Thursday, September 18, 2003

Tom has gone bonkers:

Tom Friedman writes a column in the New York Times today entitled Our War With France. Let's look at some of what he says:
FRIEDMAN: What I have no doubts about, though, is that there is no coherent, legitimate Iraqi authority able to assume power in the near term, and trying to force one now would lead to a dangerous internal struggle and delay the building of the democratic institutions Iraq so badly needs. Iraqis know this. France knows this, which is why its original proposal (which it now seems to be backtracking on a bit) could only be malicious.

OBSERVATION: Sometimes quicker is better. Winston Churchill said this about India in 1947: "A fourteen-month time interval is fatal to an orderly transfer of power" since it gives extremists on both sides time to organize.

FRIEDMAN: France seems to have given no thought as to how this would affect France.

BUT A FEW SENTENCES EARLIER HE WROTE: France wants America to sink in a quagmire there in the crazy hope that a weakened U.S. will pave the way for France to assume its "rightful" place as America's equal, if not superior, in shaping world affairs.

So there is some thought about how this would affect France. Or maybe not. Or something.

FRIEDMAN: ... France has never been interested in promoting democracy in the modern Arab world, which is why its pose as the new protector of Iraqi representative government — after being so content with Saddam's one-man rule — is so patently cynical.

OBSERVATION: Unlike the United States' pose as the new protector of Iraqi representative government - after being so content with Sadam's one-man rule (in the 1980's).


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Are you ready for this?

From Newsday - Syria, Libya Listed as 'Rogue States' (excerpts, emphasis added)
The Bush administration named Syria and Libya yesterday as "rogue states" whose weapons of mass destruction must not just be controlled but must be eliminated by whatever means necessary.

In what Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Jamaica Estates) called "the axis of evil plus," Bolton testified that Syria and Libya had weapons of mass destruction programs that must be "rolled back" and eliminated. Two years ago, President George W. Bush named North Korea, Iran and Iraq under Saddam Hussein as the "axis of evil."

Bolton said diplomacy is the administration's preferred approach but that "every tool in our nonproliferation toolbox" was an option. Bolton refused to rule out "regime change" as an administration option in Syria.
We are puzzled by this. According to Sy Hersh, Syria was very cooperative in the wake of 9/11.

From the Middle East Information Center: (excerpt, emphasis added)
... after September 11th the Syrian leader, Bashar Assad, initiated the delivery of Syrian intelligence to the United States. The Syrians had compiled hundreds of files on Al Qaeda, including dossiers on the men who participated—and others who wanted to participate—in the September 11th attacks. Syria also penetrated Al Qaeda cells throughout the Middle East and in Arab exile communities throughout Europe. That data began flowing to C.I.A. and F.B.I. operatives.

Within weeks of the September 11th attacks, the F.B.I. and the C.I.A, with Syria’s permission, began intelligence-gathering operations in Aleppo, near the Turkish border. Aleppo was the subject of Mohammed Atta’s dissertation on urban planning, and he travelled there twice in the mid-nineties. “At every stage in Atta’s journey is the Muslim Brotherhood,” a former C.I.A. officer who served undercover in Damascus told me. “He went through Spain in touch with the Brotherhood in Hamburg.”

Syria also provided the United States with intelligence about future Al Qaeda plans. In one instance, the Syrians learned that Al Qaeda had penetrated the security services of Bahrain and had arranged for a glider loaded with explosives to be flown into a building at the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters there. Flynt Leverett, a former C.I.A. analyst who served until early this year on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, told me that Syria’s help “let us thwart an operation that, if carried out, would have killed a lot of Americans.” The Syrians also helped the United States avert a suspected plot against an American target in Ottawa.

Syria’s efforts to help seemed to confound the Bush Administration, which was fixated on Iraq. According to many officials I spoke to, the Administration was ill prepared to take advantage of the situation and unwilling to reassess its relationship with Assad’s government. Leverett told me that “the quality and quantity of information from Syria exceeded the Agency’s expectations.” But, he said, "from the Syrians’ perspective they got little in return for it.”
That's for damn sure.


It might as well have been this:


Remember this:

Via Atrios/Eschaton we were directed to a harsh editorial by the Star Tribune about Cheney's lies - specifically on Meet the Press last Sunday. (apparently requires registration to read)

We agree about Cheney's mendacity, but would also like to point out that Tim Russert let him get away with it.

And another thing. Why did Cheney make assertions that were so easy to refute? Why not hint that some top-secret sigint suggested links between Hussein and various projects and bad guys? Was Cheney's performance designed to be an "in your face" posture of contempt for journalists, the public, and world governments? Surely no leaders in Moscow, Tokyo, Paris, Cairo, or anywhere else are buying Cheney's arguments (as presented on Meet the Press).


