QANDAHAR

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Chapter 9

25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1967):

Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

10:27 a.m. March 9, 2009

Press Conference, East Wing of the White House

“ –– the last units of the United States Army and Marine Corps, totaling some 56,000 personnel, will be withdrawn from Iraq by July 1st this year. These forces include remaining brigades from the Army’s First Infantry Division, Third Armored Division, Fifth Rangers and Seventh Stryker Force –– ”

The President looked up from the presidential podium and took a deep breath while scanning a crowd of reporters, photographers and three television cameras providing a pool-feed to American and international networks. It was her first press conference as the nation’s 45th President.

“ –– and regiments from the First, Third and Fourth Marine Divisions. Our forces that were withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan in the past four to six months and are now stationed in or heading to Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait, about 29,000 in total, will return to their stateside bases no later than July 1st as well.

“I see you reporters standing up or raising your hands, ready to ask me questions. Please wait. I hope you, and those listening and watching me now, are not too surprised by the date of July 1st. But, not only has the press not been informed of troops going to the four countries I mentioned, neither has Congress nor the American people. Within the past week, since President Templeton’s untimely death, it has come to my attention the existence of mutual defense treaties concerning the four countries. Promises were made to the leaders of those four nations by the Morris administration last year. Relevant documents were signed by officials of the former President’s State and Defense

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departments. The documents, which the Morris administration labeled as treaties, required ratification votes by the full Senate. The Senate never received those documents. They never were presented to any Senate committee for vetting and never went to the floor of the Senate for ratification. President Morris took it upon himself to sign off on those mutual defense pacts without Senate approval.

“Other officials within the Morris administration knew of the so-called treaties. They no longer are in office. However, knowledge of their existence was passed on to the Senate Majority Leader at the time, Senator Allen Campbell. Their existence also was known by Secretary of Defense Harvey Goodman. Secretary of State Gordon Steinmetz, whom I spoke to over the weekend, had no knowledge of those fraudulent documents, he and others have assured me. Other current Cabinet members also assured me they had no knowledge of the treaties.

“Senator Campbell admitted to me late last night he had prior knowledge of the treaties that dated back to the last months of the Morris administration. Senator Campbell said last night he would retire from the Senate within forty-eight hours. Senate Democrats, I’ve been told, have scheduled an election later this week to choose a new majority leader.

“Defense Secretary Goodman tendered his resignation this morning. It was effective immediately. He, too, had prior knowledge of the treaties but failed to inform President Templeton. I’m not here today to denigrate Secretary Goodman for one mistake he made in public life. His service to country began as an Army infantry officer in Vietnam. He returned home to Illinois and ran for Congress. The former chair of the House Armed Services Committee served this country well for thirty years in the House of Representatives.

“President Templeton’s National Security Advisor Sean McManus also has tendered his resignation, effective immediately. Mr. McManus, a protégé of Senator Campbell, was a senior vice president of Texas Gulf Oil in Houston before he was named National Security Advisor. He also had prior knowledge of the treaties and promised oil production agreements that had provisions assuring that all of Iraq’s oil reserves would come under the control of American and two European

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oil companies. Texas Gulf Oil was complicit by providing massive amounts of campaign funding for the last two re-election campaigns of Senator Campbell. This documented information, which never was reported to the Federal Election Commission, was uncovered over the weekend. And I’ll have a word or two shortly about Mr. McManus’ replacement. But I must return to the subject of troop withdrawals from Iraq.

“American troops have been in Iraq since March 2003. The loss of their lives has been, for me and others, difficult to swallow, especially when one considers why those troops went to Iraq in the first place. I’ve issued orders to commanders on the ground in Iraq and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to pull all American soldiers and Marines out of combat zones immediately. Transport planes and ships are heading to Iraq, as I speak, to begin picking them up and bringing them home. What heavy equipment and weaponry our forces cannot carry back with them, that equipment and weaponry will remain for the Iraqi army and police forces to use as they see fit.

“I will ask Congress this afternoon to pass legislation to stop all funding immediately for combat operations in Iraq. What money has already been appropriated for combat operations will be used to bring our troops home. I also will ask Congress to approve additional, but one-time-only, spending for reconstruction in Iraq. This country will only maintain diplomatic relations with the Iraqi government. As of today, our military relationship with the country ceases.

