Bloody Aussie Government!

27 April 2006 |

· Private Kovco did not die cleaning his gun
· The wrong body was flown back to Australia
· Soldier escorted casket on flight
· Family furious at military
· Defence chief: we can't figure it out
· Coffin shipping company's response
· A Kuwaiti public holiday will delay returning the right body

The mother of the first Australian soldier killed in Iraq has spoken of her fury at the Federal Government and Defence Force over a blunder which saw another body returned to Australia instead of her son's.

Judy Kovco said her family now wanted to speak out about Jacob Kovco's death.

Mrs Kovco said she was furious that the Army had not been in further contact with her family this morning to clear up the matter.

"The phone had been dead silent this morning. I rang Jake's commanding officer this morning."

"I am very angry and I am very upset right now," she said.

Mrs Kovco said her son's commanding officer had simply repeated earlier suggestions that her son appeared to have accidentally shot himself.

Last night Defence Minister Brendan Nelson flew to Sale in Victoria's east to inform the Kovco family of the mistake.

'All hell broke loose'

Mrs Kovco said "all hell broke loose" when the news was conveyed.

"We were told that it was not my son in that coffin," Mrs Kovco said.

Mrs Kovco said the news reinforced in her mind that her son was dead.

"I was (still) waiting for my son to walk through the door . . . It might be another body, but so is my son's body somewhere."

Mrs Kovco said she believed the body that had accidentally been flown to Australia was that of a Bosnian, and said she is concerned that her son's body may have been sent to Bosnia despite Dr Nelson saying today that Private Kovco's body was still in Kuwait.

Meanwhile, the stepbrother of Private Kovco has lashed out at authorities for disrespecting the dead Australian soldier.

Private Kovco's stepbrother, Ben, said the family was looking for answers and going through a hard time.

"We feel that we have been lied to from the moment this started," he told ABC radio. "We've been kept in the dark and that is the most insulting thing.

"We can handle the truth and it shouldn't be kept from us."

He said his family had been ripped apart. "It's absolutely ripped my family apart that Jake's memory would be disrespected in that way and that is what it is to us - he has just been zeroed down to a number," Ben said.

"It is insulting. It is hugely insulting by everyone involved, not just to the family but to Jake's memory."

He said he hoped no other families had to go through the same thing. "The people who have been involved in completely mishandling this will get my message in another forum - not right now," he said.

He wasn't cleaning his weapon

Mrs Kovco earlier expressed anger at Dr Nelson's statement today dismissing earlier suggestions that Jacob Kovco died while cleaning his gun.

This morning Dr Nelson said that Private Kovco was in his room with two others at the time of the incident and had his 9mm Browning pistol nearby.

"He was in a room with two of his mates who were doing other things, working on the computer and so on," he said.

It has been widely reported that the 25-year-old accidentally shot himself while cleaning his weapon in Baghdad on Friday.

But Dr Nelson today said the reports were incorrect.

"The family's actually quite distressed because the reports are that he was cleaning his weapon," the minister told Macquarie Radio.

"He wasn't in fact cleaning his weapon.

"It was near him in his vicinity and he made some kind of movement which suggests that it discharged.

"There was obviously a live round in it which there should not have been and that's as much as I should probably say at the moment."

How could this happen?

Mrs Kovco said she and her family would not rest until the full truth emerged. She said they have never believed that he died while cleaning his gun.

"How could this happen?'

"My son knew guns so well. None of us can comprehend how this could have happened."

Mrs Kovco said her son had been a deer hunter from a young age.

"You could have put a blindfold on him. He could dismantle a gun and put it together again without even looking at it. We kept saying there's no way, there's no way."

She said the Army owed the family an immediate and clear explanation in light of Mr Nelson's comments this morning.

"He didn't shoot himself," Mrs Kovco said. "The gun went off. It was near him. It was nearby. (So) what did Jake do? Put his head down near the table so it could shoot him in the head, did he?"

Cost cutting goes 'horribly wrong'

David Braithwaite reports: The blunder is an example of cost-cutting gone "horribly wrong'', says Australian Defence Association executive director Neil James.

He said soldiers killed on duty overseas should be flown on air force planes.

"If someone dies serving their country overseas their country can probably afford to pay a bit extra and fly him home in an air force aircraft,'' he said.

