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Monday, October 06, 2003

Bush and the Saudis

In the October issue of The American Prospect, Michael Steinberger has an article (also posted on-line) entitled, "Bush's Saudi Connections; And why this is a crucial issue in 2004."

Basically Steinberger weaves a thread through a number of news stories that have appeared over the past couple of years. Some of the anti-Saudi material is familiar:

** Osama bin Laden is a Saudi and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi (even if Americans mysteriously believe Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks).

** Saudi Arabia is the home of the Wahhabite sect of Islam that "educates" the young men who are recruited into a life of terrorism.

** The Saudi family finances terrorism. This includes direct and indirect payments to al Qaeda and anti-Israel groups, such as Hamas.


Steinberger then turns to the more explosive claim that the President, his family, and the administration are directly connected to the Saudis and have acted to head off investigations or public disclosures that might upset the relationship. Consider:

** Almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the Saudi government was allowed to "spirit" two dozen members of bin Laden's family out of the US before the FBI could interview them thoroughly. Byron York of National Review Online previously asked lots of questions about this dubious decision.

** George H.W. Bush is a Senior Advisor in the defense-related Carlyle Group, which also counted wealthy members of bin Laden family among its investors. The right-leaning group Judicial Watch has been harping on the link since 9/11. There are also concerns about conflicts-of-interest given that Carlyle is a defense contractor and Junior Bush is quite friendly to the defense sector.

** As I noted previously, many members of Congress and 9/11 families are dissatisfied because the government failed to release a lengthy section about Saudi Arabia when it last reported on the 9/11 investigation.

** Saudi Arabia bankrolled the Bush Presidential Library, Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, obtained many lucrative contracts from Saudi Arabia, and James Baker's Texas law firm has been retained to defend the Saudis against lawsuits brought by 9/11 family members. Even the business press (such as Fortune magazine) has noted some of the odd connections.

It is not controversial to be unhappy with the world's addiction to Saudi oil, with the American tolerance of a corrupt and oppressive regime, and with the apparent link to terrorism. For more information, see Robert Baer's article on "The Fall of the House of Saud" in the May 2003 Atlantic, which is not on-line because the author has a new book on the same topic (of course, a diligent surfer might be able to find it).

In any event, Steinberger's conclusion is much more controversial. He says the Democrats running for President should use this story (and the unanswered questions) to bash Bush on the way to winning the White House in 2004.

Someone posting to one of the John Kerry blogs reproduced the story in late September, but otherwise I haven't seen any evidence that Steinberger's argument is being taken seriously.

Personally, I'm not sure how this story would resonate with voters. Does it sound too much like a wacky conspiracy theory?

The Democrats would almost certainly have to nominate someone squeakly clean on this issue. Does that mean Howard Dean? As I noted oreviously, Dean has been talking about energy a little bit, but that's clearly not the issue that has brought him so much attention and cash.

By contrast, Wesley Clark has ambiguous ties to George Soros (Clark and Soros, for example are on the board of the International Crisis Group, which Soros's Open Society Institute gave $2.5 million), who has ties to the Carlyle Group. I'm not pointing that out to foment some sort of odd conspiracy theory -- just to note that global elites are often closely networked to one another (regardless of political party or nationality), and that trying to play the "Saudi card" might be quite difficult for a Democratic candidate for President given the party's own connections to people with deep pockets.

So I guess today's entry turns out to be a roundabout argument for public financing of political campaigns!

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Cheney's office and the weak intelligence evidence

I apologize for helping to spread the "false, unsubstantiated accusations" that Lewis Libby leaked Valerie Plame's name in July. Scott McClellan (as reported by ABC) says the man known as "Scooter" was not the source of the information -- and that Libby doesn't know the identity of the leaker. And he does not condone the leak.

I'll let you know if the White House denies that Libby (and Cheney) went to CIA to pressure agents into "sexing up" the intelligence (to use a phrase the British have used on this story).

Actually, they probably have denied this -- but that doesn't mean they didn't apply pressure. Heck, there's even evidence that the neocon cabal pressured the less-hawkish members of the Bush administration. Even Colin Powell.

Go back to news reports from late June and early July to recall the roots of the Plame affair. I think I missed this Jim Lobe story the first time that included these supposed quotes from Colin Powell:
[The London Guardian] quotes Powell, whose forceful case to the council was decisive in persuading US public opinion that Baghdad represented a serious threat, as being "apprehensive" about the evidence presented to him by the intelligence agencies. He reportedly expressed the hope that the actual facts, when they came out, would not "explode in their faces".

US News reported, for example, that during a rehearsal of Powell's presentation at Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters on February 1, the normally mild-mannered retired general at one point "tossed several pages in the air. 'I'm not reading this', he declared. 'This is bullshit'."

Friday, October 03, 2003

Weekend blogging

1. I went to see "Lost in Translation" today and enjoyed it, though it is definitely a film that tries to make theaudience members feel uncomfortable. The story, as most readers may well know, is about a Hollywood star in mid-life crisis visiting Japan to film a liquor commercial for a couple of million bucks. While there, he meets a young, bright, attractive woman who has been abandoned for a few days by her husband of 2 years, who has a work assignment elsewhere in Japan.

The two experience globalization together: hanging out in Tokyo, eating Sushi, singing karaoke, watching translated and dubbed TV, etc. In a lot of ways, the film transposes the budding old/young relationship with the Japanese/American elements. Go see it for yourself. It definitely isn't conventional or predictable. Or at least I didn't think so.

2. How do my readers feel about this blog? It's hard to know, since few of you have clicked that email link in the right-hand column.

In any case, some of you might want to go to The Truth Laid Bear's New Webblog Showcase.

While there, you can vote for your favorites this week. My blog is up for consideration through the weekend. Currently, a blogger who boasts "A nice place to dream about no more liberals" is in first place. I'm 4th, but fairly far behind.

The week's winner gets a prominent placement on next week's Truth Laid Bear's website, which has got to be a good way to expand readership since he gets a lot of hits for his blog Traffic Ranking site.

I'm not sure if it is ethical to vote for one's own blog. By including my link, I guess I just did... Rodger A. Payne: More on Mylroie and Manufacturing Consent

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These blogs look good too: electoralmap.com: Electoral Graphology

and The Fulcrum: Must Reads for Friday

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To vote, you have to post your favorite links on your blog somewhere. Sorry reader without blogs, I don't think you can vote.



Kyoto politics

Today, let's talk about Kyoto. With many Americans focused on security issues since 9/11 and US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's often forgotten that the rest of the world has security priorities too.

Much of Europe, for example, worries almost as much about the threat from global warming as they do about the threat from terrorists and WMD proliferation. As the 2002 Chicago Council on Foreign Relations opinion survey (conducted with the German Marshall Fund) found, 90% of Americans consider terrorism a "critical threat," while only 65% of Europeans (from 6 countries) do. 50% of Europeans consider global warming a "critical threat," versus around 45% of Americans.

