Saturday, June 05, 2004

Reagan Dies  

Whatever one thinks of Reagan (and I thought he was a terrible, divisive President), he did not deserve Alzheimer's. No one does.

So for Bush to continue to perpetrate his ban on all but a few lines of stem cells is to dishonor Reagan. To continue to place obstacles in the way of stem cell research shows nothing but callous disrespect for the suffering he (and his family) endured. It demonstrates a lack of empathy and concern for others that is all too typical of the current president and his immediate circle.

And so, while we can hope that Reagan will be buried and eulogized with some decency, whatever Bush says about Reagan will reek of sheer hypocrisy and moral shallowness.

(Rightwingers: Of course I'm using Reagan's death to attack Bush's health policies. Why? Because Bush is completely wrong. Support for government research that could have helped prevent or mitigate Reagan's suffering could only become a partisan issue because Bush himself made it a partisan issue, not me. Not even Reagan permitted his ultra-conservatism to interfere with America's primacy in basic medical research.)

[UPDATE: Safire agrees with me:
...[I]f public opinion, already trending toward the rights of the afflicted, can be affected by the association of the warmly remembered Reagan name with a federal impetus to stem-cell research and rigorous cloning control, I say it's a good thing. If such regulatory legislation passed by Congress included a Reagan Biomedical Research Initiative at N.I.H, President Bush should feel comfortable in signing it. 

Friday, June 04, 2004

500,000 Protest Bush In Rome  

The only shocker is that it was only 500,000:
Protesters swarmed the streets of central Rome after Bush met with Pope John Paul II, one of the strongest critics of the war. Police estimated the number of demonstrators at 500,000.

Ted Sorensen  

This is not a speech. Two weeks ago I set aside the speech I prepared. This is a cry from the heart, a lamentation for the loss of this country's goodness and therefore its greatness.

Future historians studying the decline and fall of America will mark this as the time the tide began to turn -- toward a mean-spirited mediocrity in place of a noble beacon.

For me the final blow was American guards laughing over the naked, helpless bodies of abused prisoners in Iraq. "There is a time to laugh," the Bible tells us, "and a time to weep." Today I weep for the country I love, the country I proudly served, the country to which my four grandparents sailed over a century ago with hopes for a new land of peace and freedom. I cannot remain silent when that country is in the deepest trouble of my lifetime. [Emphasis added.]

I am not talking only about the prison abuse scandal -- that stench will someday subside. Nor am I referring only to the Iraq war -- that too will pass -- nor to any one political leader or party. This is no time for politics as usual, in which no one responsible admits responsibility, no one genuinely apologizes, no one resigns, and everyone else is blamed.

The damage done to this country by its own misconduct in the last few months and years, to its very heart and soul, is far greater and longer lasting than any damage that any terrorist could possibly inflict upon us.

The stain on our credibility, our reputation for decency and integrity, will not quickly wash away...

Our greatest strength has long been not merely our military might but our moral authority. Our surest protection against assault from abroad has been not all our guards, gates and guns, or even our two oceans, but our essential goodness as a people. Our richest asset has been not our material wealth but our values.

We were world leaders once -- helping found the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, NATO, and programs like Food for Peace, international human rights and international environmental standards. The world admired not only the bravery of our Marine Corps but also the idealism of our Peace Corps.

Our word was as good as our gold. At the start of the Cuban missile crisis, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, President Kennedy's special envoy to brief French President de Gaulle, offered to document our case by having the actual pictures of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba brought in. "No," shrugged the usually difficult de Gaulle: "The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me."

Eight months later, President Kennedy could say at American University: "The world knows that America will never start a war. This generation of Americans has had enough of war and hate ... we want to build a world of peace where the weak are secure and the strong are just."

Our founding fathers believed this country could be a beacon of light to the world, a model of democratic and humanitarian progress. We were. We prevailed in the Cold War because we inspired millions struggling for freedom in far corners of the Soviet empire. I have been in countries where children and avenues were named for Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. We were respected, not reviled, because we respected man's aspirations for peace and justice. This was the country to which foreign leaders sent not only their goods to be sold but their sons and daughters to be educated. In the 1930s, when Jewish and other scholars were driven out of Europe, their preferred destination -- even for those on the far left -- was not the Communist citadel in Moscow but the New School here in New York.

What has happened to our country? We have been in wars before, without resorting to sexual humiliation as torture, without blocking the Red Cross, without insulting and deceiving our allies and the U.N., without betraying our traditional values, without imitating our adversaries, without blackening our name around the world...

Thirty years ago, America's war in Vietnam became a hopeless military quagmire; today our war in Iraq has become a senseless moral swamp.

