Frame the Debate
Friday, April 30, 2004
  Hard to believe global terrorism is at a 34-year low, as the U.S. State Deptartment says in its annual 2003 Report on Patterns of Global Terrorism. Everything we read and hear seems to tell us otherwise. But the Bush administration has staked its reputation on winning the self-declared war on terrorism. Given BushCo's proclivity to lie, skepticism of the report's conclusions is the healthy view. But one would have to compare year-to-year statistics and methodology to prove manipulation. Now that I've trashed the report, I'll backtrack and allow that we take the numbers at face value, until I find the time for analysis.

The Associated Press's Jim Guggenheim reports:
There were 190 acts of international terrorism in 2003, a slight decrease from the 198 attacks that occurred in 2002, and a drop of 45 percent from the level in 2001 of 346 attacks. The figure in 2003 represents the lowest annual total of international terrorist attacks since 1969.
The figures do not include attacks considered to be domestic terrorism in which foreigners weren't among the victims.
Remember that last sentence later.

Proving they're right in all things counterterrorism is BushCo's stock in trade, and leads to statements like this from a section in the report called "The Year in Review."
The capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 was a major defeat for the thugs and terrorists who supported him.
"Thugs" is not exactly a useful term in defining terrorists. I'm smelling hyperbole here. But it gets worse. The paragraph continues:
Through Operation Iraqi Freedom, the United States and its Coalition partners defeated the Saddam regime, effectively neutralizing a state sponsor of terrorism and removing a government that had used weapons of mass destruction against its own people.
Remember what the AP reported? The State Dept.'s report does not include attacks considered to be domestic terrorism. But to support the administration's supposed victories against terrorism, the report departs from its own definitions.

I know a little something about the business of global terrorism, having just produced a white paper on the topic for a Fortune 100 company. Governments and businesses throughout the world rely on terrorism trends and analysis to make policies, plans, and projections. If they're smart, they will ignore this report for anything but purely political means and contract with private firms before committing themselves to any important decisions based on terrorism trends as reported by our State Department.
  Weak Defenses, Sick Irony Defending his "Mission Accomplished" speech, Bush said with Saddam gone, "there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq. As a result, a friend of terror has been removed and now sits in a jail."

I suppose he meant to include "the rape of an Iraqi prisoner by a U.S. mercenary notwithstanding:" One civilian contractor was accused of raping a young, male prisoner but has not been charged because military law has no jurisdiction over him.

And Bush continues to label Saddam a "friend of terror," despite the failure to tie Saddam to any terrorist group, let alone Al Qaeda.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
  Such Fancy Schmanzy Talk!
And this propaganda just in from General (Kimmet?) on The O'Reilly Factor. Answering O'Reilly's query whether we'll be able to arrest Al Sadr and stop his militia, the General responded, "We're compressing his influence." Ah yes. Just as the A-bomb compressed the influence of the mayor of Hiroshima -- by killing everyone he influenced.
  Little Big Horn for Muslim Teens A quick scan of Google headlines on the ambush-massacre of poorly armed Islamic Thai rebels by waiting, well armed authorities reveals newspaper bias:

Thai troops kill 100 in repelling Muslim attackers -- NY Times

Thai forces kill 107 after attacks by Muslim youths -- The Guardian

107 militants killed in Thai attacks -- Dallas Morning News

Thai police kill 100 Islamic fighters -- Minneapolis Star Tribune

Scores die as Thais repel series of attacks in south -- International Herald Tribune

Grievences of rebels must be addressed fast -- The Star, Malaysia

It ain't easy to figure this story out for somebody with little knowledge of the politics of Thailand, like me.

Washington Post:
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra blamed the assault on local bandits, but Thai police and foreign security sources said the attackers were Muslim separatists with links to groups outside the country.

The clashes were the latest in a series of nearly daily attacks that began in early January when unidentified gunmen stormed an army weapons depot in the southern province of Narathiwat and killed four soldiers. That raid and subsequent violence prompted Thaksin to dispatch troops to Thailand's southern region, home to the country's three majority-Muslim provinces.

Despite the imposition of martial law in the south, government forces have been largely unable to stem the attacks, including the killing of policemen and burning of schools and other public buildings, which before Wednesday had left at least 60 people dead.
Hmmm. So the ruling majority is sending forces into the religious minority's territory to quell the unrest of local thugs who are getting support from outside agents, probably groups with Al Qaeda ties. But what is the unrest about? The Associated Press, as carried by the Dallas Morning News:
While the prime minister said the issues were strictly local, some tied the clashes to the country's support for the war in Iraq.
Mr. Thaksin insisted that no foreign terrorists were involved, though the area is believed to have been used as a hiding place for militants linked to al-Qaeda through Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist group.
Al-Qaeda. What did I tell you. A bunch of anti-American, freedom hating brownskins got killed trying to stir the pot. That's it. There's nothing else to see here. G'wan home to yer mudder. But wait, there is more:
Most of the attackers were armed only with machetes, but at least some of those killed in the mosque had guns and knew how to use them, said army chief Gen. Chayasith Shinawatra.
Well I wouldn't want malcontents who know how to use guns to be shooting at me, no sireebob.
Muslims, 5 percent of Thailand's 64 million people, are a majority in the country's thin southern peninsula. They have long complained of cultural, religious and economic repression by the central government, about 600 miles away in Bangkok.
The Muslim side of the story is published in the Star (Malaysia):
PATTANI: The deaths of scores of young rebels killed as they mounted dawn raids on Thai security checkpoints could spark more violence in the Muslim south, religious leaders warned yesterday.

“I am really concerned that the problems in the south will escalate even further,” said Abdul Rosue Aree, deputy chairman of the Islamic Council in nearby Narathiwat province.

“The incident will definitely affect Muslim people's feelings. They will have bad feelings towards authorities and the turmoil will continue, it will not be resolved,” he said.

