Today's Guardian has an excerpt from Hans Blix's book, Disarming Iraq: The Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction that's definitely worth reading.
Last February when the UN inspectors were sweeping through Iraq, the United States treated them with great disdain and accused
them of incompetence.
The United States was adamant that Iraq have a "dramatic change" in attitude about
WMDs. Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf presented the UN inspectors with a letter that said,
"The genuine 'dramatic change' by Iraq would have necessitated that it admit openly, not under pressure,
that it had and has WMD and WMD programmes. This change would have had Iraq voluntarily take inspectors to the secret hide
sites. Iraq would have shown the facilities where production has/is taking place; Iraq would have elaborated the illegal procurement
networks ... That is not what Iraq did. That is not what Iraq is doing."
I understood his formulations to say: the witches exist; you are appointed to deal
with these witches; testing whether there are witches is only a dilution of the witch hunt.
Wolf had insisted the U.S. had provided evidence of the existence of mobile
labs and chemical weapons, but the UN was unable to verify this evidence. In another episode, Wolf visited Blix with more
He asked me in a rather discourteous tone why Unmovic did not conclude that the discovery
of an Iraqi UAV drone and a cluster bomb for the delivery of chemical weapons were violations of Iraq's obligations. He tossed
photographs of a drone and a cluster bomb on my table.
Blix suspects the photographs were obtained by the U.S. by bugging UN inspector's
offices. In any event, the drone and cluster bombs turned out to be non-issues. The drone by itself was not in violation
of UN sanctions, and the bomb turned out to be an empty "scrap from the past" left behind in an old factory.
In the meantime, both U.S. officials and Britain's and America's conservative media
were out to vilify Blix. For example, a correspondent for the London Times suggested Blix turn the smoking
gun on this own head.
Blix also told reporters from the Guardian that Tony Blair lacked critical thinking skills. This is worrisome to us Yanks, because as Kevin Drum points out today, Blair seems a bleeping genius compared to Bush.
Prewar wrangling in the UN collapsed not over the principle of benchmarks but because
Britain and the US reserved the right to judge for themselves whether they had been fulfilled, said Mr Blix. Other countries,
notably France, had no faith in that, Mr Blix told the Guardian.
He said that it seemed President George Bush had decided to go to war once 300,000
troops were amassed in the Gulf and the hot season was approaching.
In other WMD news, Ahmed Chalabi told "60 Minutes" that he is tired of being accused of misleading the United States regarding Iraq's WMDs.
Chalabi, who heads the Iraqi National Congress exile group and has close ties
to the Bush administration, says the CIA should have done a better job analysing information received from defectors
he steered their way.
"This is a ridiculous situation," he told the CBS 60 Minutes programme. Chalabi
still maintains that weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq.
He said the CIA knew defectors could be biased and that even
the press was saying "defectors have an axe to grind, don't believe them."
In other words, it's not Chalabi's fault if the U.S. was stupid enough to believe the
testimony of the witnesses he provided.
Yet hope springs eternal. Yesterday the U.S. Air Force issued a press release from Iraq stating that although " To date, no nuclear, biological or chemical agents
have been found here," a team of Airmen are prepared to test any such agents they may find, if any.
Grand jury to review call logs from Bush’s jet in probe of how a
CIA agent’s cover was blown!
WASHINGTON -- The federal grand jury probing the leak of a covert CIA officer's
identity has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer's name was published in a
column in July, according to documents obtained by Newsday.
Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained
in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White
House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat
posed by Saddam Hussein.
This appears to be
a Newsday scoop. The subpoenas were issued January 22 and gave the White House a deadline of January 30 to begin
handing over records, but it's not clear if the White House complied. Josh Marshall discusses this story here and here.
Aides Spied on Democrats!
A story in today's New York Times says that according to a report released by the Senate sargeant-at-arms, two Republican aides named Manuel Miranda and
Jason Ludell accessed and downloaded as many as 4,670 files. Many other Republican staff aides may also have been involved.
The report, of an investigation requested by the Senate Judiciary Committee, was
not supposed to have been released with the aides' names, but somebody goofed up.
The spying began after Mr. Ludell observed the keystroke sequence a Democrat aide
used to access files. Mr. Miranda argues that it couldn't have been illegal to access the Democrats' files, because it
was so easily done.
'Scuse me while I go find an unlocked car I can break into.
A "slap in the face" of the families of 9/11 victims, says
The Bush reelection campaign yesterday unveiled
its first three campaign commercials showcasing Ground Zero images, angering some 9/11 families who accused President Bush
of exploiting the tragedy for political advantage.
"It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people," said Monica
Gabrielle, whose husband died in the twin tower attacks. "It is unconscionable."
