administration to prevent the production and trafficking in nuclear materials, and as the administration works to blunt criticism by Democrats and others that it has failed to work effectively with the United Nations and other international bodies on such vital global concerns.

"The president has said his priority is to block the spread of nuclear materials to rogue states and terrorists, and a verifiable ban on the production of such materials is an essential part of any such strategy," said Daryl Kimball, director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. "Which is why it is so surprising and baffling that the administration is not supporting a meaningful treaty."

----

Dafna Linzer, The Washington Post

Am I supposed to conclude that the Administration has some plan to put in place of this treaty?

Friday, July 30, 2004

 

New Attacks

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo writes about the new line of attacks from Mr. Bush.

Now this is rich.

President Bush's new line of attack is that John Kerry is a man of few achievements.

"My opponent has good intentions," the president said today. "But intentions don't always translate into results. After 19 years in the United States Senate, my opponent has had thousands of votes but very few signature achievements."

This might be a plausible line of attack coming from another opponent. Unlike, say, Russ Feingold or Ted Kennedy, there's no prominent piece of legislation with Kerry's name on it, though admirers of Kerry point to his critical role in a series of high-profile Senate investigations.

But coming from George W. Bush? A guy whose handlers had to get some of the more gullible run of journalists to refer to his life before he turned forty as his 'lost years'?

I mean, even if you grant that Bush's presidency has been a tenure of transcendent achievement (and it has undoubtedly been eventful), it's a bit hard to get around the fact that even by his own account he spent his first five decades kicking back, living off family connections and playing solitaire.

It's certainly true that Mr. Kerry said certain things in his war protestor days that can now be used against him with some audiences. But until he was well into middle-age President Bush's most noteworthy public utterances seem to have been limited to various invocations and inflections of 'par-TAY' and reciting the alphabet under legal compulsion.

(I'd be surprised if the Kerry camp didn't use this as another opening to highlight the difference between how these two men spent their twenties.)

It's also another case of the Bush campaign's internally contradictory lines of attack.

John Kerry: highly ambitious and grasping ne'er-do-well.

George W. Bush: man of action, sword of steel.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

 

George W. Ferrell

Sam Rosenfeld over at The American Prospect Online links to this funny ad done by Will Ferrell for America Coming Together.

 

Yeah, The Not-So-Liberal Media Is At It Again

Jeffrey Dubner over at the The American Prospect's convention blog has something to say about the CNN coverage after the John Edwards speech.

CNN, 10:54-11:02 P.M.: Now, we could talk about John Edwards’ speech -- or, as CNN chose to do, we could immediately give the floor to the Bush campaign. First comment after the speech? Jeff Greenfield discussing Cheney’s speech at the 2000 RNC. First commentator? Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition and Bush-Cheney southeast regional director. Second commentator? Victoria Clarke, campaign press secretary for George H.W. Bush -- oh, but Torie can’t be reached, so let’s go back to Ralph Reed! Eight virtually uninterrupted -- and entirely unchallenged -- minutes devoted to Bush-Cheney talking points.

Nothing like this will be done during the RNC -- anybody interested in putting money on that can email tapped@prospect.org. Eight minutes of Max Cleland after Dick Cheney’s speech? I didn’t think so.*

I watched some of this...I was rather upset by it too.

*Small changes made to formating.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

 

Flying Over Texas

Ezra Klein, over at Pandagon post about a blogger writing this:

Democrats have been having a Kerry-gasm over the recently-discovered merits of a Presidential candidate with military service, but it's a bit of a stretch to pretend that Bush avoided danger, while Kerry asked to be sent towards it.

Kerry certainly volunteered for duty in the Vietnam theater, and I respect his service--in fact, I'd even argue that his post-Vietnam opposition was sincere, well-intentioned and not a blanket condemnation of all veterans--as well as his purple hearts. I'm entirely unconcerned with debates over whether he was genuinely injured, or just kinda injured.

