Hogan's Alley

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

US Iraq Debate Has Impact On Negotiations With Sunnis

In case anyone believes that the ongoing debate over the timing of withdrawal of US forces from Iraq can be conducted without impacting events on the ground in Iraq, this piece in the Washington Post should prove instructive.

The military commanders who are trying to bring the Sunni into the political process are facing attitudes such as the following:

"The people of Fallujah love Cindy Sheehan," declared Farouk Abd-Muhammed, a candidate for National Assembly in Dec. 15 elections, referring to the mother of a slain Marine who became a U.S. antiwar activist. He spoke Tuesday at a pre-election meeting of local leaders in Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, scene of the largest U.S. offensive of the war in November 2004.

Abd-Muhammed described watching recent television reports with his family showing Americans waving banners that read "Stop the war in Iraq."

"I salute the American people because we know after watching them on satellite that they are ready to leave," Abd-Muhammed said.

Granted that the occupation of Fallujah and most of Anbar province is offensive to the population, it is a dicey chicken and egg problem. How can the Army withdraw when withdrawal surely means the ascendancy of the former Bathists and the Islamist outsiders.

We live in a connected global village.

Bush Iraq Strategy Based On Conditions, Not Tied To Dates

The White House has released a 35 page plan for the withdrawal from Iraq that, thankfully, does not specify dates. Despite the growing chorus of calls for immediate withdrawal or date-specific drawdowns, Bush has adhered to his intent to leave Iraq when it can stand on its own as a nation, free of civil war.

While we'll have to wait to read the entire document, the report in the Times includes this key quote:

The document emphasizes that the American strategy in Iraq will take time, and that it must be based on conditions rather than deadlines. Troop levels are expected - but not guaranteed - to change over the next year, the document says, as the political process takes hold and Iraqi troops gain more experience.

"No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one," the plan says.

It also notes the broader consequences of a failed effort in Iraq. Tribal and sectarian chaos would result and Middle East reformers would no longer trust American assurances of support for democracy and human rights, according to the document.

Update: The White House has now placed the full document on its website.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

MoveOn.org Screws Up In Ad

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the tip on James Taranto's "Best of the Web" online column in the Wall Street Journal' OpinionJournal. Taranto shares a letter from a friend, just returned from his third tour in Iraq, who noticed that the soldiers "missing" Thanksgiving dinner in their new ad were, in fact British soldiers, for whom Thanksgiving is not a holiday. Click on the Taranto's title of the piece, "Mistaken Identity", for a link to MoveOn's plea for money to support its ad, including photos from the ad.

The guy's resentment at MoveOn for pretending to represent his interests is palpable.

Ramsey Clark Consoles Saddam

Ever vigilant for the true victims in the world, former Attorney General and currend nut job, Ramsey Clark has arrived in Bagdhad and wangled a visit with former dictator and current prisoner, Saddam Hussein. Clark pronounced that:

Saddam was in ''extremely good spirits to see people he knew that he could talk to that he hadn't seen in a couple of years,'' said Clark, who said he last saw the former Iraqi strongman in February 2003, shortly before the U.S.-led invasion.

''His mind was as clear and as sharp as ever,'' Clark, who has been advising Saddam's Iraqi lawyers, told The Associated Press at the Amman airport on arrival from Baghdad.

Well, I'll sleep better knowing that Ramsay is out there protecting the downtrodden mass murderers among us. Moral clarity, ain't it wonderful.

Peres and Sharon May Join In New Party

The Times is also reporting that speculation is strong that long time Labor Party activist and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres will join former Likud PM Ariel Sharon in the new center party Sharon is forming. This could be a very hopeful sign that the center in Israeli politics will take control of the nation and that making peace with the Palestinians is now the clear goal.

Kidnapped In Iraq Includes A German Woman

The so-called insurgents in Iraq have taken four more westerners hostage, this time including a German woman, Susanne Osthoff, 43, who is an archeologist who has worked in Iraq for some time. She was taken with one American and two Canadians, all unidentified, who were affiliated with a peace activist group called Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Their crime was being infidels and being in Iraq. The fact that Germany refused to send troops into Iraq has proven to be no protection for their citizens from the ire of these murderers. According to the NY Times the kidnappers, from a group ironically named the Swords of Truth, regard them all as spies.

Unless anyone miss the true message in acts such as this, it is that any non-Muslim setting foot in the Middle East is fair game for such treatment. If Sadaam had not been deposed these vile criminals would be in their home countries hunting for a ticket to paradise in the Jihad in which we all are potential victims.

Update: CBS News is reporting that the kidnapping of the Susan Osthoff, the German archeologist was a separate event from the kidnapping of four Christian Peacemaker Teams males. They report, via al Jazeera, that the four were and American, a Briton and two Canadians.

The NY Times has now posted a story, with the byline of Kirk Semple and contributions from a number of Times reporters including John F. Burns in Baghdad, on the four kidnapped men. They are now reporting it as a separate incident from the Osthoff matter. There is now no longer any connection reported between Osthoff and the Christian Peacemaker Teams. The four men have now also been identified. The Times has now pulled the original AP story from its website and replaced it with one written by Semple and Richard Bernstein. The LA Times site has, as of this writing, essentially the same confused AP story first published by the NY Times.

