Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- At Cindy Sheehan's side since Aug. 6 when she began her antiwar protest outside President Bush's Texas ranch have been three groups that openly support the Iraqi insurgency against U.S. troops: Code Pink-Women For Peace, United for Peace & Justice, and Veterans For Peace.

 Those organizations were represented at a mock "war crimes" trial in Istanbul that on June 27 produced a joint declaration backing the insurgency. Based on the United Nations Charter, it said "the popular national resistance to the occupation is legitimate and justified. It deserves the support of people everywhere who care for justice and freedom."

 The Istanbul statement also rejected U.S. efforts to leave behind a democratic government in Iraq, asserting: "Any law or institution created under the aegis of occupation is devoid of both legal and moral authority."

CINDY'S FRIEND COLEEN

 Minnesota Republican leaders could not stop smiling when they learned that former FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley, running for Congress as a Democrat, was joining war protester Cindy Sheehan's demonstration.

 Republicans were silent but delighted that Rowley would align with extreme antiwar demonstrators backing Sheehan. Rowley became a national hero when she revealed that her warnings about Sept. 11 terrorists were disregarded within the FBI. Since announcing her candidacy against second-term Republican Rep. John Kline, she has become an intense war critic.

 Rowley was accompanied to Texas by Democratic State Sen. Becky Lourey, whose son was killed in Iraq. Like Sheehan, Lourey opposed the war before she lost her son.

LEGALIZING METH?

 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under conservative Republican protest from Congress, backed away from co-sponsoring a conference accused of tacitly favoring legalization of methamphetamine. But the HHS still sent federal employees to man an exhibition booth and physicians to present research in Salt Lake City Friday and Saturday.

 Rep. Mark Souder and Sen. Tom Coburn wrote letters to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt protesting the use of federal funds to support the conference. HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson told this column that "the conference's organizers incorrectly listed the department as a sponsor without our knowledge or consent."

 Pearson said HHS had discussed helping to fund the conference but was turned off by the titles of some of the conference's panels. Officials of The Stonewall Project, which provides counseling to gay meth users, led discussions at the conference of "What's Speed Got To Do With It? The Demonization of a Drug" and "You Don't Have to Be Clean & Sober. Or Even Want to Be!"

ENVOY LUGAR

 President Bush's unusual dispatch Wednesday of Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, by presidential jet to Tindouf, Algeria, to preside over a sensitive prisoner release in the Western Sahara, was requested by participants and had been in the works for weeks.

 U.S. diplomats worked hard for the release of 404 remaining Moroccan prisoners of war held by the Polisario Front independence movement, but it had been postponed several times. Lugar was requested as a statesman respected by President Bush but independent of the Bush administration.

 A footnote: The relationship between Lugar and Secretary of State Colin Powell had been correct but cool. Lugar is much closer to Powell's successor, Condoleezza Rice.

RECRUITING DEMOCRATS

 Democratic recruitment of star challengers against incumbent Republican senators in 2006, mediocre so far, may soon get a boost in Missouri with the expected candidacy of former State Auditor Claire McCaskill against first-term Sen. Jim Talent.

 McCaskill, who lost narrowly for governor of Missouri last year to Republican Matt Blunt, is a major threat to Talent. Party leaders in Washington, desperate for credible Senate challengers, have promised McCaskill lavish financing for the Senate race.

 A footnote: Sen. Jon Kyl, fourth ranking in the GOP Senate hierarchy as Policy Committee chairman, probably will encounter a well-financed opponent when he seeks a third term in Arizona next year. Former Democratic State Chairman Jim Pederson, a rich developer, plans to tap his own bankroll against Kyl.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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