No military victory can endure unless the victor occupies the high moral ground. Surely America, the land of the free, could not lose the high moral ground invading Iraq, a country ruled by terror, torture and tyranny -- but we did.

Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein -- politically, economically, diplomatically, much as we succeeded in isolating Gadhafi, Marcos, Mobutu and a host of other dictators over the years -- we have isolated ourselves. We are increasingly alone in a dangerous world in which millions who once respected us now hate us.

Not only Muslims. Every international survey shows our global standing at an all-time low. Even our transatlantic alliance has not yet recovered from its worst crisis in history. Our friends in Western Europe were willing to accept Uncle Sam as class president, but not as class bully once he forgot JFK's advice that "civility is not a sign of weakness."

All this is rationalized as part of the war on terror. But abusing prisoners in Iraq, denying detainees their legal rights in Guantánamo -- even American citizens -- misleading the world at large about Saddam's ready stockpiles of mass destruction and involvement with al-Qaida at 9/11, did not advance by one millimeter our efforts to end the threat of another terrorist attack upon us. On the contrary, our conduct invites and incites new attacks and new recruits to attack us.

No American wants us to lose a war. Among our enemies are those who, if they could, would fundamentally change our way of life, restricting our freedom of religion by exalting one faith over others, ignoring international law and the opinions of mankind, and trampling on the rights of those who are different, deprived or disliked. To the extent that our nation voluntarily treads those same paths in the name of security, the terrorists win and we are the losers.

We are no longer the world's leaders on matters of international law and peace. After we stopped listening to others, they stopped listening to us. A nation without credibility and moral authority cannot lead, because no one will follow...

The good news, to relieve all this gloom, is that a democracy is inherently self-correcting. Here, the people are sovereign. Inept political leaders can be replaced. Foolish policies can be changed. Disastrous mistakes can be reversed.
I hope to God he's right.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Curiouser And Curiouser  

It's all deeply puzzling, but the Tenet ousting is definitely a very bizarre development.

Tenet's speech itself has a perhaps telling quote:
It was a personal decision, and had only one basis in fact: the well-being of my wonderful family, nothing more and nothing less.
"The wellbeing of my family?" An interesting way of putting it.

And immediately, Chalabi, of all people, piled on:
The resignation of George Tenet is an internal matter for President Bush and his government," Chalabi told reporters.

"However, the effects of George Tenet's policy in Iraq...have not been helpful. He continued to make coups against Saddam in the face of all possible evidence that this would be unsuccessful. His policies caused the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis in these futile efforts," he said.

"He provided erroneous information about weapons of mass destruction to President Bush which caused his government massive embarrassment in the United Nations and his own country."
Now, that's chutzpah.

Pressure To Marry  

All of us who lived together before tying the knot remember it well:
Burton and Miyatake said they weren't shocked when their parents began to hint about marriage, but neither expected friends to do the same.

'We were driving home from a movie the other night when, out of the blue, our friend Kim [Benson] asked us why we weren't married yet,' Burton said. 'Well, Kim couldn't see this, but Laura's eyes were tearing up in the front seat. See, before we'd left the house, we'd had a big, terrible fight because my sister left some 'Here comes the brides' message on our machine. God, I wish people would just lay off and let our relationship take its natural course.'

Shrek 2 Undermines American Values  

The Traditional Values Coalition sez, "Hold on to your cujones, boys":
Parents who are thinking about taking their children to see "Shrek 2," may wish to consider the following: The movie features a male-to-female transgender (in transition) as an evil bartender. The character has five o'clock shadow, wears a dress and has female breasts. It is clear that he is a she-male. His voice is that of talk show host Larry King.
Well, one thing's for sure. The Rev. Lou Sheldon, president of the Tradiditional Values Coalition, knows perversion when he sees it. After all, the good Rev was merely "conference chaplain" for a confab co-chaired by Richard Delgaudio, a right wing fundraiser who later pleaded guilty to one count of child pornography.

But fear not. The 16 year-old who posed for Reverend Sheldon's associate in sexually explicit photos was a mother. That is, she was definitely not a "she-male" so there's nothing to worry about.

Tenet Resigns  

Inquiring minds want to know, why now? What is the administration trying to distract us from? Bush's lawyer in PlameGate? Iran/Chalabi? The mind boggles.

[Update: Juan Cole jogged my brain a little bit on the Tenet resignation.

CIA has been pressing the investigation of the White House into the Plame leak. George Tenet is the head of the CIA.

President Bush sees a lawyer in regards to the Plame Grand Jury.

Immediately after the lawyer announcement breaks in the news, George Tenet "resigns for personal reasons" from the CIA.

Coincidence? Or was Tenet's "resignation" actually a firing, an example of Bush "acting on the advice of counsel?"

