Monday, May 31, 2004


Thanks to Blog Left, a sweeping overview of the record of torture and murder in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere (there are no other words to use) - and why the evidence of responsibility all points upward

More: a major two-parter in NYRB

The New York Times: still letting us down

Harsh criticism from NYT's own Daniel Okrent (at length)
The results of The Times's own examination appeared in last Wednesday's paper, and can be found online at I think they got it right. Mostly. (I do question the placement: as one reader asked, "Will your column this Sunday address why the NYT buried its editors' note - full of apologies for burying stories on A10 - on A10?")

Some of The Times's coverage in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq was credulous; much of it was inappropriately italicized by lavish front-page display and heavy-breathing headlines; and several fine articles by David Johnston, James Risen and others that provided perspective or challenged information in the faulty stories were played as quietly as a lullaby. Especially notable among these was Risen's "C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports," which was completed several days before the invasion and unaccountably held for a week. It didn't appear until three days after the war's start, and even then was interred on Page B10.

The Times's flawed journalism continued in the weeks after the war began, when writers might have broken free from the cloaked government sources who had insinuated themselves and their agendas into the prewar coverage.......

The apparent flimsiness of "Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert," by Judith Miller (April 21, 2003), was no less noticeable than its prominent front-page display; the ensuing sequence of articles on the same subject, when Miller was embedded with a military unit searching for W.M.D., constituted an ongoing minuet of startling assertion followed by understated contradiction. But pinning this on Miller alone is both inaccurate and unfair: in one story on May 4, editors placed the headline "U.S. Experts Find Radioactive Material in Iraq" over a Miller piece even though she wrote, right at the top, that the discovery was very unlikely to be related to weaponry.

The failure was not individual, but institutional.

When I say the editors got it "mostly" right in their note this week, the qualifier arises from their inadequate explanation of the journalistic imperatives and practices that led The Times down this unfortunate path. There were several.

THE HUNGER FOR SCOOPS Even in the quietest of times, newspaper people live to be first. When a story as momentous as this one comes into view, when caution and doubt could not be more necessary, they can instead be drowned in a flood of adrenalin.......War requires an extra standard of care, not a lesser one. But in The Times's W.M.D. coverage, readers encountered some rather breathless stories built on unsubstantiated "revelations" that, in many instances, were the anonymity-cloaked assertions of people with vested interests. Times reporters broke many stories before and after the war - but when the stories themselves later broke apart, in many instances Times readers never found out. Some remain scoops to this day. This is not a compliment.

FRONT-PAGE SYNDROME There are few things more maligned in newsroom culture than the "on the one hand, on the other hand" story, with its exquisitely delicate (and often soporific) balancing. There are few things more greedily desired than a byline on Page 1. You can "write it onto 1," as the newsroom maxim has it, by imbuing your story with the sound of trumpets. Whispering is for wimps, and shouting is for the tabloids, but a terrifying assertion that may be the tactical disinformation of a self-interested source does the trick......"Intelligence Break Led U.S. to Tie Envoy Killing to Iraq Qaeda Cell," by Patrick E. Tyler (Feb. 6, 2003) all but declared a direct link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein - a link still to be conclusively established, more than 15 months later. Other stories pushed Pentagon assertions so aggressively you could almost sense epaulets sprouting on the shoulders of editors.

HIT-AND-RUN JOURNALISM The more surprising the story, the more often it must be revisited. If a defector like Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri is hailed by intelligence officials for providing "some of the most valuable information" about chemical and biological laboratories in Iraq ( "Defectors Bolster U.S. Case Against Iraq, Officials Say," by Judith Miller, Jan. 24, 2003), unfolding events should have compelled the paper to re-examine those assertions, and hold the officials publicly responsible if they did not pan out......

CODDLING SOURCES There is nothing more toxic to responsible journalism than an anonymous source. There is often nothing more necessary, too; crucial stories might never see print if a name had to be attached to every piece of information. But a newspaper has an obligation to convince readers why it believes the sources it does not identify are telling the truth. That automatic editor defense, "We're not confirming what he says, we're just reporting it," may apply to the statements of people speaking on the record. For anonymous sources, it's worse than no defense. It's a license granted to liars.......The contract between a reporter and an unnamed source - the offer of information in return for anonymity - is properly a binding one. But I believe that a source who turns out to have lied has breached that contract, and can fairly be exposed. The victims of the lie are the paper's readers, and the contract with them supersedes all others.........

END-RUN EDITING Howell Raines, who was executive editor of the paper at the time, denies that The Times's standard procedures were cast aside in the weeks before and after the war began. (Raines's statement on the subject, made to The Los Angeles Times, may be read at my own reporting (I have spoken to nearly two dozen current and former Times staff members whose work touched on W.M.D. coverage) has convinced me that a dysfunctional system enabled some reporters operating out of Washington and Baghdad to work outside the lines of customary bureau management.......In some instances, reporters who raised substantive questions about certain stories were not heeded. .

[Not enough:]

On Bush's "evolving" war rationale
The most salient point to emerge from the president's recent speech on Iraq was the new rationale he put forward for continuing to support him and his policies: effective management of his own failures.....Originally, the case for war was built on claims about the Iraqi regime's possession of weapons of mass destruction and its support for terrorist groups like al qaida. To a lesser degree, but with increasing force as these other rationales faded way, the case was made on the basis of democratizing and liberalizing Iraq.

As that prospect too has become increasingly distant and improbable, President Bush has taken a fundamentally different tack. His emphasis now is seldom on what good might come of his Iraq policy but rather the dire consequences of its unmitigated 'failure' or its premature abandonment.......In other words, the president now argues that he is best equipped to guard the country from the full brunt of the consequences of his own misguided actions, managerial incompetence and dishonesty.....[W]hat we see now isn't the president's policy. It's the president's triage -- his team's ad hoc reaction to the collapse of his policy, the rapid, near-total, but still incomplete and uncoordinated abandonment of his policy.

The president's actions, if not his words, concede that Iraq has become the geopolitical equivalent of a botched surgery -- botched through some mix of the misdiagnosis of the original malady and the incompetence of the surgeon. Achieving the original goal of the surgery is now close to an afterthought. The effort is confined to closing up as quickly as possible and preventing the patient from dying on the table. And now the 'doctor', pressed for time and desperate for insight, stands over the patient with a scalpel in one hand and the other hurriedly leafing through a first year anatomy text book.,9565,644107,00.html
The President has a far more difficult problem, and quite the opposite of Kerry's. He got us into this mess. He has continually explained the war in platitudes. His imprecise idealism is not only inappropriate now, but has become downright annoying. His five-point plan is built on the quicksand of Ambassador L. Paul Bremer's failed seven-point plan - and it bears little resemblance to the emerging realities on the ground. The truth is, we are in full-scale retreat, both politically and militarily. Bush believes that Iraq is the front line in the war on terrorism, but his Administration just declared a truce with the men he thinks of as terrorists and is now turning security over to local militias......The President pretends that none of this is happening. Most Americans sense the President is just pretending, and they are impatiently waiting for someone to say something real.,1,4924695.story?coll=la-home-headlines
As they struggled to hold together a fragile cease-fire agreement amid sporadic fighting Saturday, American officials were - once again - preparing to carry out a peace deal that calls for significant concessions to an adversary they once vowed to crush.... "I too am bothered by talking so loudly and backing off," said retired Maj. Gen. William Nash, a military analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "But the first rule of getting yourself out of a hole is to stop digging."