This week, Russia has been hosting a major conference on global warming. Russia is an important country to environmentalists right now because it basically has the power to make or break the Kyoto Protocol, which would require states to make real reductions in greenhouse gases (ghg) over the next 5 to 10 years.

For the treaty to go into effect, states emitting 55% of the world's emissions have to agree. The US emits about 25%, though for the purposes of this agreement the US emits 36% because developing countries are exempt from the requirements. That exemption relates to the fact that people living in affluent countries emit many, many times as much carbon dioxide as people in poor states. The average American, for example, emits nearly 20 times as much ghg as the average Chinese. Americans love SUVs and air conditioning, a couple of luxuries most Chinese do not have.

The US, of course, is not a member of the Kyoto agreement since Bill Clinton didn't send the treaty to an unwelcoming US Senate -- and the Bush administration has withdrawn the US from the negotiation process.

The EU, Japan and Canada ratified Kyoto in 2002, so the treaty now has commitments from states emitting 44%. It needs another 11% of the world's ghgs.

Russia emits 17%. Thus, Russia's embrace of Kyoto would activate the treaty. Absent Russian or US assent, the treaty cannot become international law. It's as simple as that.

The Russians, as it turns out, already easily meet Kyoto reduction requirements because they closed down a bunch of old and dirty industries at the end of the cold war.

So why don't they simply ratify now?

Well, President Putin, as was widely reported, said this week: "an increase of two or three degrees wouldn't be so bad for a northern country like Russia. We could spend less on fur coats, and the grain harvest would go up".

Delegates apparently took this as a joke because most of them view global warming very seriously. For instance, scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine "estimate that climate change may already be causing in the region of 160,000 deaths...a year." They also reported that could double by the year 2020 -- even taking into accounts improvements in health care. The main problem seems to be new disease outbreaks for malaria -- and from malnutrition.

Actually, Putin was not embracing global warming. Russia is playing hard to get because it wants to assure very high rewards for its past reductions in ghg emissions. As it stands, Russia could earn about $1 billion selling its emissions reductions to other states under the "permit trading" system agreed by the parties to the convention.

I'm guessing Putin is holding out for even more. If the EU states want this badly enough, they can either hope that green-friendly Democrats swamp the Republicans in the 2004 elections (reclaiming the Senate by a wide margin, as well as the White House)...or they can pay the Russians to join.

I'm guessing Germany, the UK, maybe Japan and some other states are already studying their balance sheets to see what they can afford to spare.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Catching up on Assorted Topics

In some ways, the "Plame Affair" (as Mrs. Wilson's outing as a covert CIA operative is being called) is distracting much of the press corps from some other major stories. Let's go quickly around the horn, shall we?

1. As everyone knows by now, David Kay didn't find any WMD in Iraq and apparently concludes that he's not likely to find evidence of an active program at this point. As Abu Aardvark points out, this means that arms control worked, in the form of UN weapons inspectors.

Think about that for a second, because the Bush administration keeps bringing up Iran's alleged WMD and so far, the IAEA inspectors are still actively inspecting Iranian facilities. The Khatami regime is still cooperating. Reuters has a brief mention of this today, in fact.

The yahoo story AA notes has some additional interesting information:

The "mobile biological facilities" that Colin Powell played up on ABC TV just this past weekend "were not ideally suited for biological warfare production." Maybe next week one of the chat shows can get Kay to debate Powell and Cheney?

Seriously, when is the administration going to start talking about the actual evidence, rather than repeating and repeating the fantasies from last October, or January? Powell is virtually no better than Cheney in this respect. Of course, Powell knows that his personal credibility is on the hook -- and he's apparently having a hard time dealing with the facts.

Another notable point from the story is a quote from Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, who said, "I'm not pleased by what I heard today."

That is an incredibly partisan statement. Since the failure to find evidence makes the administration look like lying, smirking chimps, I guess Roberts is unhappy about the domestic political consequences.

However, isn't it actually very good news that Iraq didn't have WMD? They were almost surely unable to threaten the US -- and could not have passed nasty weapons along to terrorists?

Can't we admit that some fears are overstated?

Yahoo sandbags this quote until last:
Multiple sources have told the team that "Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled CW (chemical warfare) program after 1991," Kay said. And information found so far suggests that Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce and fill new chemical warfare weapons was "reduced -- if not entirely destroyed."

2. The UN and Iraq: Only about 30 UN personnel remain in Iraq, out of about 600 that were once posted there. Clearly, until the situation on the ground is safer, the UN people do not want to be in this US-occupied country.

At the same time, Kofi Annan, plus Security Council representatives from France, Germany, and Russia are strongly signalling (according to Reuters) that the latest US draft doesn't go far enough in ending the occupation in a timely manner. They are especially concerned about the political side, no one is really debating the need for US troops.

The safety and political occupation issues are related. Once Iraq gains a measure of sovereignty, which requires an end to "the occupation," I suspect the situation on the ground will become much more secure. Resistance is aimed at foreign occupiers -- namely, the US. If a legitimate government (i.e., one that gains the acceptance of Iraqis) wanted US troops to provide security, then then US troops would be much less likely to be targets.

As I've said before, the US is going to have to relent on this point.

3. OK, I'll say a couple of words about the Plame affair. So far, the Bush administration is acting fairly sensibly, claiming they want to know who leaked classified information. However, they do have one not-so-small problem.

While spokesperson McClellan emphasizes that the newspapers are merely filled with allegations, it is undeniable that someone leaked Plame's name. That single fact is going to hang out there until someone is identified as a source.

All day, I felt badly about mentioning Lewis ("Scooter") Libby by name yesterday, but Salon has a piece about his emergence as suspect #1. Pat Buchanan mentioned his name on MSNBC, the NY Daily News noted his status, etc. And this was in Tuesday's Washington Post:
An article that appeared on the Time magazine Web site the same week Novak's column was published said that "some government officials have noted to Time in interviews . . . that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." The same article quoted from an interview with I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, saying that Cheney did not know about Wilson's mission "until this year when it became public in the last month or so."

The story is co-authored by Mike Allen, who did the big front-page Sunday piece, and the paragraph is really awkward.

Libby, by the way, supposedly went with Cheney to CIA headquarters on a number of occasions to lean on analysts who weren't producing the Iraq conclusions they wanted.

It's all unpleasant, really.

4. Finally, to go back to my first point about the absence of WMD, what's the justification for the war this week? Condi Rice said Sunday that everyone is glad the horrible, brutal Hussein regime is gone. Obviously, it is good that he's gone, but I have a hard time seeing the Bush people justifying the use of American armed forces in the name of humanitarian intervention. They were clearly against the so-called "Clinton Doctrine" in 2000.

Here's the transcript from the Wake Forest debate, October 12, 2000:
LEHRER: But the reverse side of the question, Governor, that Vice President Gore mentioned -- for instance, 600,000 people died in Rwanda in 1994. There was no U.S. intervention. There was no intervention from the outside world. Was that a mistake not to intervene?

