Saturday, June 28, 2003

Buy George Will A Lap Dance  

In today's WaPo, Mr. Will repeats the litany of horrors that moral prigs are afraid might result from Lawrence v. Texas (the Texas sodomy decision).
Today laws criminalizing homosexual sodomy are rare and rarely enforced. They should be repealed. In most states they have been, by democratic persuasion. Once the court has said that some such acts are constitutional rights, by what principle are any of the myriad possible permutations of consensual adult sexual activities denied the same standing?

Right. As if the Texas legislature would have ever repealed that sodomy law. The same group that so entertained us in early spring when the Dems fled the state to block Republican gerrymandering at the behest of The Exterminator.
Once consent -- "choice" -- supplants marriage as the important interest served by cloaking sexual activities as constitutional rights, by what principle is any consensual adult sexual conduct not a protected right? Bigamy? Polygamy? Prostitution? Incest? Even -- if we assume animals can consent, or that their consent does not matter -- bestiality?

What is it that Republicans find so fascinating about man on dog? Mr. Will, do you really think that there's going to be an uptick in the rate of bestiality after Lawrence?

As for the constitutionality of lapdances, I never had one, never want one, but remind me again... if everyone's agreeable, what's the problem?

Katrina Leung: The Economist Ignores Her Republican Activism  

I''ve been meaning to blog this for a while. In May, The Economist published an article on Republican Party activist and accused double agent Katrina Leung. While there are facts I hadn't seen elsewhere,the description of her is wildly misleading. And guess what is minimized? That's right, her GOP activism. The ommissions are so egregious and the attempts to tie her to Democrats are so feeble that it is reasonable to conclude that The Economist is engaging in nothing less than a deliberate pattern to mislead the reader on the extent of her Republican party connections.
A prominent local businesswoman, she sat on a distinguished foreign-policy committee with Disney's chairman, Michael Eisner, and a former secretary of state, Warren Christopher.
More importantly, Leung was appointed a voting member of the central committee of California's Republican Party by US Representative David Dreier. Eisner and Christopher are both Democrats ,of course. What was not mentioned by The Economist is that Republicans also sat on the same committee. In addition this and other reports state that Leung donated money to Republicans, not Democrats, and held Republican fundraisers in her house. She was also spotted at Bush's inaugural.
She prided herself on her contacts in both the American and the Chinese governments. In 1998, when a former Los Angeles mayor, Richard Riordan, wanted China to sign a multi-million-dollar contract for the use of Los Angeles's port, Ms Leung is said to have fixed a meeting with the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin.

Richard Riordan was a Republican. She also helped Bill Simon, another Republican gubernatorial candiate and who thanked Leung by name in at least one speech.
She was fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. She had a degree from the University of Chicago.

Apparently, the University of Chicago is a preferred recruiting ground for neocons.
In 1997, during an investigation into political donations from a wealthy Indonesian businessman, Ted Sioeng, Ms Leung said he was a respectable member of the local community. Federal investigators believed that in fact Mr Sioeng was working for China, and sought to influence American politics by giving $250,000 to the Democratic National Committee.

And he is known to have contributed $150,000 to Republican causes. In addition, much, if not all, of the information about both Sioeng and Johnny Chung (implicated in the Democratic funding scandals) came from Leung and is therefore suspect.

You can get more info about Katrina Leung, the other dramatis personae in this drama, and her disappearing Republican ties here, here, here, and here.

Flashback: Iraq On April 20, 2003 According To The Times  

Oops, better not remind them of this...
The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq...

And just for the record, I knew it was nonsense when it was first printed. To quote my original post:
Forgive the question, but, um, what emerging government? ...

So, forgive my skepticism, but there seems to be a little, uh, disagreement as to whether the emerging government that the US is interested in and the ones the Islamists want [are the same].

As I've said many times, I'm just a reasonably close reader, not a trained journalist. I shouldn't be right about things like this, but it was obvious back then that the Times was talking through its hat.

So Much For Bringing Democracy To Iraq  

We've been understandably distracted by the increase in violence against the troops and the Middle East. Fortunately, Iraq Democracy Watch took notice that all the elections in Iraq have been cancelled. As Vivion Vinson writes on the blog, is fundamentally against our strategic interests in Iraq to actually implement a democracy -- because the results would likely not favor us to the degree we would wish. If you have any doubt of this, read Kenneth Pollack's article in this issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Kenneth Pollack, one of the more influential op-ed pundits in favor of the war, explains in the favored language of the "political realists" exactly what the anti-war left was saying all along.

And while we're on the subject of wonky reading, don't miss this this superb collection of articles on rebuilding Iraq in Foreign Policy.

From the Minxin Pei article comes this sobering news. The US has made 16 attempts to incubate democracy since 1898. Only 4 succeeded in doing so within 10 years. And the conditions under which democracy took hold are really not too comparable to Iraq.

Why Does The Military Hate America?  

Digby has an excellent post up about changes in political orientation in the military. Apparently, the officer corps, no surprise, were GOP through and through. But given the erosion of morale due to the sense of constant crisis and perpetual mission, and given the cutbacks on benefits, there is growing dissatisfaction with Team Bush. Some people will do anything to undermine a soldier's safety overseas.
The military does not function well in a system of swirling, circular logic and post-modern cognitive relativism. The “War Show” is not Reality TV to these guys. It’s just plain old reality.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that you would see quite a few in the military being very disconcerted by what the modern Republican party is becoming. These are people who are actually conservative --- and the Republican Party just isn’t. They are radicals.

Kos points out an editorial in the The Army Times (subscriber only) that begins like this:

Nothing but lip service
(Issue Date: June 30, 2003)

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap -- and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

If this is the case, and the Dems are starting to attract more military voters, I wonder if the Repubs will be screeching for all the absentee ballots to be counted in '04...

Josh Marshall on The Niger Forgeries: Explain How They Got Into Sotu  

Josh is not letting the story disappear and it shouldn't. It's now well known that even though high administration officials including Cheney, knew about that the Niger documents were crude forgeries beforehand, nevertheless, they were mentioned in the January State of the Union speech as proof of Saddam's evil intent. Rice lied about a month ago and denied that any top level administration official knew they were bogus. But since then, no one has spoken about it.

This story should not disappear. Bush lied, either knowingly or by surrounding himself with people who were capable of giving him lies to pass on to the American public.

Friday, June 27, 2003

The Tale of Dr. Obeidi  

Thanks, Josh Marshall, for the heads up on the tale of how we learned about the scientist who buried nuke parts and plans in his backyard. Josh, also talks about his views pre and post fall of Baghdad about the WMD's. The bottom line is he had no idea if they were there before unless he studied the intelligence carefully. And now, he doesn't know if they are there. Nor does anyone else, based upon publically available sources.

