Why They Fight

Life must be bleak for Andrew Sullivan these days.

One thing has struck me these past few years about the right in America. As it has slowly abandoned its own principles – limited government, individual freedom, balanced budgets, federalism – it has been forced to resort to three fundamental issues to keep itself alive. The first was the war on terror, the second fundamentalist Christianity, and the third, hatred of the left. The first has waned somewhat, not because we aren’t still at war and in great peril, but because it is manifestly obvious that this administration is stunningly incompetent in its execution of the war. There’s only so much you can do to defend it at this point. The evangelical base whose support for Bush is entirely for religious rather than political reasons – the theocratic heart of the GOP – will never stop believing, as long as the Supreme Leader refuses to show any doubt and keeps preventing vaccines from being developed, puts pro-lifers on the Court, and keeps up the pressure on gays. But the rest – and they’re critical – are motivated entirely by being anti-left.

The most depressing aspect of this was the vile “Swift Boat” attack on John Kerry in the last election campaign. But you only have to watch O’Reilly or read Powerline or listen to Sean Hannity or David Horowitz to know that the only thing that really gets them fired up any more is loathing of liberals.

This has been obvious for a long time, at least to everyone but the Right. Righties like to think they’re the ones with the “ideas.” Can anyone remember what those “ideas” might be? Oh, yeah … cut taxes, shrink government, cut taxes, promote corporate welfare, cut taxes, cut social programs, cut taxes, praise Jesus. And cut taxes. The same zombie ideas they’ve been dragging around since Goldwater. Even neoconservative foreign policies are leftovers from the Cold War.

From yesterday’s Liberal Oasis:

Republicans Have No Ideas

Only Enemies

According to top Republicans, what agenda item will motivate their supporters to the polls this year?

More tax cuts for the rich? More drilling in environmentally sensitive areas? Less help for the poor?

Trick question.

Since Republicans in Washington aren’t really into passing legislation anymore (when was the last time they passed something?), there’s no issue for their supporters to get excited about.

So what do Republicans have left? From the NY Times:

    “Impeachment, coming your way if there are changes in who controls the House eight months from now,” Paul Weyrich, a veteran conservative organizer, declared last month in an e-mail newsletter.

    The threat of impeachment, Mr. Weyrich suggested, was one of the only factors that could inspire the Republican Party’s demoralized base to go to the polls.

    With “impeachment on the horizon,” he wrote, “maybe, just maybe, conservatives would not stay at home after all.”

Tim Grieve at Salon:

We’re hearing a lot about Democrats these days — from Republicans. Democrats are going to run Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominee in 2008. Democrats are going to try to impeach George W. Bush if they win control of Congress in 2006. It’s enough to send the Republican base into panic — which is, of course, exactly the point.

For the last four years, the Bush White House has kept the American public in line by warning that the terrorists are everywhere and fixing to “hit us” again at any minute. That argument isn’t working anymore, at least not to the president’s benefit. The public has begun to disapprove of the way that George W. Bush is handling national security; only 30 percent still think that Bush’s “central front” in the war on terror — the war of choice he launched in Iraq — is actually making Americans safer.

But when all you’ve got is fear, you’d better hope that everything looks like a monster: So if Osama bin Laden isn’t scaring Americans into the president’s camp these days, the Republicans have to hope that Russ Feingold will.

Got that? We’re the new Osama.

Junk Intelligence

I want to revisit the last post, because I have realized a couple of things since I wrote it that change the emphasis, so to speak. There is something way screwy going on that is way screwy even by Bush Administration standards.

The story thus far: This week the Office of the Director of National Intelligence began to release documents it says were captured in postwar Afghanistan and Iraq. Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard writes about this here. He and Michael Barone have been hyping these documents for the past several weeks as the potential “proof” of an Al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein link.

Yesterday John Hinderacker of Power Line published a post called “In Saddam’s Archives” in which he links to and discusses one of these documents, posted on the Foreign Military Studies Office web site as “CMPC-2003-006430.” And here is that document as posted on the FMSO site [PDF].

Now here’s where it gets screwy. This document consists of a page of what looks like Arabic script (I don’t know Arabic from Parsi from whatever). This is followed by a seven-page document from the Federation of American Scientists about the Iraqi Intelligence Service, with information gleaned from various unclassified sources. This same document is still on the FAS web site, here, and was last updated in 1997, it says. Not exactly super-secret, in other words, and not from Iraq. What it contains is information floating around in the West as of 1997.

Note that Hinderacker doesn’t misrepresent this; he says plainly in his post that “The English portion of the document is a description of the Mukhabarat by the Federation of American Scientists. The Arabic portion apparently hasn’t been translated.” But then he goes on to quote the FAS document under the “In Saddam’s Archives” title, which would leave the uncareful reader with the impression that the FAS document is a translation. For all I know the Arabic portion is a laundry list.

