Friday, August 13, 2004

Josh Marshall, commenting on a Slate piece by Fred Kaplan, sums up the Iraq Problem as well as can be:

Or, to put it more crisply, how do we wipe out al Qaida (and al Qaida-like groups) without generating so much bad blood in the Islamic world that the Islamic world keeps producing new al Qaidas faster than we can destroy them?

Indeed. How do we take energy out of this system, before it reaches critical mass?

Of course it would be nice to have someone in the White House even capable of thinking in such terms.
I want to be outraged by this latest 'terror alert', but it's just too ludicrously funny. Isn't it convenient how al Qaeda's nefarious schemes dovetail so nicely with Bush's domestic agenda?

I imagine the 'chatter' went something like this:

Terrorist Recruiter #1 -- Allah must be guiding that fool Bush's hand. I cannot believe they are trying to turn al-Sadr into a martyr!

Terrorist Recruiter #2 -- It is true. It will be a shame when Kerry crushes him in November, like a camel crushing a wasp.

Terrorist Recruiter #1 -- If only there were something we could do to sway the election. But surely another large attack would just highlight Bush's ineptitude. Not even Americans are so stupid.

Terrorist Recruiter #2 -- Yes, instead we should (leaning closer to 'concealed' CIA bug and speaking slowly and clearly) POISON PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION BROUGHT IN FROM CANADA, THAT SPITS IN THE FACE OF BUSH'S WISE MEDICARE PROGRAM.

Terrorist Recruiter #1 -- Ha ha!

Terrorist Recruiter #2 -- My uncle the date merchant says the best customers are always those who arrive hungry.

Terrorist Recruiter #1 -- Truly, he is a wise man.

UPDATE: I take it all back. This is more serious than I thought. I'm not at liberty to divulge my sources, but more terrorist chatter has revealed a plot to use stem cell research to create an army of unstoppable super-terrorists, who regenerate themselves after suicide bombings. The bastards! Save us, Mr. Preznit!
Q: What do you call a couple of journalists going to prison for helping shelter White House criminals?

A: A good start.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I flipped over to Larry King's interview with the Bushes... I'm quite sure it's just me, but Dubya seems a little nervous -- blinking a lot, almost gulping at times. For Larry 'Captain Softball' King?

And Laura doesn't appear to have a thought in her head. Nothing gives more credence to Cathy O'Brien than Laura's Stepford First Lady routine.

This is pretty safe for Bush, though. Even if he does make some huge gaffe a) who's going to be watching it?, and b) who's going to report it?
The story, of course, is that it shouldn't be a story.

Even though McGreevey made it as clear as he could that he's not resigning because he's gay:

Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign.

that's almost certainly how it's going to be spun.

I suspect, while it's the end of his gubernatorial term, this may not be the end of McGreevey's political career.
Atrios is on fire today, catching Big Media spewing its spoon-fed RNC bile back out to the public here and here, and then countering with the obvious rebuttal here and here.

Explain this to me: why does any so-called journalist even read talking points from a political party, RNC or DNC? You know they are nothing but spin. You know they don't, and aren't designed to, convey any kind of objective truth. So why read them at all, much less report them as 'news'?

This isn't simply laziness. This is something deeper. You have to, on some level, truly loathe yourself to let yourself be used so transparantly.

Calling the Suzanne Malvaux's of the world 'whores' is an insult to the oldest profession. We need a new word to describe them... otherwise, by default that new word will become 'journalist', and that isn't going to do anyone any good.

Quite frankly what we really need is the Monty Python knight, armed with his rubber chicken, to wander on-camera and smack these fools upside the head every time they debase us and themselves with this shit. For the newspaper types, perhaps a stockade in the public square, so concerned citizens can hurl rotten fruit at their heads and dogs can piss on them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Hitch, writing from his summer home on Bizarro World, defends Chalabi:

The last time I saw Dr. Chalabi, as it happens, he was telling the amusing story of the recall of the Iraqi dinar. In one of its better decisions, the Bremer regime in Baghdad had printed a new currency without the face of the dictator and told people to bring in their old bills and exchange them. According to Chalabi, a vast amount of extra currency—very much more than anticipated or known about by the Iraqi National Bank—had been turned in. The debauching and bankrupting of Iraq, he said, had been much greater even than he had feared. Some Baathist leaders had obviously been printing their own dough. We had a bit of a laugh about it: Some of the money I had seen looked as if it had been run off on an old Xerox machine.

In the interlude between the recall of the old notes and the issuance of the new ones, a few sporting types may well have tried to print a freelance version for themselves. And these became, when discovered, the property of the Finance Ministry, over which Chalabi had some jurisdiction. But on Jan. 16 the old notes became valueless. And the sudden raid on Chalabi's home took place on May 20. So if there were any samples of dud money lying around, they would only prove, if they proved anything, that he was either a collector of curios or a fool. His worst enemy has not alleged the second charge.

