Bryan Bender writes for the Boston Globe:

A day after President Bush sought to present evidence showing that Iraq is now the main battlefront against Al Qaeda, the chief US intelligence analyst for international terrorism told Congress that the network’s growing ranks in Pakistan and Afghanistan pose a more immediate threat to the United States.

In rare testimony before two House committees, Edward Gistaro, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, said that Al Qaeda terrorists operating in South Asia are better equipped to attack the United States than the network’s followers in Iraq are.

Asked which arm of Al Qaeda concerned him the most, Gistaro told a joint session of the House armed services and intelligence panels that it was South Asia.

“The primary concern is in Al Qaeda in South Asia organizing its own plots against the United States,” he said.

Remind me — why are we in Iraq?

Gistaro, the intelligence analyst, was among the main authors of a National Intelligence Estimate released this month that concluded that the network headed by bin Laden presents a “heightened threat” of attack against the United States.

The assessment, a small portion of which was disclosed publicly, said that the organization has been able to retain many of its top lieutenants, recruit new operatives, and establish new training camps in Pakistan’s lawless northwestern frontier.

But in recent days the White House has highlighted one particular line in the declassified version of the report that portrays the group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq as the “most visible and capable affiliate [of Al Qaeda] and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the [US] homeland.”

It says so in the NIE, so it must be true.

Abraham Wagner, a senior researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism at Columbia University, called Bush’s speech about the Al Qaeda threat in Iraq a “spin job.”

“In the Cold War it was called ‘threat lumping,’ ” Wagner said. “It is creating a threat to justify what you are doing. Al Qaeda in Iraq never existed prior to the US activity in Iraq and I think it is still a small operation.”

“It is unfortunate,” he added, that “the administration, in their last gasp to justify what they are doing, are inventing threats and misrepresenting what they are getting from the intelligence community.”

But al Qaeda is not the only monster under the bed. Sidney Blumenthal writes in Salon:

President Bush’s political strategy at home is an implicit if unintended admission of the failure of his military strategy in Iraq and toward terrorism generally. Betrayal is his theme, delivered in his speeches, embroidered by his officials and trumpeted by the brass band of neoconservative publicists. The foundation for his stab-in-the-back theory was laid in the beginning.

“Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” Bush said in his joint address to Congress nine days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

We know where this is going, don’t we?

At the Charleston, S.C., Air Force Base on Tuesday, Bush resumed his repudiated habit of conflating threats, suggesting a connection between 9/11 and the Iraq war, and intensified his blaming of domestic critics for the shortcomings of his policy. His story line depends upon omitting his own part in the calamity. “The facts are,” insisted Bush to his captive audience, “that al-Qaida terrorists killed Americans on 9/11, they’re fighting us in Iraq and across the world, and they are plotting to kill Americans here at home again.”

But how did it happen that al-Qaida in Iraq, sworn enemy of Saddam Hussein and his secularism, operating in isolation prior to 9/11, though almost certainly with the connivance and protection of Kurdish leader and current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, has come to thrive under the U.S. occupation? And since AQI represents perhaps 1 percent or less of the insurgent strength, how can it be depicted as the main foe, capable of seizing state power? The other Sunni insurgent groups increasingly view it as an impediment to their own ambitions and have marked it for elimination. Rather than address these problematic complexities, Bush points the finger of blame at U.S. senators who dare to question his policy. “Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of al-Qaida in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat.”

Behold, the chief boogeyman:

Blumenthal continues,

The absence of victory inspires a search for an enemy within. Bush’s stab-in-the-back theory is the latest corollary to the old policy that military force will create political success. Bush is a vulgar Maoist: “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun,” said Chairman Mao. But the surge is simply an endlessly repetitive reaction to the failure of the purely military.

The resolution we say we want requires a stable government that the majority of the Iraqi people recognize as legitimate. The only justification for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is to provide time and security so that stability can happen. However, it ain’t happenin’, and our presence there is a big reason why.