Thank God the MSM have editors and fact checkers to prevent such screwups.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Winter Death Comes To Pakistan

USA Today reports that the first death attributable to Winter, an infant as it happens, has occured. This predictably begins a long, deadly process in which an untold number of the still homeless and unreachable victims of the October 8 earthquake will die. The article quotes UNICEF staff who report that funds and supplies are in woefully short supply.

Apparently this tragic situation is acceptable to most of the world.

If it is not acceptable to you go to this Google page for ways to contribute.

"Syriana", The Big Lie About Oil Reserves

This is not a movie review. I have not yet seen the new George Clooney film "Syriana". But, like millions of Americans, I have seen the commercial for the film running on TV.

Let me say first that I believe passionately that this country's dependence on the shrinking resource of fossil fuels is dangerous, foolhardy and that it forces us to make foreign policy choices that tie us to the Middle East because of our addiction. But I also believe that, like me, Americans can be persuaded of the correctness of this position without being lied to.

As anyone who has seen the commercial for "Syriana" will know, Matt Damon's character is prominently heard to say, that 90% of the remaining oil in the world is it this part of the world, clearly meaning the Middle East. After the fifth or sixth repetition of this commercial (yes, I do watch too much TV) this 90% claim began to rattle around in my head. The more I heard the quote, the more it sounded wrong to me. I decided to do a little internet research.

Enter "remaining oil reserves" in Google and the first site presented belongs to the Institute For the Analysis Of Global Security, which describes itself as, " ... a non-profit public educational organization focusing on energy security. IAGS seeks to promote public awareness to the strong impact energy dependency has on our economy and security and to the myriad of technological and policy solutions that could help us move into an era of energy independence, and increase peace, prosperity and stability in the world."

Doesn't sound like an arm of the oil industry, does it? According to their website , "In order to maintain an independent posture, the IAGS accepts no corporate or government funding or endowments. Contributions are received from foundations and individuals. IAGS is a publicly supported, nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. All contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law."

Their listed advisors include such names as, R. James Woolsey, Gen. Richard L. Lawson, Robert C. McFarlane and Dr. Kenneth M. Pollack. See the rest of the list here.

I provide all this background as preface to reporting the fact that this organization states that, "66% of global oil reserves are in the hands of Middle Eastern regimes"

The next Google hit is for a site called Davies & Co., which describes itself as a Forrest Resource Management company. They provide a chart of data taken from Encyclopedia Britannica, which adapted them from Oil & Gas Journal and the US Geological Survey data. Scroll down on this page for the chart. Performing a little arithmetic on the data in the chart shows that Middle Eastern countries, including Kazakhstan, hold only 66.4% of reserves. A number consistent with the IAGS figure. Further, if known oil reserves and estimated undiscovered resources are added together, the Middle East has only 56.8% of the total.

Third on the Google list is an article by one Adam Porter on al Jazeera's English language website entitled, "Elusive Truth About Oil Figures". According to Mr. Porter, "Talking about oil, there is little doubt that around 45 - 50% of it rests in five Middle Eastern countries - Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. But how much is there of it?"

How does "Syriana" then claim that a full 90% of oil is in the Middle East. The website for the movie includes a link to Participant Productions, one of the producers of the film, an organization owned by Jeff Skoll a co-founder of EBay. Participant Productions describes itself as, "...a film company with a mission to make the world a better place. We believe in the power of media to create social change, but the movie is just the beginning. Our goal is to deliver compelling entertainment that will raise awareness about important social issues, educate audiences and inspire them to take action – here at Participate.net. We are dedicated to creating a whole new kind of action flick, where positive social change is the true measure of success."

Participant links to an article by a professor named Kenneth S. Deffeyes which doesn't if fact address the 90% claim. Deffeyes' piece predicts the coming depletion of the oil supply, regardless of where on earth it is found.

So the claim that 90% of remaining oil reserves are in the Middle East is totally unsubstantiated and plainly wrong. But it is just as certain that repetition if any lie, done often enough, will become the received truth. I am willing to wager that if a poll were taken that asked Americans what percentage of oil reserves are in the Middle East, the answer would overwhelmingly be 90%.

So what? Clearly the majority of the oil in the ground is in that region and clearly oil consuming countries are therefore to some extent at the mercy of the producing countries. What's a little exaggeration among friends?

The problem is that if the writers and producers of Syriana are wrong about this fact, they can not be trusted about any other statements presented as fact in the movie. They leave themselves, and more importantly the cause they urge upon their fellows, open to attack by those in whose interest it is to continue our dependence on oil.

I also think that the received orthodoxy on this issue, as with any other, should be challenged. Groupthink is the most dangerous aspect of modern American political discourse. I intend to poke a finger in its eye wherever I find it. Truth is more important that belief.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Concise Statement Of The Failures Of The Bush Administration In Iraq

George Friedman of Stratfor.com, a private intelligence firm, as quoted by Andrew Sullivan:

The problem the Bush administration has - and it is a problem that dates back to the beginning of the war - is its inability to articulate the reality. The United States is not staying the course. It has not been on course - if by "course" you mean what was planned in February 2003 - for two years. The course the United States has been on has been winding, shifting and surprising. The fact is that the administration has done a fairly good job of riding the whirlwind. But the course has shifted so many times that no one can stay it, because it disappeared long ago.