Brahimi, soon to be known as "Mr. Potted Plant"
When Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, arrived earlier this month, he declared that he would crisscross Iraq to give the people a new government, one that he suggested would be more independent of America's heavy-handed ways.......With his slate of appointees expected to be announced in the next day or two, the appointments leaked so far suggest that what Mr. Brahimi ultimately accomplishes may turn out to be less a revolution than a rearrangement, less a new cast of characters than a reworked version of the same old faces.....The reason, Iraqis are beginning to say, has been the unexpected assertiveness of American officials and their allies on the Iraqi Governing Council, coupled with Mr. Brahimi's surprising passivity, after he was expected to have a free hand.......The danger, some of these Iraqis say, is that the new government could end up looking too much like the old one, an American-appointed council that never gained the acceptance of the people........"If the purpose of the process is to please the Governing Council and the political players, this will be a short-lived moment, and it will fall apart," said Leith Kuba, an Iraqi leader based in Washington. "The Iraqis will not take it."

A dispute Sunday between Iraq's Governing Council and U.S. occupation authorities over the selection of a new Iraqi president threatened to delay the appointment of a new government to take power June 30, Iraqi officials said.....A council member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi were exerting "massive pressure" to choose former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi, who supports keeping foreign troops in Iraq until the security situation stabilizes.
The Council opposes the naming of Adnan Pachachi as transitional president, because he is perceived as too complaisant toward the US. It wants Shaikh Ghazi al-Yawer of the Sunni Shammar tribe........Al-Yawer is known to be nationalistic, and was especially vocal about the siege of Fallujah.

Blackwill, a name we haven't heard too much about
"The Americans are trying to impose these decisions on us, and we are trying to reject them," said Mahmood Othman, a council member who has been critical of both Mr. Bremer and Mr. Brahimi. "And they talk about sovereignty.".......One person conversant with the negotiations said Mr. Brahimi was presented with "a fait accompli" after President Bush's envoy to Iraq, Robert D. Blackwill, "railroaded" the Governing Council into coalescing around [Allawi].

Bush campaign strategy: "unprecedented negativity" (when you're down, try to pull the other guy down even lower)
The charges were all tough, serious -- and wrong, or at least highly misleading......Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising......Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry.

Cheney and Halliburton: is this scandal finally ready to break open?,9171,1101040607-644111,00.html
Vice President Dick Cheney was a guest on NBC's Meet the Press last September when host Tim Russert brought up Halliburton. Citing the company's role in rebuilding Iraq as well as Cheney's prior service as Halliburton's CEO, Russert asked, "Were you involved in any way in the awarding of those contracts?" Cheney's reply: "Of course not, Tim ... And as Vice President, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the Federal Government."....... But TIME has obtained an internal Pentagon e-mail sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official - whose name was blacked out by the Pentagonムthat raises questions about Cheney's arm's-length policy toward his old employer. Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year...... The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids......Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems says the Vice President "has played no role whatsoever in government-contract decisions involving Halliburton" since 2000. A Pentagon spokesman says the e-mail means merely that "in anticipation of controversy over the award of a sole-source contract to Halliburton, we wanted to give the Vice President's staff a heads-up."

NCLB: Test only for reading and math, and that's all that teachers teach (duh!)

Bonus item: Bush keeps Saddam's gun as a trophy! (this joke writes itself),9171,1101040607-644112,00.html
"He really liked showing it off," says a recent visitor to the White House who has seen the gun. "He was really proud of it."

Sunday, May 30, 2004


Allawi choice: Spend weeks endorsing the "Brahimi process" until it appears it may be going against you, then throw it all over in an instant by helping the IGC pick one of its own.

But try to make it SOUND like everyone's still on the same page: this is just plain funny
Q Is it your understanding that Iyad Allawi is the Prime Minister-designate of Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, Steve, I think you all are seeing that the process for naming the interim Iraqi government and having them in place so that we can transfer sovereignty by June 30th is moving forward. We are seeing important progress made, but I want to be respectful of that process and let Mr. Brahimi make those announcements when he is ready to do so......I think we have all seen the news reports on Mr. Allawi, and he is certainly a fine and capable leader who appears to have broad support among the Iraqi people. But I want to be respectful of that process, and we'll wait until we hear more from Mr. Brahimi.

Q Scott, an administration official said just a few minutes ago that Brahimi and the United Nations isn't making the pick of Allawi, or whoever is going to be prime minister, president or whatever, that the choice is endorsed by the Governing Council, and that the Coalition Provisional Authority is the sovereign authority involved, but actually the question of who picks him is a legal issue. So if the U.N. is just recommending, the Governing Council is endorsing and the CPA is a sovereign authority involved, who's actually choosing these people?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Mr. Brahimi is the one who is working to put in place the people who will serve on the Iraqi interim government.........

Q But if this administration official says that Brahimi actually doesn't make the pick, he just recommends, the Governing Council endorses, but it's a legal issue, I'm just trying to find out who eventually says, "Yes, these are the people"?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, the process that was put in place -- let me help you understand the process. Mr. Brahimi has been consulting widely with a number of Iraqis and receiving recommendations. He has been consulting with the CPA, as well. So he is the one who has been leading this process, he is the one who his overseeing this effort, and he is the one who will be naming these people..........

Q Scott, this doesn't seem to have been done on Mr. Brahimi's time frame. This seems to have been done by the Iraqi Governing Council and Ambassador Bremer, who came out and said, we endorse Mr. Allawi. This --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think someone put some words in Mr. Bremer's mouth, or Ambassador Bremer's mouth. I don't know that he actually has said anything on this in the time frame or at this time........

Q So this is not being foisted on Mr. Brahimi? Because that is the way it looks in one respect, that Ambassador Bremer goes to a meeting with the Governing Council, he says whatever he says, the Governing Council comes out and says "it's a done deal," Mr. Allawi is going to be the next prime minister.

MR. McCLELLAN: I would look at it as that this process is moving forward and the Iraqis are stepping forward and looking to their future. And they are working with Mr. Brahimi to help put in place the individuals who will serve on this interim government.........

Q What role did the President have in names that may have been floated up by Mr. Brahimi, by the Governing Council, by the coalition? What role did the President have?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Iraqis are the ones who have had the lead role in this, consulting with Mr. Brahimi. Mr. Brahimi is overseeing this effort.........

Q Scott, this morning you were saying that he was just one of many names and that he was -- there was just one of many groups who were putting him forward, the Iraqi Governing Council. It sounds like you've changed, you're not as dismissive of it right now.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, what I am saying is that I'm going to let Mr. Brahimi be the one to make the announcement.

Q But he's no longer just one of many people, I take it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are a number of people that have been recommended to Mr. Brahimi that could be involved in the Iraqi interim government.....

Q But we were talking about Allawi as one of -- this morning, as a candidate for prime minister. And that's when you were saying he's just one of many people --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right. And this process has been moving forward.......