Was Bush sending a message to the CIA to back off on Plame?]

What's a Chalabi?  

Atrios does the main legwork but the blogosphere is good this morning. Digby agrees with the NY Times it was a huge mistake for Democrats to win in South Dakota, because it might hurt Daschle's re-election chances. And Jeralyn has the legal news covered: Bush hiring a mouthpiece for the Plamegate Grand Jury; the latest goings on over the Chalabi (who's that again?) leak; and links to Mark Danner's superb NYRB series on abu Ghraib.

And so it goes. Heck, fix yourself a really big bowl of popcorn and just click to all the links on the left of this blog this morning. But remember: Bush's poll numbers still aren't low enough. So there's still plenty to do before Nov. 2.

How To Win Friends And Influence People - Bush Style  

Now here's a way to unite a political party. Alienate everyone who not only doesn't think like you but doesn't fuck like you:
President Bush's decision to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage continues to have unintended consequences inside the Republican Party. The latest fallout came last Thursday when the openly gay District of Columbia councilmember David Catania, who is credited with pumping new energy into the often dormant Republican Party in Washington, resigned his leadership position after the party chairman refused to certify Catania as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. Catania remains, for now, a registered Republican, but he says he will not vote for Bush...

After Bush moved to support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, Catania announced that he would not support Bush for reelection. On Thursday, [D.C. Republican Party chairwoman Betsy Werronen], who had described Catania as a "shining star" of the Republican Party, stripped him of his delegation status. He then walked away from his D.C. party leadership position, fed up with the national party apparatus and what he calls "this cabal of [Republican] geniuses who have cooked up ways to exclude Americans."

It's a painful separation for someone who was personally summoned to Austin, Texas, in 2000 to share some face time with candidate Bush. During the primaries Bush refused to meet with the openly gay Log Cabin Republicans, who had endorsed his rival, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. But after effectively securing the nomination, and anxious to bolster his "compassionate conservative" credentials, Bush in April 2000 invited a handpicked group of 12 gay activists to his Texas campaign headquarters. Designated a GOP "Maverick" for being under 40 and raising more than $50,000 for Bush, Catania was among the so-called Austin 12. Thanks in part to their hard work, Bush won 25 percent of the gay vote in 2000, or 1 million votes, according to exit polls.

A white councilman in a city whose population is 75 percent minority -- and a Republican elected official in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 9 to 1, Catania is used to operating as the odd man out. But he says the Republican Party, and specifically the form it takes during reelection mode, has become intolerable for gays. "The fact of the matter is, there ain't no there there anymore," says Catania. [Emphasis added.]
In other words, Bush now has to find 1 million more right wing fundamentalists and/or extremists simply to replace what he will lose from alienating gay voters (not to mention all voters who don't want to see a constitutional amendment that prevents people who love each other from marrying).


1. No reason to know who was on Cheney's energy commission.
2. No reason to have a 9/11 commission.
3. No reason to question judgment of John Ashcroft.
4. Investigating the Plame leak is an exercise in futility.
5. The energy crisis in California wasn't manipulated.
6. No reason to look into alleged Afghanistan human rights abuses.
7. No reason to look into alleged Gitmo human rights abuses.
8. No reason to look into alleged Iraqi human rights abuses.
9. Prisoner abuses are confined to just a few bad apples.
10. Chalabi is our friend.
11. Questioning the Bush administration over Iraq means you are objectively pro-Saddam.
12. Questioning the Bush administration on its tax plans means you are engaging in class warfare.
13. No reason to ask how much invading Iraq will cost.
14. No reason to assume more than 140,000 troops will be sufficient to "transform" Iraq.
15. Osama bin Laden has been neutralized.
16. Capturing Saddam has made Iraq and America safer.
17. The Bush presidency is looking more and more like a great gift.
18. We have found the weapons of mass destruction.
19. The Sixteen Words.
20. Richard Clarke was out of the loop on terrorism.
21. George Bush has done more for human rights than any other president.
22. Old Europe.
23. Freedom Fries.
24. California recall.
25. Use of Homeland Security to track down Texas democrats.
26. Delay in Medicare vote to blackmail/threaten fellow Republicans.
27. Suppression of the actual cost of medicare.
28. Resignation of Paul o'Neill.
29. Resignation of Richard Clarke.
30. Colleen Rowley's whistle blowing.
31. The Saudi/bin Laden flights from the country post 9/11.
32. No reason to question why General Jerry Boykin is in charge of planning, among other things, Abu Ghraib and the hunt for bin Laden.
33. Son of Star Wars
34. Drilling in Alaska.
35. Hydrogen's the future.

And that's just off the top of my head.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Will Matt Yglesias Ever Get Another Date?  

