- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2004

Runaway staff

New York Times columnist William Safire blames the September 11 commission, and not news outlets, for last week’s firestorm over what turned out be a false assertion that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaeda.

“‘Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie,’ went the Times headline. ‘Al Qaeda-Hussein link Is Dismissed’ front-paged The Washington Post. The AP led with the thrilling words ‘Bluntly contradicting the Bush administration, the commission …’ This understandably caused my editorial-page colleagues to draw the conclusion that ‘there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda … ,’” Mr. Safire writes.

“All wrong. The basis for the hoo-ha was not a judgment of the panel of commissioners appointed to investigate the 9/11 attacks. As reporters noted below the headlines, it was an interim report of the commission’s runaway staff, headed by the ex-[National Security Council] aide Philip Zelikow. After Vice President Dick Cheney’s outraged objection, the staff’s sweeping conclusion was soon disavowed by both commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton.”

News blackout

The evening news broadcasts on CBS and NBC, which had played up the false report that there were no connections between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks, failed to mention Russian President Vladimir Putin’s disclosure Friday that his country’s Special Services had “received information that officials from Saddam’s regime were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States.”

The Media Research Center (www.mediaresarch.com) notes that on Friday CBS instead “devoted over two minutes to a piece by Bill Plante about how ‘the Bush administration is engaged in a furious dispute over whether there was, in fact, credible evidence of a cooperative relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda.’ Plante, who failed to inform CBS viewers on Thursday night how the chairman and vice chairman of the 9-11 commission didn’t see any discrepancy between what the commission determined about the relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq and what Bush officials had asserted, found time to showcase Democratic commissioner Timothy Roemer disputing the Bush administration,” the MRC’s Brent Baker said.

Noncitizen voting

San Francisco officials are considering asking voters in November to give parents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in school board elections.

Under the proposed ballot initiative, even illegal immigrants would be able to vote, so long as they are parents with children in public schools, the San Jose Mercury-News reports.

The idea is already fueling charges that allowing noncitizens to vote devalues citizenship. Advocates say that almost one-fifth of eligible voters in the state are noncitizens and need to be brought into the political process.

Under the California Constitution, voters must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen. But lawyers drafting the change to San Francisco’s charter say municipalities can define voting qualifications in local elections.

Arguments from both sides will be heard at a Rules Committee meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors tomorrow. The issue then heads to the full board for a vote.

Citing Kerry

The official communist Vietnamese news agency is citing presidential candidate John Kerry’s 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as proof the United States committed war crimes in its conduct of the Vietnam War, WorldNetDaily.com reports.

The report in the Vietnam News begins: “The Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal calls forth questions over the American War in Vietnam: ‘How were captured U.S. troops treated?’ and ‘How did the Americans treat the Vietnamese?’”

The report goes on to charge, “like in any of the dozens of countries they invaded, it was the Americans who perpetrated well-documented atrocities in Vietnam, both at the individual and mass levels.”

While the report shows America POWs enjoying “a refreshing game of volleyball” while imprisoned during the war, it contrasts that photo with reference to the My Lai massacre, WorldNetDaily said.

“Candidate in this year’s American presidential elections, John Kerry, who fought in the war, went further in his criticism,” the report continues. “In a statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1971, he said the war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers in Southeast Asia ‘were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.’”

Ted goes nuclear

America is at greater risk of a nuclear attack from terrorists because of President Bush’s “single-minded focus on Iraq,” according to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

In remarks prepared for delivery today, Mr. Kennedy said North Korea and Iran have continued their nuclear buildups unchecked while the United States deals with Iraq.

“Instead of leading the world against the real threat of Iran’s nuclear program, the president chose to lead America alone into the quicksand to counter the mirage of a threat in Iraq,” Mr. Kennedy says in the remarks, prepared for a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as reported by the Associated Press.

He said efforts to disarm Iraq have not only has destroyed U.S. credibility, but have made al Qaeda more determined to launch a nuclear attack. Mr. Kennedy said the country would be better off under Democrat John Kerry, who “has pledged to make preventing nuclear terrorism an absolute priority.”

Passionate compassion

President Bush often speaks of enlisting America’s “armies of compassion.” In Cincinnati yesterday, Mr. Bush revealed that his plan to put those troops in motion would cost $675 million in 2005, according to his budget requests.

“I’m asking the Congress to spend some money on a prisoner re-entry initiative, as well as a mentoring program for children whose moms and dads may be in prison,” Mr. Bush told federal, state and local officials who provide government services through the “faith-based” programs he has touted throughout his presidency.

“See, I think we need to make sure those kids understand that they’ve got a bright future as well,” he said.

The president’s 2005 budget requests $400 million to support healthy marriages, research and demonstration projects on family formation, and initiatives to promote responsible fatherhood.

“I think one of the smartest things we can do is encourage families [and] teach people what it means to be in a successful marriage,” Mr. Bush said.

The president would also like to spend $200 million on drug-treatment programs, and $75 million in funding to help former felons stay away from crime by providing job training, housing options and “transitional services.”

Mr. Bush complained that these aspects of his “compassionate conservative” agenda has gotten little traction in Congress from fiscal conservatives who blanch at the spending and liberals who don’t agree with the president’s priorities.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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