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7/03/2004

Bad News on Torture

More depressing reports on U.S. treatment of detainees are surfacing. Troops forced detainees to jump off bridges, and at least one person died. NYT here. Marines are accused ot abusing detainees in Afghanistan. The Pentagon is still stonewalling [from Salon]. The Justice Department wants the CIA to publish the interrogation procedures it used with Abu Zubaidah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Psychological Operations Targeting U.S. Electorate

Atrios points out confirmation of what we have known for a long time: the "statue" theatre was stage managed.

LA Times:

The Army's internal study of the war in Iraq criticizes some efforts by its own psychological operations units, but one spur-of-the-moment effort last year produced the most memorable image of the invasion.

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

After the colonel — who was not named in the report — selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member. ***

Ultimately, a Marine recovery vehicle toppled the statue with a chain, but the effort appeared to be Iraqi-inspired because the psychological team had managed to pack the vehicle with cheering Iraqi children.


Sid's Fishbowl links to a revealing graphic.

Can Someone Help Me Understand This?

The AP is reporting today that of the $18.4 billion allocated by Congress for Iraqi Reconstrution, only $366 million has been spent. That's 2%. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun reports that almost $19 billion in revenue from Iraqi oil sales has been spent. This explanation seems inadequate:

Beth Marple, a U.S. spokeswoman in Baghdad, said the rapid spending was agreed on between the now-dissolved Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi officials. She said that "the unfunded needs of the Iraqi people demanded that these dollars be put to work."

U.S. authorities have not identified all the contractors hired. But they have told international monitors that some of the contracts were awarded without competitive bidding to Halliburton, the Texas-based company formerly led by Vice President Dick Cheney. Halliburton has been at the center of Pentagon and congressional inquiries

Some critics have suggested that American authorities tapped the Iraqi money to avoid the stricter controls Congress demanded on the spending of U.S. tax dollars, after reports last year of overcharges by Pentagon contractors.

"Perhaps they prefer to have the flexibility to give away contracts to whichever companies they want on whatever terms they want," said Svetlana Tsalik, director of the George Soros-funded Revenue Watch, part of the Open Society Institute. Soros, a billionaire financier, is a harsh critic of the administration and has contributed heavily to groups seeking to defeat President Bush.

In recent reports, Revenue Watch and the British-based group Christian Aid faulted the Coalition Provisional Authority for making commitments on spending of Iraqi oil revenue that will outlast the occupation. Revenue Watch referred to the spending as "the CPA's 11th-hour splurge."

Christian Aid faulted U.S. occupation authorities for failing to disclose full details of the spending. The group said the authorities may also have understated by up to $3 billion the amount of Iraqi oil revenue that went into the development fund.

Pipeline Bombing Cuts Iraqi Oil Exports in Half

Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Guerrillas set a southern oil pipeline ablaze on Saturday, halving Iraq's vital crude exports, in the first major sabotage attack since an Iraqi interim government took over from the U.S.-led occupation.

An oil official said one of two pipelines feeding Iraq's Gulf terminals was on fire in the Faw Peninsula and a shipping agent said this had cut exports to 960,000 barrels per day.

Cheney Didn't Put Up

Salon's War Room has an excellent note on the recent Cheney falsehoods. He has reasserted the relationship between Hussein and al-Qaeda, recently discredited by the 9-11 Commission. Salon points to this Los Angeles Times article, which quotes Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission: "We believe we have seen all the information the vice president has seen, and stand by the staff statement released at the last hearing." Remember, Cheney said he "probably" had more information than the 9-11 Commission, part of the reason he insisted there was a stronger collaborative relationship between Hussein and al-Qaeda. The 9-11 Commissioners politely requested this additional information. If anything was given, the 9-11 Commission Staff certainly doesn't seem to think it's significant.

No Polish WMD find

This morning, the Corner pointed to this AP article as breaking news.

WARSAW, Poland -- Terrorists may have been close to obtaining munitions containing the deadly nerve agent cyclosarin that Polish soldiers recovered last month in Iraq, the head of Poland's military intelligence said Friday.

Polish troops had been searching for munitions as part of their regular mission in south-central Iraq when they were told by an informant in May that terrorists had made a bid to buy the chemical weapons, which date back to Saddam Hussein's war with Iran in the 1980s, Gen. Marek Dukaczewski told reporters in Warsaw.

"We were mortified by the information that terrorists were looking for these warheads and offered $5,000 apiece," Dukaczewski said. "An attack with such weapons would be hard to imagine. All of our activity was accelerated at appropriating these warheads."

Dukaczewski refused to give any further details about the terrorists or the sellers of the munitions, saying only that his troops thwarted terrorists by purchasing the 17 rockets for a Soviet-era launcher and two mortar rounds containing the nerve agent for an undisclosed sum June 23.
Donald Rumsfeld mentioned it two days ago, and the Washington Post dutifully reported his comments without rebuttal. Unfortunately for the Republicans, the story has already been debunked. From the Progressive Blog Digest, Reuters:
Poland said Friday its troops in Iraq had stopped old munitions from Saddam's era containing the deadly nerve agent cyclosarin from falling into the hands of militants.

But the U.S. military said only two rockets had tested positive for sarin gas and posed little threat, and that another 16 rockets found by the Poles had contained no chemical agents.
From War and Piece: A UPI story, and a Centcom Press Release:
July 2, 2004
Release Number: 04-07-05

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

IRAQ ROCKETS FOUND IN LATE JUNE TEST NEGATIVE FOR CHEMICALS

Baghdad, Iraq - On June 16, 2004, an Iraqi civilian led Polish Soldiers to two 122mm rockets he had found in Al Hillah.

The rounds were tested and showed positive for Sarin gas. It has been determined that the rounds were left over from the Iran-Iraq war.

Due to the deteriorated state of the rounds and small quantity of remaining agent, these rounds were determined to have limited to no impact if used by insurgents against Coalition Forces.

The source led Soldiers to 16 more 122mm rockets over a period from June 23 - 26, 2004. Those 16 rounds were all empty and tested negative for any type of chemicals.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT THE PRESS INFORMATOIN CENTER AT
914-360-5082.
As Sid's Fishbowl notes, Centcom tested these shells, yet Rumsfeld was still asserting uncertainty.

The Bush-Cheney Onslaught on the Separation of Church and State Continues; Signs of Blowback

In early June it was reported that the Pennsylvania Bush-Cheney '04 office sent an email to Pennsylvania churches:

An e-mail from the Pennsylvania affiliate of the Bush Campaign says, "The Bush-Cheney '04 national headquarters in Virginia has asked us to identify 1600 'friendly congregations' in Pennsylvania where voters friendly to President Bush might gather on a regular basis."
The e-mail says the campaign would like to "identify a volunteer coordinator who can help distribute general information to other supporters." It goes on to say, "We plan to undertake activities such as distributing general information/updates or voter registration materials in a place accessible to the congregation."
A week later, Tom Davis (R-CA) introduced legislation that "would essentially gut current law, which forbids churches from endorsing candidates for public office, and replace it with watered-down language giving wide latitude to such activity." Novak wrote an op-ed claiming that this presaged a "Republican civil war" because Davis' legislation didn't go far enough:
Such censorship alarmed Walter Jones, a Republican businessman and devout Catholic from Farmville, N.C., when he was elected to Congress in 1994. Correcting unintended consequences of LBJ's 1954 legislation became Jones' top priority. He introduced his bill in 2001.
Thomas as chairman blocked an easy path to the floor for Jones' bill. It reached the floor Oct. 1, 2002, under the procedure requiring two-thirds approval. Despite support for it from their party's leadership, 46 Republicans -- Thomas included -- voted no and prevented even a simple majority. They represent a bloc of Republicans, from the corporate boardroom to the country club, who despise the religious right.

This year, the indefatigable Jones managed to get his religious free speech proposal imbedded in tax legislation that has to be passed to stop trade retaliation by the European Union. Everybody was on board: Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie -- everybody, that is, except Thomas.

