Friday's must-reads

By Geraldine Sealey
Published March 5, 2004 3:01PM (EST)

Nader as Benedict Arnold
The Los Angeles Times describes the flood of anti-Nader sentiment unleashed when America's "most famous consumer advocate" announced he'd run for president again. "Spoiler. Egotist. Narcissist. Irrelevant  You could practically hear the fractious left, newly unified under the anyone-but-Bush standard, coming unglued," the Times says. (And these insults came before an AP poll on Thursday showed that if the election were held today, Bush would get 46 percent, Kerry 45 percent and Nader  well, he'd get 6 percent.)

How's Nader faring under the torrent of condemnation? "Nader refuses to take the criticism personally. (The fact that his feelings aren't hurt, he avers, proves he's not an egomaniac.) In fact, if you spend more than about 30 seconds with Nader  who was in town the other day to celebrate his 70th birthday  it's pretty clear he thinks Democrats should thank him. After all, he's doing them a favor. 'They need a wake-up call,' Nader said after a sparsely attended news conference last Friday at the Los Angeles Press Club in Hollywood. 'When the Democrats are running scared  they work hard to get out the vote.'"

"People who think Nader's Green Party presidential candidacy in 2000 cost Al Gore the presidential election are not only wrong-headed, said Nader, they can't count. Although Nader received slightly more than 97,000 votes in Florida and George Bush eked out a winning margin of only 537 votes, 'a quarter of a million registered Democrats in Florida voted for Bush,' said Nader. 'They couldn't keep their own rank and file loyal to their own national candidacy!'"

This assertion makes people like John Pearce sputter, the Times writes. "If Nader hadn't run," he said, "Al Gore would be president."

What if Democrats did this?
Let's apply the "what if Democrats did this" rule to the following. Imagine the Republican outrage. Imagine what it would have been like if Bill Clinton were president, and a report said Democrats were spying. The New York Times reports that the Senate sergeant-at-arms issued his 65-page report on Thursday detailing how, "for 18 months, at least two Republican Senate staff aides engaged in unauthorized and possibly illegal spying by reading Democratic strategy memorandums on a Senate computer system." The two Republican staff aides, both of whom have since departed, improperly read, downloaded and printed as many as 4,670 files concerning the Democrats' tactics in opposing many of President Bush's judicial nominees. The report, the result of an investigation undertaken at the request of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested that many other Republican staff aides may have been involved in trafficking in the stolen documents.

"I am mortified that this improper, unethical and simply unacceptable breach of confidential files occurred," Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters. "There is no excuse that can justify these improper actions." Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the committee's ranking Democrat, said, "This report indisputably shows that this secret surveillance was calculated, systematic and sweeping in its scope." He added, "It is not difficult to conclude that this was criminal behavior."

The report was supposed to be released with the names of the individuals involved redacted. But a copy was mistakenly released with the names included. The report identified the two former Republican staff aides as Manuel C. Miranda, who had already been named as a central figure in the investigation, and Jason Lundell, whose name had not previously been known. Investigators said an inexperienced computer coordinator did not make files properly inaccessible; Mr. Lundell observed the coordinator opening files with a few key strokes, the report said, and then copied what he had done.

Source of "mobile labs" claims never interviewed
We all remember Colin Powell telling the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, about "firsthand descriptions" that Saddam Hussein had a fleet of mobile labs that could produce bioweapons -- this claim came from an Iraqi chemical engineer who had defected and is "currently hiding in another country with the certain knowledge that Saddam Hussein will kill him if he finds him," Powell said. The Washington Post reports today that, as the mobile labs claim remains unverified, the administration is now trying to get its hands on this defector  who also turns out to be affiliated with Iraqi exiles who very much wanted the U.S. to go to war against Saddam.

"U.S. officials are trying to get access to the Iraqi engineer to verify his story, the sources said, particularly because intelligence officials have discovered that he is related to a senior official in Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqi exiles who actively encouraged the United States to invade Iraq. Powell also cited another defector in his speech, an Iraqi major who was made available to U.S. officials by the INC, as supporting the engineer's story. The major, however, had already been 'red-flagged' by the Defense Intelligence Agency as having provided questionable information about Iraq's mobile biological program. But DIA analysts did not pass along that cautionary note, and the major was cited in an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq and was mentioned in Powell's speech, officials said."

Blix: Iraq war was illegal
The Independent newspaper says that "former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has declared that the war in Iraq was illegal, dealing another devastating blow to Tony Blair."

"Mr Blix, speaking to The Independent, said the (U.K.) Attorney General's legal advice to the Government on the eve of war, giving cover for military action by the US and Britain, had no lawful justification. He said it would have required a second United Nations resolution explicitly authorising the use of force for the invasion of Iraq last March to have been legal. His intervention goes to the heart of the current controversy over Lord Goldsmith's advice, and comes as the Prime Minister begins his fightback with a speech on Iraq today."

"An unrepentant Mr Blair will refuse to apologise for the war in Iraq, insisting the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein in power. He will point to the wider benefits of the Iraq conflict, citing Libya's decision to give up its weapons of mass destruction, but warn that the world cannot turn a blind eye to the continuing threat from WMD. But, in an exclusive interview, Mr Blix said: ''I don't buy the argument the war was legalised by the Iraqi violation of earlier resolutions.'"

Sen. Byrd: Enough stonewalling the 9/11 probe
Counterpunch is running an essay by Sen. Robert Byrd (D.-W.Va.) criticizing President Bush for undermining the independence of the commission studying failures in prewar intelligence while stonewalling the model of an independent probe, the 9/11 commission.

"The American people deserve answers on why the administration relied on faulty intelligence to take this country to war without presence of an imminent threat. A commission that is designed to keep the inquiry under the thumb of the same White House that misled Congress and the public about the nature of the threat from Saddam Hussein will never be able to operate independently. So Congress should not allow the President to get away with posting a fox at the door to the hen house."

"The structure of the 9/11 Commission is a solid foundation upon which to conduct an inquiry into the administration's prewar intelligence claims. The 9/11 Commission has been doing yeoman's work in digging into all of the events that led up to those catastrophic attacks on New York and Washington. In fact, the only real problem that the 9/11 Commission has faced is the lack of cooperation from the White House."

"What could possibly be the reason for this stonewalling by the White House? It is as if a whole swath of the Washington establishment has completely forgotten the horror of the terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 innocent people. But the American people have not forgotten. The American people have their priorities straight. They place getting at the truth of how that tragedy was carried out above election year politics."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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