However, Investor’s Business Daily isn’t so careful. Here is an article that quotes this same FAS document as if it were something captured in Iraq after the invasion. IBD trumpets the FAS document as “a manual for Saddam’s spy service” and proof of Saddam Hussein-terrorist connections. IBD says,

In the early stages of the war that began three years ago, the U.S. captured thousands of documents from Saddam and his spy agency, the Mukhabarat. It’s been widely thought the documents could shed light on why Saddam behaved as he did and how much of a threat his evil regime represented.

Yet, until this week, the documents lay molding in boxes in a government warehouse. Now the first batch is out, and though few in number, they’re loaded with information.

Among the enduring myths of those who oppose the war is that Saddam, though murderous when it came to his own people, had no weapons of mass destruction and no terrorist designs outside his own country. Both claims now lie in tatters.

As we’ve reported several times, a number of former top military officials in Saddam’s regime have come forward to admit that, yes, Saddam had WMD, hid them and shipped them out of the country so they couldn’t be detected. And he had plans to make more.

Now come more revelations that leave little doubt about Saddam’s terrorist intentions. Most intriguing from a document dump Wednesday night is a manual for Saddam’s spy service, innocuously listed as CMPC-2003-006430. It makes for interesting reading.

Yep, good ol’ CMPC-2003-006430.pdf. The problem is that the English language part of the document, which IBD goes on to quote, is not from Saddam’s archives. It is from the Federation of American Scientists.

As I predicted earlier, rightie bloggers are gleefully linking to the IBD article as “proof” that we liberals were wrong about Saddam Hussein. These bloggers include Glenn Reynolds, Lorie Byrd, and Cold Fury (upon which I commented and received a nice round of insults for my trouble), among others.

I’d like to point out, before I forget, that the FAS is an independent organization that compiles a lot of information on national security issues. The document being quoted probably is the best information available … in 1997. In the West. From nonclassified sources.

John Aravosis posted about the Negroponte document dump yesterday:

The new documents, released today by the Bush administration, are maybe, but maybe not, real Iraqi government documents that we found in Iraq. The Bush administration can’t vouch for the documents’ authenticity or the accuracy of the translations from Arabic, but they’re releasing them anyway in the hopes that – get this – right-wing blogs can help them prove their case that Saddam had WMD and ties to Al Qaeda.

Yes, it’s come to that. Bush is now relying on Michelle Malkin’s keen intelligence skills to prove the case for war in Iraq.

I think that’s exactly the plan. The documents released so far are mostly junk. But it’s carefully selected junk. And the righties are all too eager to “discover” the wondrous things in them that will justify their support of the war. Glenn Reynolds says “It’s funny that these documents are getting so little attention from the press.” Not funny at all; part of the plan. The last thing the Bushies want is for news reporters, who are sometimes slightly less gullible than your average rightie blogger, to start scrutinizing this stuff closely. (See also this AMERICAblog post for more.)

By dumping a truckload of phony “intelligence,” the Bushies figure they can keep what’s left of the “base” in line.

Yesterday I wrote about why another document actually “revealed” nothing at all that wasn’t already well known, but which a number of righties believed was new information proving that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (not). That’s pretty much the point of the AMERICAblog posts linked above. See also upyernoz.

And notice how well the document dump is timed to Bush’s reaffirmation of the “Bush Doctrine” and the escalation of saber-rattling over Iran. Hmmm.

Update: See also “White House White House caught fixing intelligence again?

Update update: Sadly, No figured all this stuff out way before I did.


Quick follow-up to the last post, in which I expressed frustration (cough) at cognitively challenged righties who think newly released Iraqi documents contain evidence of an al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein connection —

John H. at Power Line hypes an undated document that describes the function and duties of the Iraqi intelligence service. The document lists such activities as developing and testing weapons, poisons, and explosives; providing training in “terrorist techniques”; and conducting operations of sabotage and assassination outside Iraq. [Update: I realized after I had posted that the previously “secret” document had been pulled off the web site of the Federation of American Scientists.]

It will not occur to the righties that without knowing how long these documents have been sitting around in a filing cabinet somewhere they don’t exactly prove anything. Righties have a weak grasp of linear time. You’ll remember, for example, how the gassing of the Kurds in 1988 (which the Right and the Reagan-Bush I administrations pretty much ignored in 1988) was repeatedly thrown in our faces as a reason to invade Iraq in 2003 — fifteen years later.

Another example: The 2003 State of the Union Address — Home of the Sixteen Words — also contained this little gem:

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb

Strictly speaking, the sentence is true. This IAEA fact sheet on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program shows that Iraq was working hard to enrich uranium to make a bomb — before the 1991 Gulf War.