Thomas practiced his sorcery. The straightforward Jones language was transmuted into a maze of words that lawyers for conservative organizations say would keep the muzzle on preachers. Jones, with the backing of Hastert, added 28 words to the Thomas language to restore his original meaning. Thomas pulled the 28 words out of the final version. That killed the whole issue. Thomas did not seem unhappy about it, but the speaker was furious.

Thomas is a secularist who in the past jousted with senior Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, a prominent Catholic layman, over federal aid to Catholic hospitals. A former college professor, Thomas is entitled to his own views, but today's GOP relies on support not from secular Americans but from churchgoers. Jones, not intimidated by Thomas, told me: ''Discretionary enforcement, primarily against conservative churches, of an unenforceable law is wrong and should not stand.'' That is a battle cry for the coming Republican civil war.
The next week, in mid-June, it was reported in the National Catholic Reporter that Bush beseeched the Vatican Secretary of State for assistance with cultural issues. Josh Marshall provides a typically cogent analysis of the situation.

Then Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and current Southeastern coordinator for Bush-Cheney 04, helped turn the Southern Baptist Convention into a GOP rally.

Just last week, the Washington Post acquired a Bush-Cheney 04 memo requesting that friendly congregations help the campaign, by forwarding their membership directories to the campaign, among other clearly partisan activities.

This no longer counts as a trend – the politicization is simply a fact. Contrary to conservative assertions, though, it runs a serious risk of backfiring. Groups that support the separation of church and state have stated the reasons:

Americans United
"Injecting partisan politics into our nation's sanctuaries is a desecration of sacred space," Lynn continued. "Politicizing churches is morally wrong and legally dubious. The Bush campaign should repent of this reckless scheme."

Lynn noted that the Internal Revenue Service issued an unprecedented warning to the nation's political parties June 10, reminding them that churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations may not be involved in partisan politics.
Interfaith Alliance
"I'm frankly concerned that an administration that has talked so eloquently about the importance of houses of worship would be willing to intrude on the sanctity of houses of worships and compromise them in some ways by seeking to turn them into political organizations," Gaddy said. "We are alarmed that this initiative by the Bush-Cheney campaign could lure religious organizations and religious leaders into dangerous territory where they risk losing their tax-exempt status and could be violating the law. But even worse, they are leading religious leaders into the temptation of forfeiting the prophetic voice of religion."
This isn't just a liberal argument, though. Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (the same group whose convention is referenced above), has joined the choir:
"I'm appalled that the Bush-Cheney campaign would intrude on a local congregation in this way," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

"The bottom line is, when a church does it, it's nonpartisan and appropriate. When a campaign does it, it's partisan and inappropriate," he said. "I suspect that this will rub a lot of pastors' fur the wrong way." ***
On Friday, Land said: "It's one thing for a church member motivated by exhortations to exercise his Christian citizenship to go out and decide to work on the Bush campaign or the Kerry campaign. It's another and totally inappropriate thing for a political campaign to ask workers who may be church members to provide church member information through the use of directories to solicit partisan support."
See the Southern Baptist's Press Release. Republicans are trying to solidify the perception of a GOP monopoly on religiosity. This obviously slanders the Democrats, but more importantly, it demeans religion, reducing it to support for a political platform. It's nice to see the Southern Baptists acknowledging this.

Note also two articles in the British Guardian. One is on "mega-churches," where people say things like this with a straight face: "'I don't think that with this administration we'll be concerning ourselves with a Monica Lewinsky situation,' said Pastor Bob, as he is universally known. 'He has restored honour to the White House, and that morality is something I will always be proud to carry the banner for.'" The second is horrid advice from Philip James, "a former senior Democratic party strategist," who apparently doesn't understand that Catholics are Christian. In parts of Kentucky, that's still a common belief.
He needs to remember that while 46% of Americans now call themselves evangelicals, the majority still do not, and he must galvanise voter turn out among that group. He should also recognise that the evangelical community is not monolithic. Some are as turned off by George Bush's reckless presidency as the rest of us. Kerry doesn't need to dress up as a Christian to get their votes.
Crucially he should also be aware that there are an indeterminate number of evangelicals who are disillusioned with Bush because his foreign adventures have distracted him from pressing ahead sufficiently with a conservative domestic agenda of their liking. These people could never bring themselves to vote for Kerry, but if Kerry cannot appeal to them, the next best thing to wish for is that they stay home.

Atrios has also commented on this sort of "advice," though Digby deserves the last word.

Knight Ridder Fact Checks Michael Moore

Knight Ridder provides a fairly dispassionate analysis of the factual controversies that have arisen from Fahrenheit 9/11. It is a good reference piece.

7/02/2004

Victims of their Own Ideology

Matt Yglesias is writing about the Clinton Legacy. I wanted to write about this some time ago, but never really got around to it.

Jack Balkin, building on Nick Confessore's observations, had a powerful post on "Free Lunch Conservatism" back in January. He claims that the government spending supported by Bush is designed to "satisfy core Republican constituencies and help keep him and the Republican party in power."

Fortunately for both Democrats and good governance, Bush and Rove are bungling their power grab. The demise of Gingrich and the 96 Clinton victory taught Republicans that government spending was popular. It didn't teach them why it's popular, though: people like good services.

Republicans have never believed that government programs were capable of providing good services. They never repudiated their critiques of government spending, which are usually nothing more than elevating marginal objections to fatal flaws through apocryphal anecdotes. They continued to think: Government programs are slush funds for special interest groups, avenues for graft, and tools for the accumulation of power. They spent twenty five years making these arguments.

And it shows. Their Medicare prescription drug benefit is a crass attempt to buy the votes of old people, free money for AdvancePCS and its ilk, and the supposed linchpin for the permanent Republican majority. But they botched it. They weren't worried about making it a good program, they weren't worried about making sure people could use it, or even understand it. The attendant scandals have turned the biggest new entitlement in a generation into political baggage.

Clinton convinced conservatives that government programs were popular. But he never convinced them that they were good.

Positive John

George W. Bush is running a challenger's campaign against John Kerry. I can't decide if this is reassuring or unsettling.

Though Kerry is gearing up for a major July ad blitz, the only ads airing this weekend are in New Mexico. The Republican 527 Progress for America Voter Fund is running an ad attacking Kerry's terrorist fighting credentials:

Script: Male narrator: "9/11. A leader showed strength and compassion. President Bush. He held us together and began to hunt down terrorist killers. But what if Bush wasn't there? Could John Kerry have shown this leadership? The Kerry who voted against billions for America's intelligence even after the first World Trade Center bombing. The Kerry who voted against 13 weapons systems our troops depend on. President Bush will win this war on terror. Progress for America Voter Fund is responsible for the content of this ad."
Kerry responds with a relentlessly positive ad:
Announcer: "He's a husband and father. A pilot, a hunter, a hockey player. Tough prosecutor, advocate for kids. Nineteen years Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Author of a strategy to win the war on terror. A combat veteran who has been praised by former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both Presidents Reagan and Clinton. Stronger at Home. Respected in the World. John Kerry for President."
Kerry: "I'm John Kerry and I approved this message."
Bush-Cheney responds to Kerry's ad by attacking Kerry's 1997 book. Even the liberal New Republic disagreed with Kerry's book:
Bush: "I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message."
Announcer: "John Kerry says he's 'Author of a strategy to win the war on terror?' ... Against the Japanese yakuza. Never mentions al-Qaida. Says nothing about Osama bin Laden. Calls Yasser Arafat a 'statesman.' The New Republic says Kerry's plan 'misses the mark.' And Kerry's focus? Global crime, not terrorism. How can John Kerry win a war if he doesn't know the enemy?"

Bush's campaign has featured "unprecedented negativity," it has "accented the negative." And accused Positive John of playing dirty.