BUSH: I think the administration did the right thing in that case, I do. It was a horrible situation. No one liked to see it on our -- you know, on our TV screens. But it's a case where we need to make sure we've got a, you know, kind of an early warning system in place in places where there could be ethnic cleansing and genocide the way we saw it there in Rwanda.

And that's a case where we need to, you know, use our influence to have countries in Africa come together and help deal with the situation. The administration -- it seems like we're having a great love fest now -- but the administration made the right decision on training Nigerian troops for situations just such as this in Rwanda. And so I thought they made the right decision not to send U.S. troops into Rwanda.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Making some connections...

Recent news stories reveal that the pre-war intelligence information provided by Iraqi defectors was of very little value. An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency, in fact, found that less than 1/3 of the information had value -- and that the data on WMD was particularly bad.

This is connected to the Niger Story, of course, since it was the neocons who embraced the weak evidence suggesting Iraq was pursuing uranium from Africa. Hence, Ambassador Wilson was sent to Niger to check it out.

It's easy to pick any moment and create a very odd circle. Actually, I guess it's more of a network of like-minded neo-cons.

Judith Miller of the NYT, for example, apparently relied upon this false information about Iraqi WMD from defectors like Ahmad Chalabi. Then, VP Cheney and others pointed to the NYT story to support their case publicly. This was noted by John MacArthur in the Columbia Journalism Review:
Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on NBC's Meet the Press to brandish Saddam's supposed nuclear threat. Prompted by a helpful Tim Russert, Cheney cited the aluminum tubes story in that morning's New York Times

Cheney's office, it seems, is still trying to push the widely discredited story that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague. A Washington Post story from this Monday's paper reported that Cheney staff members (guys like Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Stephen Hadley) were even trying to get Powell to use the Atta story in his big UN presentation. Powell, of course, didn't.

But Cheney, Libby and Hadley (one fall guy for the 16 words) have been persistent.

Libby, by the way, is one of the names mentioned by those speculating about the leak of Wilson's wife's job at CIA. Check out the Matthew Yglesias blog, for example.

And Libby is also thanked "for his timely and generous assistance" in the acknowledgements of Laurie Mylroie's book that blames Iraq for most of the anti-US international terrorism of the 1990s. As regular readers know, I've been blogging a lot about Mylroie's claims -- and the tremendous press coverage she received post 9/11.

The neocons should have known that the intelligence people know how to leak too. For example, they've almost completely discredited Mylroie's thesis. Paul Sperry of WDN:
Their findings were presented to the president Oct. 2 in a still-secret report on Iraq. The summary, or "key judgments" section, of the 90-page National Intelligence Estimate was declassified Friday. WorldNetDaily obtained a copy from the National Security Council. (The report is different from the unclassified 25-page white paper the CIA made public on its website last October.)

Page 4 of the report states: "... [W]e have no specific intelligence information that Saddam's regime has directed attacks against U.S. territory."

In a phone interview with Sperry, the author herself conceded: "Yeah, DIA was given a copy of my book, and they couldn't make the connection," Mylroie said. Her thesis, remember, was that Iraq bombed the WTC in 1993 -- and likely did it again in 2001.

A former UNSCOM inspector is also quoted as saying, "Her theory is wacky." And no, it's not Scott Ritter. That's from retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Stephen Franke, an Arabic translator.

This all makes for a complicated tale. But it sure looks like the intelligence agencies are striking back against the neocons, but Cheney's office hasn't given up yet and the White House is trying to spin everything as "stop the leaks."

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The Democratic Message

Nearly a week has gone by and I've been thinking a great deal about last week's Democratic debate. Specifically, I keep wondering about the economic plans of the various candidates.

Every one of them agrees unemployment is bad and that the Bush tax cuts haven't done anything to create jobs (why would investors pursue new enterprises in a slow economy featuring over-capacity?).

However, none of them had a coherent alternative that seems likely to resonate with voters. Sure, polls show that repealing some of the tax cuts on the wealthy is popular -- and that would certainly help pay down the deficit. There might even be enough money to buy some health insurance for a few more people. None, however, seem to be talking about jobs programs (that old Dem staple seems to have been tossed aside...well, Kucinich and Sharpton might support them, but few of the others).

So what should these candidates be saying about jobs?

I'm not 100% certain. The Democratic candidates did seem to think that growing economic activity creates jobs. That sounds awfully...Republican, doesn't it? Echoes of "trickle down" economics reverberate.

So how should a progressive "grow the economy"?

Here's one you may have missed: a new OMB study (from the Bush White House) actually concluded that environmental regulations help the economy! And the effects aren't trivial:

the health and social benefits of enforcing tough new clean-air regulations during the past decade were five to seven times greater in economic terms than were the costs of compliance. The value of reductions in hospitalization and emergency room visits, premature deaths and lost workdays resulting from improved air quality were estimated between $120 billion and $193 billion from October 1992 to September 2002.

By the way, this study was produced by John Graham, who many progressives opposed when he was nominated to direct the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. I've known Graham for over 20 years (he once wrote a letter of recommendation for one of my grad school applications) and am glad to see that he is decidedly not letting politics interfere with his data crunching.

What else should progressives want to do to spark the economy?

Well, Dean has been talking about alternative energy, and with OPEC increasing oil prices, this might be a particularly opportune time to emphasize investment in new energy sources. The Bush campaign is sure to monopolize oil industry campaign contributions, so this is a painless and potentially winning issue even for the pro-business Democrats.

Seriously. Nixon wanted "energy independence" 30 years ago. Carter said the energy crisis of the 1970s was the "moral equivalent of war" (please don't notice the feline acronym). It's bipartisan -- or was. It's arguably a good issue to reach out to independent voters who think politicians don't talk about anything important.

And it clearly is important.

Who wants OPEC dependency? Who likes dirty air? Global warming? Terrorism? Alternatively, who likes accepting the Saudi human rights record? As Amory Lovins has long pointed out, this is a security issue, as well as an environment, health, and economic issue. He's still saying these things, and mostly, he's right.

The link between oil money and terrorism is a LOT more plausible than the link between drug money and terror. Especially the cash link to the Islamic terrorists (this would also be a good way of asking why the administration omitted the 28 Saudi pages of the last 9/11 report)
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Overall, this issue speaks to an array of public policy decisions that really could be significant -- especially if the Democrats convince people that they'll save money in the short and long run by starting to invest now in alternate energies.

I could see Dean selling this, but Clark or Kerry could do it too.

Monday, September 29, 2003

The White House, the Press Corps and Transparency Norms

Talkingpointsmemo has the transcript from today's White House press conference.

The Press obviously devoted a lot of time to the latest "Niger-gate" angle, peppering White House spokesperson Scott McClellan with numerous questions about what the President and his advisors were going to do about the apparent leak of a CIA agent's name to journalist Robert Novak.