Bush, on the other hand, volunteered for a dangerous duty....but in the United States, rather than Vietnam.

Yes, yes, I acknowledge that flying is indeed more dangerous than sitting on a couch in front of a television. Still, there is danger in that. The ceiling could fall down at any moment, or a plane could crash into the house, or, well, any number of things could happen.

And I applaud all people who fly Piper Cubs across the country for they, in their winged pursuits, face danger as soon as the start the engine. I caution them to be careful in the air at all times.

Still....

One really doesn’t wonder that Mr. Bush’s chances of being shot down and held as a POW, a-la John McCain, were significantly reduced by keeping Texas V.C. free. Nor was he likely to find it necessary to dodge many Mexican-launched S.A.M. missiles patrolling the skies over the Lone Star State.

The argument that the young, steely-eyed George W. Bush faced down danger in the Texas National Guard is one of the silliest things I’ve read.

Ever.

And I’ve read a lot of silly things.

The gist of the counter argument, is that Mr. Bush purposefully avoided the MORE dangerous activity of flying in a combat zone.

People die in combat, and while I’m not sure what the flight related mortality rate of the Texas Air National Guard was during Vietnam, I’d bet it was zero or close to it.

As a result, it is inappropriate to say the ever-stalwart Mr. Bush volunteered for dangerous duty by staying in Texas.

What he did volunteer for was a duty that was significantly LESS dangerous than flying over North Vietnam.

To describe Mr. Bush’s Texas duty “dangerous” is quite the slap at the airmen who actually did fly in combat. Some of whom were shot down. Some of whom died.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

 

Sometimes You Wonder If They Even Have A Clue

Medicare Cut for Cancer Drugs Proposed

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration proposed cutting Medicare payment rates Tuesday for doctors providing cancer treatment in their offices, projecting savings of $530 million amid concerns that some specialists would reduce their practices.

Medicare chief Mark McClellan said the government is paying far too much for cancer drugs administered in doctors' offices — up to 50 percent more than typical sales prices for some medicines used to treat prostate cancer. The changes, to take place in 2005, would make payments competitive with prices negotiated by other health plans, he said.

Cancer specialists' revenues could decline 2 percent to 8 percent, McClellan said.

Drugs dispensed in doctors' offices to treat lung illnesses, for which Medicare pays 90 percent more than the actual sales price, also would be affected by the proposed changes, he said.

"We're going to get more for our money," McClellan said.

Anticipating reductions, some cancer specialists have talked about cutting back their practices and sending patients to hospitals to get treatment.

"With this magnitude of cut, I don't see how a practice can survive taking care of Medicare patients," said David Johnson, a Nashville physician who is president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (news - web sites).

The law called for tying reimbursements for chemotherapy drugs more closely to the price doctors, pay rather than the listed wholesale price. Doctors pay less than that price because drug companies give them substantial discounts.

----

Mark Sherman, Associated Press

Gee, now the Bush Administration is all concerned about lowering costs.

If that were the case, they certainly could have allowed for a provision in the Medicare bill that would have allowed for Medicare to negociate with drug companies for better prices.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

 

Two Notches Below Horrible

So, I went to go see Catwoman yesterday....and guess how I feel about it.

It was shot like a music video...to paraphrase Fred Ward’s Walter Stuckel character in The Player...in Catwoman, the order of the day was quick-cut, quick-cut, quick-cut. I mean, it was like a strobe light.

Do you remember what movies were like before CGI?

Apparently the director of Catwoman doesn't either.

And the plot...Oi!

Saturday, July 24, 2004

 

More Cat Blogging


Billie again.

Friday, July 23, 2004

 

Desperation

Bush urges blacks to break with Democrats

DETROIT, United States (AFP) - US President George W. Bush passionately wooed black voters, who voted against him by a 9-1 margin in 2000, and urged them to break their traditional allegiance to the Democratic party.

