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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Palestinians reflect on intifada

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Palestinians reflect on intifada: "Palestinians reflect on intifada
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has urged his people to reflect on their successes and failures during the four years of the second intifada.
Mr Qurei also urged Israel to examine its own behaviour, saying the use of force was not the answer to problems.
Tuesday was the fourth anniversary of a visit by Ariel Sharon, then leader of the Israeli opposition, to a holy site that helped to spark the uprising.
Another Palestinian official launched a scathing attack on Israel at the UN.
Farouk Kaddoumi, political chief of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), urged the UN to take action against the Jewish state for ignoring a World Court decision declaring its West Bank barrier illegal. Israel says the barrier is needed to keep out suicide bombers.
He also described Israel as a 'rogue state' and denied it was exercising its right to self-defence.
'It is the Palestinians under occupation, with their meagre means of combat, [who] are the party exercising the right to self-defence,' he told the UN General Assembly.
'The Israeli government can do anything it wants, acting like a high-tech military-expert rogue state, which has become useful for the United States, since it has located itself strategically in the centre of the global arms industry.'
'Painful reality'
Mr Qurei told Palestinians they would have to assess past actions in order to face the future with greater understanding.
This continuing criminal activity, the killings, the infiltration, will only lead to more bloodshed
Ahmed Qurei

'This is an anniversary that calls on all of us... to re-evaluate our successes and failures in these four years so that we face the"

Monday, September 27, 2004

Taipai Times > No easy fix for thorny cross-strait situation

Taipei Times - archives: "No easy fix for thorny cross-strait situation
By Dennis Hickey

Monday, Sep 27, 2004,Page 8
Advertising Although over half a century has passed since a new government was established in China, Washington is still trying to sort out its relationship with Beijing. Both academics and government officials quarrel over the implications of a rising China.
Is China a revisionist power that seeks to undermine or debilitate the prevailing norms of the international community? Or is it a responsible country that might best be described as a status quo power? A brief review of China's ties with several of its most important neighbors may help to answer these questions.
China enjoys a robust economic relationship with Japan. Japanese exports to China are setting records and are largely responsible for that nation's economic recovery. And Chinese exports to Japan have exploded and now surpass US exports to Japan. With respect to international politics, both of these Asian giants agree on numerous issues -- including the need for a non-nuclear Korean peninsula and a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear crisis.
China and South Korea were once bitter enemies. But China is now South Korea's largest trading partner and the top investment destination for South Korean corporations. Like Japan, South Korea's economic recovery may be attributed largely to its growing commercial ties with China. This strengthened economic relationship has helped foster cultural ties. But far more significant political bonds between the two governments have grown much closer as a result of China's constructive efforts to defuse the North Korean nuclear crisis.
China has replaced the US as Taiwan's largest export market and Taiwanese firms have invested over US$100 billion in China. Also, several hundred tho" > Kennedy says Bush makes U.S. more vulnerable to nuclear attack

By Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press, 9/26/2004 22:46
WASHINGTON (AP) The Bush administration's failure to shut down al-Qaida and rebuild Iraq have fueled the insurgency and made the United States more vulnerable to a nuclear attack by terrorists, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Sunday.
In a speech prepared for delivery at George Washington University on Monday, Kennedy said that by shifting attention from Osama bin Laden to Iraq, Bush has increased the danger of a ''nuclear 9/11.''
''The war in Iraq has made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely,'' he said in the remarks released late Sunday.
Expanding on earlier suggestions that Iraq is Bush's Vietnam, Kennedy said U.S. soldiers are bogged down in a quagmire with no end in sight.
He said it was a good thing Bush was not in charge during the Cuban missile crisis, one of the darker periods of his late brother's John Kennedy's time as president.
On the economic front, he said the administration's failures to distribute billions of dollars in reconstruction funds and create enough local Iraqi jobs may have been the biggest factors leading to the rise of the insurgency there.
Kennedy has been pummeling the Bush administration in daily speeches in the Senate, serving as one of the most aggressive flame-throwers for Democrat John Kerry's presidential campaign. Bush, meanwhile, has charged Kerry with flip-flopping on Iraq.
In defense of Bush's policies, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., appearing Sunday on CBS' ''Face the Nation'' along with Kennedy, said the United States must stay the course in Iraq until the fight is done, and that criticism of the war like that coming from Kennedy will hurt the cause in the Middle East.
Kennedy's Monday speech details 13 reasons why Bush's policies have not made the United States safer from terrorism. Among other things, he said the war in Iraq created a new breeding ground for terrorists, distracted from efforts to eliminate al-Qaida, alienated America's allies and allowed North Korea and Iran to pursue nuclear weapons.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The New Reublic Online > CAMPAIGN JOURNAL Comeback? by Ryan Lizza

September 26, 2004
Post date 09.23.04 | Issue date 10.04.04 or John Kerry, September seems to be going about as badly as August. Nearly every national poll shows George W. Bush ahead. Recent state polls have shown Kerry's leads fading across many battlegrounds. Amazingly, one poll shows the race tied in what should be solidly Democratic New Jersey. Kerry hasn't been able to catch a break with the press, either. If August was dominated by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacks, in September, the news media have been obsessed with the slow-motion takeover of the Kerry campaign by new strategists and the fake-document scandal at CBS. Once jubilant, Democrats are now depressed.
But, as with every swing in momentum in this campaign, the new round of obituaries being written for one of the candidates seems premature. The week in which Kerry plummeted to his low point in the state polls may eventually be seen as the week he turned his campaign around. On Monday, Kerry went to New York University (NYU) and talked about Iraq. Advisers had previously suggested that Kerry would try to steer the debate toward domestic issues in the campaign's final weeks. Kerry's credibility on national security and terrorism had been badly damaged by the Swift Boat attacks and the Republican convention, and aides seemed desperate to refocus the campaign on meat-and-potatoes Democratic issues.
For a host of reasons, however, that plan seemed increasingly ridiculous. For one, recent jobs data is not dismal enough to make the economy the centerpiece of the campaign. Secondly, Bush's calendar included last Thursday's speech before the National Guard Association, Tuesday's address to the United Nations, and this Thursday's Rose Garden appearance with Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Thirdly, the all-important first debate will be held on September 30, and, at the Bush campaign's insistence, it will focus on foreign policy and homeland security. Concentrating on domestic issues would have allowed Bush to portray himself as a capable commander-in-chief for the next week without challenge. Moreover, ignoring Iraq would have allowed Bush to continue to gloss over bad news from the region and to conflate the war in Iraq with the overall war on terrorism--two key elements of his campaign strategy. Finally, Kerry had to address what has been the Bush team's most successful criticism of him: that his positions, particularly on Iraq, shift with the political winds. Clearly, as his staffers like to say, Kerry had to turn his boat into enemy fire like he did in Vietnam and make a full frontal assault on Iraq.

escriptive rather than prescriptive, Kerry's NYU speech was perhaps the strongest and most effective he has delivered in this campaign. In simple, clear language, Kerry explained what is wrong with Bush's Iraq policy. Unlike Bush's address to the United Nations the following day, Kerry's speech was light on rhetorical flourishes and abstract ideals, and heavy on facts. The number of Americans dying in Iraq has increased each month since June. The CIA's National Intelligence Estimate directly contradicts Bush's claims about progress in Iraq. The number of attacks against American forces has quadrupled since March. Significant portions of the country have been declared "no-go zones" for Americans because they are controlled by insurgents. Security for Iraqis is worsening. Jobs are scarce. Electricity is rare. "That is the truth," Kerry said flatly. "The truth that the commander-in-chief owes to our troops and the American people."
He made a similarly matter-of-fact presentation about Bush's decisions in Iraq. Bush has offered multiple, sometimes conflicting, justifications for the war. "His two main rationales--weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda-September 11 connection--have both been proved false," Kerry said. Bush never honestly explained the cost, in money and lives, of the war, and, when advisers--General Eric Shinseki, former chief economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey--told the truth, they were nudged out of the government. Postwar planning was dismal. Americans were not greeted as liberators. Ahmed Chalabi was not George Washington. Elsewhere in the world, the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, North Korea's nuclear arsenal has grown, and Al Qaeda has regrouped. Meanwhile, America's alliances have weakened. After laying all of this out, Kerry arrived at what has turned into a new stump-speech line: "Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious?"
The speech also succeeded in one of its major goals: differentiating the war in Iraq from the war on terrorism. Bush used his convention to conflate Saddam Hussein and the response to September 11, which helps him because his poll numbers are far better on terrorism than they are on Iraq. "One of the main reasons the president's numbers have gone up is that he has made a compelling case as to why the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror," says Republican pollster Whit Ayres. Kerry has finally started to untangle the two. "The most important thing we did was we put this front and center and de-linked it from the false association with the war on terror," says Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart. "Bush has dishonestly made this a part of the war on terror when it never was, and, in fact, it has harmed the war on terror."
The weakness of Kerry's speech lay in its prescriptions. The idea that he can cajole allies to replace American troops in Iraq, his most ambitious promise, seems fantastic. The rest of his plan--training Iraqi security forces, revamping the reconstruction program, and creating the proper conditions for elections next year--isn't revolutionary. Indeed, the Bush campaign immediately pointed out that the administration is pursuing that very course of action. But Kerry's case has little to do with these specific proposals, about which everyone agrees. Kerry's case is really characterological. After two years of incompetence, Bush simply can't be trusted to get these things right. "Iraq is a colossal failure for Bush," says Lockhart. "He's the one who has to defend his policy."