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Political Rx:
Poison: William Saletan's article in Slate asserting that Democrats are just as conniving and dishonest as Republicans.

Antidote: Digby.


Tom Friedman metaphor watch:

Friedman was on the Charlie Rose Show this Monday (15 Sep 2003). Here are some metaphors that should be appearing in upcoming columns:
  • We have "dropped the ball" in terms of providing resources for Iraq reconstruction.
  • Re Rumsfeld saying we have enough troops: We have entered the "Twilight Zone".
  • "We defeated the Flintstones". (Iraq was actually a poor country.)
  • Baghdad is "Bedrock". (Another Flintstones metaphor.)
  • We have found ourselves in a "Black Hole". (Messy situation in Iraq.)
  • The Iraqi population is like "a dog that's been kicked too many times".
  • Rebuilding Iraq: Friedman is worried about "too many chefs in the kitchen". (Too many competing interests: U.S., U.N., et al)


Checking Cheney:

In his Meet the Press interview, Dick Cheney said:
We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact.
Cheney is referring to Abdul Rahman Yasin.

According to a segment in today's Democracy Now program:
  • Yasin is an American citizen, born in Bloomington, Indiana.
  • After the Feb. 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six people and injured more than 1,000, Yasin was one of the men picked up for questioning by investigators. He was eventually released, however, because of insufficient evidence to charge him at that time.
  • When Yasin left the United States he went to Iraq where he lived for a year before being arrested by Iraqi intelligence agents in 1994.
  • Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz (in a 60 Minutes interview) said that twice Iraq attempted to hand Yasin to the United States. Once in '94 under Clinton, and again, after the attacks on September 11.
  • Aziz said in October of 2001 the Iraqi government sent word to the CIA through an Egyptian government emissary that Yasin was in custody in Iraq and that Baghdad wanted to hand him over. [That offer should be checkable by examining CIA records.] Aziz said that the only condition was that the U.S. sign a receipt saying that Iraq had handed him over. The U.S. rejected the offer saying that the Iraqis were placing too many demands on Washington for the return of Yasin.


Even the New York Post:

Seems Richard Grasso's big payday was too much for the business-friendly tabloid, as we read in the editorial GRASSO'S GOT TO GO.


9/11 - many questions, few answers:

For those interested in reviewing the administration's response to 9/11, we suggest you take a look at the Philadelphia Daily News' WHY DON'T WE HAVE ANSWERS TO THESE 9/11 QUESTIONS? which lists 20 questions (link via Rittenhouse Review). We're most interested in those concerning the actions taken on 9/11 (which the first 8 address).

The story gives a link to a webpage: AN INTERESTING DAY: GEORGE BUSH JR. ON 9/11 which goes into detail about the timeline of events that day.

Why are we interested in this? Recent developments regarding the situation in Iraq and in Israel have reinforced our view that that Bush is a weak executive. It seems more and more that Cheney is really in charge (a view echoed by Gail Sheehy). Looking back on Bush's actions that morning in September - his sitting around in an elementry school classroom for 15 minutes after having been told "America is under attack" - we conclude that Bush's Primary Directive was (and still is) 'Don't act until you've checked with the Vice President'.


Sunday, September 14, 2003

A good report:

The Washington Post has an article that reviews Cheney's appearance on Meet the Press. It covers some more topics than our quick analysis (below). Highly recommended. It catches some remarks that we overlooked, e.g.:
Cheney was less forthcoming when asked about Saudi Arabia's ties to al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 hijackers. "I don't want to speculate," he said, adding that Sept. 11 is "over with now, it's done, it's history and we can put it behind us."
Put it behind us? If only it was that easy for Bush.

ADDENDUM: Josh Marshall of TPM has some sharp comments about Cheney bringing up Mohammad Atta yet again - and not squelching the belief that Saddam is connected to 9/11.


We agree with Demagogue that the quote (above) in the Washington Post was misleading and unfair to Cheney.


In case you missed it:

Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times Magazine, The Tax-Cut Con.

Nothing new, but a concise summary of the situation, plus some historical observations (last 40 years or so).