Not bloody likely, if he keeps posting sexist silliness like this:
When I mentioned here that women are less informed than men about politics, many people accused me of talking out of my ass and/or overgeneralizing from an unscientific BlogAds survey. I was not. I know, among other things, the rough outlines of circulation demographics for our major political magazines in America, all of which skew toward men.
Um, Matthew? Remember stats 101? Correlation does not necessasarily imply causation. If demographics of political mags skew towards men, maybe that shows that women are simply too smart to read them. After all, many of those mags (Nat Review, New Republic, Atlantic, Weekly Standard) have been completely wrong more often than not for the past x number of years, so why should anyone bother to read them?

As for the definitive but dated survey Matt also mentions, I actually looked at the Pew study a little and found this amazing whopper:
Regarding news about women and women's issues, there are virtually no sex differences in knowledge among men and women under age 30. However, women over 30 are slightly less informed about women newsmakers and stories about women than are their male counterparts.
So women are less informed about news about women and women's issues than men? Two words: im possible.

Such a result likely implies a flawed interview protocol heavily biased towards women's issues that only men care about. In other words, the bizarre result begs a basic question: What exactly were the interviewees asked about? Did they ask a lot of questions about, say, penis size and new cars? Those are women's issues, after all. Or were the majority of questions about new breast cancer and gyn treatments? I'm sure every man I know is quite up to date on the latest tests and advances.

In fact, Matt doesn't know what was asked and neither do I. Because the testing instrument Pew used isn't available from the link Matt provides. And now, boys and girls, it's Bill Bennett time:

Anyone wanna bet which gender picked most of the questions and ranked their importance?

But seriously, folks, I have no idea whether men or women are the better-informed-about-politics gender. Nor do I care. It's like caring whether tall people are better informed than short people. I'm sure one or the other scores better than the other. So what???

So the really interesting question here is this: Why on earth does anyone, let alone Matt Yglesias, care about a distinction so unimportant? After all, even he realizes the major issue is not a possible gender difference in political knowledge but rather the far more distressing and indisputable fact that the American public, regardless of gender, is woefully ignorant of anything except the latest disaster story about a celebrity.
Now that's something to care about.

So Matt, my friend, take some advice. If you care about having a social life, move on to something else. Fast.

MoveOn: Voter-Verified Paper Ballots Petition  

Go sign it now.

It Was The Booze Talking  

Chalabi claims a drunk American told him the US had cracked the Iranian codes.

Finishing Off The Job FDR Only Started  

It brings tears to one's eyes:
President Bush, preparing new Air Force officers for war, cast the fight against terrorism as a struggle between freedom and tyranny similar to World War II and the Cold War.
And let's not forget: more than simply mopping up after Roosevelt, Bush is the new Churchill.

But that's not all! Unlike Roosevelt and Churchill, George W. Bush hasn't merely saved the world. He's improved it. It's true! Just ask him!
"No President has ever done more for human rights than I have."

Clue 2  

Mary over at The Left Coaster has a most interesting post that she let me know about, perhaps another suspect (than the one Josh described and who I puzzled over here) in the Who Told Chalabi? parlor game. What's interesting is that this particular fellow may also have been involved in Plamegate:
So who is John Hannah? Well, John Hannah is a senior national security aide to Dick Cheney. And he is also none other than someone who is one of the chief suspects for having outed Valerie Plame.
Mary's post has lot of interesting links so go there. But for those of you still trying to solve Josh's puzzle, remember that the person that Josh is talking about The New York Times > Washington >worked or worked at the Pentagon.:
The F.B.I. has opened an espionage investigation seeking to determine exactly what information Mr. Chalabi turned over to the Iranians as well as who told Mr. Chalabi that the Iranian code had been broken, government officials said. The inquiry, still in an early phase, is focused on a very small number of people who were close to Mr. Chalabi and also had access to the highly restricted information about the Iran code.

Some of the people the F.B.I. expects to interview are civilians at the Pentagon who were among Mr. Chalabi's strongest supporters and served as his main point of contact with the government, the officials said. So far, no one has been accused of any wrongdoing.
John Hannah worked at the White House, not Pentagon. The associate Mary mentions, William Luti, did work at both. While he seemed to have handled INC intelligence, I have been unable to find out whether he had personal contact with Chalabi.

Guilty Pleasure Video  

The Human Kleenex

courtesy the great Jeanne d'Arc

Game Of Clue: Who Told Chalabi?  

Some stupid, stupid, stupid blabbermouth told Chalabi that we had cracked Iran's secret communication codes. And Chalabi, always on the lookout for an extra buck or two apparently told Iran. Read all about it. (Snarky note: NOT a Judy Miller story, for some reason.)