Look for Army Report on Detention Procedures

Army Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek has been working on a report on Army detention practices and procedures since February. The report won't be available for several weeks, but it "criticizes Army policy on detainee operations as a cold-war relic better suited to dealing with Soviet military prisoners on a European battlefield than with insurgents and Islamic jihadists fighting in Iraq, officials said. It cites inadequate training for military jailers and interrogators. And it describes poor leadership, overcrowded cells and poor medical care for Iraqi prisoners." It also discusses formalizing cooperation between MPs and Interrogators/Intelligence. It doesn't, however, discuss any institutional contributions to the abuse scandal:

Earlier drafts found no systemic abuse at American-run prisons in Iraq or Afghanistan, and officials said that had not changed in the final report. The report will probably not assign blame to senior American officers in Iraq, defense officials said. That task, officials said, will be left to one or more of the half-dozen other inquiries under way.

Cheney Avoiding Accountability

I understand that the press has a role in reporting what our officials are saying - that something can be news because of who is saying it. But this sort of reporting is simply misleading, if not faithfully followed up with legitimate analyis. Carol Giacomo of Reuters summarizes Cheney's speech yesterday, and provides a little insight into his intentions.

In a speech meant to build positive election-year momentum from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cheney implicitly blamed the former administration of Bill Clinton for failing to act against mounting terrorism in the 1990s.
Although not mentioning Clinton or the current presumptive Democratic candidate John Kerry by name, Cheney declared that in the 1990s extremists had "struck America with little cost or consequence."

Among examples cited were the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the 1996 attack on Khobar Towers military barracks in Saudi Arabia, the bombing of U.S. embassies in 1998 and the attack on the USS Cole in the port of Yemen in 2000.

"Our enemies took lessons from this experience. They concluded our country was soft," he said.
Cheney claims that the Bush White House has put them on the run, that the handover of sovereignty in Iraq was an "essential victor[y] in the war on terrorism." There hasn't been enough analysis of this speech, enough effort to determine the veracity of Cheney's positions. We still have a tendency to trust our politicians - when they are wiling to lie so blithely, and the media dutifully reports their words, misconceptions spread.

Press, Please Learn from Dana Milbank

The Washington Post's Milbank has been the single best establishment critic of the administration, and he does it through professional, straight reporting. Today's article isn't flawless, but it's still a far sight better than anything else.

With scenes of violence and mayhem in Iraq replaced by more favorable images of the new Iraqi leaders taking charge and former president Saddam Hussein in the dock, top Bush administration officials launched an effort yesterday to ease the public's concern that the war has increased the threat of terrorism against the United States.
Milbank is one of the few journalists actually willing to note the perception, held by 51% of the American people, that Iraq has worsened our position in the war on terror. More than that, he recalls Dr. Record's Army War College study from January (though it was produced in Dec.) that made the same claim.
The impression that the Iraq war has hindered the fight against terrorism has some military concurrence. An Army War College study argued in January that the Bush administration had mishandled the war on terrorism by invading Iraq, which the study called "a war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity against al Qaeda."
He is at his best when trying to verify claims made by senior administration officials.
Countering the staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, which found no "collaborative relationship" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda, Cheney renewed his accusation that they had "long-established ties." He listed several examples and stated: "In the early 1990s, Saddam had sent a brigadier general in the Iraqi intelligence service to Sudan to train al Qaeda in bombmaking and document forgery."

Senior intelligence officials said yesterday that they had no knowledge of this.
In fact, most intelligence analysts have determined that this interaction did not take place with the knowledge of the Iraqi regime. When these guys make outlandish claims, and the media just report the quote with no context, explanation or checking, it is profoundly misleading. Unfortunately, he lets this one slip by completely:
Returning to the main justification for the Iraq war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in an interview released by the Pentagon, said forbidden chemical weapons were found in Iraq in recent days. Rumsfeld said the Polish defense minister told him this week "that his troops in Iraq had recently come across -- I've forgotten the number, but something like 16 or 17 -- warheads that contained sarin and mustard gas."

Rumsfeld added: "I have not seen them and I have not tested them, but they believe that they are correct that these, in fact, were undeclared chemical weapons."
If this is true, it needs to be reported and explained. I find it hard to believe that the administration wouldn't encourage Poland to share this information with us if it was trustworthy or remotely dispositive of the issue.

June Job Growth Less Than Expected (washingtonpost.com)

June Job Growth Less Than Expected (washingtonpost.com):

The nation's unemployment rate held steady at 5.6 percent in June for a third straight month as more Americans resumed their job searches with mixed results. Employers added roughly 112,000 new positions, less than half the growth that economists were anticipating.
Bad news.

Update to Spineless Richard Cohen

Paul Krugman explains why F9/11 matters. Actually, he says almost exactly what I said:

There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?
Moore shows who bears the burden of Bush's policies. "He shows corporate executives at a lavish conference on Iraq, nibbling on canapés and exulting over the profit opportunities, then shows the terrible price paid by the soldiers creating those opportunities."

John Ellis has a blog, johnellis.blogspot.com. He occasionally updates, and appears to know something about golf. He is on C-Span's Washington Journal, talking about George W.

7/01/2004

Ready Reserves Called Up

The New York Times > Washington > The Troops: Military Plans to Call Up Soldiers Who Left Service

Combat Stress Hurting Readiness

CNN.com - Combat stress: The war within - Jul 1, 2004 The New England Journal of medicine has published an article on the incidence of combat stress in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Title Says it All

Underclass of Workers Created in Iraq (washingtonpost.com) Contracting (and subcontracting and subcontracting and subcontracting) in Iraq is exploiting workers and wrecking accountability.

GAO: Farm Subsidy Slush Fund

Farm Subsidy Rules Called Too Vague:

The program, intended to keep the nation's dwindling number of farmers afloat, has been around for decades. In 1987, Congress tightened eligibility requirements after reports surfaced suggesting that payments were going to some individuals who were not involved in farming. It created some new rules, including one, the GAO said, stipulating that only those who demonstrate a 'significant contribution' of 'active personal management' of a farm may receive the federal aid.
The GAO said the agency has not developed quantifiable standards to determine when farmers have reached that threshold. The USDA may be stymied, the GAO said, by questions as to whether officials must demonstrate 'fraudulent intent' when determining whether someone has attempted the cheat the program. The agency is required to withhold payments for two years from those who attempt to bilk the program.
The full report is available here.

Damn Norm Coleman

Sen. Norm Coleman, the accidental Senator, is a Super Ranger. I hope the people of MN kick this guy out of office in '08.

More Politicizing Churches

The Bush campaign sent this memo around to friendly churches, without advising them of the risks to their tax-exempt status.

Spineless Richard Cohen

I don't have anything emotionally invested in Fahrenheit 9/11, and wouldn't usually bother with a critique of the feckless Richard Cohen. One paragraph in his oped in today's Post is maddening enough to motivate me, though. I'll just go ahead and mock him paragraph by paragraph.