“As for the international oil companies hoping to gain a foothold in Iraq’s oil fields, well, the major producers now will have to deal with appropriate Iraqi ministries. No longer will the United States government and its military protect oil production facilities in any foreign country. Major oil companies had wanted to privatize Iraq’s oil fields with the help of the U.S. military. That military assistance stops today.

“To dampen oil-price spikes sure to come today and tomorrow in the United States, I’m releasing today to national oil markets seventy-five percent of the oil stored in our country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves’ salt caverns in Louisiana and Texas. I also will submit to Congress by week’s end legislation calling for immediate price controls on gasoline, fuel oil and natural gas

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supplies. I do not, repeat, do not want the American people to suffer by paying inflated prices for petroleum supplies to operate their vehicles, heat and cool their homes or cook their food.

“Now, ladies and gentlemen of the press, I see many of you in front of me antsy and squirming in your seats ready to pounce on me with questions as soon as I stop talking. But before I take any questions, I’d like to announce that U.S. Marine Colonel Timothy Connors, now retired, has been appointed to become my National Security Advisor. On my orders, he’s been in that position since Mr. McManus resigned. Colonel Connors served in Iraq from 2003 through 2004 and was wounded twice. He also is a veteran of the Gulf War in 1991. He has been serving with the Office of Naval Intelligence since early 2005.

“I realize now I may be going longer than anyone in the press corps here predicted, but I have a couple more announcements. Please, bear with me.

“As soon as a new a Majority Leader in the Senate is elected, I will meet with the Leader and urge speedy confirmation of my nominee for Secretary of Defense.

“I had little difficulty in convincing the next Secretary to take the job. I spoke to him yesterday, and he accepted my offer. I’d like to take just a couple moments to relay to you a personal note about the nominee.

“My choice for the next Secretary of Defense believes there is a need, a very great need, to move quickly with the troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. And he also realizes the need not to leave those countries without protection, without an adequate defense against the continuing and rising tide of world terrorism. The countries in that region of the world demand it. And I believe the people of our great nation understand about that need.” The President stepped to the side.

Walking toward the podium was Jefferson Mark Wheeler, the 42nd President of the United States. He embraced President Forster and looked into her eyes for a moment. Both were smiling. She stepped back as the former President approached the podium’s microphone.

“I’d like to thank President Forster for thinkin’ of me in her time of need and choosin’ me to be the next Secretary of Defense,” Wheeler said in his slow-paced Missouri drawl. “I know the

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tasks ahead of me will be difficult because of the challengin’ times we live in. But, our troops must leave Iraq, and leave Iraq accordin’ to President Forster’s timetable.” The pool camera panned up slightly to catch the former president’s full height of six-foot-two.

“Most of you watchin’ now are probably wonderin’ if I’ll be speakin’ for the next forty-five minutes to an hour. Many of you were kind enough to put up with that when I was President. But not today.” The former President ran a hand through his nearly white hair. “Today is a day that I will not control. That control is in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief, President Lorraine Forster. In fact, she’s already given me some marchin’ orders.” Wheeler smiled, turned toward the President and nodded. “I’ll begin carryin’ out those orders within two days of my confirmation. The first two days on the job I’ll be at the Pentagon gettin’ to know the folks over there and renewin’ ol’ friendships with some folks who still might remember me.

“Now, the orders from President Forster. After that brief orientation at the Pentagon I’ll be flying to the Middle East to hook up with Secretary of State Steinmetz. The two of us will go to Jordan, Syria, Iran and Pakistan. I will go to Iraq and Afghanistan on my own to meet with those countries’ leaders and, I suspect, I’ll find some time to meet with our troops headin’ home. In Iraq, I also plan to meet with Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders in an attempt to quell that ragin’ civil war goin’ on there now.

“I want to make it clear to everyone, I will only stay as long as the President wants me there. Thank you, President Forster.” Wheeler stepped back. A loud applause erupted before President Forster stepped to the podium and lowered its microphone to her height.

Wheeler and the President heard catcalls and shouts from the usually dispassionate White House press corps gathered in the East Wing. A reporter near the back of the gallery yelled “Jeff Wheeler’s back in town. Hoo-ah.” Forster stepped back from the microphone a moment and applauded. Then she stepped back to the podium’s micophone.

“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” she said. “I hope when I carry the title of former President you’ll cheer for me at least once with equal enthusiasm. But for now, please be seated. I

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have one more announcement I want to pass along to you and the American people.” Reporters quietly returned to their seats and sat down.

“My duties as President now include the appointment of a vice-presidential nominee.” Forster paused a moment. She looked around the press gallery, took a deep breath and then peered at the television camera directly in front of her. “I readily acknowledge the nominee will cause some consternation not only among some members of the press but also among the American people, many of whom voted for President Templeton and me. Back in November I suspect that virtually all of those who voted for Richard Templeton never expected me to be standing here today. Personally, I never expected it either. I only expected to serve one term as Vice President and promised myself that I would only serve a second term, if that was the wish of President Templeton.

“His sudden death last week has left the country saddened. That sadness has been multiplied by the loss of our young men and women in Iraq. As our troops pull out of Iraq I genuinely hope and pray no more are killed or wounded.

“I apologize for the digression I made about Iraq.” Forster paused again and looked to her right where offstage stood Helen Brown, Jefferson Wheeler, Timothy Connors and Constance Stowe. “I appeal now to the leaders in the House and the Senate to make a new chapter in U.S. history by quickly confirming my choice for Vice President. At this time I believe our nation should follow a new direction, with new thinking and ideas ... from the women of America.

“I hereby nominate Congresswoman Constance Stowe of Illinois, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, to the post of Vice President of the United States. I’ll now take questions.” Forster gazed to her left, then to her right.

The White House East Wing was silent. Reporters turned to each other and began whispering. Steve Graham, White House correspondent for World Press International who sat immediately in front of the presidential podium, stood up and started clapping. He smiled at the President as other reporters joined him in the ovation. The Milwaukee Beacon’s White House correspondent, Linda Dexter, shouted from the end of the fourth row of seats in the press gallery:

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“Way to go girl.” The Commercial Journal correspondent yelled: “You hit a home run.”

Lorraine Forster stepped back from the podium, lowering her head and closing her eyes

momentarily. Constance Stowe quickly went up two steps on the side of the stage and walked toward the President. The tall African-American in a Navy-blue pantsuit and high heels wrapped her arms around the President. “When were you gonna tell me, Lorraine?” Stowe asked.

“I just did,” said Forster with a wide grin. “I just did.”

World Press International on-line news bulletin:

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPI) – Stock and commodity market prices worldwide have dropped to near all-time lows following U.S. President Lorraine Forster’s change-of-course announcement regarding American troop withdrawals from Iraq.

Wall Street analysts predict markets should continue to fall as oil prices rise. The

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, has scheduled a meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, on the weekend.

In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrials dropped 122 points at the close of the President’s White House Press Conference. For the day it dropped 102 points. The NASDAQ dropped more than 20 points by the end of the business day, while Standard & Poor’s followed suit.

Futures trading on the Financial Times and London Stock Exchange (FTSE), the German DAX Index and other European markets portend rough times ahead for investors. Stock and commodity markets in Hong Kong and Singapore are predicted to fall as well, according to Wall Street analysts.

Oil markets have generated steep price increases. The New York Commodity Exchange reports oil prices at nearly $90 a barrel and rising. Analysts have predicted a U.S. gallon of regular gasoline will be selling at slightly more than $5 a gallon by tomorrow morning.

-- 4:02 p.m. EST 3/9/09

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6 pm EST. March 9, 2009

Total Cable News international broadcast:

“This is Alex Sanderson. Good evening from Washington, D.C.

“The nation has just witnessed shocking announcements from President Lorraine Valerie Forster. She has nominated an African-American woman and a member of the House of Representatives for the vice presidency of the United States, a selection sure to brew confirmation difficulties in both the House and Senate. Secondly, she nominated former President Jefferson Mark Wheeler to the nation’s top defense post. At first blush, his nomination astounded many. But given the reasons, including the possible firing, I believe, of Defense Secretary Harvey Goodman, the selection marked an ingenious move by President Forster.

“Then there was the President’s announcement of the sudden departure of Senate Majority Leader Allen Campbell and the naming of a career military officer to the post of National Security Advisor following the resignation, but most likely firing, of Sean McManus, the late President

Templeton’s National Security Advisor.

“Overall, it appears that President Forster has stepped forward in an aggressive manner to let

the world know she’s the nation’s Commander-in Chief who wants to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq in a very short time frame.

“Former President Wheeler’s time as the nation’s chief executive certainly will serve him well in his new posting. He was first elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1996. His administration made some stumbles in his first term, namely that the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in 1994. However, Democrats regained control of the Senate in 1998.

“President Wheeler was wildly popular during his second term. He made overtures to Arab leaders to talk of peace in the Middle East. He sent peacekeepers to the former Yugoslavia and apologized to the world for America’s silence during the Rwanda genocide. He made sure Congress paid all the country’s bills and managed to cut the nation’s debt to near zero. His administration left behind a budget surplus. In the short term, the former President should have little trouble in getting quickly confirmed by the Senate.

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“However, the choice of Illinois U.S. Representative Constance Stowe for Vice President, although quite historic in itself, certainly will present some problems for President Forster when Senate and House debates on the selection begin later this week. TCN called a few Senators and House members and asked them about the choice. Two of the Senators were women. Democratic Senator Margaret McCluskey from Minnesota and Republican Betty Dalrymple of Kansas questioned whether the country was prepared for an African-American woman as Vice President. Neither senator divulged which way they planned to vote on the Stowe nomination.

“And then there’s House Speaker Thomas Dodge. He issued a statement from his office

decrying the choice of Stowe. Speaker Dodge said Stowe lacks the character and temperament necessary for the job of Vice President. Five House members, three Democrats and two Independents, said they doubted whether Congresswoman Stowe will get a fair hearing with Dodge in control of the Chamber. However, the five said they will support President Forster’s choice.

“And this, just in –– ” Sanderson peered intently at a camera teleprompter. “ –– random polling nationwide, completed in the last hour, by TCN and the New York Dispatch shows that President Forster’s approval rating has jumped to near 65 percent. It was slightly less than 55 percent last week when she was sworn in as president.

“So, it now appears we have a vast swath of voters from coast to coast very supportive of President Forster’s call for a speedy withdrawal from Iraq. However, this latest poll also shows there is some discontent among those same voters with her choice of Congresswoman Stowe to be the nation’s next Vice President.

“On a final note, the President announced another appointment earlier today, that of now-retired Marine Colonel Timothy Connors to be her new National Security Advisor. The country knows little about him. Only a few in Washington knew he had been President Templeton’s original choice for the job.

“Colonel Connors has crossed many personal and career hurdles to get to where he is today. The 54-year-old career Marine has been tested on the battlefield and in the non-lethal political wars

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waged in Washington. Retired Marine Commandant Jeremiah Wilson said of Colonel Timothy Connors this afternoon that he was born to find the truth and carry the American flag proudly into any battle. ‘He’s a leader beyond question who will serve the nation’s Commander-in-Chief with honesty and integrity above reproach,’ the four-star general said in a telephone interview from his home in Cathedral City, California.

“Connors, as the President said, was wounded twice in Iraq. He also was wounded in Vietnam on April 29, 1975 while defending the U.S. Embassy in the former Saigon. On April 30, 1975 he was airlifted off the rooftop of the Embassy on the last flight out with then Ambassador Graham Martin. This 20-year-old Marine left Saigon as a corporal and arrived at Marine Corps

Headquarters in Washington as a staff sergeant. He was awarded a Silver Star for his actions in defense of the Embassy.

“In the nation’s capital he earned a college degree from George Washington University and then won his second lieutenant gold bars at Marine Corps Officer Training in Quantico, Virginia. He was in Beirut as a first lieutenant in 1983 when the Marine barracks was attacked by suicide bombers. More than 240 Marines died in that disastrous explosion. As a captain and soon-to-be major he participated in the invasion of Panama as an intelligence officer. That’s when he was transferred to the Office of Naval Intelligence at the Pentagon.”

Sanderson’s right hand went to his earpiece. He quickly jotted down some notes on the back of a sheaf of papers, the hard copy of his news commentary.

“Sorry for the interruption. I’ve just been informed that President Forster has scheduled a trip to the Middle East near the end of the month to meet with heads of state from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel. She also is expected to witness the departure of U.S. troops from war-torn Iraq. And, for now, I’m afraid we’re out of time.

“This is Alex Sanderson, TCN political commentator.”

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