Just how involved was the US in the selection?
A senior administration official in Baghdad said that L. Paul Bremer, the civilian U.S. administrator, and Robert D. Blackwill, the U.S. presidential envoy to Iraq, knew about the impending selection on Thursday. But officials in Baghdad feared a leak and told few officials in Washington. Some members of President Bush's war cabinet knew where the process was heading but were surprised by the timing of the council's decision.....The administration's statements were reserved because the United States did not want to appear to be driving the process, officials said, especially because of the country's past ties with Allawi.
There could be no better introduction to the premiership of Iyad Allawi than the confusion and intrigue surrounding its announcement. Early yesterday, the Governing Council declared it was unanimously backing Allawi, one of its own, for the post of interim Iraqi prime minister. Not that the Council is charged with that decision; that brief lies with U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who hadn't yet announced any replacement for Hussain Shahristani, a Brahimi-favored candidate whom Shia Council members rejected. According to The Washington Post, right after the Council resolved to back Allawi, L. Paul Bremer burst in the room to offer U.S. support. The missing piece was the United Nations, which was completely outmaneuvered by the U.S.-Governing Council announcement. Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for Kofi Annan, acknowledged that Allawi was "high on [Brahimi's] list," but indicated that Brahimi was not happy with the push to install him. While Eckhard told reporters that Brahimi "respects" the Council's choice, he pointedly added that "respect" was a "carefully chosen word."

Who is Iyad Allawi?
A summary of the news reports....including this (notice the way he is described in the Arab press)
U.S. Iraq Appointee a Fraud and a Danger
With Allawi at the helm, the U.S.'s calculation that a new Iraqi government won't ask coalition soldiers to leave the country just got a lot more solid. Allawi has gotten where he is by making himself useful to his foreign patrons.......It seems likely that Allawi's pliability would be a decisive factor in the U.S. decision to support him for prime minister.......It might also be a reason why the other Governing Council members did as well. According to The New York Times, the two largest Shia parties, SCIRI and Da'wa, ended up backing Allawi after they failed to come to terms on a jointly acceptable candidate from inside their own ranks. Said one senior Da'wa leader about the choice of Allawi, "There is no real justice in this. We will support it and wait for the elections. But this decision was made without looking at the polls or at public opinion."......(Clearly no one told that to Scott McClellan , who declared that Allawi "appears to have broad support among the Iraqi people.") Any interim prime minister would surely face the accusation of being an occupation stooge. With Allawi, the charge is likely to have serious currency........CBS News cited an Iraqi analyst describing Allawi's bent for "military politics." He's not exactly known for his commitment to democracy. His cousin Ali is defense minister. Governing Council member Mahmoud Othman explained that Allawi's nomination "has a great deal to do with security." It may be that the U.S. has decided to bet on a compliant strongman.
After turning to the United Nations to shore up its failing effort to fashion a new government in Baghdad, the United States ended up Friday with a choice for prime minister certain to be seen more as an American candidate than one of the United Nations or the Iraqis themselves.

Looks like they can't agree on a selection for President either!

Abu Ghraib: the basic pattern is becoming clear. Gen Miller was told from Washington to export Geneva Convention-free interrogation methods and personnel from Guantanamo to Iraq. Over the resistance of Gen Karpinski and others there, part of the prison was basically turned over to military intelligence personnel and private contractors. These methods had already been criticized by the Red Cross, but in the hands of less experienced recruits, all hell broke loose. Now Miller has been sent to Iraq to fix the situation he helped create.
Interrogation experts from the American detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were sent to Iraq last fall and played a major role in training American military intelligence teams at Abu Ghraib prison there, senior military officials said Friday.......The teams from Guantánamo Bay, which had operated there under directives allowing broad latitude in questioning "enemy combatants," played a central role at Abu Ghraib through December, the officials said, a time when the worst abuses of prisoners were taking place. Prisoners captured in Iraq, unlike those sent from Afghanistan to Guantánamo, were to be protected by the Geneva Conventions.
Several U.S. guards allege they witnessed military intelligence operatives encouraging the abuse of Iraqi prison inmates at four prisons other than Abu Ghraib, investigative documents show.

Chalabi watch: this is getting fun
Influential outside advisers to the Bush administration who support the Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi are pressing the White House to stop what one has called a "smear campaign" against Mr. Chalabi, whose Baghdad home and offices were ransacked last week in an American-supported raid......Last Saturday, several of these Chalabi supporters said, a small delegation of them marched into the West Wing office of Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to complain about the administration's abrupt change of heart about Mr. Chalabi and to register their concerns about the course of the war in Iraq. The group included Richard N. Perle, the former chairman of a Pentagon advisory group, and R. James Woolsey, director of central intelligence under President Bill Clinton.......Members of the group, who had requested the meeting, told Ms. Rice that they were incensed at what they view as the vilification of Mr. Chalabi, a favorite of conservatives who is now central to an F.B.I. investigation into who in the American government might have given him highly classified information that he is suspected of turning over to Iran......The session with Ms. Rice was one sign of the turmoil that Mr. Chalabi's travails have produced within an influential corner of Washington, where Mr. Chalabi is still seen as a potential leader of Iraq....."There is a smear campaign under way, and it is being perpetrated by the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. and a gaggle of former intelligence officers who have succeeded in planting these stories, which are accepted with hardly any scrutiny," Mr. Perle, a leading conservative, said in an interview........Mr. Perle, referring to both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the campaign against Mr. Chalabi was "an outrageous abuse of power" by United States government officials in Washington and Baghdad........."I'm talking about Jerry Bremer, for one," Mr. Perle said, referring to L. Paul Bremer III, the top American administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in charge of the occupation of Iraq. "I don't know who gave these orders, but there is no question that the C.P.A. was involved."

Does Chalabi have a future? An excellent little bio from the New Yorker

An administration in disarray
Senior officials keep missing opportunities to keep their signals straight, prompting cases of vicious backbiting that one senior member of Mr. Bush's national security staff said with disgust the other day "make us sound like Democrats.''.......Reporters who spent the first two-thirds of Mr. Bush's term looking for any crack between the tight-lipped members of the administration suddenly feel as if they have stepped into an amusement park, with different hawkers openly selling disparate policies, explanations and critiques.......And as a few candid members of the administration are starting to admit, it is beginning to take a toll......

Still blaming Clinton (and Gore) for all that has gone wrong with 9-11, Al Qaeda, Iraq, etc. Hey guys, it's YOUR THING now

I guess they just don't LIKE each other, huh?
It was on CNN. Bush 41, 43, and Clinton were talking at the end of the ceremony. Clinton wagged his finger in Bush 43's face. Dunno what they were talking about but it seemed at least superficially cordial. Then Poppy suddenly shoved Clinton in the chest with both hands, enough to throw Clinton off balance. I don't know why, but it was completely inappropriate and almost seemed to me like 41 was trying to prove his manhood or something. I'm not even sure what happened after that, the camera quickly went somewhere else.

