Monday, July 21, 2003

Round 2 of the Yellowcake Presidential lies scandal involves the famous claim that it would take Iraq 45 minutes after the order was given to launch a holocaust of chemical and biological weapons towards its neighbors and as far away as the island of Cyprus. Yesterdays Washington Post started this new round of charges that have already been burning hot across the pond in England for the past month:

The White House, in the run-up to war in Iraq, did not seek CIA approval before charging that Saddam Hussein could launch a biological or chemical attack within 45 minutes, administration officials now say.

The claim, which has since been discredited, was made twice by President Bush, in a September Rose Garden appearance after meeting with lawmakers and in a Saturday radio address the same week. Bush attributed the claim to the British government, but in a "Global Message" issued Sept. 26 and still on the White House Web site, the White House claimed, without attribution, that Iraq "could launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given."

The 45-minute claim is at the center of a scandal in Britain that led to the apparent suicide on Friday of a British weapons scientist who had questioned the government's use of the allegation. The scientist, David Kelly, was being investigated by the British parliament as the suspected source of a BBC report that the 45-minute claim was added to Britain's public "dossier" on Iraq in September at the insistence of an aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair -- and against the wishes of British intelligence, which said the charge was from a single source and was considered unreliable. [….}

The 45-minute accusation is particularly noteworthy because of the furor it has caused in Britain, where the charge originated. A parliamentary inquiry determined earlier this month that the claim "did not warrant the prominence given to it in the dossier, because it was based on intelligence from a single, uncorroborated source." The inquiry also concluded that "allegations of politically inspired meddling cannot credibly be established."

As it turns out, the 45-minute charge was not true; though forbidden weapons may yet be found in Iraq, an adviser to the Bush administration on arms issues said last week that such weapons were not ready to be used on short notice.

The 45-minute allegation did not appear in the major speeches Bush made about Iraq in Cincinnati in October or in his State of the Union address, both of which were made after consultation with the CIA. But the White House considered the 45-minute claim significant and drew attention to it the day the British dossier was released. Asked if there was a "smoking gun" in the British report, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Sept. 24 highlighted that charge and the charge that Iraq sought uranium in Africa.

"I think there was new information in there, particularly about the 45-minute threshold by which Saddam Hussein has got his biological and chemical weapons triggered to be launched," Fleischer said. "There was new information in there about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain uranium from African nations. That was new information."

The White House use of the 45-minute charge is another indication of its determination to build a case against Hussein even without the participation of U.S. intelligence services. The controversy over the administration's use of intelligence has largely focused on claims made about the Iraqi nuclear program, particularly attempts to buy uranium in Africa. But the accusation that Iraq could launch a chemical or biological attack on a moment's notice was significant because it added urgency to the administration's argument that Hussein had to be dealt with quickly.

In today’s Independent we get a little bit closer to the truth on this matter:

The raw material behind the 45-minute claim in the Government's Iraq dossier applied not to the time it would take for weapons of mass destruction to be deployed but to how long the Iraqis would need to communicate with each other about them.

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Tom Mangold - a veteran BBC Panorama reporter and friend of the late David Kelly - disclosed that intelligence sources had told him the original information had come from an MI6 agent in Baghdad.

The source was a senior Iraqi officer who had stayed in place after the war started and was re-located by the British afterwards, Mr Mangold said. He said he believed the officer was a Brigadier, a rank sufficiently high for his information to be taken seriously.

"In essence what he said was not that biological and chemical weapons could be deployed, i.e. fired within 45 minutes. That's nonsense - and Dave Kelly and I laughed about it," Mr Mangold said. "What the agent said was that the Iraqis had created a Command, Control and Communications system (C3) that would enable Saddam ... to communicate with regional military commanders within 45 minutes, authorising the use of WMD. And this is not the same things as deployment."

This exaggeration/outright lie has even more potential to damage the political futures of the Bush/Blair tandem than the Niger claims. What we have here is an intelligence report that it would take Saddam Hussein 45 minutes to communicate with his commanders, which is not exactly an impressive achievement. Of course, had Saddam actually had any WMD’s he would have been able to order his commanders to start deploying them. Also, had he possessed the largest army in the history of the world, he could have, in 45 minutes, also ordered his commanders to launch a devastating attack, marching through Europe on his way to conquer the United States. Had he possessed a rocket ship ready to go to Mars he could have ordered its launching in 45 minutes. However, he did not possess any of these things so that, in it of itself, it was not really that noteworthy that Mr. Hussein possessed this 45 minute ability, in fact it was a sign of how pathetic his military capabilities actually were.

But Bush/Blair had problems, the stories of Saddam’s model airplanes destroying the western world just were not resonating with the general public. Blair decided that in order to please his master he would “sex up” the 45 minute report and claim it was the time between Saddam giving the order to fire and a missile full of anthrax beginning its flight towards some innocent British victims. David Kelly laughingly described it to a BBC reporter and the rest is history.