Somehow, in the political vacuum, additional U.S. troops are supposed to quell the civil war, compel the sects and factions to lie down like lambs, and destroy AQI. U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker last week begged that the Iraqi government not be held accountable for meeting political benchmarks, none of which have been realized; and at the same time he requested exit visas for his Iraqi staff, who obviously have no confidence in the Bush policy and do not wish to leave via the embassy roof. Crocker’s actions speak louder than his words — and louder than Bush’s.

Bush, however, clings to the rhetoric of conventional warfare, of “victory” and “retreat.” The collapsed Iraqi state, proliferation of sectarian warfare and murderous strife even among Shiite militias bewilder him; clear-cut dichotomies are more comforting, producing deeper confusion. The friend of his enemy is his friend; the enemy of his enemy is not his friend. Meanwhile, Bush seeks to displace responsibility for the potentially dire consequences of his policy on others.

What a guy.

I’ve spent so much time over the past five years describing George W. Bush as a total waste of human protoplasm that I’m getting bored with it myself. One thing the Bush Episode has shown me, however, is that our republican form of government is far more fragile than I had imagined.

The President of the United States is keeping soldiers in a pointless war while he trots around the country telling lies about it because he lacks the moral courage to admit his policies aren’t working. The White House is openly breaking the law, but Bush may be able to shield himself from accountabiity by keeping a profoundly dishonest Attorney General in place.

There have been White House scandals before, but until Watergate the worst of the scandals did not involve the President himself. In the case of Watergate, Republicans in Congress finally went to the President and told him plainly they would not protect him from impeachment. Now it seems the entire Administration is a web of conspiracies, with the President and Veep at the center, and by placing corrupt people in the right places they are trying to put themselves out of reach of the law. And it is possible they will succeed. I do not believe anything like this has ever happened before. And the war goes on.

8 thoughts on “Boogeymen

  1. …our republican form of government is far more fragile than I had imagined.

    Even in a government of laws, the men still matter. Norquist was right: personnel is policy. Even if we are ever rid of Bush (which I am beginning to doubt, the new Continuity of Gov’t stuff is too suspicious), we’ll still have to deal with all his federal appointees. And of course, there’s no way to undo the damage of all the good people who have been driven out.

    I blame it on mega-corporations: eternal “persons” devoted to profit. See Unequal Protection for a really scary read.

  2. One thing the Bush Episode has shown me, however, is that our republican form of government is far more fragile than I had imagined.

    If you’ll indulge the analogy, it reminds me a great deal of the situation many of us have experienced with computer software. There are times with certain computer programs, when you just know intuitively (or can plainly see it on the screen), that the formerly well-behaved program is now whoopied, or crippled, and is no longer so well-behaved. Said program may continue to operate, sometimes indefinitely in this crippled mode, but it is unmistakeably hobbled and is going to belly up, either on its own, or by your intervention of a restart or reboot. Rare (and beautiful) is the program that will self-correct once it ends up in this kind of software cul de sac.

    Governments fortunately are usually not as mindless as computer programs, but they are part of a larger cultural system that unfortunately is much harder to understand, let alone change, than computer software.

    Our government hasn’t crashed yet, but it’s pretty obviously running in a crippled mode. Its dysfunction could yet worsen as long as BushCo continues in power. While 1/20/2009 can’t get here soon enough for most of us, there’s also a nauseating sense that the corruption of our government, is so pervasive and so entrenched that even the best of us might only be able to make minor reforms at this point. There’s also the increasing dis-ease that we only know the very tip of the iceberg of how bad it really is. It’s an open question, one that would’ve shocked earlier generations, whether we’ll see the people of this country lose all faith in their government.

    The things that have crippled our system of government have their roots in the past. The most shocking, the most obvious and visible things only appeared during the last six years, but others, deeper and less obvious began all the way back at the end of World War 2 or even earlier. It takes a long time to rot and hollow out such a fine and formerly healthy piece of work, and unlike the computer analogy, there are a great many bad actions that needed to happen over a long period of time.