he immediate rebuttal to Kerry's speech from the Bush campaign was that Kerry had once again changed his position. Shortly after the speech, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan walked to the rear of Air Force One and told reporters, "Senator Kerry, today, continued his pattern of twisting in the wind with new contradictions and more confusion on one of the most critical issues we face." Bush repeated the line almost verbatim at two campaign stops. Kerry wants to make the race about Bush's record on the most important issue we face. Bush wants to make the race about Kerry's consistency. Part of Kerry's gamble on Iraq is that, by keeping stubborn facts front and center, the press won't let Bush get away with simply resorting to the flip-flop charge. One good test of whether Kerry's new offensive has really broken through, and whether Monday's speech was indeed a decisive turning point of the campaign, will be whether Bush is actually forced to talk about the substance of Kerry's attack.
But, even if he doesn't, Kerry's ability to change the conversation from Vietnam, document forgeries, and other peripheral issues to the specific negative facts on the ground might pay dividends. Indeed, the impact of simply putting this case before the public has been immediate. The gap between Bush's stump-speech rhetoric and the reality in Iraq has quickly become a central narrative in campaign coverage. That could make a huge difference. Bush's poll numbers have tracked remarkably closely to perceived success and failure in Iraq, spiking when Saddam was captured, plunging after the photos from Abu Ghraib were publicized, and spiking again after a convention that put a happy face on the war. To the extent voters are pessimistic about Iraq's future, Kerry can be optimistic about his.
Republicans argue that Kerry's record has left him unable to take advantage of the issue no matter what happens. "Senator Kerry's multiple and conflicting positions have undermined him as a credible alternative on Iraq," says Ayres. Maybe. But Kerry still has a chance to change this impression in the debates. It's harder for Bush to alter the facts about Iraq. Says a senior Kerry adviser, "To the extent the mess in Iraq is front and center in [voters'] minds, George Bush suffers." At least that's what they're hoping.
Ryan Lizzais a senior editor at TNR.

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States of Play
How Wisconsin and Minnesota moved right by staying the same. web only Flip Side
Bush's campaign rallies construct a parallel reality--in which Iraq is going great and Kerry wants a truce with Al Qaeda. And they work.
Loud Mouths
Democrats should keep their hysterical Kerry-worrying to themselves. web only Taking a Chance
Why I'm not voting for Bush. web only
Two-Sided Story
On "60 Minutes" last night, the most revealing information came not from Ben Barnes, but in documents from the personal papers Bush's Texas National Guard squadron commander. web only Theater in the Round
The symbols and language of the week were the Bush presidency writ small. web only

Sign up for TNR Online's Politics newsletter
The strange, strange love affair between the Bush campaign and Don King.
From the September 25, 1915 issue of TNR: A critique of college sports.
Does Bush realize he's contradicting himself in the war on terrorism?


New York Times > An Un-American Way to Campaign

September 25, 2004
President Bush and his surrogates are taking their re-election campaign into dangerous territory. Mr. Bush is running as the man best equipped to keep America safe from terrorists - that was to be expected. We did not, however, anticipate that those on the Bush team would dare to argue that a vote for John Kerry would be a vote for Al Qaeda. Yet that is the message they are delivering - with a repetition that makes it clear this is an organized effort to paint the Democratic candidate as a friend to terrorists.
When Vice President Dick Cheney declared that electing Mr. Kerry would create a danger "that we'll get hit again," his supporters attributed that appalling language to a rhetorical slip. But Mr. Cheney is still delivering that message. Meanwhile, as Dana Milbank detailed so chillingly in The Washington Post yesterday, the House speaker, Dennis Hastert, said recently on television that Al Qaeda would do better under a Kerry presidency, and Senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has announced that the terrorists are going to do everything they can between now and November "to try and elect Kerry."
This is despicable politics. It's not just polarizing - it also undermines the efforts of the Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency to combat terrorists in America. Every time a member of the Bush administration suggests that Islamic extremists want to stage an attack before the election to sway the results in November, it causes patriotic Americans who do not intend to vote for the president to wonder whether the entire antiterrorism effort has been kidnapped and turned into part of the Bush re-election campaign. The people running the government clearly regard keeping Mr. Bush in office as more important than maintaining a united front on the most important threat to the nation.
Mr. Bush has not disassociated himself from any of this, and in his own campaign speeches he makes an argument that is equally divisive and undemocratic. The president has claimed, over and over, that criticism of the way his administration has conducted the war in Iraq and news stories that suggest the war is not going well endanger American troops and give aid and comfort to the enemy. This week, in his Rose Garden press conference with the interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Mr. Bush was asked about Mr. Kerry's increasingly pointed remarks on Iraq. "You can embolden an enemy by sending mixed messages," he said, going on to suggest that Mr. Kerry's criticisms dispirit the Iraqi people and American soldiers.
It is fair game for the president to claim that toppling Saddam Hussein was a blow to terrorism, to accuse Mr. Kerry of flip-flopping and to repeat continually that the war in Iraq is going very well, despite all evidence to the contrary. It is absolutely not all right for anyone on his team to suggest that Mr. Kerry is the favored candidate of the terrorists. And at a time when the United States is supposed to be preparing the Iraqi people for a democratic election, it's appalling to hear the chief executive say that loyal opposition gives aid and comfort to the enemy abroad.
The general instinct of Americans is to play fair. That is why, even though terrorists struck the United States during President Bush's watch, the Democrats have not run a campaign that blames him for allowing the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to be attacked. And while the war in Iraq has opened up large swaths of the country to terrorist groups for the first time, any effort by Mr. Kerry to describe the president as the man whom Osama bin Laden wants to keep in power would be instantly denounced by the Republicans as unpatriotic.
We think that anyone who attempts to portray sincere critics as dangerous to the safety of the nation is wrong. It reflects badly on the president's character that in this instance, he's putting his own ambition ahead of the national good.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company | Home | Privacy Policy | Search | Corrections | RSS | Help | Back to Top

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

KEUR FM 90 > Reuters > China on High Alert for Taiwan Independence Moves

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is on high alert for moves toward independence by Taiwan as the island's president, Chen Shui-bian, speeds up his efforts to split Taiwan from the motherland, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office, which formulates Beijing's policy toward the democratic island of 23 million, said the mainland would resolutely oppose Taiwan independence and protect the unity of the country.
The spokesman accused Chen of "accelerating attempts in recent weeks to split Taiwan from China," the official Xinhua news agency said.
The mainland was "on high alert for splittist attempts of Chen Shui-bian," he was quoted as saying. Beijing views Taiwan as part of Chinese territory and has vowed to bring it back to the fold, by force if necessary.
The island and the mainland have been split politically since the Communists swept to power in 1949 and the Nationalists fled to Taiwan at the end of a civil war.
Last week, Chen made a case for Taiwan's entry into the United Nations in an unusual satellite news conference, saying Taiwan was a victim of "political apartheid" engineered by China. The appeal failed for the 12th consecutive year.
In 1971, a General Assembly resolution declared the People's Republic of China "as the only legitimate representatives of China." The resolution expelled Taiwan from all U.N. organizations and agencies.
Before that, the Nationalists occupied the U.N. seat as the Republic of China, which remains Taiwan's official name.
Chen argued that the 1971 resolution did not say that China could represent Taiwan.
The Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman "warned that Chen Shui-bian has been trying everything to separate Taiwan from China, taxing Taiwan compatriots and cross-Straits relations," Xinhua said.
Tensions have been simmering since Chen won re-election in March, although he scrapped annual military exercises last month as a reciprocal goodwill gesture after Taiwan newspapers said China had canceled its own war games.
Despite military and diplomatic rivalry, the two sides have seen trade, investment and tourism blossom since the late 1980s.

Kerry Accuses Bush of Incompetence on Iraq

September 21, 2004
Filed at 8:10 a.m. ET
NEW YORK (AP) -- Staking out new ground on Iraq, Sen. John Kerry said Monday he would not have overthrown Saddam Hussein had he been in the White House, and he accused President Bush of ``stubborn incompetence,'' dishonesty and colossal failures of judgment. Bush said Kerry was flip-flopping.
Less than two years after voting to give Bush authority to invade Iraq, the Democratic candidate said the president had misused that power by rushing to war without the backing of allies, a post-war plan or proper equipment for U.S. troops. ``None of which I would have done,'' Kerry said.
``Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell,'' he added. ``But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war. The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.''
Bush hit back from a campaign rally in New Hampshire, interpreting Kerry's comment to mean the Democrat believes U.S. security would be better with Saddam still in power. ``He's saying he prefers the stability of a dictatorship to the hope and security of democracy,'' the Republican incumbent said.
``Today, my opponent continued his pattern of twisting in the wind,'' Bush said. ``He apparently woke up this morning and has now decided, No, we should not have invaded Iraq, after just last month saying he would have voted for force even knowing everything we know today.''
Both candidates addressed partisan crowds, drawing cheers and hoots as they stretched each other's records and rhetoric -- mixing facts with political creativity toward the same goal: raising doubts about the other man's credibility.
Kerry called on Bush to do a much better job rallying allies, training Iraqi security forces, hastening reconstruction plans and ensuring that elections are conducted on time. But his speech was thin on details, with Kerry saying Bush's miscalculations had made solutions harder to come by.
Bush cited Kerry's four-point plan and dismissed it as proposing ``exactly what we're currently doing.''
With more than 1,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq, including nearly 900 since Bush declared an end to major combat, with free elections in doubt, reconstruction efforts stalled and violence and kidnappings on the rise, Iraq could be Bush's biggest political liability. Even some Republican senators have begun to publicly second-guess the president's policies.
But Kerry has failed to capitalize thus far, struggling for months to find a clear, consistent way to differentiate his views from those of his Democratic rivals during the primary season and, since the spring, his general election foe in the White House.
Kerry's advisers say they're not sure whether it is too late for the Democrat to make the Iraq critique resonate. Polls show voters favor Bush over Kerry on Iraq and terrorism. The president shines the spotlight on his foreign policy agenda with a visit Tuesday to the United Nations.
Kerry said in August that he would have voted in 2002 to give Bush war-making ability, even had he known no weapons of mass destruction would be found. He stood by the vote again Monday, saying the president needed to use the threat of force to ``act effectively'' against Saddam.
He made a distinction between that vote to grant a president war-making authority and what he himself would have done as commander in chief with such power.
``Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious?'' Bush's presidential rival said at New York University.
``Is he really saying to Americans that if we had known there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al-Qaida, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is resoundingly no because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.''
Kerry called national security ``a central issue in this campaign,'' a bow to the fact that the race is being waged on Bush's terrain.
``Invading Iraq was a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight,'' he said.
Kerry used the word ``truth'' a dozen times to say Bush had dodged it. That doesn't count the number of times he said the president ``failed to level'' with Americans or misled and confused them. He blamed Bush for ``colossal failures of judgment.''
``This is stubborn incompetence,'' he said.
Kerry has sounded more hawkish, as in December when Democratic primary rival Howard Dean said the world was not safer with Saddam out of power. Anybody who believes that, Kerry said, doesn't ``have the judgment to be president.''
Reading that quote to his GOP crowd on Monday, Bush cracked: ``I could not have said it better.''
The running mates got into the act, too. ``Iraq's a mess,'' said Democratic Sen. John Edwards, while Vice President Dick Cheney said Kerry offers only ``confusion, weakness, uncertainty and indecision.''

