Saturday, July 26, 2003

Recalling Davis And Recalling The Bush/Cheney NIE

Digby says everything that needs saying about the California recall farce here, where he explains why this is so wrong, and here, where he sics Marx on all those populist Republicans.

In addition, don't miss this post that explains the circumstances from which sprang forth the particular NIE used by Cheney, during his counterattack this week against all the WMD-obssessed nay-sayers, to justify the administration's response to the threat of Saddam as being the only one that wouldn't have been a dereliction of duty. Good chance you'll be surprised.

James Baker, Call Baghdad

Yesterday, the WaPo posted two versions of essentially the same story; Jim Baker, distinguished ex-Secretary of Treasury and State, close adviser and fixer to the Bush family, is being sought to help the administration fix whatever it is that's wrong with our occupation of Iraq.

uggabugga has both versions of the article.

Billmon sees disarray, in the Bush administration, not at the WaPo.

Steve Gilliard sees a dangerous cluelessness.

Kevin Drum admits to being confused.

Me? I find the prospect depressing. More evidence that the Bush administration is holding onto the notion of a long, long, occupation with us, essentially, in control of them, and that Baker is just another way not to listen to those who matter, the Iraqis, who are telling us that though we may be relatively welcome in the short run, to help them transition from ruin to functioning, from despotism to democracy, that Iraq is not ours to shape, it's theirs.

BTW, uggabugga has other great stuff up; don't miss this post on Dennis Miller, or this one right underneath it.

Dana Priest Pays Attention To What's In and Not In That 9/11 Report

From yesterday's WaPo:

President Bush was warned in a more specific way than previously known about intelligence suggesting that al Qaeda terrorists were seeking to attack the United States, a report on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks indicated yesterday. Separately, the report cited one CIA memo that concluded there was "incontrovertible evidence" that Saudi individuals provided financial assistance to al Qaeda operatives in the United States.

Priest identifies two "intriguing" and "politically volatile" questions that still surround the 9/11 attack: how personally engaged was Bush and before him, Clinton, in counterterrisim, prior to the attack, and the specific ties between the Saudi's and al Qaeda.

To varying degrees, the answers remain a mystery, despite an unprecedented seven-month effort by a joint House and Senate panel to fully understand how a group of Arab terrorists could have pulled off such a scheme. The CIA refused to permit publication of information potentially implicating Saudi officials on national security grounds, arguing that disclosure could upset relations with a key U.S. ally. Lawmakers complained it was merely to avoid embarrassment.

The White House, meanwhile, resisted efforts to pin down Bush's knowledge of al Qaeda threats and to catalogue the executive's pre-Sept. 11 strategy to fight terrorists. It was justified largely on legal grounds, but Democrats said the secrecy was meant to protect Bush from criticism.

And while the report contains extensive details about counterterrorism policy and operations under President Bill Clinton, it also leaves out substantial material deemed classified. The panel took testimony from former senior advisers to Clinton and Bush but did not interview either president.

How likely is it, that the Bush administration has held back anything that makes the Clinton administration look bad?

Still, the report offers bits of new information about both presidents and the Saudis, and lays out a possible road map for the independent commission charged by Congress to pick up the investigation of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. It also offers pointed criticism of both Bush and Clinton, concluding that neither "put the government or the intelligence community on a war footing before September 11" -- despite ample evidence of al Qaeda's dangerous designs.

How much attention is paid to any of these questions by the Sunday gasbags will tell us a lot about how willing is the mainstream press to continue its questioning of the administration, or how eager it is to get back to business as usual.

That 9/11 Report; Is Anyone Paying Attention

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that as far as Republicans and the three news Cable outlets are concerned, the congressional 9/11 report is already "history."

The consensus of the video pundits seems to have been that we already knew most of what the report had to say. How else to explain the report's hasty absence in favor of of the endless ramifications pundits found to discuss in the demise of Saddam's twin towers of evil.

This was less true of the print media, where what was expressed was surprise at how much clearer a narrative the report was able to provide, and how the accretition of details made the story more disturbing than previously appreciated.

Michael Isikoff took that view on Nightline, and does again in this lengthy "live" online talk with Newsweek readers.

Some highly selective tidbits:

Chicago, IL: Is Iraq mentioned in the report at all?

Michael Isikoff: Barely. There's one sentence in 900 pages, quoting some earlier testimony from Tenet saying that Mohammed Atta "may" have met with an Iraq intelligence agent in Prague--and that the CIA was working to corroborate this. My sense is that Tenet mentioned this in the first place for political reasons because nobody in the FBI and CIA takes that report seriously anymore--and not a scrap of evidence has surfaced to support the idea that the meeting took place.


Houston, TX: National-security people came to Crawford, Texas, to brief the president on or about Aug. 6, 2001. Was that standard procedure, and was it about a threat of attack and what was the president's response? Do you know anything about this? Will we people ever know?

Michael Isikoff: Yes, we have learned a lot more about that briefing thanks to the report. It had previously been acknowledged by Condi Rice that the briefing covered the matter of Al Qaeda using airplanes as weapons. When Condi Rice briefed the press on this last year, she dismissed the significance of the briefing, saying it was "very vague" and mostly "historical" and did not constitute a warning for the president. In fact, we now learn, the briefing was much more detailed--and alarming. Bush was told that members of Al Qaeda had come to and resided in the United States "for years" and that the "group apparently maintained a support structure here." It also included recent intelligence that bin Laden supporters were "planning attacks in the United States with explosives." None of this was disclosed by the White House before. (italics mine)

Michael Isikoff: There was a lot of government hand-wringing over trying to kill bin Laden for years. One of the things the report reveals is that Clinton repeatedly ordered attempts to kill him and actually had a nuclear submarine stationed off the Indian Ocean poised to launch another cruise missile strike against bin Laden. But the intelligence on his whereabouts was never good enough, so Clinton never pulled the trigger--expect for the one attack in August 1998 in retaliation for the embassy bombings (and of course we missed.)


Michael Isikoff: It is amazing when you read all the terrorist warnings that were being issued by the U.S. intelligence community throughout the late 1990s and right through the summer of 2001--and then stack that up against how little our political leaders were talking about the threat. In fact, I don't remember the terrorism issue even being mentioned during any of the Bush-Gore presidential debates in 2000--and yet it has turned into the dominant issue of our time.


Tahlequah, OK: I recollect hearing a report about the Bush administration's refusal to take seriously Bill Richardson's briefing about Al Qaeda's growing threat, following the transition of power. The story smacked of an arrogance on the administration's part, which has since become more apparent. Was there any substance to this report? If so, was this part of the investigation?

Michael Isikoff: I believe you're talking about Richard Clarke's briefing for the Bush NSC aides; not Bill Richardson. In any case, Clarke is quoted quite extensively in the report--especially about how FBI field offices didn't seem engaged on Al Qaeda cases.


Washington, DC: Have you read through the report? From what you've seen, do you think the attacks could have been prevented?

Michael Isikoff: I think with a little luck and a little greater vigilance it is very possible the attacks could have been prevented.

Here's an interview with Carrie Lemack, who lost her mother on 9/11. Ms. Lemack doesn't sound happy about the progress made, thus far, in figuring out how and why this happened.

Does It Get Any More Anguishing Than This?

AP is reporting:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A grenade attack Saturday killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded four as they guarded a children's hospital northeast of Baghdad....

Max Cleland on NOW:

CLELAND: No. No. I tell you what makes me mad. Is when I see the names of those youngsters that are being killed out there every day. I say, "God help us." I've been there. I've seen this movie before.

It was 35 years ago. I was one of those young 21-year-old, 22, 23-year-old guys. Young Lieutenant, hard charger, volunteer. First Air Cavalry Division. Airborne, all this kind of stuff. Hoo-wah, hoo-wah, hoo-wah.

And we got great young soldiers. And I've been at Bethesda and Walter Reade, and I've seen their legs blown off. And I've seen their eyes gone. And that's what bothers me.

The Wrath Of Max Cleland

The ex-Senator was on Bill Moyer's NOW last night.

Not with Moyers, unfortuantely, The interviewer was Frank Sesno, late of CNN, who couldn't quite believe Cleland's ready outrage and kept asking him if he was sure he understood the seriousness of the charges he was making.

SESNO: Coming back to this report for just a minute, I spoke with someone at CIA who said after reviewing this report that there's a lot of stuff in there. But really, nothing new. Did you see anything new in it?

CLELAND: Absolutely.


SESNO: So, your commission builds on the joint Congressional…



CLELAND: Now, let's talk about that.

SESNO: So, where do you go that they didn't?

CLELAND: Let's talk about that here. This commission was formed about mid-December, the 9/11 Commission. We were supposed to use the joint inquiry report as a launching pad to get into this issue of not only fixing the intelligence community, but moving beyond, and getting into what is the al Qaeda all about? What is this terrorist global network that we're fighting? A new kind of war and all that.

Well, the independent, bi-partisan commission, hello, didn't even get the stuff 'til a few weeks ago.

I'm saying that's deliberate. I am saying that the delay in relating this information to the American public out of a hearing… series of hearings, that several members of Congress knew eight or ten months ago, including Bob Graham and others, that was deliberately slow walked… the 9/11 Commission was deliberately slow walked, because the Administration's policy was, and its priority was, we're gonna take Saddam Hussein out.

SESNO: Senator, do you have any documentation or any proof to back up this very serious charge of yours that this was deliberate besides your own…

CLELAND: Well, first of all…

SESNO: …hunch or gut?

CLELAND: …it's obvious.

SESNO: No, no, no, no…

CLELAND: But… but…

SESNO: …but beyond… but beyond being obvious, let me press…

CLELAND: First of all the war in Iraq…

SESNO: …you on this…

CLELAND: Yeah, okay.

SESNO: …because this is a very serious charge you're making. If you're saying that this was deliberate what I'm asking is has anybody said anything to you, from inside the Administration to support that? Have you seen any document, any memorandum that substantiates your charge?

CLELAND: Well, just look at it. Okay? This executive summary of the intelligence inquiry… the joint intelligence inquiry, the executive summary, was available December 10th. Why did it take nine months to go over what ought to be held out of that?

Now, I'm saying that that was slow walked. I am also saying why did it take eight months to get this 9/11 Commission really cranked up and going, and the first step was to use the Intelligence Committee report as a jumping off point? Why did all of this take so long?

Because the real priority of the White House was not the 9/11 Commission — they fought it. And it was just, and it really was their interest was to delay the revelation of this report.

One of the reasons they didn't want it is they didn't want all this stuff out there.

SESNO: The White House says, and I've spoken to them, that they didn't slow walk it, that there was a lot of very sensitive information involved, both in disseminating the information to begin with, and then determining how much should be released.

Max Cleland remained unconvinced. And outraged.

I couldn't find an audio or video link for the segment, but the transcript is well worth reading.

And not confusing sour grapes with patriotic outrage, I get the definite feeling the White House may yet rue the day it decided to make Max Cleland an ex-Senator.

Regarding that Iraq-al-Qaida Link Not In The 9/11 Report

Thursday, I posted a UPI story that gave specific instances in which the absence of such a link between Iraq, Saddam, and al-Qaida was discussed with great specificity.

Yesterday, UPI posted what they call "a corrected and updated version" of that story.

What seems to have happened - the purported parts of the report that dealt with the absence of evidence of a link between Iraq and alQaida had been sourced by Max Cleland, a member of the non-partisan 9/11 Commission, which had given him access to the congressional joint committee report.

Cleland's material gave UPI a scoop and they went with it. The report as relesed the next day, although there was no material indicating such a link, except for the odd sentence there was no explicit discussion either of a link, of the lack thereof.

The story now centers on Senator Cleland's accusation that the White house deliberately dragged it's feet on vetting the report out of fear that its findings would undercut their case for war with Iraq.

"The reason this report was delayed for so long -- deliberately opposed at first, then slow-walked after it was created -- is that the administration wanted to get the war in Iraq in and over ... before (it) came out," he said.

"Had this report come out in January like it should have done, we would have known these things before the war in Iraq, which would not have suited the administration."


Although the committee completed its work at the end of last year, publication of the report has been delayed by what one committee staffer called "vigorous discussion" with administration officials over which parts of it could be declassified.

The 800-page report -- 50 pages of which were censored to protect still-classified information -- was published Thursday.


Many of the censored pages concern the question of support for al-Qaida from foreign countries. Anonymous officials have told news organizations that much of the still-classified material concerns Saudi Arabia, and the question of whether Saudi officials -- perhaps acting as rogue agents -- assisted the 19 men, 15 of whom were Saudis.

Inquiry staff would not comment to UPI about the issue, but one did say that the section contained references to "more one country."

Prior to the report's publication, a person who had read it told UPI that it showed U.S. intelligence agencies had no evidence linking Iraq to the 9-11 attacks or to al-Qaida. In fact, the issue is not addressed in the declassified sections of the report.

One other person who has seen the classified version of the document told UPI subsequently that the Iraq issue is not addressed in the still-classified section, either. "They didn't ask that question," the person said.

They report; we'd like to decide, except the reporting is so unclear.

If I still don't have this straight, all corrections, or any additional information about the disappearing non-link are gratefully encouraged

Ann, and the Tower of Forbidden Babble

Listen fair subjects of the dominion, this is important. According to Ann Coulter, bellwether of forbidden truths, this country was crawling with subversive atheist commie jackals gnawing on the live entrails of our virginal Christian Republic back when Harry S. Truman and Joseph Stalin were managing the affairs of the nation from a shady veranda under a Banyan tree in Key West Florida.

Because of the Democratic Party's moral infirmity and incompetence, all of America lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation for the next 50 years. It's a shameful history. The Democratic Party did that to this country and they've hidden their collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis by making McCarthy the issue. - Ann Coulter, interview Is the Left Guilty of ‘Treason’? 700 Club, Christian Broadcast Network, July 16, 2003 /

"Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position. Everyone says liberals love America, too. No they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy. This is their essence." - Ann Coulter, Treason

Senator Joe McCarthy of the wood violet state tried to warn us of this treacherous union and was slowly nailed to an inverted rood for his efforts. This all happened many years ago, when men were men and chaste women made the nest upon the slopes of whatever slag heap the kindly Mr. Peabody provided. Whats more, according to Ann, we are once again being suffocated by the same treasonous "essence" and torpid lefty sorceries that eventually brought Truman's Scrabble games with GOGs red horse of the apocalypse to a menacing win loose or draw.

More from Tony Zonca, who remembers those stygian days of communist trespass. See: Coulter didn’t live through suspicion of McCarthyism

And listen to this!:

"Democrats feel free to say that they’re better on civil rights than Republicans are. That they’re better on women’s issues. But, boy, a Republican says, we’re more patriotic than the Democratic Party and they go ballistic. That’s the one thing you’re not allowed to say. That is the one free speech that is not permitted." - Ann Coulter, MSNBC's 'Scarborough Country', July 7, 2003

Wowwwww. Bold emphasis mine. One can't allow such a bold revelation to go unemboldened.

Of course Ann no doubt fancies herself some sort of latter day Rapunzel, her days spent pining away atop a twisting grapevine staircase leading to the embrasure of a clerestory window, high in a terrible tower, a captive damsel lass, held fast to a bewitched spire of elitist liberal subversions and other high rogue dramas. Yes, times have always been tough for Ann, growing up the scion belle of Mammon touched rampion starved WASPs from Greenwich Connecticut is no picnic, but being muzzled by turnkey Democrats, that is another matter. If what Ann claims is true, that "a Republican" can't say "we’re more patriotic than the Democratic Party" then I'm afraid we are all only a homegrown commie plot and a midnight seizure away from scrabbling away with Ann in her batty prison belfry. Woe is Ann. Woe is US.

Of course I'm not exactly sure when Ann was heaved into her cloud shrouded calaboose, but when one considers that Ann herself has spent at least the last couple of weeks popping up like some kind of grinning albino Monocle snake in front of one television camera after another, freely telling one tale after another that is apparently, according to Ann, not permitted to be told, while simultaneously pitching a book full of goggle-eyed treasons and treacheries she apparently hain't permitted to pitch, one would have to conclude that Ann's vaulting dungeon of liberal tyranny would also include several cable news television studios, radio stations, and a publishing company publicity agent. All carefully concealed from her Bolshevik keepers, one would assume, behind an charmed mirror screwed to a damp revetment wall in her spire of delimitation. Liberal tower hoosegows are apparently full of such contraband amenities these days.

Ann, being Rapunzel-like and all, had always kept a watchful vigil in the event of an approaching Prince, of the Machiavellian sort preferably, - perchance he should come dashing over some field of bluebonnets to liberate her from the bewitched Bastille of liberalism, because thats the way the story goes - but hopefully not by some girly-boy truckle like Richard Lowry or that pudgy bathtub squeak-toy Jonah Goldberg. Sheesh. Perhaps G. Gordon Liddy (insert trumpet blast here) will come galloping to the rescue! A shimmering Teutonic boob, robed in knightly raiment like the Sands,Taylor and Wood company's King Arthur Flour logo-guy, astride a white 1950 Hydra-Glide, bearing a Bible and a basket of enchanted cranberry muffins. You never know, such are the things fairy tales are made of.

In any case, Ann, bellwether Rapunzel and captive of the Tower of Card-Carrying Liberalism, would have to make do with whatever gallant woo came riding a tail wind through her coops casement louvers. Alas! As things would have it, what came wafting through Ann's louvers was the scent of Joe Raymond McCarthy's pickled carcass decomposing among the tangled thorns and thistles of history that coiled themselves around her stockade's impregnable foundation. There was Joe Ray, splayed amongst the barbs and brambles, a fallen warrior Prince who'd long ago charged the walls of the menacing rose strangled Lefty colossus. Hooray! Ann of the Tower would retrieve the fallen hero and make him her chivalrous Templar. Entangled in Ann's golden locks, the dull hero's carcass would be hoisted through the window and into the solitary fold where the resurrected messiah of bygone Congressional witch hunts would be placed upon a trundle bed of straw. Ann would then proceed to scrub her stiff cadaver clean, removing generations of pinko-liberal sullage from under his purple fingernails and plucking the thorns of a thousand godless blasphemies from his ghastly bloodless rump. A little rose water here, a little rose water there and the next thing you know - Ann, the prisoner of the obelisk, had become resurrectionist. Her Prince had come at last, restored before the charmed mirror, a martyr liberated, to the touched reveries of Ann's Tower of Forbidden Babble. (inset trumpet blast here)


Friday, July 25, 2003

Bush Sort Of Makes Up His Mind

About Liberia.

WASHINGTON - President Bush (news - web sites) ordered U.S. troops into position off the coast of Liberia (news - web sites) Friday to support the arrival of a West African peacekeeping force, as renewed violence in the capital brought despairing pleas for American help.

More than two dozen people were killed and many more were wounded by a mortar barrage near the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. One shell hit the embassy grounds but injured no one.

In Washington, Bush stopped short of saying the Americans would participate directly in a peacekeeping mission in Liberia, where rebels are trying to oust President Charles Taylor, a former warlord.

Pentagon (news - web sites) officials said the only major troop movement in the works was the dispatching of three Navy ships carrying hundreds of Marines to the waters off the Liberian coast.

It was not clear whether the Marines would go ashore.

I'm not being snarky. It's a genuinely difficult decision. The question is what can we do to make this horror stop?

The reality of increasing chaos, the images of mother's, fathers, children, grandparents, asking, begging for our help, broadcast nightly from Monrovia does seem to demand that we try and do something.

And not to be too political about this, doesn't Liberia suggest that this administration's formulation of what the challenge of terrorism is all about, a war of good against evil, us against them, democracy against tyranny, isn't an example of moral clarity, it's an example of being dangerously simple-minded.

One Of Many Reasons I Love The Rittenhouse Review

Do not miss, do not miss, I say again, James Capozzolas elegant undoing of Tom Shales and his review of Bravo's new series, "Queer Eyes For A Straight Guy, in which Shales is being oh so protective of gay men, and the sterotypes that hurt them.

What James is doing here no one else does as well. Most of us would probably have passed over the review as a piece of unexceptional dullness.

And don't miss James on his amazing mom.

Actually, don't miss James on anything. If you haven't paid a visit to the Review in a while, go and enjoy everything there. (And I haven't even mentioned his humor blog, TRR, to which he graciously provides a link on the Review)

Doing Good While Having Fun

Jesse Taylor, the wunderkind responsible for the sophisticated doings at Pandagon , is taking part in the 24 hour Blogathon tomorrow, on behalf of Amnesty International.

Jesse promises, among other wonders, a Peggy Noonan column, and if you doubt that's worth becoming a sponsor for, you haven't read his stunningly hilarious channelling of Miss Peggy channelling Tupac.

He's also got this quite original take posted on those sixteen words, an amusing observation about Salon bothering to interview Ann Coulter, oh, and so much more.

Become a sponsor at whatever rate you can afford. It's a great cause, and Jesse's a terrific young 'un. If times are really tough, which they are for far too many, just let him know you'll be part of the audience sending good wishes and appreciation his way.

Michael Tomasky's Lupine Ferocity

If you haven't yet read this Michael Tomasky TAP screed, and I mean that in the best possible way, you probably should.

I've hesitated to post it because, frankly, I dread the comments thread it will provoke.

But what the Green Party intends to do in the next election, and what Democrats and others on the left who are determined to defeat Bush as a first priority are going do about the Greens is an issue that needs to be faced, the sooner the better, probably.

Tomasky is responsding to the recent indications by the Greens that they intend to run a candidate in the next election. perhaps Nader, or perhaps Cynthia McKinney.

But short of a megalomaniac whose tenuous purchase on present-day reality threatens to cancel out every good thing he's done in his life, or a discredited anti-Semite, they'll settle for someone less distinguished. The point is to siphon off Democratic votes unless the Democrats prove themselves pure enough to nominate Dennis Kucinich.

Tomasky figures that about half of Nader voters in 2000 can't be won over, so he aims his arguments at those who might be for 2004. His two strongest arguments are these:

First, if it was the intention of Nader voters in New York or Massachusetts (or any state Al Gore was certain to win in 2000) to send a message to the Democrats, that's an understandable and respectable intention. But as the Christian Coalition model shows, such messages are far more effectively sent inside the party than outside it -- the Greens really influence almost nothing in this country, whereas the Christian Coalition, with its power in the GOP, influences almost everything


Second, some voted for Nader because they just weren't inspired by Gore personally. Fine. But it should be obvious today that a candidate's personality is one of the last things serious people ought to be thinking about. No one can survey the past 30 months and conclude, whatever the Democrats' shortcomings, that there's no difference between the parties. We would not have John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, Gale Norton, the USA PATRIOT Act, this Trotskyist war in Iraq, two major class-war tax cuts -- the list goes on and on (and on). And that's only the stuff you hear about. In every agency of government, at every level, there are political appointees who are interpreting federal rules and regulations and deciding how much effort will really be put into pursuing federal discrimination cases, for instance, or illegal toxic dumping. These are the people who are, in fact, the federal government. The kinds of people who fill those slots in a Democratic administration are of a very different stripe than the kinds who fill them during a Republican term, and the appointments of these people have a bigger effect on real life than whether Al Gore sighs too heavily or speaks too slowly.

Tomasky's third argument casts this aspiration on those who voted for Nader; that they were relatively unaffected in their everyday lives by the results of a Bush win.

Among people who were directly affected by which candidate won, Nader was seen as the ornament of frippery that he was. I promise you, you could not have gone to the corner of Lenox Avenue and 145th Street in October of 2000 and found four Nader voters. And at that intersection and the many others in America like it, by my lights, the moral case for Nader crumbles to dust.

Tomasky's proposal is for Democratic candidates to start attacking Nader now. A Sister Souljah moment times fifty, is how he puts it.

I generally agree with where Tomasky comes down on the issues here, agree with him completely about what it takes to to be politically effective in a democracy, and I can't deny the emotional satisfaction to be had in his apprroach. I'm left wondering, though, how such an attack, and what's bound to get said in the way of definiing issues in making it, might sit with that half of Nader voters we're supposed to be trying to court?

DeLay Will Try To Delay The Roadmap

I don't doubt that the President wants to be the "leader," who solves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It plays right into his conception that it's mainly through individual strong leadership that anything gets accomplished.

Imagine, too, his pleasure at snatching from Bill Clinton an important piece of his legacy, always the motivation the right attributed to the President's Camp David efforts to find a comprehensive solution to the tragic dilemma of Palestine.

Am I the only one who can imagine President Bush fantasizing about a Nobel Peace Prize, made all the more enjoyable for being a slap at both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton? I even think that in the abstract sense in which these things matter to our current President, he takes some pleasure in the notion of achieving a just settlement for both peoples.

There's also the Rovian concern that the roadmap achieved can be spun as the ultimate justification for the President's Iraqi war and occupation.

The real question is whether Mr. Bush can free himself from the attitudes on this issue of some of his closest advisers, the very ones who have given him his very own doctrine.

In its crudest form, this is an example of the American opposition he, and we, who also want to travel that roadmap, will have to deal with.

Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, never tires of reminding people that he is just a former pest exterminator from Sugar Land, Tex. But beginning this weekend, he will travel to the world's most complex and troubled region, meet with prime ministers, speak to a foreign parliament and, by his presence, remind the Bush administration to pay heed to its right flank as it seeks to make peace.

As he travels next week through Israel, Jordan and Iraq, he will take with him a message of grave doubt that the Middle East is ready for a Palestinian state, as called for in the current peace plan, known as the road map, backed by the administration and Europe.

"I'm sure there are some in the administration who are smarter than me, but I can't imagine in the very near future that a Palestinian state could ever happen," he said in an interview today, as he prepared to leave for a weeklong official tour.

"I can't imagine this president supporting a state of terrorists, a sovereign state of terrorists," he said. "You'd have to change almost an entire generation's culture."

Instead of the roadmap, DeLay wants a "Marshall Plan" for Palestinians, to allow them to develop their society into the kind of peaceful, thriving, market-based, non-security threat that Israeli will be happy to recognize. Where all this is to happen in terms of land mass is ignored. Of course.

He said he had been working hard to persuade the White House to support his plan, and intended to bring it up in separate meetings with Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers. He will also address the Israeli Parliament and meet with King Abdullah of Jordan

We'll have more on the roadmap and Abbas' Washington visit; for now, read the article and find out how much of a player DeLay has become on this issue.

Alterman Takes Down Kristol

Here's Eric Alterman at his very best - not only catching Bill Kristol recycling his father's "Commentary," from the communist-obssessed fifties, but thunbnailing it's precise significance.
Here's Bill:

“But the American people, whatever their doubts about aspects of Bush’s foreign policy, know that Bush is serious about fighting terrorists and terrorist states that mean America harm. About Bush’s Democratic critics, they know no such thing.”

Here's Irving:

“For there is one thing that the American people know about Senator McCarthy; he, like them, is unequivocally anti-Communist. About the spokesman for American liberalism, they feel they know no such thing.”

Here's Eric:

This is truly amazing. It explicitly links the Neocons’ exploitation of the threat of terrorism to that no-good drunken bum, Joe McCarthy, and his use of the charge of “Commie” to ruin lives on a whim through a deliberately stoked mass hysteria. I think there is a great deal of this going on right now, but even I would have been reluctant to go so far. But there it is. The charge worked for McCarthy — at least for a while — and Kristol now seems certain it will work for his team as well. Just one question: Have they no shame? At long last, have they no sense of decency left?

Remember this the next time a David Brooks, or a David Frum, or an Andrew Sullivan, or even a Joe Scarborough attempts to belittle comparisons on the left between now and then.

FCC Rollback: No Half A Smackdown, Thank-you.

Stunning as that vote in the House was, it only rolled back one of the rule changes foisted on the American public by Michael Powell et al, which includes, by the way, the White House.

So we've preserved the national TV cap, (the number of Americans a single company can reach) to 35 %. That was the least of the new rule changes. Here's MoveOn's Eli Pariser on what's left to be done.

The rules relaxing bans on newspaper/broadcast cross ownership and local TV consolidation (duopolies) are what really hurt media diversity and independence. The White House and the Republican majority in Congress oppose repealing these rules. Nonetheless progressive Democrats made a bold effort. A full roll back was included in the Hinchey-Price-Inslee amendment that we petitioned on Tuesday after the Republicans tried to derail support by calling a surprise vote.

The ploy backfired, because MoveOn, in particular, managed to inspire a huge response; phones "rang off the hook., whose fascinating account of how all this happened is worth looking at, reports some offices received a 100 phone calls an hour.

The amendment hadn't been expected to pass, it had been designed to be a vehicle to show the continuing public support for a full rollback of the new rules. The 174 votes the amendment did get, including 34 Republicans, were way beyond insider projections, and gives the probable majority in the Senate for full repeal, tremendous leverage.

What's next is a two pronged effort. The House vote has energized Senators like Byron Dorgan to press for a "Resolution of Disapproval" that would repeal all of the FCC rules, which already has strong support in the Senate, although, due to the August recess, it won't be voted on until September. The Resolution would then move to the House for a vote.

That will give us, the great unwashed grassroots, whom the White House apparently views as not knowing what's good for us, two more opportunities to show them they need to reconsider the contempt that Michael Powell and his two cohorts displayed toward that large majority of Americans who are not true believers in the gospel of deregulation.

The final battle will be waged in the reconciliation negotiations in in the House/Senate conference on the bill. Tom DeLay, Billy Tauzin and an army of industry lobbyists will be circling the conference committee. If the Republicans decide once again to thwart the wishes of the vast majority of Americans, this is an issue that could make them pay a high price at the ballot box. It could even be the basis for a making the 2004 Congressional elections a national campaign.

As a last resort, the President will probably threaten a veto. To which I say, "bring it on," Mr. President.

In the meantime, if you'd like to know how your Representative voted on the amendment, you can find out here. If you're not pleased never hurts to let their office know; not for nothing are they called Representatives.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Add To Your "Be Glad" List

Something it might not have occurred to you to be glad about: That you're not Daniel Pipes.

What must it be like to live with this mind?

Responding to this quote from Lee Harris, identified as "America's reigning philosopher of 9/11;"

"the policy debate in the United States has been primarily focused on a set of problems - radical Islam and the War on Terrorism, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein in Iraq."

Pipes adds:

The same cannot be said of the threats emanating from the Muslim world. Al Qaeda destroys airplanes and buildings that it itself could not possibly build. The Palestinian Authority has failed in every field of endeavor except killing Israelis. Saddam Hussein's Iraq grew dangerous thanks to money showered on it by the West to purchase petroleum Iraqis themselves had neither located nor extracted.

How, despite their general incompetence, has this trio managed to guide the course of events as if they were powers in the traditional sense?

The cause of this anomaly, Harris replies, is that the West plays by a strict set of rules while permitting al Qaeda, the Palestinians and Saddam Hussein to play without rules. We restrain ourselves according to the standards of civilized conduct as refined over the centuries; they engage in maximal ruthlessness.

What to do, what to do.

For the West to reverse this process requires much rougher means than it prefers to use. Harris, author of a big-think book on this general subject coming out from the Free Press in early 2004, contends that Old Europe and most analysts have failed to fathom the imperative for a change. The Bush administration, however, has figured it out and in several ways has begun implementing an unapologetic and momentous break with past restraints:

Pre-empt: Knock out fantasist leaders (the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat) before they can do more damage.
Rehabilitate: Dismantle their polities, then reconstruct these along civilized lines.

Impose a double standard: Act on the premise that the U.S. government alone "is permitted to use force against other agents, who are not permitted to use force."

In brief, until those Harris calls "Islamic fantasists" play by the rules, Washington must be prepared to act like them, without rules.

This appeal for America to act less civilized will offend some; but it does offer a convincing explanation for the inner logic of America's tough new foreign policy.

True enough. But what really offends me is that this is the man whom President Bush has nominated to the Board of the United States Institute of Peace.

There's an online petition you won't want to sign urging his confirmation. Is it even worth the time to try organize some opposition to it? I doubt it. Bigger fish abound to those summertime fish fries.

Better to print up a gazillion copies of this little essay and pass them out to unsuspecting Americans everywhere.

TBogg has more, not much more, but he's funnier.

NYTimes Does Voting Machines, At Long Last

It's official. Those high-tech voting machines that were supposed to solve the problems of disenfranchisment revealed in the 2000 election are seriously flawed, and even the NYTimes has noticed.

The software that runs many high-tech voting machines contains serious flaws that would allow voters to cast extra votes and permit poll workers to alter ballots without being detected, computer security researchers said yesterday.

"We found some stunning, stunning flaws," said Aviel D. Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University, who led a team that examined the software from Diebold Election Systems, which has about 33,000 voting machines operating in the United States.

The systems, in which voters are given computer-chip-bearing smart cards to operate the machines, could be tricked by anyone with $100 worth of computer equipment, said Adam Stubblefield, a co-author of the paper.

"With what we found, practically anyone in the country — from a teenager on up — could produce these smart cards that could allow someone to vote as many times as they like," Mr. Stubblefield said.

And guess who's responsible for anyone having noticed any of this?

The software was initially obtained by critics of electronic voting, who discovered it on a Diebold Internet site in January. This is the first review of the software by recognized computer security experts.

Not to worry says Diebold; every day in every way we're getting better and better. There's good information about just who Diebold is and what it has acquired of late.

As an industry leader, Diebold has been the focus of much of the controversy over high-tech voting. Some people, in comments widely circulated on the Internet, contend that the company's software has been designed to allow voter fraud. Mr. Rubin called such assertions "ludicrous" and said the software's flaws showed the hallmarks of poor design, not subterfuge.

The list of flaws in the Diebold software is long, according to the paper, which is online at avirubin .com/vote.pdf. Among other things, the researchers said, ballots could be altered by anyone with access to a machine, so that a voter might think he is casting a ballot for one candidate while the vote is recorded for an opponent.

The kind of scrutiny that the researchers applied to the Diebold software would turn up flaws in all but the most rigorously produced software, Mr. Stubblefield said. But the standards must be as high as the stakes, he said.

"This isn't the code for a vending machine," he said. "This is the code that protects our democracy."

No mention of a paper trail for purposes of recounts, but at least the issue made it into the paper of record.

JobLess Claims Drop, Thank-God

Only 386,000 Americans found themselves newly without the kind of jobs which qualified them, at leaset, to apply for unemployment insurance last week.

That number was down 29,000 from the previous week.

New claims were far below Wall Street expectations for 413,000 applications, and the lowest since the week of Feb. 8. It was also the first time since then that initial claims were below the critical 400,000 mark, a level viewed by economists as the sign of a soft jobs market. Claims had been above 400,000 for 22 straight weeks.

Still, a Labor spokesman urged caution in reading too much into one week's figure, saying "it is not uncommon for the series to exhibit volatility during July because of traditional temporary layoffs in industries such as automobiles, textiles and apparel."

The unexpectedly steep drop in claims cheered analysts, and the U.S. dollar maintained initial moderate gains on the data, while Treasuries were off a bit.

"It suggests that we may have hit a peak in the unemployment rate but as (Federal Reserve (news - web sites) Chairman Alan) Greenspan suggested, we have to be careful of the July data because of distortions," said Ian Morris, chief economist at HSBC Securities.

"We need to wait to see what the underlying trend is over the next few weeks, but this is a very hopeful start for those economists looking for a bounce back in the second half," Morris said.

Good for those 29,000 who didn't lose their jobs.

9/11 report with technical question

The report can be downloaded here (thanks to alert reader random).

It's in the proprietary PDF format.

Any alert readers know how to rip the report into HTML so it can be put on the web in a readable fashion, chunked, indexed, and annotated?

A Quick Contrast

All three cable news networks were covering the news conference announcing the results of the congressional 9/11 report, when the Rumsfeld/Bremer news conference began. All three networks immediately cut to the latter, and stayed with it, no cutting back, and at the end, the discussion stayed with Rumsfeld/Bremer, and a crucial issue of whether or not releasing the pictures of the two dead sons of Saddam was a good idea.

NPR, on the other hand, stayed with the 9/11 report.

Which do you think was the more important story to cover?

I think the choice made by the cable guys was less about political bias, than about a corrupt news judgement that extolls "media stars," i.e., the administration, over common folk, i.e., Congress.

Quick impression of the 9/11 report; a lot more there than the ho hum expectations expressed by the SCLM.

From The Then And Then And Then...Deptartment

Shouldn't this quote from a January 30th, William Safire column be posted at least once a day, every day on at least one left-of-center blog?

When Iraqi scientists are permitted to talk to inspectors and journalists without fear of having their tongues later cut out and their families slaughtered by Saddam, the truth will out in vivid detail about the decadelong deception of the U.N. With "Dr. Germs" singing to save her life at future war crimes trials, today's American straddlers will at last be confronted with conclusive evidence they now profess to doubt ... When the postwar books are written, a former Iraqi spymaster with knowledge of the suicide attacker Mohamed Atta's perhaps unwitting connection to Saddam will eagerly come forth to spill all he knows to save his neck or sell his memoirs. Suspected followers of Osama bin Laden like Musaab Zarqawi and Mullah Krekar, if alive, will further link Al Qaeda to Saddam's mukhabarat police.

And don't miss billmon's catch of a classic Safire Then/Now comparison. Or this amazing discussion of who's playing pattycake with the mukhabarat now. The post makes copious use of Kanan Makiya's "Republic Of Fear," which is right and proper.

Makiya came down on the other side of the war argument, but he remains a man of integrity, whose observations are always valuable. Which leads me to the question of whether any reader is aware of any public commentary by him since the news conference he gave at the National Press Club sometime in June, I believe?

My advice always, while at Whiskey Bar, read everything.

Direct from Baghdad

Salam Pax, the Iraqi blogger from Baghdad, on Saddam's sons here, after Sanchez's press conference. Photos might convince Salam:

It is so easy, all it takes is to show us the friggin’ corpses. They do have them. Someone did see them and when asked why it wasn’t sown to the public they came up with the moral issues stuff. Habibi it didn’t bother you that all those Iraqis, Americans and British are being killed for dubious reasons, so why suddenly become so squeamish? Give the Images to Jazeera, moral issues have never stopped them from showing gruesome images, let them do your dirty work. All I care about is knowing, seeing, being 100% doubt free and that press conference proved nothing.

Then again, maybe we waited too long.

And people do need proof. The Americans just fucked up. Just like they waited too long after the fall of Baghdad to show the Iraqis they have things under control they have fucked up again by first making the decision to kill the idiots and then not give us clear proof of their death.

Salam on Fisk, the winger bete noir who seems to be doing his job:

At that press conference there was a gentleman who asked an extremely important question which was answered by Sanchez with “that is speculation. Next question.” I later found out that the man in front of me was Fisk and the question he asked which we all want to be answered was: why was the decision made to attack with a force that would have been capable of annihilating a city block? Why did they opt for killing them when they knew their importance as sources of information on all sorts of things and the wish all Iraqis have that they be put thru trial?

Fisk started the ball rolling, sanchez was asked the same question at least 5 times in different ways and with it the question of how to prove this to the Iraqi people. And what do we get? Meaningless militareses. Beyond disappointing.

What sort of wake up call do they need? You get people saying the Americans are slow, the Americans are not fulfilling their promises. Don’t fucking lose it, you are really stretching your luck, act act act. You came and gave people big hopes and you let them fall flat on their faces. I can’t believe that there has not been a single big celebration, I went to the office this morning and one of the photographers was asking “so where do you think they will be dancing in the streets?”. It doesn’t feel like there is a reason to celebrate.

NOTE: Can anyone really believe that the commander on the ground made the decision to kill Saddam's sons instead of capture them? (Instead of, say, letting the White House decide?) And if he did make the decision, why on earth did the rules of engagement allow him to do so?

UPDATE: Warporn, anyone?

UPDATE: The "commanders on the ground" meme
Regarding alert reader Skygod makes the following point:

To those ... folk who think "troops on the ground made the call".

In this day of SatNav and SatCom, decisions like that are cleared at the highest level, unless Senior Codpiece needs his beauty sleep, then, it is the next highest.

While the ground-pounder might have actually "made the call", it was not done without consulting the White House first.

Micro-management pervades the military, command and control at its finest >:-7

Been there, done that ...

Comments from other military readers?

Alert reader yankee doodle amplifies:
Lambert asked, "Can anyone really believe that the commander on the ground made the decision to kill Saddam's sons instead of capture them?"

I don't. I don't believe the local commander (and by "local commander" I mean the Commanding General, 101st Airborne) had the authority to make such a decision.

I have no doubt that locating Saddam Hussein and his sons is a national-level Priority Intelligence Requirement. Information that answers an national PIR has a very short reporting requirement, say, an hour. While analysts at 101 ABN and CENTCOM G2 might have passed comments on the acuracy of that tip reporting Uday and Qusay, the information went straight to the top. Fast. Very fast.

So killing them rather than capturing seems to have been a matter of policy at the White House. Interesting.

Wolfie supports the troops

Under cover of the story about Saddam's sons, Rethuglican officials feel safe to come out and admit all kinds of stuff. Here's Wolfie:

American officials underestimated the strength of resistance in Iraq by Saddam Hussein supporters and have done other "stupid things" there, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Wednesday.
The admission of mistakes by Wolfowitz was a departure from the Bush administration's efforts to put events in Iraq in a positive light.

"Some conditions were worse than we anticipated, particularly in the security area," said Wolfowitz, who returned Tuesday from a five-day tour of Iraq.

He named three: First, no Iraqi military units "of significant size" defected to the American side during the war.

"Second, the police turned out to require a massive overhaul," Wolfowitz said at a Pentagon news conference.

"Third, and worst of all," he said, was the underestimation of resistance.

It never ceases to amaze me that the Rethuglicans are able to pose as supporters of the troops.

The reThuglicans want to do everything on the cheap (except privatization), so they don't want to pay the troops what they're worth; the reThuglicans only put in a predictable rotation plan when the troops forced them to by talking to the media; the reThuglicans lied their way into the war they had to have, and for which every single national security justification1 has subsequently been proved false; and by doing "stupid things" they got the troops into a quagmire and had no plan to get them out. (We may have a plan now—my point exactly.) I could go on, but you get the point.

How again do the Republicans "support the troops"?

Ritual disclaimer and troll prophylactic
1Saddam is evil.

Antidote to Instacrap

If you did as Atrios suggested and checked out Glenn's Instasubpundit, you'll need an antidote; foolishness raised to this level becomes poisonous.

Let's deal with the initial sting - the claim that the only issue at stake in whether or not the Administration was forthright with the American people about why we had to go to war with Iraq is the one about a sixteen word sentence in the SOTU.

Joseph Cirincione of the Carniegie Endowment suggests, instead, that it's the threat assessments, stupid.

Senior administration officials say they based their escalating warnings of the imminent danger posed by Iraqi weapons on official intelligence assessments.


These reports themselves, however, underwent a dramatic transformation from 2001 to 2002 after reporting essentially the same data for many years. There is little new evidence in the reports to account for this change. So what triggered the new, alarmist tone in 2002?


The assessments of the Iraqi nuclear program remained fairly consistent from 1998 through 2001, followed by a dramatic jump in 2002. From 1998 to 2001, Iraq's nuclear program was addressed in one paragraph, if at all.


In the first half of 2000, the report noted explicitly "we do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox [December 1998] to reconstitute its WMD programs," though analysts suspected that this might be underway.


The January-June 2002 report, however, raised alarm at unprecedented levels rhetorically, though it provided little new evidence of increased capability. This report, which moved the nuclear program from the last program mentioned to the front of the assessment, devoted six long paragraphs to the nuclear weapons, mostly detailed narrative of Iraq's nuclear history and the IAEA inspections and dismantlement process.

So why this marked increase in assessment angst? Cirincione suggests we need a Congressional investigation.

But assessments are based on intelligence, no? Sure enough. It's not sixteen words, it's the intelligence, stupid.

Over the past five years, the intelligence assessments and official warnings on Iraq's weapons capability followed a bell curve. From 1998 to 2001, they expressed a fairly low-level of concern about Iraqi programs. They rose dramatically in 2002, however, peaking in warnings about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program in 2003 at the start of the war, and then declined in the weeks and months after the war to lowered expectations about the size of the arsenals and fairly low-level concern about the use or transfer of these weapons or capabilities.

Cirincione has high credibility in this area. Here he is at an April 18th CEIP forum about what's next in Iraq, convened right at what we thought, at the time, was the end of the war:

Of all the urgent missions remaining for U.S. forces in Iraq, none is more important than finding and securing Iraq's chemical and biological arsenal. We have two urgent reasons for doing this. The first has not been much discussed. It was bad enough when the Iraqi regime had control of chemical and biological weapons; it is worse when they do not have control of them. If the arsenals in Iraq are anywhere near administration estimates, then we are looking at a substantial number of unsecured chemical and biological weapons and possibly nuclear material that are now subject to the same kind of looting that we're seeing in other parts of Iraq. If Iraqis are looting national assets and national treasures, they may turn to the national arsenal. It is very serious that we do not know where these weapons are, that we do not yet have any sense of who - if anyone - still has control of these weapons.

Isn't it interesting how few of the war's industrial strength supporters were making that point at the time?

UPDATE: My canine companion, Apu, who monitors the cable news outlets for me, has just alerted me to a citing on all three news channels of our Vice-President, who has surfaced to lead a counter charge against administration critics, and who, at this very moment, is reading from a "threat assessment."

What about Bremer?

Matt Kelley of the APwrites:

A protester briefly disrupted Bremer's National Press Club speech.

"Bremer, you're a liar!" the man shouted before being hustled out of the room by a security guard.

"If he tried that in Iraq three months ago, he'd now be dead," Bremer said.

The point being? That in the US you can tell the truth? (Except for the odd smear campaign, of course).

All kidding aside, though—was the protester right? If he said "Bremer, you're a liar!" he would have been right, but is the same true of Bremer? Readers?

UPI Is On The Case

Here's a straightfoward story that takes as it's subject the no Iraq-al-Qaida link in the 9/11 Report:

WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- The report of the joint congressional inquiry into the suicide hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001, to be published Thursday, reveals U.S. intelligence had no evidence that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks, or that it had supported al-Qaida, United Press International has learned.

"The report shows there is no link between Iraq and al-Qaida," said a government official who has seen the report.

Former Democratic Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who was a member of the joint congressional committee that produced the report, confirmed the official's statement.

Asked whether he believed the report will reveal that there was no connection between al-Qaida and Iraq, Cleland replied: "I do ... There's no connection, and that's been confirmed by some of (al-Qaida leader Osama) bin Laden's terrorist followers."

The revelation is likely to embarrass the Bush administration, which made links between Saddam's support for bin Laden -- and the attendant possibility that Iraq might supply al-Qaida with weapons of mass destruction -- a major plank of its case for war.

There's more, and Max Cleland gets a smattering of redress.

From the Ministry of Keeping a Straight Face

Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger of the Times write:
In meetings at the White House today, some top aides said they were relieved that the military operation [killing Saddam's sons] happened to occur just as new details were coming out suggesting that the White House and the C.I.A. had both mishandled intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program as they built the case for war.

That Liberal Media

While the liberal media feels free to publish cartoons making a moral equivalence (the wingnuts love that phrase) between political opponents of Bush and brutal executioners, they consider a couple of Boondocks comics too much for our sensitive eyes.

They really are quite tame.



Bush lies, soldiers die.

The 9/11 report

Move along people, move along. There's no story here.

Others do the tinfoil chapeau thing a lot better than I do, but I still find statements like this curious:

[N]o evidence surfaced in the probe by the House and Senate intelligence committees to show that the government could have prevented the attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Or this:

Said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill.: ''Anybody who makes an assertion that this could have been prevented is making a political statement because there is no evidence, no information that was shared with the top people in our government that could have led them to believe this was going to happen. It wasn't there.''

How can we know these statements are true?

First, the section on the Saudis has been deleted entirely.

Second, it's my impression—alert readers correct me on this—that there's nothing in the report to show what was passed to the White House, and they, after all, have the ultimate responsibility on this. And we have a pretty good picture now, based on the uranium fiasco, of how the White House (mis)handles intelligence information.

So, there may be no evidence in the report. But in Rummy's famous words: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Eh?

NOTE: Oh, report's revelation that there was no AQ-Iraq link (YABL) sank beneath the waves of the news cycle this morning (back). The most durable urban legend of all, zealously propagated by the administration in the run-up to the war and in the SOTU, still lives.

Sins of the Grandfather

I haven't yet personally said anything about the deaths of the brothers grim. While I'm happy to acknowledge that the world is a better place without them, and assuming all we've heard about them is true they're still owed quite a lot of karmic retribution.

But, it seems rather obvious that a truly successful operation would have captured them. I have no idea how exactly this situation played out. I have no clue if the soldiers did or didn't do what was necessary in the circumstances. Nonetheless, whether or not one can assign any blame for a failure to take them alive, either at the command level or on the field, I really don't understand anyone would fail to acknowledge that ideally they would have been captured and that this should have been a priority (I have no clue if it was or wasn't.)

I find the gleeful bloodlust that has surrounded their apparent deaths rather disturbing as well. The problem with deriving a sense of triumph from such an end is that it is short-lived. American Justice, a phrase Bush misuses regularly, isn't frontier justice. Far more satisfying for us, the Iraqi people, and the perceptions about our commitment to true Democratic justice, to have captured and tried them.

When police go in to arrest a murder suspect, and the confrontation ends in the suspect's death, that particular mission should be deemed a failure. The planning may have been correct, given known information, and the actions individual police officers may have been appropriate, but nonetheless if the mission is to capture and not to kill the suspect, then if the suspect isn't captured alive the mission is a failure.

And, finally, whether or not it was necessary in the course of battle, we should never be cheering the death of a 14 year old, no matter who his relatives were or how many guns he was carrying. Necessary at the time, perhaps, but not a desirable outcome.

Tacitus thinks we're nuts over here. I'm not sure why.

Crossover Speech

The reality is that there is no inconsistency in voting for the congressional resolution giving Bush authority to go to war with Iraq and subsequently being against that war. That not very subtle distinction is of course lost on hacks like the Mickster, Timmy, and the rest of the kool kids, and therefore poses a bit of a media problem for Gephardt and Kerry (this is not an issue for Lieberman, who just continues to look foolish on this issue and I'm quite sure what Edwards has been doing with this lately).

I was disgusted with Gephardt and Kerry and anyone who signed on to that resolution, particularly if they had reservations about going to war, because I knew the instant it passed that war was inevitable. They'd been planning it for years. But, that doesn't mean that those votes disallow them from expressing less than enthusiastic support for war before it began or less than glowing reviews for how events are unfolding. There is no contradiction there.

William Greider is looking for suggestions about how to navigate this third way. Help write the Crossover Speech.


Warnings and good advice:

On Iraq, Carville said Democrats "should not exaggerate the facts," but merely state and restate them. "They lied to get us in. They don't know how to get us out," he said. "How did they not know the country wasn't divided? How do you commit 150,000 troops with no plan to get out? All we have to do is remind people of that."

But he said there was "this other thing going on," which he called the "patriot-correct police," referring to assertions by Republicans that criticizing the war was un-American.

"If you can't say the simple fact that they lied to get us in and have no idea how to get us out, then there's something wrong with America."

There must be an independent investigation not just of the White House's justifications for war, Carville said, but also the administration's plans for the occupation.

"In '44, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a 700-page plan for the occupation of Japan. That's what happens when you think ahead. What was the plan this time? Who read the important documents? Let's have an investigation," he said. "If we can spend $70 million to investigate the act of consensual sex, we can spend a few million to find out why we are involved in a war in Iraq."

Speaking of inquiries, Carville said people should not forget the Bush administration was stonewalling the federal commission investigating the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

"If the case is we didn't have this thing [Iraq] thought out, that is a searing, stinging indictment of this administration -- we should not forget that," he said. "If they didn't cooperate fully with this investigation of 9/11, that is not an indictment. That is a sin."

400 to 21

The vote overturning the FCC rules in the House is pretty shocking.

Plame/Wilson Hall of Fame

If senior administration officials in the White House really blew the cover of a covert CIA agent to columnist Bob Novak, then they really did a Bad Thing. I've done my best to hedge when discussing this, including words like "if," because this is a much more serious charge than some of the normal fair and balanced commentary that goes on here.

As far as I have seen, the right wing of the blogosphere has been oddly silent on this, exceptions thus far (as far as I have seen) being The Minute Man and Dr. Manhattan. I'm a bit puzzled by it. It's one thing to try and defend the Bush White House on this, but another to ignore the story completely. If it is true, someone really screwed the pooch here.

This thing screams out for a serious investigation. It screams out for more media attention. It screams out for the New York Times to assign someone to the story. Where is that liberal media, anyway.

David Corn has more. As does Joe Conason.
Most or all links from Mark Kleiman.

Big Government Republicans

There is only one reason to privatize government services. It isn't because government is inherently evil or bad, because it's still going to be taxpayer money that's paying for whatever it is. The reason is that by opening up whatever it is to true competition you might be able to obtain cheaper and higher quality services.

But, that assumes that there exists a competitive market for whatever that service is, and assumes that contracts are awarded based on some competitive process.

Let's see what happens when the war profiteers take over:

Want to know how far off the rails things have slid at the Pentagon? Recently, the Army wanted to tally up how much money it had been forced to divert to private contractors as part of Rumsfeld's rush to privatize military tasks. The Rummycrats forbid it. They refused to let the Army balance its own books — because the privatization mafia knew what they would find: Contractors cost more, not less, than soldiers.

When honest budget managers in the services calculate the transition of any uniformed job to a private contractor, their working assumption is that the contract employee will cost the Pentagon $100,000 a year. A sergeant barely makes a quarter of that, and a private hardly a fifth — including benefits.

(via Off the Kuff)

Guest Blogging for Glenn Reynolds

Check out this crap.

(post edited when I realized I had the identity of the guest blogger wrong)

For Immediate Release

Just thought I´d replay this bit that Lambert unearthed from the White House web page:

The danger is grave and growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons and is rebuilding facilities to make more. It could launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb -- and, with fissile material, could build one within a year.


Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Premature triumphalism

Half a news cycle and reThuglican triumphalism starts to wilt (from Rod Nordland of Newsweek):

[A]s details became clearer of the raid that eliminated what the U.S. military calls High Value Targets (HVTs) Nos. 2 and 3, a lot of people in the intelligence community were left wondering: why weren’t they just taken alive?

At a news briefing today, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, squirmed his way past that question repeatedly.

It was, he said, the decision of the commander on the ground based on the circumstances and his judgment—”and it was the right decision.”

But was it? Who beside the sons might have better information about the one HVT that really matters, Saddam? “The whole operation was a cockup,” said a British intelligence officer. “There was no need to go after four lightly armed men with such overwhelming firepower. They would have been much more useful alive.”

But Sanchez insisted it wasn’t overkill. “Absolutely not. Our mission is to find, kill or capture high-value targets. We had an enemy that was barricaded and we had to take measures to neutralize the target.” ...

“Bollocks,” said one former Special Forces soldier. “A SWAT team could have taken them. It didn’t need a company.” ...

Besides, as we already know (back) the neighborhood was already surrounded.

We could have done a Noriega, no problem. Perp walk, Hague Tribunal, UN loves us, Europe throws some cash and more troops our way, and—this is the best part—if we send the war criminals off to be tried at the Hague, the Iraqi people get to see justice in action.

But the Bush gang just had to be thugs. They don't know any other way to be. So they'll probably make the same stupid mistake with Saddam.

NOTE: This doesn't blame the troops (i.e., the grunts—not brass hats like Sanchez). The troops did what they were trained to do.

Half a fruitcake not better than none

David Espo of AP via WaPo:

Rep. Bill Thomas, one of the most powerful committee chairmen in Congress, told a somber House of Representatives on Wednesday that he exercised "poor judgment" last week when he called for the Capitol Police to help remove Democrats from a room where they were meeting.

Thomas' comments amounted to the act of contrition that fellow Republicans had sought in the wake of his role in a partisan meltdown last week in the Ways and Means Committee. But it fell short of the full-throated apology that Democrats clamored for, and Thomas defended another of his controversial actions on Friday, a decision to call House security officials to the committee's main meeting room.

And the real issue is abuse of power, of which Thomas made no mention

"Never before in our time in Congress have we seen such a blatant abuse of power by a committee chairman," Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., wrote all House members on Tuesday. "We were not breaking any rules of the House. We were meeting together, in an empty room commonly used by Republican and Democratic members alike, to develop our response to" the pension bill.

Our fruitcake Republicans... From the White House on down... All we get is denial, blame-shifting, finger-pointing, and non-apology apologies.

It's good that Thomas shed tears at the podium though. I'd like to see more Republicans get in touch with their inner child like that. [Old timers: remember when the SCLM whacked Ed Muskie for similar behavior? And that was in the days when we had a free press!]

NOTE: Troll prophylactic and for those who came in late:

In the lexicon, "Fruitcake" is a demotic measure of diminished mental capacity, not a taxon in a sexual or gender-related classification scheme.
Usage example: "Those winger fruitcakes are nuttier than Mussolini."

UPDATE: Added clarifying language above.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro

I can hardly bear to post this... But duty calls. Is it a full moon or something?

Coincidence? You be the judge...


Via alert reader monkey via Talking Points Memo via UPI:

The report of the joint congressional inquiry into the suicide hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001, to be published Thursday, reveals U.S. intelligence had no evidence that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks, or that it had supported al-Qaida, United Press International has learned.

"The report shows there is no link between Iraq and al-Qaida," said a government official who has seen the report.

Look! Over there! Photographs of Quday and Usay!

"The administration sold the connection (between Iraq and al-Qaida) to scare the pants off the American people and justify the war," said [Former Democratic Georgia Sen. Max] Cleland. "What you've seen here is the manipulation of intelligence for political ends."

I'm shocked! Shocked!

NOTE: Ritual disclaimer and troll prophylactic: I am not, nor have I ever been, a supporter of AQ.

Occupation Law

Fascinating article on occupation law in the Financial Times.

Troop rotations

Force levels may remain the same (AP):

Officials said Tuesday that the plan was to keep the number of Americans in Iraq steady at about 145,000. That could change depending on how many international troops arrive, how well the expanded coalition effort works and how security develops in the country.

And this little item from the Joseph Galloway in the San Jose Mercury News:

Some of the units heading for Iraq were the reserve forces for duty in a Korean emergency. Keane said the units that were coming home from Iraq would be available in such an emergency. "They are at the highest state of readiness already," he said.

Hmmm .... I think Leah has one of her analytical pieces in the works on the NK situation.

Our ever-changing stories

Tom Raum of The Mighty But Slow Moving AP writes:

The White House has teamed with GOP congressional leaders in an aggressive damage-control campaign to counter embarrassing questions about prewar intelligence and lapses by President Bush's national security team.

But the effort is being hampered by an ever-changing White House story [heh heh!—Ed.] -- from first blaming the CIA and then the British to new revelations by Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that contradict earlier statements by his boss, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Not sure I agree with The Big Dog about dropping the issue, though. Some Democrats can keep after Bush on this issue, others can try to tear open new ones.

"It takes a village to stomp a weasel" (or something like that) as someone very close to our last elected President wrote. So have at it, say I.

A little skepticism in order, perhaps?

Richard Oppel of the Herald Trib writes:

The homeowner [of the house where Saddam's sons were killed], Zidan, had a fondness for bragging that he was kin to Saddam, the neighbors say.

One old hand in the neighborhood, Ali Jajawi, a retired Iraqi general who lives nearby, said Wednesday night that revenge could have played a role - if Zidan was indeed the tipster.

Earlier, Zidan "always was trying to be near the important people in the Ba'ath Party and the security people," Jajawi said. But after his brother was arrested, "he was hating Saddam very much, and it is very hard to believe that Uday and Qusay went to that house." For that reason, Jajawi remains skeptical it was the two brothers who died - despite the insistence of U.S. officials.

Oh well. I'm sure dental records will convince him.

A missed opportunity to do a Manuel Noriega on Saddam's sons, since we had the house surrounded the previous night (back).

A perp walk, followed by trial for war crimes in the Hague tribunal, would have been a lot more convincing.

Ritual disclaimer and troll prophylactic
Saddam is evil. Saddam's sons are evil.

The good doctor returns

Again—the hour has produced the man. Hunter Thompson writes again:

When I went into the clinic last April 30, George Bush was about 50 points ahead of his closest Democratic opponent in next year's Presidential Election. When I finally escaped from the horrible place, less than three weeks late, Bush's job-approval ratings had been cut in half -- and even down into single digits, in some states -- and the Republican Party was panicked and on the run. It was a staggering reversal in a very short time, even shorter than it took for his equally crooked father to drop from 93 percent approval, down to as low as 43 percent and even 41 percent in the last doomed days of the first doomed Bush Administration. After that, he was Bill Clinton's punching bag.

Let's hope he's right. Frankly, I always saw Thompson as a master of the telling detail, and his latest screed is a little thin on detail—but it's always nice to see a real professional at work. Wish the administration had more of them. (thanks to alert reader ras_nesta)

Our "likeable" President comes up with a new euphemism for "killing"

Today: "[their] careers ... came to an end".

From Bush's infamous 2003 State of the Union speech: "They are no longer a problem".

But then one thing Incurious George has always been incurious about is putting people to death. "A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute."

And we can't say we weren't warned: "Bush ... mimicked convicted murderer turned Christian Karla Faye Tucker begging, 'Please don't kill me,' something she never actually did."

Ritual disclaimer and troll prophylactic
Saddam is evil. Saddam's sons are evil.

More On Rightwing Magnanimity

A new book about Hillary. Can't wait? It's by Carl Limbacher. It's called "Hillary's Scheme."

A few prepublication highlights:

REVEALED: The Clintons' plans to make Hillary President
-- and ruthlessly destroy any obstacle in her way


In shocking detail, investigative journalist Carl Limbacher here blows the lid off the New York senator's plans for a grand political coup, something she has been carefully and quietly plotting for more than 20 years. With a patience, doggedness, and thirst for the truth that few reporters have displayed, Limbacher got the full story of Hillary's plans by conducting extensive research into Hillary's past and securing exclusive interviews with Clinton insiders. He even questioned Hillary herself! Limbacher uncovers the juicy morsels, backroom deals, and insider wrangling surrounding Hillary's presidential ambitions -- the hidden details that the mainstream press is too intimidated by (or enamored of) the Clintons to tell you about.

There's more. I read it. You need to. So I won't have to bear the burden of this knowledge alone.

Think of it as a safe, convenient way to get your minimum daily requirement of bile.

BBC Has Kelley Tape

One, anyway. Apparently. According to the Independent.

The BBC says it has a tape recording of David Kelly voicing serious concerns over the role of Downing Street in the disputed Iraq dossier.

The corporation is planning to submit the tape as evidence during the inquiry into the death of the weapons expert. Susan Watts, the science editor of Newsnight, recorded her conversations with Dr Kelly, parts of which were later broadcast anonymously as a "source", using the voice of an actor.

The report, which was broadcast on 2 June, suggested Downing Street had been "desperate" to find information to justify its stance on a war against Iraq. Referring to the claim Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, the source said:

Here's what's still up on the Whitehouse website.

For Immediate Release
September 26, 2002

Global Message


The danger is grave and growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons and is rebuilding facilities to make more. It could launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb -- and, with fissile material, could build one within a year.

Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration. But one thing no one can dispute. Real or unreal, we no longer face those grave and growing dangers.

Reasons To Go To A Screening Of A Film About The Crucifixion of Jesus

From the WaPo's gossip-in-chief, here's one, you might not have thought of.

Another invitee, right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham, flew here from San Francisco to see the film but arrived too late and missed it. "I'm so bummed," Ingraham told us. "I want to see any movie that drives the anti-Christian entertainment elite crazy."

The film in question - Mel Gibson's "The Passion," said to be a somewhat eccentric retelling of the Easter story, based on a Catholicism so conservative it rejects Vatican II, and possibly the trend toward exonerating the Jews for Jesus' crucifixion. For a discussion of the curious passion of Mel and his father see the Orcinus post with the Playboy interview Atrios references below.

Among the other invitees to this secret screening of a two-hour "rough cut" of the film at The Motion Picture Association of America, in D.C. were such Republican and rightwing stars as Peggy Noonan, Kate O'Beirne, Michael Novak, Cal Thomas, Linda Chavez, and "White House staffer David Kuo, deputy director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives."

Conspicuous among those not invited - Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who has expressed concerns about what role in Jesus' passion, the film assigns to Jews.

Jack Valenti found nothing objectionable in that regard and pronounced the film, a stirring work of art.

Yesterday when the lights came up, many in the audience -- who were required to sign a confidentiality agreement before being admitted to the screening room -- were in tears. Some were sobbing, we hear.

"Heartbreaking," Michael Novak told Gibson.

"Anti-Christian Hollywood" What do we think that means?

What caught my attention about thie article is that only days before, I'd happened upon an example of the Christian magnanimity of one of the attendees, Linda Chavez.

In a piece commenting on President Bush's recent trip to Africa, "Africa With Dignity," Ms. Chavez is drawn ineluctably by her own precise Christian moral compass into a highly negative comparitive judgement of President Bill Clinton's 1998 trip there, Africa without dignity, presumably.

President Bush went to Africa this week and issued a stinging rebuke against the United States' role in the slave trade, but his comments have not set off the firestorm Bill Clinton's offhand apology for slavery provoked when he made a similar trip in 1998.

Bush isn't known for his eloquence, but the speech he gave Tuesday at Goree Island, Senegal, was one of his finest.

Quotes follow culled from that speech. Turning to Clinton, Chavez becomes less precise, although she claims it's Clinton's fault.

Bill Clinton's words were far more elliptical in 1998: "Going back to the time before we were even a nation, European-Americans received the fruits of the slave trade, and we were wrong in that," Clinton said. If Clinton had stopped there, his comments might not have ignited such a furor...(edit)

But Clinton went further to conflate America's role in slavery with 20th-century American foreign policy.

Chavez offers a quote that seems to me to do nothing of the sort. But perhaps one has to be a Christian.

Significantly, none of the quotes were from the speech Clinton gave at Goree Island, certainly the obvious point of comparison.

But it wasn't only content, it was also context " that most differentiated the two presidents' pronouncements on slavery," in Ms. Chavez's mind, in any case.

Bill Clinton made his trip at the nadir of his presidency, while reporters were plaguing him to answer questions about sex scandals. Indeed, the most memorable image from his visit was a telephoto shot of him chomping on a cigar while he beat an African drum in Dakar the night he received news that a judge had dismissed Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit.

Africa was an escapist adventure for Bill Clinton, and no amount of moralizing about America's past failings could make up for his own moral deficiencies

What I find remarkable here, is the almost prenatural impulse to isolate Clinton from a presidential, or even an American context, even though Bush's trip was clearly a continuation of a Clinton initiative, and just as clearly, Bush was attempting to put his own imprint on making Africa more important in American foreign policy. Even when there's a reason to be united, this religiously political American right insists on dividing us.

What "you're either with us or against us," really means is that even when you're with some of our goals, if you're not one of us, we're against you, no holds barred, no tricks too dirty, no lies too shameless.

What an Iraqi thinks

From Salam Pax:

:: Wednesday, July 23, 2003 ::

just to tell you that i would be really dissapointed if Uday and Qusay were really killed in Mosul. this is just the easy way out for them. they should have been humiliated in public, images of them handcuffed and being pushed around.
:: salam 9:31 AM [+] ::

So enough with the triumphalism, already. Sounds like turning the sons over to the Hague Tribunal as war criminals is a lot more in line with what an Iraqi wants than what Bush did.

Dead men tell no tales....


... On standby were A-10 Warthog tankbuster aircraft, Apache attack helicopters and a psy-ops team but they were not used.

I guess capture wasn't uppermost on our agenda, eh?

No, it wasn't:

That night, coalition commanders planned the operation, gathered the required troops and weapons systems, and cordoned off the neighborhood. Iraqi police established an outer perimeter, Sanchez said.

So we had 'em surrounded, the previous night. The Manuel Noriega option was possible— Bush and his gang decided not to take it.

Killing with high-tech weapons: The world, and the Iraqis, already know we can do this.

Bringing war criminals to justice: The world doesn't know we can do this. And it would be better for us, for the Iraqis, and the world, if it did (back).

But a "last stand" at an Iraqi Alamo makes for better TV... And dead men tell no tales... And, oh yeah, what was it that was being published tomorrow? Some report on 9/11?

Ritual disclaimer and troll prophylactic
Saddam is evil. Saddam's sons are evil.

(Maybe this disclaimer worked—there's been a lot of good discussion on this and the previous threads on this subject. And by "good" I don't mean "agrees with me," I mean "advances the discussion through reason." Thanks, readers. Hope this doesn't jinx the thread...)