More on the failures of Judith Miller and the NY Times,3604,1227334,00.html
If spies wanted a trophy to show what happens when their craft is perfectly executed, it would be a story written by Judith Miller on the front page of the New York Times on a Sunday morning in September 2002. She wrote that an intercepted shipment of aluminum tubes, to be used for centrifuges, was evidence that Saddam was building a uranium gas separator to develop nuclear material.......The story had an enormous impact, one amplified when national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state Colin Powell and vice-president Dick Cheney all did appearances on the Sunday-morning talk shows, citing the first-rate journalism of the liberal NYT. No single story did more to advance the neoconservative cause.......But Miller's story was wrong. The aluminum tubes were covered with an anodised coating, which rendered them useless for a centrifuge, according to a number of scientists who spoke publicly after Miller's story......."The White House had a perfect deal with Miller," he said. "Chalabi is providing the Bush people with the information they need to support their political objectives, and he is supplying the same material to Judy Miller. Chalabi tips her on something and then she goes to the White House, which has already heard the same thing from Chalabi, and she gets it corroborated. She also got the Pentagon to confirm things for her, which made sense, since they were working so closely with Chalabi. Too bad Judy didn't spend a little more time talking to those of us who had information that contradicted almost everything Chalabi said.".......Another Miller story - Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said To Assert - was based on a source Miller never met or even interviewed. She watched a man in a baseball cap from a distance, who pointed at the desert floor, and used that as a basis for filing a piece that confirmed the US had discovered "precursors to weapons of mass destruction," Miller explained to me months later. "I know who he is," she insisted. "There's no way I would have gone forward with such a story without knowing who my source was. Maybe it turns out that he was lying or ill-informed." Yes, Ms Miller, that is how it turned out.......If Miller's boss had done some reporting of his own, he might have discovered evidence of Miller's political predisposition. The Middle East Forum, an organisation that openly advocated that the US overthrow Saddam, listed Miller as an expert speaker on its website and held a launch party for her book. She was represented by Benador Associates, a speakers' bureau that specialises in conservative thinkers with Middle East expertise.,1,7944003.column
Meanwhile, next week's edition of New York magazine will contain a critical profile of Miller, while a piece on Chalabi in the New Yorker - according to sources there - will touch on the Iraqi's relationship with the Times, which at one point employed his daughter. Meanwhile, the forthcoming issue of the New York Review of Books will contain another appraisal of the Times' coverage by Michael Massing, former executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, who has been the most formidable of the Times' critics in this affair. In fact, the paper's note singled him out by name.......Viewed in this context, the Times' explanation looks like a leaky lifeboat launched in the teeth of a gathering storm......In an interview this week, Massing said it is hard to know exactly what role the New York Times' misleading reports on Hussein's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction may have had on public opinion leading up to the war..........But, in this instance, the New York Times became the president's handmaiden. But not only did they fail to weigh the credibility of what they were reporting, but they amplified the administration's position. They became cheerleaders and helped the administration......."If you look at Judy Miller's pieces," Massing added, "she was actually promoting the defectors and claiming that the administration was not paying enough attention to the value of their information, thereby putting pressure on the administration. If the Times had been as skeptical as it should have been, we would have had a fuller and more vigorous debate."

Predictable development: as the press finally, FINALLY starts to show some independence and skepticism toward Bush Co. claims, pressure from the Right accuses them of subversion
Take a look at the morning paper nowadays and it's clear that America has a lot of enemies. Two or three different brands of insurgency are operating in Iraq. North Korea has nuclear weapons and Pakistan is selling them. Our former best friend in Baghdad turns out to be an American spy. Al Qaeda, of course, is still out there. All this notwithstanding, some commentators on the right seem to have decided that the real enemies aren't the ones they read about it the papers, but the people who write them.........The argument here - that everything is fine except the media coverage - is absurd on its face. The reporters in question are, unlike their pundit-detractors, on the ground in Iraq witnessing the situation for themselves. It is undeniable, moreover, that a growing chorus of former war supporters - liberals and conservatives alike - people like George Will, Tucker Carlson, Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, and Bill Kristol have grown increasingly dubious that the president's policies will bring us to success. Is this band of ex-hawks really trying to bring America down, or are they sincerely worried that the president is the one bringing us low? The doubters, moreover, are hardly to be found in the press alone. Three of the past four top generals in the U.S. Central Command have denounced the president's handling of the situation and the fourth is on the board of a company that depends on good will from the Pentagon to stay in business. These general are not die-hard liberals, or surly reporters, they're men who've spent years commanding all U.S. military forces in the region......Nevertheless, the political purpose of the theory isn't hard to grasp. The groundwork is being laid for a new version of the "stab in the back" myth that helped destroy Weimar Germany. No matter how far south things go in Iraq, the blame will be laid not at the feet of the president who initiated and conducted the war, but rather on those who had the temerity to note that it wasn't working. Rather than the critics having been proven right, or so the story goes, the critics are to blame for the failure of the very policy they were criticizing. It's an ugly tactic, and as you go down the journalistic food chain, it grows uglier still......

Bonus item: Interesting resource - ABC does a nightly comparison of the major network news shows

Saturday, May 29, 2004


Having lost Shahristani, I guess the U.S. wasn't taking any more chances on Brahimi's selection for Iraqi PM, so they (apparently) broke the agreement with the UN to install their own guy after all
The Iraqi Governing Council has tapped one of its members to be prime minister in the interim government.......A senior Bush administration official in Baghdad confirms Allawi will be the interim prime minister of Iraq......"It is a historic moment," said this official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "This has been a process of full-blown democratic politics."

[Pause for sarcastic laughter]

The announcement appeared to take the United Nations...... by surprise. The U.N. had sent envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to help put together an interim government before the handoff date. "It's not how we expected it to happen, no, but the Iraqis seem to agree on this candidate, and if they do, Mr. Brahimi is ready to work with this candidate," said Fred Eckhard, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.......U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer had been at the meeting where Allawi was designated.

[And poor Colin Powell, once again shut out of the game plan]

Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States had no position on any candidate and was awaiting word from Brahimi.... "I'm pleased that Mr. Allawi has that kind of support, but we are working with Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the secretary-general's representative," Powell said...

"Full-blown democratic politics"?
"It is a done deal," Hameed al-Kafaei, the spokesman for the Governing Council, said. Allawi "is a prime minister-designate."

And who is Allawi? Read this
The choice of Iyad Allawi, closely linked to the CIA and formerly to MI6, as the Prime Minister of Iraq from 30 June will make it difficult for the US and Britain to persuade the rest of the world that he is capable of leading an independent government.... He is the person through whom the controversial claim was channelled that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could be operational in 45 minutes...Dr Allawi was head of the security committee of the Iraqi Governing Council and was opposed to the dissolution of the army by Paul Bremer, the US viceroy in Iraq. He stepped down in protest as head of the committee during the US assault on Fallujah. But his reputation among Iraqis for working first with Saddam's intelligence agents and then with MI6 and the CIA may make it impossible for them to accept him as leader of an independent Iraq.