One question that keeps coming up shows the different standards of transparency expected of public institutions. Indeed, McClellan tried to use these norms against the Press Corps.

In the Press Conference, McClellan fielded numerous questions from the media inquiring why President Bush didn't simply conduct his own informal investigation -- perhaps even by calling for the leaker(s) to come forward and resign. Drezner makes this argument today as well.

McClellan kept replying that the White House didn't have any evidence of wrongdoing. Thus, he implied, why should the President begin a witch hunt within the inner circle?

We do know that Condi Rice and Colin Powell denied knowing anything yesterday on the Sunday chat shows. McClellan has said he doesn't know about the leak, and he emphasized today that Karl Rove didn't divulge the information.

Meanwhile, nobody, so far as I know, is peppering Robert Novak with questions about his sources. Obviously, Novak knows who called him back in July. Moreover, if the Washington Post story from Sunday is correct, 5 other reporters also received calls and know who was trying to leak this information.

Yesterday, when I was reading a lot of blog comments on this (from the daily KOS and Calpundit), many, many people were curious about the identities of the administration officials who leaked. Very few were curious about the names of the journalists who received the calls. I did see a couple of guesses, but they were far outnumbered by those trying to discern the names of the government sources.

The reason why the press and the bloggers haven't turned on their own membership is that journalists are expected to keep such information secret in order to protect future sources. They cannot "burn" a past source for fear of gaining a poor reputation and effectively losing access to future leaked insight.

Of course, in this case, someone (or actually, two someones) in the administration apparently committed a felony.

Should journalists protect an alleged criminal's identity?

As citizens, we expect a fairly high level of transparency from government. They only way we can evaluate the state is if it is sufficiently open to allow basic scrutiny of its operations. This often depends, frankly, on a free press -- and an effective public sphere of open discussion. Like the blogosphere!

The press argues it cannot be free of government unless it can withhold the identity of sources -- including whistleblowers.

If the Justice Department starts issuing subpoenas, a lot of citizens might think to start with Novak -- rather than random people within the White House or near the top of the various Cabinet agencies.

However, I don't think many members of the White House Press corp would be enthused by that. In fact, they'd be downright hostile.

The situation is comparable to recent events in the UK involving David Kelly. Ultimately, the government whistleblower (a weapons experts who was skeptical about the way WMD data was being manipulated by the Blair government) took his own life once his name was disclosed as someone who had talked to the BBC. Helena Cobban has been writing about this on her blog.

The BBC did not confirm that Kelly had been its source until after he died.

As someone who writes on transparency in my academic life, this is a tough case. I'd like to know if there's a felon in the Bush inner circle, and I'd like to know how national security interests (the CIA agent was apparently a WMD expert) balanced against partisan politics.

On the other hand, I fear that we'd all know even less about government if the media were compelled to disclose their sources.

Still, like everyone else, I'm hoping this week for leaks that suggest real names. Who revealed the apparent CIA agent's name? How many people were involved?

For the President: What did he know, and when did he know it?

Taking it easy on a Sunday

This was my post for Sunday...until the new Niger-gate story:

It's Sunday and I'm only going to provide a few links and insights.

A bit over a week ago, I was interviewed by the local crime paper (Snitch) about the Patriot Act. The story is kind of long and I'm not quoted until near the end -- but the photo caption is outrageous and a very wild distortion of my point.

I pointed out that the old Soviet Union really didn't have a terrorism problem because the state was so pervasive in everyone's life. Completely open societies can (unfortunately) expect more terror to go along with personal freedom.

My point was that the Patriot Act moves the US (along a continuum) away from libertarian ideals and toward a more closed society. I emphasized that I wasn't claiming we'd be like the Soviet Union. I only used that reference as an endpoint for my continuum.

I also stressed that the public debate we're having now is completely natural since there wasn't much of one back in fall 2001. If people are unhappy with the limits on freedom in the Patriot Act, it can and likely will be changed (or ended).

Hell, since I'm self promoting, here's the link to the Daily Tar Heel story just after Bush's speech pleading for $87 billion more for the war. It had my take, but I'm not going to go back over that now.

Finally, everyone presumably now knows that the US has decided to soften its position in regard to the political transition in Iraq. The AP story mentions specific timelines for political transition and elections -- measured in months. Someone from the US government (off the record), goes out of the way to say this was directly in response to French concerns!

Viva La France!

This story hasn't received much attention given the other big story, but it will be very important to the future of Iraq. And probably to US-allied relations.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Karl Rove: "Frog-Marched out of the White House in Handcuffs"?

This could be huge. Conceivably, it's Watergate or Iran-contra for Bush II.

Sunday's Washington Post has a front page story that has been floating around the internet for weeks.

I assume everyone reading this blog remembers the President's now withdrawn 16 words from this year's State of the Union address -- about Iraq's fictional attempt to get uranium from Niger? Right? It was big news.

Well, the former diplomat sent to Africa to sort all this out in 2002 was Joseph Wilson. He has emerged as an outspoken critic of Bush foreign policy toward Iraq.

In any case, someone leaked to Robert Novak that Wilson's spouse is a CIA operative and Novak published that information in July. Novak claimed to be relying upon 2 high level administration sources.

If it is true that Wilson's spouse is/was a CIA agent (which Wilson has never confirmed), the person who revealed the information has violated the Intelligence Identity Protection Act of 1982. Ironically, as the Daily KOS reports, this law was supported by George H.W. Bush when he was Reagan's Veep.

The law carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and $50,000 in fines.

Here's the kicker. Speaking at a public forum in Shoreland, WA, organized by Congressman Jay Inslee, Wilson reportedly said this:
"At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words."

Apparently, there's a video of Wilson saying this and you can watch it on the 'net (I haven't yet tried to do this with my modem connection at home).

Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo has a lot of information about the evolution of this story and notes that CBS and Time have picked up on it. Marshall, however, interviewed Wilson recently and the former diplomat claimed to be using Rove's name as "sort of a metaphor for the White House political operation."

Regardless of whether it was Rove specifically who leaked, the Washington Post story clearly implies that the name of the leaker(s) is known by someone in the Bush White House. The story quotes "sources familiar with the conversations" in reference to the leaker's discussions with the journalists:

"A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife....The official would not name the leakers for the record and would not name the journalists."


Tell your friends...and your co-workers, and your siblings, parents, etc.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Benador Associates

Yesterday, I credited Laurie Mylroie's publicist for earning whatever was paid. So today, I decided to find out more about her representation.

It turns out that Mylroie is represented by Benador Associates.

Eleana Benador, founder, President and CEO of that company, has attracted a who's who of neocon clients. She's typically mentioned as a "theatrical agent."