Having committed the fundamental error - and that wasn't WMD [it was not forseeing and then misreading the insurgency] - the Administration has done a sufficiently good job that some sort of working government might well be created in Iraq in 2006, and U.S. forces will certainly be withdrawn. What threatens this outcome is the administration's singular inability to simply state the obvious. As a result, the Democrats - doing what opposition parties do - has made it appear that the Bush administration is the most stupid, inept and incompetent administration in history. And the administration has been reduced to calling its critics cowards.

The entire article is available on the Statfor.com site, but requires registration for a 7 day guest pass.

Why Hope Is Needed

This report in the Washington Post is the kind of thing that makes me wish that the possibly hopeful article noted in my prior post is true. A bomber drove a car up to the entrance to a hospital in Mahmudiyah. The 31 dead were mostly women and children. Why? US soldiers were in the process of handing out toys to the kids. Four of the soldiers were wounded.

This is the reality of who the enemy is. How can anyone in good conscience propose to abandon the Iraqis to the tender ministrations of these murderers?

Sign Of Good News In Iraq???

The NY Times is reporting that a security aid to the current President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, has received several calls from representatives of multiple insurgent groups. The point of the calls is to explore the entry of these groups into the political process.

The aid, Lt. Gen. Wafiq al-Samarraie, would not specify the groups involved, but he did say that both Islamist and Bathist groups are involved.

Before we get too hopefull, as the Times' reporter, Edward Wong, reports:

Because of the sketchy details provided by the general, it was difficult to assess the significance of the calls. In the last year, some politicians have announced that they were in touch with various insurgent groups, only to have serious doubts later raised about the importance and legitimacy of those contacts.

One notable example involved Aiham al-Samarraie, the former electricity minister, who asserted months ago that he was talking to several insurgent groups. The groups he named then posted statements on Web sites calling Mr. Samarraie a liar and demanding that he be killed.

It is also very late in the political process, given that the elections are set for December 15. We'll have to watch what the insurgents say and what they do on the ground.

Improving Economy Seen In Increased State Tax Revenues

Despite the constant drumbeat of pessimism emanating from Dr. Krugman's column (now happily hidden behind the wall of TimesSelect), the NY Times has been forced to report that tax revenues from coast to coast are rising beyond the expectations of State and local budget officials. The improving tax receipts are now being directed back into state programs. This is occurring even in the face of ever increasing state costs for Medicaid.

To state the obvious, tax receipts improve only when wages, employment, business receipts, real estate value and other taxable sectors of the economy are thriving.

Katrina Snipers In New Orleans An Urban Legend

Ed Morrisey at Captain's Quarters reports on the LA Times piece which reduces the reported 6 - 8 snipers killed by NOPD down two 2 deaths and it casts serious doubt on whether either was really a sniper. The whole thing is now being seen as an urban legend. The LAT report is here.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Publicity Stunt

Happy Thanksgiving to all. No serious blogging today. Too much turkey, football and booze to deal with.

However, I couldn't resist noticing that the two biggest publicity junkies on the planet, yes, I do mean Jessica and Nick, chose to announce their divorce so it would break on the morning news shows on the one day of the year when nearly everyone is home and watching TV for the parade or a football game. They have thereby insured that even those of us who are totally disinterested in their lives will be notified.

What's next? Nick and Jessica's Divorce - The Reality Show?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Paranoia Over The Affair Of The X

Meanwhile, over at Gateway Pundit the paranoia and obsessiveness continues over CNN's second-long flashing of an X over VP Chenney's face during his speech last Monday. They are persuing so-called leads based on a recording of some staff member telling a caller to "tell Bush and Chenney to stop lying."

Next stop, Area 54.

Pew Research Center Polls On Iraq

In a related article, Dan Drezner reports on the Pew Research Center For The People & the Press' latest national poll of opinion leaders. The topic is America's Place In The World.

The poll shows a growing belief in isolationism, similar to the findings after the Vietnam War and after the end of the Cold War.

The poll also finds a growing gap between the views of civilians, with the exception of the polled state and local leaders, and the military over the likelihood of a successful outcome in Iraq.

I again state my fear that the incompetence of the White House, both in conducting the post-Saddam phase of the war and in communicating with the American people, are bringing us ever closer to reaching a critical mass of public opinion that will force wrong policy choices.

Hitchens Plea For Real Debate On Iraq

In Slate, Christopher Hitchens reviews the silliness of the name calling over Congressman Murtha's misguided call for a pullout and call for real, meaningful debate over the serious issues involved. He also calls for the many sinners on both sides of the issue to admit their past mistakes. At the same time he plants his flag in the side of the debate that believes that we can run but we can't hide from the Islamofascists. Isolationism is an impossible dream in our modern world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

James Lileks Fisks Vonnegut

In his "Screedblog", Lileks takes apart the rambling drivel of Kurt Vonnegut's affection for suicide bombers. Typical babble as reported in the Weekend Australian:

But in discussing his views with The Weekend Australian, Vonnegut said it was "sweet and honourable" to die for what you believe in, and rejected the idea that terrorists were motivated by twisted religious beliefs.

