QUESTION ONE: In a January 2002 memo to the president, Colin Powell said excluding detainees from the Geneva Conventions, as White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzales had recommended, would "undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops" and have "immediate adverse consequences for our conduct of foreign policy." The president rejected Powell's advice, and adopted Gonzales's recommendations. Who do you agree with, Colin Powell or Alberto Gonzales?
A memo written by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales on 1/25/02 advised the Bush administration to ignore the advice of senior military and State Department officials regarding the application of the Geneva Conventions. The memo pushed to exempt al Qaeda and Taliban detainees from the Geneva Conventions' provisions on the proper, legal treatment of prisoners. Secretary of State Colin Powell responded sharply to the Gonzales memo the next day (1/26/02), warning the White House that failure to consider all prisoners as under the protection of the Geneva Conventions would have an adverse impact on the United States. Specifically, he cautioned: "It will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions and undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops; it has a high cost in terms of negative international reaction, with immediate adverse consequences for our conduct of foreign policy; It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain; and Europeans and others will likely have legal problems with extradition." Bush decided to exclude al Qaeda from the Geneva Conventions and deny the Taliban prisoner of war status.
SOURCES: Gonzales memo | Powell memo | Bush decision
QUESTION TWO: Only $2.2 billion of the $18 billion in funds allocated for the reconstruction of Iraq have been distributed. Explain why the funds are not being used, and why Congress should feel compelled to sign off on another $100 billion supplemental?
Due to America's inability to control the insurgency and what Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) has called "the incompetence in the [Bush] administration," only about 5 percent of the money Congress has allocated for Iraqi reconstruction has actually been spent in the country. In September, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) called that record "beyond pitiful and embarrassing; it is now in the zone of dangerous." Part of the problem was the White House's reliance on young, inexperienced volunteers with good family connections (like 28-year-old Simone Ledeen, daughter of neoconservative pundit Michael Ledeen), who "found themselves managing the country's $13 billion budget [and] making decisions affecting millions of Iraqis" in the opening months of the occupation. The failure to allocate the funds has stalled efforts at reconstructing the country. Two years after the invasion, Iraqis are suffering from major food shortages and the country is producing less electricity than it was before the war. In addition, the deterioration of water and sewage systems has led to the spread of hepatitis and outbreaks of typhoid fever.
SOURCES: Underfunding | Senators Slam Bush on Iraq | Electricity below prewar levels | Iraq faces food shortages | Hepatitis and typhoid outbreaks increase
QUESTION THREE: Three years after the creation of the Millennium Challenge Account, the White House has yet to distribute a single dollar of funds to boost development assistance. What would you do to change this?
In 2002, President Bush announced the creation of the Millennium Challenge Account, a program intended to boost core development assistance by 50 percent over three years; Bush pledged to increase spending by $1.7 billion after one year and $3.3 billion after two. During the MCA's first year, however, President Bush requested only $1.3 billion from Congress, and Congress further reduced the amount to $1 billion. The following year, the administration asked for only $2.5 billion, and Congress agreed to fund just $1.5 billion. Not a single dollar from the account has yet been dispensed.
SOURCES: MCA consistently underfunds
QUESTION FOUR: How would you evaluate your performance as head of the Iraq stabilization group?
In October 2003, President Bush announced he was "giving his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, the authority to manage postwar Iraq." With great fanfare, Rice was appointed head of the "Iraq Stabilization Group," intended to coordinate committees on counterterrorism, economic development, political affairs and media messages. The purpose of the group, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, was to "cut through the red tape and make sure that we're getting the assistance there quickly." But seven months later, the Washington Post reported, "the four original leaders of the Stabilization Group have taken on new roles, and only one remains concerned primarily with Iraq." Within the White House, the Post noted, "the destabilized Stabilization Group is a metaphor for an Iraq policy that is adrift." According to the White House website, the Iraq stabilization group hasn't been publicly mentioned for more than a year.