Depressing but worth reading:

New Terror Laws Used Vs. Common Criminals

    In the two years since law enforcement agencies gained fresh powers to help them track down and punish terrorists, police and prosecutors have increasingly turned the force of the new laws not on al-Qaida cells but on people charged with common crimes.
    Federal prosecutors used the act in June to file a charge of "terrorism using a weapon of mass destruction" against a California man after a pipe bomb exploded in his lap, wounding him as he sat in his car.
    A North Carolina county prosecutor charged a man accused of running a methamphetamine lab with breaking a new state law barring the manufacture of chemical weapons. If convicted, Martin Dwayne Miller could get 12 years to life in prison for a crime that usually brings about six months.
    Prosecutor Jerry Wilson says he isn't abusing the law, which defines chemical weapons of mass destruction as "any substance that is designed or has the capability to cause death or serious injury" and contains toxic chemicals.
And while we're at it, this story: Bush Seeks to Expand Access to Private Data

    ... in a plan announced this week to expand counterterrorism powers, President Bush adopted a very different tack. In a three-point presidential plan that critics are already dubbing Patriot Act II, Mr. Bush is seeking broad new authority to allow federal agents without the approval of a judge or even a federal prosecutor to demand private records and compel testimony.
    In announcing his plan on Wednesday, Mr. Bush said one way to give authorities stronger tools to fight terrorists was to let agents demand records through what are known as administrative subpoenas, in order to move more quickly without waiting for a judge.
    The president noted that the government already had the power to use such subpoenas without a judge's consent to catch "crooked doctors" in health care fraud cases and other investigations.
    The analogy was accurate as far as it went, but what Mr. Bush did not mention, legal experts said, was that administrative subpoenas are authorized in health care investigations because they often begin as civil cases, where grand jury subpoenas cannot be issued.
We looked, and couldn't find any details about the compelling of testimony, but it sure sounds bad.


Total B.S.

From the Meet the Press transcript of the interview of Dick Cheney:

Transcript   Our comments
MR. RUSSERT: Has this nation recovered from September 11, 2001?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think in many respects, recovered, yes. On the other hand, there are some things that’ll never be the same.
       And I’m not sure everybody has made that transition yet. I think there are a number of people out there who hope we can go back to pre-9/11 days and that somehow 9/11 was an aberration. It happened one time; it’ll never happen again. But the president and I don’t have that luxury.
  We hold the view that something like 9/11 is extremely unlikely. While we think al-Qaeda is a meanace, all that it has is the ability to detonate truck and car bombs. They do not have any weapons other than rifles and RPGs. The destruction of the World Trade Towers was a fluke.
MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.
MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn’t have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we’ve learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.
       We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.
       Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.

Some, but not 9/11 related

One of the '93 bombers was Iraqi:


Atta in Prague:

Highly suspect, and should not be mentioned by senior officials unless it is near-certain.

MR. RUSSERT: We could establish a direct link between the hijackers of September 11 and Saudi Arabia.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We know that many of the attackers were Saudi. There was also an Egyptian in the bunch. It doesn’t mean those governments had anything to do with that attack.
  Yet seconds earlier Cheney noted that one of the '93 bombers was an Iraqi.
MR. RUSSERT: There are reports that the investigation Congress did does show a link between the Saudi government and the hijackers but that it will not be released to the public.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don’t know want to speculate on that, Tim, partly because I was involved in reviewing those pages. It was the judgment of our senior intelligence officials, both CIA and FBI that that material needed to remain classified. At some point, we may be able to declassify it, but there are ongoing investigations that might be affected by that release, and for that reason, we kept it classified.
  Might be?
MR. RUSSERT: Vanity Fair magazine reports that about 140 Saudis were allowed to leave the United States the day after the 11th, allowed to leave our airspace and were never investigated by the FBI and that departure was approved by high-level administration figures. Do you know anything about that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don’t, but a lot of folks from that part of the world left in the aftermath of 9/11 because they were worried about public reaction here in the United States or that somehow they might be discriminated against.

Letting the bin Laden family out of the U.S. because they were worried they might be discriminated against? Who believes that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: ... So we have had, especially since the attacks of Riyadh in May of this year from the Saudi government, great support and cooperation in going after terrorists, especially al-Qaeda. [...] And the Saudis have been, as I say in the last several months, very good partners in helping us go after the people in the al-Qaeda organization.   Some friends. They didn't do squat until they were attacked.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the situation in Iraq. [...] We had lost 138 soldiers before May 1, and 685 wounded, injured. Since that time, since the president came on the carrier and said major combat was over, we’ve lost 158, and 856 wounded and injured. Those numbers are pretty troubling.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: [...] Remember, we lost 3,000 people here on 9/11.
  Conflating 9/11 with Iraq.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: [...] We’ve got Iraqis now in charge of each ministry in the government. We’ve got 90 percent—over 90 percent of the cities and towns and villages of Iraq are now governed by democratically elected or appointed local councils.   Appointed by whom?
MR. RUSSERT: [...] In a report that underscores the stress being place on the military by the occupation of Iraq, the CBO said the Army’s goals of keeping the same number of troops in Iraq and limiting tours of duty there to a year while maintaining its current presence elsewhere in the world were impossible to sustain without activating more National Guard or Reserve units.”
       Can we keep 150,000 troops beyond next spring without, in effect, breaking the Army?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Tim, we can do what we have to do to prevail in this conflict. Failure’s not an option. And go back again and think about what’s involved here. This is not just about Iraq or just about the difficulties we might encounter in any one part of the country in terms of restoring security and stability. This is about a continuing operation on the war on terror.
[...] If we’re successful in Iraq, if we can stand up a good representative government in Iraq, that secures the region so that it never again becomes a threat to its neighbors or to the United States, so it’s not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, so that it’s not a safe haven for terrorists, now we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.
  Does that mean a draft in our future?