Speaking Of Murtha, He's Urged Bugging Out Before

Captain Ed reports on a piece from Newsmax that recalls Congressman Murtha urging then President Clinton to withdraw from Somalia following the "Blackhawk Down" incident. They also remind us of Osama's claim that this emboldened al Qaeda for further attacks on US targets.

The Clintons Make Sense On Iraq Pullout

Both Hillary and Bill sound like statesmen, compared to Congressman Murtha.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Returning New Orleans Residents See City In New Light - Or - How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down In The Ninth Ward After They've Seen Houston

The Week in Review section of the NY Times reported that at community meetings Mayor Nagin is being questioned by residents who have returned to the city after months living in other towns.

As the Times reports, the gist of much of their complaints is that they have seen how the schools in Houston and other cities are far superior to NOLA's, public housing which is decent and clean and city governments that seem to work, compared to NOLA's disfunctional, scandal-ridden entrenched establishment. Key quote:

But after tasting life elsewhere, they are returning with tales of public schools that actually supply textbooks published after the Reagan era, of public housing developments that look like suburban enclaves, of government workers who are not routinely dragged off to prison after pocketing bribes.

Local leaders have realized for weeks that they must reckon with widespread anger over how they handled the relief effort. But it is dawning on them that they are also going to have to contend with demands from residents who grew accustomed, however briefly, to the virtues of other communities.

Many evacuees seem to be arriving with less tolerance for the failings of a city that under its glitzy makeup has long had an unsightly side. They do not want New Orleans to lose its distinctive character - after all, that is one reason they are back and vowing to rebuild. But they say their expectations have changed.

The real tragedy of New Orleans is that nobody cared while it festered in its perpetual post-Mardi Gras funk for decades. The physical realities of Katrina have exposed the underbelly of the Big Easy.

Cheney Still Doesn't Get It

Vice President Cheney today continues the attack on those who claim the administration lied about pre-war intelligence. They are like an old-fashioned record stuck on a crack, repeating the same lines over and over.

The American people are sick of the war because all they know of it is the nightly barrage of insurgent bombings, dead American soldiers and the multitudinous voices of war critics.

It is becoming clear that this White House is institutionally incapable of speaking clearly and in a straightforward manner to the people. All we get is Bush's unsubstantiated assertion that we are winning in Iraq, delivered with a smirk that has become annoying in the extreme.

In Sunday's column David Brooks put it this way:

There's one area, though, where I completely sympathize with Jack Murtha. I sympathize with his frustration. On Feb. 23, 1942, Franklin Roosevelt asked Americans to spread out maps before them and he described, step by step, what was going on in World War II, where the U.S. was winning and where it was losing. Why can't today's president do that? Why can't he show that he is aware that his biggest problem is not in Iraq, it's on the home front?

Since the president doesn't give out credible information, it's no wonder Republicans are measuring success by how quickly we can get out; it's no wonder many Democrats are turning the war into a political tool to bash the president; and it's no wonder that people like well-meaning but weary Jack Murtha have simply given up.

There is most definitely a case to be made for our country's interest in completing the process of establishing a stable government in Iraq. Sadly, Americans are not hearing it from the White House.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

History Of The World's Pursuit of Sadaam's WMD

Let me join the many bloggers linking to the Mudville Gazette's "A Brief History of a Long War (Iraq, 1990-2003)". Greyhawke posts a lengthy and very useful summary of events leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. It wasn't about 9/11 at all.

Kaus On Murtha

Mickey nails the problem with Murtha's tearful cry for withdrawal. It will encourage the terrorists in their belief in our weakness and in the efficacy of their murderous acts.

Krauthammer, A Rational Conservative's Straight Talk On "Intelligent Design"

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for linking to Charles Krauthammer's column in yesterday's WAPO.

Dr. K. lays out a brilliant and clear debunking of the bogus claim of the Intelligent Design advocates that their belief should be given the status of science, as recently declared by the Kansas Board of Ed.

Who Knew What Before the War - FactCheck.org Weighs In

FactCheck has posted its objective analysis of the shared pre-war intelligence fight. They nail Bush for spinning the information to the public, not to the Congress. Alert the media. A government has emphasized some facts and soft peddled others in the run up to a war. The difference between Bush and Wilson-Roosevelt-Johnson, aside from his political party, is that it took historians to sort out the unreleased pre-war facts in earlier days, whereas today we have a voracious 24/7 news establishment committing instant history.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Iraqi Deaths: View From the Left

The hopeless lefties over at Daily Kos report today's bombings but still fail to see it as anything more that further confirmation of their desire to end it ASAP regardless of price. Key quote:

I don't know if Republicans will say this is because of the upcoming elections or because of John Murtha or both.

What a Debacle.

Indeed. As if every death is simply more fodder confirming their anti-war beliefs. This is not an argument, it is piling on every death in an attempt to hurt the object of their hatred, Bush, without concern , or a plan, for effectively combating global terrorism.