I brought a notebook with me when I went to see Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and in the dark made notes before I gave up, defeated by the utter stupidity of the movie. One of my notes says "John Ellis," who is a cousin of George W. Bush and the fellow who called the election for Fox News that dark and infamous night when the presidency -- or so the myth goes -- was stolen from Al Gore, delivering the nation to Halliburton, the Carlyle Group and Saudi Arabia, and plunging it into war. A better synopsis of the movie you're not likely to read.
This doesn't inspire confidence in Cohen's attention span. The John Ellis reference takes place before the credits. If he wrote off the movie as "utterly stupid" before the credits, he should have left to watch White Chicks or something more suited to his tastes.
Ellis appears early in the film, which is not only appropriate but inevitable. He is the personification of the Moore method, which combines guilt by association with the stunning revelation of a stunning fact that has already been revealed countless times before. If, for instance, you did a Lexis-Nexis database search for "John Ellis" and "election," you would be told: "This search has been interrupted because it will return more than
I appreciate his Coulterish use of Lexis. Note how little it proves: Jeb Bush is also known as "John Ellis Bush." That name might pop up next to "election" in a few Lexis searches. Note also the contradiction - Cohen thinks it's irrelevant guilt by association, yet also thinks a thousand news articles have been written about it, certainly a sign of interest, if nothing else.
But more than that, what does it mean? Ellis is a Bush cousin, Moore tells us. A close cousin? We are not told. A cousin from the side of the family that did not get invited to Aunt Rivka's wedding? Could be. A cousin who has not forgiven his relative for a slight at a family gathering -- the cheap gift, the tardy entrance, the seat next to a deaf uncle? No info. And even if Ellis loved Bush truly and passionately, as a cousin should, how did he manage to change the election results? To quote the King of Siam, is a puzzlement.
Man, Cohen really phoned this one in - literally perhaps? His "argument" here reduces to "Moore doesn't give us enough detail about Bush's stealing the election in his documentary about Bush's mishandling of the war on terrorism." The Ellis stuff is clearly an aside, something that sets up how Bush has always had friends in high places willing to help him out in a pinch.
I go on about Moore and Ellis because the stunning box-office success of "Fahrenheit 9/11" is not, as proclaimed, a sure sign that Bush is on his way out but is instead a warning to the Democrats to keep the loony left at a safe distance. Speaking just for myself, not only was I dismayed by how prosaic and boring the movie was -- nothing new and utterly predictable -- but I recoiled from Moore's methodology, if it can be called that. For a time, I hated his approach more than I opposed the cartoonishly portrayed Bush.
This is the beginning of the process by which Cohen reveals his spinelessness. The irony of all this, of course, is that there is more methodological coherence to Moore's movie than there is to Bush's formal speeches, covering matters of war and terrorism, life and death. Cohen wants to criticize guilt by association - at least John Ellis and George W. have actual associations, in contrast to, say bin Laden and Hussein.
The case against Bush is too hard and too serious to turn into some sort of joke, as Moore has done. The danger of that is twofold: It can send fence-sitters moving, either out of revulsion or sympathy, the other way, and it leads to an easy and facile dismissal of arguments critical of Bush. During the Vietnam War, it seemed to me that some people supported Richard Nixon not because they thought he was right but because they loathed the war protesters. Beware history repeating itself.
It only leads to the "facile dismissal" of anti-Bush arguments if you let conservatives get away with the fallacy of discrediting your arguments by attacking something unrelated. If Cohen had a spine, he wouldn't be worried about the outraged cocktail party criticisms of Moore.
Moore's depiction of why Bush went to war is so silly and so incomprehensible that it is easily dismissed. As far as I can tell, it is a farrago of conspiracy theories. But nothing is said about multiple U.N. resolutions violated by Iraq or the depredations of Saddam Hussein. In fact, prewar Iraq is depicted as some sort of Arab folk festival -- lots of happy, smiling, indigenous people. Was there no footage of a Kurdish village that had been gassed? This is obscenity by omission.
Moore's depiction of Bush's invasion rationale is silly because Bush's invasion rational was silly. It turns out that the UN resolutions were only being violated at the margins - missiles with extended ranges, and nothing else. Nada, zilch. Not to mention that they were pretextual, as anyone with a decent attention span should remember. The depredations of Saddam Hussein, Bush's current rationale, was an afterthought before the invasion. There are no scenes of gassed villages because the gassing took place fifteen years ago, and the devastation was so complete that many people that fled the Halabja valley never came back - new people repopulated the area years later.
The case against Bush need not and should not rest on guilt by association or half-baked conspiracy theories, which collapse at the first double take but reinforce the fervor of those already convinced. The success of Moore's movie, though, suggests this is happening -- a dialogue in which anti-Bush forces talk to themselves and do so in a way that puts off others. I found that happening to me in the run-up to the war, when I spent more time and energy arguing with those who said the war was about oil (no!) or Israel (no!) or something just as silly than I did questioning the stated reasons for invading Iraq -- weapons of mass destruction and Hussein's links to Osama bin Laden. This was stupid of me, but human nature nonetheless.
This is the infuriating paragraph, the admission of spinelessness and utter lack of proportionality. Cohen is more concerned about Moore's partial representation of truth in a satirical documentary than either George Bush's more partial representations in the State of the Union, or the even more partial representations in the "objective and professional" media. It shouldn't matter to him that people are claiming we went to war for oil or Israel, since he's not the one making those claims. You don't even have to bother working the refs when Cohen is in the game, since he'll call his own team out at every chance. And to ascribe his idiocy to "human nature" - I guess that's actually a good argument, since it means the conservatives that aren't concerned about their nominal teammates aren't really human. What a cowardly evasion of responsibility. He wasn't even duped by Bush, he was distracted by the "loony left."
Some of that old feeling returned while watching Moore's assault on the documentary form. It is so juvenile in its approach, so awful in its journalism, such an inside joke for people who already hate Bush, that I found myself feeling a bit sorry for a president who is depicted mostly as a befuddled dope. I fear how it will play to the undecided.
A bit of advice: stop worrying about Michael Moore and do your damn job. Moore's movie is about one thing: realizing the costs of your actions. George W. Bush makes life and death decisions every day, yet neither he nor his friends ever pay the costs associated with them. It's the kite-flying Iraqi children, the youth recruited from Flint, the mothers with lost daughters and sons, the psychologically and physically brutalized troops, that pay for Bush's decisions. Meanwhile, his friends are holding conferences about making a buck, or building oil pipelines. You can criticize this argument, and particularly how Moore makes it, but it is important nonetheless, and I am glad for it.

Other Blog Commentary on the NBC claim

Thanks for the reference, Jacob Levy of Volokh.com.
Levy (previous post)
Stromata
Sebastian Holsclaw
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Update: Drezner

Tentative Conclusions on the NBC-Zarqawi Article

Despite my fairly transparent hostility toward the administration, I have basically concluded that the claims in the NBC/Miklaszewski article are not correct. I don't think the administration refused to attack the Ansar camp to preserve its political rationale for invasion. Instead, I think that the evidence they had linking Ansar al-Islam to international terrorism was weak, and unactionable. Further, at the time, the evidence linking Zarqawi to Ansar al-Islam was not reliable. This leaves the administration in a further quandry, though: it magnifies the deception underlying their case for war.

The Zarqawi links are the most salient point left for the Iraq-al Qaeda links.

Q The Vice President, who I see standing over there, said yesterday that Saddam Hussein has long-established ties to al Qaeda. As you know, this is disputed within the U.S. intelligence community. Mr. President, would you add any qualifiers to that flat statement? And what do you think is the best evidence of it?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Zarqawi. Zarqawi is the best evidence of connection to al Qaeda affiliates and al Qaeda. He's the person who's still killing. He's the person -- and remember the email exchange between al Qaeda leadership and he, himself, about how to disrupt the progress toward freedom?
First, let me document some of the problems in the Miklaszewski piece.
  • "In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide."
    Most Zarqawi timelines have him being kicked out of Iran in late May and heading to a hospital in Baghdad to have his leg amputated [Colin Powell, Speech Before the United Nations, 2/5/03 available in The Washington Post, A24 2/6/03]. Based on Jordanian intelligence intercepts of a phone call he made to his mother, he allegedly left the Baghdad hospital with his new prosthetic limb in August 2002.

  • "Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

    The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq."
    This would be sometime in October. There was a series of reports at the time from European intelligence, particularly German, that Zarqawi was planning an attack. European intelligence services insisted that Zarqawi was not related to Iraq or Ansar al-Islam.
    In Germany, officials have investigated Mr. Zarqawi for more than a year, but Mr. Powell's assertion surprised them. "We have been investigating Mr. Zarqawi for some time," said a senior German intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We need to examine the evidence that Powell has drawn from, and it is possible that he knows things that we don't. But as of yet we have seen no indication of a direct link between Zarqawi and Baghdad." [Don van Natta and David Johnston, A Terror Lieutenant With a Deadly Past, The New York Times, A1 2/10/03]
    There is significant corroborating reporting, including from Kurdish sources, that the United States contacted the Kurds about a potential operation sometime in August. This doesn't fit into Miklaszewski's timeframe.

  • "In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.

    The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it."
    British intelligence sources didn't link the attack to Zarqawi or Ansar al-Islam.
Obviously, it would be difficult politically for the United States to attack an Ansar base in retaliation for a terrorist threat to Europe that the Europeans didn't acknowledge.