Monday, September 20, 2004

New York Times > CAMPAIGN 2004: THE BIG ISSUES A World of Nuclear Dangers

September 19, 2004
The cold war generation grew up worrying about the bomb, the Russians and World War III. Today's nuclear nightmares are more varied, but no less scary. The list of nuclear-armed states is lengthening alarmingly, and each new entry increases the chances that some nasty regional war could turn nuclear. Nuclear terrorism has emerged as a terrifying new threat. Russia has huge, poorly guarded stockpiles of nuclear bomb fuel and there is a small but increasing possibility that its decaying early warning system could trigger an accidental launch.
President Bush often says he means to halt the nuclear arms programs of North Korea and Iran, although he has yet to produce any workable plans for doing so. In February, he rightly called for tighter controls over nuclear fuel processing, used by several countries to produce bomb ingredients.
As a senator and a candidate, John Kerry has offered constructive proposals addressing almost every aspect of current nuclear dangers. While Mr. Bush has tended to focus narrowly on rogue states like North Korea and Iran, Mr. Kerry wisely favors a more comprehensive approach that would combine crisis diplomacy on these two priority cases with accelerated efforts to protect Russian stockpiles. The North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs are at the top of the nation's agenda. But it is disingenuous to ignore the fact that 95 percent of the nuclear bombs and most of the nuclear weapons fuel are in the hands of Russia and the United States.
Mr. Kerry would also break with Bush policies that unintentionally encourage nuclear proliferation, like the Strangelovian plans for research on unneeded new nuclear weapons.
India and Pakistan tested their first nuclear bombs in 1998. North Korea is close, if not already there. Iran is not very far behind. In the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and the Korean peninsula, an escalation of conventional conflict into nuclear war has to be treated as a realistic possibility.
The steady spread of these weapons also increases the risks of backdoor sales of nuclear technology, as the worldwide arms bazaar run by A. Q. Khan of Pakistan so chillingly demonstrated. This creeping proliferation has meant the dispersal of nuclear bomb ingredients like highly enriched uranium and plutonium into countries with poor governance, uncertain stability and corrupt officials. That makes it easier for terrorists to acquire such material and try to fashion usable nuclear bombs.
Mr. Bush once lumped Iraq, Iran and North Korea together as an "axis of evil." But his decision to invade Iraq limited the diplomatic and military tools left available to influence North Korea and Iran - which were undoubtedly taught by the Iraq experience that the best protection against a pre-emptive strike is a nuclear arsenal.
In both cases, precious time has been lost while the administration has followed largely unproductive diplomatic strategies. Mr. Bush now wants to ask the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran. But many Council members, including major European allies, are not ready to do so. On North Korea, the administration has insisted on discussions including Russia, China, Japan and South Korea as well as North Korea and the United States. These have made no discernible progress, in part because Washington waited until this summer to put its first serious negotiating proposal on the table. With the talks stalled, North Korea has all the time it needs to reprocess its plutonium into several nuclear bombs.
Mr. Kerry would try to jump-start the North Korea talks with a comprehensive new American proposal. He would, like Mr. Bush, insist that Iran renounce all domestic processing of nuclear fuel while promising that it could count on access to reliable imported supplies of civilian reactor fuel in return. Any distinction between the two candidates on Iran rests on Mr. Kerry's contention that he could better line up European support.
If there is still time to dissuade these two countries from going nuclear, there isn't much. North Korea may already have assembled test devices. Iran may soon have all the technology and raw materials needed to proceed. Still, the international community should explore every avenue to persuade both countries that it is not in their best interest to build nuclear weapons. In exchange for a verifiable dismantling of their nuclear programs, Washington and other governments ought to be willing to offer substantial economic, diplomatic and security concessions. If that fails to produce results, international pressure will have to be substantially ratcheted up. Further months of stalemate while nuclear fuel processing work continues is not an acceptable option.
There is nothing secret anymore about how to process uranium or plutonium to the purity needed for bomb-making, nor is it all that hard to acquire the raw ingredients. And every nuclear wannabe has now learned how to disguise the early phases of a nuclear weapons effort as part of a civilian nuclear energy program, a trick pioneered decades ago by India and most recently employed by Iran. Unfortunately, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was explicitly intended to encourage such power programs, making it much harder to fend off the emergence of new nuclear weapons states. Obviously, the treaty needs to be toughened.
Mr. Bush has rightly called on other countries to deny nuclear-related exports to any nation that refuses to forgo such fuel processing plants. He should accelerate the process by calling on the four other main nuclear exporting countries to join Washington in an immediate ban.
It is also vital to extend the reach of the nonproliferation treaty with a proposed new fissile materials agreement. Senator Kerry strongly supports this and President Bush says he supports it too, but his administration recently undermined the treaty talks by announcing, perversely, that Washington would insist that the agreement contain no provisions for verification or inspections.
Although the United States and Russia have deactivated thousands of nuclear warheads since the end of the cold war, tens of thousands remain activated or sitting in stockpiles where they can be quickly reassembled. The arms reduction agreement signed by President Bush and President Vladimir Putin in 2002 calls for most of these warheads to be deactivated by 2012, but no reductions are required sooner than that and many of the deactivated warheads will still be retained in stockpiles. America's stored and deactivated weapons are well secured, but many of Russia's are not. In addition, Russia's poorly maintained launch command and early warning systems may be dangerously degrading. At some point, they might conceivably become vulnerable to terrorists. Well over a thousand warheads on each side remain on hair-trigger alert.
Washington is helping Russia upgrade its storage security, but at such a slow rate that hundreds of tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium will be lying around for many years. Every ton of highly enriched uranium can be used to make more than 100 nuclear bombs. A ton of plutonium can go even further.
The answer is to sharply increase funding for the broad range of American programs intended to secure this material and reduce or eliminate other threats from cold war weapons. This is the most cost-effective defense spending in the federal budget. A bipartisan commission in 2001 recommended tripling spending for these programs, but the Bush administration has failed to follow through. Senator Kerry proposes a significant increase aimed at securing all of Russia's loose bomb fuel in four years.
While Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry seem to agree on many nuclear proliferation issues, the difference lies in their approach to international problems. Voters will have to decide whether Mr. Kerry's emphasis on diplomacy and international cooperation is the best way to keep a lid on these nuclear threats, or whether Mr. Bush's more unilateral approach to foreign affairs is better. There is no graver subject for their consideration this election year.
Campaign 2004: The Big Issues: Editorials in this series remain online at