The only problem for Blair is that surely the original intelligence report, exists and the exaggeration will be easy to identif

Friday, July 18, 2003

There is very troubling news on Juan Cole’s blog today:

A Sunni group in Basra (pop. 1.3 million) is calling for massive Sunni demonstrations after Friday prayers today, in protest of the occupation on Wednesday by the Sadr Movement of a building housing the headquarters of the Sunni Pious Endowments administration (-al-Hayat). In a telephone call from Kuwait to al-Hayat, the Sunni activist warned of a big sectarian disturbance in Basra if the situation was not rectified. Haqqi Ismail Abd al-Rahman, the Sunni Endowment administrator, told the paper that hundreds of Sadr Movement members invaded the building and occupied the offices, which contain the files for 90% of the Sunni endowment property in Basra.

He expressed the fear that their long-term goal was to usurp the mosques and properties of the Sunni community and to add them to their Hawzah (Shiite religious establishment). A meeting of three hundred men at the Sunni Grand Mosque in Basra on Thursday morning to consider the situation was harassed by Sadr Movement hecklers, who shouted sectarian slurs, with one sermonizing at them that they were infidels. Haqqi Ismail said his group had complained to the city council and to the British authorities, so far without effect. They had also contacted the office of Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf but had heard back nothing. Thus, the plans for a big demonstration, which will draw on the congregations of the city's 150 Sunni mosques.

Shiites have reportedly usurped large numbers of Sunni mosques in South Iraq, seeing them as attempts by the Baath regime to plant Sunnism in Shiite soil, a plot that can now be safely reversed. These usurpations have been condemned by Grand Ayatollah `Ali Sistani, but the radical Sadr Movement clearly feels differently about the matter. Especially in Basra, some minority Sunnis loyal to Saddam brutalized and terrorized the Shiite population, and for some Sadrists this move may be the beginning of payback.

Just to explain the "endowments." It is a custom in Muslim societies to dedicate the proceeds of land or other forms of wealth to religious purposes, such as the building and upkeep of a mosque. Property dedicated to a pious endowment is theoretically alienated for this purpose in perpetuity. Families often retain oversight rights, and fees, from the endowments, or give these to clerics. Many Sunni clergymen in Basra may depend for their livelihood on endowment income, especially given the collapse of the Sunni state, so that usurping it would bankrupt the Basra Sunni religious establishment. Usurping mosques leaves believers with nowhere to gather and pray publicly, which is a way of denying them a place in the public sphere.

There is, of course, a grave danger that Sunnis and Shiites in other parts of Iraq will hear about this dispute and become polarized over such issues, so that the fighting could spread. The British authorities should move quickly to resolve this problem. The problem, of course, is that if they come into armed conflict with Sadrist militias, that could also be destabilizing.

My biggest fear is that we are heading towards a civil war in Iraq between the Sunnis and Shiites. The Sunnis are accustomed to having power that is completely disproportionate to their percentage of the population. They will only lose if a “democracy” is created in Iraq so they are already fighting a guerilla war against the US to retain their special privileges. This is not directly the result of any American mistakes, any form of government short of a Sunni military dictatorship is unacceptable to them.

The Shiites have, in general, not been fighting the US in Iraq, since they are the oppressed majority and have much more to gain from the American presence. They will be willing to tolerate the Americans as long as it looks like things are progressing towards a Shiites state. The Shiites have now tasted freedom and are not likely to go back to being second-class citizens under the Sunnis. The Sunnis have tasted power as long as they can remember and are not likely to accept a second–class status. Therefore we have a major problem, as both communities are going to be willing to fight for what they want.

This situation is not exactly surprising, surely some of the pre-war planning took this into account. Col. Dan Smith has an excellent piece in Counterpunch where he goes through the process of figuring out how many troops are necessary to occupy a country:

Traditional military doctrine estimates that a conventional army requires roughly a 10-to-1 size advantage if it is to defeat a well-equipped, well-executed, persistent insurgency. But where insurgents, while less centrally organized, are still too powerful for standard police (or where standard police do not exist), responding to and measuring against armed insurgent strength may not be the best gauge. In 1995, James Quinlivan, writing in the Army War College's quarterly, Parameters, suggested that force requirements should be based on the need for population control (to cut off support to the insurgents) and local security--that is, the need to "win hearts and minds" and therefore requires a force proportional to the population.

Quinlivan describes three historical force ratio levels. The first, one to four security personnel per 1,000 population, is essentially the ratio for ordinary policing. In a military setting, the U.S. Constabulary force in post-World War II Germany was staffed at 2.2 per thousand for "enforcing public order, controlling black market transactions, and related police functions." The same ratio existed in the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (1992-1993), whose duties included "supervision of the cease-fire and voluntary disarmament of combatants, supervision of about 60,000 indigenous police to provide law and order, and administration of a free and fair election." But the UN had little real presence outside the main urban areas.

