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Monday, October 18, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Political Memo: For Kerry, a Few Words That May Be Debatable

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Political Memo: For Kerry, a Few Words That May Be Debatable

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17- Senator John Kerry and President Bush devoted four and a half hours and nearly 45,000 words to three detailed and substantial debates. But a single remark by Mr. Kerry, noting that Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Mary is a lesbian, has shadowed his strong performance and given Republicans an opening to slow the momentum Mr. Kerry got from the debates, some Democrats say.

Amid signs of Democratic concern, Mr. Kerry's advisers acknowledged Sunday that some voters perceived Mr. Kerry's remark as an invasion of Ms. Cheney's privacy, a gratuitous personal insult, or a crass political calculation by which Mr. Kerry was trying to drive a wedge between Mr. Cheney and conservatives unaware that his daughter was gay.

And Republicans were quick to seize on the exchange to reinforce their effort to portray Mr. Kerry in these closing days of the presidential race as a man who, as Mr. Cheney put it, "will say and do anything in order to get elected."

"He shouldn't have done it," said Matthew Dowd, a senior adviser to Mr. Bush. "It was inappropriate. I just don't think you should bring up people's children in the course of a campaign. And it wasn't just accidental that he did it - he's not an accidental guy."

Mr. Kerry's aides said the remark was neither the result of political calculation nor meant unkindly, insisted that it had been a spontaneous response to a question and noted that Mr. Cheney himself had brought the subject up earlier this year. Mr. Kerry invoked Ms. Cheney at the debate in Arizona last Wednesday in arguing that homosexuality was not a choice. Mr. Bush dodged the same question as he reiterated his support for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, a position Mr. Cheney says he does not share.

Still, as the fallout continued this weekend, some Democrats were clearly concerned, aware that there has rarely been a presidential campaign as close as this one. Three organizations released polls on Sunday showing that Mr. Bush had improved his standing. Time magazine showed him with a lead of two percentage points while Newsweek found he was ahead by four percentage points. The latest Gallup poll said Mr. Bush had a lead of eight percentage points.

Considering that most polls found that viewers judged Mr. Kerry the clear winner of all three debates, some Democrats said the most likely explanation for these results was a sharp response to the remark, noting that the polling interviewing was taking place amid intense news coverage of this dispute.

It is not clear whether this is a passing dust-up, as Mr. Kerry's advisers said in dismissing these latest polls, or the kind of event that could prove consequential in a race in which voters' allegiance to Mr. Kerry is anything but deep. The concern for Mr. Kerry, of course, is that with 16 days until the election, passing dust-ups can end up not passing soon enough.

"Here's the impact it had: two days of nonstop cable talk about how Bush lost the debate was avoided for them," said Joe Lockhart, a senior Kerry adviser. "It doesn't mean it hurt us. I give them credit. They lost the debate and they scrambled and they came up with the best hand they had."

Other Democrats were less sure, and said that at the very least these polls, coming after several days in which Mr. Bush's team had pounded Mr. Kerry for his remark, suggested Mr. Kerry had inadvertently thrown a lifeline to the White House. If Mr. Kerry's advisers have been a bit slow in grasping the potential impact of this - and some sympathetic Democrats said Sunday that this was the case - it reflects, to some extent, a cultural divide.

In Mr. Kerry's mind, he was stating a well-known fact. Ms. Cheney is openly gay, and her father mentioned it at one of his rallies before the Republican convention. More significant, calling someone a lesbian in this era is hardly an insult in Mr. Kerry's mind, his advisers said.

But to listen to conservative radio shows, or to talk to voters since the debate, it is clear that not everyone shares Mr. Kerry's view. Even some Democrats said that many viewers thought either that Mr. Kerry was outing Ms. Cheney, or that calling someone a lesbian was a schoolyard insult, a bit of behavior that was unseemly for a presidential candidate.