New York Times > Hu Takes Full Power in China as He Gains Control of Military

September 20, 2004
BEIJING, Sept. 19 - China's president, Hu Jintao, replaced Jiang Zemin as the country's military chief and de facto top leader on Sunday, state media announced, completing the first orderly transfer of power in the history of China's Communist Party.
Mr. Hu, who became Communist Party chief in 2002 and president in 2003, now commands the state, the military and the ruling party. He will set both foreign and domestic policy in the world's most populous country, which now has the world's seventh-largest economy and is rapidly emerging as a great power.
The transition is a significant victory for Mr. Hu, a relatively unknown product of the Communist Party machine. He has solidified control of China's most powerful posts at a younger age - he is 61 - than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, and is now likely to be able govern relatively unimpeded by powerful elders.
Mr. Jiang's resignation, which surprised many party officials who expected the tenacious elder leader to cling to power for several more years, came after tensions between Mr. Jiang and Mr. Hu began to affect policy making in the one-party state, some officials and political analysts said.
Mr. Jiang, 78, may be suffering from health problems, several people informed about leadership debates said. But he appeared robust in recent public appearances and was widely described as determined to keep his job - and even expand his authority - until he submitted a letter of resignation this month.
The leadership transition was announced Sunday in a terse dispatch by the New China News Agency, followed by a 45-minute broadcast on China Central Television. Mr. Jiang and Mr. Hu appeared side by side, smiling, shaking hands and praising each other profusely in front of applauding members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, which formally accepted Mr. Jiang's resignation and Mr. Hu's promotion at the conclusion of its four-day annual session.
Mr. Jiang's offer to retire, which was first reported by The New York Times earlier this month, was given no advance publicity in state media. China Central Television read the text of Mr. Jiang's resignation letter on its evening broadcast, emphasizing that his resignation was voluntary. The letter was dated Sept. 1.
"In consideration of the long-term development of the party's and people's collective endeavors, I have always looked forward to fully retiring from all leadership posts," Mr. Jiang wrote, according to an official transcript of his letter. He said Mr. Hu "is fully qualified to take up this position."
Even by the strict standards of secrecy within the party, the decision about Mr. Jiang's fate was closely held. For a vast majority of the 70 million party members, not to mention the general public, there had been no indication that he was planning to retire, and his abrupt departure seems likely to increase the sense that the most important personnel decisions are made without broad consultation. Since the Communists defeated the Nationalists in a civil war and took control of China in 1949, the party has repeatedly failed to execute orderly successions. All three of the men chosen by Mao Zedong to succeed him were purged before they could consolidate power, two of them by Mao himself and the third by Deng Xiaoping after Mao's death in 1976.
Deng also anointed and then cashiered two successors. In the aftermath of the bloody crackdown on dissent in 1989, he elevated Mr. Jiang from the middling rank of Shanghai party chief to China's highest posts.
The most recent transition looked similarly compromised when Mr. Jiang maneuvered to keep control of the military in 2002. Party officials said Mr. Hu had been slated to inherit full power at that time and that his failure to control the military forced him to operate in Mr. Jiang's shadow.
But Mr. Jiang's retirement suggests that the party now operates more according to the consensus of its elite members rather than the whims of its most senior leader.
Moreover, Mr. Jiang did not appear to have extracted any special concessions as the price of his retirement. Notably, he failed to arrange for Vice President Zeng Qinghong to be elevated to the Central Military Commission. Party officials had said they expected Mr. Zeng, a longtime protégé and ally of Mr. Jiang's, to become either a regular member or a vice chairman of the commission.
On Sunday, Xu Caihou, a military officer in charge of propaganda work, was promoted to replace Mr. Hu as a vice chairman of the commission. He will serve with Cao Gangchuan, the defense minister, and Gen. Guo Boxiong.
The number of regular members of the commission was expanded to seven from four, adding representatives from the navy, air force and the unit in charge of China's nuclear arsenal.
Mr. Hu, a poker-faced bureaucrat who served most of his career in inland provinces and rarely if ever traveled outside China before he rose to the most senior ranks in the late 1990's, has sent mixed signals about how he intends to rule. He deftly handled the first big crisis of his leadership in the spring of 2003, when China faced the SARS epidemic that top health officials had initially covered up. Mr. Hu sacked two senior officials and ordered a broad mobilization to combat the disease, which was controlled within weeks.
He has sought to draw a contrast with Mr. Jiang's aristocratic image, making trips to China's poorest areas and shunning some conspicuous perks. He pledged to raise the incomes of workers and peasants and redirect more state spending to areas left behind in China's long economic boom.
"Use power for the people, show concern for the people and seek benefit for the people," Mr. Hu said in remarks early in his term as party chief. He has allowed state media to refer to him as a populist, though his rise through the ranks has not depended on popular support.
Little is known about Mr. Hu personally beyond a few random facts offered by the propaganda machine, including his enthusiasm for Ping-Pong and what is described as a photographic memory. In official settings, he is a much less colorful figure than Mr. Jiang, who crooned "Love Me Tender" at an Asian diplomatic gathering and was fond of quoting Jefferson and reciting the Gettysburg Address to visiting Americans.
It seems highly unlikely that Mr. Hu is a closet liberal. Editors and other journalists say he has tightened media controls. He has presided over a crackdown on online discussion by jailing people who express antigovernment views on the Internet.
"My general impression is that Hu is a Communist of the old mode," said Alfred Chan, professor of politics at Huron College in Canada, who is conducting a study of the new leadership. "His career has been totally shaped by the Communist system. I think many expectations of him are exaggerated because he works under the constraints of party discipline."
In a speech delivered last week, he referred to Western-style democracy as a "blind alley" for China. He has a plan for political change, but it mostly involves injecting some transparency and competitiveness within the single-party system to make officials police themselves better.
In foreign affairs, Mr. Hu deferred largely to Mr. Jiang. Mr. Jiang relished his role as a statesman and was proud of having built a nonconfrontational, sometimes even cordial relationship with the United States.
Mr. Hu is not expected to alter course substantially. But party officials say that he has tended to emphasize relations with China's neighbors and with Europe over ties with the United States and Japan.
He faces two major foreign policy tests that Mr. Jiang leaves unresolved. One involves North Korea, China's longtime ally, which American officials say is on the verge of becoming a full-scale nuclear power. Chinese officials worry that if Pyongyang formally goes nuclear, other Asian countries, notably Japan, could follow.
China is also deeply worried about how to deal with Taiwan under President Chen Shui-bian, who many here believe intends to move the island, which China claims as its sovereign territory, toward independence.
Mr. Jiang steered China toward a tougher rhetorical and military posture toward Taiwan, even as the Bush administration expanded military aid to the island. Mr. Hu has not shown any signs of changing course, but some analysts say he may experiment with a more flexible approach if he does not have to worry about having his nationalist credentials second-guessed by Mr. Jiang.
Mr. Hu and Mr. Jiang did not publicly spar. But there were signs that their relationship had become strained. Mr. Jiang rejected a framework for China's emergence as a great power that Mr. Hu supported. The policy framework, known by the slogan "peaceful rise," was dismissed by Mr. Jiang as too soft when China was threatening Taiwan with military force.
Mr. Hu and his prime minister, Wen Jiabao, have also had to battle internally to curtail wasteful state spending and cool the overheated economy. Some regional leaders are thought to have looked to Mr. Jiang as a counterweight to Mr. Hu because they see the elder leader as a champion of fast economic growth supported by heavy state investment.
"It may be that Hu will no longer have to worry that Jiang will contest his decisions, and that could make decision-making smoother," said Frederick Teiwes, an expert on elite politics at the University of Sydney.
Some people who have visited Mr. Jiang or spoken with his relatives say he has suffered health problems lately, offering one possible explanation for his unexpected retirement.
But Mr. Jiang is also thought to have come under heavy pressure within the party, and even within the military, to follow the example of Deng and withdraw from public life before health problems force him to do so. Mr. Hu also made a veiled call for Mr. Jiang to step aside when he lavished praise on Mr. Deng's decision to retire early during ceremonies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the late leader's birth in August.
Chris Buckley contributed reporting for this article.

Yahoo News > A P > Candidates Play on Fears of Attacks, Wars

Sun Sep 19, 6:11 PM ET
By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Playing on the fear factor, Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) suggested in a campaign speech there might be another terrorist attack on the United States if John Kerry (news - web sites) were in the White House. President Bush (news - web sites)'s opponents' are raising their own worst fears, including the potential for more wars during a second Bush term.

Hindu Times > Silent push to Taiwan ties Saurabh Shukla

New Delhi, September 20
While endorsing a one-China policy, New Delhi has been quietly promoting scientific and economic cooperation with Taiwan, a country with which it hasn't ever had relations with beyond the trade and cultural offices in both capitals.
But over the last six months, including the twilight phase of the NDA regime, a hush-hush policy has been pursued to foster bilateral contact with Taiwan. In fact, two senior secretaries of the Indian government have travelled to Taiwan in recent months for detailed discussions on future cooperation.
The two sides are also believed to be working on a MoU on scientific cooperation. But sources said that the document will not be inked by the two governments but by the Taiwan Academy of Sciences and Indian National Science Academy.
A senior official told HT that in April an Indian delegation of scientists, headed by science and technology secretary V.S. Ramamurthy, was in Taipei. They visited several institutions engaged in research on nanotechnology and biotechnology.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Xinhuanet > Jiang retires, proposes Hu to succeed 2004-09-19 20:37:11
BEIJING, Sept. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- China Sunday published Jiang Zemin's letter resigning from his position as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
In the letter to the Political Bureau of the Party's Central Committee, dated Sept. 1, Jiang offered to retire from the post and proposed that Hu Jintao succeed him as CMC chairman.
"Comrade Hu Jintao would be completely qualified for the post, and (the proposed appointment) is also good for the adherence to the fundamental principle and system of the absolute leadership ofthe Party over the armed forces," Jiang said in the letter.
The Fourth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee, which concluded here Sunday, approved Hu's succession after accepting Jiang's resignation.
Hu, 61, is the president of China and also general secretary ofthe CPC Central Committee. He was vice-chairman of the CMC prior to his new appointment.
In his letter, Jiang said he informed the central committee before the 16th CPC National Congress that he desired to retire.
"The central committee accepted my request at that time, while,from the overall point of view, making a decision that I retained the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission of the Party and the State due to the consideration of the complex and changinginternational situation and heavy tasks of the building of national defense and the armed forces," he wrote.
Jiang retired from the Party's top post and bowed out of the Party Central Committee at the 16th CPC National Congress in November 2002. He stepped down from the state presidency one year later. Hu took over both positions.
"Afterwards, I carry out my duty as commissioned by the centralcommittee whole-heartedly, and has always respected and supported the work of the collective central leadership," Jiang wrote." (But)from the long-term development of the undertaking of the Party andthe people, I has been expecting complete retirement from leadership position."
The Party's 16th Congress with Hu as general secretary has mademany great achievements in both the Party and China, winning support and trust of the cadres and the people, said Jiang.
The leaders elected by the 16th Party congress and the First Plenary Session of the Party's 16th Central Committee have made great strides, which will be capable of withstanding the country'srapid development as it opens up to the outside world, according to the letter.
"After careful consideration, I intend to resign from my current post, which is good for the development of the undertakings of the Party, the State and the armed forces," wrote Jiang. "It is my sincere hope that the central committee would accept my request, and I would offer to the National People's Congress to resign as chairman of the CMC of the People's Republicof China."
In his letter, Jiang said he greatly cherished the Party and the Chinese people, because their undertakings have been his life for the past six decades.
"I will be loyal to the undertaking of the Party and the State forever, and will always be a loyal member of the Communist Party of China," he wrote. Enditem

Friday, September 17, 2004

The Moscow News > Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin Speak out Against PutinÂ’s Reforms

Created: 16.09.2004 23:59 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 11:01 MSK, 39 minutes ago
The Soviet UnionÂ’s last president Mikhail Gorbachev and RussiaÂ’s first president Boris Yeltsin expressed criticism regarding Vladimir PutinÂ’s proposed reforms of RussiaÂ’s electoral system.
The statements by Yeltsin and Gorbachev were made in exclusive interviews to Moskovskie Novosti (The Moscow News) weekly, and will be published in the paperÂ’s Friday issue. MosNews, which is a partner publication of Moskovskie Novosti, posted a full translation of both statements on our website on Thursday.