In a speech to the non-profit National Urban League community-based group, Bush played off a recent poll showing 35 percent of black voters think Democrats automatically assume they can count on their support.

"Does the Democrat Party take African-American voters for granted? That's a fair question. I know plenty of politicians assume they have your vote, but do they earn it and do they deserve it?" he said, winning scattered applause.

Bush played up his appointments of blacks to serve in key administration jobs, including Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites), as well as Education Secretary Rod Paige.

"Listen, (the) Republican Party's got a lot of work to do. I understand that," he said, drawing laughter and applause.

But "is it a good thing for the African-American community to be represented mainly by one political party? A legitimate question. How is it possible to gain political leverage if the party is never forced to compete?" he asked.

Bush's stop here aimed to repair some of the damage from his decision to snub an invitation to address the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), citing its leaders' sharp criticisms of him.

His remarks came as a new poll showed 79 percent of black voters back Democratic White House hopeful John Kerry but suggested that their support for him is not as warm as it was for then-vice president Al Gore four years ago.

Just 27 percent of the 1,000 respondents to a July 6-15 Black Entertainment Television/CBS News poll said they were enthusiastic about the senator from Massachusetts' bid for the White House, while 58 percent said they were merely satisfied.

And the study, which had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, included a warning for Democrats, with 35 percent of respondents saying the party takes blacks for granted.

Still, those are numbers the Bush team can only dream about: 85 percent disapprove of his handling of his job and 90 percent say the war in Iraq was not worth it.

The study found that an overwhelming number of black voters say the US economy, in which job growth has come in fits and starts, is the most important issue, with employment the top concern.

Aiming to capitalize on that, Bush also unveiled a modest plan to partner the US government with the Urban League to promote black business ownership.

AFP

Yeah, the Republican Party has a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

 

Just Great

U.S. Underestimated War Costs by $12.3 Billion -GAO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration underestimated the 2004 cost of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by $12.3 billion, a report released on Wednesday found, fueling criticism that the war was badly planned.

The shortfall is forcing the Defense Department to shift funds from other uses, including pushing expenses from the 2004 fiscal year into 2005, in a move likely to boost war costs further down the line, Congress' investigative arm found.

"Analysis ... suggests that anticipated costs will exceed the supplemental funding provided for the war by $12.3 billion for the current fiscal year," according to the report by the Government Accountability Office.

Congress approved an $87 billion emergency spending bill in October 2003 to finance military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of September.

Democrats estimate that the Pentagon has $5 billion left to fund the 2004 shortfall but will need to find $7 billion to cover it in the last two months of the fiscal year.

"The administration has failed to budget for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan," said the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina.

"The time is long past for the administration to present a full accounting of the cost of the war and to ask Congress to put up the resources needed to fund it."

The White House Office of Management and Budget had no immediate comment on the report.

The report warned that deferring activities planned for the 2004 fiscal year "adds to the requirements that will need to be funded in fiscal year 2005 and potentially later years and could result in a 'bow wave' effect in future fiscal years."

Congress is expected this week to approve, and send to President Bush for signing, the defense spending bill for 2005 which includes $25 billion in emergency spending for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House requested this money for the 2005 fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1, a move Democrats say is designed to keep down the size of the record 2004 budget deficit ahead of the November elections.

The White House is expected to seek a larger emergency spending bill early next year, after the elections, for Iraq and Afghanistan -- which Democrats say will top $50 billion.

The GAO also criticized the Department of Defense for lack of transparency into how the money it was sent by Congress has been spent. The report said "large amounts" of funds were reported as miscellaneous, providing "little insight" into where the money went.

Lawmakers have agreed to tighten controls and want monthly reports on the how the latest $25 billion will be used.

But the GAO said "additional actions are necessary."

In a separate report, the GAO criticized the Army and Halliburton for their logistics work in Iraq, citing the Army's poor planning and problems with the Texas contractor's cost controls.

Anna Willard, Reuters


First Medicare, now this.

