Peter B Collins talks with Robert Parry
Peter B Collins Show | January 16, 2009
Consortium News’ Robert Parry discusses his book, Neck Deep, and how he hopes that President Obama will not simply “turn the page” on the crimes of the Bush presidency
Neck Deep Secret: Gore Was Right
By Robert Parry
Consortium News | August 27, 2007
Having written several books that span periods of years, I’m often surprised how patterns emerge that aren’t apparent to me in day-to-day news coverage. In Neck Deep, our new book about George W. Bush’s presidency, one of those surprises was how often former Vice President Al Gore turned up making tragically prescient comments.
Gore, whose admirers sometimes call him “the Goracle,” comes across more as a Cassandra, warning the nation of looming disasters and finding himself either ignored or mocked by the dominant politicians and media pundits.
Time and again – from Campaign 2000 to the post-9/11 “war on terror” to the invasion of Iraq to Bush’s expansion of presidential powers – Gore pointed to grave dangers when nearly all other national political leaders and media bigwigs were either running with the herd or keeping silent.
In our daily coverage of those political developments at Consortiumnews.com, we’d run stories citing Gore’s speeches, but it wasn’t until we pulled together the book that Gore’s extraordinary role jumped out.
Though there were a few other political leaders who made prophetic comments, such as Sen. Robert Byrd in his pre-Iraq War speeches on the Senate floor, none was as consistently on target as Al Gore.
Indeed, a poignant aspect of Neck Deep is the recognition that a less hostile press treatment of Gore during Campaign 2000 or a full-and-fair recount of votes in Florida after Election 2000 might have put the United States on a very different track.
Hearing Gore’s nuanced advice about how to proceed after the 9/11 attacks, why invading Iraq made little sense or what are the proper limits of presidential power, you can’t help but wonder where the United States would be now if the popular will of the American voters had been respected in November-December 2000.
There’s a good chance that more than 3,700 American soldiers would be alive today, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The United States also might not be faced with the horrible choice of either continuing an open-ended occupation of Iraq or withdrawing troops with the prospect of a sectarian war engulfing the Middle East.
Even if Gore and his national security team could not have prevented the 9/11 attacks – and there’s a case to be made that they might have – President Gore surely would have focused American retaliation on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, not left the job half done and gone after Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.
Gore didn’t buy into the neoconservative agenda of invading Muslim countries to impose regime change designed to bring those governments in line with Israel’s goals for the region. Though a supporter of Israel who picked Sen. Joe Lieberman as his vice presidential running mate, Gore kept the neocon agenda at arm’s length.
Gore also didn’t share Dick Cheney’s agenda of establishing an imperial presidency that could ride roughshod over the rule of law, the constitutional checks and balances, and the inalienable rights of American citizens.
Like no other American politician, Gore perceived the challenges and the opportunities of the 21st century. He recognized the potential of the technological revolution and understood the threat of uncontrolled climate change.
Despite some weaknesses as a politician – he certainly lacked Bill Clinton’s glibness and George W. Bush’s swagger – Gore might have been a near ideal leader for the start of the new Millennium. And one could argue that the American people made that judgment by giving Gore a narrow plurality in the popular vote.
But, as Neck Deep explores, deep-seated problems in the U.S. political process and the U.S. news media kept Campaign 2000 close enough so Bush could exploit irregularities in Florida’s balloting to snake away with its electoral votes and thus the White House.
Now, as the nation is poised at the starting line for another presidential race, the same failings are still there. The tragic lessons of recent American history remain little understood by either the broad public or the political elite.
One of the chief reasons for writing Neck Deep was to place the troubling events of the George W. Bush era in the fullest historical context possible, a perspective informed by original investigative journalism that explodes some popular myths and spotlights many crucial facts that will change how people understand these extraordinary years.
Our hope is that an American public, armed with enough information, will not tolerate the kind of distorted political process that overturned the popular will in Election 2000 and launched the nation on a disastrous course.
(Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush is available both at the publisher’s Web site,
, and at Amazon.com. If you buy the book through the publisher’s Web site, $5 will be rebated to Consortiumnews.com to help defray the costs of the site’s original news articles and investigative journalism.)
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.
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Keith Olbermann – 8 years in 8 minutes
Forgive and Forget?
By PAUL KRUGMAN
New York Times | January 15, 2009
Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”
I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.
Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.
At the Justice Department, for example, political appointees illegally reserved nonpolitical positions for “right-thinking Americans” — their term, not mine — and there’s strong evidence that officials used their positions both to undermine the protection of minority voting rights and to persecute Democratic politicians.
The hiring process at Justice echoed the hiring process during the occupation of Iraq — an occupation whose success was supposedly essential to national security — in which applicants were judged by their politics, their personal loyalty to President Bush and, according to some reports, by their views on Roe v. Wade, rather than by their ability to do the job.
Speaking of Iraq, let’s also not forget that country’s failed reconstruction: the Bush administration handed billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to politically connected companies, companies that then failed to deliver. And why should they have bothered to do their jobs? Any government official who tried to enforce accountability on, say, Halliburton quickly found his or her career derailed.
There’s much, much more. By my count, at least six important government agencies experienced major scandals over the past eight years — in most cases, scandals that were never properly investigated. And then there was the biggest scandal of all: Does anyone seriously doubt that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into invading Iraq?
Why, then, shouldn’t we have an official inquiry into abuses during the Bush years?
One answer you hear is that pursuing the truth would be divisive, that it would exacerbate partisanship. But if partisanship is so terrible, shouldn’t there be some penalty for the Bush administration’s politicization of every aspect of government?
Alternatively, we’re told that we don’t have to dwell on past abuses, because we won’t repeat them. But no important figure in the Bush administration, or among that administration’s political allies, has expressed remorse for breaking the law. What makes anyone think that they or their political heirs won’t do it all over again, given the chance?
In fact, we’ve already seen this movie. During the Reagan years, the Iran-contra conspirators violated the Constitution in the name of national security. But the first President Bush pardoned the major malefactors, and when the White House finally changed hands the political and media establishment gave Bill Clinton the same advice it’s giving Mr. Obama: let sleeping scandals lie. Sure enough, the second Bush administration picked up right where the Iran-contra conspirators left off — which isn’t too surprising when you bear in mind that Mr. Bush actually hired some of those conspirators.
Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.
Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.
And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.
WeAreChangeLA’s Bruno (that’s me) asks diehard Israel supporters questions that challenge them to look at their own hard line beliefs. At one point, an unnamed man begins terrorizing the crowd, asking them to clear the area because an unattended backpack has been found in the bushes.
I am passionate at times, and not as much under control as I would like to be, but I believe my sincerity and true love for truth comes through. The experience was incredibly intense, and I urge all to reach out to everybody you come across, police officers, firefighters, architects, and diehard Israel supporters, because we are all at the bottom of the pyramid together.
British “Undercover Soldiers” Caught driving Booby Trapped Car
“They refused to say what their mission was.”
Global Research | September 20, 2005
by Michel Chossudovsky
The following Reuters report raises some disturbing questions.
Why were undercover British “soldiers” wearing traditional Arab headscarves firing at Iraqi police?
The incident took place just prior to a major religious event in Basra.
The report suggests that the police thought the British soldiers looked “suspicious”. What was the nature of their mission?
Occupation forces are supposesd to be collaborating with Iraqi authorities. Why did Britsh Forces have to storm the prison using tanks and armoured vehicles to liberate the British undercover agents?
“British forces used up to 10 tanks ” supported by helicopters ” to smash through the walls of the jail and free the two British servicemen.”
Was there concern that the British “soldiers” who were being held by the Iraqi National Guard would be obliged to reveal the nature and objective of their undercover mission?