Our common goal is to do everything possible to make sure that bills, which, in essence, mean a step back from democracy, don’t come into force as law. I hope that the politicians, voters, and the president himself keep the democratic freedoms that were so hard to obtain, — reads Mikhail Gorbachev’s statement. The Soviet Union’s last president, who ruled the country from 1985 to 1992, is convinced that Russian authorities “must search for political solutions, negotiate with the middle-of-the-road militants, separating them from the unappeasable extremists”.

His successor Boris Yeltsin, whose second presidential term ended on December 31, 1999, with a surprise announcement of his voluntary resignation (Vladimir Putin was named acting president for three months before being elected in March 2000), called on the Kremlin to refrain from undermining the existing constitutional framework, despite the necessity of fighting terrorist threats.

I firmly believe that the measures that the country’s leadership will undertake after Beslan will remain within the framework of democratic freedoms that have become Russia’s most valuable achievement over the past decade. We will not give up on the letter of the law, and most importantly, the spirit of the Constitution our country voted for at the public referendum in 1993. If only because the stifling of freedom and the curtailing of democratic rights is a victory by the terrorists. Only a democratic country can successfully resist terrorism and count on standing shoulder to shoulder with all of the world’s civilized countries, — Yeltsin says in his statement.

Boris YeltsinÂ’s statement is viewed as a surprise move by many observers in Moscow. Unlike Mikhail Gorbachev, who is still active on Russian political scene, Yeltsin chose to refrain from public comments about Vladimir PutinÂ’s politics after his retirement. Recently Boris Berezovsky, an exiled tycoon, renowned for his criticism of the Kremlin and Putin, published an open letter to RussiaÂ’s first president, urging him to speak up and reminding him of his responsibility for the establishment of Russian constitutional democracy. Yeltsin makes no mention of Berezovsky in his statement, but some observers are linking his decision to break his silence with the exiled oligarchÂ’s request.
16.09.2004 21:56 MSK, MOSNEWS.COM
Boris Yeltsin: "We Will Not Give Up On the Spirit of the Constitution"
16.09.2004 21:56 MSK, MOSNEWS.COM
Mikhail Gorbachev on Putin's Reforms: "A Step Back from Democracy"
15.09.2004 12:01 MSK, MOSNEWS.COM
More Beslans Inevitable If Putin Doesn't Talk Peace - Zakayev
14.09.2004 11:09 MSK, MOSNEWS.COM
Berezovsky Urges Yeltsin to Speak out Against Putin's Reforms
Russian Companies Seek $1.6Bln in Loans
A number of Russian companies, led by state-owned Rosneft Oil Company, have applied this week for $1.6 billion worth of bank loans. Since the beginning of the year Russian companies have already borrowed $4.9 billion from Western banks which loan gladly, lured by the countryÂ’s economic growth.
Grieving in Beslan
As the town of Beslan continues to hold funerals in the aftermath of the siege that resulted in over 350 dead and over 600 injured, local residents take comfort in tradition. Their quiet and friendly town will never be the same.
Who Framed President Putin?
Vladimir Putin has outlined plans to end the direct election of regional governors as part of efforts to “strengthen the effectiveness of the authorities” in combating terrorism. However, Putin’s aides appear to have forgotten that back in 1996 the Constitutional Court of Russia ruled that governors could only be elected by direct popular vote.
Moscow News weekly
Mikhail Gorbachev on Putin’s Reforms: “A Step Back from Democracy”
“Under the motto of war on terror, there are suggestions of sharply limiting democratic freedoms,” said Mikhail Gorbachev, the USSR’s last leader, to Moscow News reporter Ludmila Telen.
Moscow News weekly
Boris Yeltsin: “We Will Not Give Up On the Spirit of the Constitution”
“Only a democratic country can successfully resist terrorism,” Russian ex-President Boris Yeltsin told Moscow News reporter Ludmila Telen in the wake of the bloodshed in Beslan and the government’s reaction.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

BBC NEWS | Health | Cannabis may help combat cancer

BBC NEWS | Health | Cannabis may help combat cancer: "Cannabis may help combat cancer
Cannabis may help combat cancer
The chemical in cannabis that produces a high may help to combat the spread of cancer, research suggests.
Scientists have discovered the active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannibol can block the spread of gamma herpes viruses.

The viruses are linked to an increased risk of the cancers Kaposis sarcoma, Burkitts lymphoma and Hodgkins disease.

The research, by the University of South Florida, is published in the online journal BMC Medicine.

Gamma herpes viruses are different from the herpes simplex viruses responsible for cold sores and genital herpes.

Among those that have been associated with an increased risk of cancer is Kaposis Sarcoma Associated Herpes Virus.

Once infected, it is almost impossible to get rid of the virus as it lies dormant for long periods within white blood cells.

However, the virus can snap back into action, and suddenly begin to replicate itself, bursting out of the cells to infect others. Once a cell has been infected the chances that it will become cancerous are increased.

The South Florida team found that this sudden reactivation was prevented if infected cells were grown in the presence of THC.

Spread blocked

Cells infected with a mouse gamma herpes virus normally died when the virus reactivated. But they survived when cultured with the cannabinoid compound, and thus the spread of the virus - and the potential spread of cancer - was blocked.

The researchers were able to show that THC specifically blocked the gamma herpes viruses - it had no impact at all on the cold sore virus herpes simplex-1.

They hope their findings will lead to the development of new drugs to neutralise the threat of the viruses.

However, lead researcher Dr Peter Medveczky said more work was needed, and stressed that it would not be sensible for people with cancers associated with gamma herpes viruses to start smoking cannabis.

He said THC was known to suppress the immune system - which could do more harm than good to patients whose immune system was often already weakened.

Dr Medveczky believes THC blocks replication of the gamma herpes viruses by targeting a gene they all carry called ORF50.

A spokesperson for Cancer Research UK warned that the results should be treated with caution.

"These are very preliminary results and it is far too early to say whether the findings will lead to practical strategies for preventing and treating cancer."

Boondocks 9-15-4 from U-Comics

Boondocks 9-14-4 from U-Comics

The New York Times > Opinion > Hong Kong's Election

The'>">The New York Times > Opinion > Hong Kong's Election: "September 15, 2004Hong Kong's ElectionSeptember 15, 2004Hong Kong's Election Elections in Hong Kong this week were a big disappointment as an exercise in democracy. Pro-democracy or independent-minded candidates won about 60 percent of the vote, a stunning victory by any measure except the one applied to this election. Under the skewed system Beijing insists on maintaining, that entitled the pro-democracy candidates to only about 40 percent of the seats in the legislature. That will make it harder for democrats to push for more freedoms, like the direct election of the territory's chief executive. It may also be difficult for pro-democracy legislators to do more than delay the initiatives favored by the Chinese government and its chosen chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa.
But despite shady campaign tactics and problems at voting sites, we hope that there was a lesson for Beijing in the results and that Sunday's vote was not a complete loss for the forces of openness. Democracy advocates increased the size of their potential coalition by at least four seats, which means that things are at least moving in the right direction. At the same time, the success of pro-Beijing candidates should give Communist Party leaders more confidence to keep their distance and allow Hong Kong's tentative democracy the time and space to mature.
Hong Kong's voters made it clear that they urgently want to participate in their own government. Turnout was high, a stunning 55.6 percent of the eligible population. There were also signs of democratic support in unexpected quarters. Of the 60 seats in Hong Kong's legislature, 30 are elected by special interests - by businesses and professions that tend to take a pragmatic pro-Beijing line. Half of the votes for these positions went to democrats, but that yielded them only 6 of the 30 seats.
At this point, it is still hard to tell how China's central government will ultimately respond to these elections. China's official news agency said the election " is believed to be the most democratic election in Hong Kong's history,'' which sounds encouraging. But it does not allay legitimate worries that Beijing and its supporters in Hong Kong could try to impose stricter security measures on this new legislature after it convenes on Oct. 1. That would be a mistake. The last effort at tightening security in Hong Kong in 2003 brought so many thousands of residents to the streets that the government backed off.
Sunday's elections were hardly the clean sweep that was needed in Hong Kong's young legislature. But the modest increase in democratic voices should help legislators and residents resist any loss of present freedoms in the name of stability or security.