Does this administration tell the truth about anything?


 

Oh...

Like anyone reads this anyway...

Monday, July 12, 2004

 

Apparently, Some Trial Lawyers Are Good

Not the ones that represent average citizens in cases against corporations, but the ones that help out wealthy and well-connected power brokers.

Those trial lawyers are the good ones.

I bet they don't even take a fee for their work that that bad John Edwards did.

Several weeks ago, DeLay hired two criminal defense attorneys to represent him in the probe. He previously created a fund for corporate donors to help him pay legal bills related to allegations of improper fundraising, and is now considering extending its reach to include the fees for these attorneys.

R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post

Via Holden, guest blogging for Atrios at Eschaton.

Remember, Mr. Bush also lawyered up. He did so in the Plame name leak probe.

 

Yes!!

This is one of those 'it's about time' stories.

Democrats Fed Up With Yielding to GOP Rules

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who leads Democrats in the House, and Rep. David Dreier (Calif.), the Republican chairman of the powerful Rules Committee, are on friendly terms despite political differences.

Dreier was one of the few Republicans to attend a party for Pelosi after she was elected House minority leader in November 2002. "I was very proud that the first minority leader was from my state," he said.

But that didn't stop Pelosi from roughing up Dreier during a contretemps on the House floor June 25. Behind the attack was rising anger among House Democrats about Republican use of the procedural power of the Rules Committee to prevent or limit amendments and debate on key bills.

In that case, Pelosi was protesting Dreier's refusal to let the House debate a Democratic amendment that she said would have helped Californians "get the refunds they deserve after they were ripped off by Enron and others."

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and several other western Democrats had wanted to attach the amendment to the bill funding the Energy Department in 2005. It would have required the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to let states participate in price-fixing claims against energy companies, possibly paving the way for consumers to get refunds on their utility bills.

But Dreier said the amendment would interfere with moves underway in California courts, and was not in order on an appropriations bill.

Pelosi then took to the House floor to hammer the decision, suggesting it went against the interests of Dreier's home-state constituents, and repeatedly refusing to yield time to him to respond.

"Will the gentlewoman yield?" Dreier asked.

"I think that you are going to have to get time from your own [Republican] chairman," Pelosi replied.

"Well, I was happy to yield earlier to the gentlewoman," he said. "For 10 seconds, and I yielded more time to you," Pelosi shot back.

The attack on Dreier, using the Eshoo amendment, was no accident. It had been carefully planned in the minority leader's office, according to House Democratic aides. Since taking charge of the minority, Pelosi has tried to sharpen the party's message and instill unity, for which she has received good marks.

"Nancy's very standup. She's been terrific," said Rep. Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.).

For his part, Dreier was philosophical. "I served in the minority for 14 years, and I certainly respect attempts by members of the minority to create division and attack those in leadership," he said. But he added, "I think you can be a street fighter and still be civil."

The partisan testiness increased last week after Republicans prolonged a scheduled 15-minute vote by 23 minutes to corral GOP lawmakers who had sided with Democrats on an amendment to water down the USA Patriot Act. The amendment lost on a 210 to 210 tie.

To protest the GOP maneuvering, Democrats on Friday tied up the House for several hours with procedural motions that had the effect of stalling all legislative action.

Dan Morgan and Helen Dewar, The Washington Post

Via Athenae, guest blogging for Atrios at Eschaton.

 

We Will...When November Rolls Around

Holden, guest-blogging for Attios over at Eschaton is reminded by this Associated Press story about Mr. Bush and his 'Saddam Hussein wouldn't let inspectors in' canard.

And don't get me started about the 'Saddam Hussein had the capacity to build WMD' argument Mr. Bush is now using to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Novmber.

That's when I get to vote for John Kerry.

That's when I get to vote for a change.

That's when we can make it stop.


Sunday, July 11, 2004

 

Do The Comparisons Work?

George Will says the 'are you better off now than you were 4 years ago' argument of Ronald Reagan does not work this election.