I'm winnowing the following list of Benador's clients to people who figured prominently in the Iraq and Afghan war debates:

Max Boot -- was Wall Street Journal, now Weekly Standard
Frank Gaffney Jr. -- now Washington Times was Reagan-era DoD guy
Khidhir Hamza -- Saddam's ex nuclear scientist/defector
Charles Krauthammer -- widely syndicated columnist
Michael A. Ledeen -- AEI and National Review online
Laurie Mylroie -- you know about her
Richard Perle -- AEI, chaired Bush's Defense Policy Board
Michael Rubin -- AEI, now Pentagon Iraq advisor
Ruth Wedgwood -- Yale Law Professor
James Woolsey -- former CIA director who helps promote Mylroie's ideas

Quite a few of Benador's other clients also write for the National Review (John O'Sullivan) or its online edition (Victor Davis Hanson) or the New York Post (Amir Taheri). Plus she represents some foreign journalists and scholars and Richard Pipes of Harvard. Benador even counts someone from the Iraqi National Congress (Kanan Makiya) as a client.

She's no longer listed by Benador, but Judith Miller of the New York Times apparently also used to be a client -- and she coauthored a book with Mylroie on the first Gulf War. FYI, it was a NYT #1 bestseller.

Hmmm, I should point everyone to the bad notices Miller has been getting for inflating threats about Iraqi WMD. Editor & Publisher has certainly staked out a strong postion. This past Tuesday (9/23/03), they posted this article "Miller's Latest Tale Questioned; Jackson: When Will 'NY Times' Get Her off WMD Trail?" The article does a good job of detailing Miller's horrible stories of the past 2 years reporting Iraq WMD tales that have subsequenly proven false. Apparently, Miller relied greatly on wild stories from Iraqi defectors...much like some of the neocons in the Pentagon.

Anyway, the Benador networking possibilities are quite interesting here. Indeed, The Guardian had an interesting article on many of Benador's clients back in August 2002. The author points out how difficult it is to get op-ed pieces accepted at newspapers (but failure is undoubtedly motivator for bloggers!); yet, Benador's clients succeed again and again and again.

Does anyone know of an agent on the left with a similar track record?

If so, can I send along some of my writing?

Friday, September 26, 2003

Laurie Mylroie, part III

Yesterday, I devoted several hours to researching Lexis-Nexis and NewsBank to find out just how frequently the print media relied upon Laurie Mylroie's speculations that linked Saddam Hussein and Iraq to 9/11.

I found that her publicist really earned whatever was paid because Mylroie was very frequently cited by columnists and reporters all over the country. And many of the op-ed pieces and articles were quite widely syndicated.

To begin, Jim Hoagland mentioned Mylroie's theories in The Washington Post on September 12, 2001. His column was syndicated in a number of papers, including The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Raleigh News & Observer, and the Lawrence (KS) Journal World.

Hoagland said Mylroie makes "a convincing case."

Mylroie herself had an op-ed in the very next day's Wall Street Journal. On September 13, 2001, she wrote a fairly lengthy piece calling the 9/11 attacks an "act of war" likely linked to Iraq. Many of the familiar claims I've already attributed to her are in this column.

Mylroie also wrote different op-ed pieces for the San Diego Union-Tribune on September 23 and the Boston Globe on September 25.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey made similar claims (and prominently credited Mylroie) in his own pieces in the Wall Street Journal October 18 and in The New Republic September 24, 2001.

By October, I should note, Mylroie and Woolsey were additionally linking the anthrax attacks to Iraq. This shows up in their articles and in the references to their theories.

So, how diffused were these ideas -- across the USA?

Well, Mylroie's theories were clearly spread in right-leaning sources. I mentioned Fox TV, but she was also mentioned in The National Review (a William Buckley column), November 19, 2001.

I simply have too many photocopies at this point to explain in detail how Mylroie's articles spread through the print media around the country. Let me provide a list of newspaper names, dates, and syndication notes:

Atlanta Journal Constitution, October 11 and 18, 2001. Latter story syndicated in Grand Forks Herald and Austin American-Statesman on the same day.

Boston Globe, September 19, 2001

Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 14 and 25, 2001. First story also in Columbia (SC) The State, and Arizona Republic.

Dallas Morning News, September 17 and October 13, 2001

KC Star, September 23, 2001

Miami Herald, October 11, 2001. Also in Charlotte Observer and San Jose Mercury News.

New York Times, September 22, 2001.

Philadelphia Inquirer, September 22, 2001. Also in St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, September 12, 2001.

San Antonio Express News, September 15 and October 14, 2001.

St. Louis Post Dispatch, September 16, 2001.

Tampa Tribune, November 30, 2001.

USA Today, December 3, 2001

Washington Post, December 27, 2001

Some of the stories included skeptics who doubted Mylroie's theories, but many of the initial reports wery very one sided (even though they were quite speculative).

So, Mylroie and her views about the Iraq 9/11 link (and bin Laden-Iraq link) were all over national TV and in many, many national and local newspapers right from the very beginning. Plus, I've got to believe that many of these AP and Cox stories were syndicated into plenty of smaller papers too.

As I said last week, the neocons did a great job of manufacturing consent.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Exagerating threats? Plundering Iraq? What is the US doing?

Two points about Iraq today:

1. First, activist writer and film maker John Pilger has produced a new documentary "Breaking the Silence: Truth and lies in the war on terror" that is starting to garner attention in England and Australia. In the film (which I have not yet seen), Pilger apparently shows clips from Colin Powell and Condi Rice recorded in 2001, but prior to 9/11, that cast doubt on the threats emanating from Iraq. For example, Pilger apparently has footage of Colin Powell making this statement, which I grabbed from the State Department's official website:
"the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq."


Pilger wrote an article for the Daily Mirror that also includes these quotes from Powell and Rice:
On May 15 2001, Powell went further and said that Saddam Hussein had not been able to "build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction" for "the last 10 years". America, he said, had been successful in keeping him "in a box".

Two months later, Condoleezza Rice also described a weak, divided and militarily defenceless Iraq. "Saddam does not control the northern part of the country," she said. "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."

As I keep saying, this story isn't over.

2. Second, the question of plundering Iraq. The BBC reports that the American-appointed Governing Council in Iraq has decided (surprise!) to "privatize" Iraq's assets (though not oil -- at least not yet). In other words, they'll "sell" them to American companies:

The BBC's 'Nick Springate, in Baghdad, says many ordinary Iraqis will see the moves as a big sell-off with predominantly multi-national, American companies viewed as getting "rewards".'

The story mentions telecoms, construction, banks...you get the idea.

This smells an awful lot like the crony capitalism that occurred in Russia in the early 1990s. As Grawemeyer award-winning scholar Janine Wedel pointed out, that was a disaster.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Did Bush misread his audience?

I don't know what the domestic polls will show, but I'd guess there's a good chance that President Bush's UN speech today will be seen as genuine and helpful. He tried to put the past behind everyone, suggested a common agenda, and offered to lead the world down a pathway to solve security priorities.

However, I also think Bush's speech will be unpopular in much of the rest of world -- and was unlikely to be well-received by the delegates in the room.