"There are many examples where Defence has been forced to rely on civil contractors because of constrained funding levels and this time it's gone horribly wrong.

"We would like to see the policy seriously examined - they need to use a RAAF aircraft to ensure the point-to-point transfer of the casket.

"It's not just an operational issue, it's a moral issue.''

Private Kovco's comrades in Iraq would be angry but would get on with their job, Mr James said.

"It will be reasonably discouraging to the members of the unit - they're soldiers and they're used to getting on with it, but they'll certainly be angry,'' he said.

"The other bloke I feel sorry for is the body escort - he's obviously been separated from the body for bureaucratic reasons, but he'll feel absolutely terrible.''

Member of Jake's unit escorted body

AAP reports: Air Marshal Angus Houston says there was a soldier attending Private Kovco's casket during the entire return flight.

"There is always an escort person, in this case we had a senior member of Jake's unit," he said.

"His job was to escort the casket back - he was with this casket all the way through.

"We don't know the circumstances how this terrible situation arose, but I can assure you ... that we are doing everything we can to establish the facts.

"It just seems one of those situations where we can't figure out what happened."

Shipping company response

Kenyon International, a company that has been involved in the recovery of bodies from more than 300 disasters during its 75-year history, had the responsibility of returning Private Kovco's body to Melbourne from Kuwait.

A spokesman for Kenyon said the company was focused on reuniting the body of Private Kovco with his family.

"Our focus is of course to reunite the soldier with his family, and try and help them begin the grieving and healing process,'' spokesman Mario Gomez told ABC radio from the United States.

"We're still just working with officials to determine what happened, but we're just trying to maintain focus on trying to help the family,'' he said.

Mr Gomez said he did not know the identity of the body that was mistakenly sent to Australia in Private Kovco's place, although the government has said it was a soldier from an eastern European nation.

** Kovco blunder firm owned by 'funeralgate' company

The end of Gandhi's legacy


Gandhi Who? Ahimsa?

India flexes its muscles with first foreign military base
Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Wednesday April 26, 2006


India is to open its first overseas military base this year in the impoverished central Asian country of Tajikistan - a testament to its emerging status on the world stage.

The Indian air force will station up to two squadrons of MiG-29s at the refurbished former Soviet airbase of Farkhor more than 60 miles from the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, Jane's Defence Weekly said, citing defence officials. A control tower is already in place, Indian media reported.

The Indian army had a military hospital there from 1997 to 2001, where it treated Northern Alliance guerrillas fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The 12 Russian built MiG-29s will be staffed by about 40 personnel and use two aircraft hangars, Jane's said. The base's third hangar will be used by the Tajik air force which is also being trained by the Indians.

Tajik officials would not comment on the reports. Igor Sattorov, spokesman for the Tajik foreign ministry, said: "I can neither deny nor confirm this information. Let's be cautious about this."

India will become the fourth economic power to compete for influence in central Asia. Russia has a military base in Tajikistan and one in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. The US also has a base in Kyrgyzstan and Germany has a base at Termez, in southern Uzbekistan, both of which are used to assist operations in Afghanistan.

India has stepped up its activity in central Asia, eager to gain access to its gas supplies. Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, is expected to meet with Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, during a visit to the capital, Tashkent, which began yesterday.

Mr Karimov has become an international pariah since his troops shot dead hundreds of protesters in the southern town of Andijan a year ago, and Mr Singh's critics will seize upon the visit as an unprincipled play for oil. India currently needs 1.9m barrels of oil a day, but this is forecast to rise to 4m by 2010.

Condom in a Pepsi bottle


Soft drink giant Pepsi has been ordered to pay over Rs 1 lakh (Rs 100,000) compensation by a Delhi consumer court after a man found a condom inside a sealed bottle of the company.

Start a new cola war - stop drinking it!

"This case is an eye-opener for others who are engaged in manufacturing soft drinks and are required to maintain the prescribed standards of purity in public interest during the course of their business activities," Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (North) comprising president K K Chopra and members R K Prabhakar and Neeru Mittal said.

Terming the case as 'rare' with a serious bearing on the public health, the court directed PepsiCo India Holdings Ltd to pay Rs 1 lakh towards the Consumer Legal Aid Fund and Rs 20,000 as damages to the complainant.

Complainant Sudesh Sharma, a resident of Ujhani village, had purchased two bottles of Pepsi from a retail shop near Kashmere Gate in the Capital in year 2003.