Gabrielle and several other family members said the injury was compounded
by Bush's refusal to testify in open session before the 9/11 commission.
News Lizard Bob Novak wrote yesterday that Republicans on Capitol
Hill are increasingly disappointed in the lack of leadership offered by the Bush Administration.
The disaffection is such that over the last two weeks, normally loyal Republicans
-- actually including more than a few members of Congress -- are privately talking about political merits in the election
of Sen. Kerry. Their reasoning goes like this: There is no way Democrats can win the House or Senate even if Bush
loses. If Bush is re-elected, Democrats are likely to win both the House and Senate in a 2006 mid-term rebound. If Kerry wins,
Republicans will be able to bounce back with congressional gains in 2006.
To voice such heretical thoughts suggests that Republicans on Capitol Hill are more
interested in maintaining the fruits of majority status first won in 1994 rather than in governing the country. A few thoughtful
GOP lawmakers ponder the record of the first time in 40 years that the party has controlled both the executive and legislative
branches, and conclude that record is deeply disappointing.
Neocons versus theocons. Sidney Blumenthal writes in today's Guardian about the cracks in Bush's
base. Blumenthal notes (as have I in recent blogs) that Bush's anxious devotion to the Religious Right and their culture war
agenda is costing him support elsewhere.
Bush's instigation of religious wars in America, while it mobilises the evangelical
Protestant faithful, is also unexpectedly thwarting him. The born-again Bush, who reconstructed his self-image after 9/11
as a messianic leader, assumed that the agendas of the neocons and the theocons were one and the same. However, Bush outsourced
his foreign policy on the Middle East and Israel to the neocons in part for an electoral purpose, hoping to capture the Jewish
vote, which will not be fulfilled because of his anxious devotion to the theocons.
Blumenthal goes on to say that at one time the Bush team hoped
to be able to win the entire East Coast plus Florida, partly through gaining Jewish voters. But the culture wars (coinciding
with the release of Mel Gibson's bloody Jesus movie) has Jewish voters genuinely frightened, worries the neocons and libertarians
who supported Bush's Iraq War and tax cuts, and pretty much turns off moderate swing voters as well.
The Bushies don't seem to realize how much the "culture war" theme of the 1992
Republican National Convention helped defeat Bush Sr. Let's not tell them.
See also this editorial from the British Independent, which calls Senator Kerry "the hope of the world." If foreigners could contribute
to re-election campaigns ...
Money Money Money Money. Speaking of contributions,
I read yesterday that Bush is sitting on about $100 million in campaign cash, while John Kerry has only $3 million in hand.
Need I say more? You can contribute to the Democratic National Committe here or the Kerry campaign here. Or, if you prefer, help Moveon run its anti-Bush ads on television against Bush's ads.
I ran into some remarks today in the comments on Daily Kos that annoyed me, and I've been mulling over why. The writer says he probably won't vote
for John Kerry because Kerry isn't ideologically pure enough:
My vote needs to be earned by the Democrats, and if they don't show me they're working
for it, that they will work for me once they are elected, I'm not going to bother. I'll vote for people who would work
for me if they were elected. That's the way it works.
Is that the only way it works, though? Do we all just vote our
own self-interests, or do we consider what's good for the nation as a whole, whether it benefits us individually or not?
In other words, is the election all about "me," or is it about "We, the People"?
This individual goes on to describe his progressive-utopian dream party that
will bring about sweeping social changes. I don't disagree with his goals, but (a) some of these changes go way beyond
anything a mere political party could bring about, such as persuading Americans to stop worshipping wealth; and (b) all
of them are of less immediate concern to most Americans than jobs or terrorism.
Billmon at Whiskey Bar wrote a response to this kind of thinking.
Some ultra-left purists apparently prefer an impotent anger to the inevitable
compromises and disappointments of working through, and sometimes in, the Democratic Party. Others wrap their third-party
hopes in dreams of proportional representation, or instant runoff voting, or some other procedural deus ex machina
that will deliver them from political irrelevancy.
To the former group, I've nothing left to say. I’ve walked your path and
I’ve seen where it leads – to the graveyard of lost causes. I’m too old now to strike poses, and too angry to wallow in my
own helplessness. I don’t just want to fight, I want to win -- not simply for the sake of winning (this isn’t a soccer
game) but to turn the tide, to start pushing the conservatives back, after all these long years of being on the defensive.
And the only way I know how to do that is to create a political coalition broad enough, and strong enough,
to beat the Republican machine.
That says it all. This is something else to clip & save and
shove in the face of the whiners who want the Democrats to "earn" their votes.
Here's a little gem of a link I found through Maru at WTF Is It Now??? It's the sort of quote you want to print on several 3 x 5 index cards so you can hand them out to those who still think Bush
is a great leader.