Abdul noted that those killed were teenagers who “have families who will not be happy about what had happened to their children”.
Authorities admitted that the attackers were armed merely with machetes and a few guns, sparking concerns among some activists that they could have fallen into a well-set trap.

“There are fears that authorities may have spread false information that these targets were going to be unprotected in order to lure the rebels to attack,” a Thai activist said.

“In fact they were very well protected.”
The Financial Times story is perhaps the fairest of those I've read.
Whatever the real explanation for yesterday's violence in southern Thailand - some Thais are already talking of a "massacre" - it is unlikely to reflect well either on Islamist leaders or on the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister.
The story makes the inevitable but necessary link to the U.S. invasion of Iraq:
To the chagrin of Buddhists not used to seeing their religion bracketed with the warlike traditions of Christianity and Judaism, comparisons will inevitably be made with US military operations in Iraq and with Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.
An amorphous and violent Islamist movement that has murdered policemen, civil servants and Buddhist monks without explaining what it wants deserves no sympathy. Even so, the overconfident Mr Thaksin's decisive, "shoot to kill" style of government is no way to deal with the complicated problems of southern Thailand.
The majority rulers are given the benefit of the doubt, but thankfully the writer has at least a tacit understanding that murdering oppressed countrymen by luring them into an ambush might not be such a good idea.

  Most ignored quote of the day:
"Violent military action by an occupying power against inhabitants of an occupied country will only make matters worse."--U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, reacting to George W. Bush's vow to take "whatever actions necessary to secure Falluja."
Monday, April 26, 2004
  "The neighborhood reacted with joy at the destruction" -- This story is worth printing here in full. A few important notes:

1. The murder and celebration happened in Baghdad, not in the highly charged cities of Fallujah or Najaf, scenes of escalating violence today.
2. The UPI counts three dead; the US Centcom two dead. The explanation reveals a probable ongoing and pervasive undercount of US dead. Who knows how many unofficial deaths are publicly unaccounted for.
WMD hunters ambushed in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 26 (UPI) -- An explosion that killed at least three U.S. personnel in Baghdad was an ambush of a top-secret unit detailed to search for weapons of mass destruction, United Press International has confirmed.

The military initially claimed that a detail of U.S. Army soldiers were about to raid a suspected bomb making factory when two were killed after an explosion. Several Iraqis in the area at the time told UPI that the building exploded when the soldiers tried to enter the house.

Although coalition spokesman Maj. Gen. Mark Kimmitt admitted that the owner of the home "was suspected of supplying chemical agents," he refused to confirm that the troops belonged to the top secret Iraq Survey Group, a task force of Central Intelligence Agency, Special Forces soldiers and other biological, chemical and nuclear weapons experts.

Kimmett would only say that, "The inspection was by a number of coalition forces."

But at the scene of the blast in Baghdad's Waziriya district -- which destroyed four military Humvee vehicles -- UPI witnessed clear evidence that the troops belonged to the ISG, including credentials looted from the vehicles by local Iraqi youth.

And just a kilometer from the scene, a dozen Special Forces soldiers had secured part of a hospital for treatment of five wounded soldiers. Their completely anonymous uniforms, lack of unit patches or rank indications, facial hair, personalized weaponry and radically modified military vehicles generally indicate membership in special operations units.

Although coalition officials have said that two Americans were killed in the blast, which leveled the house being raided, and five were wounded, an Iraqi employee of UPI witnessed three uniformed American or British bodies being put into body bags and taken from the scene.

Although laws require the U.S. government to announce the combat deaths of military personnel, it does not generally announce the deaths of intelligence officers or special forces troops operating on classified missions, which could explain the discrepancy in the actual and announced number of those killed in the action.

Neighbors of the facility told UPI that the building raided had been in use as a weapons-making facility used to arm resistance elements in Iraq, but they could not confirm any connection to chemical or biological weapons production.

The neighborhood reacted with joy at the destruction and within minutes of the departure of the U.S. forces from the area began looting the vehicles of helmets, charred weapons and shredded uniforms.

As the crowd gathered around the burning vehicles, children began pelting them with rocks and men used sticks, axes and sledgehammers to break off chunks of the destroyed equipment.

The looting was accompanied by chants of "Yes, yes Moqtada. No, no America!" The cheers referenced radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose militia has been in armed conflict with the coalition forces for nearly a month.

One participant told a reporter "See how Iraqis fight! We will destroy America."

At one point, several men actually started one of the burning vehicles, put the fire out, and drove it around the neighborhood while it spewed oil and black smoke. Crowds of men and boys jumped on top of the vehicle as they took a triumphant victory lap around the neighborhood streets until they came upon the Turkish Embassy.

At the embassy, the guards became unsettled at the sight of a dozen cheering Iraqis riding atop a burnt U.S. military vehicle and opened fire on the crowd of supporters, causing everyone involved to dive for cover. One Iraqi was slightly wounded in that portion of the incident.

At that point the vehicle was set on fire -- again -- and left to burn on one of Baghdad's main streets.

This was not the only violent incident in Iraq Monday, as U.S. Marines continued to insist that a ceasefire remains in effect in Fallujah, the restive city 35 miles west of the capital.

But while the coalition calls the situation a "ceasefire" while a negotiated settlement to the nearly month-long siege of the city, the thousands of anti-coalition fighters dug into the dusty city appear to be preparing less for negotiations and more for their own "Alamo" as they continue to attack Marines at every opportunity.

In meetings this weekend between national security staff and President Bush in Washington, the coalition has decided to try for a political settlement to the siege of Fallujah, which began after four U.S. security contractors were killed and mutilated in an ambush in early April.

The ensuing fighting killed dozens of American soldiers and hundreds of Iraqis. It also saw a mass exodus of refugees from the fighting flooding into Baghdad. Two weeks ago a ceasefire was declared by U.S. troops, but there have been almost daily skirmishes.

But Monday saw the announcement that the U.S. did not plan on a return to a frontal assault on the city, but rather would begin joint Iraqi-American patrols of the city on Thursday.