Now, who could be that stupid and that loose-lipped as to pass top secret info like that to a convicted fraudmeister like Chalabi? Well, Josh Marshall gives us some hints as to who it might be. The bigmouth could be expert on Iran who is extremely close to Chalabi, served as his civilian Pentagon handler for some time in Iraq after the war, and is known for comparing Chalabi to Mohammed and other equally august worthies.
Now far a variety of reasons, the guy Josh is talking about doesn't fit the profile of the fellow who will go down in history as "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth." So we can eliminate Feith right away.

But Josh's hints Josh led me, in a circuitous fashion, to this very helpful chart that shows US intelligence flow. Chalabi, according to the chart, had direct contact with the Office of Special Plans (OSP) at the Pentagon and the CIA. But Josh says that the person was in the Pentagon so we can eliminate CIA. Now the arrow from Chalabi to OSP points to three people:

1. Abram Shulsky, Director of OSP
2. Colonel William Bruner, Liaison to INC (Chalabi's group.)
3. Michael Rubin, Middle East Specialist.

No brainer. Gotta be Colonel Bruner in the Study with the Stove Pipe and the Phone, right? He's the liaison to Chalabi, right?

Nope, it can't be Colonel Bruner, says Michael Rubin:
Accompanying the Mother Jones article was a wire diagram outlining the alleged conspiracy to falsify intelligence. Unfortunately, the diagram, like the article, is replete with basic errors of fact. Dreyfuss and Vest confuse portfolios, positions, and such basics as who was and was not a government official. Colonel Bill Bruner, for example, was not Chalabi's handler. Chalabi did not have a set handler. I doubt Chalabi knows who Bruner is. He tended to not know the office administrators. It was Bruner's job to take notes when his superiors were absent from meetings, make sure his staff worked on deadline, and that our responses to congressional letters and Rumsfeld snowflakes were free of grammatical errors. [Emphases added.]
Well, if Chalabi didn't even know Colonel Bruner, who on earth spent time at the OSP, is utterly stupid AND has the self-destructive habit of blindly blurting things out before he's entirely thought through the consequences?


Cheney: The Red Queen  

Off with their heads! Off with their heads! Digby describes the expert fashion in which enemy combatants are so designated saving me the bother of doing so. One of numerous excellent observations:
And even if I were to agree that we have no choice but to throw out habeus [sic] corpus on an ad hoc basis at the discretion of the president, is there any reason to believe that the enemy combatant issue would be handled by this administration with more competence than they handle anything else? (This is the reason, of course, why you don't do this. Sometimes leaders bad and stupid --- not good and smart.)

Herseth By A Nose  

51 to 49, much closer than it should ever have been.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

WaPo/Bush Grudge Match  

aimlessmind over at Kos has the details and it's the funniest thing I've read in quite a while. Don't miss it.

Thug Watch  

GOP tricksters vs. Herseth:
Apparently yesterday, while a group of volunteers in Western South Dakota was in our staging location for lunch, the GOP deflated the tires on 10 of our vehicles to keep them from going back out. I checked with one source on the incident:

Stakeholder: "So, did that slow us down at all out there?"

Highly-placed Super Secret Source: "Not really, there was a gas station right across the street, the dumb ********.
Expect more of the same, and worse.

Circumstantial Evidence  

Andrew McCarthy resurrects the 9/11 al Qaeda/Saddam connection that Bush has denied ever existed. Oddly enough, the Wall Street Journal did the same thing in an editorial a few days ago, all of which clearly points to a right wing conspiracy to push this totally discredited theory back into public view to confuse people. The right wing also wishes to hype a new book by Stephen Hayes, who once published a leaked memo from Douglas Feith to two senators that Hayes claimed supports the al Qaeda/Saddam connection. However the Defense Department itself explicitly said the memo "drew no conclusions"; they also questioned the accuracy of news reports about the memo, not excluding Hayes' own.

Actually, no. This doesn't prove a conspiracy to spread disinformation by the right but it is highly suggestive of one. In fact, the synchronicity of these three publications is far more evidence of a conspiracy than the US government, and independent reporters, have been able to unearth about the alleged Atta meeting in Praque with an Iraqi intelligence officer.

To make it clear, I have no idea whether or not the right wing is conspiring to resurrect 9/11 Saddam/al Qaeda. Likewise, I have no idea whether Atta was in Praque to meet an Iraqi agent on April 8, 2001 or was anywhere else in particular. But the evidence I've "uncovered" to support the theory of a new right wing conspiracy is already more compelling than the case McCarthy's article makes for the Atta Prague meeting. For the humor challenged, I'm joking about the conspiracy. But McCarthy's article is no joke at all. Let's look at it in some detail.