A report of Al Jazeera TV, which preceeded the raid on the prison, suggests that the British undercover soldiers were driving a booby trapped car loaded with ammunition. The Al Jazeera report (see below) also suggests that the riots directed against British military presence were motivated because the British undercover soldiers were planning to explode the booby trapped car in the centre of Basra:
[Anchorman Al-Habib al-Ghuraybi] We have with us on the telephone from Baghdad Fattah al-Shaykh, member of the Iraqi National Assembly. What are the details of and the facts surrounding this incident?
[Al-Shaykh] In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. There have been continuous provocative acts since the day before yesterday by the British forces against the peaceful sons of Basra. There have been indiscriminate arrests, the most recent of which was the arrest of Shaykh Ahmad al-Farqusi and two Basra citizens on the pretext that they had carried out terrorist operations to kill US soldiers. This is a baseless claim. This was confirmed to us by [name indistinct] the second secretary at the British Embassy in Baghdad, when we met with him a short while ago. He said that there is evidence on this. We say: You should come up with this evidence or forget about this issue. If you really want to look for truth, then we should resort to the Iraqi justice away from the British provocations against the sons of Basra, particularly what happened today when the sons of Basra caught two non-Iraqis, who seem to be Britons and were in a car of the Cressida type. It was a booby-trapped car laden with ammunition and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market. However, the sons of the city of Basra arrested them. They [the two non-Iraqis] then fired at the people there and killed some of them. The two arrested persons are now at the Intelligence Department in Basra, and they were held by the National Guard force, but the British occupation forces are still surrounding this department in an attempt to absolve them of the crime.
[Al-Ghuraybi] Thank you Fattah al-Shaykh, member of the National Assembly and deputy for Basra.
Text of report by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 19 September (emphasis added)
Is this an isolated incident or is part of a pattern?
More significantly, have the occupation forces been involved in similar undercover missions? Syrian TV (Sept 19, 2005) reports the following:
Ten Iraqis – seven police commandos, two civilians and a child – were killed and more than 10 others wounded in the explosion of two car bombs near two checkpoints in Al-Mahmudiyah and Al-Latifiyah south of Baghdad while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were heading towards the city of Karbala to mark the anniversary of a religious event.
And in a significant incident in the city of Basra, which is also marking the same religious event, Iraqi demonstrators set fire to two British tanks near a police station after Iraqi police had arrested two British soldiers disguised in civilian clothes for opening fire on police. Eight armoured British vehicles surrounded the police station before the eruption of the confrontations. A policeman at the scene said the two detained Britons were wearing traditional Iraqi jallabahs [loose cloaks] and wigs.
An indepth independent inquiry should be ordered by Britain’s House of Commons into the circumstances of this event.
BRITISH UNDERCOVER OPERATIVES IN IRAQ
Rawstory | September 23, 2005
by Nafeez Ahmed
Zarqawi Eat Your Heart Out
Basra is relatively stable compared to central Iraq where violence involving insurgents, civilians and coalition forces is a daily routine. The city has rarely been a site of clashes between insurgents and coalition troops, nor is it a victim of regular terrorist attacks. This week, however, things changed, but not thanks to Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda ilk.
On Monday, two British soldiers were arrested and detained by Iraqi police in Basra. Within a matter of hours, the British military responded with overwhelming force, despite subsequent denials by the Ministry of Defence, which insisted that the two men had been retrieved solely through “negotiations.”
British military officials, including Brigadier John Lorimer, told BBC News (9/20/05) that the British Army had stormed an Iraqi police station to locate the detainees. Ministry of Defence sources confirmed that “British vehicles” had attempted to “maintain a cordon” outside the police station.
After British Army tanks “flattened the wall” of the station, UK troops “broke into the police station to confirm the men were not there” and then “staged a rescue from a house in Basra”, according a commanding officer familiar with the operation. Both men, British defence sources told the BBC’s Richard Galpin in Baghdad, were “members of the SAS elite special forces.” After their arrest, the soldiers were over to the local militia.
What had prompted this bizarre turn of events? Why had the Iraqi police forces, which normally work in close cooperation with coalition military forces, arrested two British SAS soldiers, and then handed them over to the local militia? A review of the initial on-the-ground reports leads to a clearer picture.