The response from the insurgents was the bitterest fighting in two weeks that has killed at least one Marine and wounded several others. Reports from Fallujah indicate that vast swaths of the city and being attacked by tanks and helicopters, while insurgents are responding with heavy weapons fire from various fortified positions, putting the ceasefire in dire jeopardy.

Part of the issue making a solution to the unrest in Fallujah difficult is the presence of hundred of foreign fighters from other Arab countries, who refuse to negotiate or surrender.

Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International

Friday, April 23, 2004
  Terrorists can wait, just save the profit margins AG John Ashcroft can find plenty of resources to counter global online music and movie theft:
The US Department of Justice said on Thursday that it had conducted an international sweep of suspected online copyright pirates.

Dubbed "Operation Fastlink," the sweep consisted of 120 searches in 27 states and 10 countries. Officials seized 200 computers, 30 of which were alleged to have been used as storage and distribution servers, containing thousands of copyrighted works, including newly released movies and music.

The Justice Department estimated that the seized copyright material was worth $50m (£28.2m).
Indeed, our fearless justice dept. will protect corporate profits no matter the personal danger to justice personnel:
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and his deputies won't say what caused the April 21 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raid on the computer command center at the Deer Valley School District in Glendale, Ariz. The attorney general also refused to say whether other school districts have been targeted for additional FBI raids.

The timing and certain comments by Ashcroft, however, have led to speculation that the raid is part of a much larger FBI crackdown on pirated music, CDs, and movies.

The raid in Glendale came just one day before U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials in Washington announced the creation of a new Intellectual Property Task Force to step up copyright enforcement.
It's not that I'm for piracy. I'm for better decision-making regarding precious resource allocation. For example, Ashcroft thinks nothing of targeting powerless groups with politically inconvenient leanings in the name of counterterrorism.
A federal grand jury, in a move some see as an attempt to harass and intimidate the antiwar movement, subpoenaed Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in early February, ordering it to turn over all documents related to an antiwar conference held three months ago on its campus.
And yet, we allow Saudi Arabia, the nation that spawned 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers, to carry on business as usual.
News Advisory: HRH Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will deliver the keynote address at a dinner co- sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association and the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council on Monday, April 26, at The Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
The U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council was established in December 1993 to improve the mutual knowledge and understanding between the private sectors of the United States and Saudi Arabia, and to promote and facilitate increased trade and investment between the two countries. The Council also seeks to create awareness of the opportunities for small and medium sized businesses in both countries.

Sponsors of the Forum include:

American International Group; Arab Banking Corporation; Aramco Services Company/Saudi Petroleum International Inc.; The Boeing Company; Chevron Texaco, Inc.; Citigroup; ConocoPhillips; ENI; Exxon Mobil Corporation; Gulf International Bank; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; Marathon Oil Company; Merrill Lynch; Morgan Stanley; Occidental Petroleum Corporation; Olayan America Corporation; Saudi Aramco; Saudi Basic Industries Corporation; Trust Company of the West; UBS; Xenel Group
The cognoscenti (i.e., people who ask questions) know why the Saudis are untouchable:
Many of the same American corporate executives who have reaped millions of dollars from arms and oil deals with the Saudi monarchy have served or currently serve at the highest levels of U.S. government, public records show.

Those lucrative financial relationships call into question the ability of America's political elite to make tough foreign policy decisions about the kingdom that produced Osama bin Laden and is perhaps the biggest incubator for anti-Western Islamic terrorists.
Then there are the schmoes caught in The Matrix who read tripe like this and think all's right with the world:
WASHINGTON - A Saudi envoy reassured President Bush on Thursday that the kingdom would not let oil shortages harm world economic growth, in a move that could help Bush who has been under attack from Democrats for failing to halt rising gasoline prices and OPEC output cuts.
Underlining Bush's contacts, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States paid a surprise visit to the White House to deliver a message that his country is committed to ensuring the world has adequate supplies of crude oil.

"Saudi Arabia's policy is consistent. Number one: we will not allow any shortages in the market," Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan told reporters after delivering his message to Bush from Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah.

Thursday, April 22, 2004
  Holy Earth Day, Wetlands Man! Our president pays lip service to the environment in the only way he knows how to communicate anything -- by invoking God. "...the wetlands can be revitalized," the president said in his Earth Day speech, adding for those who, like him, don't know what "revitalize" means, "In other words, we can restore wetlands so they function better, so they function as the Almighty wanted them to function in the first place."

It makes you wonder whether Bush believes the Almighty would approve of the administration's efforts, illegally concealed, to kill federal perchlorate regulations. Or what God what think about any of Bush's environmental record
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
  Impeachable offense? No, just another legless story. There actually are four "big" stories from the Woodward book:

1) In his heart, Powell doesn't support the war, thus he is viewed with contempt by Cheney
2) Bush cut a deal with Bandar on gas prices
3) (updated) Bandar was told in advance about our decision to invade Iraq, let alone before Boog, er, Colin Powell
4) The administration appropriated $700 million for Iraq war planning without informing Congress (HINT: this is the impeachable offense.)

The first story, for anybody following the bouncing ball, is not new news. This month's Vanity Fair also details the Powell-didn't-agree-with-the-Iraq-war-policy-slash-Cheney-hates-Powell story.

As for number two, this space has already pointed readers to Atrios, who informs us that the media story (that Bush cut a deal with Saudi Arabia to lower gas prices before the election) is not the real story. The real story is that Bush cut a deal with Saudi Arabia to keep gas prices high until before the election. Chris Matthews last night repeated the "deal to lower gas prices" version, proving that Matthews follows the pack, Atrios is cleverer than most, and television viewers never get a clue.

As for Bandar being told about the invasion in advance, it's a classic political football. There's no way to prove it one way or the other. The media took Scott McClellan up on his offer when, instead of answering the question, "Did the administration tell Bandar before it told Powell," he said "why don't you ask Bandar." They did. Bandar's answer, like McClellan's, was a non-denial-but-you-can't-prove-anything response.