The greater problem is that the reported intelligence on Zarqawi is an absolute mess. His reported age varies from 36 to 42 [36, 38, 42; note that he appears to be getting younger]. Whether he had his leg amputated or treated, or whether he just had a sinus infection ["During the summer of 2002, he underwent nasal surgery at a Baghdad hospital, officials say. They mistakenly originally thought, however, that Zarqawi had his leg amputated due to an injury."] is all up in the air. We don't even know if he is Palestinian or Jordanian. He may have been released from Jordanian jails in a 2000 amnesty, or he may have been running a house in Logo, Afghanistan, or he may have been running an al-Tawhid training camp in Afghanistan, or maybe al-Qaeda, or maybe in Lebanon planning to blow up Jordanian hotels. He allegedly died in Chechnya. He is an impressive multi-tasker. His links to the Qatari, Iranian [regarding Ansar: "In the absence of further evidence, the only thing that is indisputable is that the group could not survive without the support of powerful factions in neighbouring Iran, its sole lifeline to the outside world." - note that Zarqawi hates Shi'ites with a passion, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Iran], and Syrian government are all up in the air. Perhaps most importantly, it appears that much of our intelligence on him comes from Jordanian intelligence services. Jordanians have a strong incentive to inflate his significance to international terrorism.The evidence linking Zarqawi to Ansar is also questionable. Most of it appears to come from the Kurds, who have an incentive to exaggerate the relationship between Ansar and al-Qaeda and Ansar and Hussein. [Demeetha Luthra, Al-Qaeda poison master roaming Saddam's back yard, SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON) 14 2/9/03; "In order to defeat this local rival through external intervention, the main parties that control the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq have played up the threat it poses and its alleged links with terrorism." [pdf]; this ICG report has much info. on Kurdish intel] There is considerable reason to doubt the reliability of their intelligence, including:
  • Their changing story.
    In Sulaymaniya there is no talk of the shadowy Zarqawi, but American and British intelligence officers are convinced that he ran the poison factory, trained operatives and plotted a trail of terror across Europe. [Demeetha Luthra, Al-Qaeda poison master roaming Saddam's back yard, SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON) 14 2/9/03]
  • Their inaccuracy.
    To those who operate with and against the shadowy Zarqawi, including the Kurds of northern Iraq, he is called 'the man with the limp.' That is a reference to a poorly fitting artificial limb that replaced a leg amputated in Baghdad in August.
    [Tom Squiteri, Terrorist Cited as Evidence of Link, USA Today 11A 2/6/03] We now have reason to believe that Zarqawi did not have his leg amputated.

  • Their connection to Israeli intelligence.
It's clear that we don't know what the deal is with Zarqawi. Reading so much about him, I can't help but think he is a bogeyman.

The Best They've Got?

In today's Washington Post, Bob Novak attacks the NBC/Miklaszewski article discussed here - the article that alleges Bush passed on chances to "wipe-out" an Ansar chemical plant because it would undermine his case for invasion.

The article has some problems - some serious problems, even. But its central question: why did we need an invasion to take out the camp? - is valid, and unanswered. If Novak's "answer" is the best explanation the administration can muster, then there is probably something important here. My reactions to each paragraph in Novak's essay:

WASHINGTON -- On ABC's "This Week" program Sunday, host George Stephanopoulos picked up a chestnut that's been bouncing around Washington for three months and tossed it in National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's lap. Why, he asked, did the United States pass up chances to kill terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi in 2002 and 2003? "We never had a chance to get Zarqawi," Rice replied. That exchange tells a lot about this year's presidential politics.
Rice's response might be true - we might never have had concrete, real-time intelligence on Zarqawi's location. Given that the entire case for war was built on shoddy or fabricated intelligence, it is likely that we never had much of a clue at all as to where Zarqawi was. What we did know, based on Powell's speech, was the location of the reputed poisons and chemical weapons camp - in the Halabja valley, somwhere near Khurmal. Maybe Stephanopoulos asked the wrong question - maybe he should have asked why we didn't attack the Zarqawi-linked Ansar al-Islam camp. Regardless, Rice's answer doesn't come close to closing the issue.
Why would Stephanopolous bring up another network's March broadcast of an obscure story never reported elsewhere? It has been spread by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to imply President Bush held back the attack in order to gain support for invading Iraq. Unless Rice's flat disavowal stops it, this threatens to become an urban legend used against Bush in the next 17 weeks.
It is not an urban legend. It is an unaddressed question, with a logical answer. Rice's "disavowal" is no such thing - we had intelligence on the location of the camp, and could have taken it out with the cooperation of the Kurds, and probably the Iranians. Even if the Zarqawi connection was light (which is true, but undercut Powell's case before the UN), there was evidence that up to a hundred former al-Qaeda fighters had sought safe harbor in the Ansar camp, called "little Tora Bora" by the Kurds. Unless the administration provides a reason for not taking out the camp, there are only two logical suppositions: 1. we wanted to use the camp for some reason; 2. the camp wasn't much of a threat. Both are probably true.

I wonder if the Hillary Clinton irrelevance would have been there two weeks ago, before the ridiculous reDrudging of the right's 1990s fantasies. Clinton's involvement in the story is actually reassuring, given how risk averse she generally is.
One CIA source puts this aborted Zarqawi raid in the same category as Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9-11," which spreads such false information as George W. Bush's conspiring to get Osama bin Laden's relatives out of the U.S. after the terrorist attacks. The persistence of these stories sets the level of discourse about Bush's Iraq policy during a presidential campaign.
I am shocked that anyone in the CIA would talk to Bob Novak, the man who trashed a NOC. Not that a "CIA source" is the best place to go for movie criticism anyway...
On March 2, terrorist attacks brought the death toll attributed to Zarqawi to over 700. Jim Miklaszewski, the longtime Pentagon correspondent for NBC, reported multiple U.S. chances to "wipe out" Zarqawi and his bioweapons lab. The chances were missed, according to unnamed "military officials," because "the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq would undercut the case against Saddam."
It's true that Miklaszewski relied on anonymous sources - a practice not unknown to Mr. Novak. They raise a good question, though, and it hasn't been answered. Even if we didn't know that Zarqawi was in the area, why not "wipe out" his lab?
Sources quoted by name were Roger Cressey, who worked closely with Richard Clarke in the Clinton White House (staying on for a while in the Bush administration), and Brookings Institution analyst Michael O'Hanlon, who supports John Kerry for president. Cressey was quoted as saying Bush officials were "more obsessed" with overthrowing Saddam Hussein than fighting terrorism.
Another gratuitous Clinton reference. See below for more on Cressey. It's nice the way Novak forgets to mention Clarke's connection to Reagan and H.W. This is my favorite Bush-defender tactic: "Once you vote with Bush, serve in his cabinet, or spin for him in a classified briefing, you're trapped. If you change your mind, he'll dredge up your friendly vote or testimony and use it to discredit you." If you ever trusted us, you are screwed. Cressey, a non-partisan guy, is written off because Bush betrayed him. Michael O'Hanlon is written off solely because he supports John Kerry, thereby rendering him incapable of stating anything true.
Rep. Vic Snyder, a Clintonite Democrat from Arkansas, at a hearing the next day read the NBC report in full and asked Assistant Defense Secretary Peter Rodman whether "that story is true or not." Rodman said he never heard anyone oppose an attack because "it would interfere with a plan to go after Saddam," adding that an attack on a bioweapons lab "could have strengthened our case."
Another gratuitous Clinton reference. Rodman's denial is certainly not the strongest imaginable - he never heard it, but he doesn't rule it out. When this exchange took place, in March 2004, it had been a year since we had wiped out the "bioweapons lab" and found it to be garbage, with not a poison in sight. In fact, just days after Powell's speech, a British journalist visited the site, and discovered nary a test tube.
Sen. Clinton on the next day, March 4, called the NBC report "troubling" and asked Gen. John Abizaid about it. The Central Command commander in chief replied, "I would be very surprised to find out that we had a precise location on Zarqawi." Unsatisified, the senator asked for "further investigation."
Another gratuitous Clinton reference, and again, a non-answer. Why didn't we attack the camp? We didn't need to know Zarqawi's location. And again, this is a weak denial - Abizaid doesn't give the administration's reason for not taking out the camp.
On March 9, Hillary Clinton asked CIA Director George Tenet about the story. Tenet: "I don't know that Zarqawi was up there at the time, Senator. And I don't know that the report accurately reflects the give-and-take of the decision-making at the time." In CIA-speak, that was a "no."
Nice of Novak to translate the CIA speak for us. I would read that as "I don't have a clue why we didn't take out the camp."
Paul Begala, my colleague on CNN's "Crossfire," picked up the scent. A former Clinton White House aide and tireless Bush-basher, Begala put bluntly what Snyder and Clinton only hinted. On May 14, Begala said the terrorist leader's "mere presence" in Iraq "was used to justify Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq." On June 23, he said that thanks to Bush's emphasis on making "a case for invading Iraq," Zarqawi was permitted "to live and to kill and to kill and to kill."
Another gratuitous Clinton reference, this time left to stand on its own as the rebuttal of everything Begala said.
Stephanopoulos, like Begala a former Clinton White House political aide, took up the story on ABC Sunday but without overt accusations against the president. Unlike the cautious responses by the Defense and CIA officials, Rice's flat denial might make it more difficult to keep the urban legend going through the campaign.
Another gratuitous Clinton reference. Rive did not give a "flat denial." The new Stephanopoulos is not known for his partisanship. Once a Clintonite, always a Clintonite, I suppose.
Jim Miklaszewski told me he stands by his story, and pointed to House Armed Services Committee hearings April 21. Congressman Snyder brought the NBC story up to retired Gen. John Keane, and asked why the attack was rejected. "No, I can't help you," the former Army acting chief of staff replied. "We were looking at it as early as the Fourth of July weekend before we commenced activities against Iraq." That confirmed an attack on Zarqawi's camp was considered. It did not confirm the Iraqi urban legend spread by Hillary Clinton and friends.
Another gratuitous Clinton reference. John Keane has no idea why we didn't take out the camp. Novak has no idea why we didn't take out the camp. He's just sure that it couldn't have been because bush wanted to keep the camp around. Why is he so sure? Because Clintons are involved.