Sequential analyses from Josh Marshall, showing how this bizarre story evolved
This late article from Reuters says that the IGC has spoken, and that the US and Brahimi have endorsed the choice...MSNBC runs an AP story which says that the US is not endorsing the choice, while a spokesman for Brahimi says he "welcomes and respects the choice of Mr. Allawi" but would not say that he endorses it.....The Washington Post , in a story posted about 90 minutes ago, said that Bremer and Brahimi were there during the vote and congratulated Allawi. But in most respects the Post follows the MSNBC/AP line......A spokesman for the IGC said Brahimi and the US were on board. Brahimi seems to deny that. And a UN spokesman in New York said he couldn't confirm whether or not Brahimi had endorsed Allawi. In other words, he didn't seem to know quite what had happened.....Needless to say, with such conflicting accounts, it is hard to say quite what transpired. But the contradictory accounts suggest confusion and uncertainty among the key players over just what happened and precisely how to respond.....In other words, they were caught off-guard by an IGC coup de main , a sort of media-political putsch on the part of the IGC. With the US-Brahimi process stumbling over the UN representative's inability to find candidates acceptable to all parties, the IGC jumps into the breach, pushing one of their number, hoping to make that nomination stick, knowing that the Brahimi-US plan seems to be foundering and that time is running out.
The story changes. An updated article from the Post says that: "Officials of the United States, the United Nations and the Iraqi Governing Council appear to have settled on Ayad Allawi, a leader of one of the major Iraqi exile organizations, as Iraq's interim prime minister.".... The key line comes four grafs in: "The vote followed a private endorsement of Allawi by Lakhdar Brahimi ... according to a U.N. official who requested anonymity because no formal announcement has been made yet."
This still seems strange.....As the Allawi story has progressed over the course of the afternoon, it now seems clear not only that Brahimi and the US approve the choice but that Brahimi may have dictated the choice to the IGC......Here is the key graf in a new article out in the Times ... The decision to name Dr. Allawi was made by Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, and the governing council was then summoned to be informed of the choice. The council more or less showed its approval, some officials said, with one member saying the decision was unanimous. But other people said a vote did not really take place, because the decision had already been made.....Now, here's what strikes me as odd about this......First, Brahimi had made clear he didn't want a 'politician' for the slot and that he wanted to sideline people from the IGC....But there's something else that seems still stranger. One thing that is almost universally acknowledged is that the IGC is unpopular. It's seen as a proxy for the Americans and in that sense a tool of the occupation. Indeed, that seemed to be at the forefront of Brahimi's thinking......If that's so, why would he introduce his pick for Prime Minister, not by announcing it himself, but by having it rubber-stamped (as the Times suggests) by the IGC, and then letting the news dribble out that he -- i.e., Brahimi -- was behind the decision?
Still more confusion over Allawi.....The latest from Reuters appears to directly contradict the report from the New York Times ... The United Nations, called in by Washington to help shape the new interim government, was caught off guard when the Governing Council announced Allawi had been chosen, but said it respected the decision.....An official in President Bush's administration said: "We thought (Allawi) would be an excellent prime minister. ... I think that this is going to work." .....So this was foisted on Brahimi, though he seems to have consented to it..... So whose idea was this? Where did the push come from? And who are the sources for the multiple conflicting stories?

Either way, Brahimi totally dissed
There were differing accounts of how Allawi came to be selected by the council and subsequently endorsed by Bremer and Brahimi. The senior administration official said Allawi was recommended by Brahimi after the U.N. envoy conducted numerous meetings with Iraqi political, tribal and religious leaders......But a U.N. official familiar with the process said Allawi was not Brahimi's top choice. Instead, Allawi lobbied other council members to support his candidacy over the past few weeks
The man chosen to be prime minister, Iyad Alawi, is the secretary general of the Iraqi National Accord, an exile group that has received funds from the Central Intelligence Agency. His ties with the C.I.A., and his closeness to the United States could become an issue in a country where public opinion has grown almost universally hostile to the Americans.......The announcement of Dr. Alawi's selection appeared to surprise several at the United Nations......"When we first heard the news today, we thought that the Iraqi Governing Council had hijacked the process," said a senior United Nations official, referring to the American-picked body that voted to recommend Dr. Alawi earlier on Friday.....Statements from the United Nations seemingly confirmed the idea that Mr. Brahimi was merely bowing to the wishes of the others....."Mr. Brahimi respects the decision and says he can work with this person," Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for Secretary General Kofi Annan, said in response to a barrage of skeptical questioning. Asked what Mr. Annan's view was, Mr. Eckhard said: "The secretary general respects the decision, as I said Mr. Brahimi does. `Respect' is a very carefully chosen word.".....Some time later, perhaps because of the skepticism that comment engendered, a less circumspect statement was issued in the name of Ahmad Fawzi, Mr. Brahimi's press spokesman, saying: "Let there be no misunderstanding. Mr. Brahimi is perfectly comfortable with how the process is proceeding thus far." ....In a telephone interview from Baghdad, Mr. Brahimi refused to discuss the selection of Dr. Alawi. "I don't want to go back saying who is good and who is bad," he said. ......But in a hint that the selection process had not gone exactly as planned, Mr. Brahimi added, "You know, sometimes people think I am a free agent out here, that I have a free hand to do whatever I want." He noted that he had been asked to take on the job in a letter to Mr. Annan from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the Iraqi Governing Council.
Governing Council member Raja Habib al-Khuzaai told Associated Press Television News that the decision to select Allawi occurred at a special meeting which began at 3 p.m. Friday. Twenty of the council's 22 members were present or represented at the session; all voted for Allawi...........The U.S. governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, was invited to join the session at 4 p.m., and Brahimi was invited an hour later -- ostensibly to discuss other issues. Each was informed of the council decision when he arrived, al-Khuzaai said.

[So, this version indicates that Bremer and the US were also presented with a fait accompli by the IGC - but I'm not buying it. Why was Bremer brought in an hour before Brahimi?]

Hijacking the process (part 2). Trying to keep the lies straight on the latest terror alert,0,6420375.story?coll=ny-worldnews-headlines
The Homeland Security Department was surprised by the announcement Wednesday by Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller that a terrorist attack was increasingly likely in the coming months, officials said.......The department, created a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is charged with issuing terrorism warnings to the public, and tension arose when Ashcroft and Mueller effectively took over that role at a news conference Wednesday when they said al-Qaida is preparing an attack inside the United States......Officials said the Homeland Security Department knew in advance about the news conference but expected it to focus on seven suspects with ties to al-Qaida who were wanted for arrest or questioning. Department officials were caught off guard when Ashcroft went further and warned that al-Qaida "is ready to attack the United States.".......The news conference, which excluded Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, raised concerns in Washington that his department was not coordinating the domestic fight against terrorism, which was confusing the message for the public and for local authorities......Earlier on Wednesday, Ridge spoke on morning television shows and appeared to downplay the threat that Ashcroft would later trumpet, officials said. He told ABC's "Good Morning America" that the threats are "not the most disturbing that I have personally seen during the past couple of years."...... Lawmakers who oversee the Homeland Security Department said the events Wednesday appeared to undermine the effort to unify the federal government's response to terrorism threats.
Some allies of the Department of Homeland Security within the Bush administration and members of Congress criticized Attorney General John D. Ashcroft yesterday for issuing terrorist threat warnings at a news conference on Wednesday, contending he failed to coordinate the information with the White House and with Homeland Security, which has the job of releasing threat warnings.
In warning Americans to brace for a possible attack, Ashcroft cited what he called "credible intelligence from multiple sources" .....But terrorism experts tell NBC News there's no evidence a credible al-Qaida spokesman ever said that, and the claims actually were made by a largely discredited group, Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, known for putting propaganda on the Internet....."This particular group is not really taken seriously by Western intelligence," said terrorism expert M.J. Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, an international policy assessment group. "It does not appear to have any real field operational capability. But it is certainly part of the global jihad movement - part of its propaganda wing, if you like. It likes to weave a web of lies; it likes to put out disinformation....
After two days of conflicting assessments and mixed signals on the urgency of the terrorist threat within the United States, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge late Friday issued a joint statement citing "credible intelligence" of a threat to the nation.......The move appears designed to show unity in the Bush administration's efforts to protect the home front.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Attorney General John D. Ashcroft issued a joint statement late yesterday indicating that they have settled their tiff......

Abu Ghraib's incompetent chain of "command",2763,1226638,00.html
Some of the details in his dossier read dismayingly like a chapter from Catch-22, Joseph Heller's second world war black comedy about the lunatics and shysters who held men's lives in their hands at a fictional military base.