This first part of column only makes sense if:

  1. You can compare 1864 and 1945 to 2004...

  2. The War on Terror™ wasn't a perpetual war...

  3. The American public as a whole had been asked to sacrifice the way it had to in the pervious conflicts instead of having the war out on the frontier of the American Empire, held away from public view as much as possible. Instead, we're told to get out there and shop!

So the 'are you better off' argument is right and good in this election.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

 

Oh, That Ken Lay




The Yahoo News caption reads:

The indictment of President Bush (news - web sites)'s one-time friend and financial backer Kenneth Lay put the spotlight back on Bush's ties to big corporate donors as he heads into the final months of the U.S. presidential campaign. Democrats seized on the indictment of the man nicknamed 'Kenny Boy' by Bush to attack the president's personal and financial ties to Enron, including suggesting the criminal action had been delayed. Lay (R) is shown with Bush and Nancy Lazar, executive vice president of International Strategy and Investments, at an economic forum January 3, 2001. (Jeff Mitchell/Reuters)


 

Oh, Those Crazy Pictures


Oh, that Ken Lay. Via Holden at Eschaton.

And then there's this one...


The Ken Lay Perp Walk.


And this one...


Mr. Bush moving away from Ken Lay as quick as he can.

The Yahoo caption for the photo of Mr. Bush:

US President George W. Bush walks away from a briefing with the media, refusing to answer questions after he was asked about Enron and the reported indictment of former CEO Kenneth Lay, who was a close adviser and fund-raiser for Bush and his father, earning him the presidential nickname of 'Kenny Boy.'(AFP/Paul J. Richards)

Mr. Bush walks away indeed.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

 

Playing Politics With Terror

PAKISTAN FOR BUSH.
July Surprise?


----

This spring, the administration significantly increased its pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed to be hiding in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan. A succession of high-level American officials--from outgoing CIA Director George Tenet to Secretary of State Colin Powell to Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca to State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black to a top CIA South Asia official--have visited Pakistan in recent months to urge General Pervez Musharraf's government to do more in the war on terrorism. In April, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, publicly chided the Pakistanis for providing a "sanctuary" for Al Qaeda and Taliban forces crossing the Afghan border. "The problem has not been solved and needs to be solved, the sooner the better," he said.

This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November. The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism to the electoral calendar. "Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street, and that doesn't change because of an election," says National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election. According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections." Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations--according to a recently departed intelligence official, "no timetable[s]" were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt. Another official, this one from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, which is responsible for internal security, explains, "The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections." (These sources insisted on remaining anonymous. Under Pakistan's Official Secrets Act, an official leaking information to the press can be imprisoned for up to ten years.)

A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

John B. Judis, Spencer Ackerman & Massoud Ansari, The New Republic

Via Talking Points Memo

 

The Next President and Vice President


John Kerry and John Edwards.

 

Finally

Sources: Lay Indicted in Enron's Collapse

HOUSTON - Former Enron Corp. chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay has been indicted on criminal charges related to the energy company's collapse, sources close to the case told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Lay, the company's founder, was expected to surrender to federal authorities Thursday, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Two sources said the indictment against Lay, 62, was expected to be unsealed upon or shortly after his surrender to the FBI.

Prosecutors from the Justice Department (news - web sites)'s Enron Task Force presented an indictment to U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy in Houston on Wednesday. At their request, the judge sealed both the indictment and an arrest warrant.

Kristen Hays, Associated Press


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

 

John Edwards...

...For Vice President!!!

Yay!!!

We're gonna win!!!

Yay!!!

Saturday, July 03, 2004

 

Things Could Be Better III

It's Little Wonder Why The Iraqi's Aren't Happy

U.S. Has Spent $366M of $18.4B on Iraq

WASHINGTON - Its own figures show just 2 percent of the $18.4 billion Congress provided last fall for Iraqi reconstruction has been spent, but the Bush administration says significant work there is under way.