The New York Times > International > Europe > News Analysis: From Those Putin Would Weaken, Praise

The New York Times > International > Europe > News Analysis: From Those Putin Would Weaken, Praise: "September 15, 2004
From Those Putin Would Weaken, Praise

MOSCOW, Sept. 14 - On Monday, President Vladimir V. Putin announced he would strip Russia's 89 regions of much of their authority and electoral legitimacy. On Tuesday, not one of the leaders of those regions said a public word of protest.

On the contrary, there were words of praise.

"It is constructive and productive," Murat M. Zyazikov, the president of Ingushetia, said in a telephone interview, embracing a proposal that would leave him serving at the will not of his impoverished electorate in southern Russia, but of the president in faraway Moscow.

If there were any lingering doubts about Mr. Putin's grip on power, the reaction to his sweeping proposal to overhaul Russia's political system - replacing, for instance, the election of governors, presidents and other regional leaders with presidential appointments - swept them away.

A headline in the newspaper Izvestia called it the "September Revolution," equating Mr. Putin's consolidation of power to this country's most famous October, almost 87 years ago. And yet the second day of the revolution passed with barely a murmur of protest, even among those affected most.

In Washington, however, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that "we have concerns" about Mr. Putin's actions, and that he planned to ask Russian officials to explain the moves. [Page A10.]

"The president demonstrated political will," Dmitri F. Ayatskov, governor of Saratov Oblast, in the southeast, said at a news conference, according to a statement issued by his office. "An end will be put to various demonstrations of extremism - religious, political and other."

In theory, in a democracy, the leaders of Russia's regions, representing myriad blocs of voters of all classes and ethnicities across Russia, would constitute a potent political force, one that could challenge even a powerful federal center.

In reality, Mr. Putin simply formalized the Kremlin's already immense sway over regional leaders, which critics said on Tuesday has been sustained by the power of purse and perks, coupled with an element of fear.

"Any governor understands that if he is against Putin, he will be under criminal investigation," Vladimir A. Ryzhkov, a liberal member of Parliament, said in a telephone interview. He cited cases involving the governors of Kursk, Yaroslavl and Atlai, who all faced investigations that, coincidentally or not, began after they challenged Kremlin policies. "The main thing is fear," he said. "They are afraid of everything."

In outlining his program, his first legislative proposals since the wave of terrorist violence that has roiled Russia, Mr. Putin said the country needed political unity in order to withstand the threats facing it.

And he made clear that in his view, unity would be accomplished best by giving him the power to appoint regional leaders, leaving local parliaments merely the power to ratify his choices. Although the legislative details remain unwritten, recent experience would suggest few regional bodies would dare buck the Kremlin.

Mr. Putin did more than upend the country's still evolving experiment with electoral democracy. With his proposals, he also resolved many of the still-unanswered questions about the distribution of power between the federal and state levels. Not unexpectedly, perhaps, he came down on the side of what is called here the "vertical of power," whose most prominent, most dominant feature is the man at the top, Mr. Putin.

Or as Gov. Vyacheslav Y. Pozgalev of Vologda put it to one of the state's television networks, First Channel: "Executive power must be whole."

Mr. Putin's proposals would also shift legislative politics toward the center, where power has been through much of Russia's history. He said he would eliminate the district elections that now fill half of the 450 seats in the Duma, the lower house of Parliament. Instead, the Parliament would be elected proportionately, based on party lists compiled by the main parties, all centered in Moscow and all susceptible to Kremlin influence.

After parliamentary elections in December, only four parties won blocs of seats. The largest, by far, was United Russia, the party defined almost entirely by its fealty to Mr. Putin. United Russia, along with the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and Motherland, control nearly 400 seats and follow the Kremlin's lead without hesitation. The Communist Party, the only meaningful opposition, holds only 51 seats, making it a mere remnant of the force it was even in the early post-Soviet period.

Still, there were some voices of dissent on Tuesday. Mr. Ryzhkov and two members of United Russia elected from local districts, Aleksandr Y. Khinshtein and Konstantin F. Zatulin, appeared at a news conference to criticize the parliamentary proposal, though not, they emphasized, Mr. Putin himself.

"Even during Stalin's time, even during Soviet times, all deputies were formally elected," Mr. Zatulin said. "It allowed concrete people to solve concrete problems. This is a return to czarist times."

Others accused Mr. Putin of exploiting the horrific events at Middle School No. 1 in Beslan, in North Ossetia, where at least 300 hostages died in the violent end of the siege by a band of separatists. "I think he wanted to do this before," said Boris E. Nemtsov, a leader of the Union of Right Forces, a liberal party that fell into disarray after failing to win seats in Parliament. "But now this is a very good opportunity, after this disaster, because people will accept it."

Indeed, it is a measure of Mr. Putin's power over all branches of government that few people expressed hope for a political or legal challenge to his proposals, even though some argued that the changes would be unconstitutional. Simply by being proposed, it seems, the changes will become law.

"We are coming to the point where we have no checks and balances, no democratic and peaceful way to balance power," Leonid N. Dobrokhotov, an adviser to the Communist Party, said in a telephone interview. "The only thing left is absolute prostration."

Monday, September 13, 2004

IHT > Mixed signals are confusing Russia-U.S. ties

: "News Analysis: Mixed signals are confusing Russia-U.S. ties
Steven R. Weisman NYT
Monday, September 13, 2004

WASHINGTON Three tumultuous years ago, President George W. Bush memorably proclaimed that he had looked into the soul of President Vladimir Putin of Russia and found a man with whom he could do business. But if there is any soul-searching going on today in the Bush administration, it is over why the latest attacks by Chechen terrorists in Russia have deepened a recent estrangement between the two countries.

Despite the understandable horror after the massacre of schoolchildren and other attacks, administration officials were taken aback by the almost despairing tone of Putin as he lashed out at the United States last week for suggesting that Chechen demands needed to be addressed politically as well as militarily.

'Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?' Putin was quoted as telling a group of Western visitors.

After that cri de coeur, Secretary of State Colin Powell hastened to declare that 'there can be no justification for what happened in Russia' and 'no compromise in this battle.' The White House let it be known that Bush had telephoned his soul mate to express condolences. Other officials, responding to Putin's complaint that the United States had granted asylum to a Chechen leader and had contacts with others, said that the asylum case was granted by the courts and that the U.S. government cut off even low-level contact with the Chechens two years ago.

Some administration officials, while they moved quickly to address Putin's concerns, concede that they nonetheless have growing doubts about the nature of his leadership - not just over the bru"

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Yahoo News > AP > Russia Attacks Prompt New Policy Fears

A quick succession of terror attacks has shattered the image of strength assiduously cultivated by President Vladimir Putin, leaving the Kremlin grasping for a response to what has widely been dubbed "Russia's Sept. 11."
Stunned by the bloodbath at the school in the southern town of Beslan, even some of Putin's most fervent supporters are urging him to reverse his practice of sidelining the opposition and muzzling the media. Russia's top liberal politicians and commentators are calling for stronger public control over ineffectual law enforcement and other government agencies.
Most expect, however, that the Kremlin will reach for harsh, Soviet-style levers instead, refusing to negotiate its way out of the Chechen war for fear it will look weak and embolden other separatist movements in Russia.
Putin spent his first four-year term establishing rigid lines of authority _ reining in ambitious regional governors, cowing influential business leaders, putting parliament in his pocket. He marginalized politicians who favor negotiations on Chechnya, ensuring potential communication channels will remain closed.
Putin's response to the terror crisis indicates no change of direction after Beslan, where about 330 people were killed, nearly half of them children, after a terrorist gang including Chechens took more than 1,200 hostage.
Over the previous week, 100 people died in twin airplane bombings and a suicide bombing in Moscow.
In a televised address to the shaken nation last week, Putin promised measures to strengthen Russia's unity, improve crisis management, establish a new system of control in the Caucasus region and overhaul law enforcement, which he admitted was corrupt.
For the outside world, Putin's address carried an ominous undertone. Signalling growing Kremlin irritation with what it sees as Western "double standards" in dealing with the Chechen rebels, he said terror attacks on Russia are encouraged by those who fear its nuclear might. Most analysts interpreted that as a veiled attack on the West, including the United States, and a warning that it may lose Russia as an ally.
"The differences in assessing the Beslan events could lead to the most serious estrangement between Russia and the West since the Soviet times," said Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of Russia in Global Affairs magazine.
Beslan also refocused attention on the way bad news is reported _ or suppressed _ in Putin's Russia.
While harsh criticism of Putin's handling of the crisis filled the print media, the editor of the leading daily Izvestia was forced to resign after publishing a frank account of the school siege with harrowing, full-page pictures of wounded and dead children. And public opinion seems to support Putin's handling of Beslan, influenced perhaps by state-controlled television, which spared him any criticism.
The Levada-Center, a respected independent pollster, surveyed 500 Moscow residents and said 60 percent approved of Putin's handling of Beslan, 28 percent were critical and the rest were undecided. No margin of error was given.
Analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov predicted Putin would now move toward further strengthening central power by merging some of Russia's 89 regions, though at the risk of awakening dormant ethnic conflicts.
Putin told regional government and security officials in Beslan that every effort must be made to curb interethnic conflicts in Russia _ where one in every seven citizens is Muslims.
Characteristically, he didn't say how.
Kremlin loyalists say the nation has no choice but to give more power and money to law enforcement and the military. Some favor restoring the power and prestige of the Soviet-era KGB.
Yet Putin's critics say he has already made every effort to strengthen the KGB's fragmented successors, only to see them completely helpless during the latest crisis. They say the Kremlin's efforts to sideline the opposition, tame parliament and control the media have weakened Russia by freeing the inept bureaucracy from public oversight.
Putin initially reacted coldly to opposition proposals to set up a parliamentary investigation similar to the U.S. one that examined 9/11. He said it could turn into a "political show." Later, he said he would welcome a probe by the upper house _ which consists entirely of appointed Kremlin loyalists.
The opposition has argued that only an open, independent inquiry can objectively investigate allegations of official negligence and corruption that helped the terrorists.
Investigators say explosives had been brought to the school before the attack under the guise of repairs and over 30 heavily armed attackers drove freely to their target through an area packed with police checkpoints.
"Russia has become a target of choice for terrorists because it's so vulnerable," Valery Tishkov, a Caucasus expert with the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview. "It's easy to talk your way through a police inspector here and find other loopholes."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Vladimir Isachenkov has covered Russian politics for The Associated Press since 1991.