The second force ratio is from four to ten security personnel per 1,000 population. India's campaign against militants in Punjab, viewed as quite punitive by many, was implemented at a ratio of almost 6 per 1,000 population. At the high point of the 1965 U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic, whose purpose was preventing civil war and restoring "stability," Army and Marine personnel operated at a ratio of 6.6 per 1,000 population.

Quinlivan's third ratio level is above ten per 1,000 population. Military examples of this level are the Malayan Emergency of the 1950s when foreign and full-time indigenous security forces operated at a ratio of 20 per 1,000 population. The same ratio pertained to the combination of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British troops in Northern Ireland for much of the period 1969- 1994. Here, multiple small groups advocating separation from or continued union with Great Britain waged war on each other, and one side fought "occupying" security forces with a goal of forcing them out--conditions that are unfolding in Iraq today.

Applying the average of 2.2 per 1,000 of level one to Iraq would require 52, 800 individuals. But Iraq is not a defeated, broken, devastated country like Germany. Nor is it at peace or semi- peace, where the main task is maintaining public order. It is still a country at war, a country saturated with weapons, a country that is becoming more and more restless under its "liberator."

Level two ratios of 6 and 6.6 yield 144,000 and 158,400, respectively. These are comparable strength totals to what the U.S. and its allies have in Iraq today. Yet these forces seem unable to isolate Iraqi and foreign militants who have come into Iraq to fight "the Authority" and to provide both the perception and reality of public safety. Perhaps even more important is the need to avoid any hint of punitive measures that inevitably would lead to a precipitous decline in general Iraqi tolerance of foreign forces.

At 10 per 1,000 population, the point of intersection between levels two and three, Quinlivan's numbers skyrocket to 240,000. (Interestingly, just in Baghdad, where the population is roughly five million, there are 55,000 troops, producing a ratio of 11 per 1,000.) Matching the British experience in Malaysia and Northern Ireland at 20 per 1,000 doubles this total to 480,000, which is the total authorized strength of the active U.S. Army. Clearly, any of these levels are impossible to sustain given the demands for and on people. Even level two ratios may be impossible, given that 5 of the Army's 10 active divisions currently are engaged in Iraq.

In Iraq, as one phase of the "global war on terror," the Bush administration chose war and occupation, and must now face the consequences of its choices. Having dislodged the previous regime by force, the U.S. increasingly is caught in the quagmire of depending on force to control the Iraqi people in the name of national and regional "peace." But "peace through war" or the threat of war is a costly chimera, both for the "victor" and the loser. This truth was well understood by the 19th Century British statesman Edmund Burke, who noted that "War never leaves where it found a nation."

There is always an impulse to compare current problems with the past. Among the historic models that are possible analogies for the occupation of Iraq are: the Algerian War, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, and Northern Ireland to name a few. For me the best analogy for the US position would be that of a policeman on “Cops” when they are called to domestic dispute. They show up (the man is always shirtless) and the couple alternate between beating each other and beating the cops. Just as one of the couple is pinned down the other comes and attacks the police and all hell breaks loose. From the look on the policeman’s face you can see that he wants to be anywhere but there. Turn up the heat to over 50 degrees Celsius (110 F) and replace the slapping and punches with AK 47’s and mortar shells and you will know what Iraq must feel like to the soldiers there now. Oh and by the way, their families are 8000 miles away from them.
As moral continues to decline among American service people in Iraq, there is open talk among the soldiers of creating their own deck of cards of “Most Wanted to Resign”, featuring politicians who are responsible for their predicament. From yesterday’s Toronto Star:

On the ABC report, one member of the 2nd Battle Combat Team in Falluja, Iraq, talked about his "Most Wanted" list, a response to the deck of cards the U.S. administration had distributed in a bid to capture Saddam Hussein's loyalists. "The aces in my deck are (U.S. civilian administrator) Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and (deputy defence secretary) Paul Wolfowitz," the sergeant told a reporter.

Although one could argue about this soldier's selections for aces, a sure candidate for a high king position would be Tony Blair. The reports from England suggest that he may be one of the first really high cards to fall. From today’s Independent:

Supporters of the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, have launched an extraordinary attack on Tony Blair, portraying him as a "psychopath" and "psychotic".

Blair loyalists are furious about a string of hostile articles about the Prime Minister in the current edition of New Statesman magazine, which is owned by Geoffrey Robinson, a former Treasury minister and a close ally of Mr Brown.

The strong language was seen in the Blair camp as a "revenge attack" for a previous sideswipe at Mr Brown by a Blair aide who described the Chancellor as having "psychological flaws".


The magazine says that "Mr Brown, like Margaret Thatcher but unlike Mr Blair, has a focus". A Brown government would constantly ask how to reduce poverty and promote equality. "Mr Blair lacks such clarity of purpose, with the result that all sorts of fancy ideas get an airing, without rhyme or reason and usually without result."