Richard Clarke on Roger Cressey

Roger Cressey is a friend of Richard Clarke. Clarke thanks him in the acknowledgments of his book, noting that "when things worked [in national security], it was because they ["behind-the-scenes national security midlevel managers"] were listened to and allowed to implement their sound advice." [xii] Cressey was there, with Clarke, running things the morning of 9-11:

Roger Cressey, my deputy and a marathoner, had run eight blocks from his doctor's office. Convincing the Uniformed Secret Service guards to let him back into the compound, Roger pressed through to Situation Room. I was relieved to see him. [5]
Cressey informed Clarke when the Pentagon was hit, and tried to figure where the Civil Air Patrol planes were that should have been protecting the skies. [7-8] That morning, he put together a Powerpoint for Bush, so the President could try to get a grasp on things when Air Force One landed in Omaha. [20-21] He coordinated the rescue operations with Giuliani's chief of staff. [24-25] Clarke's rundown of Cressey's experience is on 10-11:
Roger Cressey, sitting on my right, was a career national security practitioner. I had hired him as a civil service employee at the State Department ten years earlier. To give him some real world experience, I had sent him on assignment to the embassy in Tel Aviv. Later, in 1993, I asked him to go to Mogadishu as an aide to Admiral Jonathan T. Howe, who had left the White House job as National Security Advisor to be, in effect, the U.N.'s governor in Somalia. Cressey drove the darkened streets of Mogadishu at night in a pickup truck with a 9mm strapped to his hip, listening to the gunfire rippling around town. Two years later when another American, General Jacques Klein, was appointed by the U.N. to run bombed-out Eastern Slavonia, Cressey had gone into the rubble with him. Together they dealt with warring Croatians and Serbs, including war criminals, refugees, and organized crime thugs. From there, he had gone to the civilian office in the Pentagon that reviewed the military's war plans. Cressey had joined me at the White House in November 1999 just as we placed security forces on the first nationwide terrorist alert. Now thirty-five years old, he was married to a State Department expert on weapons of mass destruction and had a beautiful two year old daughter. He thought his father in law was on America 77. (Later Cressey would learn that Bob Sepucha was safe).
On the evening of 9-11, Clarke and Cresset left the empty White House to a parking lot with only Clarke's car. [26] Clarke "debriefed" Cressey on the meeting Clarke had just had with the President:
Now, as I was telling Cressey, I thought the aggressive plan [against al-Qaeda] would be implemented.

"Well, that's fuckin' great. Sounds like they're finally going to do everything we wanted. Where the hell were they for the last eight months?" Cressey asked.

"Debating the fine points of the ABM Treaty?" I answered, looking up at the sky for fighter cover.

"They'll probably deploy the armed Predator now too," Cressey said, referring to his project to kill bin Laden with an unmanned aircraft. CIA had been blocking the deployment, refusing to be involved in running an armed version of the unmanned aircraft, to hunt and kill bin Laden. Roger Cressey was still fuming that their refusal. "If they had deployed an armed Predator when it was ready, we could have killed him before this happened."

"Yeah, well, this attack would have happened anyway, Rog. In fact, if we had killed bin Laden in June with the Predator and this attack still happened, our friends at CIA would have blamed us, said the attack on New York was retribution, talked again about the overly zealous White House counter-terrorism guys." I tried to think ahead, of what we could best do now. "From here on it's a self-implementing policy, or as you guys from the Pentagon would say, a self-licking ice cream cone…but it's too late, way too late. The best thing you and I can do now is figure out how to block any follow-on attacks. [26-27]"
Cressey and Clarke later went to the funeral of their former FBI friend, John O'Neill, who died in the attacks. [34] Cressey didn't have a high opinion of many FBI people (Dale Watson excluded [218]). He chaired the "Threat Subgroup," an effort to keep a running list of terrorism security threats, with information on their reliability. It had representatives from the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, NSA, DOD, State, FAA, "and often other agencies." [217]
Steve Simon and later Roger Cressey chaired the Threat Subgroup. It was not unusual for them to report that whoever the FBI representative was that day, was not really participating, causing me to have to call higher levels of the Bureau. On one day I specifically remember, mild-mannered Cressey marched into my office after a Threat Subgroup meeting and announced, "That fucker is going to get some Americans killed. He just sits there like a bump on a log. Nothing to report. No comment on anybody else's work. Doesn't want to check anything out." I knew he was talking about an FBI representative. [217]
Roger Cressey was a chief advocate for the arming of unmanned Predator drones [220-222], and part of the investigation of the Cole bombing. [223] He wrote, along with Clarke, the draft National Security Presidential Decision that aimed at eliminating al-Qaeda. [234-235]

A month after 9-11, Clarke and Cressey went to work on cyber security, and a year after that, they left the administration. [239-240]

Terrorizing Terror Experts

When George Bush was campaigning for office in 2000, worries about his competence were answered by his critics thusly: "He is humble enough to surround himself with good advisors."

This answer doesn't cut it in 2004. First, he didn't surround himself with good people – he surrounded himself with conservative movement people, ideologues and industry hacks. Second, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to listen only to the worst of his advisers. When he managed to have good people giving him good advice, he ignored it. I can't think of a single example of Bush changing a pre-established position on the advice of his professional, rather than political, staff. Third, and perhaps most important, George Bush has managed to drive off many of the jewels of the professional policy establishment, particularly in foreign affairs.

When reading Clarke's Against All Enemies, I couldn't suppress a shudder each time I encountered a terrorism expert that left the administration because of its unwillingness to listen.

What happened to the team that tried to get the Bush White House to pay attention to al Qaeda before September 11 and then stayed in the Situation Room on that day holding things together, even though they thought the White House was about to be hit by a hijacked aircraft? Where are Lisa Gordon-Hagerty and Roger Cressey and Paul Kurtz? They all left the Administration, frustrated. They were never formally thanked by the President, never recognized for what they did before or on September 11. Lisa is working on the safety of nuclear materials in the United States. Paul is buy promoting cyber security. Roger and I are consulting with private sector companies concerned with security and with information assurance; we appear regularly on television, still trying to warn about al Qaeda. [290]
As part of an ongoing project, I want to flesh out some of the talent the Bush White House has driven from public service. First up is Roger Cressey, a former National Security Council adviser on counter terrorism. Next up will be Greg Thielmann. Rand Beers, Fran Townshend, and others will follow over the next week or so.