"He really hit a nerve with me when he started talking about Cheney's daughter," said Mike Kembin, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "I felt that was someplace he shouldn't have gone."

And Doug Fulton, 46, a Democrat from Des Moines, said: "I wish he hadn't done that. I don't think he meant anything by it. I just think he could have done without it."

Mr. Kerry's aides said his comment was not part of a big political plan, and two officials who attended debate preparations said they had not heard the subject of Ms. Cheney come up.

Mr. Bush's advisers were openly skeptical of that assertion, noting that Senator John Edwards of North Carolina had also talked about Mr. Cheney's lesbian daughter in the vice presidential debate.

"He did it to score political points," Mr. Dowd said. "He made some calculation that it was good for him."

Some Democrats said they wished Mr. Kerry had moved to defuse this issue immediately by issuing an apology. But aides said the campaign decided that no apology was needed, given that Ms. Cheney is open about her sexuality and that her own father had talked about it.

"I don't think the senator was trying to score political points," said Mr. Kerry's spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter. "He was trying to show respect for what strong families do with this issue. They have supported their daughter."

As is frequently the case in campaign episodes like this, the real damage is a function of whether they reinforce existing voter concerns about a candidate, like when Bill Clinton, at the very time he was being mocked as "Slick Willie," talked about smoking marijuana and not inhaling. And Republicans were arguing that this was the case. "This reminded people that this is a guy who will say anything to get elected," Mr. Dowd said.

Perhaps. Democrats were less sure about that. It is not as if Mr. Kerry had argued both sides of the same issue.

BBC NEWS | Africa | 'Things fall apart' in Nigeria

'Things fall apart' in Nigeria
World-famous Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has rejected an award from his home country, criticising the "dangerous" state of affairs.
"The situation is getting worse and worse," he told the BBC, saying that President Olusegun Obasanjo bears primary responsibility.

Achebe's most famous book, Things Fall Apart, has sold some 11 million copies around the world.

Nigeria is Africa's major oil producer but two-thirds of the people are poor.

'Lawless fiefdom'

"Nigeria is a country that does not work," he said: "Schools, universities, roads, hospitals, water, the economy, security, life."

There was a four-day national strike last week over a rise in fuel prices, while more than 10,000 people have been killed in communal clashes since Mr Obasanjo was elected in 1999.

Achebe told the BBC's Network Africa programme that he hoped that rejecting the Commander of the Federal Republic - Nigeria's second highest honour - would serve as a "wake-up call".
He also said that he hoped the recent wave of strikes and protests would continue until there is "change".

Information Minister Chukwuemeka Chikelu said Achebe had the right to reject the award.

"All I can say is that Nigeria and Nigerians are proud of his contributions," he said. In his two-page letter about rejecting the honour, published in Nigerian newspapers, he was most scathing about the situation in his home state of Anambra in the south-east.

"A small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom."

Anambra state governor Chris Ngige was last year kidnapped and forced to write a resignation letter at gun-point.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