A great many people around the world share the views expressed by Jacques Chirac today, after the President spoke:

"The war, launched without the authorization of the Security Council, shook the multilateral system....The United Nations has just been through one of the most grave crises in its history...In an open world, no one can be isolated, no one can act alone in everyone's name, and no one can accept the anarchy of a lawless society. There is no alternative to the United Nations."

So, why is the world so unlikely to be impressed?

First, Bush is still pushing the pre-emptive use of force. He didn't really talk about invading any specific countries, but the President did say that "Nations of the world must have the wisdom and the will to stop grave threats before they arrive." He also talked about interdicting lethal materials in transit, which is a pretty controversial idea given the lack of authority ordinarily governing the open seas.

Kofi Annan's speech, which preceded the President's, very clearly stated strong worldwide opposition to the so-called "Bush Doctrine" of pre-emptive war. Here are several highlights from the Reuter's story:

"My concern is that, if it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification," said Annan to sustained applause.

...[Annan] questioned U.S. arguments that nations have the "right and obligation to use force preemptively" against unconventional weapons systems even while they were still being developed...

"But until now it has been understood that when states go beyond that and decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, they need the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations," he said.

"Now some say this understanding is no longer tenable since an 'armed attack' with weapons of mass destruction could be launched at any time..." said Annan.

"This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles, on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last 58 years," he said.

Actually, the text of the speech included an even stronger point that Reuters didn't quote:

"My concern is that, if it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without justification."

Second, consider weapons of mass destruction. Bush called for new international cooperation to "criminalize" the proliferation of WMD -- but said nothing about the size of US arsenals, British weapons, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Israeli weapons, etc.

Take a quick look at Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty:
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Does anyone believe that the US is committed to this goal? Many states, such as India, point to US hypocrisy vis-a-vis Article VI again and again to justify their serious opposition to various nonproliferation measures.

By the way, the US position on this issue is quite hypocritical for another reason.

The NPT includes a provision (Article X) allowing states to withdraw from the treaty. North Korea took advantage of this legal action and is now outside the treaty -- just like Israel, India and Pakistan. When the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty, the administration defended the action as necessary for national security. It suggested that the US should not embrace arms control at the expense of national security.

Why, exactly, is the North Korean case different?

Third, consider the task of rebuilding Iraq. President Bush placed all the blame for Iraq's horrific infrastructure on decisions made by the old regime. However, the two US wars against Iraq, as well as the many long years of economic sanctions had a great deal to do with Iraq's crumbling "power plants, water and sanitation facilities, bridges and airports."

I'm not trying to be an apologist for Saddam Hussein...but the former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq did say that US government officials could "be blamed for crimes against humanity, including possibly genocide" as a consequence of the sanctions, which he estimated were killing 7000 people a month. 100s of 1000s died over the years.

Certainly, millions in the Arab world viewed the sanctions with moral outrage.

The President made moral arguments in an attempt to inspire the world, but he was speaking to a pretty skeptical and knowing audience.





Monday, September 22, 2003

Political updates

OK, let me update two threads I've been discussing for the past few weeks.

1. The Presidential Race: It's all over the news, but the data is usually delivered without much analysis. The media cover only the horse race part of the election. According to a new poll from CNN-Gallup-USA Today, Wesley Clark has jumped to the top of the list of Democratic presidential candidates. Here's the list:

Clark 22%
Dean 13
Kerry 11
Gephardt 11
Lieberman 10

Most importantly, the poll said Clark beats Bush 49-46%. Kerry also wins 48-47. All the other top Democrats lose by only a couple of percentage points. Since the sample error is 3.5%, none of these results mean anything really -- and all the candidates behind Clark are essentially equal.

So, in the first week, Clark is sailing along on his first rate biography. There has already been a flap about whether Clark genuinely opposed the war or not, so it will be interesting to see if he can sustain a lead.

Some of the criticisms, by the way, are unfair. Clark has frequently and clearly expressed a desire for a much more multilateral US foreign policy. Actually, he wrote a nice article in The Washington Monthly last September that more fully explains his views. He would have prosecuted Afghanistan with NATO, for example. In a January interview with a columnist for the Washington Post, Clark also criticized Bush administration priorities:

"They picked war over law. They picked a unilateralist approach over a multilateral approach. They picked conventional forces over special-operations forces. And they picked Saddam Hussein as a target over Osama bin Laden."

Graham has been saying these same sorts of things for quite awhile, but the criticisms will likely get more attention coming from Clark's mouth.

2. Iraq and Bush: Tuesday morning, President Bush is speaking at the UN and various media are reporting (often based on Bush's interview with Fox) that the President has no intention of expressing any regrets to the UN over the events earlier this year.

Given that most states in the UN opposed the US war, and that the UN was again the target of a terrorist car bomb attack in Iraq Monday, I doubt Bush is going to find a particularly sympathetic audience.

Since the address is going to be widely televised within the US, I also doubt if the primary target of this Bush speech is the UN. Rather, the Bush administration is working hard to make this war look good in retrospect.

Keen observers probably noticed that the Republicans are all over the media claiming that the war is going well. For example, they often point out that the northern area of Iraq is quite stable.

NEWS FLASH: the northern area of Iraq was Kurdish controlled before the war. In fact, it was protected by the "no fly zone" established by US/UK aircraft (and not, as a matter of fact, by the UN).

Then again, when the Bush people were arguing before the war that al Qaeda was in Iraq, many critics pointed out that the evidence pointed to terrorist links in Kurdish areas, which were not under Saddam Hussein's control.There was a good story about this in the BBC last July (2002).

Anyway, to wrap this up, I look for Bush to again "challenge" the UN to live up to its responsibilities...as if the US alone has the right idea regarding world politics.

Will audience members (whether at the UN or on TV in the US) remember the Wake Forest debate answer from Bush, when asked "Should the people of the world fear us, or see us as a friend?"

Bush said: "It really depends upon how [our] nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us. If we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power. And that’s why we’ve got to be humble and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom. We’re a freedom-loving nation. If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll view us that way, but if we’re humble nation, they’ll respect us."

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Cuba, Baseball and a Public Sphere

Sorry I don't have time for a lot of content or research today. It was a Sunday and I spent some time with my family -- and watching baseball. KC actually moved into a tie for second place today, but the Twins have won 10 of 11 and took the division.

In any case, I will take this opportunity to encourage readers interested in either baseball or public sphere theory to take a look at this short article in the Village Voice by Beth Kwon. She discusses Cuban baseball fans who gather regularly at the José Martí statue in Havana's Parque Central. They talk about the prior night's games and about Cuban stars playing in the US -- and about virtually anything related to baseball.

Yes, it's a public sphere, marked by the participation of locals interested in baseball, expert members of Peña (which she call's "Cuba's answer to the Society for American Baseball Research"), and visiting tourists.