However, if you’ll scroll down the fact sheet page you’ll learn that “As of 16 December 1998” the Iraqi nuclear weapons program was defunct and not going anywhere. You can read an IAEA report (PDF) dated 1999 that says (on page 7): “These verification activities have revealed no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material, or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material.”

And, of course, at the time Bush delivered the 2003 SOTU, IAEA inspectors had had a few weeks to visit the old Iraqi nuclear weapons sites, and they confirmed that the equipment and stores of yellowcake uranium were sitting unused, the IAEA inspection seals from 1998 still intact.

So, while the IAEA had confirmed that before the Gulf War Saddam had a nuclear weapons program, they also confirmedAll known indigenous facilities capable of producing uranium compounds useful to a nuclear programme were destroyed during the Gulf War.”

Bush left that part out of the 2003 SOTU. It still amazes me this little oversight hasn’t gotten as much attention as the Sixteen Words, since it is a more bare-assed and easily refuted misrepresentation than the African uranium story. The IAEA posts their inspection reports and findings on their bleeping web site. In English. I bet even Douglas Feith could have found them.

(In July 2003, when people were starting to wonder where the WMDs were, it was pointed out to Condi Rice that a lot of their “intelligence” about WMDs was, um, old. And this is what she said:

Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, said Saturday that the question of new evidence vs. old was beside the point. “The question of what is new after 1998 is not an interesting question,” she said. [James Risen, David Sanger, and Thom Shanker, “In Sketchy Data, White House Sought Clues to Gauge Threat,” The New York Times, July 20, 2003]

Perhaps the Bushies should have been a little more … interested.)

I hadn’t meant to ramble on so about the old news. But to get back to the Iraq Intelligence Service documents that J.H. finds so interesting — a document that (for all we know) was drawn up before the Gulf War doesn’t tell us anything about what Saddam Hussein was up to in 2003. [Update: I see a note at the end of the document that says “Maintained by John Pike Updated Wednesday, November 26, 1997.” It was on the web site of the Federation of American Scientists. This is just weird.]

And a document that talks about what the IIS was supposed to be doing doesn’t tell us if they were doing it. Which takes us to another bit of news, reported by Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz.

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein pretended to have chemical weapons because, among other reasons, he feared that Israel might attack if it discovered he did not. This is revealed in a recently declassified internal report by the American military.

The report was compiled from many dozens of interviews with senior Iraqi officials and hundreds of documents captured by the American forces during and after the war. …

… “According to Chemical Ali, Hussein was asked about the weapons during a meeting with members of the Revolutionary Command Council. He replied that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) but flatly rejected a suggestion that the regime remove all doubts to the contrary,” the report states. Ali explained that such a declaration could encourage Israel to attack, the report says.

The 100-page report has not been released yet, but some 9,000 words of it are to appear in the next edition of Foreign Affairs Magazine.

A lot of people have speculated that’s what Saddam Hussein was up to, but I don’t know that there’s been anything in the way of corroboration before now. But this I’ve heard before:

Senior Iraqi officials told their interrogators that Hussein had no idea what the true state of the country’s weapons was, because everyone lied to him and refrained from giving him bad news for fear of being executed.

Hussein’s deputy Tariq Aziz told interrogators, “The people in the military industrial commission were liars. They lied to you, and they lied to Hussein. They were always saying they were producing special weapons.”

“A captured military industrial commission annual report of investments from 2002 showed more than 170 research projects. When Hussein asked for updates on the nonexistent projects, they simply faked plans and designs to show progress,” the report says.

I don’t remember where I read that before and I’m not going to take time to hunt around for a link, but I’m sure at least one Iraqi weapons scientist pretty much said the same thing when he was interviewed after the invasion. Perhaps it was the same guy who had the remains of the Iraqi nuclear centrifuge buried in his flower garden.

Update to the Update: As I said in the first update, what might seem to be a translation of an Arabic document said to have been seized in post-invasion Iraq is actually an old report taken from the web site of the Federation of American Scientists. Information in the report appears to have been gleaned from various unclassified sources. It was last updated in 1997. John Hinkeracker of Power Line states in his post that the document was from the FAS, so I can’t accuse him of misrepresenting it — even though he published quotes from FAS under the heading “In Saddam’s Archives.”

However, Investor’s Business Daily is not so careful. In this articled titled “Declassified Truth” IBD quotes from the 1997 FAS document as if it were something discovered in Saddam’s archives. IBD says the FAS document refutes the claim that Saddam “had no weapons of mass destruction and no terrorist designs outside his own country.” I’m sure a big chunk of the Right Blogosphere will link to this article before the day is over.

These document were released per the direction of John Negroponte, note.