Fancy Dress and Big Guns Don’t Mix
According to the BBC’s Galpin, reporting for BBC Radio 4 (9/20/05, 18 hrs news script), Iraqi police sources in Basra told the BBC the “two British men were arrested after failing to stop at a checkpoint. There was an exchange of gunfire. The men were wearing traditional Arab clothing, and when the police eventually stopped them, they said they found explosives and weapons in their car…It’s widely believed the two British servicemen were operating undercover.”
Undercover? Dressed as Arabs? What were they trying to do that had caught the attention of their colleagues, the Iraqi police?
According to the Washington Post (9/20/05), “Iraqi security officials on Monday variously accused the two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or trying to plant explosives.” Reuters (9/19/05) cited police, local officials and other witnesses who confirmed that “the two undercover soldiers were arrested after opening fire on Iraqi police who approached them.” Officials said that “the men were wearing traditional Arab headscarves and sitting in an unmarked car.”
According to Mohammed al-Abadi, an official in the Basra governorate, “A policeman approached them and then one of these guys fired at him. Then the police managed to capture them.”
In an interview with Al Jazeerah TV, the popular Iraqi leader Fattah al-Sheikh, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly and deputy official in the Basra governorate, said that police had “caught two non-Iraqis, who seem to be Britons and were in a car of the Cressida type. It was a booby-trapped car laden with ammunition and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market.” Contrary to British authorities’ claims that the soldiers had been immediately handed to local militia, al-Sheikh confirmed that they were “at the Intelligence Department in Basra, and they were held by the National Guard force, but the British occupation forces are still surrounding this department in an attempt to absolve them of the crime.”
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment and British Covert Operations
British defence sources told the Scotsman (9/20/05) that the soldiers were part of an “undercover special forces detachment” set up this year to “bridge the intelligence void” in Basra, drawing on ‘special forces’ experience in Northern Ireland and Aden, where British troops went ‘deep’ undercover in local communities to try to break the code of silence against foreign forces.”
These elite forces operate under the Special Reconnaissance Regiment and were formed last year by then defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, “to gather human intelligence during counter-terrorist missions.”
The question, of course, is how does firing at Iraqi police while dressed as Arabs and carrying explosives constitute “countering terrorism” or even gathering “intelligence”?
The admission by British defence officials is revealing. A glance at the Special Reconnaissance Regiment gives a more concrete idea of the sort of operations these two British soldiers were involved in.
The Regiment, formed recently, is “modelled on an undercover unit that operated in Northern Ireland” according to Whitehall sources. The Regiment had “absorbed the 14th Intelligence Company, known as ’14 Int,’ a plainclothes unit set up to gather intelligence covertly on suspect terrorists in Northern Ireland. Its recruits are trained by the SAS.”
This is the same Regiment that was involved in the unlawful July 22 execution – multiple head-shots – of the innocent Brazilian, Mr. Jean Charles de Menezes, after he boarded a tube train in Stockwell Underground station.
According to Detective Sergeant Nicholas Benwell, member of the Scotland Yard team that had been investigating the activities of an ultra-secret wing of British military intelligence, the Force Research Unit (FRU), the team found that “military intelligence was colluding with terrorists to help them kill so-called ‘legitimate targets’ such as active republicans… many of the victims of these government-backed hit squads were innocent civilians.”
Benwell’s revelations were corroborated in detail by British double agent Kevin Fulton, who was recruited to the FRU in 1981, when he began to infiltrate the ranks of IRA. In his role as a British FRU agent inside the IRA, he was told by his military intelligence handlers to “do anything” to win the confidence of the terrorist group.
“I mixed explosive and I helped develop new types of bombs,” he told Scotland’s Sunday Herald (6/23/02). “I moved weapons… if you ask me if the materials I handled killed anyone, then I will have to say that some of the things I helped develop did kill… my handlers knew everything I did. I was never told not to do something that was discussed. How can you pretend to be a terrorist and not act like one? You can’t. You’ve got to do what they do… They did a lot of murders… I broke the law seven days a week and my handlers knew that. They knew that I was making bombs and giving them to other members of the IRA and they did nothing about it… The idea was that the only way to beat the enemy was to penetrate the enemy and be the enemy.”
