White House withholds docs
As Condoleezza Rice prepares for her blockbuster testimony before the 9/11 commission, the panel says the White House still has not provided documents from the Clinton administration which include references to al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden and other relevant issues. The Washington Post reports that "the White House turned over 12 of the documents to the commission yesterday, officials said. But 57 others, which were not specifically requested but 'nonetheless are relevant to our work,' remain in dispute, according to a commission statement. The panel has demanded the documents and any similar ones from the Bush administration."
"Yesterday's announcement came just 14 hours before national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to testify publicly in front of the 10-member bipartisan panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The commission has feuded for months with the White House over access to documents and witnesses, and Rice's agreement to testify came after weeks of refusals from White House lawyers."
Uprising in Iraq more broad-based
The New York Times reports that U.S. intelligence officials say the uprising in Iraq against U.S. forces is more widespread than the Bush administration is letting on.
"Intelligence officials now say that there is evidence that the insurgency goes beyond Mr. Sadr and his militia, and that a much larger number of Shiites have turned against the American-led occupation of Iraq, even if they are not all actively aiding the uprising. A year ago, many Shiites rejoiced at the American invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni who had brutally repressed the Shiites for decades. But American intelligence officials now believe that hatred of the American occupation has spread rapidly among Shiites, and is now so large that Mr. Sadr and his forces represent just one element."
Iraq could hurt Bush re-election hopes
The BBC says "the specter of Iraq spiralling out of control could have serious consequences for the U.S. president's attempts to secure his seat in the White House for another four years. George W Bush has not had a good year, and with rising unrest in Iraq, it could get much worse. "
"His State of the Union address was considered a muddle, the economy has been stuck in a so-called jobless recovery, and his former counter-terrorism chief seized the spotlight with allegations that the Bush administration was obsessed with Iraq instead of being focused on al-Qaeda."
"Political pundits say that this election will hinge on two things very much out of the control of either Mr Bush or his challenger John Kerry: The economy and Iraq. But just as the news was looking better for Mr Bush on the economic front, Iraq looks set to unravel. As a sitting president, this election is Mr Bush's to lose, but if Iraq descends into chaos, it will be much more difficult for him to win."
Iraq landmine for Kerry, too
The New York Times has a political analysis of the Iraq situation and concludes that Iraq poses political difficulties for both Bush and Kerry.
"The difficulties facing both men were evident throughout the day. As scenes of violence in Iraq flashed across television screens, Mr. Bush was mostly out of sight, on his ranch in Crawford, Tex., even as some of his conservative supporters began expressing concern that Mr. Bush's Iraq policy could diminish his re-election prospects."
"Mr. Kerry was in Washington, pressing ahead with a long-planned major speech on the issue that he expected to be the centerpiece of the campaign, the economy. But, faced with repeated questions about his own views of the war in a series of interviews he had scheduled to promote his economic plan, Mr. Kerry diverted from his script to offer some of his strongest criticism yet of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy."
"That policy was also a concern of Americans around the country, with some saying their opinions had changed as a result of the recent violence. In an interview on Wednesday with American Urban Radio Networks, Mr. Kerry described the president's Iraq policy as 'one of the greatest failures of diplomacy and failures of judgment that I have seen in all the time that I've been in public life.' "
"Still, even as he attacked Mr. Bush, Mr. Kerry was notably vague in saying how he would handle the matter as president. His advisers said he had no plans to offer a policy speech about a war that aides to Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry alike said they now expected to provide a bloody backdrop for the campaign for months."
"'Right now, what I would do differently is, I mean, look, I'm not the president, and I didn't create this mess so I don't want to acknowledge a mistake that I haven't made,' Mr. Kerry said on Wednesday on CNN."
Growing GOP dissent on Iraq
CBS News reports that "President Bush is facing increasing dissent among leading conservative politicians and pundits in the face of mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq. The war has become the long slog that some Republicans feared. Since Sunday, 32 Americans have been killed in fighting across Iraq. American body bags are on the front page of major U.S. newspapers. "
"Republican Party ranks are beginning to break and the White House is worried. Longtime GOP critics on Iraq are growing progressively more vocal in their condemnation. The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, has strongly suggested that the Bush administration reconsider its June 30 deadline to transfer sovereignty from the interim government to Iraqis. ... Usually loyal pundits are speaking out, too. Conservative columnist George Will wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday, 'U.S. forces in Iraq are insufficient.'"
"... I'm not buying this 'Iraqis are on the American side' right now,' Fox News Bill OReilly said on the Tuesday night broadcast of 'The OReilly Factor.' The leading conservative commentator repeatedly called the current conflict a 'second war in Iraq.' O'Reilly added, 'I think Rumsfeld has got a lot of explaining to do here. There's a lot of mistakes that are now killing American soldiers.'"