In regards to some of the scenarios being bruited about, some are quite unlikely. For example, the notion that Saddam destroyed the massive stockpile of WMD's just before the war or in the months before just doesn't hold much water. Surely, there would be some indication of that destruction and surely US intellligence would have gotten wind of it. The numbers of weapons claimed was just too large for them to be destroyed in a matter of months. As you may recall, the dismantling of the al-Samoud missiles each took several days. Anyway, here's the story of a fellow who wanted to turn himself in, but couldn't, courtesy CNN:
The high-ranking Iraqi nuclear scientist who led U.S. officials to hidden centrifuge blueprints and components told CNN he was detained by the Army despite the fact that he was already cooperating with the CIA, and the intermediary who facilitated his contact with the U.S. government said he was initially ignored.

Mahdi Obeidi, who headed Iraq's gas centrifuge program for enriching uranium before the Persian Gulf War, said he hid the parts in his garden 12 years ago under orders from Saddam Hussein's son Qusay and Saddam's then-son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. ( Full story )
Obeidi said he decided to cooperate with the United States days after American troops entered Baghdad but said he was afraid to talk to U.S. soldiers.

He instead approached international journalists at random outside the well-known Palestine Hotel in the Iraqi capital until he was able to convince one to contact David Albright, a former weapons inspector he had met in the 1990s.
U.S. officials initially did not understand the significance of Obeidi's offer, Albright said.

"I have never seen anything like it. Obeidi is sending all sorts of signals, and they just missed it completely," Albright said. "They were going to walk away from him."

Obeidi said: "After David made the first contact, I told them that I had very important information at my disposal. I told them about the intentions and the presence of designs, of documents and of a critical component."

Once U.S. agents realized the potential significance of his offer, "they were really filled with joy that such a thing could happen," he said.

"I told them my only concern is about myself and my family and that this matter needs to be taken with utmost care, and they promised me that this matter would be the greatest concern to them."

Despite those assurances, on June 3, two days after he turned the nuclear components and documents over to the CIA, the U.S. Army broke down the door of his home and took him away.
Once released, Obeidi resumed his meetings with CIA personnel, whom he said he believed had agreed to move him and his family out of the country for protection in return for handing over the documents and designs. But he said he then began to think that the CIA was going back on its word.

"First they have promised that they will make all the attempts to safeguard me ... and then what happened they told me that they have looked and they have investigated this matter, and they have discovered that there is more that I can offer, and they are ready to take the news to the media," he recalled.

Albright advised Obeidi at that point to go public with his story.

"I think what happened unfortunately is there is no policy in the U.S. government to allow these scientists to come to the U.S.," Albright said. "... There is no plea-bargain policy."

More On Quag II  

Hoo, boy.
In an interview on June 17, an unnamed senior British official at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad told the Daily Telegraph of London that it was, "The single most chaotic organization I have ever worked for."

"The operation is chronically under-resourced and suffers from an almost complete absence of strategic direction," according to the official.

Last week, Patrick Cockburn, a British journalist particularly knowledgeable about Iraq, reported from Baghdad that the few Iraqis who have joined the authority describe the American officials administering Iraq as living in an air-conditioned fantasy world.

The head of the authority, L. Paul Bremer, speaking at an air-conditioned press conference, said that with a few exceptions, Baghdad was receiving 20 hours of electricity a day.

"'It simply isn't true,'" said one Iraqi, shaking his head in disbelief after listening to Bremer. "'Everybody in Baghdad knows it,'" Cockburn reported him as saying.Peters, asserting that neo-conservatives such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and others were behind the war, said they "talked themselves into believing a scenario in which the Iraqis would magically restructure themselves..."

"The neo-cons underestimated the probability of resistance from Baath elements," Peters says. "Iraq has a population of about 23 million; 1 or 2 million had a real stake in the Baath system and of these tens of thousands remain emotionally committed to it."

And that doesn't take into accounts the Shiites, the Kurds, the communists, and who knows who else.


Now That's The Way To Question A Press Secretary  

The Brits are in a snit. And it's all George's fault.
"Nobody 'sexed up' or exaggerated the September dossier. No one at all," said the exasperated foreign secretary.

Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell, has lambasted the BBC report.

"Until the BBC acknowledge that is a lie, I will keep banging on ... and they better issue an apology pretty quick," Campbell said.

The BBC has refused to back down.

Richard Sambrook, director of BBC News, wrote a nine-page letter to Campbell on Friday refusing to apologize and accusing Campbell of a "personal vendetta" against Gilligan.

"It is our firm view that No. 10 (Downing Street) tried to intimidate the BBC in its reporting of events leading up to the war and during the course of the war itself," he wrote.

Downing Street later issued a statement from Campbell dismissing Sambrook's reply as "weasel-worded" and maintaining the network had no evidence "to justify their lie."

Campbell then appeared on Channel 4 News — the BBC's competitor — to discuss the dispute, engaging in a heated conversation with anchor Jon Snow, who pressed him with questions about the dossiers and then suggested Campbell resign. Campbell dismissed the idea with an exasperated, "for heaven's sake."

Has Tivo Lost Its Mind?  

It certainly seems so. Why would they want to demonstrate how good their tech is at skipping ads?
On June 2, personal-video-recorder outfit TiVo ( TIVO ) unveiled an analytical tool that can tell advertisers, agencies, and networks not only how many people tune in for a show but whether they're watching the ads. Unlike a Nielsen rating, which relies on surveys filled out by viewers, TiVo's system tracks what a viewer records and tunes into, even when the channel is changed -- although, thankfully, it still doesn't know if you head for the kitchen for something to eat...

In the weeks since TiVo threw down the gauntlet, it has become clear that the burning question of which half of advertising is wasted isn't something that ad giants, such as Interpublic ( IPG ) or the big three networks necessarily want answered -- especially in the network-TV market, where ad prices continue to rise, despite falling viewer ratings. "This kind of information is the holy grail for marketers. But it's not the holy grail for advertising agencies and media companies, which have built an industry around the idea of getting a shallow message to a broad audience rather than a tailored message to a narrower one," says Mike Galgon, chief strategy officer at Seattle-based interactive ad agency Avenue A ( AQNT )...

TV's transformation will surely take time. Right now, most ad agencies and network execs are in a state of deep denial about the wrenching change on the horizon.

Let's hope they stay in denial.

Iraq: Beyond Doubt, A Quagmire  

Via Cursor comes this press release from a high-end risk assessment consulting company. They do not have happy things to report about Iraq. That is putting it mildly:
Post-War Iraq is delicately poised between a future that offers some stability for Iraqis and international business and a more unstable state where the country seeks to throw out U.S. and British forces, according to the latest report from Kroll.

‘Iraq: Risk Scenarios' says that post-war Iraq is most likely to face one of two scenarios in the next six months:

  • A ‘Wobbly Landing' where the process of building a democratic state is difficult; US forces are heavily involved, and economic recovery develops at an uncertain pace.
  • There is an equal chance there may be an ‘Iraqi Revolt' where efforts to build a representative government fail; crime and violence grow; American troop withdrawal and stabilization become a priority, bringing with it high risks and uncertainties for investors.
  • There is little chance that Iraq will rapidly move towards full stability. But nor is it likely to implode into chaos in the near future, despite tensions on the ground.

Unfortunately the full report costs nearly $6,000 so I will assume, for now, that they can back this up with data analyses. Of course, this just confirms what most of us thought would happen before the war. It is sobering, nevertheless, to see it so baldly put by professional consultants.