In what appears to be a Freudian slip, McCarthy writes, if not a mixed metaphor, a rather scrambled one:
Yet, although there should be few, if any, matters more important to national security than boring into the linkage between Iraq and militant Islamic terror, the very idea of linkage has been discredited.
Now one usually doesn't "bore" into links; One forges them, or creates them, or reveals them. But there is no denying that Mr. McCarthy's article is unusually boring, intended perhaps to be exhibited as "proof" for the casual skimmer of web pages rather than actually to be read. (Alas, talking about his article requires a level of detail that is as dull as the original to read.)

Amusingly, McCarthy also utilizes precisely the simple rhetorical weapon he claims to deplore. It's so typical of the style of the article, and so unintentionally revealing, that it's worth looking at for a moment or 10. McCarthy writes that the mainstream media has used:
a simple tactic, found on page one of the defense-lawyer playbook, that has repeatedly served the Iraq/Qaeda naysayers: viz., cull from an entire subject of investigation one isolated piece of equivocal evidence, suggest that this piece is representative of the entire subject, and thus debunk the subject just because the piece is not a 100-percent lock.
Exactly! We should look at the entire subject, not just one piece of equivocal evidence. Now look back a graf or two at how he has described one of the few people in the government who actually knew what they were talking about vis a vis al Qaeda, if not Iraq:
Thanks to a withering campaign waged by ideological opponents of U.S. military operations against Iraq — led by the mainstream media, partisans such as former Clinton counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke...
Get it? To NRO, a Clinton connection is, to say the least, "equivocal." As a Clinton "terrorism czar," Clarke loses street cred with NRO readers. But you'd never know that Richard Clarke actually served honorably under Reagan, under Bush I (who praised him), under Clinton, and also under Bush II (who also praised Clarke in writing). Under Clinton, Clarke rose to what is inaccurately described as terrorism czar (and helped avert the Millenium Plot) and under Bush II requested reassignment to cyber-terrorism only after running up against an administration uninformed and uninterested in al Qaeda. None of which you learn from McCarthy's snippy dismissal of Clarke.

But wait, McCarthy goes further. Notice: he writes that Clarke was an "ideological" opponent "of U.S. military operations against Iraq" and that is simply untrue - not a lie, exactly, just not true. First, Clarke indeed opposed the invasion of Iraq, but not all military operations. Second Clarke opposed the invasion not for unnamed ideological reasons but simply because, like most of the rest of the world, he knew it was a stupid idea, doomed to wind up as what we see today: a miserable failure. (Did Clarke want the US to fail? Did I? Hell no! That's why we opposed the invasion, for heaven's sake, because it could only fail in its political goals, to jumpstart democracy.)

Now, given the sloppy way he described Clarke, we might expect that McCarthy would cherrypick and distort the main topic, namely evidence of Atta's alleged trip to Praque. And sure enough, McCarthy starts to fulfill our every expectation fairly soon:
...Chalabi is not remotely the source of information about Atta's alarming activities in Prague.
Oh????Here's what Jane Mayer writes about where the Atta/Prague rumor started:
Another story promoted by Chalabi’s organization offered an unsubstantiated link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The I.N.C. disseminated a story that Mohamed Atta, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks, had met in Prague in April 2001, with an Iraqi intelligence agent. In February, 2002, David Rose wrote in Vanity Fair that a defector named Abu Zeinab al-Qurairy said that he had worked at a terrorist camp in Iraq called Salman Pak, where non-Iraqi fundamentalist Arabs were trained to hijack planes and land helicopters on moving trains. He also asserted that Atta had met with an Iraqi agent in Prague. Rose noted the I.N.C. had sponsored Qurairy, and wrote that an aide of Chalabi’s served as the translator for the defector.
So...Chalabi's "not remotely the source?" Well, it's true Chalabi's not remotely related to the source as far as I know. It's also true that Chalabi himself didn't translate for Qurairy, merely his aide did the honors. But, come on...

(Oh, and in case you're wondering, McCarthy doesn't mention his own candidate for whom the source was in his article, nor does he link to a reference as to who that source might be.)

Next, prior to his attempt to debunk it, McCarthy helpfully summarizes, with only a slight amount of pro-meeting spin, the salient points known about this alleged meeting in Prague:
Indeed, the most that can be said is that (a) they [CIA and FBI] are unable to say with certainty that the meeting happened, and (b) because they have some hotel and banking records showing that Atta was in the U.S. during parts of April 2001, but have unearthed no records showing Atta traveled overseas during that time frame, some investigators infer that the meeting probably did not happen.
Let's remove the spin and here's what he's saying: there is not so much as a scrap of documentary evidence that Atta was out of the US at the time of the meeting or that a meeting in Prague by Atta with anyone ever happened.