The fourth one, now that's a scoop, with black-and-white evidence to back it up. There have been few decent media stories on this. We're betting the media will continue its lazy ways and let the story die. After all, the Bush administration has acted illegally or damn close to the edge since the Florida recount, and the media has been loathe to do anything more than print "both sides of the story," which is to say, it hasn't dug, hasn't done its job, and has let Bush off the hook and even covered for him a thousand ways. 
  Woodward + $700 million = Illegal doings uncovered While the Washington Post cites only vague reporting requirements for spending allocations of supplemental funds, and prints denials by credible (not!) sources like Paul Wolfowitz, David Sirota lays out the case very clearly. Go to his blog and read it. (Thanks, Atrios.)
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
  Troubling Washington Post poll. Among the stomach-sinking findings:
Nearly eight in 10 said Bush "takes a position and sticks with it." Four in 10 had that view of Kerry, who is being portrayed by Republicans as a flip-flopper on key issues such as the war in Iraq. The Democratic candidate still holds an edge on who better understands the problems of average people, but even there, Kerry's advantage over Bush has dropped from 17 to 10 points.
Of course polls are incredibly skewed by what questions are asked, how questions are asked, and who is being asked. We all know that. But the headlines and stories from such polls stick in people's minds and affect their perceptions.

I guess two things really trouble me about this. First is the trend change -- Bush's numbers are actually improving. Second, and related, this poll comes out just when I think enough of the media and the populace have awoken from their hallucinogenic ride on Emporer Bush's non-existent cape to swing the election in favor of the Democrats. Or, as Buzzflash writes, "According to Latest Poll, Half of Americans are Drinking the Kool-Aid and Still Approving of Bush." 
Monday, April 19, 2004
  The Bush-Saudi rigged pricing story the media missed is nailed by Atrios. 
  I'll tell you exactly what it is about this phrase that bothers me:
"The hard thing about terrorism is that they only have to be right once, and we have to be right 100 percent of the time."--Condoleeza Rice, at the 9/11 hearings in defense of the Bush administration's anti terrorism approach, and again yesterday on Fox News Sunday, chillingly, in response to a question about whether terrorists would attempt to disrupt our November election.
I'm bothered by it on several levels.

First, it's a major cya excuse. It denies responsibility, ignores culpability, and denies accountability by our National Security Advisor, for crying out loud, for any pre- and post-9/11 terrorist attacks, here or abroad.

Second, it sets the bar for success in the fight to defeat terrorism extremely low. If we suffer another attack, well, gee, the odds are in their favor, so it's to be expected. That's some potent war you and your man George are fighting, Condi. One where you pretty much have already conceded defeat.

Third, it's just not true. If you detect and break up a single terrorist plot, you've won that battle. Being right 100 percent of the time has absolutely nothing to do with being right just once. It's just a false premise, which leads to

Fourth, it deflects and even quells the debate from the real issues, which are: How did bin Laden pull off 9/11, and how do we prevent additional attacks? If you buy into Condi's argument, the debate is over, since the odds are overwhelmingly against us. After all, nobody on earth is right 100 percent of the time. Unless...

Fifth, it forces us to put our faith in the current administration and, it follows, in God. After all, as we've been reminded, there hasn't been an attack on U.S. soil in 2-1/2 years. It appears the only way to beat such virtually insurmountable odds is to have God on our side. And this administration has a direct pipeline.

Sixth (and I'll stop with this one), it justifies the Iraqi invasion by framing the debate in terms of "odds" rather than in terms of policy. We improved our odds because there is one less head-of-state that sponsors terrorism. (Never mind that the administration's argument that Saddam was a terrorist sponsor still rages, with virtually no evidence to support the allegations.) While it's true that this argument begs crucial questions -- where does the money that supports terrorist activities and organizations come from; are whole states the problem and if so is invading and occupying the solution -- no serious debate by credible players is taking place on any stage of impact, allowing the argument to stand virtually unchallenged. 
Sunday, April 18, 2004
  Doesn't this undermine the war on terrorism?
From today's NY Times: Ms. Rice said in an interview on Fox News Sunday that she was concerned that terrorists could draw "the wrong lesson from Spain," and attempt other attacks aimed at dividing the coalition.
Apparently one only undermines the war on terrorism and places troops in danger when one criticizes the Bush administration's approach. Criticisms from the administration about others is okay because God is on our side rather than, God forbid, the side of the terrorists. 
  Kerry on Meet the Press needed to be more direct on what he would do differently from the current president on terrorism and Iraq.

He could state unequivocally that the Bush administration's unilateral assault on Saddam Hussein was a crippling blow to the fight against terrorists, though not a fatal one. For a new leader can mount the terrorism anew, with a far better plan.

By alienating not only many leaders, but literally hundreds of millions of people around the world, Bush undermined the single best counter-terrorism strategy known in the world. It's the same strategy employed by the president's father in the 1991 Gulf War. That was a strategy of uniting the world -- including leaders, the people who elected and trust them, and mobilizing their institutions of might and mind.

Think how differently the fight against terrorism would look today if all the leaders of the world had their financial institutions working together, sharing information, to trace terrorist monies. Imagine if we
linked Russian, British, French, Japanese, Pakistani, German, Italian, Indonesian, Indian, Jordanian, Saudi Arabian et cetera intelligence sources in a cooperative project to root out Al Qaeda and other terrorist operations in every city on earth.

If we are to defeat terrorism -- and defeat it we must -- we need an attitude of multinationalism, multilateralism, not a romantic but fatally flawed cowboy loner mentality. Terrorism is fought and won by hunting down money trails, finding small terrorist groups, or cells, and identifying individual terrorists and rooting them out.

