Tuesday’s must-reads

Topics: War Room,

Those confusing names
9/11 Commissioner John Lehman, Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan, defended the Bush administration on Meet the Press this week by backing up the claim that al-Qaida had strong ties to Saddam Hussein. His evidence? “New … documents” that indicated that “at least one officer of Saddam’s Fedayeen,” an elite army unit, “was a very prominent member of al-Qaida” and met with two of the 9/11 hijackers in Malaysia.

But an administration official tells Newsday that the CIA concluded “a long time ago” that the al-Qaida associate who met with the hijackers in Malaysia was not an officer in Saddam Hussein’s army, but had a name “similar to” the Fedayeen officer Lehman was referring to.

“In alleging that a Hussein army officer was an al-Qaida operative, Lehman also acknowledged that the claim ‘still has not been confirmed’ by the commission. But he insisted that Cheney ‘was right when he said he may have things we [the commission] don’t have yet.’”

” … The claim that the Iraqi officer and al-Qaida figure are the same first appeared in a Wall Street Journal editorial on May 27. A similar account was then published in the June 7 edition of the Weekly Standard, which reported that the link was discovered by an analyst working for a controversial Pentagon intelligence unit under Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy.”

Scientists for Kerry
Reuters writes up John Kerry’s endorsement of 48 Nobel Prize-winning scientists who attacked President Bush for “compromising our future” by shortchanging scientific research.

“‘The Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare,’ the 48 scientists, who have won Nobels in chemistry, physics and medicine dating back to 1967, said in an open letter released by the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign.”



“The scientists, who included 2003 chemistry winners Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon, accused the Bush administration of undermining America’s future by reducing funding for science and turning away scientific talent with restrictive immigration policies. ‘John Kerry will change all this,’ they said. ‘John Kerry will restore science to its appropriate place in government.’”

Clinton and Bush, at the poles
The Boston Globe’s Peter Canellos writes that the Clinton hype this week will reveal that he is the true foil to President Bush.

“Clinton and Bush are the two poles (one shaky, one brittle) in the political pathology that has gripped the country over the last decade. The differences between the two go well beyond personality or morality, extending all the way to their visions for the United States and its relationship to the world.”

“While many readers await today’s release of Clinton’s memoirs to see how the big guy tries to weasel his way out of personal scandals, others feel a pang imagining how different the world would be had Clinton not been barred from a third term.”

“John F. Kerry may be the Democrats’ hope of the moment, but Clinton provides the more tangible contrast with Bush, the one depicted in former national security aide Richard A. Clarke’s best-selling book and captured in the public imagination: Clinton’s cramming of information vs. the corporate style that shields Bush from all but a few distilled policy options; Clinton’s emphasis on global codependence vs. Bush’s insistence on US primacy; Clinton’s desire to be liked by everyone vs. Bush’s tendency to define himself against enemies.”

Bob Barr: I’m an author, too
The AP reports that Bob Barr, the House impeachment manager, will ride the Clinton publishing excitement by publishing a “rebuttal” book to Clinton’s My Life.

“The Georgia Republican and House impeachment manager made the announcement Monday, one day before Clinton’s autobiography was set to hit the shelves. Barr’s book, being released in mid-July from Stroud & Hall, is entitled, ‘The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton.’”

“‘I am most amazed that the Monica Lewinsky case is ultimately the one that got the president impeached,’ Barr says in an excerpt from his book released to the media. ‘These charges pale in comparison to the systematic damage Bill Clinton did to American national security, the office of the presidency and the civil liberties of individual American citizens.’”

“In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr alleges a conspiracy of his own, but far different from the one Hillary Clinton said was targeting her husband during the Lewinsky scandal. Rather, Barr says top Senate Republican leaders worked out a deal to assure Clinton would stay in office despite his impeachment, figuring he was ‘too wily a politician’ to completely fall.”

Poll: Bush loses ground on Iraq
The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows “President Bush has lost significant ground on the issue on which he’s staked his presidency: fighting terrorism.”

“For the first time in ABC News/Washington Post polls, more than half of Americans, 52 percent, say the Iraq war was not worth fighting. Seven in 10 call U.S. casualties there ‘unacceptable,’ a new high. And there’s been a steady slide in belief that the war has enhanced long-term U.S. security; 51 percent now say so, down 11 points this year.”

“Bush, moreover, has weakened in his once-strongest area. Approval of his handling of the U.S. campaign against terrorism has fallen to 50 percent, its lowest yet — down eight points in the last month and 29 points below its immediate postwar peak. In a hazardous turn of fortune for Bush, Democrat John Kerry now runs evenly with him in trust to handle terrorism; Bush had led by 13 points on this issue a month ago, and by 21 points the month before.”

Senate votes to hide war dead images
The New York Times reports that the “Bush administration’s policy of barring news photographs of the flag-covered coffins of service members killed in Iraq won the backing of the Republican-controlled Senate on Monday, when lawmakers defeated a Democratic measure to instruct the Pentagon to allow pictures.”

“The 54-to-39 vote came after little formal debate, with 7 Democrats joining 47 Republicans to defeat the provision. Two Republicans, Senators Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and John McCain of Arizona, voted in favor of permitting news photographers to have access to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where coffins containing the war dead from Iraq arrive.”

“‘These caskets that arrive at Dover are not named; we just see them,’ said Mr. McCain, a former Navy pilot who was a prisoner of war for five years in Vietnam. He added, ‘I think we ought to know the casualties of war.’”

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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