It says the Chancellor would be a bigger vote-winner than the Prime Minister because Mr Blair "has lost so much public trust over the Iraq war".

Another article in the magazine is headed "What is the point of Tony Blair?", while a third declares: "The question of Tony Blair's sanity can no longer be avoided."

It quotes Sidney Crown, a former consultant psychotherapist at the Royal London Hospital, as saying that Mr Blair "does not exist" and compares him with an actor. He adds that Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's director of communications and strategy, is "very much represented in Mr Blair's dark side, which is why they like each other ... the psychopathic personality is very quick to pick things up and shift and move about".

Dr Crown suggests that Mr Blair did not decide to lie about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but had been "highly selective" over intelligence material, seeing the material that appealed to him. "With all forms of psychotics, if you ask people about the consequences of what they've done they can't tell you, because they've no ability to see the future."

The Guardian goes further:

In perhaps the most damaging part of its attack, the New Statesman cited psychiatrists who described Mr Blair as a "plausible psychopath".

One passage said: "The question of Tony Blair's sanity can no longer be avoided ... technically, he is diagnosed as a psychopath capable of reinventing himself with remarkable dexterity like an actor."

Why is this significant? In fact, this is the opening salvo of an impending leadership battle within the Labour Party. To be sure, this is not a tentative, probing assault, this is a frontal attack, the political equivalent of shock and awe, which is attempting to figuratively decapitate Tony Blair right from the outset. Gordon Brown is a careful operator and would not have launched this attack if he were not confident of prevailing. Anger within the Labour Party has been building all year, and the lack of any WMD’s in Iraq is leaving Blair totally exposed.

In the US, the race to be the first “face card” to go down has heated up with CIA Director George Tenet (or his staff) beginning to name names: From the San Jose Mercury News:

A senior White House adviser emerged Thursday as a key player in the mention of disputed intelligence on Iraq in President Bush's State of the Union speech, prompting a partisan tug-of-war over Bush's responsibility for the misleading claim.

The revelation moves the spotlight back to the White House and away from the CIA, where President Bush and CIA Director George S. Tenet had placed it last Friday.

Senior CIA officials told a closed Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday that, before Bush gave the speech, they discussed the reliability of intelligence about Iraq's alleged attempts to buy uranium in Africa with National Security Council aide Robert Joseph, according to two senior U.S. officials. Joseph, a top aide to Bush national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, coordinates policies to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The two U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the hearing was classified.

This Robert Joseph would probably not be a face card but Condoleezza Rice surely would be, along with George Tenet. Someone is going to have to bite the dust here, and for purely political reasons, I am rooting for Bush to fire Tenet, because this would cause such a wave of disgust among America’s political elite, not to mention really piss off the CIA, who surely have a media connection of two they could use to get back at Bush.

Monday, July 14, 2003

I have finally added comments to this blog so please fire away with any of your thoughts.
I found this interesting list on Dwight Meredith’s blog P.L.A. The list shows the average percentage of economic growth (or decline in W’s and Hoover's cases) during the terms of the last 13 Presidents. Each of the last six Democratic Presidents out-performed each of the last seven Republicans, sometiomes by huge margins.

1) Roosevelt (1933-45): +5.3%

2) Johnson (1963-69): +3.8%

3) Carter (1977-81): +3.1%

4) Truman: (1945-53): +2.5%

5) Kennedy (1961-63): +2.5%

6) Clinton (1993-2001): +2.4%

7) Nixon (1969-75): +2.2%

8) Reagan (1981-89): +2.1%

9) Ford (1975-77): +1.1%

10) Eisenhower (1953-61): +0.9%

11) Bush (1989-93): +0.6%

12) Bush (2001-present): -0.7%

13) Hoover (1929-33): -9.0%

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Tony Blair is now calling on the world’s democracies to invade the United States of America. From today’s Independent:

Tony Blair is appealing to the heads of Western governments to agree a new world order that would justify the war in Iraq even if Saddam Hussein's elusive weapons of mass destruction are never found.

It would also give Western powers the authority to attack any other sovereign country whose ruler is judged to be inflicting unnecessary suffering on his own people.


Mr Blair has involved British troops in five conflicts overseas in his six years in office, and appears to be willing to take part in many more.

The document echoes his well-known views on "rights and responsibilities" by saying that even for self-governing nation states "the right to sovereignty brings associated responsibilities to protect citizens".

This phrase is immediately followed by a paragraph which appears to give the world's democracies carte blanche to send troops anywhere there is civil unrest or a tyrant who refuses to mend his ways. It says: "Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non- intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect."

George W Bush has already sent 200 American soldiers to die and 1000 others to be seriously injured in an illegal war in Iraq, not to mention the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, among them many children, who have been slaughtered. This would certainly qualify as serious harm and, by the Bush Adminisrtation’s own admissions, they are unable to halt the misery they are causing since even the most optimistic predictions call for American soldiers to remain in Iraq for four more years. The Blair Doctrine then clearly allows any "democracy" or "alliance of democracies" to take military action against the US to stop this madness.