New York Times > Atomic Activity in North Korea Raises Concerns

September 12, 2004
WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 - President Bush and his top advisers have received intelligence reports in recent days describing a confusing series of actions by North Korea that some experts believe could indicate the country is preparing to conduct its first test explosion of a nuclear weapon, according to senior officials with access to the intelligence.
While the indications were viewed as serious enough to warrant a warning to the White House, American intelligence agencies appear divided about the significance of the new North Korean actions, much as they were about the evidence concerning Iraq's alleged weapons stockpiles.
Some analysts in agencies that were the most cautious about the Iraq findings have cautioned that they do not believe the activity detected in North Korea in the past three weeks is necessarily the harbinger of a test. A senior scientist who assesses nuclear intelligence says the new evidence "is not conclusive," but is potentially worrisome.
If successful, a test would end a debate that stretches back more than a decade over whether North Korea has a rudimentary arsenal, as it has boasted in recent years. Some analysts also fear that a test could change the balance of power in Asia, perhaps leading to a new nuclear arms race there.
In interviews on Friday and Saturday, senior officials were reluctant to provide many details of the new activities they have detected, but some of the information appears to have come from satellite intelligence.
One official with access to the intelligence called it "a series of indicators of increased activity that we believe would be associated with a test," saying that the "likelihood" of a North Korean test had risen significantly in just the past four weeks.
It was that changed assessment that led to the decision to give an update to President Bush, the officials said.
The activities included the movement of materials around several suspected test sites, including one near a location where intelligence agencies reported last year that conventional explosives were being tested that could compress a plutonium core and set off a nuclear explosion. But officials have not seen the classic indicators of preparations at a test site, in which cables are laid to measure an explosion in a deep test pit.
"I'm not sure you would see that in a country that has tunnels everywhere," said one senior official who has reviewed the data. Officials said if North Korea proceeded with a test, it would probably be with a plutonium bomb, perhaps one fabricated from the 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods that the North has boasted in the past few months have been reprocessed into bomb fuel.
A senior intelligence official noted Saturday that even if "they are doing something, it doesn't mean they will" conduct a test, noting that preparations that the North knew could be detected by the United States might be a scare tactic or negotiating tactic by the North Korean government.
Several officials speculated that the test, if it occurred, could be intended to influence the presidential election, though a senior military official said while "an election surprise" could be the motive, "I'm not sure what that would buy them."
While the intelligence community's experience in Iraq colors how it assesses threats in places like North Korea, the comparisons are inexact. Inspectors have seen and measured the raw material that the North could turn into bomb fuel; the only question is whether they have done so in the 20 months since arms inspectors were ousted. While Iraq denied it has weapons, the North boasts about them - perhaps too loudly, suggesting they may have less than they say.
On the other hand, the divisions within the administration over how to deal with North Korea mirrors some of the old debate about Iraq. Hard-liners in the Pentagon and the vice president's office have largely opposed making concessions of any kind in negotiations, and Vice President Dick Cheney has warned that "time is not on our side" to deal with the question. The State Department has pressed the case for negotiation, and for offering the North a face-saving way out. While the State Department has won the argument in recent times, how to deal with the North is a constant battle inside the administration.
Some of the senior officials who discussed the emerging indicators were clearly trying to warn North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, that his actions were being closely watched. Asian officials noted that there has been speculation in South Korea and Japan for some time that Mr. Kim might try to stage an incident - perhaps a missile test or the withdrawal of more raw nuclear fuel from a reactor - in an effort to display defiance before the election. "A test would be a vivid demonstration of their view of President Bush," one senior Asian diplomat said.
The intelligence information was discussed in interviews with officials from five government agencies, ranging from those who believe a test may occur at any moment to those who are highly skeptical. They had differing access to the intelligence: some had reviewed the raw data and others had seen a classified intelligence report about the possibility of a test, perhaps within months, that has circulated in Washington in the past week. Most, but not all, were career officials.
If North Korea successfully tested a weapon, the reclusive country would become the eighth nation to have proven nuclear capability - Israel is also assumed to have working weapons - and it would represent the failure of 14 years of efforts to stop the North's nuclear program.
Government officials throughout Asia and members of Mr. Bush's national security team have also feared it could change the nuclear politics of Asia, fueling political pressure in South Korea and Japan to develop a nuclear deterrent independent of the United States.
Both countries have the technological skill and the raw material to produce a bomb, though both have insisted they would never do so. South Korea has admitted in the past few weeks that it conducted experiments that outside experts fear could produce bomb-grade fuel, first in the early 1980's and then in 2000.
Senior officials in South Korea and Japan did not appear to have been briefed about the new evidence, beyond what one called "a nonspecific warning of a growing problem" from American officials. But it is a measure of the extraordinary nervousness about the North's intentions that earlier this week, South Korean intelligence officials who saw evidence of an intense fire at a suspected nuclear location alerted their American counterparts that a small nuclear test might have already occurred. American officials reviewed seismic sensors and other data and concluded it was a false alarm, though the fire has yet to be explained.
North Korea has declared several times in the past year that it might move to demonstrate its nuclear power. It is impossible to know how such a test might affect public perceptions of how Mr. Bush has handled potential threats to the United States. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has already accused President Bush of an "almost myopic" focus on Iraq that has distracted the United States while North Korea, by some intelligence estimates, has increased its arsenal from what the C.I.A. suspects was one or two weapons to six or eight now.
Mr. Bush, while declaring he would not "tolerate" a nuclear North Korea, has insisted that his approach of involving China, Russia, Japan and South Korea in a new round of talks with the North is the only reasonable way to force the country to disarm. He has refused to set the kind of deadline for disarmament that he set for Saddam Hussein.
When asked in an interview with The New York Times two weeks ago to define what he meant by "tolerate," he said: "I don't think you give timelines to dictators and tyrants. I think it's important for us to continue to lead coalitions that are firm and strong, in sending messages to both the North Koreans and the Iranians."
The differing assessments of North Korea's intentions may reflect the competing lessons of two huge intelligence failures: the failure of the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies to detect India's preparations for a nuclear test in 1998, and the false warnings about the state of Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical programs in 2002, which became the chief justification for invading the country. An investigation into the first failure, a test that took intelligence officials by surprise and led to Pakistan's first tests, prompted searing criticisms of the nation's intelligence agencies. It also created an atmosphere, intelligence professionals say, that encouraged early warning of any hint that another country is preparing a nuclear test.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting for this article.

Friday, September 10, 2004

New York Times > Editorial >POLITICAL MEMO When an Explosive Charge Is Not Handled With Care

September 9, 2004
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that the nation was more likely to "get hit again" by terrorists if John Kerry was elected was one of the toughest attacks launched in a presidential election in 40 years.
But Mr. Cheney's latest assault on Mr. Kerry, which startled Democrats and Republicans alike, raised a central question even in this notably ferocious presidential campaign: Is it possible for a candidate to go too far, and alienate the very voters he is trying to court?
In one sign that the answer to that question may be yes, Mr. Cheney's aides were quick to say that he had not meant to be quite so direct in his remarks in Des Moines on Tuesday when he said: "The danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating." A review of the videotape of his appearance in Des Moines suggests that his remark was spontaneous and unscripted. There was some, though not much, cringing in Republican circles at the image of Mr. Cheney on television, characteristically unsmiling, describing a Kerry presidency in such apocalyptic terms.
But what Mr. Cheney said was, if a bit stark, in line with the not-so-subliminal message of Mr. Bush's nominating convention, and what Mr. Cheney has said more delicately before: that the nation would be safer from a terrorist attack if it returned Mr. Bush to office. If Mr. Cheney's aides were walking back his remark in the hours after he made it, they were only walking so far.
"It's a central argument of this election: the policies of Bush-Cheney will keep us safer," said Nicolle Devenish, the communications director for Mr. Bush's re-election campaign. "Take away the fascination with the way he said what he said. It's a discussion about pre-emption."
As they did in New York, when they staged a convention that featured the symbols and sadness of the terrorist attacks there, the Republicans seem to be walking a tricky line in this campaign, which the White House has always wanted fought on the issue of terrorism.
In New York, the Republicans sought to identify Mr. Bush's re-election with the tragedy that has defined his presidency, without appearing to exploit a day on which almost 3,000 Americans died. In this case, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush have sought to make the case that the nation would be far safer if Mr. Bush was returned to the White House.
Still, Mr. Cheney's harsh presentation of that argument in Des Moines may well have crossed that line, analysts said, and created potential perils for the White House.
"It's a risky strategy," said Stephen D. Ansolabehere, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "If they feel they have to bring some independent voters into their camp, this is a fine line to walk."
Indeed, polls suggest that independent voters, whom both parties are courting assiduously, are put off by what they might see as crass or exceedingly negative political campaigning. What is more, Republicans have worried that Mr. Cheney's campaign visage is already a little too stern, and that the image of him issuing an alarming warning about a Kerry presidency would hardly help.
And, of course, the attacks of Sept. 11 did occur when Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney were inoffice, and thus Mr. Cheney's remarks would seem to have presented an opening to Democrats who might want to remind voters of the criticism from two commissions of the White House's actions before the attacks.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said one factor ascribed to Jimmy Carter's loss in 1980 was his remark that that Ronald Reagan's election could mean that "Americans might be separated, blacks from whites, Jews from Christians, North from South, rural from urban.''
Ms. Devenish said Mr. Cheney was trying in his remarks to draw what she said was a significant difference between the two candidates, asserting that Mr. Kerry did not embrace Mr. Bush's position of acting pre-emptively against nations that he sees as a threat. "We have a very, very, very different philosophy on dealing with the threat of a global terrorist market."
Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, hailed what he said was Mr. Cheney's directness, saying, "Dick Cheney has understated the difference in danger to the United States between a Bush and a Kerry presidency."
But not incidentally, Mr. Cheney's remarks were close in tone to many of the attacks that were aimed at Mr. Kerry at the Republican convention - notably, in a speech Senator Zell Miller, a Democrat from Georgia.
The remarks were among the more dire offered in a presidential campaign since 1964, when Lyndon B. Johnson broadcast a television advertisement, with a mushroom cloud, warning that the election of Barry Goldwater would lead to nuclear war. It was hard to find anyone in Mr. Kerry's headquarters who thought that Mr. Cheney's remark was not deliberate.
"A sitting vice president does not make a comment like that without knowing the implications of it," said Stephanie Cutter, Mr. Kerry's communications director.
There was no shortage of speculation among Democrats about why Mr. Cheney was being so harsh. Could post-convention White House polls now be finding that the 11-point Bush lead reported by Time and Newsweek had indeed been exaggerated, leaving Mr. Bush without the upper hand he had hoped for? Could the White House be trying to shift attention away from new reports this week about Mr. Bush's absences in the National Guard?
Perhaps. But it seems safe to say that even if Mr. Cheney did not mean to say it the way he did, this was precisely the message he intended to convey. It is one that voters will be hearing again and again before Election Day.
Richard W. Stevenson contributed reporting for this article.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

