Message From Obama: Tribes Will Have Voice in White House

Tribes Will Have Voice in White House

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Crow tribal members greeted Sen. Barack Obama during the Democratic candidate’s visit to Montana’s Crow Reservation in May.Reznet Photo by April Gregory

Message From Obama: Tribes Will Have Voice in White House

October 25, 2008

For 20 months now, I’ve traveled this country, often talking about how the needs of the American people are going unmet by Washington. And the truth is, few have been ignored by Washington for as long as American Indians. Too often, Washington pays lip service to working with tribes while taking a one-size-fits-all approach with tribal communities across the nation.

That will change if I am honored to serve as president of the United States.

My American Indian policy begins with creating a bond between an Obama administration and the tribal nations all across this country. We need more than just a government-to-government relationship; we need a nation-to-nation relationship, and I will make sure that tribal nations have a voice in the White House.

I’ll appoint an American Indian policy adviser to my senior White House staff to work with tribes, and host an annual summit at the White House with tribal leaders to come up with an agenda that works for tribal communities. That’s how we’ll make sure you have a seat at the table when important decisions are being made about your lives, about your nations and about your people. That’ll be a priority when I am president.

Here’s what else we’re going to do. We’re going to end nearly a century of mismanagement of the Indian trusts. We’re going to work together to settle unresolved cases, figure out how the trusts ought to operate and make sure that they’re being managed responsibly — today, tomorrow and always

Tribes’ Tragic History

Now, I understand the tragic history between the United States and tribal nations. Our government hasn’t always been honest and truthful in our dealings. And we’ve got to acknowledge that if we’re going to move forward in a fair and honest way.

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Did White House fake link between Saddam and Al Qaeda?

Tracking the final days of the Bush administration

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Countdown to Crawford

Tracking the final days of the Bush administration

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Did White House fake link between Saddam and Al Qaeda?

President Bush receives briefing from CIA Director George Tenet on the war in Iraq March 20, 2003

First, former CIA Director George Tenet told the president it was a “slam dunk” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Then came efforts by the Bush White House to discredit critics, like ambassador Joe Wilson, who questioned the wisdom of going to war in Iraq.

Now comes a new book by author Ron Suskind claiming that the White House ordered the CIA to forge and backdate a handwritten letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein to link the Iraq regime to Al Qaeda. The White House calls the assertion nonsense.

In “The Way of the World,” to be published today, Suskind writes:

The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001. It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq –- thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the vice president’s office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. There is no link.

Suskind says the order to forge such a letter was written on “creamy White House stationery” but gives no details about how it was created or how it was delivered to Iraq.

The White House dismissed the accusation as so much sensationalism from a sensationalizing journalist. According to a story about the forgery in Politico, spokesman Tony Fratto said, “The allegation that the White House directed anyone to forge a document from Habbush to Saddam is just absurd.”

Tenet weighed in to defend the administration, issuing a statement saying:

There was no such order from the White House to me nor, to the best of my knowledge, was anyone from CIA ever involved in any such effort.

Asked about Tenet’s response to claims of a forgery on the “Today Show” this morning, Suskind dismissed it as “part of George’s memory issue.”

Suskind was last in the news for co-authoring former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill’s kiss-and-tell memoir, “The Price of Loyalty.” He is not viewed as a friend of the Bush White House. As Fratto said:

Ron Suskind makes a living from gutter journalism. He is about selling books and making wild allegations that no one can verify, including the numerous bipartisan commissions that have reported on prewar intelligence.

On the same day Suskind’s book was published, a conservative national defense analyst issued a report saying that there were WMD and that the president kept quiet about a discovery that could have blown his critics out of the water to keep terrorists in the dark.

Retired Maj. Gen. Jerry Curry, who ran for the Republican nomination for president this year, reported in a national security blog item that U.S. operatives secretly transported Iraqi uranium to Canada for examination during a two-week airlift from Baghdad that featured a ship voyage crossing two oceans. He said of Bush:

He made a very brave stand, a resolute stand … in which he decided that he wasn’t going to blab everything to the press…. And in the meantime while he kept it quiet, he was buying time from the terrorists to get all that stuff out of the country. So that’s what was done — he just very quietly kept his mouth shut.

The press beat him to death for the last several years, and now it turns out that, yes, there were

- Johanna Neuman

Photo: President Bush at a 2003 briefing with, from left, Vice President Dick Cheney, CIA Director George Tenet and Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. Credit: Eric Draper / White House

Author Claims White House Knew Iraq Had No WMD

Author Claims White House Knew Iraq Had No WMD

by Bob Considine

WASHINGTON – President Bush committed an impeachable offense by ordering the CIA to to manufacture a false pretense for the Iraq war in the form of a backdated, handwritten document linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, an explosive new book claims.0805 01 1 2

The charge is made in “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, released today.

Suskind says he spoke on the record with U.S. intelligence officials who stated that Bush was informed unequivocally in January 2003 that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, his book relates, Bush decided to invade Iraq three months later – with the forged letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam bolstering the U.S. rationale to go into war.

“It was a dark day for the CIA,” Suskind told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Tuesday. “It was the kind of thing where [the CIA] said, ‘Look, this is not our charge. We’re not here to carry forth a political mandate – which is clearly what this was – to solve a political problem in America.’ And it was a cause of great grievance inside of the agency.”

The author writes that Bush’s action is “one of the greatest lies in modern American political history” and suggests it is a crime of greater impact than Watergate. But the White House is denying the allegations, calling the book “absurd” and charging that Suskind practices “gutter journalism.”