Chalabi revisionism continues apace
There are a handful of articles out yesterday or today in which various partisans of Ahmed Chalabi claim that top level government officials say that the spying charges against Ahmed Chalabi are not to be taken seriously --- they're merely the product of bureaucratic infighting within the US government, payback from his enemies at State and CIA...... I have sources too. And I hear quite the opposite. From what I'm told, what really cooked Chalabi's goose was that the evidence against him was sufficiently damning that his one-time advocates and protectors inside the government -- folks very high up the ladder -- simply washed their hands of him, wouldn't try to defend him.
The key divide between current and former Chalabi supporters I'm told remains between those who've seen what Chalabi is alleged to have done, and those who haven't
Just got a very interesting unsolicited call from an occasional contact who knows some of these players pretty well. Someone one would more than expect to be extremely friendly to their positions as well. And he told me that.....The charges against Chalabi passing highly sensitive US intelligence to Iranian intelligence are true.

Missed the Gore speech? Here are some key video clips (it will do your heart good)

But not everyone agrees: Boston Herald's....uh....intemperate response
How dare Al Gore disgrace this nation
He never mentioned Nicholas Berg. Or Daniel Pearl. Or a single person killed in the World Trade Center. Nor did former Vice President Al Gore talk of any soldier by name who has given his life in Iraq . And he has the audacity to condemn the Bush administration for having ``twisted values?'' .......Gore spent the bulk of a speech before the liberal group Wednesday bemoaning Abu Ghraib and denouncing President Bush's departure from the ``long successful strategy of containment.'' ......ハHow dare he. How dare a former vice president of the United States go beyond disagreeing with the current president's policies - a right of anyone in this free country - and denounce Bush as ``incompetent.'' .......ハIt is Gore who has brought dishonor to his party and to his party's nominee. The real disgrace is that this repugnant human being once held the second highest office in this great land.
[ says this could be "the worst article ever written"]

Weekend potpourri

How Bush policies have helped Al Qaeda recruitment

Bush keeps using "official" travel for campaign purposes (yes, it is illegal)

Jeb Bush makes Florida vote fraud even easier

Tom DeLay: Even worse than you imagine

Paul Krugman on press's larger failures in its coverage of Bush and his policies
People who get their news by skimming the front page, or by watching TV, must be feeling confused by the sudden change in Mr. Bush's character. For more than two years after 9/11, he was a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness...... But now those people hear about a president who won't tell a straight story about why he took us to war in Iraq or how that war is going, who can't admit to and learn from mistakes, and who won't hold himself or anyone else accountable. What happened?.....The answer, of course, is that the straight shooter never existed. He was a fictitious character that the press, for various reasons, presented as reality.........The truth is that the character flaws that currently have even conservative pundits fuming have been visible all along.......

Which leads us to: CNN's outrage

I don't use this space to solicit political action, but in case you missed this CNN report, all the blogs are calling for reaction. (I heard the piece here in Belgium on CNN Int'l, and could hardly believe my ears.) Details from Atrios:

[Kelli] ARENA: Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.

BEN VENZKE, INTELCENTER: Al Qaeda feels that Bush is, even despite casualties, right or wrong for staying there is going to stay much longer than possibly what they might hope a Democratic administration would.

There you go. We're fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and they think John Kerry is a wimp.



You can communicate your thoughts to Ms. Arena personally at:

You can now send your emails to Eason Jordan at He's CNN's chief news executive.

[More of the original transcript from Kevin Drum:]

Friday, May 28, 2004


It's all well and good for the NY Times to admit its collective responsibility for lousy Iraq reporting that helped lay a public case for the legitimacy of the war. But the simple fact is that nearly every key story was authored or co-authored by one individual:
When the full history of the Iraq war is written, one of its most scandalous chapters will be about how American journalists, in particular those at the New York Times, so easily allowed themselves to be manipulated by both dubious sources and untrustworthy White House officials into running stories that misled the nation about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
No reporter was more go-go on the prospect of finding caches of unconventional weapons in Iraq than New York Times correspondent Judith Miller, who published numerous stories during the 18 months leading up to the war that supported allegations that Saddam Hussein was illegally developing, building, and storing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Miller's stories relied in great part on the testimony of Iraqi defectors, some of whom were provided to her by Iraqi National Congress leader Amad Chalabi and government officials such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who believed their claims.
Lay all Judith Miller's New York Times stories end to end, from late 2001 to June 2003 and you get a desolate picture of a reporter with an agenda, both manipulating and being manipulated by US government officials, Iraqi exiles and defectors, an entire Noah's Ark of scam-artists.
The editors, Judith Miller, and every other journalist who helped enable the administration's lies have blood on their hands.
Now They Tell Us ....In recent months, US news organizations have rushed to expose the Bush administration's pre-war failings on Iraq.....Watching and reading all this, one is tempted to ask, where were you all before the war? Why didn't we learn more about these deceptions and concealments in the months when the administration was pressing its case for regime change-when, in short, it might have made a difference?

[Our friend and colleague Megan Boler has submitted a scathing Letter to the Editor for the Times, saying basically, "your apologies now are worthless - the damage has been done." Right on, Megan!]

Quote of the day
It can't be easy to be Judith Miller right now. She's been widely lambasted as the worst offender of a press corps that obviously failed to do its job at the time when the country was heading to war, and thus when it was needed most..... So it shouldn't be surprising that she's getting a little testy. In today's, James Moore gets our quote of the day from Miller: "You know what," she offered angrily. "I was proved fucking right. That's what happened. People who disagreed with me were saying, 'There she goes again.' But I was proved fucking right." ....Of course, she was proved wrong. But she might want to consider not doing any more interviews

Public support for war crumbling
From this edge of the western plains to California's palm-lined drives to New York's urban canyons, Americans say they are worried and angry about the U.S. role in Iraq, with their anxiety matching that of the earliest days of the war when the success of the push to Baghdad was far from secure....Nearly daily attacks on U.S. troops and continuing revelations about abuse of Iraqi prisoners have combined to stir the unrest, leading many to doubt whether the outcome will match the Bush administration's stated goals for going to war.

GOP members starting to doubt war plans too
What could sink his chances for good, though, is the possibility that congressional Republicans might openly sever their ties with the administration.......This hasn't happened. Yet.....But it doesn't look far off. A number of moderate Republican senators -- and I'm not just thinking of everybody's favorite McMaverick -- are inching closer to full-on condemnation of the president and his advisors

The gradual emergence of sensible bipartisanship, despite Bush Co. efforts to polarize every issue ("you're either with us or against us")

Iraq transition revision #947: Why won't they just do what we tell them!?
A top nuclear scientist once tipped to become prime minister in the new Iraqi cabinet has said that he will not take the job, or any other government post.....Hussein Shahristani, 62, a Shia Muslim jailed under Saddam Hussein, had been seen as an ideal head of government.....But Mr Shahristani said he would rather "serve his country in other ways".....Senior US officials were quoted on Wednesday as saying Mr Shahristani was the leading candidate.
[Which apparently killed his chances:]
President Bush's offer to demolish Abu Ghraib prison - made in a speech Monday night - found little support among Iraqis, with the head of the Governing Council yesterday calling the idea "a waste of resources."

The Fallujah Model, now being applied in Najaf

Paul Bremer's CPA, "temporary authority," apparently thought it was legitimate enough to CHANGE THE NAME OF THE COUNTRY
With little fanfare, the name of Iraq seems to have been changed.....The country's official name in 1920 was the "State of Iraq." Following the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, the name was changed to the "Republic of Iraq".....At some point last year, the older name--the "State of Iraq"--was restored. I do not know precisely who did this and why, but it seems to have been done by the CPA some time last year.....Since the current Iraqi political order could hardly be described as a republic, there is some honesty in the new title. But it seems odd that an interim administration would feel comfortable changing the name of the country.

Bush Co. rethinking the whole "bringing democracy to the Middle East" idea

Misreading "The Arab Mind" (a.k.a., where those neat interrogation methods found their roots)
In the White House discussions of the subject, the academic said, two themes emerged: "one, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation." And, he explained, "the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior" was a book with what Hersh described as a "25-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression": Raphael Patai's The Arab Mind.

Amnesty International: ouch!
The Bush administration has "openly eroded human rights" to win the war on terrorism and sparked a backlash that has made the world more dangerous, Amnesty International charged yesterday....."As a strategy, the war on terror is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle," Amnesty's secretary general, Irene Khan, asserted in releasing the human rights group's annual report. She condemned militants unequivocally but said governments are "losing their moral compass......."Sacrificing human rights in the name of security at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using preemptive military force where and when it chooses have neither increased security nor ensured liberty," Kahn said of the United States.

"With Trembling Fingers": double ouch! (a must-read)
The irreducible truth is that the invasion of Iraq was the worst blunder, the most staggering miscarriage of judgment, the most fateful, egregious, deceitful abuse of power in the history of American foreign policy. If you don't believe it yet, just keep watching.

Prison abuses: another independent commission on the way?

The Chalabi hot potato: as the FBI investigation starts, everyone wants plausible deniability
At a well-appointed conservative think tank in downtown Washington and across the Potomac River at the Pentagon, FBI agents have begun paying quiet calls on prominent neoconservatives, who are being interviewed in an investigation of potential espionage, according to intelligence sources. Who gave Ahmed Chalabi classified information about the plans of the U.S. government and military?

Back home, more Bush Co. double-talk on their plans for massive domestic budget cuts (I'd like to see them run on THIS agenda)

Bonus item: Rush's distorted sense of humor
RUSH: Just sitting here minding my own business. I'm not bothering anybody. Just doing my job here on the EIB Network, and the vice president, ex-vice president, of the Democratic Party, has demanded today that George W. Bush condemn and denounce me......Before we play the Gore bite, you've got to hear the audio track to the latest ad, which puts an Abu Ghraib hood over the Statute of Liberty.....[The ad says]..... "They said we went to Iraq to bring American values -- democracy, liberty. But something has gone terribly wrong.......Now it's been reported that (Secretary of Defense) Donald Rumsfeld initiated the plan that encouraged the physical coercion and sexual humiliation of prisoners." [Rush laughing]......

Here's the excerpt from the Gore speech...... "This president episodically poses as a uniter and healer. If he really has any desire to play that role, then I call upon him to condemn Rush Limbaugh, perhaps his strongest political supporter, who said publicly that the torture...was 'a brilliant maneuver' and that the photos were 'good old American pornography,' and that the actions portrayed were simply those of people 'having a good time' and 'needing to blow off steam.'"...... RUSH: I guess those naked pyramids are just not in the national interest to Al Gore. (Laughing and laughing.) ........

For example, the Geneva Conventions. I don't know how many of you know this, the Geneva Conventions do not protect terrorists ......What really troubles me about these photos, above and beyond what's in them, is how they're being used to undermine our war effort.....
Media Matters for America Asks Secretary Rumsfeld to Remove Limbaugh's Radio Show from Taxpayer-Funded American Forces Radio....

Thursday, May 27, 2004


"Full sovereignty"....."with limits" What a farce

(LA Times),1,2948328.story?coll=la-home-headlines
French President Jacques Chirac told Bush in a telephone conversation that France wanted any new U.N. Security Council resolution to spell out clearly that the Iraqis would have a say over U.S.-led military operations....The dispute over how much authority the new Iraqi government would wield came at a crucial diplomatic and political moment for the White House.

As Washington prepares to hand over power, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and other officials are quietly building institutions that will give the U.S. powerful levers for influencing nearly every important decision the interim government will make.

If a tree falls in the forest....Bush's speech didn't say anything new, but that's okay - no one was watching anyway

Hey, it's no surprise when Al Gore lays into Bush's war policies
[GOP's very lame attack on Gore in response:]

But you know something has shifted when TOM CLANCY goes after him

Even Richard Perle has his doubts (now)

Here's how out-of-control prison camps were - US soldier beaten, suffers brain damage

Feith's fingerprints

(1) On approving Abu Ghraib abuses?

(2) On Chalabi leaks?

Attacks on Chalabi, neo-con supporters called a CIA plot

Department of DUH
But some intelligence officials, terrorism experts - and to some extent even Mr. Ashcroft's own F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III - offered a more tempered assessment, saying, "For the next few weeks we have reason to believe there is a heightened threat to the U.S. interests around the world.'' And some opponents of President Bush , including police and firefighter union leaders aligned with Senator John Kerry, the expected Democratic presidential candidate, said the timing of the announcement appeared intended in part to distract attention from Mr. Bush's sagging poll numbers and problems in Iraq...... The administration did not raise the terrorist threat advisory from its current level of elevated, or yellow, and the White House said Mr. Bush would not alter his schedule because of security concerns......"There's no real new intelligence, and a lot of this has been out there already," said one administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There really is no significant change that would require us to change the alert level of the country."

And this cheery bit of news from Ashcroft: Al Qaeda EXPANDING its recruitment. Now people all around the world want to attack America!

Al Qaeda 18,000

(And, Ashcroft hints darkly, they all want Kerry to win)

Prescription drug costs rising

[Let's review the logic of this. Oil costs skyrocket, and Bush claims this is because Congress refused to pass his oil-company giveaway -- oops, his Energy Bill. But Congress DOES pass his Medicare plan, and drug prices skyrocket anyway. Uhhh....who does he blame for that?]

Potential bombshell (sorry for the metaphor): faster Bush response could have prevented one of the 9-11 plane attacks

Bush's delay: when first told of attacks, his response?
Bush picked up the book and began to read with the children. In unison, the children read out loud, "The - Pet - Goat. A - girl - got - a - pet - goat. But - the - goat - did - some - things - that - made - the - girl's - dad - mad." Bush mostly listened, but occasionally asked the children a few questions to encourage them. At one point he said, "Really good readers, whew!"

9-11 commission will look into this

Who approved the bin Laden family charter flight post 9-11? A (partial) answer

Bush campaign ads: nothing but lies (well, what else do they have, after all?)

Yet a bit of truth glimmers through: Bush plans major domestic cuts if re-elected

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Bush's speech: the reviews are in
"damage control"
"reality gap",0,7376782.story?coll=ny-editorials-headlines
"more of the same"
Bush did not provide the midcourse correction that even some Republicans had called for in the face of increasingly macabre violence in recent weeks -- from the assassination of the president of Iraq's Governing Council and controversy over dozens killed by U.S. warplanes at a purported wedding party to the grisly beheading of an American civilian.....Nor did Bush try to answer some of the looming questions that have triggered growing skepticism and anxiety at home and abroad about the final U.S. costs, the final length of stay for U.S. troops, or what the terms will be for a final U.S. exit from Iraq. After promising "concrete steps," the White House basically repackaged stalled U.S. policy as a five-step plan.
We cannot live without a serious plan for doing more than just getting through the June 30 transition and then muddling along until the November elections in the United States. Mr. Bush has yet to come up with a realistic way to internationalize the military operation and to get Iraq's political groups beyond their current game of jockeying for power and into a real process of drafting a workable constitution..... The draft of the United Nations resolution that circulated yesterday was disappointingly sketchy on these points. It contains the phrases of international support - like references to a "multinational" military force - without committing the Security Council to do anything in particular. The draft endorses a continued American-led military presence in Iraq for at least a year beyond June 30, but it does not ensure expanded international participation.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yes and I think if -- I remember Bill Russell when he was a basketball analyst with a particularly pithy piece of analysis. When things go bad they go bad....... Just imagine the White House. They're getting ready for this major offensive. What happens? Last week the president goes up to Capitol Hill to rally the Republicans. All the press reports are he disappointed them. He didn't even answer questions........ Last night several million Americans turned on "60 Minutes." What did they see? The former Marine Corps Commandant Anthony Zinni saying the whole idea was misconceived. The execution was screwed up and Rumsfeld and all of his civilians were guilty of dereliction of duty and should resign...... Even the setting, Aaron, the Army War College turns out to be the place that in January published a scathing review of the war on terror and the war in Iraq by a former Senate staffer under their aegis, the Army War College........... You know there is this notion that political spin doctors and pollsters and media experts and the Carl Roves of this world can somehow create magic....... I think in this particular story war and peace you can't do it. What the president says, even with the bully pulpit, is way, way less important than what we're going to be seeing and, if over the next few months what the president tells us is going to happen, happens, that's when you're going to see a turnaround in public opinion.....I don't think speeches no matter how well crafted can change how people perceive a story like this. Maybe it can change their minds about taxes or the environment or some domestic debate. On life and death and war and peace I'm really skeptical
A range of other reactions, pro and con, including this one:
"George W. Bush began and ended his speech with a brazen lie"
The LA Times headline for their main coverage pretty much tells the non-story: "Bush Offers Plan to End Chaos in Iraq".... A more accurate headline, I think, would be "Bush Expresses Sincere Wish for Chaos in Iraq to End," since his "plan" appears to be no such thing.
Bush can't learn from the past
What Bush Should Have Said

(Bush's makeup was a big hit, though)

"Full sovereignty"? Don't hold your breath
The "news" in his speech, if I can be allowed to abuse the English language a bit, is that Bush reiterated what Colin Powell and several others have already said: after June 30, the Iraqis will have "full sovereignty." This is obviously nonsense since we intend to keep 150,000 troops on their soil and maintain full control of the Iraqi security forces as well.

U.S vs Britain: not exactly eye-to-eye
THE FIRST cracks in Britain's coalition with the United States over the occupation of Iraq were exposed last night by a leaked government memo which revealed deep misgivings about America's "heavy-handed" tactics in the war-torn country.....The damning document....

A day after the United States and Britain proposed a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq, the touchy question of the relationship between foreign troops and a new nominally sovereign Iraqi government today drew differing responses from Washington and London and expressions of concern from other allied capitals.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that the handover of sovereignty in Iraq on June 30 would give Iraqi leaders veto authority over controversial American military operations, like those aimed at subduing insurgents in Falluja, Karbala and Baghdad....... But later in the day, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell appeared to contradict Mr. Blair's statement by saying American forces that remain in Iraq after the planned transfer of sovereignty will ``do what is necessary to protect themselves'' even if Iraqi authorities object.....The seemingly conflicting interpretations of the relationship between the planned Iraqi interim government and the United States military added to the uncertainty surrounding the impending transfer of sovereignty.

[The headline Bush never wants to see: "US Troops Under Iraqi Control"]

And how long will the troops be there?
Although Powell earlier said that the U.S. military will leave Iraq upon request of the interim government, his assurance was promptly contradicted by Lt. Gen. Walter Sharp, who told Congress that only an elected government could kick the U.S. military out of the country.
Earlier, Iraq's defense minister told a news conference in London that a multinational force may be kept in Iraq for months rather than years.

What will happen after the transition? When you can't control events, accept them and declare victory
With only weeks to go until an Iraqi government takes over, American officials have failed to disarm the tens of thousands of fighters in private militias deployed almost exclusively along ethnic and religious lines.....In the 15 months since the fall of Saddam Hussein, American officials have declared repeatedly that they would disband the private militias, recognizing that their narrow, sectarian interests could threaten a unified and democratic Iraqi state....But with the sharp deterioration of the security situation in recent months, American officials appear to have resigned themselves to working with militias in Falluja, Baghdad and elsewhere even as American soldiers die fighting them in street battles in Karbala and Najaf.
With U.S. Marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state - anyone caught selling alcohol is flogged and paraded in the city. Men are encouraged to grow beards and barbers are warned against giving "Western" hair cuts.......The departure of the Marines under an agreement that ended the three-week siege last month has enabled hard-line Islamic leaders to assert their power in this once-restive city 30 miles west of Baghdad.

Iran's efforts to control events in Iraq,2763,1224075,00.html

Meanwhile, the Kurds get screwed (again)

More on Abu Ghraib

Gen. Sanchez: Pushed out or "normal rotation"?

Defense Department officials.....insisted that it was unrelated to his job performance during an occupation that has faced an Iraqi insurgency and the growing scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib prison......"Anybody trying to draw a line between the natural progression of looking for somebody to rotate into that position to the alleged abuses at Abu Ghraib would be just wrong. There's absolutely no connection whatever.".... However, when the plan for reorganizing the command structure in Iraq was initially reported in January, Abizaid told defense reporters that Sanchez would stay on....

Is sacrificing Sanchez going to quell the scandal? I don't think so
A U.S. Army general dispatched by senior Pentagon officials to bolster the collection of intelligence from prisoners in Iraq last fall inspired and promoted the use of guard dogs there to frighten the Iraqis

"ghost detainees"

An Army summary of deaths and mistreatment involving prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan shows a widespread pattern of abuse involving more military units than previously known....

Other absurdities:

Fox News doesn't want to be called "conservative"

Bush Co. now denying any special relationship with Chalabi

Republicans trying to get into the 527 game (unsuccessfully)

"Republicans who once vigorously opposed the fundraising and spending activities of mostly liberal groups who have been working to defeat President Bush are developing ambitious plans to raise unregulated 'soft money' before the November election."
Charles Kuffner reports that Republicans are having trouble setting up their own 527 groups to compete with the Democrats

Could the commingling of lobbyists and policymakers get any more incestuous?
For years, Norquist and DeLay have worked to purge the nation's corporate lobby shops of Democrats, and companies that fill GOP campaign coffers with money are rewarded with access to lawmakers. Enemies don't get their calls returned, and without access, they lose clients. Access is coordinated by the White House, often through the office of another powerful Texan, political strategist Karl Rove.

Bush re-elect committee says they're not worried about a Libertarian challenge
A senior adviser to the campaign, who did not want his name used so he could speak more frankly, said there was no concern in the campaign...... "None, none," the adviser emphasized. "[Mr. Bush is] as strong as Ronald Reagan was in 1984."

Polls dropping? Ramp up the terror alert!
Although there is no specific target, time or date for the possible attack, the information is the culmination of intelligence that has been known and gathered over time.......

Unitarianism again a religion in Texas
This story from Saturday shows the strength and breadth of the condemnation that Strayhorn brought on herself for her initial idiocy....."She's either abysmally ignorant of the law or a religious bigot," said Robert London, spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C. "She's acting like a grand inquisitor in deciding what should be a religion."

Barn door, horse gone department

Rehnquist orders review of SC ethics AFTER Scalia un-recuses himself so he can help make key Cheney decision

NY Times criticizes its own credulous Iraq coverage

Bonus item:
9-11 panel picks a publisher for report (looks like they aren't going to let Bush Co. sit on it until after the election)