What the MoveOn Primary Was All About  

So the MoveOn primary was a success. Apparently, attempts to stuff the ballots by the freepers either never happened or was defused by MoveOn's checks. Thank goodness.

In any event, Dean won by a wide margin but MoveOn said they would endorse a candidate only if someone topped 50%. Dean got 43%, so they endorse no one now. Do click the link above and get the full skinny.

And 300,000 voted, making it an enormously influential primary.

In case you haven't figured it out, MoveOn now has at least one more important "proof of concept." What they have been doing is exploring the mechanisms by which a viable new party can be constructed that speaks directly to liberals, moderates and others. The demos proved that on utterly vital issues, such as war, hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets. The "virtual march" demonstrated that MoveOn can make their views known, albeit rudely, to elected officials.

The primary shows that MoveOn can successfully mobilize and channel its members into mainstream political action.

More research is needed, but all the makings of a new party are here in its rough form.

Prior to the 2004 election, I suspect that MoveON will serve as a PAC for Dems. Many members, including myself, would leave MoveOn if they pulled a Nader in '04. Depending upon the results, MoveON would then have the following reasonable choices:

1. Continue as a PAC, influencing the Dems and possibly the Greens.
2. Become a national party that may provide some separate candidates from the Democrats, but essentially endorses the same national ticket, especially at the presidential and congressional level.
3. Become a kind of sub-party, which would endorse the national Democratic ticket but in certain local races, fund MoveOn members for office.

What would not be smart, given the current practical alternatives, would be for MoveOn to launch an entirely independent national ticket for '06/'08 and following. Nevertheless, if the Dems blow it in '04, lose all three branches and fail to generate any enthusiasm for their national candidates, MoveOn will be in a position to, and should, assert more and more autonomy from the Democratic Party.

Right now, however, it is vital, crucial, that all of us support whomever the Democratic presidential candidate is in 2004. Otherwise, we can look forward to more poor economic management, more dreadful wars, an incompetent homeland security, and the destruction of as many civil rights advances as Bush can possibly ram through in 8 years, including roe, yesterday's sea change on gay rights, and a host of others.

In any event, this week is the first one that had some good news for all Americans in quite a while. It also had its share of tragedies: as Bush ponitificates on Africa, attacks in Iraq are growing on servicemen and more are being killed.

Nevertheless, yesterday and today saw some progress towards wresting our country back from the radicals.

George Bush: The Sword Of The Lord  

Whoa. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was speaking with Bush:
According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush said: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

Question for His Excellency: Did God also tell you to lose track of bin Laden and Saddam? Did God also tell you to put your countrymen in mortal danger by increasing Islamist hatred against them?

Just asking. No reason to get snippy about it.

UPDATE: via Cursor, I learned that Al Kamen in the Washington Post tried to confirm this. Okay, there's some wiggle room because of the use of multiple translations. Without a tape of exactly what he said, we'll never know.

But we know that is exactly what he thinks, and that he probably did say it, as reported.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Council On Foreign Relations Regarding Iraq. Hint: They're Not Impressed.  

Summary of a report from The Council on Foreign Relations regarding what to do about Quagmire II, aka Iraq.
In a sign of flagging confidence in the Bush administration's performance in post-war Iraq, a task force from the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has called for the occupation authority to give the United Nations a much greater role in establishing Iraqi political institutions, among other measures.
The implicit and, at times, explicit criticism contained in the report is particularly remarkable given the prominence of the two authors, who chair a CFR task force in Iraq of 25 former senior US policy makers and regional experts. [Thomas] Pickering, the highest-ranking US diplomat when he retired from the foreign service in the mid-1990s, served as former president George H W Bush's ambassador to the UN during the first Gulf War in 1991.

[James] Schlesinger, who served in several cabinet positions under a number of Republican presidents, was an outspoken supporter of the decision to go to war in Iraq and has long been close to Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, who is responsible for US military operations in Iraq and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) headed by the civilian administrator, L Paul Bremer.

The report faults the administration for "a series of false starts" and failing to offer any clear "vision and strategy" for Iraq's political future, to more aggressively engage Iraqi leaders at all levels, to speak with one voice about how it will deal with Iraqi oil, and to encourage the active involvement of the UN secretary general's special representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, in stabilizing the situation and building international support for reconstruction.

And, in advice which the administration is unlikely to want to hear at the moment, it calls for Washington to make clear that it will be prepared to sustain the some 200,000 US troops currently deployed in and around Iraq "for as long as necessary".

That number not only amounts to more than twice the 75,000-troop estimate made by the Pentagon before the war, which the CFR task force estimated would by itself cost the US Treasury nearly US$17 billion a year, or more than the entire US aid budget. It is also consistent with estimates made before the war by the recently retired army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, estimates that were ridiculed at the time as "way off the mark" by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and dismissed by Rumsfeld himself.
Time for the grownups to be put back in charge of the playpen in Washington.

A Very Important Civil Rights Victory  

So the Supremes, at least most of them, behaved supremely well for a change. One of these days it may even be a national holiday.

Obviously, He Meant "Doesn't Know" In The Biblical Sense  

I don't know anybody in any government or any intelligence agency who suggested that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons.
Donald Rumsfeld, June 24, 2003

...we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.
Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003

Thanks, LiberalOasis, for the heads up.

Old News But Important To Revisit  

Eschaton links to this AP report about the failure by the Bush administration to keep the pressure on bin Laden by keeping Predator drones in the sky.
Nearly a dozen current and former senior U.S. officials described to AP the extensive discussions in 2000 and 2001 inside the Clinton and Bush administrations about using an armed Predator to kill bin Laden. Most spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing the classified nature of the information. Two former national security aides also cite some of the discussion inside the Bush White House in a recent book they published on terrorism. [This book may be The Age of Sacred Terror ]
The officials said that within days of President Bush taking office in January 2001, his top terrorism expert on the National Security Council, Richard Clarke, urged National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to resume the drone flights to track down bin Laden, citing the successes of late 2000.

The drones were one component of a broader plan that Clarke, a career government employee, had devised in the final days of the Clinton administration to go after al-Qaida after the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Clinton officials decided just before Christmas 2000 to forward the plan to the incoming Bush administration rather than implement it during Clinton's final days, the officials said.

The Predators, however, were not put back in the air before Sept. 11.

At a White House meeting of Bush's national security principals on Sept. 4, 2001, senior officials discussed several ideas, including use of the drones, as they finalized a plan to accelerate efforts to go after al-Qaida amid signs of a growing threat of a domestic attack.
Among those present were Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, soon-to-be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Clarke, then Bush's anti-terrorism chief inside the White House.

Officials at the Sept. 4 meeting put off recommending the armed drone as a solution. Instead, they finalized a series of other measures to rout al-Qaida from its base in Afghanistan, including re-arming the rebel Northern Alliance.

Those recommendations were being forwarded from Rice to Bush when the Sept. 11 hijackers struck, officials said.
And the rest, as they say, is...the present awful mess.