Former CIA director George Tenet also released a statement in which he ridicules the credibility of Suskind’s sources and calls the White House’s supposed directive to forge the document as “a complete fabrication.”

But Suskind stands by his work. “It’s not off the record,” he says. “It’s on the record. It’s in the book and people can read it for themselves.”

Prelude to war
Suskind reports that the head of Iraqi intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush, met secretly with British intelligence in Jordan in the early days of 2003. In weekly meetings with Michael Shipster, the British director of Iraqi operations, Habbush conveyed that Iraq had no active nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs and no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

When Tenet was informed of the findings in early February, he said, “They’re not going to like this downtown,” Suskind wrote, meaning the White House. Suskind says that Bush’s reaction to the report was: “Why don’t they ask him to give us something we can use to help make our case?”

Suskind quotes Rob Richer, the CIA’s Near East division head, as saying that the White House simply ignored the Habbush report and informed British intelligence that they no longer wanted Habbush as an informant.

“Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq from the very first days he was in office. Nothing was going to stop that,” Richer is quoted in the book.

Suskind also writes that Habbush was “resettled” in Jordan with help from the CIA and was paid $5 million in hush money.

Vieira questioned Suskind’s contentions, pointing out that a number of intelligence figures eventually wrote Habbush off as unreliable.

“No, that’s not exactly the way it worked,” Suskind countered. “In the book, you’ll see people who are involved and talking about the debate, and it was quite a fierce debate at the highest levels of the government: ‘Is Habbush reliable? What’s he saying? How can we check it?’

“And a lot of people, at the end of the day, said it was hard for him to prove the negative, that what he said was no weapons were actually not there. That’s hard to do.”

The letter
On page 371 of “The Way of the World,” Suskind describes the White House’s concoction of a forged letter purportedly from the hand of Habbush to Saddam Hussein to justify the United States’ decision to go to war.

Suskind writes: “The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001. It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq – thus showing, finally, that there was an operation link between Saddam and al-Qaeda, something the Vice President’s office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade.”

He continues: “A handwritten letter, with Habbush’s name on it, would be fashioned by CIA and then hand-carried by a CIA agent to Baghdad for dissemination.”

CIA officers Richer and John Maguire, who oversaw the Iraq Operations Group, are both on the record in Suskind’s book confirming the existence of the fake Habbush letter.

When asked by Vieira for further proof of the letter, Suskind said: “Well, the CIA folks involved in the book and others talk about George Tenet coming back from the White House with the assignment on White House stationery, and turning to the CIA operatives, who are professionals, and saying, ‘You may not like this, but here is our next mission.’

“And they carried it through step by step, all the way to the finish.”

The London Sunday Telegraph first published a story about the letter in December 2003, on the same day that Saddam Hussein was captured in Iraq. Reported as genuine, the letter made an immediate impact upon the media in terms of justifying the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Suskind relates how NBC reported the letter, with journalist Con Coughlin telling Tom Brokaw that the letter “is really concrete proof that al-Qaeda was working with Saddam.”

Suskind also quotes Alan Foley, head of WMD analysis for the CIA, as saying, “It is, in my opinion, true that the administration, for whatever reason, was determined to have a showdown with Iraq that predated this whole WMD stuff.”

In support of that theory, Foley says that Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, passed along information that Iraq had no WMD to a Lebanese journalist who served as an intermediary on behalf of the CIA in 2002.

That intelligence, Suskind writes, was dismissed as “disinformation.”

Suskind’s credentials

So why, Vieira asked, are Suskind’s sources finally speaking out now, more than five years after the war began?

“Well, you know, a lot of them have been walking around with this lump in their chest for a couple of years – five years now,” Suskind replied. “And because they’re essentially free – they’re not the original source – they said, ‘Look, why hide now? Let’s trust the truth.’ ”

Suskind said it took about seven months to get his storied “nailed.” “I’d done this sort of thing for a while, and the way it worked was there were off-the-record sources who played out the story, and then I went to people actually involved,” he told Vieira.

“They were freed up because they’re not the original source, if you will … to sort of talk about the context, what they felt, what they did [and] the people actually involved. And of course they’re all, through the book, on the record talking about how it all worked.”

Suskind, who reported for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000, won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1995 for stories of inner-city honors students in Washington, D.C. His reports spawned book-club favorite “A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League” in 1998.

Two stories Suskind wrote for Esquire in 2002 gave readers an inside account of the Bush White House. The second, which ran in the December 2002 issue, raised eyebrows as John DiIulio, the former head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, described a presidency driven by politics over policy – “the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”

“The Price of Loyalty,” Suskind’s 2004 book on former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, said that the U.S. occupation of Iraq and subsequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein were planned in January 2001 – nine months before the Sept. 11 attacks.

His most recent book, 2006’s “The One Percent Doctrine,” also described the Bush administration’s willingness to let its post-Sept. 11 foreign policy be driven by suspicion over proof of weapons of mass destruction. It also claimed al-Qaeda leaders were plotting to attack the New York City subway system in 2003.

In “The Way of the World,” Suskind describes President Bush as “a guy who needs to make things personal” and someone who “doesn’t think in large strategic terms.” He also says the president has “always been a bit of a bully.”

HarperCollins Publishers is printing 500,000 copies of the book and HCP executive editor Tim Duggan was quoted in Monday’s Wall Street Journal as saying Suskind “wrote it as fast as possible and we’re publishing it as fast as possible because there is news in the book and we don’t want to sit on it.”

2008 MSNBC Interactive

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