Interestingly, since access to sports news is limited in Cuba, the gatherings serve to provide interested parties with information they could not otherwise obtain -- and a forum to debate the meaning of that information.

Kwon includes a quote from Kit Krieger, who organizes baseball tours to Cuba -- and is a member of SABR. In a recent post to a SABR mailing list, Krieger said that 75 people might gather at these baseball talk sessions. It is "not a single conversation but a series of discussion or arguments that break out in various spots around Jose Marti." He also posted, that it is "in fact, a gathering of very devoted and critical baseball fans whose daily lives afford more opportunity than most of us have to talk about their passion." Apparently, this kind of public debate (about anything) is pretty rare in Cuba.

Krieger also noted in the SABR posting that a picture of this gathering can be found at his commercial website.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Blair and a new European Consensus?

Earlier this week, I reported on the summit meeting among British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. I mistakenly said it was occurring that day. In any event, they have now met.

According to the BBC, the leaders have found "common ground" over the future of Iraq:

Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that while there had been "differences of opinion", he and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac had agreed a transfer of power to an Iraqi authority as quickly as possible was desirable.

The sticking point at the talks in Berlin was over the involvement of the United Nations in the post-war country, but Mr Blair agreed it should be a "key role".

He added that whatever the differences between the countries over the reconstruction of Iraq "they can be resolved, and I'm sure they will be".

Here are couple of additional quotes from the story:

'"Our views are not quite convergent at the moment," President Chirac said after the summit....But he added: "We still do not agree fully on Iraq but all three of us agree it should be dealt with in the UN."'

'Mr Blair added there was a "huge degree of consensus between us". '

So in the BBC story, all three leaders emphasize their common ground and play down the disagreements. I've speculated that Blair and the UK could be signalling a slight tilt toward Europe and away from Bush, but this story doesn't confirm that yet.

Interestingly, the NY Times story (registration required) emphasizes the failure of the summit to resolve differences among the parties. And the Times hypothesizes that Blair is "evidently" not yet ready to break with the Bush administration on the divisive issues.

Obviously, the key unresolved questions concern the status of the American occupying authority and the timetable for transition to Iraqi autonomy and democracy.

This story is clearly worth following. The great power dispute is certainly important to India, Pakistan, Turkey and Bangladesh -- all states apparently ready to provide troops if the UN sanctions them.

They are just waiting for the legitimate authority to act. The US/UK alone, of course, cannot provide that authority, and key Security Council states are still not ready to climb on board the Bush-Blair occupation.

Friday, September 19, 2003

More on Mylroie and Manufacturing Consent

Note: this post was updated and edited on the same day.

I'm sorry that this post doesn't have many links, but you'll see why and will hopefully forgive me.

I'm returning to the question of the moment: why, according to an August 2003 poll by the Washington Post, do "seven in 10 Americans continue to believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a role in the attacks" of September 11, 2001?

Yesterday, after I blogged, I looked on Lexis-Nexis to see just how often (and when) Laurie Mylroie has appeared or been referenced on national television since 9/11.

What I found was remarkable.

First, the raw numbers. I entered only "Iraq" and "Mylroie" as my search terms in the "News Transcripts" data base, searching "All Transcripts." In the past 5 years, that returned 136 entries. All but 11 of those entries are since September 11, 2001. So Mylroie and her thesis barely got any attention for years, but in the last 2 years, she's averaged an entry per week.

Much of that was right after 9/11, however, with over 40 appearances between September 11 and December 31, 2001.

To me, that seems like a lot of national TV time -- and a lot of attention to her ideas.

I clicked on many of the individual entries and invariably each referred to an appearance by Mylroie on a national television program -- and she delivered the message I quoted yesterday: Iraq was behind the first World Trade Center bombing, she thinks that bin Laden directs a "front organization" (her words) for "Iraqi and, perhaps, other intelligence agencies," and she concludes regularly that Iraq was behind both the attacks of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks.

Shortly after 3 pm on September 11, 2001, James Woolsey, the neocon former CIA Director I quoted yesterday, was live on ABC News with Peter Jennings. Remember, by this time all TV stations had eliminated commercials and were covering the attacks full-time.

Woolsey said this about the events that were then so alien:

"It's important that we realize there is a real possibility, when you have something this devastating and well-coordinated, that there could be state action of some sort behind it.

Now, I don't know that that's the case, and I won't say that it's the case. But there is at least a plausible case that there was Iraqi government involvement in the World Trade Center bombing back in 1993. This all has to do with the identity, the true identity of Ramsey Yousef, who was the mastermind, who's in prison out in Colorado now. At his sentencing the judge said, 'We still don't really know who you are.' And if there was a chance that there was Iraqi government involvement in that, since Yousef was the mastermind of the World Trade Center and of a bombing plot in the Pacific which he was working on when he was caught, to have a lot of American Airlines in the Pacific blown up, what happened today is a sort of amalgam of the earlier two Ramsey Yousef plots. It's at least, I think, interesting that that's the case. And--and if some of the observers, Laurie Mylroie and others, are correct that there's a reasonable chance that he was, in fact, involved with the Iraqi government, there could also be a chance the Iraqi government is involved here, even if bin Laden or other terrorist groups are as well."


The very next day, September 12, Mylroie herself appeared on a CBS News Special Report in prime time. hosted by Dan Rather. Since the show ran 7 though 11 pm, and her interview was just over half-way through the text, I'm guessing she was on national TV around 9:30 pm.

She said this: "I learned that Iraq was behind that bombing, which was an attempt to topple New York's tow--tallest tower onto its twin, and that, in fact, Iraq has been involved in a campaign of terrorism which is more like war. And, in my view, yesterday's events were the latest step in Saddam's war against the United States."

Later in the interview, she blamed Iraq for the attacks on the USS Cole and the embassies in Africa, and called bin Laden the leader of a "front organization." Still later that night (but near prime time in the West), Woolsey appeared on CBS and repeated his claims and made reference to Mylroie and her ideas.

Also, on September 12, Woolsey again mentioned Myrloie on ABC national TV. Peter Jennings asked Woolsey, "why do you keep bringing up Iraq?" Woolsey replies: "Because I think there has started to be rethinking of the World Trade Center operation of 1993, mainly under the influence of a fascinating new book by Laurie Mylroie called Saddam's Study of Revenge. It suggests that the government may have been involved in the World Trade Center bombing....it may turn out that Saddam made a second and this time successful try at what he failed to bring off in 1993."

On Friday night, September 14, Mylroie appeared on Fox New's "The O'Reilly Factor" in prime time TV. She repeated her claims about Iraq bombing the Trade Center in 1993 and her theory that a state (like Iraq) is behind the latest attacks. She added that Saddam Hussein "absolutely does" have WMD and that "we can reasonably assume that he is making those weapons better, more lethal, and that it's extremely dangerous."