As we've seen tragically in the United States and all over the world, terrorists are able to move without detection. By expanding counterterrorism efforts to the four corners of the world, by sharing information and resources, that's how you reduce the terrorists' territory and choke off their communications and money supply lines. You don't do it by trying to seize control of a particular geographic space and announcing the terrorists can no longer use this space. Take a look at Iraq and what do you see? Terrorists, planning and plotting and succeeding almost every day. What are we going to do? Occupy every Islamic country in the world, only to generate more terrorists? The Bush policy is a failure. My policy will engage the world in a war the terrorists cannot possibly win. Under my policy, they will truly have nowhere to go.  
Friday, April 16, 2004
  The Sharon Plan looks pretty dismal to just about everyone, not least Mayssam Zaaroura, whose commentary in the Lebanon edition of The Daily Star is titled Bush to rest of world: Y'all just follow the leader, now  
  What, me poll? One adviser said the White House had examined polling and focus group studies in determining that it would be a mistake for Mr. Bush to appear to yield. 
  From Baghdad Bob to Padlock Paul - Mohammed "Baghdad Bob" Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraq's Minister of Information, became the laughingstock frontman for a corrupt dictator, making up stories that appeased his boss and amused the press. L. Paul Bremer III, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, shut down a newspaper for printing facts that did not fit with the story he wants to tell. We expected disinformation from Baghdad Bob; we expected Padlock Paul to lead the effort to democratize Iraq, not censor its press.

This Bizzaro World version of Iraq is not like anything we were told to expect after a U.S. invasion. The reconstruction was going to be paid for by Iraqi oil and cost us $1.7 billion dollars, not tens of billions and counting. Security wise, Iraq (and the world) now has more terrorists, not fewer. WMDs? Not tons of anything except, perhaps, intentions. Iraqi democracy remains on a distant horizon. One year after the invasion we're escalating, not a reducing the number of armed forces. That irrelevant U.N.? Now critical to a stable Iraq, said Bush in his April 13 press conference.

Perhaps the sorriest story is the upper echelon of this administration might have bought their own bill of goods. Witness Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's apparent surprise at the number of casualties in Iraq this month. Retired general Anthony Zinni, obviously a liberal and an America hater, is surprised that (Rumsfeld's) surprised," and says going back to the U.N. hat in hand for their help "would be funny if not for the lives lost."

In "Too Risky," a story Google news could not find anywhere else, conservative columnist John McCaslin reports:
Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was among a congressional delegation scheduled to visit Iraq this week, but the trip was axed by the Pentagon, which cited a need to maintain critical troops and resources in combat operations.
In the Bizzaro World that is the Bush administration, one can only guess at what's next, and hope it will be merely ironic or laughable. The alternatives are too awful to contemplate. 
  It's still not newsworthy here, but the U.K. Guardian has picked up on the International Atomic Energy Agency's concern about the proliferation of nuclear materials emanating from Iraq. Looks like The Guardian's theme is the U.S.-led coalition's negligence in monitoring Iraq's nuclear sites, which was my intuitive interpretation of the Washington Post article. The Bush administration has yet to try to use this as an I-told-you-so re the discovery of yellowcake in Iraq, and they may not be able to, given The Guardian's characterization of it as probably "from a known mine in Iraq that was active before the 1991 Gulf War." 
Thursday, April 15, 2004
  Halliburton? Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch..... This is a must-read for anyone looking to lube his/her "hate Cheney" engine. I found it through Google while looking to see if any media had yet picked up on the story in The Hill of Pat Roberts busting Bill Frist for his Senate floor outburst against Dick Clarke. (Answer: not yet.) 
  Can't get it out of my head Q. Why are you and Dick Cheney testifying together instead of separately, as the commission has asked?

A. I'm going to the commission to answer qwestians. They have qwest ians and I'm happy to answer them. That's why I'm going, to answer their qwestians. They have the oppertunity to ask qwestians and I'll have the oppertunity to answer their qwestians. That's why.

Q. The question is why are you going together when the commission asked to question you alone.

A. I'm going to the commission to answer qwestians. They have qwest ians and I'm happy to answer them. That's why I'm going, to answer their qwestians. They have the oppertunity to ask qwestians and I'll have the oppertunity to answer their qwestians. That's why. 
  Iraq's "Nuclear Program" Has Surfaced Story on page 22 of today's Washington Post:
Large amounts of nuclear-related equipment, some of it contaminated, and a small number of missile engines have been smuggled out of Iraq for recycling in European scrap yards, according to the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog and other U.N. diplomats.
Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned the U.N. Security Council in a letter that U.N. satellite photos have detected "the extensive removal of equipment and, in some instances, removal of entire buildings" from sites that had been subject to U.N. monitoring before the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, U.N. inspectors discovered, inventoried and destroyed most of the equipment used in Iraq's nuclear weapons program. But they left large amounts of nuclear equipment and facilities in Iraq intact and "under seal," including debris from the Osirak reactor that was bombed by Israel in 1981. That debris and the buildings are radioactively contaminated.
Evidence of the illicit import of nuclear-related material surfaced in January after a small quantity of "yellowcake" uranium oxide was discovered in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam's harbor. The company that purchased the shipment, Jewometaal, detected radioactive material in the container and informed the Dutch government, according to the Associated Press. A spokesman for the company told the news agency that a Jordanian scrap dealer who sent the shipment believed the yellowcake came from Iraq.
I'm no expert on nuclear proliferation, but it sounds like the U.N. has known all about this material for more than a decade, and the news is that it's being smuggled out, possibly illegally, right under our noses. My fear is Bush, Cheney and Condi could have this story spun into an "I told you there was a nuclear threat, a WMD threat," and bolster anew support for the invasion, hurting Kerry's chances.