    I believe that the failure of the founders, right at the beginning, to envision and effectively contain the power of organized money is the seed cause for all the failure that has followed. Some of them saw it, but this problem wasn’t big enough back then, or there wasn’t enough consensus on it at the time, for them to deal with it.

    Abraham Lincoln lived through the rise of what he called “the money power” in this country, which provisioned and profited from the Civil War (and from the chaos thereafter) and which created our first transcontinental corporations, the railroads. He definitely saw this danger to our Republic and wrote about it.

    I’ve read that there are over 200 explanations for why the Roman Empire ended. While it’s still premature to do a postmortem on our American experiment, it would be useful for today’s historians to draw a failure graph, depicting in time all the bad or problematic decisions made during this country’s lifetime to understand how we got to our present state of dysfunction. It will save the next Gibbon a lot of work, and it might help focus those who are trying to reform the present situation.

  3. the only benefit that bush has done for this country, for the majority of this country, is not to take our freedoms and OUR constitution for granted. we can reach an expiration date for this country if we are not careful. every current and past supporter of bush must be reminded that their support created the mess!!!!

  4. “…The President of the United States is keeping soldiers in a pointless war while he trots around the country telling lies about it because he lacks the moral courage to admit his policies aren’t working…”

    Uh say what? LOL! Your inappropiate handwringing is weak and boring. Let’s review – Iraq is now a giant sucking killing machine for wanna be jihadis, Syrian proxies and Iranian minions. Sons of the Great Satan are killing them off by the truckload. Jihad in Iraq is now considered a dumb thing -and for what? To be left on the side of the road for a stranger to bury?

    If Iran is the end all be all since 911 – then Iraq cannot be called a failure, a quagmire or a disaster – instead it’s a wickedly brilliant piece of encirclement strategy.

  5. moonbat, in Unequal Protection (link above), Hartmann argues that the Founders were quite aware of this and it wasn’t a problem as long as the individual states kept control of incorporation. The problem arose after the 14th amendment when railroads constantly tried to have the artificial persons that are corporations ruled to be equal to natural persons so that they would be entitled to all the same protections.

    He presents a good case that the Supreme Court never actually ruled on the issue of corporations as equivalent to natural persons, but that it was smuggled into the record via the headnotes of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company of 1886. Legally, headnotes have no precedential weight, but the whole thing was so muddled that a single Justice, Stephen J. Field, and the Court Reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis, effectively amended the Constitution all by themselves. Both had been railroad lawyers previously.

    He states that of 307 14th amendment cases between 1886 and 1910, 288 were brought by railroads seeking protection of their rights as persons; only 19 cases dealt with African Americans.

    We wuz robbed.

  6. wmr – I was struck at how we posted parallel comments, on the same subject at nearly the same time. Thanks for the follow-on amplification.

    courtneyme109, you wrote (#4)

    ..Iraq is now a giant sucking killing machine for wanna be jihadis, Syrian proxies and Iranian minions. Sons of the Great Satan are killing them off by the truckload…

    That’s where we differ. The April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate reports that we may be creating more terrorists than we’re killing, as reported in Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Hurting US Terror Fight. This was before the recent news about al Qaeda regrouping and rebuilding its capacity to attack US soil directly. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see that this is the case, otherwise Iraq would’ve been won a long time ago.

    If you’ve got proof for your assertions, let’s see it. Otherwise I tend to believe the NIE, however boring, before some baseless rightwing propaganda, however much that may thrill you.

  7. FYI, I deleted the next courtneyme109 post and dumped her/it into the twit filter. I don’t have the energy to deal with propaganda and disinformation campaigns from trolls.

  8. courtneyme109 – we hace not seen such wickedly brilliant encirclement strategy since General Custer wiped out the injuns at Little Big Horn. Go George Custer, Go George Bush!

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