Friday, April 02, 2004

The Plame investigation is mutating, according to the NYT, to encompass the cover-up and well as the leak.

More importantly, Big Media is starting to pay attention -- Daryn Kagen on CNN just did a Today's Headlines-type piece on the story, in between updates about Michael Jackson, demure prom dresses and the abducted girl who is no longer missing.

In retrospect the timing of the Letterman thing might have come at the worst time for the White House. CNN is still a big framer of public debate; if, over the next little while, they have to bend over backwards not to seem like whores for the White House, and indictments in the Plame case drop during that window...
Kos has more on mercenaries in Iraq. Note some of the details about the Fallujah Four:

- they were traveling without a convoy, even though they were supposedly 'delivering food'
- one of them spoke Arabic, a rare and precious skill among the American forces in Iraq
- according to this WaPo article one of Blackwater's duties was to "protect... intelligence officers."
- and Fallujah, of course, is as close to enemy territory as you're going to find in Iraq right now

I almost wish those four had been unarmed relief workers out giving milk to little starving Iraqi children. Then I wouldn't have any doubt that what was done to them was completely unjustified.

UPDATE: A quite thorough examination of the issues involved in "military outsourcing" can be found here.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Maybe 60 Minutes should give the entire hour to Richard Clarke every week. Their Rice piece went nowhere, and the Pickering piece, well...
Here's what you've been seeing on TV and reading in the headlines in the aftermath of Fallujah:

Barbarity a ghastly cost of doing business for contractors -- San Francisco Chronicle

Top U.S. administrator in Iraq condemns brutal killings of four American civilians -- AP via the Boston Globe

Here's the reality about those (cough) "civilian contractors":

The Americans killed yesterday were employees of U.S. government sub-contractor Blackwater Security Consulting, based in Moyock, North Carolina, which was assigned to protect food convoys, the company said a statement.

And who is Blackwater Security Consulting?

Blackwater Security Consulting is a strategic division of Blackwater USA. Blackwater USA has historically provided a spectrum of support to military, government agencies, law enforcement and civilian entities in training, targets and range operations as a solution provider.

Blackwater Security Consulting has it roots in the Special Operations community and continues to sustain the skills that have been acquired over the years as effective tools that will support both national and commercial objectives. Our staff has a wealth of exceptional experience worldwide and is renowned for dealing with high-risk situations and complex operations. Our mission is to provide the client with veteran military, intelligence and law enforcement professionals with demonstrated field operations performance tempered with mature experience in both foreign and domestic requirements. We employ only the most highly motivated and professional operators, all drawn from various U.S. and international Special Operations Forces, Intelligence and Law Enforcement organizations.

In other words, they were mercs. Soldiers of fortune. To put it bluntly (and more coldly than I really mean), they knew the job was dangerous when they took it. What was done to them was despicable, but this is not exactly the murder of innocents Big Media wants you to believe it was.

No death is too horrific to score political points with, I guess.
Oh look, WaPo also deigns to mention the Letterman/White House controversy (even if me, Dave and Atrios are the only ones who think it is one), burying it in their TV column in the Style section.

The latest is that Letterman has a source saying that the White House did tell CNN the video was a fake. You'd think someone else would care about the White House being caught in a lie, and CNN being caught in an egregious example of unethical journalism.
I wish this were an April Fool's joke, but, sadly, WaPo seems to think this is front page news.

Of course this 'revelation' is the end product of the White House's moronic attacks on Clarke, when it should just be a sad bit of irony at this point. The fact that their definition of terrorism was 'Saddam launching a dirty warhead' isn't news at all; just read Rice's Foreign Affairs piece, or Rummy's Senate confirmation hearing statement.

But of course, the White House never lets the facts get in the way of their mythology. Nor does Big Media let the facts change their definition of news from 'whatever happens when we tell you it happens, bunky.'

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Um... huh?

Read this Atrios post, then this one, to catch up on the Letterman clip flap.

Now check this Google News search on how much attention the story is getting. Yes, those are crickets you're hearing.

Now what the hell is going on?