Friday, July 11, 2003

The Blair “Presidency” is starting to take on water as his intelligence agencies turn on him. From today’s Guardian:

A former head of Downing Street's in-house intelligence panel last night accused ministers of "overselling" the threat of global terrorism before the Iraq war by bombarding voters with repeated warnings of "imminent terrorist attacks on London" and Heathrow airport.

The charge - made by Sir Rodric Braithwaite, former head of the joint intelligence committee (JIC), on Channel 4 News - is separate from the row over two intelligence dossiers which has led to deadlock between No 10 and the BBC over its claims that they were "sexed up".

The 71-year-old former diplomat, who ran the JIC in 1992-3, said: "I think the overselling came not so much at that [dossier] stage but in the spring when it looked as though the British people were not actually going to sign up to this project.

"And then the real overselling were the continual assessments of an imminent terrorist attack in London, advising housewives to lay in stocks of water and food, I mean all that stuff... tanks at Heathrow. I mean that, I call that overselling."

The prime minister has denied that the widely reported tank exercise at Heathrow was calculated to rally public opinion at a time when anti-war sentiment was strong and rising.

In a letter to the Financial Times Sir Rodric said: "Fishmongers sell fish, warmongers sell war, both may sincerely believe in their product."

The sight of the Whitehall establishment turning on the government will alarm and anger ministers who have watched MI6 deflect attention from its own performance.

It was clear back in the early spring that Blair was desperate and out of control to get the British public to back his war. The tanks in Heathrow ploy fooled nobody. In the end, when it was obvious that the war was going ahead, the British people decided to back it, more for the sake of the troops fighting it than for Tony Blair’s salesmanship.

This quote: "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.", from Ralph Waldo Emerson is being used to describe Britain’s reaction to Blair’s recent repeated justifications for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. His days may very well be numbered as Prime Minister.

In America, the first reports of the CIA turning on Bush may have been premature as the story in Capital Hill Blue that I discussed in my previous post has been discredited. It may have been a warning shot or just some reporter’s fantasy. However, The Washington Post reported today:(via Daily Kos)

The CIA tried unsuccessfully in early September 2002 to persuade the British government to drop from an official intelligence paper a reference to Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Africa that President Bush included in his State of the Union address four months later, senior Bush administration officials said yesterday.

"We consulted about the paper and recommended against using that material," a senior administration official familiar with the intelligence program said. The British government rejected the U.S. suggestion, saying it had separate intelligence unavailable to the United States.

At that time, the CIA was completing its own classified national intelligence estimate on Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Although the CIA paper mentioned alleged Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from three African countries, it warned that State Department analysts were questioning its accuracy when it came to Niger and that CIA personnel considered reports on other African countries to be "sketchy," the official said. The CIA paper's summary conclusions about whether Iraq was restarting its nuclear weapons program did not include references to Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Africa.

The latest disclosures further illustrate the lack of confidence expressed by the U.S. intelligence community in the months leading up to Bush's speech about allegations of Iraqi efforts to buy uranium in Africa. Even so, Bush used the charge - - citing British intelligence -- in the Jan. 28 address as part of his effort to convince Congress and the American people that Iraq had a program to build weapons of mass destruction and posed a serious threat.

The White House on Monday acknowledged that Bush's uranium claim was based on faulty intelligence and should not have been included in the speech, further stoking a controversy over the administration's handling of prewar intelligence. Democratic lawmakers yesterday called for public hearings, while the Democratic National Committee opened an advertising campaign to encourage people to sign petitions calling for an independent commission.

At a news conference in Botswana, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell defended the president's use of the intelligence. "There was no effort or attempt on the part of the president or anyone else in the administration to mislead or to deceive the American people," Powell said. "There was sufficient evidence floating around at that time that such a statement was not totally outrageous or not to be believed or not to be appropriately used."

Colin Powell’s seems to have uttered the first truthful words that this Administration has used for a long time. Look at the standard he refers to, “not totally outrageous”. Bill Clinton’s denials of having sexual relations with “that woman” were not totally outrageous either although I don’t remember that being the standard the Republicans refered to at the time for Presidential truthfulness. Lies can still be lies even if they are not "totally outrageous" lies. Powell then actually admits they were lies: “There was sufficient evidence floating around at that time that such a statement was … not to be believed or not to be appropriately used ” We are expected to think that he made a grammatical error here and that his first not extended to these last two statements, creating a double negative which becomes a positive: “not not to be believed or not not to be appropriately used.” With all the word parsing that goes on at these levels in times of Presidential scandals, I am not willing to accept that this is what Powell meant until he actually says it. As it stands, his statement is true, that while Bush’s statements were not totally outrageous, they were not to be believed and not to be appropriately used, in other words, Bush's statements were lies.