New York Times > Broad Use of Harsh Tactics Is Described at Cuba Base

October 17, 2004
ASHINGTON, Oct. 16 - Many detainees at Guant?namo Bay were regularly subjected to harsh and coercive treatment, several people who worked in the prison said in recent interviews, despite longstanding assertions by military officials that such treatment had not occurred except in some isolated cases.
The people, military guards, intelligence agents and others, described in interviews with The New York Times a range of procedures that included treatment they said was highly abusive occurring over a long period of time, as well as rewards for prisoners who cooperated with interrogators.
One regular procedure that was described by people who worked at Camp Delta, the main prison facility at the naval base in Cuba, was making uncooperative prisoners strip to their underwear, having them sit in a chair while shackled hand and foot to a bolt in the floor, and forcing them to endure strobe lights and screamingly loud rock and rap music played through two close loudspeakers, while the air-conditioning was turned up to maximum levels, said one military official who witnessed the procedure. The official said that was intended to make the detainees uncomfortable, as they were accustomed to high temperatures both in their native countries and their cells.
Such sessions could last up to 14 hours with breaks, said the official, who described the treatment after being contacted by The Times.
"It fried them,'' the official said, who said that anger over the treatment the prisoners endured was the reason for speaking with a reporter. Another person familiar with the procedure who was contacted by The Times said: "They were very wobbly. They came back to their cells and were just completely out of it.''
The new information comes from a number of people, some of whom witnessed or participated in the techniques and others who were in a position to know the details of the operation and corroborate their accounts.
Those who spoke of the interrogation practices at the naval base did so under the condition that their identities not be revealed. While some said it was because they remained on active duty, they all said that being publicly identified would endanger their futures. Although some former prisoners have said they saw and experienced mistreatment at Guant?namo, this is the first time that people who worked there have provided detailed accounts of some interrogation procedures.
One intelligence official said most of the intense interrogation was focused on a group of detainees known as the "Dirty 30'' and believed to be the best potential sources of information.
In August, a report commissioned by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld found that tough techniques approved by the government were rarely used, but the sources described a broader pattern that went beyond even the aggressive techniques that were permissible.
The issue of what were permissible interrogation techniques has produced a vigorous debate within the government that burst into the open with reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and is now the subject of several investigations.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, the administration has wrestled with the issue of what techniques are permissible, with many arguing that the campaign against terrorism should entitle them to greater leeway. Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel said, for example, in one memorandum that the Geneva Conventions were "quaint" and not suitable for the war against terrorism.
David Sheffer, a senior State Department human rights official in the Clinton administration who teaches law at George Washington University, said the procedure of shackling prisoners to the floor in a state of undress while playing loud music - the Guant?namo sources said it included the bands Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine, and the rapper Eminem - and lights clearly constituted torture. "I don't think there's any question that treatment of that character satisfies the severe pain and suffering requirement, be it physical or mental, that is provided for in the Convention Against Torture,'' Mr. Sheffer said.
Pentagon officials would not comment on the details of the allegations. Lt. Cmdr. Alvin Plexico issued a Defense Department statement in response to questions, saying that the military was providing a "safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guant?namo that is providing valuable information in the war on terrorism.''
The statement said: "Guant?namo guards provide an environment that is stable, secure, safe and humane. And it is that environment that sets the conditions for interrogators to work successfully and to gain valuable information from detainees because they have built a relationship of trust, not fear.''
The sources portrayed a system of punishment and reward, with prisoners who were favored for their cooperation with interrogators given the privilege of spending time in a large room nicknamed "the love shack'' by the guards. In that room, they were free to relax and had access to magazines, books, a television and a video player and some R-rated movies, along with the use of a water pipe to smoke aromatic tobaccos. They were also occasionally given milkshakes and hamburgers from the McDonald's on the base.