Most startlingly, Fulton said that his handlers told him his operations were “sanctioned right at the top… this goes the whole way to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister knows what you are doing.”
Zarqawi, Ba’athists and the Seeds of Discord
So, based on the methodology of their Regiment, the two British SAS operatives were in Iraq to “penetrate the enemy and be the enemy,” in order of course to “beat the enemy.” Instead of beating the enemy, however, they ended up fomenting massive chaos and killing innocent people, a familiar pattern for critical students of the British role in the Northern Ireland conflict.
In November 2004, a joint statement was released on several Islamist websites on behalf of al-Qaeda’s man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Saddam Hussein’s old Ba’ath Party loyalists. Zarqawi’s network had “joined other extremist Islamists and Saddam Hussein’s old Baath party to threaten increased attacks on US-led forces.” Zarqawi’s group said they signed “the statement written by the Iraqi Baath party, not because we support the party or Saddam, but because it expresses the demands of resistance groups in Iraq.”
The statement formalized what had been known for a year already – that, as post-Saddam Iraqi intelligence and US military officials told the London Times (8/9/2003), “Al Qaeda terrorists who have infiltrated Iraq from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have formed an alliance with former intelligence agents of Saddam Hussein to fight their common enemy, the American forces.” Al Qaeda leaders “recruit from the pool” of Saddam’s former “security and intelligence officers who are unemployed and embittered by their loss of status.” After vetting, “they begin Al-Qaeda-style training, such as how to make remote-controlled bombs.”
Yet Pakistani military sources revealed in February 2005 that the US has “resolved to arm small militias backed by US troops and entrenched in the population,” consisting of “former members of the Ba’ath Party” – the same people already teamed up with Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda network.
In a highly clandestine operation, the US procured “Pakistan-manufactured weapons, including rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition, rockets and other light weaponry.” A Pakistani military analyst noted that the “arms could not be destined for the Iraqi security forces because US arms would be given to them.” Rather, the US is playing a double-game to “head off” the threat of a “Shi’ite clergy-driven religious movement” – in other words, to exacerbate the deterioration of security by penetrating, manipulating and arming the terrorist insurgency.
What could be the end-game of such a covert strategy? The view on-the-ground in Iraq, among both Sunnis and Shi’ites, is worth noting. Sheikh Jawad al-Kalesi, the Shi’ite Imam of the al-Kadhimiyah mosque in Baghdad, told Le Monde: “I don’t think that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi exists as such. He’s simply an invention by the occupiers to divide the people.”
Iraq’s most powerful Sunni Arab religious authority, the Association of Muslim Scholars, concurs, condemning the call to arms against Shi’ites as a “very dangerous” phenomenon that “plays into the hands of the occupier who wants to split up the country and spark a sectarian war.” In colonial terms, the strategy is known as “divide and rule.”
Whether or not Zarqawi can be said to exist, it is indeed difficult to avoid the conclusion that this interpretation is plausible. It seems the only ones who don’t understand the clandestine dynamics of Anglo-American covert strategy in Iraq are we, the people, in the west. It’s high time we got informed.
Peter B Collins commented on this incident where Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel had President Bush of the United States of America pulled away from the podium while giving a speech in Philadelphia.
Olmert Says He Made Rice Change Vote
New York Times | January 13, 2009
By MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — In an unusually public rebuke, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel said Monday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been forced to abstain from a United Nations resolution on Gaza that she helped draft, after Mr. Olmert placed a phone call to President Bush.
“I said, ‘Get me President Bush on the phone,’ ” Mr. Olmert said in a speech in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, according to The Associated Press. “They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care: ‘I need to talk to him now,’ ” Mr. Olmert continued. “He got off the podium and spoke to me.”
