Observations on the world today.

Saturday, March 20, 2004


USATODAY.com - Former counterterror adviser slams White House, Rumsfeld
Almost immediately after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Clarke said the president asked him directly to find whether Iraq was involved in the suicide hijackings.

"Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said, 'Iraq did this,'" said Clarke, who told the president that U.S. intelligence agencies had never found a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

"He came back at me and said, 'Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection,' and in a very intimidating way," Clarke said.

CBS said it asked Stephen Hadley, Rice's deputy on the national security council, about the incident, and Hadley said: "We cannot find evidence that this conversation between Mr. Clarke and the president ever occurred."

CBS responded to Hadley that it found two people it did not identify who recounted the incident independently, and one of them witnessed the conversation.

"I stand on what I said," Hadley told CBS, "but the point I think we're missing in this is, of course the president wanted to know if there was any evidence linking Iraq to 9-11."
Why of course? And why Iraq alone? It would be one thing if the president had asked for evidence associating any government with the attacks, or for evidence linking or clearing Iraq, but to specifically ask for evidence linking Iraq to the attacks is not good governance.

It's simply not.

The other really great quote from the above quoted section is that Hadley says they have not found evidence that the conversation took place, and when told that CBS has already independently verified the conversation they simply stood by their statement. That statement again:
"We cannot find evidence that this conversation between Mr. Clarke and the president ever occurred."
The follow up question should have been, "Have you looked?" Because as any second grader in trouble for having lost his homework can tell you, it's not a lie to say you can't find it if you haven't even looked. It's called plausible deniability.

So Let's Review... 

The Spanish are pulling out, South Korea has canceled plans to deploy, the president of Poland has said that he was mislead about Iraq, and now an Italian minister has acknowledged that the war was probably a mistake.

When will the level headed, common sense, anti-Bush al Qaeda appeasement stop?


Friday, March 19, 2004

Would That 'Twere True 

OpinionJournal - Extra

Dick Cheney in the WSJ:
Against this kind of determined, organized, ruthless enemy, America requires a new strategy--not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but to fight and win a global campaign against the terror network. Our strategy has several key elements. We have strengthened our defenses here at home, organizing the government to protect the homeland. But a good defense is not enough. The terrorist enemy holds no territory, defends no population, is unconstrained by rules of warfare, and respects no law of morality. Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased or negotiated with. It can only be destroyed--and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the business at hand.

We are dismantling the financial networks that have funded terror; we are going after the terrorists themselves wherever they plot and plan. Of those known to be directly involved in organizing the attacks of 9/11, most are now in custody or confirmed dead. The leadership of al Qaeda has sustained heavy losses, and they will sustain more.

America is also working closely with intelligence services all over the globe. The best intelligence is necessary--not just to win the war on terror, but also to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. So we have enhanced our intelligence capabilities, in order to trace dangerous weapons activity. We have organized a proliferation security initiative, to interdict lethal materials and technologies in transit. We are aggressively pursuing another dangerous source of proliferation: black-market operatives who sell equipment and expertise related to weapons of mass destruction. The world recently learned of the network led by A.Q. Khan, the former head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. Khan and his associates sold nuclear technology and know-how to outlaw regimes around the world, including Iran and North Korea. Thanks to the tireless work of intelligence officers from the United States, the U.K., Pakistan, and other nations, the Khan network is now being dismantled piece by piece.
Um, I thought we were at war on terror. Isn't this just the same old policing that we had been doing under Clinton?

Kevin Drum at Political Animal said it pretty well.
I don't get it. What's new here? Everyone agrees that we should strengthen homeland defense, dismantle terrorist funding, capture or kill the 9/11 terrorists and the leaders of al-Qaeda, work with intelligence services around the world, and fight weapons proliferation. None of that is either new or controversial.
But the most telling observation is that we are not engaging in a war at all. Not on terrorism anyway.

But you'd never know that to hear it from Condaleeza Rice:
I think it's simply a statement of fact that prior to September 11, our policies as a nation, going really all the way back to the bombing of the Lebanon barracks or perhaps even before that, to the Iranian revolution, were not in a mode of the kind of war that we were fighting; that we believed for a long time that law enforcement would get this done, that we did not have to roll them back in terms of territory. That's really the debate we're going to have. When the al-Qaeda committed an act of war against the United States on September 11, what was the appropriate response? Was it an appropriate response to not just rely on law enforcement to try and bring them to justice, but to also mobilize the military power of the United States to take down their base in Afghanistan and to begin to make their world smaller by dealing with the long-time problem that had been there in Iraq?
But is that really what we did? Have we been effective under this administration in shifting from a law enforcement philosophy to an aggressive war posture? Not according to Paul Krugman:
Polls suggest that a reputation for being tough on terror is just about the only remaining political strength George Bush has. Yet this reputation is based on image, not reality. The truth is that Mr. Bush, while eager to invoke 9/11 on behalf of an unrelated war, has shown consistent reluctance to focus on the terrorists who actually attacked America, or their backers in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
He continues:
After 9/11, terrorism could no longer be ignored, and the military conducted a successful campaign against Al Qaeda's Taliban hosts. But the failure to commit sufficient U.S. forces allowed Osama bin Laden to escape. After that, the administration appeared to lose interest in Al Qaeda; by the summer of 2002, bin Laden's name had disappeared from Mr. Bush's speeches. It was all Saddam, all the time.