The Pentagon said the information gathered from the detainees "has undoubtedly saved the lives of our soldiers in the field,'' adding: "And that information also saves the lives of innocent civilians at home and abroad. At Guant?namo we are holding and interrogating people that are a clear danger to the U.S. and our allies and they are providing valuable information in the war on terrorism.''
Although many critics of the detentions at Guant?namo have said that the majority of the roughly 590 inmates are low-level fighters who have little intelligence to impart, Pentagon and intelligence officials have insisted that the facility houses many dangerous veteran terrorists and officials of Al Qaeda.
The intelligence official said that many of those imprisoned at Guant?namo had valuable information but that it was not always clear what their standing in Al Qaeda was. The official said the first four detainees now facing war crimes charges before a military tribunal at the base were specifically chosen because they had not been harshly treated and therefore would be less likely to make any embarrassing allegations.
The people who worked at the prison also described as common another procedure in which an inmate was awakened, subjected to an interrogation in a facility known as the Gold Building, then returned to a different cell. As soon as the guards determined the inmate had fallen into a deep sleep, he was awakened again for interrogation after which he would be returned to yet a different cell. This could happen five or six times during a night, they said.
Much of the harsh treatment described by the sources was said to have occurred as recently as the early months of this year. After the scandal about mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq became public in April, all harsh techniques were abruptly suspended, they said.
The new accounts of mistreatment at Guant?namo provide fresh evidence about how practices there may have contributed to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. One independent military panel said in a report that the approach used at Guant?namo had "migrated to Abu Ghraib.
The vigorous debate within the administration about what techniques were permissible in interrogations was set off when the Justice Department provided a series of memorandums to the White House and Defense Department providing narrow definitions of torture. In February 2002, Mr. Bush ordered that the prisoners at Guant?namo be treated "humanely and, to the extent appropriate with military necessity, in a manner consistent with'' the Geneva Conventions.
In March 2002, a team of administration lawyers accepted the Justice Department's view, concluding in a memorandum that President Bush was not bound by either the Convention Against Torture or a federal antitorture statute because he had the authority to protect the nation from terrorism. When some of the memorandums were disclosed, the administration tried to distance itself from the rationale for the harsher treatment.
At the request of military intelligence officials who complained of tenacious resistance by some subjects, Mr. Rumsfeld approved a list of 16 techniques for use at Guant?namo in addition to the 17 methods in the Army Field Manual in December 2002. But he suspended those approvals in January 2003 after some military lawyers complained they were excessive and possibly unlawful.
In April 2003, after a review, Mr. Rumsfeld issued a final policy approving of 24 techniques, some of which needed his permission to be used.
But the approved techniques did not explicitly cover some that were used, according to the new accounts. The only time that using loud music and lights seems to appear in the documents, for example, is as a proposal that seems never to have been adopted. The April 16 memorandum allows interrogators to place a detainee "in a setting that may be less comfortable'' but should not "constitute a substantial change in environmental quality.''
Officials said the guards' patience was often stretched, especially when inmates threw human waste at the military police officers, a frequent occurrence. The guards, for their part, had their own tricks, including replacing the prayer oil in little bottles given to the inmates with a caustic pine-smelling floor cleaner.
An August 2004 report by a panel headed by James R. Schlesinger, the former defense secretary, said the harsher approved techniques on Mr. Rumsfeld's list were used on only two occasions. In addition, the report said, there were about eight abuses by guards at Guant?namo that occurred and were investigated.
In guided tours of Guant?namo provided to the news media and members of Congress, the military authorities contended that the system of rewards and punishments affected only issues like whether the inmates could be deprived of books, blankets and toilet articles. The interrogation sessions themselves, the officials consistently said, did not employ any harsh treatment but were devised only to build a trusting relationship between the interrogator and the detainee.
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Straits Times > Possible nuclear arms activity in Taiwan?