But since he's prepared to see a brawny Seabiscuit where most of us see a scrawny Rocinante, McCarthy says there's a "circumstantial case" that should not be ignored. Here is that case:

1. FBI and CIA can't prove Atta wasn't in Prague on April 8, 2001. However, as Clarence Thomas once said, in rather different circumstances, you can't prove a negative. They also can't prove Atta wasn't in Fairbanks, Alaska or Claverack, New York.

2. "[A] witness on the outskirts of Prague happened to see al-Ani, the Iraqi agent, meeting with a young Arabic-looking male on April 8, 2001... " After 9/11, the witness identified the male as Atta, then recanted. But McCarthy, apparently citing this link from Edward Jay Epstein as backup, asserts that "the witness has not recanted." But...

In fact, the Epstein link does not mention the witness at all, let alone a retraction of the recantation. It merely describes a dispute over whether Vaclav Havel called Bush regarding the Atta meeting, stating clearly that only the assertion that Havel called Bush about it is a "fabrication." The evidence of a recantation stands unless McCarthy can locate a specific news report that specifically mentions the witness retracted it.

3. Citing another Epstein link, McCarthy writes that in the Iraq agent's appointment calendar found in the Prague embassy, al-Ani:
had a scheduled meeting [on April 8, 2001] with a "Hamburg student."
Indeed, it is well known that Atta was a student in Hamburg. That's it. Given the number of students in Hamburg (42,000 at the University alone)and that Hamburg is only 305 miles from Prague, to say that this is circumstantial evidence that the student was Atta is a bit of a stretch; actually, it's one impossible helluva stretch.

4. On April 4, 2001, Atta cashed a check for $8,000 in the US. Could he have used this money to travel to Prague? Yes, he could also have used this money to take all his fellow conspirators on sight-seeing trip to the Grand Canyon. Well, you never know, right? Prove he wasn't at the Canyon! Or if that's too far fetched, prove Atta wasn't trying to buy a crop dusting airplane for a bio-chem attack! In short, we have no idea what Atta did with that money.

5. Atta and a Hamburg cell "associate" purchased fake id's. It's even conceivable that they purchased more than one set of id's. Yes, and?

Has, like, anyone found out whether someone took a trip using a fake id that originated in the US and stopped in Prague April 4,5,6,7, or 8th? McCarthy doesn't inform us. So either no one's bothered to check, it's classified, or no one did. Take your pick. I choose number 1 or 3.

That, my friends, is it. Yes, that's it. McCarthy then flails a strawman, that evidence of a 9/11 Saddam/Qaeda connection needn't have the same standard of proof as in a court of law. Duh. But in this case, remember: there is more evidence of right wing collusion to resurrect this "theory" than there is evidence that Atta was in Prague. And remember: there is no evidence that Atta so much as left the country in the first two weeks of April, 2001. There are simply no records of where he was from the 4th through the 11th.

Now there's a second part to this article, which is all about a plot to bomb Radio Free Europe by Iraq in 2000. If this seems irrelevant to the story of Atta/al-Ani in April 2001, that's because it is. McCarthy doesn't even bother to allege a connection to Atta and this story but he does get in some extra swipes at Clarke which have no substance whatsoever (Clarke writes that there were no attempts by Saddam on America after the failed Bush assasination attempt; McCarthy says there's evidence that Saddam conspired to attempt an attack. Clarke, you misleading, self-serving toad!).

And so it goes, replete with numerous "Is it possibles?" and of course, anything's possible. Why, it's possible that Bill Bennett could even make money at the slots! But these additional paragraphs in McCarthy's article, even a change of venue from gloomy mysterious Prague to bright, mysterious Kuala Lumpur do nothing to bolster an Iraq/Atta/Qaeda connection.

Wait, wait! Let's actually go to Kuala Lumpur with McCarthy for a while.

In 2000, two "likely al-Qaeda operatives" (McCarthy's phrase, not mine) are greeted at KL airport by a strange person. McCarthy writes:
This greeter turned out to be a highly unusual one. For starters, he was not Malaysian; he was an Iraqi named Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. Moreover, he got the job in August 1999 not through Malaysian Airlines but through the intercession of the Iraqi embassy, which had him start that autumn and which controlled his work schedule. Coincidence? I don't think so. As both Hayes and the Wall Street Journal have recently reported, the Defense Department has acknowledged recovering, since toppling Saddam, at least three rosters of his elite paramilitary force, the Fedayeen. These have now been authenticated and translated, and they identify a Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Hikmat Shakir.
Sigh. Mr. McCarthy assumes we don't click on boring links. But if you happen to click on that Wall Street Journal link (which was in his original article), you'll find that Mr. McCarthy neglected to tell you what even the Journal felt compelled to say:
It is possible that the Ahmed Hikmat Shakir listed on the Fedayeen rosters is a different man from the Iraqi of the same name with the proven al Qaeda connections. His identity awaits confirmation by al Qaeda operatives in U.S. custody or perhaps by other captured documents.
In other words we've been mislead once again by McCarthy. We have no idea who that guy was in Kuala Lumpur because as of today, there is no confirmed evidence that the fedayeen member is the same guy that met two mysterious and "likely" al Qaeda fellows in Malaysia. (What this has to do with Atta is beyond me.)

Now, again: Obviously, I have no solid-as-a-rock insight into where the truth lies, but nothing in McCarthy's article amounts to a hill of beans. If this is the best circumstantial case that's can be made by the US after all this time, then I'm convinced that there is no convincing evidence that Saddam was connected to an al Qaeda 9./11 plot and the glaring absence of evidence is more likely than not evidence of no linkage. Richard Clarke, who knew al Qaeda better than either McCarthy, Bush, or me surely concurs. In short:

Saddam had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. Just as Bush said. And this long, tedious look at McCarthy's article truly begs the question:

For this level of intelligence we went to war and over 800 American soldiers died to date?

NRO writers like McCarthy - who support sending poor young Americans to a horror show like Iraq because of this kind of crappy reasoning - never hesitate to say that people who opposed the invasion of Iraq hate America. Jeebus, the gall.

You think you got a convincing "circumstantial case" that Saddam and al Qaeda were in cahoots on Iraq, Mr. McCarthy? Really? Okay...then why don't you hand deliver your article to those dead soldiers' mothers, Mr. McCarthy? I'm sure they'll really appreciate your careful analysis of the intelligence and your thoughtfulness in personally explaining to them exactly why it was necessasary their beloved child died a horrible death far away from America's shores.

No more. Otherwise, I might get really angry at Andrew McCarthy and his appropriate adjective escapes me - disgusting? repulsive?... article.

[Certain rhetorical details were clarified or otherwise touched up immediately after posting. Some typos have also been corrected. ]

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Regarding the Torture of Others  

Sontag. Furious.
Shock and awe were what our military promised the Iraqis. And shock and the awful are what these photographs announce to the world that the Americans have delivered: a pattern of criminal behavior in open contempt of international humanitarian conventions...

The notion that apologies or professions of ''disgust'' by the president and the secretary of defense are a sufficient response is an insult to one's historical and moral sense. The torture of prisoners is not an aberration. It is a direct consequence of the with-us-or-against-us doctrines of world struggle with which the Bush administration has sought to change, change radically, the international stance of the United States and to recast many domestic institutions and prerogatives. The Bush administration has committed the country to a pseudo-religious doctrine of war, endless war -- for ''the war on terror'' is nothing less than that. Endless war is taken to justify endless incarcerations. Those held in the extralegal American penal empire are ''detainees''; ''prisoners,'' a newly obsolete word, might suggest that they have the rights accorded by international law and the laws of all civilized countries. This endless ''global war on terrorism'' -- into which both the quite justified invasion of Afghanistan and the unwinnable folly in Iraq have been folded by Pentagon decree -- inevitably leads to the demonizing and dehumanizing of anyone declared by the Bush administration to be a possible terrorist: a definition that is not up for debate and is, in fact, usually made in secret.

The charges against most of the people detained in the prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan being nonexistent -- the Red Cross reports that 70 to 90 percent of those being held seem to have committed no crime other than simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught up in some sweep of ''suspects'' -- the principal justification for holding them is ''interrogation.'' Interrogation about what? About anything. Whatever the detainee might know. If interrogation is the point of detaining prisoners indefinitely, then physical coercion, humiliation and torture become inevitable.

Remember: we are not talking about that rarest of cases, the ''ticking time bomb'' situation, which is sometimes used as a limiting case that justifies torture of prisoners who have knowledge of an imminent attack. This is general or nonspecific information-gathering, authorized by American military and civilian administrators to learn more of a shadowy empire of evildoers about whom Americans know virtually nothing, in countries about which they are singularly ignorant: in principle, any information at all might be useful. An interrogation that produced no information (whatever information might consist of) would count as a failure. All the more justification for preparing prisoners to talk. Softening them up, stressing them out -- these are the euphemisms for the bestial practices in American prisons where suspected terrorists are being held. Unfortunately, as Staff Sgt. Ivan (Chip) Frederick noted in his diary, a prisoner can get too stressed out and die. The picture of a man in a body bag with ice on his chest may well be of the man Frederick was describing.

The pictures will not go away.
No. They won't.

More Deaths To Remember This Memorial Day  

10 US Soldiers in the past 24 hours.

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