We will see if the lapdog American press jumps on this one, or if we will just have to wait for the British press to do their job for them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

It looks like the CIA has decided not to sacrifice itself to smother the political hand grenade that is starting to threaten the Bush Presidency. From the BBC:

The CIA warned the US Government that claims about Iraq's nuclear ambitions were not true months before President Bush used them to make his case for war, the BBC has learned.

Doubts about a claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the African state of Niger were aired 10 months before Mr. Bush included the allegation in his key State of the Union address this year, the CIA has told the BBC.

On Tuesday, the White House for the first time officially acknowledged that the Niger claim was wrong and should not have been used in the president's State of the Union speech in January.

But the CIA has said that a former US diplomat had already established the claim was false in March 2002 - and that the information had been passed on to government departments, including the White House, well before Mr. Bush mentioned it in the speech.

This is trouble for Mr. Bush as he does not want to get into a pissing match with the CIA, given that there are surely other lies that they can expose. The news is even worse for him in the less-well-known Capital Hill Blue:

An intelligence consultant who was present at two White House briefings where the uranium report was discussed confirmed that the President was told the intelligence was questionable and that his national security advisors urged him not to include the claim in his State of the Union address.

"The report had already been discredited," said Terrance J. Wilkinson, a CIA advisor present at two White House briefings. "This point was clearly made when the President was in the room during at least two of the briefings."

Bush's response was anger, Wilkinson said.

"He said that if the current operatives working for the CIA couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could," Wilkinson said. "He said he knew the story was true and so would the world after American troops secured the country."

To date, American troops have found no proof of the existence of nuclear weapons in Iraq.

Here we actually have a name and a quote from the President himself. This story will have to move up the media food chain a bit before it starts getting taken seriously, but this could very well be Bush’s “stained blue dress”.

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

One of the advantages of living in Europe is that I get to discover lots of very interesting American writers and political commentators who, outside of their universities, are virtually unknown of in the United States. I came across Juan Cole while reading the latest “Le Monde Diplomatic” where he had written an interesting article on the different Iraqi Shiite groups and their attitudes towards the American occupation/liberation. I did a quick Google search and found his website. He is an Arabist and an expert on both Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian Islamic thought. He regularly updates about the situation in Iraq. Here is a posting from yesterday:

As you all know, President Bush replied to the attackers in Iraq, saying "Bring it on!" Senator Carl Levin commented on Meet the Press Sunday, "I think that it's perfectly proper for the president to say that he has confidence in our troops. But it seems to me unwise to engage in this kind of cocky rhetoric, because it's not going to be helpful ... either with our troops or in bringing in other countries into this issue." {Truth in advertising: Levin is my senator and I always vote for him.} As most of you know, I'm from a military family and still have a lot of friends and contacts in the US military, and most of them are much more pissed off at Bush for that piece of bravado than Levin is, though they can't say so publicly. It didn't help that the Sunni insurgents "brought it on" and shot that poor US soldier who was buying a soft drink at Baghdad U, right after Bush's remark. Bush was never in the real military and never lived in a war zone, and can't stop talking like a rich spoiled drunk frat kid at Yale instead of like a commander in chief of living breathing men and women who are putting their lives on the line for this country.

Saturday, July 5, 2003

PUBLIC SPIRIT IN THE UNITED STATES. (continued, please start with the previous post)

How does it happen that in the United States, where the inhabitants have only recently immigrated to the land which they now occupy, and brought neither customs nor traditions with them there; where they met one another for the first time with no previous acquaintance; where, in short, the instinctive love of country can scarcely exist; how does it happen that everyone takes as zealous an interest in the affairs of his township, his county, and the whole state as if they were his own? It is because everyone, in his sphere, takes an active part in the government of society.

The lower orders in the United States understand the influence exercised by the general prosperity upon their own welfare; simple as this observation is, it is too rarely made by the people. Besides, they are accustomed to regard this prosperity as the fruit of their own exertions. The citizen looks upon the fortune of the public as his own, and he labors for the good of the state, not merely from a sense of pride or duty, but from what I venture to term cupidity.

It is unnecessary to study the institutions and the history of the Americans in order to know the truth of this remark, for their manners render it sufficiently evident. As the American participates in all that is done in his country, he thinks himself obliged to defend whatever may be censured in it; for it is not only his country that is then attacked, it is himself. The consequence is that his national pride resorts to a thousand artifices and descends to all the petty tricks of personal vanity.

Nothing is more embarrassing in the ordinary intercourse of life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans. A stranger may be well inclined to praise many of the institutions of their country, but he begs permission to blame some things in it, a permission that is inexorably refused. America is therefore a free country in which, lest anybody should be hurt by your remarks, you are not allowed to speak freely of private individuals or of the state, of the citizens or of the authorities, of public or of private undertakings, or, in short, of anything at all except, perhaps, the climate and the soil; and even then Americans will be found ready to defend both as if they had co-operated in producing them.