N.Y. Times > Editorial > A Disgraceful Campaign Speech

There are some things a presidential campaign should steer clear of, through innate good taste, prudence or just a sensible fear of a voter backlash. We'd have thought that both the Kerry and Bush camps would instinctively know that it would be appalling to suggest that terrorists were rooting for one side or another in this race. But Vice President Dick Cheney seemed to breach that unspoken barrier this week in Des Moines. If John Kerry was elected president, Mr. Cheney warned the crowd, "the danger is that we'll get hit again." In a long, rather rambling statement, he said the United States might then fall back into a "pre-9/11 mind-set" that "these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts."
At the very best, Mr. Cheney was speaking loosely and carelessly about the area in this campaign that deserves the most careful and serious discussion. It sounds to us more likely that he stepped across a line that the Bush campaign team had flirted with throughout its convention, telling his audience that re-electing the president would be the only way to stay safe from another attack.
There is a danger that we'll be hit again no matter who is elected president this November, as President Bush himself has said on many occasions. The danger might be a bit less if the current administration had chosen to spend less on tax cuts for the wealthy and more on protecting our ports, securing nuclear materials in Russia and establishing an enforceable immigration policy that would keep better track of people who enter the country from abroad.
Immigration and homeland security strategies are policy fights, fair game for a political campaign. What's totally unacceptable is to tell the American people that the mere act of voting for your opponent opens the door to a terrorist attack. For Mr. Cheney to suggest that is flat wrong. There was a time in this country when elected officials knew how to separate the position from the person. The American people, we're sure, would like to return to it.

N.Y. Times > Editorial > A Disgraceful Campaign Speech

There are some things a presidential campaign should steer clear of, through innate good taste, prudence or just a sensible fear of a voter backlash. We'd have thought that both the Kerry and Bush camps would instinctively know that it would be appalling to suggest that terrorists were rooting for one side or another in this race. But Vice President Dick Cheney seemed to breach that unspoken barrier this week in Des Moines. If John Kerry was elected president, Mr. Cheney warned the crowd, "the danger is that we'll get hit again." In a long, rather rambling statement, he said the United States might then fall back into a "pre-9/11 mind-set" that "these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts."
At the very best, Mr. Cheney was speaking loosely and carelessly about the area in this campaign that deserves the most careful and serious discussion. It sounds to us more likely that he stepped across a line that the Bush campaign team had flirted with throughout its convention, telling his audience that re-electing the president would be the only way to stay safe from another attack.
There is a danger that we'll be hit again no matter who is elected president this November, as President Bush himself has said on many occasions. The danger might be a bit less if the current administration had chosen to spend less on tax cuts for the wealthy and more on protecting our ports, securing nuclear materials in Russia and establishing an enforceable immigration policy that would keep better track of people who enter the country from abroad.
Immigration and homeland security strategies are policy fights, fair game for a political campaign. What's totally unacceptable is to tell the American people that the mere act of voting for your opponent opens the door to a terrorist attack. For Mr. Cheney to suggest that is flat wrong. There was a time in this country when elected officials knew how to separate the position from the person. The American people, we're sure, would like to return to it.

The Guardian Unlimited > Now it's Bush's turn to squirm

Evidence of the president's fudged war record emerged in time to undermine the Republicans' triumphal march

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday September 9, 2004
The Guardian

Republicans marched out of their convention intoxicated with the sensation of victory. President Bush, the "war president", was the most honest, moral, decisive, and strongest leader in the world. (The unvarying encomiums eerily echoed those of the brainwashed soldiers about the sleeper agent in The Manchurian Candidate: "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, warmest, bravest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.")
After Bush's defiant speech - "Nothing will hold us back!" - his lead was reported by Time magazine to have climbed to 11 points, which was inhaled like pure oxygen by the Republican cadres. (Both John Kerry's and Bush's internal polls gave Bush only a four-point lead.)
Kerry seemed to be reeling in retreat. His disciplined campaign management had suppressed criticism of Bush, supposedly on the basis that swing voters are attracted by vague swirls of optimism. But the effect was that voters remained confused about the contrast between the candidates and Kerry's commitments. Kerry had delayed defending himself against the torpedoes of falsehood fired at his heroic military record by the Orwellianly named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
Perhaps his gravest self-inflicted wound was replying to Bush's challenge to answer whether he would still have voted for the war resolution on Iraq, knowing what he does today. Kerry said he would and tangled himself in a thicket of sticky nuance.
Bush could hardly believe that Kerry had fallen for the gambit. This sucker would buy a bridge in Brooklyn. The triumphant Republicans felt unrestrained in delivering blows to the prone Kerry. Dick Cheney announced that a vote against Bush was tantamount to a vote for a terrorist attack: "If we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again."
On the day that former President Clinton had his heart surgery, Cheney attacked him as weak on terrorism, and for good measure set upon Ronald Reagan too. The venerated Reagan had served his purpose as an icon at the convention, but now he was unceremoniously thrown overboard.
Only Bush was tough enough. Bush, adopting the tone of the fraternity house president he once was, sarcastically derided Kerry: "No matter how many times Senator Kerry flip-flops, we were right to make America safer by removing Saddam Hussein from power."
In fact, on the third day of the Republican convention, Kerry had given a penetrating and highly specific speech on the war on terrorism and Iraq, detailing how Bush's strategy amounted to a series of catastrophic blunders. "When it comes to Iraq," he said, "it's not that I would have done one thing differently, I would have done almost everything differently."
Kerry's speech was pointedly ignored by Bush who, with Cheney, rained a steady fire of ridicule down on Kerry. Meanwhile, the report on Iraq by the Royal Institute of International Affairs was buried in the back pages. "Iraq could splinter into civil war and destabilise the whole region if the interim government, US forces and United Nations fail to hold the ring among factions struggling for power." Civil war, the institute said, was "the most likely outcome". Kerry remarked that because of Bush's errors "terrorists have secured havens in Iraq that were not there before". The New York Times reported that Fallujah and many other cities in the Sunni triangle are under the control of Islamist insurgents. But Bush steadfastly refused to engage Kerry in debate. A report chronicling the undermining of the war against terrorism by James Fallows in The Atlantic, in which numerous military officials described how Afghanistan became a "sideshow" as resources were siphoned to Iraq, received almost no attention. "Our strategy is succeeding," Bush told his jubilant rallies.
Bush campaigns before the faithful; distressing facts are dismissed with sarcasm and ideology is implacable. Yet at this moment of disdain a discovery that cast light on Bush's character suddenly emerged, having the potential to alter the momentum of the campaign.
On Wednesday, the Boston Globe published documents proving that Bush, whose spotty record in the National Guard was always mysterious, "fell well short of meeting his military obligation". Maj Gen Paul A Weaver Jr., who retired in 2002 as the Pentagon's director of the Air National Guard, was quoted: "It appears that no one wanted to hold him accountable."
That night, CBS's 60 Minutes broadcast the first interview with former Texas lieutenant governor Ben Barnes, who explained how he contrived to get young George his safe posting in the "champagne unit" of the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. The programme also revealed further documents showing he never fulfilled his service.
Abruptly, the Republican marchers stumble as Kerry is galvanised. "His miscalculation was going to war without planning carefully and without the allies we should have had," he said yesterday. Meanwhile in the White House, aides anxiously wonder how to explain the president's haunted past and his long years of hiding it and who will have the task of facing the cameras.
· Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is Washington bureau chief of
sidney_blumenthal@yahoo .com