Sloppy Contradictions

Frank Rich in tomorrow’s New York Times (outside the firewall here):

…for all the sloppy internal contradictions, the most incriminating indictment of the new White House disinformation campaign is to be found in official assertions made more than a year ago. The press and everyone else seems to have forgotten that the administration has twice sounded the same alarms about Iranian weaponry in Iraq that it did last week.

In August 2005, NBC News, CBS News and The Times cited unnamed military and intelligence officials when reporting, as CBS put it, that “U.S. forces intercepted a shipment from Iran containing professionally made explosive devices specifically designed to penetrate the armor which protects American vehicles.” Then, as now, those devices were the devastating roadside bombs currently called E.F.P.’s (explosively formed penetrators). Then, as now, they were thought to have been brought into Iraq by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Then, as now, there was no evidence that the Iranian government was directly involved. In February 2006, administration officials delivered the same warning yet again, before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

So why are the Bushies hyping this stuff again now?

After General Pace rendered inoperative the first official rationale for last Sunday’s E.F.P. briefing, President Bush had to find a new explanation for his sudden focus on the Iranian explosives. That’s why he said at Wednesday’s news conference that it no longer mattered whether the Iranian government (as opposed to black marketeers or freelance thugs) had supplied these weapons to Iraqi killers. “What matters is, is that they’re there,” he said. The real point of hyping this inexact intelligence was to justify why he had to take urgent action now, no matter what the E.F.P.’s provenance: “My job is to protect our troops. And when we find devices that are in that country that are hurting our troops, we’re going to do something about it, pure and simple.”

Darn right! But if the administration has warned about these weapons twice in the past 18 months (and had known “that they’re there,” we now know, since 2003), why is Mr. Bush just stepping up to that job at this late date? Embarrassingly enough, The Washington Post reported on its front page last Monday — the same front page with news of the Baghdad E.F.P. briefing — that there is now a shortfall of “thousands of advanced Humvee armor kits designed to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs.” Worse, the full armor upgrade “is not scheduled to be completed until this summer.” So Mr. Bush’s idea of doing something about it, “pure and simple” is itself a lie, since he is doing something about it only after he has knowingly sent a new round of underarmored American troops into battle.

The real goal is to provoke war with Iran, of course.

See also Derrick Jackson, “The Wrong World War.”

The Senate’s Turn

Let’s do a little live blogging — I’m waiting for the Senate Iraq War resolution vote and listening to Senators of both parties, all of whom seem a bit ragged today. The Republican point of view seems to be —

1. A nonbinding resolution will have no effect. However,

2. This same resolution will defund the war, leave our soldiers stranded and helpless in the Middle East, and enable an Islamofascist takeover of the United States.

They seem to be having some sort of procedural squabble. The Republicans are whining that they aren’t being allowed a “fair debate.” Please …

Harry Reid is speaking now; he is accusing Senate Republicans of trying to stop a vote on a nonbinding resolution that might embarrass President Bush. Party loyalty is asking too much, Reid says.

A week ago the Senate Dems were complaining that Republican maneuvering had stopped a debate. Margaret Talev, Renee Schoof and Steven Thomma write for McClatchy Newspapers (February 9):

Having banked on the promise that Democrats would force a change of course in Iraq if they won control of Congress, some of the people who helped the Democrats get there are growing impatient.

They’re frustrated that Democrats sank so much energy into a nonbinding resolution then dropped the bipartisan plan of Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., like a hot potato when Republican leaders who support President Bush maneuvered them into a corner.

All the finagling has gotten in the way of a formal debate or vote in the Senate on Bush’s plans for Iraq. …

… Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said her constituents thought Republicans were trying to protect Bush “from the embarrassment of a public way of saying `you’re wrong’ in a bipartisan fashion.”

But she’s frustrated by a Senate rule that lets the minority party put the majority in a corner because 60 of the 100 members must agree to force a debate or a vote. …

Many Republicans say the Warner-Levin resolution is pointless and that without the force of law it could demoralize the troops. They say the president’s troop increase in Iraq should be given a chance.

So they said they’d block consideration of the resolution unless Democrats also debated a resolution by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., that would support the troops and take no position on a troop increase.

Democrats saw a trap: If they backed Gregg’s resolution, then didn’t get 60 votes on Warner-Levin, the only formal statement out of the Senate would voice no opposition to the troop increase. If they rejected Gregg’s, opponents would run ads accusing them of hurting the troops.

Their decision: Hold off on a formal debate. Senators who are critical of Iraq policy have been waiting a long time for a debate, though, which they couldn’t get when Republicans were in charge.

That was last week. Now they’re having a roll call vote on whether to close debate on the resolution so they can go forward to the vote.

Lieberman voted with the Republicans against cloture. Susan Collins voted with the Democrats for cloture.

Chuck Hagel voted yes, also.

This isn’t the resolution vote, remember. They’re just voting on whether to close the debate.

A bobblehead on CNN is saying that there don’t appear to be enough “yes” votes to close debate.

A talking head on MSNBC says that the Dems will probably fall four votes short. Forty-nine Dems (probably) will vote yes for cloture (Lieberman voted no; Tim Johnson is still in the hospital).

Yes, they are four votes short; 56 votes yes; 34 votes no. They needed sixty. Reid is saying a majority in the Senate just voted against the surge, although of course that’s not official. Ten Republicans didn’t bother to show up. Seven Republicans voted for cloture. I’ll try to find a list and post it later.

Update: What Oliver Willis says.