6/30/2004

Shortchanging Port Security

Port Security is the best evidence of the administration's lack of seriousness in dealing with the threats terrorism poses to homeland security. Tomorrow, July 1st, the new International Ship and Port Security Code takes effect, under the aegis of the United Nations.

Unfortunately, as recently as 5/25/04 - a month ago - "[f]ewer than 6 percent of the world's seaports and ships adhere to United Nations rules aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, the head of the U.N.'s maritime agency said Tuesday." Moreover, "only 2 percent of containerized cargo entering the country. is physically inspected. And while advanced technology scanners have helped speed those inspections, just tracking the 200 million containers that move among the world’s top seaports each year is a major undertaking."

Ports are struggling to meet the new code, leaving us vulnerable and threatening trade disruptions.

Jim White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, thinks the government should help out.

[N]ow that plans have been drawn up, even larger ports are struggling to put the measures in place, said Jim White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration. White said 'fierce' competition in his region had kept the Port of Baltimore from investing in new technologies.

'There's no way ports on the East Coast can absorb these costs,' he said.

White and other critics pointed to the $15 billion the airline industry received from Congress after Sept. 11, some of which was to improve security.

The administration has asked for $46 million for aid to the ports in the 2005 budget.

The Coast Guard put the total cost for implementing the regulations laid out by Congress in the 2002 Maritime Transportation Security Act at $7.5 billion over 10 years.
Luckily, the Heritage Foundation says the ports don't need it.
'The Coast Guard didn't say that [money] should come from the federal government,' Carafano said. 'It should come from the people who operate and use the port.'"
Port Security Update is a good resource on the issue.

Missed Opportunities

[Because of its currency, I am posting a portion of an in-progress article. It discusses the administration failure to hit the Ansar base in N. Iraq prior to the invasion.]


On February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell laid out before the United Nations the U.S. case for an invasion of Iraq. Key to the argument was one man: Abu Musab Zarqawi.

But what I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder. Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associated collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda lieutenants.

Zarqawi, a Palestinian born in Jordan, fought in the Afghan war more than a decade ago. Returning to Afghanistan in 2000, he oversaw a terrorist training camp. One of his specialties and one of the specialties of this camp is poisons. When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp. And this camp is located in northeastern Iraq.

You see a picture of this camp.1
Powell's case was curious. The U.S. apparently had specific information on the location of a terrorist training camp;2 the Coalition Provisional Authority web site notes that "[l]ong before the Iraq war, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was aware of a poisons and explosives training center in northeastern Iraq that the al-Zarqawi network was running."3 Powell admitted that the camp was not in the portion of Iraq over which Saddam Hussein retained control.4 The next day, Senator Joe Biden asked the obvious question: why haven't we already taken this base out?5
At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) asked Powell why no military action has been taken against the Ansar camp since U.S. officials became aware of it in August. Noting that he was in Kurdistan last summer, Biden said there were reports at the time that an attack against the camp was planned.

Powell responded that there had been intelligence monitoring of the camp. "It's been occupied and unoccupied since last summer," he said. As for why no military action has been taken, Powell told Biden that he could not talk about "specific military contingency plans."

Powell said the United States has been "tracing individuals who have gone in there and come out of there," a surveillance effort that enabled him "to make the presentation that I made yesterday." The tracing of those individuals and the testimony of one detainee helped Powell connect Zarqawi's network to plotted terrorist attacks in Europe during his U.N. presentation.
Commentators asked the same question. The progressive writer, David Corn, writing in the Nation, asked:
"Why hasn't the United States bombed the so-called Zarqawi camp shown in the slide? The administration obviously knows where it is, and Powell spoke of it in the present tense. If it is an outpost of chemical weapons and explosives development for al Qaida, why not take it out, especially since it is situated within a part of Iraq uncontrolled by any national government? This part of Powell's briefing reinforced a crucial point: Al-Qaida is the pressing danger at the moment."6
Conservative blogger Dan Drezner also noted the conundrum.7

In a March 2004 NBC report, Jim Miklaszewski provided an ugly answer. He reported that George W. Bush thrice passed on an opportunity to "wipe out his terror operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself."8 Three times – in June 2002, August 2002,9 and January 2003 – "we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” according to Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.
Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
Former National Security Council member Roger Cressey10 claims that "people were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists." Bloggers commented on the shocking story, but there was little official notice.11

Miklaszewski's claim was not unprecedented, though. A similar argument was made almost a year earlier by Greg Miller, in the Los Angeles Times. Miller reported that "[l]awmakers who have attended classified briefings on the camp say they have been stymied for months in their efforts to get an explanation for why the United States has not begun a military strike on the compound near the village of Khurmal.12
"Absent an explanation from the White House, some officials suggested the administration had refrained from striking the compound in part to preserve a key piece of its case against Iraq.

"This is it. This is their compelling evidence for use of force," said one intelligence official, who asked not to be identified. "If you take it out, you can't use it as justification for war."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the intelligence panel, said she and other members had been frustrated in their attempts to get an explanation from administration officials in closed-door briefings.

"We've been asking this question and have not been given an answer," Feinstein said. Officials have replied that "they'll have to get back to us."

Asked whether the White House might have rejected hitting the site to avoid complicating its efforts to build support for war against Iraq, she said: "That's an obvious thought. I hope not."

I too hope, against the evidence, that the White House wouldn't refuse to destroy a Zarqawi terrorist camp to buttress its marginal case for war. In fact, I hope that the administration refrained from striking because the intelligence wasn't reliable enough for action. The rest of this paper is an effort to tease out, from public media, the tenuous connections between Zarqawi and Ansar al-Islam, Zarqawi and al-Qaeda, Zarqawi and Hussein, Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaeda, and Ansar al-Islam and Hussein. The only clear conclusions one can draw about Zarqawi are how little we know and how many people have an incentive to mislead us.


1. Colin Powell, Speech Before the United Nations, 2/5/03 reprinted in THE WASHINGTON POST, A24 2/6/03 available at www.washingtonpost.com/ wp-srv/nation/transcripts/powelltext_020503.html.

2. Our intelligence wasn't perfect, though. "The picture Mr. Powell displayed on a monitor during his speech purported to show a “Terrorist Poison Explosives Factory” [sic] in Khurmal. That village, however, has not been under the control of Ansar al-Islam, but of Komaleh Islami, which has denied the charge. The PUK, which has funded Komaleh, has likewise asserted that the Secretary of State is mistaken." International Crisis Group, Radical Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan: The Mouse that Roared, 6 2/7/03 available at www.icg.org/home/index.cfm?id=1823&l=1 (citing C.J. Chivers, Kurds Puzzled by Report of Terror Camp, NEW YORK TIMES, 2/6/03.) The slide is available on the White House website, at www.whitehouse.gov/ news/releases/2003/02/powell-slides/39.html.

3. Zarqawi Bio, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY, available at www.cpa-iraq.org/bios/zarqawi_bio.html.

4. See Colin Powell, Speech Before the United Nations, 2/5/03 reprinted in THE WASHINGTON POST, A24 2/6/03 available at www.washingtonpost.com/ wp-srv/nation/transcripts/powelltext_020503.html. ("Those helping to run this camp are Zarqawi lieutenants operating in northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's controlled Iraq.")

5. Walter Pincus, Alleged Al Qaeda Ties Questioned; Experts Scrutinize Details of Accusations Against Iraqi Government, The Washington Post, A21 2/7/03 available at www.washingtonpost.com/ ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A38235-2003Feb6¬Found=true.

6. David Corn, No Cause for Invasion, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE B-1, 2/9/03, first printed in The Nation 2/6/03, available at www.thenation.com/capitalgames/index.mhtml?bid=3&pid=371.