And I can hear the conservative media now crying that the liberal media buried the story on the back pages. "Sure, because this proves Bush was right," they'll say, promulgating the spin that the news is about the discovery of Iraq's nuclear program, rather than a story about poor oversight by the coalition authority, whatever that is, besides the US military. 
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
  Air America Radio has been pulled off the air in Los Angeles and Chicago, according to the Drudge Report. He writes "the network bounced a check and owes more than $1 million!" to Arthur Liu, owner of Multicultural Radio Broadcasting. Evan Cohen, Air America's chairman, says in a Chicago Tribune story released about 2-1/2 hours ago that Multicultural is lying. Air America has filed a complaint in New York State Supreme Court today.

On the air just moments ago, Randi Rhodes backed up Cohen's story. She opined that somebody is possibly paying off Multicultural to keep Air America off the air. "I wish Matt would've called me," to get Air America's side of the story, Randi said. "He sends me Christmas cards. He knows me. He should've called," instead of printing Liu's charge as fact. But that's Drudge's wont. 
  So maybe he exaggerated a little... Remember Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist standing up on the Senate floor to denounce Richard Clarke as a profiteer and a liar, shameful, arrogant, and solicitous? His tirade about Clarke's "lies" referred specifically to testimony Clarke gave before a joint House-Senate panel in 2002, and how it differed from what Clarke told the 9/11 Commission. Now read this, which begins:
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says former Bush counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke’s testimony before a joint congressional panel on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks did not contradict his later testimony before a presidentially appointed commission.


He wished that Frist had consulted with him before making his floor statement.


When asked if Clarke contradicted himself, Roberts said he did not.

Thanks to atrios for posting the story. 
  Non answers are all Bush threw at us last night, not that we should have expected otherwise. The following Q's & A's are edited for brevity; the content and intent are unchanged.
Q. Mr. President, why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9-11 commission?
A. Because the 9-11 commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.
Q. (followup) I was asking why you're appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.
A. Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9-11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them.
Josh Marshall posted the three possible real answers last week, paraphrased here a couple of weeks ago.

The full transcript of the press conference is here. A condensed version is here
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
  "This has been tough weeks in that country." Thus spake Preznit Bush to open his first prime time press conference since March, 2003. His don't speak English so good. I can see comedians hoping to hell he gets re-elected to keep lines like this coming for four more years. But they'll be offset by the linguists' vote. 
  Brilliant -- click here if you have a fast internet connection, here if you have dial-up (low-res) 
  Rich Lowry sets the bar pretty low on the National Review blog: If we leave Iraq in some sort of orderly condition, with some sort of legitimate non-dictatorial government, and a roughly working economy, we will be doing very well. 
  Because his concern was covering exposed cement breasts. The 9/11 Commission's second statement, titled "Threats and Responses in 2001," includes a finding regarding Ashcroft's position on counterterrorism (boldface is mine):
(Acting FBI Director Thomas) Pickard said in late June and through July he met with Attorney General Ashcroft once a week. He told us that although he initially briefed the Attorney General regarding these threats, after two such briefings the Attorney General told him he did not want to hear this information anymore. The Justice Department has informed us that Attorney General Ashcroft, his former deputy, and his chief of staff deny that the Attorney General made any such statement to Pickard.

  Every single death is unnecessary although this one seems more tragic others. The parents of three soldier daughters, one of whom died in Iraq last week, are pleading for their two other girls to be spared further service in Iraq, the U.S. media has reported.

The Iraq war's toll would be bad enough if the war were just. But this is G.W. Bush's a war of choice, waged for revenge, power, oil, greed.  
Monday, April 12, 2004
  USA Today mimics the Bush administration's defense of its pre-9/11 anti-terrorism policy by reporting "(The August 6, 2001 PDB) did not provide specific times or places for potential attacks." So a Dad gets into a car accident and his kids die because he failed to buckle their seat belts. His defense is, "I would've buckled them in if I'd known the date and time the accident would happen." (Read on somebody's blog, don't recall who...?) The article also quotes former actor and Illinois governor Jim Thompson as saying "no reasonable American could hold the president responsible for the attack."

I don't think any reasonable American DOES hold the president responsible. Besides, I don't think that's the point of the 9/11 commission -- to hold somebody directly responsible. It's to find weaknesses in the security systems and processes of our government and institutions, with the hopes of making improvements therein to ensure we're making the best effort to prevent future terrorist attacks.

If this administration were not so damned arrogant, secretive, and defensive; and were the press even somewhat inquisitive and original, rather than given to aping the administration's childish finger pointing and defenses, the commission might actually be effective. 
  Would the media dare suggest that the reason Bush originally opposed the formation of a 9/11 commission is he feared it would find that the administration did in fact ignore warnings of impending attacks?

Instead, Condi,Bush and his media friends advance the defense that since Bush wasn't told exactly when and how attacks would occur, they were unpreventable. The implication is the president, his national security advisor, and our defense department really cannot keep the country safe unless somebody else -- the CIA and FBI, presumably -- tells them exactly how to defend us.

Based on the Bush defense, the 9/11 Commission's recommendations are bound to be akin to, "To Prevent Another 9/11, We Need Intelligence That Tells Us What, When, Who, Where, and How." 
  Internationalizing the Iraqi occupation was an idea the Bush administration has always been loathe to consider, and the media followed the lead. On August 20, 2003, on the heels of the bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad, Howard Dean renewed his call (first issued in April) to internationalize the reconstruction effort. On Hardball that night, Chris Matthews brushed off Dean's remark:
"Dean didn't notice apparently that the UN was hit yesterday. So internationalizing it won't fix it," said Matthews.
Now it seems all we hear is how we've brought this insurgency upon ourselves by our refusal to bring other countries into the effort, particulary those who opposed the war to begin with, namely Arab countries, the French, the Germans and the Russians. 
Sunday, April 11, 2004
  Gone fishin' is George W. Bush's modus operandi for dealing with crises. As Josh Marshall rightly points out, "vacation gibes are usually unfair." He was referring to a Washington Post story pointing out that W has spent some 500 days, or 40% of his presidency, on vacation, working or otherwise.

Bush was enjoying a monthlong vacation when he received the ever-more-famous PDB, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US."