Attacking Murtha Not The Answer

As big a fool as I believe Congressman John Murtha to be, Andrew Sullivan makes an excellent point when he says that it is not enough for the Republicans to attack him and other pullout advocates as "Michael Moore liberals". It is incumbent on the White House to make the arguments for staying the course as forcefully as possible. Sadly, this President is probably incapable of effectively doing that. It therefore falls on McCain, Guiliani and any other potential candidate for the presidency to speak out clearly and often about the importance of the outcome in Iraq for America.

65 Killed In Iraqi - Future of Iraq After American Pullout?

With this morning's news of two suicide bombers walking into Shiite mosques and killing 65, as of this moment, it seems relevant to ask if Americans are willing to witness incidents like this multiply and deteriorate into a full blown civil war if the Congress forces premature withdrawal on the White House.

Clearly there is no guarantee that a fully trained Iraqi army can hold the country together. That is really dependent on the political leaders and the political process that emerges after the December 15 elections. But what can be guaranteed is that the Sunni/Bathist and al Qaeda terrorists conducting this insurgency will be emboldened by their victory over the United States and the Coalition and will continue to murder their way into power.

Make no mistake about it, if the American people decide that whatever happens in Iraq it is not worth the lives of any more soldiers and we pull out prematurely, the bloodbath will follow for the Iraqis. The American media will leave in droves and the following chaos will go unseen on America's TV screens. Americans will go back to perseverating on the next attractive white girl who disappears. The terrorists, however, will add Iraq to the list that includes Lebanon, Somalia, etc. and will have proven their believe that the way to achieve their ends is to kill as many non-believers as possible. We will have shown them that they were right about us. We are a lazy, weak people and have no stomach for discomfort, much less violence.

We will be responsible for the return home to the roost of these chickens in further attacks on our soil, as will the Congress and the President. Sadly, at this crucial point in history we are strapped with a President who in incapable of leading or of even expressing himself in a way that inspires confidence.

Update: The Washington Post website is now reporting the number of dead as "nearly 100" with a confirmed death toll of 90 Iraqis.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Times Declares Murtha "Influential"

The NY Times, in the lede for its story on Congressman John Murtha's call for immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq, declares that Murtha, age 73, is "influential". As the story says, he is...follow this...the ranking Democrat on the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. (The capitalizations are the Times').

Leaving aside that the Times never touches on what, if any, impact Murtha thinks this will have on the Iraqis, the Middle East, the terrorist movement and US's geopolitical position, who the hell outside his neck of Pennsylvania ever heard of him? How does he rate the designation "influential" when after over 30 years of service in Congress the best he has achieved is leadership of a subcommittee? Further, as the Times states, "He generally shuns publicity and does not often speak on the House floor."

This reader concludes that he had to be dubbed influential in order to keep up the drumbeat on the MSM's preconcieved current story line about the rising opposition to Bush.

Update: AP's story, posted on Yahoo, calls Murtha "Hawkish" in their headline. CNN's headline refers to him as a "Senior Democrat". Both seem more accurate than the Times.

Avian Flu Hysteria Not Flying During Sweeps Week

DemFromCT at Daily Kos posts an interesting note applauding the current step down from hysteria over the predicted avian flu outbreak. Interestingly he quotes, with apparent approval, a WAPO story that, among other things, reports on Congressional efforts to limit the liability of the manufacturers. He also quotes a "flu blogger" named Tyler Cowan from George Mason University supporting, among other steps to take, the same notion.

It is refreshing to see the absence of reflexive support at the Daily Kos for the Trial Lawyers Association position on this important issue. It is also very heartening to see the drop off in panicky stories on the local and national newscasts during the current ratings sweeps weeks. During this time of year I have come to fully expect promos touting giant, two-headed chickens seen sneaking into America directly from Cambodia...film at 11:00.

Abel Danger, Freeh Calls For Public Hearings

Capt. Ed calls attention to a call by former FBI Director Louis Freeh for a thorough airing of the facts related to what the Abel Danger program did or did not find prior to 9/11 and why the FBI was kept out of the loop. Freeh is highly critical of the 9/11 Commission in general. Key quote:

It was interesting to hear from the 9/11 Commission again on Tuesday. This self-perpetuating and privately funded group of lobbyists and lawyers has recently opined on hurricanes, nuclear weapons, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and even the New York subway system. Now it offers yet another "report card" on the progress of the FBI and CIA in the war against terrorism, along with its "back-seat" take and some further unsolicited narrative about how things ought to be on the "front lines."

Yet this is also a good time for the country to make some assessments of the 9/11 Commission itself. Recent revelations from the military intelligence operation code-named "Able Danger" have cast light on a missed opportunity that could have potentially prevented 9/11. Specifically, Able Danger concluded in February 2000 that military experts had identified Mohamed Atta by name (and maybe photograph) as an al Qaeda agent operating in the U.S. Subsequently, military officers assigned to Able Danger were prevented from sharing this critical information with FBI agents, even though appointments had been made to do so. Why?

Caveat Blogger

Jeff Jarvis posts a frightening list of legal actions taken against bloggers across the country. He's right, all of us need to learn more about avoiding the pitfalls in the terra incognita of libel, copyright and other legal issues. But we must not let our concerns for these dangers silence us or make us weak, pajama-clad clones of the MSM.

Is Bush Oversimplfying Democrats Prior Support For The War?

Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch raises an interesting point about the White House's use of quotes by Democrats who appeared to have supported the war prior to the current polling downturn. He says it brings Bush down to Maureen's level and "Dowdifys" him.

Hitchens On The Incredibility Of The "Bush Lied Us Into War" Crowd

Hitch has another nice piece in Slate laying waste to those who are simple enough to believe that we were all lied into the war on hyped intelligence. Key quote:

Let us suppose, then, that we can find a senator who voted for the 1998 act to remove Saddam Hussein yet did not anticipate that it might entail the use of force, and who later voted for the 2002 resolution and did not appreciate that the authorization of force would entail the removal of Saddam Hussein! Would this senator kindly stand up and take a bow? He or she embodies all the moral and intellectual force of the anti-war movement. And don't be bashful, ladies and gentlemen of the "shocked, shocked" faction, we already know who you are.

It was, of course, the sinuous and dastardly forces of Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress who persuaded the entire Senate to take leave of its senses in 1998. I know at least one of its two or three staffers, who actually admits to having engaged in the plan. By the same alchemy and hypnotism, the INC was able to manipulate the combined intelligence services of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as the CIA, the DIA, and the NSA, who between them employ perhaps 1.4 million people, and who in the American case dispose of an intelligence budget of $44 billion, with only a handful of Iraqi defectors and an operating budget of $320,000 per month. That's what you have to believe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Woodward Vs. Pincus, WAPO Throwdown?

The Post today reveals that its famous reporter Bob Woodward gave a sworn deposition the Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in which he recounted three conversations he had with "current or former Bush administration officials" regarding Valerie Plame, Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife and CIA analyst.

Woodward, in a separate statement, says that he only remembers speaking to one unnamed official about Plame and that the subject never came up with the other two, one of whom is named as Scooter Libby. Further, in the one conversation he did have, Woodward recalls:

Fitzgerald asked for my impression about the context in which Mrs. Wilson was mentioned. I testified that the reference seemed to me to be casual and offhand, and that it did not appear to me to be either classified or sensitive. I testified that according to my understanding an analyst in the CIA is not normally an undercover position.
An interesting aside to this revelation, fully reported in Editor and Publisher, is that Woodward recalls speaking to Walter Pincus, a Post staffer who was one of the early conduits for Joe Wilson's ire toward the Bushies. Pincus, as it turns out, does not remember that conversation. He thinks it may have been at a later date.

Well excuuuuse me, but how can a reporter who either was or was not aware of the Plame connection at the time forget a conversation with the Post's star reporter? Either he was already on the story and shit a brick when Woodward revealed his knowledge (fearing Woodward might beat him into print), or he used the tip as a starting point for his own explorations. Either way the Woodward conversation would likely take away from Pincus' shot at journalistic celebrity.

It all comes down to a matter of the timing. Pincus' memory becomes especially suspicious if he in fact spoke to Woodward before his own reporting on the matter. It will be interesting to watch this story develop.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sgt. Schultz and The Democratic Congress

Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the current season of denial is the view of Senators and Members of the House who claim they knew nothing of the intelligence, but simply trusted the President (and presumably his predicessor). How truly sad that their best current defense is declare their irresponsibility and failure to read the material sent to them by the White House and the Intelligence Community.

What the hell are they paid for if not to act as a check upon the Executive? I don't know how any member making such a claim, most especially the members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, can have the nerve to face their constituents for re-election.

Norman Podhoretz On The Run Up To The War

Norman Podhoretz has published an extensive essay in the coming December issue of Commentary attacking the "Bush Lied" crowd with chapter and verse about what was "known" by all parties about Iraqi WMD before the war. The fact that all the intelligence agencies of the West, all the Senators and Congressmen and talking heads were wrong is disappointing and requires the remedies suggested by the 9/11 Commission, which have sadly been ignored by the Administration. But it does not make the President a liar. Only his conscience can know for sure, but the absence of any such evidence, and piles of evidence to the contrary, has not stopped the shameless Bush-haters.

Witness for example Josh Marshall, who in his reference to the Podhoretz piece suggests that his readers skip it (why confuse their little minds) and instead read Kevin Drum's alleged refutation of Podhoretz. The problem with this suggestion is that Drum barely even mentions any specifics of the Commentary article and hangs his so called refutation on the handful of doubts which appeared in the record in the two months just before the war.

Please, dear reader, do read all of the above links with an open mind and see where you stand. For myself, the Podhoretz piece, together with the 9/11 Commission Report, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, the Robb-Silbermann Report and the Butler Report from the UK provide clear proof that the only infamous liar in this matter is the sainted Amb. Joseph C. Wilson IV.

By the way, how long will it be before the Democrats put Wilson up for Congress in a district they calculate is winable? That of course would expose Wilson to direct debate on what he and his wife did and what he said. Much tougher than questioning by a largely friendly press. Never mind.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Here Is A Real Leader's Approach To Iraq

John McCain has an piece in yesterday's Real Clear Politics website that speaks clearly and frankly about the failures in Iraq and the essential necessity to not abandon that country and unleash chaos in the region. (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the reference.)

Wouldn't it be nice if McCain assumed the ideological leadership of the pro-war Republicans. He can speak creditably and forcefully where Bush is embarrassingly inadequate, at least up until most parts of today's speech. He has the opportunity to help turn public opinion around, which is the best means I know to discourage Zarqawi and the Bathists in Iraq and elsewhere.

What Bush Didn't Say

Bush continues to be unable to acknowledge his mistakes. Why this is so I will leave to the nickel and dime psychologists like Down and Rich. It is, however a clear pattern in his behavior as President.

He should have said that he and his government were wrong about Sadam's possession of WMD's, taken the responsibility for that error and gone on to the rest of his speech as an explanation of the justification for the war, even in the face of the fall of one, and only one, rationale for it.

He also proclaimed the new policy of, "clear, hold and build" as if it were the coalition approach for the last three years. Here is how he put it:

Our coalition along with our Iraqi allies is moving forward with a comprehensive plan. Our strategy is to clear, hold and build. We're working to clear areas from terrorist control, to hold those areas securely and to build lasting democratic Iraqi institutions to an increasingly inclusive political process.
This was not the approach used to date, witness Falujah and other towns once liberated and subsequently reinfested by the "insurgents". A better leader would have acknowledged the mistakes of the past while displaying how he had learned from those mistakes. Sadly, a great leader does not now, and is unlikely to inhabit 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the foreseeable future.

Bush's Speech

Finally Bush has come out with a speech of substance that lays out a cogent review of the all-but-forgotten nature of the fight against the terrorists. Americans need to be reminded. And Democrats needed his reminder that the view of history, even recent history, is always 20/20.

The current drip drip drip of memos that questioned the certainty of WMD claims makes it seem as if the entire dossier was full of such warnings. The reality is that, like all intelligence, the likelihood of Sadam's possession of weapons was educated guess work and a mixed bag of interpretations. Imagine our view of Western leaders if they had erred on the side of caution and declined to act against Iraq and that Sadam subsequently passed on a WMD capability to the terrorists, causing widespread devastation. They would have been the Quislings and Chamberlins of our time.

Also, let us remember that destroying the Taliban and Sadam are our strongest statement of our resolve to assure that the tactics of terror fail and a hoped for seeding of liberation throughout the Middle East.

Tom Freidman Mourns The West's Inability To Find Consensus On Major Issues

Buried behind the NY Times' unfortunate firewall is today's column by TF. In it he wistfully thinks sinful thoughts about the ability of a dictatorship like China's to take necessary, albeit draconian, steps to deal with pollution problems and decries Western democracies' inability to amass the political will to seriously attack problems that are arguably apparent.

For those shut out of the Times' Opinion ghetto, the money quote is:

Why is this happening? Clearly, the way voting districts have been gerrymandered in America, thanks to the Voting Rights Act and Tom DeLay-like political manipulations, is a big part of the problem. As a result of this gerrymandering, only a small fraction of the seats in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures are really contested anymore. Therefore, few candidates have to build cross-party coalitions around the middle.

Most seats are now reserved for one party or the other. And when that happens, it means that in each of these districts the real election is the primary, where Democrats run against Democrats and Republicans against Republicans. And when that happens, it produces candidates who appeal only to their party's base - so we end up with a Congress paralyzed between the far left and far right.

Add to this the fragmentation of the media, with the rising power of bloggers and podcasters, and the decline in authority of traditional centrist institutions - including this newspaper - and you have what the Foreign Policy magazine editor Moisés Naím rightly calls "the age of diffusion."


This is a real dilemma because a vast majority of Americans are just center-left or center-right. Many surely feel disenfranchised by today's far-left, far-right Congress. Moreover, the solutions to our biggest problems - especially Social Security and health care - can be found only in compromises between the center-left and center-right. This is doubly true today, when the real solutions require Washington to take stuff away from people, not give them more.
Leaving aside his dubious assumption that he Times has been a centrist institution during the last 40 years, he makes an important point. The structure of American political systems makes the election of centrist politicians virtually impossible.

On another front, it may be too soon to ascribe such considerable power to the blogosphere. I expect to see many of the big bloggers decry his accusation that they push the arguments in politics to the extreme, but in truth, I have met the enemy and he is us.

Bloggers, being human, are susceptible to the attractions of power, ego and money. Look at the most read sites. Each clearly stakes out a membership in the left or right and flogs it mercilessly. Perhaps some are true believers who think that their side has achieved sole possession of truth. If so, a wise person would eschew their advice as flawed at its core.

Blogging is all about one's hit count and the ad revenue it can generate, as well as the thrill of being quoted as a wise man in other blogs or, be still my heart, in the much maligned MSM.

On bad days I despair for our future as much as brother Friedman.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Other Shoe Drops On Judy Miller

The Times' website is reporting that the paper and reporter Judy Miller have, "reached and agreement." The agreement apparently provides for her retirement, a severance package and a public exchange of clarifying letters. The glee on the left side of the blogosphere can now begin. According to the current orthodoxy, Miller, in collusion with Scooter Libby, Rove and Cheney are entirely responsible for our entry into the war in Iraq. Her reporting, it is believed, misled her readers and allowed the White House conspirators to assert a WMD danger and rationale for action.

This currently PC view, of course, conveniently forgets the scores of Democrats who also asserted a WMD danger presumably based on their knowledge of US and foreign intelligence reports. It also forgets the larger rationale which posited that Saddam was a danger in more general terms and that the displacement of this dictator would sow positive seeds in the reason and send a message to others of his ilk. But let's not confuse the little dears.

It will be interesting to watch the reaction of hero worship for any reporters subpoenaed for printing any of the leaks of intelligence currently flowing from the CIA. Even if Miller's submission to hard time was questionable in its necessity, it was an act of moral bravery, now completely discarded as egoism.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Insanity Of The Animal Rights Extremists

Captain Ed provides an enlightening insight into the coldly rational mindset of the moralists of the animal rights movement. A physician named Jerry Vlasak (beware of wearing leather shoes, jacket or belt if you need the services of an ER in San Bernadino or Riverside, CA, where he practices), appeared as the spokesperson for a dingbat outfit called North American Animal Liberation before a committee of the U.S. Senate and promptly and calmly confirmed his prior statement that the murder of 5 - 15 people involved in what he considers the immoral treatment of animals would be morally defensible. You can't make this stuff up.

But all one has to do is to listen to what they say. I have believed for years that the inexorable result of their thought process, such as it is, would be a kind of terrorism akin to the crazies of the anti-abortion movement and the Islamofascists, who have already used murder as an acceptable tactic. It is as sure and predictable as the sun rising in the East.

Follow their logic: They believe there is no difference between human and animal life. They believe that millions of animals are tortured and murdered every day. To stand by and watch this slaughter is the moral equivalent of silence and inaction in the face of the Nazi Final Solution. As in that gross immorality, going to war against and killing some number of Nazis or animal experimenters or fur producers or meat producers is clearly morally justified if a greater number of victims will be saved. Their logic is full of the assertion that their movement is no different than the movements against slavery or for civil rights or women's rights and that like those movements it faces opposition from the ignorant and benighted supporters of evil, but will eventually triumph.

If they are unable to convince enough of their fellow citizens of the rightness of their stance over time, how many animal lives will they tolerate losing before more "direct" tactics are adopted?

To be fair, most of the major groups specifically abjure, as they put it, harming any being, human or animal. But this limitation is surely nothing but a political stance to avoid massive opposition. The "logic" of the movement, once you accept the absolute equality of humans and animals is inescapable. Were they able to engineer legislation consistent with their views, criminal penalties would surely be required for transgressors.

While they are at it, if it is morally wrong to kill cow or experiment on a rat or monkey, why is the widespread slaughter of insects tolerated. Are they a lesser class of beings? Shouldn't exterminators (look at the horrid resonances of the very word) be included on the enemies list?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Why No Massive Pakistan Earthquake Relief Effort?

The death toll in Pakistan's Himalayan frontier are now over 73,000 and still climbing as facts are gathered from the extraordinarily isolated villages of the region. This is a mountain region and winter is fast setting in. Why has there been no massive worldwide response of governments, NGO's and individuals?

Forget the claims that the West is anti-Muslim. Our response to the largely Muslim tsunami victims of Southeast Asia was enormous and heartfelt.

Are people just exhausted from the sequence of tsunami, Katrina, Wilma and too numb to respond? Is it that we suspect that earthquakes in that region are all too frequent? I don't know, but it is sad. With Winter's approach the death toll among the homeless, injured and unaided will surely grow to one of the worst disasters in recent history.

Muslim Riots In Paris

There appears to be no end in sight to the now week long riots in the suburbs north of Paris, where mostly Muslim youth are torching everything in sight. Gateway Pundit provides a handy summary of recent events, with many followup links.

The gist of most reporting on the motives of the rioters is that they are angry at the racist treatment of those from North Africa and the Middle East. Since we know that all angry demonstrators and rioters are merely expressing in action the fury they so righteously own due to the perceived ills they have been unsuccessful in remedying with more civil tactics, how long will it be before the European and American left mounts the barricades on the side of these young people and against the racism and discrimination that they protest? They have been amazingly quiet so far.

Perhaps the current situation presents an unspoken difficulty for the left. The French government, after all, is staunchly anti-American. Could it be that their virtues on that front will create a kind of protective bubble that will forestall left wing attacks? Sounds like a parallel with the inability of the Women's Movement in the US to see Pres. Clinton's highjinks as the sexual harassment they plainly were.

Harry Reid in Neverland

Reid's stunt of forcing the Senate into closed session and the obvious political motivation for his conveinient amnesia about the run up to the war are neatly summarized by Gateway Pundit, where they provide chapter and verse about the Democrats who publicly stated their belief in Sadam's WMD threat.

For those of you with access to TimesSelect, David Brooks also neatly skewers Reid in today's column. A deliciously vicious lampooning of Reid as a DaVinci Code conspiracy adherent.