In our times we must choose between the patriotism of all and the government of a few; for the social force and activity which the first confers are irreconcilable with the pledges of tranquillity which are given by the second.

Here is an extract of Alexis de Tocqueville’s, Democracy in America, in honor of America’s Independence Day. These words were written over 150 years ago. Throughout the book, de Tocqueville contrasts between the totalitarian, aristocratic governments of Europe and the new American democracy. Unfortunately, reading this book today shows just how far America has gone towards resembling the aristocratic model. It is the job of the Left to resist this tendency and to push America back to its broad based democratic traditions.


THERE is one sort of patriotic attachment which principally arises from that instinctive, disinterested, and undefinable feeling which connects the affections of man with his birthplace. This natural fondness is united with a taste for ancient customs and a reverence for traditions of the past; those who cherish it love their country as they love the mansion of their fathers. They love the tranquillity that it affords them; they cling to the peaceful habits that they have contracted within its bosom; they are attached to the reminiscences that it awakens; and they are even pleased by living there in a state of obedience. This patriotism is sometimes stimulated by religious enthusiasm, and then it is capable of making prodigious efforts. It is in itself a kind of religion: it does not reason, but it acts from the impulse of faith and sentiment. In some nations the monarch is regarded as a personification of the country; and, the fervor of patriotism being converted into the fervor of loyalty, they take a sympathetic pride in his conquests, and glory in his power. power was a time under the ancient monarchy when the French felt a sort of satisfaction in the sense of their dependence upon the arbitrary will of their king; and they were wont to say with pride: "We live under the most powerful king in the world."

But, like all instinctive passions, this kind of patriotism incites great transient exertions, but no continuity of effort. It may save the state in critical circumstances, but often allows it to decline in times of peace. While the manners of a people are simple and its faith unshaken, while society is steadily based upon traditional institutions whose legitimacy has never been contested, this instinctive patriotism is wont to endure.

But there is another species of attachment to country which is more rational than the one I have been describing. It is perhaps less generous and less ardent, but it is more fruitful and more lasting: it springs from knowledge; it is nurtured by the laws, it grows by the exercise of civil rights; and, in the end, it is confounded with the personal interests of the citizen. A man comprehends the influence which the well-being of his country has upon his own; he is aware that the laws permit him to contribute to that prosperity, and he labors to promote it, first because it benefits him, and secondly because it is in part his own work.

But epochs sometimes occur in the life of a nation when the old customs of a people are changed, public morality is destroyed, religious belief shaken, and the spell of tradition broken, while the diffusion of knowledge is yet imperfect and the civil rights of the community are ill secured or confined within narrow limits. The country then assumes a dim and dubious shape in the eyes of the citizens; they no longer behold it in the soil which they inhabit, for that soil is to them an inanimate clod; nor in the usages of their forefathers, which they have learned to regard as a debasing yoke; nor in religion, for of that they doubt; nor in the laws, which do not originate in their own authority; nor in the legislator, whom they fear and despise. The country is lost to their senses; they can discover it neither under its own nor under borrowed features, and they retire into a narrow and unenlightened selfishness. They are emancipated from prejudice without having acknowledged the empire of reason; they have neither the instinctive patriotism of a monarchy nor the reflecting patriotism of a republic; but they have stopped between the two in the midst of confusion and distress.
In this predicament to retreat is impossible, for a people cannot recover the sentiments of their youth any more than a man can return to the innocent tastes of childhood; such things may be regretted, but they cannot be renewed. They must go forward and accelerate the union of private with public interests, since the period of disinterested patriotism is gone by forever.

I am certainly far from affirming that in order to obtain this result the exercise of political rights should be immediately granted to all men. But I maintain that the most powerful and perhaps the only means that we still possess of interesting men in the welfare of their country is to make them partakers in the government. At the present time civic zeal seems to me to be inseparable from the exercise of political rights; and I think that the number of citizens will be found to augment or decrease in Europe in proportion as those rights are extended.


Friday, July 4, 2003

The one blog that I read every day is the Daily Kos. They have a great team of writers who almost always hit the nail on the head. Steve Gilliard today discusses some of the long term problems that the US faces in Iraq.

Every US unit is under daily observation. They cannot move, cannot buy a DVD, without people noticing and recording it. The Iraqis are passing information to the guerrillas without pause. Foreign volunteers are flooding into Iraq as they did in Spain in 1936. They have over 135,000 American targets and a friendly population to work with. Unlike Afghanistan where Arab volunteers were pointed out by the locals to the Americans.

The request for troops is a political minefield and one which places the Army at it's limits. The war was supposed to be over, 50,000 men getting their Iraqi visas puts that to the lie once and for all. It would awaken opposition to the war and not solve the problem.