But spending an hour and a half fishing on Friday, in the midst of new Iraq attacks and kidnappings, is somewhat ridiculous. I mean, we have a Secretary of Defense referring to the violence as nothing more than routine "bad days."

Sam just woke up & Dad's on duty... 
Saturday, April 10, 2004
  Here's the answer to the question I posted earlier regarding how many American deaths we'd tolerate in Iraq before deciding enough is enough.
In Iraq, the survey showed the public would tolerate, as a mean figure, 29,853 American fatalities; civilian elites would tolerate 19,045; and their military counterparts would tolerate 6,016.
The Washington Post op-ed piece describing the methodology used to determine these figures was written by Lawrence F. Kaplan. 
Friday, April 09, 2004
  Lots going on, but I'm not writing about politics. Yes, Iraq's very hot. The August 6th presidential daily briefing (PDB) title revelation, "bin Laden Determined to Strike Within the U.S.," gives cause for pause. Kerry is trying to be heard on the economy over the din. Media coverage of it all bears examination.

Yet perhaps the biggest media fiasco of the day was the television coverage of the second round of the Masters, or should I say the coverage of Arnie Palmer trying to finish his final competitive Masters round, to the exclusion of coverage of the actual tournament. Important players/story lines were ignored, completely, to allow reverential coverage of The King:
There were key players on the edge of the cut line, including defending champ Mike Weir, crowd favorite John Daly, Vijay Singh and Paddy Harrington.
Phil Mickelson was charging and Sergio Garcia was playing well; both were still on the course.
Oldies Jay Haas and Bernhard Langer were on the course and in contention.
But we didn't see one shot, one leaderboard, or get any commentary. We did watch Arnie waiting 20 minutes to hit his last approach shot to 18, an anticlimactic worm-burner with a driver off the deck, coming up some 35 yards short of the pin. Then we had to watch him limp up to the green, chip the ball, miss the putt (or did he make it? I wasn't watching, but rather following the tournament online at golfweb.com). THEN we watched him walk some more, presumably to the scorer's tent. THEN, with the aforementioned tournament still in progress (it's a Major tournament -- every shot has implications) we were shown replays of Arnie's shots from the round earlier. THEN there was the interview of The King in the "historic" Butler Cabin. (One must never say Butler Cabin without modifying it with the adjective "historic." Presumably this is one of several rules USA/CBS must adhere to in return for the privilege of covering the prestigious Masters. Obviously covering The King's last 60 minutes at Augusta was another rule -- unless the producers on their own thought viewers wouldn't mind missing tournament action in favor of static, predictable perhaps historic but mostly boring footage of The King's farewell.)

Thankfully, we won't be subject to the same with Jack Nicklaus, who announced after the round that this was probably his last Masters. He all but said he doesn't want to be a sideshow, like Arnie was, sadly, today. 
Thursday, April 08, 2004
  How she walked and what she wore:
She strode in erect and sure, wearing a smart tan suit, matching pumps and gold earrings.
Does the media ever, I mean ever describe what men wear to events of such importance? This "fair and balanced" NYT piece is typical of coverage you'll find everywhere except the Strictly Partisan media. There is no comparison between what is factually known and what Ms. Rice declared under oath. For that, you have to go to the Center for American Progress analysis of Rice's testimony. Click on the "Claim vs. Fact" link for juicy tidbits like this one:
CLAIM: "I do not remember any reports to us, a kind of strategic warning, that planes might be used as weapons." [responding to Kean]

FACT: Condoleezza Rice was the top National Security official with President Bush at the July 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa. There, "U.S. officials were warned that Islamic terrorists might attempt to crash an airliner" into the summit, prompting officials to "close the airspace over Genoa and station antiaircraft guns at the city's airport." [Sources: Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01; White House release, 7/22/01]
  Only 233 Days - That's how long the Bush administration was in office before 9-11, and it's Condi Rice's defense before the 9-11 Commission on why we failed to sniff out and possibly prevent the attacks.

It's their new mantra. Look for it again. And again. And again. 
  The Commish is a Fan of Rice, so don't look for anything earthshattering in today's 9-11 hearings.

Before Richard Clarke's testimony, Tom Kean said he thought Rice should testify publicly because, he said, she is a wonderful spokesperson for the administration and has nothing to hide. I've been unable to find a transcript of his exact statement. It was on some news/talk show. If you can find the reference, kindly comment, thanks. 
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
  I might buy the single ...but I won't even consider buying William Hung's CD
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
  The 57,000 Benchmark Somebody tell me how many Americans have to die before holdouts will subscribe to the Iraq-Vietnam comparison. (Or at least acquiesce that it's time to withdraw.)

Unfortunately, this administration always planned to stay indefinitely, establishing military bases and ownership of privatized resources. Thus it doesn't really matter if 600 or 60,000 die. We're in it for the long haul.

Monday, April 05, 2004
  C'mon, Teddy I have yet to hear one pundit or anyone question the timing of Karen Hughes' book. 
  Shooting themselves in the foot I've said it, others have said it repeatedly of this administration: The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

They could diffuse the 9/11 commission controversy by saying yes it's true, counterterrorism was not our number one priority until 9/11. That would be far easier to square than the claim that they DID focus on, which is obviously not the case.
Richard Clarke's credibility is pitted against Bush aides who reject his charges that they ignored al Qaeda before the 2001 attacks.--photo caption in CBS/AP story on 9/11 commission
  Arrest warrant for Sadr Isn't this something like law enforcment?
From the 2004 SOTU: I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime, a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments.
  Hume, Award Winner, Lies About First Pitch Brit Hume, the National Press Foundation's Broadcast Journalist of the Year, is compelled to present President Bush in the best possible light, regardless of the severity or levity of the situation. Case in point on this evening's news.
Hume: "The president threw a waist high strike that appeared to catch the outside corner."
Uh, first, the camera angle made it impossible to tell whether the pitch was over the plate. Second, it was clear that the catcher reached out to his side to snag the ball. Catchers only reach to the side if the pitch is not over the plate. 
  Hey Bremer, Get the Chains & Locks An opinion piece in today's Al Jazeera looks at hypocrisy and hyperbole in the U.S. media's views of Islam. Weapons of Muslims' Destruction By Abid Ullah Jan 
  Iraq Anyway With increased, wider-spread violence in Iraq, sparked in part by Chatsworth Osborne Bremer's paddlocking of the Iraqi newspaper Al Hawza, I began to think about the two great chants, now interconnected for eternity, that led to this war:
Stop the Count
Weapons of Mass Destruction

The former sullied lawful recounts and paved the way to the White House for the Bushies. The latter was a manipulation to scare us into supporting the Iraqi war.