Hmm. That doesn't quite jibe with this, does it?

For several months, U.S. officials have been investigating people affiliated with the INC for possible ties to a scheme to defraud the Iraqi government during the transition to a new currency that took place from Oct. 15 last year to Jan. 15, according to a U.S. occupation authority official familiar with the case. The official said the raids were partly related to that investigation.
At the center of the inquiry is Nouri, whom Chalabi picked as the top anti-corruption official in the new Iraqi Finance Ministry. Chalabi heads the Governing Council's finance committee, and has major influence in its staffing and operation.

When auditors early this year began counting the old Iraqi dinars brought in and the new Iraqi dinars given out in return, they discovered a shortfall of more than $22 million. Nouri, a German national, was arrested in April and faces 17 charges including extortion, fraud, embezzlement, theft of government property and abuse of authority. He is being held in a maximum security facility, according to three sources close to the investigation.

Hey, Chalabi got the date right. Clearly he's a paragon of virtue.

So we 'know' what the Jordanians had against him, and what the CIA has against him... but what have the Swiss got against him?

By the late 1980s, the Chalabi family bank in Switzerland, Mebco Geneva, had come under scrutiny from Swiss regulators. In April 1989 they revoked its license. "The result of this action in Switzerland was to cause a run on the other financial institutions in the group [Mebco Beirut and Petra]," says Chalabi. He claims that by mid-May the situation had been "stabilized." But as Swiss investigators, the Jordan Central Bank and the Lebanese stepped up their inquiries, more and more dubious loans from one Chalabi institution to another surfaced on the books.

Those darn Swiss, always taking sides...

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

In yet another show of their commitment to defeating al Qaeda, the Bush administration has decided to run the risk of letting Mounir El Motassadeq -- convicted in Germany of aiding the 9/11 plot, and so far the only person convicted anywhere in regard to that crime -- go free, because they won't offer up al Qaeda members in Gitmo for cross-examination.

The defense team in the re-trial is essentially claiming that any testimony from prisoners in Gitmo is tainted and unreliable due to the torture they may have been subjected to.

I suppose it's theoretically possible that letting these witnesses testify might conceivably damage ongoing operations, and is not simply an act of ass-covering. Maybe.

I mean, it's not like the Bushies have a track record of putting election-year concerns ahead of prosecuting the War on Terror...
No big surprise here -- Bush has named Porter Goss as his choice to replace George Tenet.

Given the current climate, I'd say there's about a zero percent chance of him getting Senate confirmation. Rather than pick a reasonable candidate, Bush picked one of the boys, and is undoubtedly hoping to cow the Senate Dems into letting Goss through with a full-court "Democrats show how much they hate America when they don't support our choice for CIA head" press.

That schtick has gotten old and stale, though. Very, very stale. Given all the national security ammo the Bushies have handed their opponents (Plame, Khan, etc. etc.) this could be a very entertaining fight.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Two seconds later, Scottie metaphorically kills the messenger:

Q Let me follow up with a second question. How damaging was the revelation of the deepest mole that we've ever had in al Qaeda? The publication of that man's name by The New York Times -- how damaging is that to our war on terror?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry -- which specific instance are you referring to?

Q The New York Times published the name of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was described by intelligence officials as the only deep mole we've ever had within al Qaeda.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure where it was published, first. Obviously, it was published recently -- the capture of this individual. It is important that we recognize that sometimes there are ongoing operations underway. And as we move forward on capturing or bringing to justice al Qaeda members, we need to keep that in mind. And sometimes we aren't able to go into as much detail we would like to because of those ongoing operations. And I think everybody has a responsibility to keep that in mind.

Ari's version was much more succinct.
Here's an interesting turn of phrase:

Q I understand that you don't want to comment on these charges that have been leveled against Ahmed Chalabi by the Iraqi government on counterfeiting. You said that already. But given the fact that he was once a welcome figure around the White House and other federal buildings in this town, does the President now feel that Ahmed Chalabi is a totally discredited figure? And is concerned about Chalabi's being in Iran and that he may be in some way vetting the Iranian nuclear project or turning over some information that could be harmful to the United States? Is he concerned about Chalabi?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, I think we have talked about this issue previously. His future will be decided by the people of Iraq, if he wants to continue to be involved in Iraq 's future. Iraq is a sovereign nation now. They're moving forward on building a free and peaceful and stable future. This latest investigation, that is a matter for Iraqi authorities to handle. They're working to address that matter We would expect that due process be followed. The rule of law is part of the new Iraq, and so we would expect there to be due process.

Q Apart from the counterfeiting charge, based on other allegations that have come out regarding Chalabi, as far as this White House is concerned, is Chalabi is not welcome around here?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, he is someone who is an Iraqi citizen, he is -- and his future will be determined by the Iraqi people, if he seeks to have a future role in that country. So this is bigger than any one person, what is going on in Iraq.