None of this is news. It's been long known that anything that Clinton did was a prima facie reason for the Bushites, in their insane arrogance, to do the opposite. It's been publicly known since days after the 9/11 attacks that Sandy Berger and others warned Rice and other officials that bin Laden would be their biggest problem. But the Bushites decided to ignore them and commission their own plans. Meanwhile, they proceeded full steam ahead to implement Star Wars II, which was proceeding while the bin Laden manhunt got short shrift. Right around the time the Bushites were about to make up their mind, bin Laden struck.

Why didn't Clinton re-implement the Predator flyovers in December, 2000? I don't know, but I would guess two things. First, Clinton was obsessed in the last few months with trying to find a solution to the Palestinian/Israeli problem. Second, Clinton himself had been the hapless victim of a foreign policy initiative in the waning days of an outgoing administration (Mogadishu). He probably thought this should be presented as an option to his predecessor rather than as a half-started fait accompli.

Anyway, even though the story is known, it should remain in circulation. One more example of sheer blind arrogance and incompetence.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

The Missing WMDs: The Real Questions  

Bob Somerby's on the money again today about the WMD's and the spin the Bushites are trying to put on the whole issue. He has a nice, compact list some of the actual questions critics are answering. Beware of imitations and straw men! These are the questions Bush needs to answer if he wants to put the matter to rest:

Question: Why did Cheney keep saying Saddam had nukes when intelligence agencies seemed to think otherwise?

Question:Why did Bush say Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa when the claim had been discarded as a hoax?

Question: Why did Rumsfeld say Saddam was allied with al Qaeda when intelligence agencies seemed to think different?

Question:Why did Rice say the aluminum tubes could only be used for nukes when intelligence agencies had decided otherwise?

Question:Why did Bush say that Saddam’s UAVs could hit the US when they had an air range of 300 miles?

Time, Islam, And Missionaries: A Letter  

After blogging yesterday about ,that awful article in Time about "christian" missionaries to Islam ,I decided to send them a letter. This is identical to the one they received, but with links added.

I was rather annoyed after reading that article yesterday. I tightened up the arguments and toned down the indignation. To research the letter carefully I did a "close reading" of the text of the Time article which is available here as a separate web page.

There are many problems of focus and fact In your article, Should Christians Convert Muslims? One serious faux pas takes pride of place, however:

dawn's Rich Haynie says that to the extent that the Allied bombardment induced Muslims to question their god, "we could say that the war was a ripeness moment."

Their god"? It’s exactly the same God that the missionaries say they worship! “Allah” is just a translation of “God” “Dios,” “Adonai”, or “Dieu” into Arabic. As Karen Armstrong points out in Islam: A Short History, Christians in Arabic countries pray to “Allah” when they go to church.

Yes, there are numerous complexities that make all three religions different from each other but the saying, “There is but one God” describes the core belief underlying all of them.

It would be insulting for Time Magazine to refer to the Deity that Jews worship, or the Deity that Christian missionaries worship as “their god.” It is equally insulting for you to describe the Deity of Islam that way: “There is only one God” is what all three religions explicitly affirm. Because the offensive phrase was composed by the reporter, not an interview subject, this must be immediately corrected,

Another serious error is that the author confuses “Islam” (a religion) with “Islamism” (a political movement inspired by a religion). He writes:

Of the three Abrahamic faiths, Islam is the most ferociously opposed to the straying of its flock. Shari'a law calls for the death penalty for those who convert to other religions, and although the penalty is not binding in most Muslim-majority states, persecution is common.

First of all, Shari’a is not central to Islamic belief, which focuses on the well-known Five Pillars Of Islam: faith, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca). Indeed the place of traditional law within Islam, its relative importance, is a subject of great controversy among Muslims. But what is certain is that Shari’a is at the center of Islamist political movements such as those in Saudi Arabia,Turkey, and elsewhere (including certain groups in Iraq).

The distinction is vital, because the missionaries in your article vacuously claim to “love Muslims but despise Islam” but they don’t even know what Islam is!

Furthermore, given the clear sympathy for the “cause” of the missionaries, and the total absence of any Muslim voice, a more accurate headline would read, “How Polite Do US Christian Missionaries Need To Be When Converting Muslims?” The smug, uncontested assertion that some Muslims are “happy” with the actual evangelizing (as opposed to simply grateful for material assistance) seems merely wishful thinking on the part of the missionaries.

Throughout, neither the missionaries nor the author of the article show any strong interest in Islam, in the numerous Islamic cultures, or even, really, in the people except to the extent that they are targets for the “embrace” of a narrowly-defined version of Christianity. This leads to numerous additional errors and occasions for biased reporting.

I certainly hope a scholar of religion, someone more qualified that me, writes to protest your treatment of both missionaries and Muslims. If not, please feel free to publish any or all of this letter you feel would be of interest. I am not a Muslim but have started to study the religion carefully out of interest and for music composition projects: I wrote a piece for the Albany (NY) Symphony that used texts from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an for the libretto. Religion and spirituality is one of the main subjects of my work and I take the research very seriously.

That such egregious distortions and errors regarding Islam can easily be spotted by an interested amateur like myself makes me wonder how much Time Magazine can be trusted to report responsibly on such a complicated and important topic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Time Writes About "christians" On A Mission: They Know Not What They Do  

This is the kind of stuff that genuinely angers and then depresses me. I don't know where to begin with this underinformed and biased article in Time. It supposedly asks the question: Should "christians" try to convert Muslims, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan? But that is never really discussed. Rather the real question Time is asking is, "How polite should those nice sweet Christian kids be when converting those misguided Muslims from their hateful beliefs?" Go ahead, follow the link above, and read it. It's poorly written, but it goes into so many households that unfortunately it's important.

Okay, just a few examples. Here is one of the few places in the article where you learn something about the satanic scourge that is Islam.
[Of all the main religions], Islam is the most ferociously opposed to the straying of its flock. Shari'a law calls for the death penalty for those who convert to other religions, and although the penalty is not binding in most Muslim-majority states, persecution is common.

Absolutely true and absolutely ripped out of context, which even a beginner to Islamic studies can spot. The impression one takes away from the above is that Islam is a cruel religion, intolerant of dissent, and a violent ideology. Of course, as in nearly every religion, you can find this stuff in Islamic texts, including the Qur'an.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that of the three "Religions of the Book" - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - the only religion that preaches tolerance of other faiths and goes so far as to name those faiths in its holiest scripture is Islam. This happens not once, or even twice, in the Qur'an, but many times. (I'll provide links to suras in later posts or add them to this one in the future).

These expressions of tolerance are unequivocal. There is nothing like them, i.e., expressions of religious tolerance so clearly stated, in the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament.

However, because the Qur'an is the holy text at the center of a great religion, the story is far more complicated than many of us who grew up with censored Biblical passages for study, follow "new age beliefs", or are ignorant of religion might expect. Islam is not Cumbaya With Camels. You can easily find anti-Semitic and anti-Christian (anti-Trinitarian, to be precise) suras in the Qur'an.

Leaving aside why they are there for a moment, none of this should surprise anyone. The Hebrew Bible also calls down curses and horrors and death of those who don't share the one true faith. And so does the New Testament. But only the Qur'an preaches tolerance of others.