7. See Daniel Drezner, Iraq, al Qaeda, and a Modest Proposal for the Security Council, 3/12/2003 available at www.drezner.blogspot.com/ 2003_03_09_drezner_archive.html#90603539. Drezner asks why the U.S. hadn't gone to the Security Council to get authorization for strikes on Kirma: "Given the obvious link between achieving this objective and the war on terror, and given the assertions by France and others that credible evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda would justify use of force, would the Security Council be willing to approve U.S. military action in this area?" He relies on Karl Vick, In Remote Corner of Iraq, an Odd Alliance, WASHINGTON POST A01 3/12/03, available at www.washingtonpost.com/ ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A12762-2003Mar11¬Found=true

8. Jim Miklaszewski, Avoiding Attacking Suspected Terrorist Mastermind, MSNBC 3/2/04 available at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4431601/.

9. ABC News reported on the canceling of the August raid, noting that "[i]n the final analysis, the White House, Pentagon and CIA concluded it was not worth risking American lives to go after these people and not worth the adverse publicity that would surely follow any U.S. operation inside Iraq." John McWethy, Bush Cancels Iraqi Strike, ABC NEWS, 8/20/04 available at abcnews.go.com/ sections/wnt/DailyNews/iraq_mission_aborted020819.html. See also Pam O’Toole, FBI Questions Iraqi Kurd Militant, BBC NEWS, WORLD EDITION, 9/27/02 available at news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2285703.stm

10. Cressey has been implicated in a self-dealing scandal, but his commentary is credible. See Department of Defense, SOCO Advisory, 6/9/03 available at www.defenselink.mil/ dodgc/defense_ethics/2003_Advisories/ADV_0308.htm/.

11. See, e.g., Dan Darling, A Reader Requests Aid 3/30/04 available at regnumcrucis.blogspot.com/ 2004_03_28_regnumcrucis_archive.html#108062642901378720; John Quiggin, The Zarqawi Scandal, available at www.johnquiggin.com/archives/001608.html; Brad DeLong, The Strange Survival of Ansar al-Islam's Base in Northern Iraq, available at www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2004_archives/000428.html; Bob Somerby, Why is Zarqawi Still Walking Around, THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/22/04 available at http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh052204.shtml.

12. See Greg Miller, U.S. Inaction on Camp Questioned, LOS ANGELES TIMES, 2/7/03.

6/28/2004

Rove's Right "Legman"

The New York Times > Washington > Aide Is Bush's Eyes and Ears on the Right:

Not just a right-hand man, but a right "legman":

"'He is a constant set of eyes and ears,' said Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Feulner said he saw Mr. Goeglein two or three times a week at meals, meetings or social events. 'If I have a message I want to get to Rove or the administration, I will scribble out a note to Tim, and within 24 hours I will get a response back. For lots of things, he is sort of one-stop shopping for a point of access to the administration.'

Christian conservatives, in particular, say that Mr. Goeglein (pronounced GAIG-line) has been an important conduit to the White House for their demands that Mr. Bush stop financing family planning groups that support abortion, heavily publicize a signing of anti-abortion legislation, block stem-cell research and oppose same-sex marriage - all calls that the president has heeded."

Radical Librarians...

Boston.com / News / Nation / Former terrorism czar calls Iraq invasion 'enormous mistake':

In the keynote address at the American Library Association's annual convention in Orlando, Richard Clarke criticizes the administration...

"The United States' ideological credibility has been undermined by revelations of the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison and the release of documents that showed U.S. government attorneys conducted a legal analysis of what constituted torture, Clarke said.

Clarke took issue with some elements of filmmaker Michael Moore's new documentary, ''Fahrenheit 9/11,'' which depicts how the Bush administration allowed Saudi nationals and members of Osama bin Laden's family to leave the United States days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Clarke said he thought the Saudi government was ''perfectly justified'' in wanting its citizens to leave the United States out of fears of ''vigilantism'' by Americans.

The Saudis were not allowed to leave until the FBI cleared them of posing any danger and having knowledge of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, Clarke said.

Making the incident a big part of the movie was a mistake, said Clarke, who added that he agrees with many things Moore stands for."

More on the SCOTUS decisions

Michael Froomkin, continuing his excellent coverage of administration legal issues, has good posts on the decisions here, here, here, here, here, and here. It's really easier just to go to www.discourse.net and read the whole thing.

Jack Balkin comments here and here.

Volokh comments here, here, here, here, and here.

Mark Levin in The Corner condems the decisions here.

Larry Solum at the Legal Theory Blog has a nice break-down of the decisions here.

The Supreme Court's Role in the War on Terror

The following decisions came down today:
Holland v. Jackson

An inadequate assistance of counsel case.

United States v. Patane

A decision weakening Miranda rights.

Missouri v. Seibert

A decision strengthening Miranda rights.

Hamdi v. Rumsfeld

A four justice plurality opinion of O'Connor, Rehnquist, Breyer, and Kennedy, and a Souter-Ginsburg partial concurrence, held that the executive has the authority to detain enemy combatants, but not without access to counsel. Scalia and Stevens dissented, arguing that the executive does not have the authority to involuntarily detain enemy combatants absent a Congressional suspension of the writ of habeus corpus. Thomas dissented, embracing the unitary executive idea that Presidential war making powers allow him to detain enemy combatants unilaterally.

Rasul v. Bush

U.S. Courts have jurisdiction over habeus petitions from Guantanamo detainees.

Rumsfeld v. Padilla

In a 5-4, with Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, O'Connor and Kennedy in the majority (opinion by Rehnquist), the Court held that "Padilla did not properly file his habeas petition in the Southern District of New York," allowing it to punt on the question of whether "the President possess[ed the] authority to detain Padilla militarily." The District Court and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals were overturned on the quasi-jurisdictional issue. From the dissent:

"Although the Court purports to be enforcing a “bright-line rule” governing district courts’ jurisdiction, ante, at 21, an examination of its opinion reveals that the line is far from bright. Faced with a series of precedents empha-sizing the writ’s “scope and flexibility,” Harris, 394 U. S., at 291, the Court is forced to acknowledge the numerous exceptions we have made to the immediate custodian rule. The rule does not apply, the Court admits, when physical custody is not at issue, ante, at 8, or when American citi-zens are confined overseas, ante, at 19, n. 16, or when the petitioner has been transferred after filing, ante, at 12–13, or when the custodian is “‘present’” in the district through his agents’ conduct, ante, at 17. In recognizing exception upon exception and corollaries to corollaries, the Court itself persuasively demonstrates that the rule is not iron-clad. It is, instead, a workable general rule that fre-quently gives way outside the context of “‘core challenges’” to Executive confinement. Ante, at 6.
In the Court’s view, respondent’s detention falls within the category of “‘core challenges’” because it is “not unique in any way that would provide arguable basis for a depar-ture from the immediate custodian rule.” Ante, at 13. It is, however, disingenuous at best to classify respondent’s petition with run-of-the-mill collateral attacks on federal criminal convictions. On the contrary, this case is singu-lar not only because it calls into question decisions made by the Secretary himself, but also because those decisions have created a unique and unprecedented threat to the freedom of every American citizen."
Quote that gives hope (none were available in the majority opinion): Stevens, dissenting:
"Whether respondent is entitled to immediate release is a question that reasonable jurists may answer in different ways.8 There is, however, only one possible answer to thequestion whether he is entitled to a hearing on the justifi-cation for his detention.9

At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society. Even more important than the method of selecting the people’s rulers and their successors is the character of the constraints imposed on the Executive by the rule of law. Unconstrained Executive detention for the purpose of investigating and preventing subversive activ-ity is the hallmark of the Star Chamber.10 Access to coun-sel for the purpose of protecting the citizen from official mistakes and mistreatment is the hallmark of due process.

Executive detention of subversive citizens, like detention of enemy soldiers to keep them off the battlefield, may sometimes be justified to prevent persons from launching or becoming missiles of destruction. It may not, however, be justified by the naked interest in using unlawful proce-dures to extract information. Incommunicado detention for months on end is such a procedure. Whether the information so procured is more or less reliable than that acquired by more extreme forms of torture is of no consequence. For if this Nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of ty-rants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny."

 

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