There are exactly two possibilities for what happened here:

1) CNN lied to the public, twice, about the White House telling them the Letterman video clip was tricked up.

2) The White House lied to CNN about the Letterman video clip being tricked up, and CNN didn't bother to verify it with any outside sources.

You'd think all those media critics, watchdogs, and enemies of the liberal power cabal would be screaming from the rooftops about CNN's blatant screw-up -- and either way, they screwed up -- by now, wouldn't you?

UPDATE: Links to the original Letterman bit, and CNN's idiocy, can be found here.
I'm just now watching Clarke's appearance on the Daily Show last night... how in the hell is Jon Stewart, in and around the jokes, still giving the best interview of Clarke yet? How is the comedian putting on a better display of journalism than all the assembled multitudes of talking heads that have had Clarke in their studio the last two weeks?
Air America has launched -- the first guests on the O'Franken Factor are Bob Kerrey, and Michael Moore (streaming through RealPlayer here).

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The LA Times helpfully lists some Bush 9/11-related flip-flops. Steady leadership, anyone?
If Bob Dreyfuss is to be believed, all hell is about to break loose in Iraq. Read this, and this, and this, and try not to have nightmares.
Once again JMM is on the ball, pointing out that the deal the White House cut for Rice's testimony leaves her free to contradict Clarke without any opportunity for the commission to discover which of them is telling the truth by calling other White House staffers as witnesses. Well, that's useful.
Funny how that nasty liberal media replays Frist's spurious (and immediately repudiated) charges against Clarke ad nauseum, but we haven't heard a peep about this speech by Daschle... (spotted on Atrios).
So the White House has caved on Condy. Inevitable, really.

I can't find the complete text of White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez's letter to the commission, but the money quote would seem to be:

The events of Sept. 11 "present the most extraordinary and unique circumstances,''

What, they just figured that out? "Oh, it's the 9/11 commission that wants her to testify under oath. I thought you said the 7/11 commission!"

No date seems to be scheduled yet.
Just posted on the Narcosphere, some thoughts on Robert Novak's recent Haiti piece:

This was my first visit here since 1993, prior to Aristide's restoration, and Haiti is even more a Third World backwater. The radical president's reign left a country without electricity, passable roads or public schools, with a devastated economy and, according to LaTortue, a looted treasury.

Interviewed in his office, the prime minister told me: "The public finance is in crisis. They (the Aristide regime) took everything they could from the reserve of the country." His estimate: "over $1 billion" stolen in four weeks.

If Aristide had stolen a billion dollars from the treasury, you'd think he would have been able to afford a better security force...

A second return of Aristide as a free man is ruled out. Boniface Alexandre, the Supreme Court chief justice who became provisional president upon Aristide's resignation under Haiti's constitution, is a careful jurist who measures his words — except when it comes to Aristide.

"He cannot come back to Haiti," Alexandre told me. Aristide will return only if it is decided to indict and extradite him, Justice Minister Bernard Grousse informed me.

Of course the existing indictments of some of Latortue's "freedom fighters" for murder can be safely ignored.

I found the fear among many Haitians that John Kerry as president (under Congressional Black Caucus pressure) will return Aristide. The Democratic candidate should consider the experience of Mary Louise Baker, for 33 years co-owner of a five-building apparel factory in the Cite Soleil (pro-Aristide) slum — employing 700 people and feeding 7,000.

On Feb. 27, two days before Aristide left, some 200 heavily armed pro-Aristide gang members entered the Baker plant to loot and destroy equipment, leaving it an empty shell.

I asked Mrs. Baker whether she will rebuild. "I will have to see what happens here, whether you Americans send Aristide back again," she replied.

Such widespread doubt stalls economic recovery for this tragic land.

Because of course the problems of this "tragic land" only matter if they impact American politics.

I'd stick to random accusations of racism and outing CIA assets if I were you, Robert.

Monday, March 29, 2004

JMM nails it -- the administration bragging about politicizing the declassification process is very, very scary.
"Robert Novak. A douchebag for liberty."