He started suffering from severe dyspepsia and headache, followed by insomnia, after drinking from one of the bottles. His condition worsened over a period of time and he had to seek medical treatment.

Meanwhile, Sharma, on inspecting the bottle from which he had drunk, found dirt and other contaminants inside it.

Even worse, Sharma was shocked to find a condom inside the other Pepsi bottle, which was still sealed.

Staunchly denying any negligence on its part, Pepsi maintained in court that the bottles may have contained spurious products illegally marketed under its brand name.

To this, the court held that the soft drink major had failed in its 'bounden duty' towards its customers by not taking any deterrent action against such unscrupulous persons who pass off spurious products as Pepsi's.

Further, the court rejected as a 'lame excuse' Pepsi's objection that it could not be held liable in the case as it did not have any authorised dealers in the vicinity of Kashmere Gate.

"This is at best only a lame excuse and does not carry any weight as they have got various dealers everywhere despite the fact that the manufacturing process might have taken place at some particular place," the court observed.

Dismissing Pepsi's argument that Sharma had not submitted any proof of purchase of the bottles, the court observed that it was not a practice in the open market among shopkeepers to issue receipt or cash memo whenever a person purchased one or two bottles.

The Forum also directed the company to pay Rs 3,000 as litigation costs.

** From the realvoice archive:
  1. COKE in hot water

  2. Message in a Bottle
  3. Pesticides with fizz. Enjoy, drop dead

Doing justice to life

17 April 2006 |

-- Rachel

Medha Patkar along with Bhagvati bhai and Jam Singh bhai of Narmada Valley has today entered the 20th day of their hunger strike. As you all must know, the government, disregarding the Supreme Court verdict wants to raise the height of Sardar Sarovar by 17 feet, which will displace 35000 families depriving them of their livelihood in the process. The NBA's struggle started in the 1980 s. Their constructive proposals for alternate 'development' models were met with hostility over the years. They had to make huge compromises, but had small successes and still are holding on. The current demand is the rehabilitation of those who will be displaced- i.e. they are demanding their Right to Life and livelihood.

You all know the details of displacement. But, living in Kerala I was not quite prepared for the inhumanity that is Indian state. The government has literally turned its face on the struggle that is happening for about a month now right under its nose. The Prime Minister thinks it is not necessary even to make a statement.

The NBA s method is peaceful resistance and now they are not in a position to move back from that. Medha s health is worsening. Forcefully arrested and hospitalized she has refused to take the IV. Bhagavati is still in the footpath of Jantar Mantar with other activists. She is experiencing pain and has lost her voice. The media which had lost its interest in the whole issue has revived some of it by involvement of those like Amir Khan, Swami Agnivesh and Arundhati Roy. But the state does not care. I was there only four times. And I was seldom more than an observer. Even then the stony silence you meet with is frustrating. You feel you are banging your head on a wall.

The State makes its face visible through the Police force. And I have seen when they react. One day the protestors blocked Janpath and danced for half an hour. When the Vehicles could n move and the car owners frowned, the state was irritated. Yesterday 50 of us went to the PM s house to give a memorandum. While the PM was too happy to receive the earlier BJP delegation, our audacity to infringe on the sacred space was not tolerated. We were arrested and removed and later released due to left intervention. We had committed the crime of violating orders of prohibition (under section188). And they wanted to search us as though v were a bunch of pick pockets. (That we resisted)

I am not articulate enough to respond to HariKuttans earlier questions to modes of protest. What the protests create might be a passing discomfort to the advantaged middle class including myself... the enormity of violence that the state does to the life of these thousands of disadvantaged is much much beyond that. When we say that resistance has to be limited to a zone where it does not really interfere with any thing, we are closing our eyes on that aspect. Knowing or unknowing the middle class we belong to along with the state are active agents of violence. What do a bunch of poor or displaced or grieved mean to us or to the state as long as the daily routine of those that matter remain unaffected!

Apart from a brief period when I was quite small I never felt a part of the political entity called India. Now, it is a constant presence in me- one of fear and repression and anger. I might go back soon to the cocoon of comfort. But at least now I am nauseated by own passivity. I think the NBA activists who have been resisting for over 20 years have done more justice to their lives than I have.

PS. I got to know of the Supreme Court of Justice has given the green signal to continue construction.