So, why is the Qur'an so self-contradictory? Let me answer that with a question: who says a great religious text should be "logical" or "consistent"? In fact, the holiest texts of the People of the Book are rife with "contradictions" from the earliest pages of Genesis through the different versions of the Passion in the Gospels. In these texts, something other than logic is going on, and it is up to the believer to make spiritual sense of what s/he reads. That is what is known as the leap of faith; not the belief in some white-bearded guy in the clouds, but that the texts you read, the religion you practice, in some sense transcends "natural" contingency.

To an American audience, it is, I think, shameful to portray Islam so ignorantly in such a widely read publication. To point to the extreme punishments in the sharia and not mention that of all the religions, Islam is the most explicitly tolerant, grossly distorts Islamic teaching to an audience that needs to understand it the most. Please note that my discussion above merely touches the surface of an enormously complex issue, but it has one abiding grace: it provides needed balance on what Islam is all about.

But that is not the only place this article is harmfully ignorant. Check out this irresponsible misrepresentation:
dawn's Rich Haynie says that to the extent that the Allied bombardment induced Muslims to question their god, "we could say that the war was a ripeness moment."
Let's ignore the ugly, Un-Christian sentiment that issues from Rich Haynie's trap. What's this "their god" stuff about? For Christ's sakes, don't they teach those jerks anything at all before they loose them on the world? And I'm referring to both the fool who wrote the article and the brain damaged Haynie.

Languages that are not English use different words for things and concepts. One would think that at least every English speaker would know that. But apparently, at Time, they haven't yet figured it out. So I'll spell it out:

The word for "God" in Arabic is "Allah." Or to put it another way, the word for "Allah" in English is "God." Or to put it best:

Muslims and Rich Haynie both worship Allah. They both worship God.

As Karen Armstrong says in her short history of Islam, Christians in Arabic countries pray to Allah in church, because "Allah" translates to the English word "God".

I hope that's clear. It's not? Okay, I'll say it another way.

In French, the word "God" is "Dieu." So when they pray in France, they pray to Dieu.

In Spain the word "God" is "Dios." So when they pray in Spain they pray to Dios.

The people in the US, France, and Spain all pray to the same Entity. The people in Saudi Arabia also pray to the same Entity.

The conception of God in the Qur'an is, in many ways, identical to the conception of God in the other two Books. Certainly, in many ways it is different, but much less different than, say the traditional Hellenic/Roman conception of "gods". At the core, there are so many similarities that it is wildly wrong, in fact it is a textbook example of unconscious bigotry to talk about "Allah" as "their god" with a lower case "g".

And then there are more things that are not mentioned that are so sad. I hope somebody with the right credentials tears a new orifice out of the editor at Time for this dreadful article. In addition to everything above, consider:

Not a single word that Muslims know about Jesus and Moses because they are important prophets and heroes in Islam, mentioned in the Qur'an. They know a lot more than the "christians" know about Muhammed.

Not a single word about whether these "missionaries" learned anything about the people they met. It doesn't sound like mission work. It sounds like the smug narcissism of George Bush and John Ashcroft: "I am a good person because God loves me and I know what's good for you, so worship God the way I tell you to."

Not a single person converted from Christianity to Islam.

Barely a word of empathy or understanding.

Hold on, I feel a prayer coming on.

God/Allah/Dieu/Dios/Adonai/Yahweh/, however you prefer to be addressed: Please help me in my struggle not to hate these "evangelical christians," Please help me realize they are not malicious or dangerous or evil. Please help me understand that they are nothing more than pathetic, delusional souls who hopefully will come to an inner knowledge of how inconsiderate and cruel they've been to people who never did them any harm whatsoever.

Reading Bush Closely: When You Can Look, But Cannot See.  

A professor writing in the Washington Post has all the dots but hasn't connected them yet regarding the "revisionist history" meme Bush is trying to circulate.
...revising prevailing interpretations of historical events is precisely what historians do. As new evidence becomes available, or new research methods are developed, or the passage of time shifts our perspective, historians revise their accounts of the past and their explanations of key trends and developments: The writing of history is a continuing, collective effort to attain closer approximations of the truth.

Indeed, revisionist history has a proud tradition in the United States -- despite the brief and ugly effort of Holocaust deniers to label themselves "revisionists."

The author thinks that Bush is simply ignorant and he simply doesn't know what the term means. That may be so, but that is not what is going on with "revisionist historian." It is part and parcel of a cute "turn of the tables" tactic that the right pulls all the time with left wing rhetoric.

The first one that I know of, and highly successful, was the term "politically correct." It was originally coined by lefties but with a very different and very amusing meta-meaning: "I know everyone says I'm supposed to do this, and I normally wouldn't do what everyone says I should, but I really want to do this."

Others include the substitute of the word "life" for "peace" in the song "Give Peace a Chance" to turn an anti-war song into an anti-women's rights song. Recently, Daniel Drezner had the gall to use Richard Hoftstadter's famous article about right-wing paranoia to prove that the left is paranoid because the New York Times and others took note of a fully acknowledged connection between many Bushites and Strauss! I guess he assumed no one would bother actually to read the link.

And now, "revisionist historian." Y'see, the good professor doesn't realize that in the "liberal popular culture", to the extent the term was known at all, it was used to describe "Holocaust revisionist historian David Irving," i.e., it was used as a term of contempt directed at a right winger. Bush's employment of it is one more example of the right turning the left's rhetoric against the left.

By the way, I wonder where Bush and his crew heard the term recently? Didn't he visit Auschwitz sometime in the past few months? No, they couldn't be that venal, could he?

Yes, they could. Just read back in this blog. And if you think I'm using lefty sources for what I've found, I'm not. Unless you consider ABC News, New York Times, Washington Post and similar places merely communist propaganda sites.

Senate Panel Approves Filibuster Limits  

They called the vote but no Democrats showed up. Why?

The Howler on "Does Bush Lie?"  

Go and read, if you believed that article in the Sunday Times.

Kos's Name Bush's Blog Contest  

Kos has some grrreat readers! He asked folks to come up with the best name for Bush's blog, should he ever decide to start one up. Here are my favorites, but the whole list is worth a squint, but don't read while drinking or eating, unless you really like cleaning diet coke and pretzels off your monitor and keyboard.
Hail To The Thief
Oderint Dumb Metuant
The Daily Dubya
dubya dubya dubya dubya dot com.
Tax Cut Sluts
Pretzel Logic
The Home of the Whopper"
The Mouth of Sauron
Mayberry Mafia Online
Weblog of Mass Destruction
Commander Bunnypants's Magic Pretzel Farm
Bush/Cheney 2004: Stick em up! This is a bloggery!

Tom Tomorrow: Better Than Ever  

Just go. You'll have to watch a commercial or pony up for a subscription, but Tom's great today.

Gingrich: Vengeance Is Mine! Bwahahaha!  

I swear to you, I am not making this up. Unless you're a subscriber, you'll have to wait until July to check the quotes for yourself but trust me, everything below is real. And yes, everything is in the proper context.