The checks total $366 million of the amount spent through June 22, according to a report the White House budget office released Friday. It was the first time the administration has said how much it spent from reconstruction accounts — funds that lawmakers provided last November amid cries of urgency by President Bush and Republican congressional leaders.

White House budget office spokesman Chad Kolton said the figure is misleading because funds for many long-term contracts aren't released until substantial work has been done. He said the more important figure shows that $5.3 billion of the total was spent or is owed for specific contracts — up from $2.2 billion as of the last report, for the period through March 24.

"There can be substantial work ongoing without significant money going out the door yet," Kolton said.

The expenditures are far behind the White House's original schedule. When it filed its first report in January, it estimated $10.3 billion would have been spent through June 30.

Patrick Clawson, a former World Bank official and now deputy director of the bipartisan Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the slow spending rate was not surprising. Besides ungainly federal spending procedures, the sluggishness was typical for undeveloped countries that have limited abilities to absorb cash, he said.

"It's understandable," he said. But it will be "totally, utterly incomprehensible to the average Iraqi on the street."

The reconstruction money was part of an $87 billion package provided last Nov. 6, mostly for wars in Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites). The measure was approved after weeks in which administration officials and congressional Republican leaders said the money was needed quickly to hasten work, stabilize Iraq and improve the security of U.S. troops there.

The funds are meant to finance everything from training Iraqi police to starting small businesses to rebuilding the country's electric, water, health and oil production facilities.

The report said reconstruction in Iraq is "moving forward," in party with money that has also been spent from other accounts. It cited the immunization of 85 percent of Iraqi children, the rebuilding of 2,500 schools, and the delivery of telephone service to 1.2 million Iraqis — 50 percent above the prewar total.

The report also acknowledged the harm caused by the ongoing insurgency, which has forced a reduction in crude oil exports and caused electricity production goals to be missed.

"These challenges continue to impede the actual work from being executed and completed on schedule," the report said.

The $366 million in actual expenditures includes $194 million for Iraq's police and armed forces and $109 million for the country's electrical supply.

Of the $5.3 billion committed to contracts, the largest amounts are for work on electricity, oil equipment, police and armed forces, the civil government and water.

Some progress is being made because of other sources of reconstruction money.

Congress provided $2.48 billion for rebuilding in April 2003. Of that, $2.4 billion has been committed to specific contracts and $1.44 billion has actually been spent, the report said.

In addition, $1.1 billion has been spent out of $13 billion in multiyear pledges in aid and loans from other countries, according to the report. Other money is coming from seized Iraqi assets and the country's oil revenue, though much money from oil sales is being used to run Iraq's fledgling government.

The report also said it will cost about $1.5 billion over the next 15 months to operate a U.S. embassy in Iraq. That excludes the costs of building a new, huge, secure embassy building in Baghdad, which by some estimates could run to $1 billion.

The figures exclude U.S. war costs in Iraq, which the administration said in May were $97 billion to date. The White House has said it expects 2005 military costs to exceed $50 billion in Iraq, though lawmakers of both parties say they expect a total closer to $75 billion.

Alan Fram, Associated Press


 

No...Really?

Army Stage-Managed Fall of Hussein Statue

The Army's internal study of the war in Iraq criticizes some efforts by its own psychological operations units, but one spur-of-the-moment effort last year produced the most memorable image of the invasion.

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

After the colonel — who was not named in the report — selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.

But Marines had draped an American flag over the statue's face.

"God bless them, but we were thinking … that this was just bad news," the member of the psychological unit said. "We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, 'No, we want an Iraqi flag!' "

Someone produced an Iraqi flag, and a sergeant in the psychological operations unit quickly replaced the American flag.

Ultimately, a Marine recovery vehicle toppled the statue with a chain, but the effort appeared to be Iraqi-inspired because the psychological team had managed to pack the vehicle with cheering Iraqi children.

David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times


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