Jon Stewart is on fire tonight... must be the warmup act for Clarke's appearance on the show tomorrow.
There's a file starting to circulate around the blogosphere, a PDF of three letters from Rep. Chris Shays, Chairman of the House's National Security Subcommittee, to the 9/11 committee. The first letter stresses how uncooperative Richard Clarke was when briefing Shays' subcommittee on terrorism. The second is a copy of a letter from Shaye to Clarke asking him to answer certain questions regarding Clarke's position that a unified national strategy on terrorism would be "silly" and unworkable. The third is a copy of a letter from Shays to Condoleeza Rice, relating to her the problems the subcommittee has had with Clarke.

On the surface, they're pretty damning -- Clarke comes across as a petty bureaucrat obsessed with protecting his turf above all else. There are, however, a few questions I have about the letters.

One, they come from L. Brent Bozell's CNS News website. If you don't know who L. Brent Bozell is, read any of these. Or this. Or even this. As he's shown in the past, Bozell is not afraid to lie to push his agenda.

A second question about the authenticity of the letters comes in the note to Rice, dated January 22, 2001. In it, Shays concludes in the final paragraph:

"As the new administration prepares to organize for the war on terrorism, I would welcome the opportunity to assist you and your staff."

Hang on -- the war on terrorism? Seven and a half months before 9/11? I mean that could simply be a prophetic bit of rhetoric, but if it is I'll bet Shays' kicking himself for not trademarking the phrase. He could have made a mint.

A third point about the charges the letters contain -- the only really damaging quote from Clarke is the word "silly". No context, not even a complete sentence, just the lone word "silly". Surely if what Clarke said was so damning, at least a phrase would have been more effective? But we don't get that -- all the letter offers is Shays' context for that word, not Clarke's.

Finally -- how did these letters get to CNS? The why (smearing Clarke) is pretty obvious. I'm far more curious as to how what is, in theory, a piece of evidence from the 9/11 commission made its way into Bozell's hands.
From Monday's Daily Howler, a quote from Bush at War:

WOODWARD (page 98-99): As for Saddam Hussein, the president ended the debate [about immediate military action against Iraq]. “I believe Iraq was involved, but I’m not going to strike them now. I don’t have the evidence at this point.”

I haven't had a chance to read his book yet, but Kevin Drum's analysis of what might have been going through Clarke's head makes internal sense. It certainly holds up better than the White House's counter-attack, at any rate.
A few days I trashed Romesh Ratnesar of Time, but now they're back at it again.

How this for spin?

Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—who saw al-Qaeda expand under his watch, attack U.S. interests abroad and produce the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history—knew he couldn't pin the blame on his bosses if he didn't start by apologizing himself. So he prepared his words carefully. At 3 a.m. on the day of his testimony, "I got up and went down to my study and actually typed the words out so I wouldn't forget," he told TIME.

Yes, clearly saying in public, under oath, "I failed" is an attempt to pass the buck. But wait, it gets better. After describing Clarke's statement as "...language that struck some people as melodramatic," Time resorts to outright lying a couple of paragraphs later.

If Clarke's assault was effective, it was partly because he used the tools of an old warrior, surprise and preparation. First he produced a closely guarded book more than a year in the making, Against All Enemies, whose revelations he unveiled on 60 Minutes three days before his testimony, broadcast live on the cable networks.

Aside from the fact that the timeline is wrong (Clarke resigned in January 2003, and the book was in the White House's hands by October) who, precisely, was the contents of the book 'closely guarded' from? He had a legal obligation to supply the White House with a copy prior to publication, for pity's sake!

Later in the piece they print Frist's perjury accusation without mentioning that he backed off it immediately afterwards, instead supplying "A number of Democrats who had heard Clarke's 2002 testimony came to his defense, saying they heard nothing then that was at odds with what he is saying now," -- a subtle way of further painting Clarke with a partisan brush (i.e. only Democrats defend him against the perjury charge).

Only after all that crap do they bother examining Clarke's actual contentions, and conclude that he is correct when he says the Bush administration wasn't terribly worried about al Qaeda, or terrorism in general, prior to 9/11.

In a very slight defense of Time the organization I will say that the article has three bylines, and looks to have been cobbled together from different pieces. But leading with the Clarke smears sends a very clear signal, even if they do get around to admitting Clarke knows what he's talking about at the bottom of the page.

To say I'm repulsed would be an understatement.
Sully's going to be a bellweather for the breaking of this meme, methinks:

The way some people are now talking, you'd think the White House hadn't targeted Afghanistan and al Qaeda before Saddam. But they went to al Qaeda's base first, taking the war to the enemy patiently and determinedly - with enormous success first against the Taliban and then against Saddam.

Andrew, Andrew, Andrew... in the context of 9/11, Saddam was not the enemy.

The problem with Clarke's Pearl Harbor analogy, though, is that Saddam was a rotter, whereas Mexico was actually on the Allies' side. "Having been attacked by al Qaeda, for us now to go bombing Iraq in response would be like our invading Siam after the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbour," would probably be a little more historically analogous.
How does Google News think Condy did on 60 Minutes, in terms of putting out the fires Clarke ignited?

Rice Says Looking for Iraq-Terror Link Made Sense, CBS Says -- Bloomberg

March 29 (Bloomberg) -- Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. national security adviser, acknowledged that on the day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush asked his counterterrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, to find out whether Iraq was involved, CBS News reported on its Web site.

I don't think "Clarke was telling the truth" is quite the reaction the White House was hoping for... well, maybe that pinko rag Bloomberg is the exception.

Rice admits Bush asked about Iraq -- Indianapolis Star

Ulp! Well, surely her explanation for why she can't testify under oath was satisfactory...

Rice Rejects Public Testimony to 9/11 Panel -- Reuters

Rice Defends Refusal To Testify -- Washington Post

'Refusal' to testify. Now there's some nice framing of the issue. It's not that she can't, she just won't.

Enjoying that tar pit yet, Bushies?
Congress' General Accounting Office has set its sights on Chalabi:

The issue under scrutiny is not whether Chalabi prodded America into a war on false pretenses; it is whether he used U.S. taxpayer dollars and broke U.S. laws or regulations to do so, report Investigative Correspondent Mark Hosenball and Senior Editor Michael Hirsh in the April 5 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, March 29).

In other words, we know he snookered us with that WMD crap, he just broke his contract with us by using our own money to do it.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

With a performance like that, I can see why Condy doesn't want to testify publicly.

"Of course 9/11 was very important, but White House policy is more important, don't you see?"
Some more interesting poll numbers, thanks to the Polling Report.

FoxNews survey conducted March 23-24, at the beginning of the Clarke revelations (post-60 Minutes, pre-9/11 commission testimony):

"I'm going to read the names of some people. Please tell me whether you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of each. If you've never heard of one, please just say so... George W. Bush."

Favorable: 50%; Unfavorable: 43%; Can't Say 7%

That's his lowest favorable rating, and highest unfavorable, in the entire history of the poll dating back to May 1998.

"Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?"

Approve 47% (lowest ever); Disapprove 44% (holds steady at highest ever from March 3-4 poll); Don't Know 9%

And this is from FoxNews. The picture is probably going to be a little less sunny for the Bushies in polls that aren't quite so, y'know, fair and balanced.
Looks like Sharon might take silver in the race to be the next foreign administration allied with Bush to take a tumble... Aznar's PP Party in Spain, of course, has already won the gold.
From Political Animal nee Calpundit, an LA Times article detailing just one instance of exactly how corrupted the Iraq intelligence pipeline from Chalabi is and was.

Remember -- Chalabi is the hand-picked White House candidate to be the next leader of Iraq. Democracy ho!
Dick Clarke is killing on MTP right now. Absolutely killing.

After avowing that he has all the respect in the world for Condy and almost begging the White House to "raise the level of discourse" and focus on the issues, he whips out a hand-written response from Bush to his resignation letter which said "You'll be missed. You served your country with the utmost distinction."

Russert is -- calmly, not really in pit bull mode -- bringing out the administration's counter-attacks one by one, and Clarke is smashing them to bits. One by one. It's beautiful.

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