Is Scottie trying to imply that the charges against Chalabi are just a wedge to drive him out of the Iraqi political scene? Or is he simply trying to distance Chalabi from the White House, by portraying it as an internal Iraqi problem?
I'm trembling with rage right now.

Read for yourself. Nothing rings hollow about Prof. Cole's analysis.

This goes far beyond the wacky, sitcom-esque bungling everyone's come to expect from the White House. Their screw-up has compromised a valuable asset, allowed terrorists to escape custody, and made intelligence-gathering in general more difficult.

Prison. Now. People could be dead by November.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Condy, on Wolfie Sunday:

BLITZER: Last Sunday, a week ago exactly, when Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, announced the higher threat levels in parts of New York, New Jersey, here in Washington, he failed to mention that most of the information is three or four years old, and that caused a lot of angst the next day. Was that a mistake?

RICE: Well, I don't think that it really occurred to us to mention it, and I'll tell you why. Al Qaeda does meticulous planning over many years. We know that the material that they used to case the East Africa bombing, which was done in 1998, had been generated probably five years before, and we have just found the information, of course.

And so, the key was to tell people who were responsible for security in buildings that have been cased that they had been cased... It seemed just irresponsible not to tell people that their buildings had been cased.

This is ludicrous on so many levels, I almost don't know where to begin. How about this: if our intelligence service hasn't yet figured out that just about every logical target in NYC and DC has already been cased, then we're in bigger trouble than anyone could possibly dream. Getting hard info on how al Qaeda cases a builing, what they look for -- this is useful information. Finding out that they did case a building? This is something we should already be assuming is true, and planning for as though it were true.

Second, merely finding out that a building was cased means no more than that. It doesn't mean the building is an immediate target, no matter when the information was updated.

Think about it as though this were a business investiging markets -- if you stumble across a 'scouting report' for Topeka, does that automatically mean that business is going into Topeka? Of course not; it just means they took a look.

Third, and most obviously, Tom Ridge did not simply say, "Hey, we know they cased your buildings." The warning from a week ago was more vague, and more inflammatory, than that.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the people who have been picked up, mostly in Pakistan, over the last few weeks. In mid-July, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. There is some suggestion that by releasing his identity here in the United States, you compromised a Pakistani intelligence sting operation, because he was effectively being used by the Pakistanis to try to find other al Qaeda operatives. Is that true?

RICE: Well, I don't know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of them...

BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.

RICE: On background. And the problem is that when you're trying to strike a balance between giving enough information to the public so that they know that you're dealing with a specific, credible, different kind of threat than you've dealt with in the past, you're always weighing that against kind of operational considerations. We've tried to strike a balance. We think for the most part, we've struck a balance, but it's indeed a very difficult balance to strike.

BLITZER: Had he been flipped, in the vernacular, was he cooperating with Pakistani intelligence after he was arrested?

RICE: I don't know the answer to that question, as to whether or not he was cooperating with them.

There you have it, straight from the horse's ass' mouth. Khan was disclosed on background, in Washington, when the president's NSA herself had no clue who or what he was.

Call it reason #xxxxx why Bush's whole crew should be in prison.

BLITZER: All right. Here is a comment that Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, the former Democratic presidential candidate, said on this program exactly one week ago, referring to the heightened terror alerts. Listen to this.


HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism. His whole campaign is based on the notion that "I can keep you safe, therefore when the times are difficult -- difficulty for America, stick with me," and then out comes Tom Ridge.

It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it.


RICE: I'm sorry that Governor Dean, of course, wasn't privy to the kind of information that we were looking at. I can't imagine that he wouldn't have warned the New York Stock Exchange or warned the World Bank that their buildings have been cased, that people were pointing out things that needed to be done in terms of security.

I can't believe that he wouldn't have talked to the police commissioner in New York, who was on our conference call. I can't believe that he wouldn't have told the mayor of New York that there were named threats against the city of New York. I don't know what he's talking about.

Obviously you don't, Condy, because that wasn't at all what Dean was referring to. Willful ignorance really doesn't suit Rice, does it?

Oh yeah, one more thing...

But of course, Wolf, the problem in trying to protect and defend is that the terrorists only have to be right once, and we have to be right 100 percent of the time.

Condy, you're not even close to being right 100% of the time. So obviously something in that equation doesn't compute -- if it did, we'd all be dead.
Col. Arn's decision on which witnesses defense lawyers get to call in Private England's trial is crucial. Getting Cheney on the stand might be amusing, but getting witnesses such as Sgt. Ken Davis in is far more important if all those responsible are going to be held accountable.
JMM rips into Douglas Feith's Saturday WaPo op-ed better than I ever could.

One point he doesn't make though -- what does it say about the administration's desperation that they would let Feith try to defend this position, now? How bad are their internal polling numbers about Iraq to get this kind of response from them?

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