To find out more about Narmada - Or click here

"Dear Mr. President"

16 April 2006 |

"Dear Mr. President"
(PINK feat. Indigo Girls)

Dear Mr. President
Come take a walk with me
Let's pretend we're just two people and
You're not better than me
I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep
What do you feel when you look in the mirror
Are you proud

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
How do you walk with your head held high
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why

Dear Mr. President
Were you a lonely boy
Are you a lonely boy
Are you a lonely boy
How can you say
No child is left behind
We're not dumb and we're not blind
They're all sitting in your cells
While you pave the road to hell

What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say
You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
How do you walk with your head held high
Can you even look me in the eye

Let me tell you bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
You don't know nothing bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work

How do you sleep at night
How do you walk with your head held high
Dear Mr. President
You'd never take a walk with me
Would you

* * *
Please listen to the song. I am glad that mainstream musicians are also realizing what is wrong with America!

It's the President, stupid!

15 April 2006 |

Desert Rats Leave The Sinking Ship
Why Rumsfeld Should Not Resign
The Guardian - Comment
Friday, April 14, 2006
By Greg Palast

Well, here they come: the wannabe Rommels, the gaggle of generals, safely retired, to lay siege to Donald Rumsfeld. This week, six of them have called for the Secretary of Defense's resignation.

Well, according to my watch, they're about four years too late -- and they still don't get it.

I know that most of my readers will be tickled pink that the bemedalled boys in crew cuts are finally ready to kick Rummy in the rump, in public. But to me, it just shows me that these boys still can't shoot straight.

It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who stood up in front of the UN and identified two mobile latrines as biological weapons labs, was it, General Powell?

It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who told us our next warning from Saddam could be a mushroom cloud, was it Condoleezza?

It wasn't Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who declared that Al Qaeda and Saddam were going steady, was it, Mr. Cheney?

Yes, Rumsfeld is a swaggering bag of mendacious arrogance, a duplicitous chicken-hawk, yellow-bellied bully-boy and Tinker-Toy Napoleon -- but he didn't appoint himself Secretary of Defense.

Let me tell you a story about the Secretary of Defense you didn't read in the New York Times, related to me by General Jay Garner, the man our president placed in Baghdad as the US' first post-invasion viceroy.

Garner arrived in Kuwait City in March 2003 working under the mistaken notion that when George Bush called for democracy in Iraq, the President meant the Iraqis could choose their own government. Misunderstanding the President's true mission, General Garner called for Iraqis to hold elections within 90 days and for the U.S. to quickly pull troops out of the cities to a desert base. "It's their country," the General told me of the Iraqis. "And," he added, most ominously, "their oil."

Let's not forget: it's all about the oil. I showed Garner a 101-page plan for Iraq's economy drafted secretly by neo-cons at the State Department, Treasury and the Pentagon, calling for "privatization" (i.e. the sale) of "all state assets ... especially in the oil and oil-supporting industries." The General knew of the plans and he intended to shove it where the Iraqi sun don't shine. Garner planned what he called a "Big Tent" meeting of Iraqi tribal leaders to plan elections. By helping Iraqis establish their own multi-ethnic government -- and this was back when Sunnis, Shias and Kurds were on talking terms -- knew he could get the nation on its feet peacefully before a welcomed "liberation" turned into a hated "occupation."

But, Garner knew, a freely chosen coalition government would mean the death-knell for the neo-con oil-and-assets privatization grab.

On April 21, 2003, three years ago this month, the very night General Garner arrived in Baghdad, he got a call from Washington. It was Rumsfeld on the line. He told Garner, in so many words, "Don't unpack, Jack, you're fired."

Rummy replaced Garner, a man with years of on-the-ground experience in Iraq, with green-boots Paul Bremer, the Managing Director of Kissinger Associates. Bremer cancelled the Big Tent meeting of Iraqis and postponed elections for a year; then he issued 100 orders, like some tin-pot pasha, selling off Iraq's economy to U.S. and foreign operators, just as Rumsfeld's neo-con clique had desired.

Reading this, it sounds like I should applaud the six generals' call for Rumfeld's ouster. Forget it.

For a bunch of military hotshots, they sure can't shoot straight. They're wasting all their bullets on the decoy. They've gunned down the puppet instead of the puppeteers.