As discussed earlier, while some consider it arguable, I believe it is inaccurate to call Gingrich an "idiot". The term "moron" appears to be more apt and in an otherwise superb issue of Foreign Policy, Mr. Gingrich provides an article that, I believe, lends considerable credence to my case.

After calling for the creation of a Department of Propaganda to whom the rest of the US Government would report - think I'm kidding? Hah! Wait'll you read the article - Gingrich turns his mind to the settling of scores. He is quite miffed at the "anti-American" coverage of the Bush/Iraq War. In fact, the international coverage was mostly anti-Bush, not anti-American, but I've learned it's best to humor potential morons.

So what is the best way to prevent such disgraceful press coverage from happening again?

Gingrich says "the U.S. Government should commission a comprehensive study on the international press coverage of the United Statees leading up to and during the war in Iraq. The study should encompass state-owned media in the Arab world to determine if those outlets are a major contributing source of anti-American hostility." Get this: If state-owned media attacked the United States, Gingrich says,"That's a government-sponsored act of hostility and should be dealt with accordingly." Whoa!

I guess he wants to punish Al Jazeera? But why stop there? I gather the state-owned Indonesian press hated our guts. They're not Arab, but shouldn't they be dealt with accordingly, too? I'm sure Gingrich would agree. But, but, what about any French media? Did not the French government make our Beloved Leader into a bit of a bouffon, non? Shouldn't they, too, be dealt with accordingly? Again, I can imagine that Gingrich could only say "Oui! Oui!".

But they're not the only ones who should endure the most terrible dealt-with-accordinglys the United States can deploy. For, to quote Gingrich, "The British Broadcasting Corporation, according to some observers, was at least as hostile to the United States as Al Jazeera during the entire Iraqi conflict." (emphasis added.) And indeed, the BBC is run by a governorship appointed by the Queen and accountable to Parliament and the public. Why does Queen Elizabeth hate America? I digress, for the real question before us is of vital importance to all Beeb World lovers:

What kind of punishment does Newt Gingrich have in mind for poor Mishal Husain to get her to see the error of her ways?

Will he use a rack? No, too messy. Will he tickle her to death? Nah, not cruel enough. Wait a minute, wait a minute...No. He couldn' be that cruel. Oh, how horrible! You really wouldn't make her watch this, would you??!!??!


Pray for her, my friends. Pray.

A Failure To Communicate  

This is a brilliant article about the failures of the Bush administration to make its case in the Arab world.

Amazingly, many Americans don't seem to care very much about this. Here, for example, is something from a recent comments board by Arjuna, who did me the great favor of not only disagreeing with me, but also being agreeable about it:
I did not agree with your logic on understanding the foe. You do not need to know Arabic to know what an evil little turd Saddam was. We should judge that by his body count, which isn't that small. By the same logic, we should not have fought the Japanese, or Germans in WW2, unless FDR learned German (assuming he did not already know it).
I have some problems with this. First, exactly what kind of "evil turd" was Saddam? They are not all alike, as the advisers to King George III learned a little too late. The important thing is to craft an effective response to a threat. To do that you need to know exactly what the presumptive threat entails. No two threats are alike, as the Bush administration hastens to remind us about NoKo. Given the situation in Iraq, for example, it is by no means apparent that Saddam was a direct threat to the US -all public evidence makes it clear that he had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks- and furthermore, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the situation in Iraq was totally misunderstood by Richard Perle and the other geniuses in The Cabal. And obviously, conquering a nation is hardly the end all and be all of modern warfare. You can't turn around, go home, and make like an ostrich because the world, thanks to the Net and air travel, is just too small. Ultimately, as Bill Clinton said recently, you have to talk to people, which means you have to know exactly who you want to reach. And yes, you do need to talk their language. And you do need to understand cultural differences.
On February 27, appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, [Charlotte] Beers [former ad executive recently appointed undersecretary of state for public affairs and public diplomacy] described the gap between how America sees itself and how others see America as "frighteningly wide". Regarding the Muslim world, Beers was even more graphic: "... millions of ordinary people ... have gravely distorted but carefully cultivated images of us - images so negative, so weird, so hostile that I can assure you a young generation of terrorists is being created." The next week, Beers resigned her position - for health reasons. America's public diplomacy initiative had clearly backfired. In March, when America's war on terrorism led to US military action in Iraq, support for America plummeted. According to a newly-released study by the Pew Charitable Trust, anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world has intensified and spread. In several Arab countries, more than 90 percent hold an unfavorable view of the US, and negative perceptions have spread from the Muslim countries in the Middle East to Indonesia in the Far East and Nigeria in Africa.
Key problems [with current US policy ]

American public diplomacy is not culturally neutral but reflects a uniquely American style of communicating.

While the American style of communicating positively resonates with the American pubic, it negatively resonates or fails to resonate with the Arab and Muslim publics.

Cultural differences in public communication styles undermined the effectiveness of American public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim world.
Harmonizing America's communication with its internal and external publics will be equally challenging and will require large doses of cultural awareness. The effort to be more culturally attuned will entail fewer Washington-driven initiatives that sound good at home and more field-driven initiatives that work well abroad.
Through a dual approach - coordinating communication internally and harmonizing it externally - US officials can avoid the unintended consequences of crisis public diplomacy.

Iraq: The Latest Islamist Theocracy?  

As many naysayers predicted, Iraq is poised to become an Islamist state, according to Nicholas Kristof.
An iron curtain of fundamentalism risks falling over Iraq, with particularly grievous implications for girls and women. President Bush hopes that Iraq will turn into a shining model of democracy, and that could still happen. But for now it's the Shiite fundamentalists who are gaining ground.

Already, almost every liquor shop in southern Iraq appears to have been forcibly closed. Here in Basra, Islamists have asked Basra University (unsuccessfully) to separate male and female students, and shopkeepers have put up signs like: "Sister, cover your hair." Many more women are giving in to the pressure and wearing the hijab head covering. [This may not mean a rise in Islamism, but rather the use of a religious symbol to express political dissent with American occupation. The Czechs did the same to the Soviets by converting to Catholicism.]
Paradoxically, a more democratic Iraq may also be a more repressive one; it may well be that a majority of Iraqis favor more curbs on professional women and on religious minorities. As Fareed Zakaria notes in his smart new book, "The Future of Freedom," unless majority rule is accompanied by legal protections, tolerance and respect for minorities, the result can be populist repression.
Iraq won't follow the theocratic model of Iran, but it could end up as Iran Lite: an Islamic state, but ruled by politicians rather than ayatollahs. I get the sense that's the system many Iraqis seek.
For now, the U.S. seems to be making matters worse by raiding offices of Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, who ran an anti-Saddam organization from exile in Iran and who in the past advocated an Islamic government. Cold-shouldering Mr. Hakim is counterproductive. It bolsters his legitimacy as a nationalist and further radicalizes his followers.

We may just have to get used to the idea that we have been midwives to growing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq.

Gimme. Now.  

Yesterday was a great day to be a mac-oid. The new G5's were released and even if they are not, as Jobs claims, the fastest pc's in the world, they are among the one or two fastest pc's. They are soooo beautiful to look at, you can have up to 8 gigs of ram , they're 64 bit processors, there are 4 fans for cooling and apparently it is very quiet, there's front and back i/o (finally!), new pci-x slots, and, and, and...

Later this year comes Panther, with a fully redesigned Finder, almost itunes like. It looks so much better than any other desktop finder I've seen. There's also personal video conferencing (with a cute video camera called, duh, iSight) and all sorts of other stuff.

If there ever was any doubt, OSX is the greatest operating system ever made. And the Mac is the greatest computer. And then there's the indispensable iPod. Go here and start drooling.

Again, Dr. Krugman, Thank You.  

Someone has told Krugman never, ever, to say that Bush lied. But that is exactly what he implies in his current one. And, as I pointed out weeks ago here, it is precisely because of Bush's careful parsing of his language that we know that he lied.
Some commentators have suggested that Mr. Bush should be let off the hook as long as there is some interpretation of his prewar statements that is technically true. Really? We're not talking about a business dispute that hinges on the fine print of the contract; we're talking about the most solemn decision a nation can make. If Mr. Bush's speeches gave the nation a misleading impression about the case for war, close textual analysis showing that he didn't literally say what he seemed to be saying is no excuse. On the contrary, it suggests that he knew that his case couldn't stand close scrutiny.

Other commentators suggest that Mr. Bush may have sincerely believed, despite the lack of evidence, that Saddam was working with Osama and developing nuclear weapons. Actually, that's unlikely: why did he use such evasive wording if he didn't know that he was improving on the truth? In any case, however, somebody was at fault. If top administration officials somehow failed to apprise Mr. Bush of intelligence reports refuting key pieces of his case against Iraq, they weren't doing their jobs. And Mr. Bush should be the first person to demand their resignations.

So why are so many people making excuses for Mr. Bush and his officials?

...suppose that a politician — or a journalist — admits to himself that Mr. Bush bamboozled the nation into war. Well, launching a war on false pretenses is, to say the least, a breach of trust. So if you admit to yourself that such a thing happened, you have a moral obligation to demand accountability — and to do so in the face not only of a powerful, ruthless political machine but in the face of a country not yet ready to believe that its leaders have exploited 9/11 for political gain. It's a scary prospect.

Yet if we can't find people willing to take the risk — to face the truth and act on it — what will happen to our democracy?  

That question, with its use of the future tense, is far more optimistic than the situation warrants.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Bob Somerby On The Money  

And the subject is David Rosenbaum's curious claim in the Times yesterday that Bush doesn't lie. Read every word.

It's Monday! That Means It's New Excuse Of The Week Day!  

Reuters gives us the heads up on the This Weeks Excuse for the missing wmd's.
"For more than a decade, Saddam Hussein went to great lengths to hide his weapons from the world. And in the regime's final days, documents and suspected weapons sites were looted and burned," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

It is believed to be the first time Bush has cited looting to explain the inability of U.S. forces to uncover chemical or biological weapons in Iraq, a U.S. official said.

That's what I like about Bush: his restless, creative mind. A fellow should never stop innovating. But watch out! If he continues to come up with excuse after excuse, his lithium level may need to be raised.

And Cursor notices that there's some backtracking going on by that non-revisionist historian, George Bush:
"We are determined to discover the true extent of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, no matter how long it takes."
Oh, so now all those people died merely to find out "the true extent" of the weapons program, not even the true extent of the weapons he had.

Again, insert here the obligatory disclaimer that I have no idea if there were wmd's in Iraq. Insert here that neither does Bush but the difference is he never cared.

Another US Soldier Dead  

Read all about it here.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

The New York Times Is Wrong. Bush Lied About WMDs In Iraq  

Here's what the NY Times said
In fact, a review of the president's public statements found little that could lead to a conclusion that the president actually lied on either subject [WMD and tax cuts]...
Certainly, a strong argument can be made that he exaggerated the danger posed by banned Iraqi weapons when he was trying to convince the country and Congress of the need for a pre-emptive strike...
No. It goes far beyond "exaggeration," as we shall see. The Times continues:
Look at what the president said about weapons of mass destruction in two prime-time television speeches — one on Oct. 7, his first big address on Iraq, and the other on March 17, when he declared that Saddam Hussein had to leave Iraq in 48 hours or face an attack.

The October speech was devoted largely to the threat of banned weapons. Iraq, Mr. Bush said, had "a massive stockpile of biological weapons" and "thousands of tons of chemical agents" and was "reconstituting its nuclear weapons program." The president asked, "If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today — and we do — does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?"

In the speech in March, on the eve of war, Mr. Bush declared, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

There is no evidence the president did not believe what he was saying. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and other Democrats said last week that intelligence briefings they received justified Mr. Bush's statements.
This is simply not the case. There is plenty of evidence that Bush was lying. To give him every benefit of a doubt, he would have been the only person in the upper echelons of the White House who did not know that he was lying. And that strains credulity.

My discussion is based heavily upon this very important article from The New Republic by John B. Judis & Spencer Ackerman. The entire extent of Bush's personal duplicity is evident from reading the article and while I've paraphrased and condensed, the whole article should be read. All quotes from it here are in italics. (BTW, a great deal of this article merely summarizes material that has been known for a very long time. There are numerous backup articles and reports, but this is the handiest summary).

First, let's discuss the October 7 speech that the Times refers to. In brief, for the previous 9 months, the Bush administration had twisted and misrepresented major intelligence reports. The extent of it was so egregious - with classified reports directly contradicting Bush's public statements while public reports that maximized the threat contradicted the secret ones - that Bush either authorized it directly or had to know it was going on. For him not to know is ascribe to him complete and utter ignorance of the extensive debates going on within his intelligence agencies as well as ignorance of important newspaper reports at the time.

January 2002 - CIA director Tenet did not so much as mention a nuclear threat from Iraq. The review said only, "We believe that Iraq has probably continued at least low-level theoretical R&D [research and development] associated with its nuclear program."

February, 2002 - The CIA found "no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations against the United States in nearly a decade, and the agency is also convinced that President Saddam Hussein has not provided chemical or biological weapons to Al Qaeda or related terrorist groups."

Spring 2002 - Reports of Iraq trying to purchase aluminum tubes began to appear. However, The tubes' thick walls and particular diameter made them a poor fit for uranium enrichment, even after modification. That determination, according to the INR's Thielmann, came from weeks of interviews with "the nation's experts on the subject, ... they're the ones that have the labs, like Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where people really know the science and technology of enriching uranium." Such careful study led the INR and the DOE to an alternative analysis: that the specifications of the tubes made them far better suited for artillery rockets. British intelligence experts studying the issue concurred, as did some CIA analysts.
But top officials at the CIA and DIA did not.
The top officials prevailed.

Says Thielmann, "Because the CIA is also the head of the entire U.S. intelligence community, it becomes very hard not to have the ultimate judgment being the CIA's judgment, rather than who in the intelligence community is most expert on the issue."

As it became clear that the top intelligence brass was ignoring the expert assesment about the aluminum tubes, they were "appalled." One described the feeling to TNR : "You had senior American officials like Condoleezza Rice saying the only use of this aluminum really is uranium centrifuges. She said that on television. And that's just a lie."

Late summer, 2002 - Graham had requested from Tenet an analysis of the Iraqi threat. According to knowledgeable sources, he received a 25-page classified response reflecting the balanced view that had prevailed earlier among the intelligence agencies--noting, for example, that evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program or a link to Al Qaeda was inconclusive.

September, 2002 - Early in the month, the Senate Intellgience Committee also received the DIA's classified analysis, which reflected the same cautious assessments [of an Iraqi threat]. However, towards the middle of the month they received a new CIA analysis of the threat that highlighted the Bush administration's claims and consigned skepticism to footnotes. Senator Graham demanded

According to a DIA report, "A substantial amount of Iraq's chemical warfare agents, precursors, munitions, and production equipment were destroyed between 1991 and 1998 as a result of Operation Desert Storm and UNSCOM [United Nations Special Commission] actions," the agency reported. "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has--or will--establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities."

In addition, On September 25, 2002, Rice insisted, "There clearly are contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq. ... There clearly is testimony that some of the contacts have been important contacts and that there's a relationship there."

Late in September, the CIA delivered to Senator Graham an NIE on the Iraqi threat--a summary of the available intelligence, reflecting the judgment of the entire intelligence community...Like Tenet's earlier letter [that month], the classified NIE was balanced in its assessments.

October 1, 2002 - A declassified version of the NIE was delivered. But Graham and Durbin were outraged to find that it omitted the qualifications and countervailing evidence that had characterized the classified version and played up the claims that strengthened the administration's case for war. For instance, the intelligence report cited the much-disputed aluminum tubes as evidence that Saddam "remains intent on acquiring" nuclear weapons. And it claimed, "All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program"--a blatant mischaracterization.

October 7, 2002 - Graham demanded that Tenet declassify more of the report, and Tenet promised to fax over additional material. But, later that evening, Graham received a call from the CIA, informing him that the White House had ordered Tenet not to release anything more.

It was on this evening that Bush gave the speech which the Times claims merely "exaggerated" the intelligence. In fact, the classified intelligence directly contradicted what Bush said:

The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program," the president declared. "Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." Bush also argued that, through its ties to Al Qaeda, Iraq would be able to use biological and chemical weapons against the United States. "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists," he warned.

Bush also brought up the possibility that unmanned drones could deliver these to the US. The New Republic dismisses this, as did observers at the time as the height of absurdity. Iraq's UAVs had ranges of, at most, 300 miles. They could not make the flight from Baghdad to Tel Aviv, let alone to New York.

Those who had seen the classified reports from intelligence agencies and the administration could say that there were contradictions, but they couldn't talk in detail about the secret documents. Bush, meanwhile, had no compunction about claiming that the "evidence indicates Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program."

In short, Bush lied. If he didn't, he was the most incurious man ever. He saw the classified reports. He saw the public reports. He, or one of his aides, had to have pointed out the contradictions. If he was being honest, he would have asked for them to be resolved. He did not. He simply demanded more "proof" of a threat. This is far beyond an exaggeration.

Now fast forward to March, 2003. By then all "proof" of Saddam's nuclear weapons program had been thoroughly debunked. The aluminum tubes were history. And the infamous Niger forgeries had been known publicly to have been forgeries. In fact, prior to the January '03 SOTU, in which Bush referred to them, they had been determined to be fake. This particular lie is one of many that the NY Times article finesses. Nevertheless, even after the administration had conceded privately they were bogus, Cheney continued to insist upon them as proof.

Most of Powell's presentation to the UN had also been debunked, some of it even before he presented it by Hans Blix. Most of the world was convinced that Saddam had bio/chem, but most of that evidence came from thoroughly tainted British and US intelligence. The extent of the tainting is absolutely breathtaking.

As the New Republic summed it up,

In some cases, the administration may have deliberately lied...

The Bush administration took office pledging to restore "honor and dignity" to the White House. And it's true: Bush has not gotten caught having sex with an intern or lying about it under oath. But he has engaged in a pattern of deception concerning the most fundamental decisions a government must make.

Bush Feels Lonely So...  

...we should send him back to Texas and stop screwing up this world. We must do whatever we can we do to prevent this or we ain't seen nothing yet.
Republican strategists see the 2004 election as their best opportunity in a generation to construct a durable governing majority, and they have set in motion a systematic and coordinated strategy designed to leverage President Bush's popularity and break the impasse that has dominated the country's politics since the mid-1990s.

The president himself established the ambitions behind the 2004 strategy earlier this year, when he authorized advisers to begin planning for a reelection campaign that began in earnest last week with a series of fundraising events. According to several GOP strategists, Bush told his team: Don't give me "a lonely victory." Said one top Bush adviser, "He said, 'I don't want what Nixon had. I don't want what Reagan had.' "

Both President Richard M. Nixon in 1972 and President Ronald Reagan in 1984 won landslide reelection victories, but neither victory produced the lasting benefits to the party that Bush is seeking in 2004. "He [Bush] was explicit about that," a GOP official said. "He doesn't want to [win] with 55 percent and have a 51-49 Senate. He wants to expand the governing coalition."

Bad Day For Dick Cheney  

The poor guy: he takes problems with oil so personally.
An oil pipeline exploded and caught fire west of Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said, and flames were seen reaching high into the sky.

The cause of the explosion near the town of Hit, about 95 miles west of Baghdad, was being investigated, U.S. Military spokeswoman 1st Lt. Mary Pervez said. There were no U.S. casualties, she said.

No other details were immediately available.

The explosion occurred on the same day Iraq ( news -web sites ) was set to restart its first postwar oil exports.
Couldn't possibly be sabotage. I wouldn't even suggest it.

UPDATE: Kos tells us about some other incidents that look like sabotage:
Even as oil tankers are preparing to lift the first exports of Iraqi crude since the outbreak of the US-led war in March, organized sabotage continues to undermine efforts to restore the country's oil and gas production to prewar levels.

"We are currently producing just short of 600,000 b/d (of oil), which is probably about the domestic demand," Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, Washington's top administrator for Iraq, told the House Armed Services Committee last week by closed-circuit television from Baghdad.

"We will be ramping that production rate up to a level of about 1.5 million b/d by the end of the year, and maybe more. So we will be able to export a substantial amount of oil, even after we have depleted the last barrels THAT are now in storage in the pipeline to Turkey, Bremer added.

But even as Bremer spoke from Baghdad on Thursday, the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline suffered two explosions that will hinder the country's export capacity, according to the US-appointed Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban.

"There is an incident in the pipeline somewhere near Baiji refinery. We are now assessing and evaluating the damage. I don't know exactly how it happened, and why it happened, but we will do our best to fix it."

Freepers Plan To Stuff MoveOn Ballot Box  

The freepers* are joining MoveOn with multiple accounts and plan to stuff the ballot box for Al Sharpton. Read about it here.

The only possible response is to postpone the primary and insist upon email verification of all moveon members. Unfortunately, dues may also be necessary.

Thanks to Shock and Awe for the heads up.

Thanks to

*The Freepers are the rightwing pigs at If you think I'm being hysterical or mean, go visit their site.

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