SOURCES: Bush puts Rice in charge | Stabilization group not very stable
QUESTION FIVE: Recently, the Pentagon has been considering organizing assassination and kidnapping squads of Iraqis to fight the insurgents. Do you oppose this tactic, known as the "Salvador Option"?
To deal with the growing insurgency in Iraq, the Pentagon is considering creating secret death squads. Known as the "Salvador Option," the strategy is named after a clandestine operation implemented by the Reagan White House in the 1980s in El Salvador, where the U. S. government funded "nationalist" forces "that allegedly included so-called death squads" which killed scores of innocent civilians. According to a 1993 U.N.-sponsored truth commission, 85 percent of the atrocities in that conflict were committed by the U.S.-sponsored army and its surrogates. Now, according to Newsweek, the Pentagon has dusted off that model and has a proposal on the table to "advise, support and possibly train" secret squads in Iraq, "most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria."
SOURCES: Growing insurgency | Newsweek on creation of death squads in Iraq | 85 percent of atrocities
QUESTION SIX: Do you support increasing funds for promoting democracy in Russia, given the ongoing erosion of democratic and economic freedom under Russian President Vladimir Putin?
The Bush administration has cut funds to the FREEDOM Support Act, the program designed to promote and ensure democracy. Overall, funding for FSA was sliced from $958 million to $548 million since 2002; funding for Russia specifically was cut from $162 million to $93 million (President Bush only requested $73 million for the program). At the same time, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin shut down the Russian press, jailed his political opposition and attempted to validate his hand-picked, fraudulently elected lapdog in Ukraine. Noting a "dangerous and disturbing drift toward authoritarianism in Russia," Freedom House, a U.S.-based organization that tracks the progress of political rights and civil liberties around the world, has shifted Russia from "partly free" status to "not free."
SOURCES: Cuts to FSA | Putin crimes against democracy | Freedom House ruling | Not free
QUESTION SEVEN: The White House has blocked over $88 million from the Global Fund, a group known internationally as "the best weapon in the battle against AIDS." Will you follow through on support to the fund?
The White House has been reluctant to provide funding to the Global Fund, the international group that has been devoted to fighting AIDS. Last year, Congress cut the U.S. pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to $350 million – almost $200 million less than the previous year's donation. The White House has also blocked the Fund from receiving $88 million that Congress appropriated in fiscal year 2004, claiming that other nations were not doing their fair share. In fact, "Europe contributes over 50 percent of the Fund's total contributions while the U.S. with an equal share of the global economy will end up contributing less than one-third." According to a statement by the Global Aids Alliance (GAA), the Global Fund – which uses the cheapest and most effective drugs to fight the virus – is "The best weapon in the battle against AIDS."
SOURCES: Congress cuts pledge | $200 million less than previous donation | Best weapon in battle against AIDS
QUESTION EIGHT: In 2004, you spent time campaigning for President Bush even though America had pressing wartime security needs. Will you vow to keep partisan politicking out of your position as secretary of state?
Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell made a concerted effort not to politicize his position, staying out of last year's election talk by saying "I don't do politics." On the opposite end of the spectrum, Condoleezza Rice has shown an unprecedented willingness to take time away from her job to engage in partisan political affairs. The Washington Post reports that Rice broke the "long-standing precedent that the national security adviser try to avoid overt involvement in the presidential campaign" by giving pro-Bush speeches in key battleground states, including Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, beginning in May 2004. Rice's actions were sharply criticized by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter, who "said the national security adviser is the 'custodian' of the nation's most sensitive national security secrets and should be seen as an objective adviser to the president." With the nation at war in Iraq and in the midst of trying to stabilize Afghanistan, Brzezinski said, Rice didn't need the distractions associated with a political campaign.
SOURCES: Powell doesn't do politics | Rice campaigns for President Bush | Brzezinski criticizes Rice's speaking tour