There's no way that Rumsfeld could have yanked General Garner from Baghdad without the word from The Bunker. Nothing moves or breathes or spits in the Bush Administration without Darth Cheney's growl of approval. And ultimately, it's the Commander-in-Chief who's chiefly in command.

Even the generals' complaint -- that Rumsfeld didn't give them enough troops -- was ultimately a decision of the cowboy from Crawford. (And by the way, the problem was not that we lacked troops -- the problem was that we lacked moral authority to occupy this nation. A million troops would not be enough -- the insurgents would just have more targets.)

President Bush is one lucky fella. I can imagine him today on the intercom with Cheney: "Well, pardner, looks like the game's up." And Cheney replies, "Hey, just hang the Rumsfeld dummy out the window until he's taken all their ammo."

When Bush and Cheney read about the call for Rumsfeld's resignation today, I can just hear George saying to Dick, "Mission Accomplished."

Generals, let me give you a bit of advice about choosing a target: It's the President, stupid.

When Justice is delayed...

13 April 2006 |

Justice delayed is justice denied. No doubt about that.
Then why is it - that courts in India take more than three generations - to deliver a verdict?

There is an old saying in malayalam, "Venamangil Chakka Verilum Kayykkum"
If it wants, the jack tree will bear fruit even in its roots.

The lack of speedy trials and delivering of justice - is a major problem in India - the biggest democracy in the world. It even threatens the democratic nature of the Indian society.

"NeerkOli moothu Chera aaya pole,"
It is the lawyers who become judges after many years in a corrupt system. To expect a lot of good to come out of such a system is....

The Kerala High Court in Kochi has been at the forefront of judicial activism (which by all means is also a threat to the executive - and also goes to show how pathetic the executive is). Judicial activism exposes the plot in the drama - that the lawyers have started to outwit the politicians.

It is a strange situation in a democracy.

People in India are slowly realising that they do have the power - more power than all the call centers or big businesses put together.

If a court in India had delivered a verdict that "there is no time to count the votes" - as the verdict in Bush v Gore... the nation would have been burning. People do exercise their power through the ballots - and if vested interests try to topple people power - then they protect democracy by all means.

The politicians, the justice system - everything is so corrupt in the USA. What makes me laugh at America is the fact that it is a country where people do carry guns... but it is a fact that Americans carry firearms because they are morally, politically, and intellectually impotent.

Jodhpur case: HC's activism set the precedent

NEW DELHI: If the Alwar rape case was decided within 22 days of the incident, it is thanks to extraordinary activism displayed last year by Rajasthan High Court, following the rape of another German woman in the state in the state.

Two days after the tourist was raped in Jodhpur, the HC, on its own, directed the probe be carried out "as expeditiously as possible"and the trial be completed within a month of the incident.

As a result, on the rape that took place on May 11, 2005, a fast track court in Jodhpur made history by delivering its verdict on June 1 — 21 days flat.

The speed displayed in the Jodhpur rape case was, however, taken to be an exception made for a German tourist in a state heavily dependent on foreign tourism.

For, no such special effort was made to render speedy justice when a Dalit was gangraped in the same city four months later. It took the rape of another German national, this time a student visiting Alwar for research purposes, for the system to follow the precedent of the Jodhpur fast track court.

The Alwar rape took place in the wee hours of March 21 and the verdict came on April 12. The Jodhpur feat could be replicated in Alwar because of conscious efforts made by all the authorities concerned to speed up the process.

This was evident even in the manner in which the trial suddenly ended on April 10. The defence was due to present their witnesses on that date.

But when none of them turned up, the court refused to adopt the usual option of adjourning the case. Instead, displaying extraordinary urgency, it forced the counsel on both sides to wrap up their final arguments on the same day. And the verdict was delivered on the morning of the next working day, April 12.

The court displayed similar urgency during the deposition of the rape victim on March 29. When the defence counsel was labouring on the friendship between her and the accused, the judge warned him not to waste time as he would have to finish the cross examination of the victim by the end of that day.

That was a sharp departure from the normal practice of stretching the cross-examination of the victim over half a dozen hearings spread across several months.

The court, of course, could not have acted so swiftly if the police had not done their bit. Though they were entitled to take 90 days to file a chargesheet, the cops took just four days to do so.

The forensic lab too took just four days to submit its report rather than taking months as it usually does.