It's from an article by James Webb from the February 18 issue of USA Today.
Webb was secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration and a Marine platoon and company commander in Vietnam. He
discusses the choice veterans face in November between (we assume) Kerry and Junior.
He starts out by criticizing Kerry for his participation in Vietnam Veterans Against
the War, saying that Kerry "defamed a generation of honorable men." Most Vietnam vets I know don't agree with this and think
Kerry did the right thing, but let's let that go for a moment. The second half of this article is the real eye-popper.
But in the zero-sum game of a presidential campaign, to go after
Kerry is to give a free pass to Bush, whose actions then and now deserve no prizes. Recent statements defending Bush claim
that the National Guard was not a haven for those who wished to avoid Vietnam; but it clearly was. According to the National
Guard Association, only some 9,000 Army Guardsmen and 9,343 Air Guardsmen served in Vietnam. Considering that nearly 3 million
from the active forces did so, one begins to understand why so many of America's elites headed for the Guard when their draft
numbers were called.
Bush used his father's political influence to move past many on
the Texas Guard's waiting list. He was not required to attend Officer Candidate School to earn his commission. He lost his
flight status after failing to show up for a required annual physical. These facts alone raise the eyebrows of those who took
a different path in a war that for the Marine Corps brought more casualties than even World War II.
The Bush campaign now claims that these issues are largely moot
and that Bush has proved himself as a competent and daring "war president." And yet his actions in Iraq, and the vicious attacks
against anyone who disagrees with his administration's logic, give many veterans serious pause.
Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder
in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power,
he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States
and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being
forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single
country that never will fully accept its presence.
There is no historical precedent for taking such action
when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the
economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point,
has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves.
At the same time, those around Bush, many of whom came
of age during Vietnam and almost none of whom served, have attempted to assassinate the character and insult the patriotism
of anyone who disagrees with them. Some have impugned the culture, history and integrity of entire nations, particularly in
Europe, that have been our country's great friends for generations and, in some cases, for centuries.
Bush has yet to fire a single person responsible for this
strategy. Nor has he reined in those who have made irresponsible comments while claiming to represent his administration.
One only can conclude that he agrees with both their methods and their message.
Most seriously, Bush has yet to explain the exact circumstances
under which American military forces will be withdrawn from Iraq.
Hoo, boy. That says it.
In other news, go to Body and Soul for a good round up of what's going on in Haiti and how various news organs are covering it.
"The Splintering of the Right" is the lead
article on Democratic Underground today. I've been seeing some serious cracks in the base, but this article finds more
cracks. The author, Rick Freedman, sees schisms among the Goldwater "paleo-conservatives," Neocons, Pat Buchanan-style
isolationists, and the National Review far-right eggheads, And on the Web I've noticed a break between the pro-Iraq
War libertarians and social/cultural conservatives who want to use Big Gubmint to make us all behave.
A smart opposition party could use these cracks to great advantage. Unfortunately,
the opposition party is the Democrats.
Along those lines, please read this bit by Hullabaloo's Digby in The American Street (a terrific new group blog organized by "cowboy" Kevin Hayden). In a nutshell: Karl Rove's strategy seems to be to hold Bush's
base together by appeasing the extreme Right. Bush's recent approval of an anti-gay marriage amendment is an example. But
this is a strategy doomed to failure, because the Right cannot be appeased. When politicians try to reach out to
them by moving right, the Right moves further right. And halfway measures do not satisfy them -- you are either with them
100 percent, or you're agin' 'em. On the other hand, if a politician panders to the extreme Right, he loses all hope of winning
the Middle. Digby says,
Karl Rove, however, has to win this election in a system that requires that
his boy at least feint to the middle. His strategy, as Schreiber delieates above didn't work. There is no pleasing the right
wing and there is no room for compromise. And, he is learning, just as the centrist Dems learned in the 90's when they tried
to maintain a bipartisan consensus, that if you give these wing-nuts an inch, they'll take a mile. The more you move to the
right, the more they move to the right. There is no meeting half way.
Welcome to our nightmare, Mr Rove.
Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek about the proposed marriage amendment:
[W]hat Bush did is all about base-tending, and the
fact that he had to do it this deep into the election cycle reveals a weakness. This is the time when Bush should be reaching
for the political center. Instead, from his perspective, he had no choice but to bow to the fire-breathing evangelicals. Without
their enthusiastic support in November, he would suffer the same fate as his father—one term and out.
Sounds good to me. See also an article by Richard Rosendall in Salon, "Bush's Backfire."
World News. If I hadn't been so busy I would have been
blogging about Haiti these past few days. All I have time for now is a sharp observation: Does that mess stink out loud,
Cultural News. Yeah "Return of the King"! Way
to go, New Zealand!
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.