Then I thought again about how connected the closing of that anti-American newspaper is to the recount shutdown and the propaganda-mongering that led us into Iraq. And I realized: Even if Gore had become president, the new conservative coalition -- having suffered the 2000 election loss -- would have been relentless in its revenge. Who knows how the losers of 2000 would have exploited 9/11. The Clinton administration survived a constant stream of attacks; it's doubtful Gore would have after 9/11. Impeachment or even a coup, with the 9/11 battle cry to justify it, are not unlikely scenarios. Even if Gore survived until 2004, it's likely the Iraq war would have happened anyway, either on Gore's watch under pressure, or in a Republican administration that almost surely would have been orchestrated to win in 2004.

The saddest thing of all is that nothing Bushco has done or is doing serves the public interest. Rather it serves to quench the thirst for power of those who now hold the reins. 
Sunday, April 04, 2004
  What Bush Hath Wrought A few news headlines this morning:

Spread of Bin Laden Ideology Cited, Iraq Invasion Said To Alter Dynamics Of Local Militants
Shouting Disrupts Israeli Cabinet Meeting
Blast Rocks Madrid Suburb
Coalition troops fire on Iraqi protesters (we're talking Spanish troops and Iraqi Shiites in Najaf, not Shiia's in Fallujah, the city the neocons want to nuke)
Saturday, April 03, 2004
  Powell is "Misoverestimated" Author Micheal Steinberger of the Foreign Policy Institute doesn't mince words in this Colin Powell profile in The American Prospect A few juicy lines show how dissed Powell is within the administration:

...when Wolfowitz visited Baghdad last October -- a visit marred by a rocket attack on Wolfowitz's hotel -- the State Department was kept in the dark about his itinerary.

"The president doesn't like him very much."

Rumsfeld, of course, has been a constant irritant for Powell.

(Powell) has fallen victim to the wrath of Dick Cheney;

Rice is allied with Cheney and Rumsfeld, and this, combined with Bush's black-and-white perspective and preference for action over talk, has put Powell at a severe disadvantage.

What's striking is that Powell has done all that's asked of him. Take a lesson from Richard Clarke: If you're going to be hated, for crying out loud be hated for standing up for what you believe. 
  I am Paul Krugman Paul Krugman
You are Paul Krugman! You're a brilliant economist
with a knack for both making sense of the
current economic situation and exposing the
Bush administration's lies about it. You
somehow came out as the best anti-war writer on
the Op-Ed staff. Other economists hate your
guts for selling out to the liberals. To hell
with 'em.

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
  Just Read "Rebuilding America's Defenses" I read Josh Marshall's TPM post on Powell's "not solid" statement. Marshall is far more underwhelmed than I, but he sources a CNN story that doesn't include Powell's call to look into the intelligence gathering process, which is included in the report I reference in the entry below, and the rub I think.

Marshall calls it "comical and farcical" that the Iraq hawks point to Powell as "the biggest culprit in the whole manipulated intelligence fiasco." I knew before Powell uttered a word that fateful fifth day of February, 2003 he had been made the sacrificial lamb. Is he tired of being the sap? Is that why he wants the intelligence gathering process to be investigated, to finally expose the nastymen who used him as their pawn?

Clearly the intelligence was heavily manipulated by those who were determined not to let the opportunity to put their radical, hegemonous policies into play -- an opportunity handed to them by bin Laden -- slip away. The evidence that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle orchestrated a public relations ploy is right here, posted on the web.
Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.

I viewed much of the pre-war hype through the prism of this document . It is the smoking gun. 
  Where the hell have I been all day?
Saying on Friday the case he made before the UN in February, 2003 no longer appears to him to be solid, Colin Powell "called on a federal commission investigating prewar intelligence to examine how the data had been gathered."

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Us regular ol' libruls hoped Powell would bust this administration before the Iraq war, but he disappointed. Too late now for the thousands of dead and wounded. Too late now to get our money back from Halliburton. But better late then never has to be the mantra.

Yes, I know he's going after the intel community and not his bosses. Still it could expose the Cheney-led coup to usurp intelligence for purposes of making war. 
Friday, April 02, 2004
  The tax-relief-equals-jobs lie is sticking in my brain today . . .
When people have more money, they can spend it on goods and services. And in our society, when they demand an additional good or a service, somebody will produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces that good or a service, it means somebody is more likely to be able to find a job.--The preznit at the signing of the jobs & growth act, May, 2003

Heck, Geoorge, why don't we just print up more money? 
  He meant to say "some, eventually" "...there are people out there that understand that with tax relief will come more jobs for the American people."--George W. Bush, at the signing of the Jobs and Growth Act, May 28, 2003 
Thursday, April 01, 2004
  And Kerry's VP Choice is (tada!) Bill Richardson - My prediction. Louis Lapham, editor of Harper's Bazaar said it, too, today on Air America Radio's Unfiltered show this morning.

It's not just his ethnic background/appeal. It's who he is: Personable, funny, easy-going, outgoing. 
"If you have been framed, the only response is to reframe. But you can't do it in a sound bite unless an appropriate progressive language has been built up in advance. Conservatives have worked for decades and spent billions on their think tanks to establish their frames."--George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley

02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 /

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