More conflating 9/11 with Iraq.

Iraq was not the geographic base of the terrorists. Afghanistan was.

MR. RUSSERT: So the resistance in Iraq is coming from those who were responsible for 9/11?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I was careful not to say that. With respect to 9/11, 9/11, as I said at the beginning of the show, changed everything. [...] America’s going to be safer and more secure in the years ahead when we complete the task in Iraq successfully, and we will complete it successfully. And whatever the cost is, in terms of casualties or financial resources, it’s a whale of a lot less than trying to recover from the next attack in the United States.
  We doubt that the cost of being in Iraq will be "a whale of a lot less" than an attack in the United States - which we think is extremely unlikely. As noted above, al-Qaeda has limited capabilities.
MR. RUSSERT: You also told me, Mr. Vice President, in March that you thought Saddam would be captured or killed, turned in by his own people. Why hasn’t that happened if they view us as liberators?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, we’re working on it, and we’ll continue to work on it. His sons were turned in by the Iraqi people.
  Wasn't it just one guy?
MR. RUSSERT: Now, Ambassador Joe Wilson, a year before that, was sent over by the CIA because you raised the question about uranium from Africa. He says he came back from Niger and said that, in fact, he could not find any documentation that, in fact, Niger had sent uranium to Iraq or engaged in that activity and reported it back to the proper channels. Were you briefed on his findings in February, March of 2002?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I don’t know Joe Wilson. I’ve never met Joe Wilson.
  The Wilson mission was triggered by a request from the Vice President's office.
MR. RUSSERT: If [the intelligence agencies] were wrong, Mr. Vice President, shouldn’t we have a wholesale investigation into the intelligence failure that they predicted...
VICE PRES. CHENEY: What failure?
MR. RUSSERT: That Saddam had biological, chemical and is developing a nuclear program.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: My guess is in the end, they’ll be proven right, Tim.
  How long does one have to wait? One year? Five years? To say that "in the end" we will be proven right is a way of postponing any judgement on any policy.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: [...] How do you explain why Saddam Hussein, if he had no program, wouldn’t come clean and say, “I haven’t got a program. Come look”? Then he would have sanctions lifted.   False. The U.S. government position was not to lift sanctions unless Saddam was removed from power.
MR. RUSSERT: If you froze the tax cut for the top 1 percent of Americans, it would generate enough money to pay for the $87 billion for the war, if you did it for just one year. Would you consider that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think it’d be a mistake, because you can’t look at that without considering what its impact would be on the economy. An awful lot of the returns in that top bracket are small businesses, and they provide an awful lot of the job growth in this economy.
  If they are in the top bracket, then it's not a small business anymore. And anyway, we suspect that an overwhelming majority of top earners are executives at big companies. (And what does an "awful lot" mean anyway? Absolute numbers? Percentage?)
MR. RUSSERT: What happened to Dick Cheney, deficit hawk.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: [...] I am a deficit hawk. So is the president.
  Has Bush said anything that would make us think he's a deficit hawk? We can't recall any instance.
MR. RUSSERT: But we see deficits for the next 10 years, big ones. How do you deal with that, when you have Social Security, Medicare, coming up?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We anticipate even with the added spending that we’ve asked for now we’ll cut the deficit roughly in half from where it’ll be next year over the next five years. So we’ll be moving in the right direction.
  So now it's the direction that matters, not the actual numbers. Try telling that to your bank or credit card company ("I'm short this month, but here's a small payment in the right direction.")
MR. RUSSERT: What do you think of the Democratic field?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Haven’t really, frankly, paid a hell of a lot of attention to it, Tim. I’m awful busy with my normal day job.


Taking the hardest line:

According to a count of the transcript, "9/11" was mentioned 26 times. (once by Russert, 25 times by Cheney)