This wasn't just a rhetorical switch; crucial resources were pulled off the hunt for Al Qaeda, which had attacked America, to prepare for the overthrow of Saddam, who hadn't. If you want confirmation that this seriously impeded the fight against terror, just look at reports about the all-out effort to capture Osama that started, finally, just a few days ago. Why didn't this happen last year, or the year before? According to The New York Times, last year many of the needed forces were tied up in Iraq.

It's now clear that by shifting his focus to Iraq, Mr. Bush did Al Qaeda a huge favor. The terrorists and their Taliban allies were given time to regroup; the resurgent Taliban once again control almost a third of Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda has regained the ability to carry out large-scale atrocities.
In my opinion, the truth is that law enforcement actually is the best way to handle terrorism. Declaring war on it is just silly political posturing. Terrorists are criminals, not a national political enemy. The war on drugs, for example, is a law enforcement war, i.e. a war in the rhetorical sense only. So is the war on terror. Only Bush and his gang of thugs don't seem to realize that. And because they actually engage us in real war in the diplomatic sense, we have no choice but to see it that way too.

What we really need to do is stop seeing it through Bush's eyes, and start seeing it for what it really is, a botched criminal investigation. Like- oh - I don't know - Waco for example.


Thursday, March 18, 2004

News Trickle 

Yahoo! News - Pakistanis May Be Near al-Qaida's No. 2:
Pakistani forces believe they have cornered and perhaps wounded Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, in a major battle near the Afghan border, an area where many believe the world's most wanted terrorist has been hiding, three senior Pakistani officials said Thursday.
This reminds me of a joke. A young man at boot camp receives a letter from his brother at home telling him that his dog is dead. He writes back suggesting that his brother might consider being a little less blunt next time. He suggests breaking the news gradually. Perhaps he could have written one letter saying the dog was on the roof, and they can't get him down. The next day, another letter saying the dog slipped and fell off, and they are concerned that he might not survive. Finally a third letter telling him that the dog had not made it. This way, he could acclimate himself and prepare for the hard news.

The next day he gets another letter from his brother. "Mom's on the roof, and we can't get her down."

Ladies and gentlemen, bin Laden is on the roof, and they can't get him down.

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm 

Just a thought. Now that the Spanish have fundamentally pulled out of the "Coalition of the Willing," do they still get to bid on those iraq reconstruction projects?

Appeaser Teasers 

FOXNews.com - Top Stories - Report: Group Claiming Madrid Bombings Calls Truce With Spain for Troop Pullout
The Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for last week's Madrid train bombings has called a truce with Spain to give the new government time to withdraw troops from Iraq, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper said Wednesday.
That is the headline and lead on Foxnews.

The story goes on to tell how, "A U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday the latest statement should be viewed with skepticism because the group has made false claims in the past." Now arguably, this should be the lead of the story. After all, we all know that the right has been trying to steer public perception that the Spanish were al Qaeda appeasers for voting out the pro-Bush Popular Party leadership. Certainly after reading the lead as it is written, this is the perception one would have if one were to stop reading and turn to the sports page.

But there is an even more egregious sin in the Foxnews piece. They completely left out the part of the statement that shows the idiocy of the right's attempted spin on the events in Spain's elections.

Again, remember, the right wants desperately for us to think that swinging the vote toward Spain's anti-Iraq-war Socialist Party was exactly what al Qaeda wanted when they set off the bombs in Madrid, and they will use the story of this "truce" to illustrate that point. But it would be much harder for them to make that point if Foxnews had done what Reuters did and posted the rest of the statement as well.
The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
So the next time your republican friends are trying to convince you that we need Bush to be reelected to successfully win the war on terror, you can look them straight in the eye and say, "Sure, that's exactly what the terrorists want you to think." And try doing it with a straight face. It will drive them nuts.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Sputtering Don 

MoveOn.org: Democracy in Action

The beauty and simplicity of this ad is so stunning that I want to cry.