THERE is growing concern about possible nuclear weapons activity in Taiwan, says a respected US analyst, after a Taiwanese lawmaker asked in Parliament if the government is conducting secret arms planning.
Mr David Albright, president of the Washington think tank Institute for Science and International Security, said that within United States circles, 'there is concern that Taiwan may be doing nuclear weapons planning now or thinking about it, particularly after the comment in the Taiwanese Parliament'.
People First Party (PFP) legislator Nelson Ku had asked on Tuesday, according to a report on the website of the Taipei Times: 'Is there a five-person team, including active and past members from the current Taiwanese administration, planning the development of nuclear weapons'.
Mr Albright said there is a commitment in the US government 'to stop something in terms of even feasibility studies of secret nuclear weapons development before it develops'.
If Taiwan did something like that, 'its relationship with the US would be threatened and then Taiwan would have no defence against China,' he said. -- AFP

NY Times > John Kerry for President

October 17, 2004
Senator John Kerry goes toward the election with a base that is built more on opposition to George W. Bush than loyalty to his own candidacy. But over the last year we have come to know Mr. Kerry as more than just an alternative to the status quo. We like what we've seen. He has qualities that could be the basis for a great chief executive, not just a modest improvement on the incumbent.
We have been impressed with Mr. Kerry's wide knowledge and clear thinking - something that became more apparent once he was reined in by that two-minute debate light. He is blessedly willing to re-evaluate decisions when conditions change. And while Mr. Kerry's service in Vietnam was first over-promoted and then over-pilloried, his entire life has been devoted to public service, from the war to a series of elected offices. He strikes us, above all, as a man with a strong moral core.
There is no denying that this race is mainly about Mr. Bush's disastrous tenure. Nearly four years ago, after the Supreme Court awarded him the presidency, Mr. Bush came into office amid popular expectation that he would acknowledge his lack of a mandate by sticking close to the center. Instead, he turned the government over to the radical right.
Mr. Bush installed John Ashcroft, a favorite of the far right with a history of insensitivity to civil liberties, as attorney general. He sent the Senate one ideological, activist judicial nominee after another. He moved quickly to implement a far-reaching anti-choice agenda including censorship of government Web sites and a clampdown on embryonic stem cell research. He threw the government's weight against efforts by the University of Michigan to give minority students an edge in admission, as it did for students from rural areas or the offspring of alumni.
When the nation fell into recession, the president remained fixated not on generating jobs but rather on fighting the right wing's war against taxing the wealthy. As a result, money that could have been used to strengthen Social Security evaporated, as did the chance to provide adequate funding for programs the president himself had backed. No Child Left Behind, his signature domestic program, imposed higher standards on local school systems without providing enough money to meet them.
If Mr. Bush had wanted to make a mark on an issue on which Republicans and Democrats have long made common cause, he could have picked the environment. Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor chosen to run the Environmental Protection Agency, came from that bipartisan tradition. Yet she left after three years of futile struggle against the ideologues and industry lobbyists Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had installed in every other important environmental post. The result has been a systematic weakening of regulatory safeguards across the entire spectrum of environmental issues, from clean air to wilderness protection.
The president who lost the popular vote got a real mandate on Sept. 11, 2001. With the grieving country united behind him, Mr. Bush had an unparalleled opportunity to ask for almost any shared sacrifice. The only limit was his imagination.
He asked for another tax cut and the war against Iraq.
The president's refusal to drop his tax-cutting agenda when the nation was gearing up for war is perhaps the most shocking example of his inability to change his priorities in the face of drastically altered circumstances. Mr. Bush did not just starve the government of the money it needed for his own education initiative or the Medicare drug bill. He also made tax cuts a higher priority than doing what was needed for America's security; 90 percent of the cargo unloaded every day in the nation's ports still goes uninspected.
Along with the invasion of Afghanistan, which had near unanimous international and domestic support, Mr. Bush and his attorney general put in place a strategy for a domestic antiterror war that had all the hallmarks of the administration's normal method of doing business: a Nixonian obsession with secrecy, disrespect for civil liberties and inept management.
American citizens were detained for long periods without access to lawyers or family members. Immigrants were rounded up and forced to languish in what the Justice Department's own inspector general found were often "unduly harsh" conditions. Men captured in the Afghan war were held incommunicado with no right to challenge their confinement. The Justice Department became a cheerleader for skirting decades-old international laws and treaties forbidding the brutal treatment of prisoners taken during wartime.
