Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "Trailer park blues," Nov. 26, 2005

WAR ON TERROR President George Bush defended the conduct of the war on terror, as the lingering investigation into the leaked identity of a CIA official fueled debate over the administration's rationale for going to war in Iraq.

"While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began," Mr. Bush told U.S. military personnel at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania Nov. 11. At Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska on Nov. 14 he more pointedly attacked Democrats who charge the president with stoking intelligence on Iraq's WMD arsenal. "Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people," he said. "Leaders in my administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence on Iraq and reached the same conclusion: Saddam Hussein was a threat."

Those remarks came at almost the same time Washington Post editor Bob Woodward testified to CIA leak case special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he spoke to three administration officials about Valerie Plame Wilson in June 2003-admitting that he referred to Ms. Wilson in a memo to White House aide Scooter Libby. The remarks raise questions about whether Mr. Libby, under indictment for providing false information to Mr. Fitzgerald's grand jury, was the source of the leak. They also raise questions about why Mr. Woodward failed to disclose his link to the case, and about the investigation itself, which in two years failed to uncover the involvement of the Post's high-profile editor.

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Questions about the case that relaunched the debate over what Mr. Bush knew about Iraq when aren't hampering the debate. On Nov. 15 Republican senators-including Majority Leader Bill Frist-joined Democrats in amending the defense appropriations bill, 79-19, to urge the president to be more forthcoming about WMD intelligence leading into the war (see "Going wobbly").

IRAQ Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the highest-ranking official of the Saddam Hussein regime still at large, was pronounced dead by Iraq's former ruling Baath Party. Mr. al-Douri, king of clubs in the Pentagon's deck of 55 wanted Iraqi war criminals, was believed by some experts to be a mastermind behind the ongoing insurgency. U.S. officials put a $10 million bounty on his head in 2003 and long sought him for carrying out mass executions of Iraqi political prisoners.

HURRICANE POST-OPS The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) set a Dec. 1 deadline to cut off housing payments to Hurricane Katrina victims still living in hotels. The decision affects 54,000 families in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi. FEMA will encourage homeless storm victims to take up housing in temporary trailers set up by the government in Louisiana. But trailer parks set up in the wake of Hurricane Charley last year are no longer the haven disaster survivors hoped. In one Florida park with 435 occupied trailers, residents average over 220 calls to 911 each month and reported 15 suicides in the last year. Free rent and few expectations, say aid workers, shrivel the incentive to move on (see "Trailer Park Blues").

ASIA President Bush began a four-country tour of Asia by managing to irritate China even before he set foot on its soil. In Taiwan, which mainland China claims as its own, he held up the island as a self-governing model China should emulate "at all levels." Mr. Bush said, "We encourage China to continue down the road of reform and openness," ahead of talks with Chinese president Hu Jintao. China handed Mr. Bush additional ammo for addressing human rights and religious freedom after authorities sentenced pastor and highly regarded businessman Cai Zhuohua to three years in prison for selling Bibles without a government permit (see "Justice denied").

Ahead of Mr. Bush's scheduled Nov. 19 arrival in China, health officials announced the first Chinese fatality resulting from bird flu. The virus has killed more than 60 people in Asia and experts long expected it to take a human strain in the region's most populous country.

ENVIRONMENT After House Republicans joined Democrats to discard a plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Senate prepared for a conference committee battle to resuscitate domestic oil drilling. One unlikely Senate proponent: Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. He and others contend the near 20-million-acre preserve is large enough to accommodate both industrial and environmental interests, with 8 percent of the area tabbed for oil exploration. The Senate's five-year budget bill, which includes drilling in the Alaskan refuge, already has passed (see "Black gold rush").

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