Keep in mind that the Sunnis and the limited guerrilla war has already taxed the US Army to it's limits. A Shia rebellion would make the country ungovernable without using much greater levels of force and that presents a political conundrum. While some on the left expect the worst out of the Bush Administration, the reality is this: killing Shias, be they civilians or guerrillas, would delegitimize our occupation beyond redemption. To fill new graves with Shias would be beyond explaination. To vicitimize Saddam's vicitims would be politically unacceptable.

Yet, to flee from Iraq, would be such a significant defeat, that there is no way that Bush could expect to be reelected and probably would join Lyndon Johnson in not running for a second term during wartime. All talk, from Dean to Hegel, about staying in Iraq "until the job is done" relies on one factor: Shia cooperation. With it, no Sunni rebellion can last for long. Without it, no Sunni rebellion can be repressed for long. Unless we make a deal with the Shias to offer them political power, they will eventually have to join the Sunnis in guerrilla war. As it stands, the resistance to the US is spreading in the Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad.

To do so, however, would create a Shia fundamentalist state in some form. That is also unacceptable. It would place pro- Iranian clerics, Sadr, Hakim and Sistani, in charge of Iraq. Which might or might not result in a subsequent civil war. But it would clearly not be the pro-Western democracy pushed by the PNAC crowd. Israel would not be getting their cheap Iraqi oil and US bases would be out of the question.

It is an ugly series of choices, easily predicted but ignored. The Shia will determine what happens in Iraq regardless of our desires and will. The Army is stretched to the limits with no clear source of more troops. And there are no simple answers to any of this. Bring it on? We have brought it on, more than we can handle without grim choices.

It appears that the US military is looking in the wrong places for WMD’s and mobile labs. In fact, they are looking on the wrong continent. From yesterday’s New York Times:

Three years ago, the United States began a secret project to train Special Operations units to detect and disarm mobile germ factories of the sort that Iraq and some other countries were suspected of building, according to administration officials and experts in germ weaponry.
The heart of the effort, these officials said, was a covert plan to construct a mobile germ plant, real in all its parts but never actually "plugged in" to make weapons. In the months before the war against Iraq, American commandos trained on this factory.

It was not Saddam Hussein who possessed the mobile biological labs, but instead one George W. Bush. But not to worry:

The heart of the effort, these officials said, was a covert plan to construct a mobile germ plant, real in all its parts but never actually "plugged in" to make weapons. In the months before the war against Iraq, American commandos trained on this factory.

There is a global treaty banning the production of biological weapons. The US has just set a precedent that it is OK to build factories, mobile or not, that are able to produce weapons, as long as they are not “plugged in”. Can you imagine the Iraqi ambassador to the UN using this lame-ass excuse if the inspectors had actually found a mobile lab? We can thank the Bush Administration for making us all that much safer.

Lest anyone forget, letters were sent containing anthrax on Sept. 18th 2001. While the FBI was investigating the five resulting murders it seems as if they were not totally convinced by the not ”plugged in” reassurances:

The trainer's equipment includes a fermenter, a centrifuge and a mill for grinding clumps of anthrax into the best size for penetrating human lungs, these experts said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, suspecting that components from the Delta trainer might have been used to make the anthrax mailed in late 2001, examined the unit, officials and experts said. But investigators found no spores or other evidence linking it to the crime, they said.

The mobile unit is part of the government's secretive effort to develop germ defenses.

Critics say such biodefense projects often test the limits of the 1975 global ban on germ weapons, which the United States championed.

But the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the anthrax letters only weeks later prompted the Bush administration to greatly expand the number of such clandestine projects.

While letters were being sent across America full of anthrax, instead of stopping the insanity of building biological labs until the source of the anthrax was found, the Bush Administration took the opposite approach and decided to “greatly expand the number of such clandestine projects”. It is as if after a space shuttle crash NASA decided to start launching a shuttle once a week. I guess this kind of recklessness is not surprising given that this is the same “corporate culture” that back in the late 80’s decided to give sophisticated weaponry, loads of money, and organizational training to any radical Islamic fundamentalist that they could get their hands on in and around Afghanistan

Should we have more problems with anthrax or other biological attacks, at least we will know whom to hold responsible since undoubtedly this expansion of the US biological warfare arsenal would require George W. Bush’s approval.

One also has to wonder about the location of these lab(s). Surely it is expensive for the special forces to travel all the way from Iraq to the US to train on these units. Surely it would be more cost effective to just ship these labs to Iraq for training. Perhaps they could hide them in the desert in order to let the Special Forces try to find them. Who knows, maybe they have sent a ton or two of anthrax over there while they were at it so that the Special Forces could practice on “live” ammo.

In any case, it looks as if George Bush’s WMD problem in Iraq may soon be coming to an end.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

We have finally decided on names for our children. The little girl will be known as Francisca and the little boy Christian. The children are doing really well, they are six weeks old now. It is quite a lot of work, but we are managing.

I am desperate to start blogging again, so in the next day or two I will relaunch the blog and attempt to regularly update it.

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