Mr. Ashcroft appeared on TV time and again to announce sensational arrests of people who turned out to be either innocent, harmless braggarts or extremely low-level sympathizers of Osama bin Laden who, while perhaps wishing to do something terrible, lacked the means. The Justice Department cannot claim one major successful terrorism prosecution, and has squandered much of the trust and patience the American people freely gave in 2001. Other nations, perceiving that the vast bulk of the prisoners held for so long at Guant?namo Bay came from the same line of ineffectual incompetents or unlucky innocents, and seeing the awful photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, were shocked that the nation that was supposed to be setting the world standard for human rights could behave that way.
Like the tax cuts, Mr. Bush's obsession with Saddam Hussein seemed closer to zealotry than mere policy. He sold the war to the American people, and to Congress, as an antiterrorist campaign even though Iraq had no known working relationship with Al Qaeda. His most frightening allegation was that Saddam Hussein was close to getting nuclear weapons. It was based on two pieces of evidence. One was a story about attempts to purchase critical materials from Niger, and it was the product of rumor and forgery. The other evidence, the purchase of aluminum tubes that the administration said were meant for a nuclear centrifuge, was concocted by one low-level analyst and had been thoroughly debunked by administration investigators and international vetting. Top members of the administration knew this, but the selling went on anyway. None of the president's chief advisers have ever been held accountable for their misrepresentations to the American people or for their mismanagement of th!
e war that followed.
The international outrage over the American invasion is now joined by a sense of disdain for the incompetence of the effort. Moderate Arab leaders who have attempted to introduce a modicum of democracy are tainted by their connection to an administration that is now radioactive in the Muslim world. Heads of rogue states, including Iran and North Korea, have been taught decisively that the best protection against a pre-emptive American strike is to acquire nuclear weapons themselves.
We have specific fears about what would happen in a second Bush term, particularly regarding the Supreme Court. The record so far gives us plenty of cause for worry. Thanks to Mr. Bush, Jay Bybee, the author of an infamous Justice Department memo justifying the use of torture as an interrogation technique, is now a federal appeals court judge. Another Bush selection, J. Leon Holmes, a federal judge in Arkansas, has written that wives must be subordinate to their husbands and compared abortion rights activists to Nazis.
Mr. Bush remains enamored of tax cuts but he has never stopped Republican lawmakers from passing massive spending, even for projects he dislikes, like increased farm aid.
If he wins re-election, domestic and foreign financial markets will know the fiscal recklessness will continue. Along with record trade imbalances, that increases the chances of a financial crisis, like an uncontrolled decline of the dollar, and higher long-term interest rates.
The Bush White House has always given us the worst aspects of the American right without any of the advantages. We get the radical goals but not the efficient management. The Department of Education's handling of the No Child Left Behind Act has been heavily politicized and inept. The Department of Homeland Security is famous for its useless alerts and its inability to distribute antiterrorism aid according to actual threats. Without providing enough troops to properly secure Iraq, the administration has managed to so strain the resources of our armed forces that the nation is unprepared to respond to a crisis anywhere else in the world.
Mr. Kerry has the capacity to do far, far better. He has a willingness - sorely missing in Washington these days - to reach across the aisle. We are relieved that he is a strong defender of civil rights, that he would remove unnecessary restrictions on stem cell research and that he understands the concept of separation of church and state. We appreciate his sensible plan to provide health coverage for most of the people who currently do without.
Mr. Kerry has an aggressive and in some cases innovative package of ideas about energy, aimed at addressing global warming and oil dependency. He is a longtime advocate of deficit reduction. In the Senate, he worked with John McCain in restoring relations between the United States and Vietnam, and led investigations of the way the international financial system has been gamed to permit the laundering of drug and terror money. He has always understood that America's appropriate role in world affairs is as leader of a willing community of nations, not in my-way-or-the-highway domination.
We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted. Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course. We believe that with John Kerry as president, the nation will do better.
Voting for president is a leap of faith. A candidate can explain his positions in minute detail and wind up governing with a hostile Congress that refuses to let him deliver. A disaster can upend the best-laid plans. All citizens can do is mix guesswork and hope, examining what the candidates have done in the past, their apparent priorities and their general character. It's on those three grounds that we enthusiastically endorse John Kerry for president.
An endorsement of Senator Charles Schumer for re-election to the Senate appears today in the City, Long Island and Westchester weekly sections.