Claiming perch above law portends long, painful fall

08 April 2006 |

“I don’t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I’d like to know it, and we’ll take the appropriate action.”

---George Dubya Bush

John Dean had a pretty good fix on the situation, but he underestimated the arrogance of his boss.

President Richard M. Nixon believed the scandal seeded by the Watergate burglary could be contained. Mr. Dean, the president’s lawyer, knew it was a tumor that could grow, metastasize and spread, eventually engulfing the presidency.

“There is a cancer on the presidency,” Mr. Dean famously said, advising Mr. Nixon to come clean with the public and begin distancing himself from the “plumbers” who carried out the break-in and other “dirty tricks” against the president’s political and ideological enemies.

Mr. Nixon, of course, refused. He believed he was above the law, and that he could escape the consequences of his personal and professional corruption by tossing underlings like Mr. Dean to the wolves baying at the Oval Office door. Thankfully, for the nation and the world, he was wrong. The rest, primarily under the bylines of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, is history.

History has a trifling way of repeating itself, and anyone watching the wobbly arc of what has come to be known as “Plamegate” can be forgiven for feeling a strong sense of “Deanja-vu.” Since its genesis in July 2003, this scandal has played like a sequel to “All the President’s Men.”

Mr. Woodward has a bit part this time around, more privileged apologist than crusading journalist. Mr. Bernstein has had a cameo or two. Even Mr. Dean is back, hawking a book called “Worse than Watergate.”

Until Thursday, the only element missing was a rogue president who follows the Nixonian logic that states, “If the president does it, it can’t be illegal.”

Surely, President Bush and his administration have used this excuse before. Secretly authorizing the torture of detainees and wiretapping the phone conversations of unsuspecting Americans are just a pair in a laundry list of examples of a White House that plays by its own rules.

While these transgressions outraged many Americans, they have been sanctioned by a criminally negligent Republican Congress and excused by the echo chamber of conservative news outlets. A lack of congressional oversight and a campaign of relentless, concentrated spin has helped the president survive these scandals, but no amount of truth-twisting can excise the tumor now swelling inside the Bush presidency.

Mr. Nixon’s Achilles heel was a man named Liddy.

Mr. Bush’s is named Libby.

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, has told investigators President Bush authorized the leak of classified intelligence to discredit Joseph Wilson, an administration critic who dared to challenge the president’s flimsy case for war in Iraq.

His wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a CIA agent specializing in, of all things, curtailing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Now she’s a footnote of history, the victim of a political hit orchestrated by a White House that always puts partisan politics above the people’s business.

In a court filing, “Plamegate” Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald reports that Mr. Libby fingered Mr. Cheney as the “Deep Throat” who ordered him to hit Mr. Wilson where it would hurt most. When Mr. Libby said he was uncomfortable about leaking classified intelligence to the press, Mr. Cheney told him the president authorized the leaks.

So Scooter picked his plumbing tools and went to work.

The administration felt it had to discredit Mr. Wilson, who had put the lie to the president’s claim that Iraq had tried to purchase “yellowcake” uranium to make nuclear weapons. Mr. Libby began meeting with reporters and sharing classified intelligence, including portions of a National Intelligence Estimate supporting the president’s claim.

Mr. Cheney also ordered the outing of Ms. Plame, although it’s not clear from Mr. Libby’s testimony what the president knew and when he knew it.

When the scandal broke, Mr. Bush said he would fire anyone caught leaking, a pledge he later amended to read “anyone who broke the law.”

When Mr. Libby was charged with five counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI, he was allowed to resign. Guess you have to be convicted, too.

“I’d like to know if somebody in my White House did leak sensitive information,” Mr. Bush said, revealing himself as either a liar or a fool, perhaps both. Either he authorized the leaks, or Mr. Cheney did so without his permission. Either way, it’s time for a reckoning.

The excuses have already begun. While the White House is dodging questions about Mr. Libby’s testimony, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insists the president has the “inherent authority to decide who should have classified information.” This is the same great legal mind who advocated torture and secret wiretapping. In other words, if the president does it, it’s not illegal.

It all has an eerily familiar ring, but something is very different this time around. We’re no longer talking about a cancer on the presidency, but a presidency that’s a cancer on the nation.

CHRIS KELLY, Times-Tribune columnist, is always springing leaks. E-mail: