Saturday, July 03, 2004

A third post-Abu Ghraib investigation into prisoner abuses has been launched. The third in Afghanistan, that is.

(Rhetorical snark warning:) Precisely how many bad apples does the Bush administration, or their right-wing toadies, need to see before they start admitting something might be wrong with the tree?
As the Saddam Hussein... I want to call it a show trial, but he ain't pre-confessing -- trial gets underway, it's important to keep a couple of things in mind:

1) Like so much else about the case for war against Iraq, the story that Saddam gassed the Kurds is at best unproven, and at worst simply a convenient lie;

2) If Saddam had any connection to 9/11 -- any remotely provable link to al Qaeda at all -- don't you think we'd be trying him ourselves, for his crimes against us, rather than turning him over to the Iraqis?

That's the elephant in this particular living room. The simple fact that he is on trial in Baghdad, and not Washington or even the Hague, exposes the lie that far too many Americans still believe:

Last week the bipartisan commission investigating the 9/11 attacks said it did not find credible evidence of a "collaborative relationship" between Saddam’s regime and the Al Qaeda terror network. The poll finds that twice as many Americans believe that there was a partnership between Iraq and Al Qaeda when Saddam was in power than that there was no working relationship (56 percent and 28 percent)... A strong majority thinks it is likely that Saddam had prior knowledge of the September 11 attacks. Over two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) think it is "very" or "somewhat" likely Saddam knew about the attacks, while 23 percent think it is "not very" or "not at all" likely the former Iraqi leader knew about the plans.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Just in from CNN -- Kerry has his veep choices down to at least five. Hee hee!

Is anybody else starting to think that Kerry made his choice weeks ago, and is just letting the process drag on to keep the pundits talking about it?

The process usually takes a few months anyway (heck, it took Dick Cheney that long to decide on himself), but if you choose to believe that there's a 'delay' then the only rationale reason for one would be that Kerry is negotiating back-stage with a reluctant candidate from the Southwest... no, not John McCain, but Gov. Bill Richardson.
A former officer in Suharto's regime is poised to win the Indonesian election, although if a run-off is necessary the result wouldn't be final until September.

To his credit Susilo's past doesn't indicate terribly authortarian tendencies -- as minister for security affairs under Wahid (before Wahid's impeachment), he refused to declare a state of emergency that would have given Wahid an excuse to disband parliament. He's also arguably the strongest anti-terorrism candidate.

In other words, if you are so American-centric as to think foreign voters actually give a damn about you when casting their ballots, this could be the first major election that can't be read as a repudiation of Bush's foreign policy.

Then again, Susilo's popularity partly stems from his habit of telling his bosses to go Cheney themselves...
From Stephen Colbert's Interviews I Could Get...

Colbert, to Don King: Are you afraid that associating with the Republican Party might bring a taint of scandal to the world of boxing?

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

So much for that whole 'at least the schools are up and running' bit... there's apparently no money in the Iraqi reconstruction budget for university textbooks.

Now, just to be clear here: what Steven Taylor is organizing is a laudable thing, and I wish him and Dr. al-Hamdani all the success in the world. My question is simply, why is it even necessary?

Textbook drives are the kind of thing you see organized for schools somewhere in the middle of Ghana, where any book at all is useful and cherished.

The fact that Baghdad University is forced to resort to such methods says a lot about the reconstruction efforts -- both their priorities, and efficacy.
One more from Wednesday's gaggle, this about the Carol Coleman interview.

Q Did anyone in the White House or the administration ask Irish television or its reporter, Carol Coleman, to submit questions in advance of her interview with the President last Wednesday?

MR. McCLELLAN: Bill, a couple of things. I saw I guess some reports on that. I don't know what every individual office -- whatever discussions that they have with reporters in terms of interviews. But obviously, the President was -- is pleased to sit down and do interviews with journalists, both from abroad, as well as here at home, and to talk about the priorities of this administration. And I think anytime that there is an interview that's going to take place, obviously there are staff-level discussions with reporters before that interview and to --

Q -- what are the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, to talk about what issues might be on their mind, and stuff. That's -- but, reporters --

Q That's not the same thing as asking for --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. Let me finish.

Q -- and my question is, were questions asked for.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. Reporters, when they meet with the President, can ask whatever questions they want. And any suggestion to the contrary is just --

Q Right, but that doesn't answer the question. Did somebody in the administration ask her for questions in advance, and is that your policy?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in terms -- you're talking my policy?

Q No, the administration's policy.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what an individual staffer may or may not have asked specifically of this reporter, but some of these interviews are set up by people outside of my direct office and control.

Q Well, will you say from this lectern that it is not the policy of this White House to ask for questions in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: Will you let me complete what I'm trying to say? Thank you. Just hold on a second. As I said, and you know very well from covering this White House, that any time a reporter sits down with the President, they are welcome to ask whatever questions they want to ask.

Q Yes, but that's beside the point.

MR. McCLELLAN: And certainly there will be staff-level discussions, talking about what issues reporters may want to bring up in some of these interviews. I mean, that happens all the time.

Q Indeed, it does.

MR. McCLELLAN: So reporters are able to ask whatever questions they want, Bill.

Q Right, but that wasn't my question. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll be glad to look into this further.

Q Is it policy to ask for questions in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I don't know what some individual staffer may have done in another office, specifically in terms of this question that you're asking. I'll be glad to look into it. But reporters can ask the President whatever questions they want. I think we've addressed this question.

Q Is it your policy to ask for questions in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it is not my policy. In fact, if reporters would give me their questions, this press briefing would be a whole lot easier, I'm sure. But that's not my policy.

Q Sometimes you might answer them. (Laughter.)

Q I'll be glad to give you a question --

Q Just before I get on to my question, what you're saying is, you didn't ask anyone, but someone in the press office might have asked, and you're not sure --

MR. McCLELLAN: Not in my office.

Q But someone in media affairs or communications --

MR. McCLELLAN: These interviews are set up by another office. I'll be glad to take a look into it. But regardless, the reporter can ask whatever question they want. This interview is past us.

Stuff like this is why Scottie comes off as such a rank amateur compared to Ari Fleischer. McClellan admits that he was aware of Ms. Coleman's comments, which means he had ample time to look into what had happened. And having conceded that, he then refused to deny that questions had been asked for in advance, or affirm that it was not White House policy to ask for them, instead giving hopelessly obvious non-reponses.

Ari would never have backed himself into a corner like that. Ari would have had poor Bill doubting that the Irish even had TV, much less that Bush had been interviewed on one of their networks.

God bless that lying bastard for packing it in.
More from the mixed-up files of Scottie Mac. Remember how, after the 9/11 commission report came out, the administration rushed to say that it wasn't in disagreement with the party line, that they'd never actually said that Iraq and al Qaeda were one and the same?

Now that the report is off the front page, they're back at it.

Q The President has been asserting quite a lot recently that after the war in Iraq, that America is safer. And yet, there seems to be some consistency in American polls that show that Americans don't seem to agree, that they fear that the aftermath of the war in Iraq is that America is, in fact, more vulnerable to terrorism both here and abroad. How do you explain that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I don't know that all polls show the same thing on that very subject that you bring up. I think the American people recognize that we are engaged in a broad war on terrorism. The American people recognize that September 11th changed the equation. These threats have been emerging for quite some time, the threats of terrorism. But this President made a decision that we were going to defeat the terrorist threat that we face. And the best way to do that is to take the fight to the enemy. That's exactly what we are doing. We are a nation at war. But because of the action that this President is taking, we are making the world a safer and better place and making America more secure. Saddam Hussein's regime has been removed from power, and the world is better off for that.

Q I understand. And as you should do, you have said that, the President has said that now about 4,000 times. And apparently, the American public doesn't quite agree with that argument. And I'm wondering if you can address what appears to be some disconnect.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the American people recognize that the actions we are taking are making the world a safer and better place. So I tend to disagree with the premise of your question.

Q Well, if you saw something that indicated that a majority of Americans disagree --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind a couple of things here. One, on September 11th, 2001, the terrorists -- well, the terrorists had declared war on us even prior to that date when they carried out their attacks across the world. The terrorists want to wreak chaos and havoc on the civilized world. And the only way to defeat them is to take the fight to them. But we also, as we take the fight to them, need to address the root causes of terrorism. And that means advancing freedom and democracy.

And that's why this President has made an unprecedented commitment to supporting freedom and democracy in the broader Middle East, and put forward an initiative that the international community has gotten behind to advance those efforts to partner with the people in those -- in that region to help them realize their aspirations.

So I think you have to look at what we are engaged in right now. We are engaged in a global war on terrorism. The terrorists know, as I said, that the only way they won't be defeated is if they can shake our will and determination and break our confidence. But that won't happen. We are going to defeat the terrorists. And we are going to make sure that we are doing everything we can to win this war on terrorism and prevent something like September 11th from ever happening again.

Just to be clear: al Qaeda is our enemy. And invading Iraq was our way of taking the fight to the enemy.

No, that doesn't disagree with the 9/11 commission report at all...
Deny, deny, deny.

Q About a year ago, right now, the White House was backing away from the President's comments that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium in Africa. There have been a number of reports in the past week concerning possible inquiries by the Iraqis in Africa. What's the White House position now? Are you where you were when the President gave the speech? Or are you where you were when you renounced that part of the speech?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, David, I noticed those articles earlier this week, as well. I found them interesting. I don't have any update from our standpoint. Certainly, those articles were sourcing European intelligence officials. But I did find them very interesting.

Q And on a related issue, has the President come to an independent determination about whether the mobile biological laboratories actually existed based on the intelligence he's being given now, or, in other words, is he in agreement yet with his Secretary of State?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you are aware, we are learning more over time about the purposes of those labs. The last public comment I recall on this was by Director Tenet. But we have continued to learn more --

Q The last public comment was by Secretary Powell.

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of the intelligence community and what they represented was by Director Tenet a few months ago. We have continued to learn more since that time, and I think you should address those questions to our intelligence community in terms of what the latest information we have about those laboratories.

Q They'll tell us.

Q You're not yet in agreement with your Secretary of State?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, that -- as the Secretary of State pointed out, we have been learning more about those mobile labs. But the last word from the intelligence community that was stated publicly was by Director Tenet. And so that's the last information I have.

Q He didn't say we've been learning more. He said it was false and he regretted saying it, that we've been misled, I think was his phrase.

MR. McCLELLAN: The last public comments he stated?

Q By the Secretary of State was that we had been misled.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, by Director Tenet, the last public comments were that there was some differences of opinion about what they were for. But that's why I pointed out that we have learned more from that information. I'm not aware of any further public update from the intelligence community at this time. So that's the information that we go on at this point.

Q The Secretary of State might have had an update.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, we have been learning more since that time period.

Q And he said he was sorry.

Colin who? Can't say I recall anybody with that name ever working here, sorry.
When Li'l Bushie says 'sovereignty', this is what he means (tip o' the hat to Atrios for spotting it first).

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Interesting. Clearly there is more going on than is being said about the expulsion of these Iranians -- at least I hope there is. If taking photos of NYC landmarks is suddenly a warning flag for espionage activities in this post 9/11 world, then there aren't enough intelligence agents in the world to keep tabs on all the spies that flow through the city every year...
Can you believe this bullspit?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, Prime Minister Allawi has already made it clear about his request for assistance by the NATO Alliance. And the President, obviously, has been pleased with the progress that's been made on that front in heeding the call of the Iraqi government.

But the specific timing, the specific day of this was Prime Minister Allawi's call based upon his comfort level with, like I said, one, his ability to take full control and operate the government on a daily basis, which they've demonstrated by already taking control of the ministries. And secondly, did he believe this would help strengthen his hand or improve his position, vis a vis, the terrorist threat in his country, and he strongly believed that it does. So that's why we went forward on this day.

Now certainly, there's nothing saying you have to wait until the last minute to do something, and June 30th was on many occasions described as a 'deadline'.

But things like this:

The President went on to describe that day: “On June 30th, when the flag of free Iraq is raised, Iraqi officials will assume full responsibility for the ministries of government. On that day, the Transitional Administrative Law, including a bill of rights that is unprecedented in the Arab world, will take full effect. The United States, and all the nations of our coalition, will establish normal diplomatic relations with the Iraqi government. An American embassy will open, and an American ambassador will be posted.”

Our specific direction comes from Secretary Powell. The Secretary has set the State Department in motion to support the President’s goal of a smooth transition on June 30.

Don't say 'on or before June 30'. They don't say 'no later than June 30'.

Despite Bush's denials, turning tail is exactly what happened yesterday. Allawi had nothing to do with it.

Monday, June 28, 2004

I'm still trying to piece together my feelings on Fahrenheit 9/11 -- it might take another viewing before I can put together a review; my emotional reaction was just too intense -- but when people claim that Hitchens or Isikoff have 'discredited' the facts in the film, just point them to things like this.
CNN is reporting that, by a 6-3 margin, the US courts have juristiction over detainees at Gitmo. And they also ruled that Yaser Hamdi is entitled to habeas corpus.

I really want to know who those three were. At least, who the third is -- I have a good guess at two of them...

This is a serious slap-down of the Bush administration, needless to say.
God, he's stupid.

In the audio press conference with Blair, Bush just said something like, "They can't whip our military, but they can go on TV and cut off people's heads to try and get us to turn tail and run."

What the hell do you call Bremer turning over power two days early, in the middle of the night, and then not sticking around for the after-party?
Now for some interesting stuff:

First, read this article... no, scratch that -- read JMM's post first. Then read the FT article about rehabilitated intelligence establishing the Iraq-Niger-yellowcake story.

Taking Marshall's word for it that a disinfo campaign is underway, do you see anything missing from the FT article?

How about a clear statement that Iraq tried to purchase uranium? Here are the money quotes:

However, European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.


Human intelligence gathered in Italy and Africa more than three years before the Iraq war had shown Niger officials referring to possible illicit uranium deals with at least five countries, including Iraq.

This intelligence provided clues about plans by Libya and Iran to develop their undeclared nuclear programmes. Niger officials were also discussing sales to North Korea and China of uranium ore or the "yellow cake" refined from it: the raw materials that can be progressively enriched to make nuclear bombs.

Now, I know that intelligence is a murky business and an inexact science blah blah blah, but if this is all the Brits had they should be ashamed of themselves. According to this piece, the Nigerians illegally shipping yellowcake out of the country were overheard discussing possible markets for their product. Nowhere does it say they found an actual customer in Iraq.

Consider the parallels to the Saddam-al Qaeda 'relationship'. It takes two to tango, and no one has produced a shred of evidence that Saddam wanted to dance with bin Laden. It's the same here. If you were selling illegal fissionables in 1999 and brainstormed a list of people who might be interested, Saddam would have been on your list. That is not proof, however, that he was buying.

We know, for a fact, that the inspectors have gone in and found absolutely no evidence of even a nascent nuclear program under Saddam. We are almost sure that any eyewitness testimony to the contrary was a lie spread by Chalabi's exiles.

Nothing in this article changes any of that. It's more wishcasting of the Douglas Feith variety, more seeing what you want to see, and not what's actually there.

If someone you've never met talks about hiring you to kill someone, does that make you a murderer? Or even a co-conspirator?
Rather than waiting for Wednesday, pseudo-sovereignty was handed over to the Iraqi interim government today.

Although Allawi's government will have "full sovereignty," according to a U.N. Security Council resolution earlier this month, there are important constraints on its powers. It is barred from making long-term policy decisions and will not have control over more than 160,000 foreign troops who will remain in Iraq. The government has the right to ask them to leave, but has made clear it has no intention of doing so.

What's the Arabic word for Vichy? (Or am I dancing on the edge of Godwin's Law with that one?)

And I'm sure the terrorists will be extremely disheartened to find out that the US government is willing to ignore its own iron-clad deadlines and jump through hoops in response to their attacks... or am I somehow misreading the situation?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Here's the link to the Irish TV interview that got the White House in a snit (interview starts at the 15 minute mark).

Not that I'm exactly unbiased, but Bush comes off like a spoiled brat extremely used to getting his way. How dare this Irish bint interrupt me when I'm speaking? I'm George Dubya, dammit!

The entire American press corps should bow their heads in shame for the free ride they've been giving Bush. Look how its gone to his head!
I missed it, but thankfully Big Left Al didn't -- Kerry thinks democracy is pretty keen, and says the US should support democratic leaders, "even an imperfect one such as Aristide in Haiti or Chavez in Venezuela."

It's easy to take shots here (for instance, where the hell were you, John, in 2000?) but it is exactly this kind of attitude that is going to be necessary to undo some of the monumental damage Bush has done to America's rep around the world.

Business as usual, as its been practiced since the end of WWII and as it was refined by Kissinger, has led us inexorably to Iraq.

Simply replacing Bush, important as it is, won't be enough. The change will have to be systemic -- and a statement like this, blindingly obvious as it might seem on the surface, is a great first step.

More than that -- it indicates that Kerry is already thinking ahead to past the election, to how he's going to govern. There's a danger in getting ahead of yourself, but offering a clear nod towards a positive post-Bush future, and a way out of this mess, is worth the risk.

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