What They Should Have Known 

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." -- national security adviser Condoleeza Rice, May 16, 2002
January: Clinton Administration begins.

February 26: A bomb detonates in a lower level of the World Trade Center in New York. Six people are killed and more than a thousand are injured.

June: A report commissioned by the Pentagon concludes that terrorists could hijack commercial airlines and crash them into the Pentagon and the White House.

Read the rest of What They Should Have Known...


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

How Stupid Are We? 

You know, I see the president's commercials claiming that he has been a great leader. I hear the stories claiming that the tax cuts given at first because the surplus was our money and we deserved it back were actually passed because they were necessary to get us out of a recession that hadn't even begun yet at the time. I read the editorials claiming that Kerry is not a true war hero, but Bush's service record is pristine. I see, hear and read all of these things, and I wonder - just how stupid do these people think we are?

Then I see the polls...

Graphic from pollingreport.com

...and I think - ah, so that's how stupid they think we are.


Monday, March 15, 2004

Gracias, Senior 

Spanish Socialists Oust Party of U.S. War Ally (washingtonpost.com)
Spaniards voted Sunday to remove the party of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar from power, apparently blaming his staunch support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq for the bombings that killed 200 people in Madrid on Thursday.

While opinion polls taken before the attacks had given Aznar's Popular Party a comfortable lead, voters overwhelmingly endorsed candidates from the opposition Socialist Party, whose leader, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has promised to immediately withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq, redirect Spain's foreign policy away from the United States and restore good relations with such European allies as France and Germany that had opposed the Iraq war.
There are three possible reasons why the Spanish people shifted their allegience to the socialists. One is that the PP party had not protected them from Qaeda, another is that they feel the PP had lied about Qaeda's involvement.

Neither is a victory for al Qaeda, but will be spun as such by the right.

There is also a third possible reason for the shift, which (if it is the actual reason) would be a Qaeda victory. That being that people considered the bombings retribution, and that they knuckled under and voted socialist - thus playing right into Qaeda's hands. To me, this seems unlikely. If I thought Qaeda was attacking the US to get me to vote against Bush, it might actually inspire me to vote for Bush. Appeasement doen't work. Most people know that.

Also, because it is not likely that the socialists will be appeasers. They will find the people involved, and prosecute them. And they will not have the political baggage of trying to pretend that the people involved were not Qaeda. This means that they will be in a much better position to actually USE the prosecutions to aid in the fight against al Qaeda.

Thank you Spanish people. Thank you VERY MUCH.

The Other Fauxnews 

U.S. Videos, for TV News, Come Under Scrutiny:
Federal investigators are scrutinizing television segments in which the Bush administration paid people to pose as journalists praising the benefits of the new Medicare law, which would be offered to help elderly Americans with the costs of their prescription medicines.
What? The phony journalists at the Washington Times and Foxnews weren't available?

George Bush's Plan: Pander To The Base? 

Group says Bush ad 'profiles' Arabs
An Arab-American group is calling on President Bush to remove a picture of an unidentified "Middle Eastern-looking" man from a campaign ad that focuses on terrorism.

"It runs counter to everything the president said after [Sept. 11] about not targeting, about not indicting, all Arab Americans," James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said Friday.

The complaint is the second in as many weeks from groups who object to the president's use of images from the war on terrorism in his re-election ads.
Now, I'll admit, I was not one of those who took particular offense at Bush's use of 9/11 imagery in his first ad. I mean, they were news pictures, and they are public domain. If he legitimately feels that he can run on his performance after the WTC disaster, his showing the images is not itself offensive. His performance was, but his using the images to illustrate his point is not.

However, this is a horse of a different color. Showing the eyes of a young man of obvious middle-eastern descent (in this context) is offensive. It smacks of racism. And it was something that any fool should realize was going to be seen as such.

Which brings me to my point. They had to know that this was offensive. They had to. And since they must have known that it would enrage liberals and Arab/Americans, why would they choose to use it? Obviously because they feel that pandering to racism is good strategy. Which either goes to show just how out of touch with America these guys really are, or how spot on they are.

You just know that they tested this ad in front of focus groups, and that afterward, they questioned that group on their reaction. I'm positive that it must have gotten at least some objections. But if they also had those people checked by voice stress monitors or other lie-detector-type sensors, who knows what hidden fears they learned that they were actually tapping into?

So maybe they knew that they were running an objectionable ad, and maybe they just didn't care. Maybe they figured that in the solitude of the voting booth, Americans - or at least the frightened white majority of Americans - really would be just racist enough to vote their bile over both their hearts and their heads.


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