Israel opposed the resolution, which called for a halt to the fighting in Gaza, because the government said it did not provide for Israel’s security. It passed 14 to 0, with the United States abstaining.
Mr. Olmert claimed that once he made his case to Mr. Bush, the president called Ms. Rice and told her to abstain. “She was left pretty embarrassed,” Mr. Olmert said, according to The A.P.
The State Department disputed Mr. Olmert’s account. “Her recommendation was to abstain; that was her recommendation all along,” said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the matter.
After the vote, Ms. Rice said the United States “fully supports” the resolution, which called for “an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza,” but opted to abstain to see the outcome of an Egyptian-French peace initiative.
Ms. Rice did not respond to Mr. Olmert’s remarks, which were unusual even in the context of the secretary’s occasionally bumpy relationship with the prime minister, according to the official.
Privately, Mr. Olmert has said Ms. Rice sometimes had to be reined in for getting ahead of the president on policy. “They have a good relationship, but there have been some ups and downs,” the State Department official said.
Olmert says he talked Bush out of cease-fire vote
Los Angeles Times | January 13, 2009
Reporting from Washington — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert boasted Monday that he successfully pressured President Bush last week to reverse course on U.S. diplomacy over fighting in Gaza, in an episode that could sharpen tensions between the close allies at a sensitive moment.
Speaking to an audience in Ashkelon, Israel, Olmert said he had called Bush last Thursday and convinced him that the United States should not vote for a pending U.N. Security Council resolution urging a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
Olmert said Bush’s agreement “embarrassed” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice because the resolution was one that she had “cooked up, she organized, she formulated, she maneuvered,” according to comments reported by Israel Radio.
“And she was left pretty embarrassed, abstaining on a draft resolution she organized herself,” Olmert added.
Within Israel, Olmert and his government have been under heavy criticism for not being able to blunt passage of the cease-fire resolution, and some analysts in the United States and Israel saw the comments as an attempt to deflect blame.
Sean McCormack, Rice’s chief spokesman, said she had decided the previous day not to vote for the resolution. But some analysts said Olmert’s remarks would be received with displeasure in Washington, since, among other things, he suggested that Israel has been directing U.S. policy on the Middle East.
“This is terrible for the United States,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator. “This confirms every assumption they have in the Arab world about the tail wagging the dog. . . . It’s a story you’re likely to hear quoted there for years to come.”
Levy also accused Olmert of “unparalleled arrogance.” Olmert, who is about to leave office, may have thought mistakenly that his words would not be widely noticed.
“There are some things you don’t say, even in Ashkelon, even in Hebrew,” said Levy, who is now with the Century Foundation in Washington.
Olmert told the crowd that when he heard a Security Council vote was to come in 10 minutes, he tracked down Bush, who he was told was speaking in Philadelphia. According to Olmert’s account, Bush left the podium to take his call.
Olmert said Bush told him he wasn’t familiar with the text. But Olmert said he told the president: ” ‘I’m familiar. You can’t vote for it.’ [Bush] gave an order to the secretary of State, and she didn’t vote for it.”
The resolution was approved by 14 of the security council’s 15 members in an evening vote. Rice abstained.
U.S. officials have not disputed Olmert’s account. But in one inconsistency, Bush returned to the White House from Philadelphia hours before the U.N. vote, according to the president’s schedule.
Critics in Israel have complained that the resolution, while nonbinding, reflected a failure of Israeli diplomacy. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni didn’t attend the debate, while a number of Arab foreign ministers were deeply involved in the three days of discussions over it.
A senior U.S. official said the Bush administration preferred a peace blueprint being assembled by Egypt, but didn’t want to veto the U.N. resolution by voting against it.
There had been speculation that Rice was ordered to change course, and Olmert’s version of events “seemed to make sense,” said Nathan Brown, head of Middle East studies at George Washington University.
Rice had been pushing hard for the resolution draft, then abruptly shifted ground. Several European diplomats said afterward that they were shocked by the move.
“It seemed like a strange step,” Brown said.