She concluded by saying Iraq is "target number one because the real -- the direction and the expertise for these attacks are coming from Iraq. It would be good to get rid of Bin Laden, I agree completely, but it won't solve the problem. It wouldn't be as meaningful as getting rid of Saddam Hussein's regime."

On these occasions, neither Woolsey or Mylroie was ever followed, so far as I can tell, by experts pointing out possible flaws in the argument. For example, no one appeared to say that bin Laden and Hussein are natural foes. That notion was mentioned in passing once, attributed to the subject of a different interview -- but no point/counterpoint was broadcast. In short, they got to deliver their message and were generally unopposed.

I'd submit that this helped generate the idea, whether embraced by the American population or neocon elements within the Bush administration, that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.

On September 15th, Mylroie was on CSPAN and on the 19th, she was on CBS again and was even quoted on NPR's "All Things Considered" just after 8 pm. She was very busy the next month or so, adding Canadian TV, CNN (multiple appearances), additional appearances on ABC, Fox, C-SPAN, NPR and CBS. In October she was on Fox again and again and again.

I didn't find any appearances for her on NBC stations until December, but she made up the difference quickly with multiple appearances on MSNBC and CNBC.

The problem with my analysis is that it is difficult to ascertain the causality. Ultimately, members of the public were probably influenced by the President's repeatedly referencing 9/11 when justifying war against Iraq. But people like Mylroie and Woolsey made that assertion more credible with the American public -- thanks to a compliant media.

OK, I'll provide a link to a March 2003 Christian Science Monitor story about this, to help demonstrate what was apparently at work:

"In his prime-time press conference last week, which focused almost solely on Iraq, President Bush mentioned Sept. 11 eight times. He referred to Saddam Hussein many more times than that, often in the same breath with Sept. 11.

Bush never pinned blame for the attacks directly on the Iraqi president. Still, the overall effect was to reinforce an impression that persists among much of the American public: that the Iraqi dictator did play a direct role in the attacks. A New York Times/CBS poll this week shows that 45 percent of Americans believe Mr. Hussein was 'personally involved' in Sept. 11..."


The Washington Post story cited above mentions a September 13, 2001 Time/CNN poll that found 78% of the public suspected Iraq's involvement in 9/11. That result certainly suggests that the early work by Woolsey and Mylroie had a great influence. Everybody was watching TV, they received this message on a number of occasions, it went unchallenged, and they bought it.

By later that fall, news media were openly talking about whether Iraq should be either the first or next (after Afghanistan) target.

In any case, US foreign policy leaders manufactured consent for the Iraq war. And if the rationales altogether disappear (no WMD, no Iraq connection), the consent for the occupation could evaporate.

Interestingly, the Christian Science Monitor piece linked above speculated this back in March:

"In the end, will it matter if some Americans have meshed together Sept. 11 and Iraq? If the US and its allies go to war against Iraq, and it goes well, then the Bush administration is likely not to face questions about the way it sold the war. But if war and its aftermath go badly, then the administration could be under fire.

'Going to war with improper public understanding is risky,' says Richard Parker, a former US ambassador to several Mideast countries. 'If it's a failure, and we get bogged down, this is one of the accusations that [Bush] will have to face when it's all over.'"


This story isn't over.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Iraq and 9/11

I know a lot of people today are buzzing about the President acknowledging that the US has no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11. This clarification, if we want to call it that, could spell more trouble for the administration over Iraq.

Why?

Well, if it wasn't about 9/11 and there are no WMD in Iraq, but Americans are still dying and it costs $1 billion per week.... Hmmm. Was the invasion a good idea?

Setting aside that question for the minute, I'm interested in how the American people came to believe, as polls still show, that Hussein was directly linked to 9/11.

One person who does believe is Laurie Mylroie. Her book Study of Revenge -- Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America argues that Hussein was behind the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, and she has often expressed the opinion that Hussein was behind 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks. For example, Mylroie told FOX News in November 2001:

"Hussein has also been involved in all major terrorist attacks on the West since the Gulf War....The cumulative evidence that Iraq was a key player in the September 11 attack and subsequent anthrax attacks is overwhelming."

Mylroie has been making these arguments since September 2001. Indeed, she made essentially the same points to CNN, October 29, 2001. And don't think this is it, search around the internet and you'll learn that Mylroie is a frequent neoconservative guest on a wide variety of programs, from CNN's "Inside Politics" to "The Big Story With John Gibson" (apparently on FOX News).

Mylroie's claims are in direct contrast to evidence presented in the State Department's annual report on terrorism, which in April 2001 found that "The [Iraqi] regime has not attempted an anti-Western terrorist attack since its failed plot to assassinate former President Bush in 1993 in Kuwait."

So what's going on here? Well, according to Mylroie, a grand conspiracy is at work. The State Department and CIA have tried to block the release of information linking Iraq to terrorism like 9/11. She presented this theory to Fox News in fall 2002 and repeats it in her latest book, Bush vs The Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror.

Still, despite the bureaucratic opposion, according to Mylroie (in an interview she gave to PBS in October 2002), some people in Washington agree with her:

"The Pentagon believes Iraq is behind the terrorism that began on September 11 and wants to include Iraq as a central target in our war on terrorism. "

If you stick with Mylroie, however, you soon uncover other rather odd conclusions she's drawn over the years (she even tries to link Iraq to the Oklahoma City bombing!). For example, she thinks bin Laden and Hussein have long been in direct cahoots and that bin Laden is essentially, a cover for state terrorism:

"Bin Laden and Saddam are working together; they're both in it together. But between Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda, the far more important party is Iraqi intelligence. Bin Laden also worked with Sudanese intelligence. That came out in the trial for the 1998 embassy bombing. Bin Laden works with the Taliban. He's not as important as we think. He does not work independently of a state, of a government. But because we have not seen the links, or perhaps not wanted to see the links between Osama bin Laden and various governments, we ourselves have attributed to him capabilities that he alone does not possess."

By the way, this is not "old news." Mylroie is still making the same arguments in widely distributed conservative circles. For example, on the 2-year anniversary of 9/11, National Review ran an interview with her. She repeated the same basic claims and tried to bolster her case:

"After the 9/11 Commission panel, former Navy Secretary John Lehman, one of the commissioners, told the press that he thought Iraq was involved in the attacks, citing the terrorist training camp at Salman Pak."

Do (or did) the neocons and/or Bush take Mylroie seriously over the past 2 years?

James Woolsey, former director of the CIA and frequent neocon guest on various TV programs, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2001. In that piece (the prior link is to the google archive), Woolsey speculates about state assistance to bin Laden: "But by far the more likely candidate for involvement with al Qaeda is Iraq, for several reasons." He goes on to make some of the claims Mylroie makes in her books and interviews. And he has repeated these claims on various occasions.

There has already been plenty written about the neocon influence on Bush's foreign policy, but much of that has focused on the role played by those embedded in the Pentagon or State Department like Wolfowitz, Libby and Bolton.

The outsiders like Mylroie and Woolsey perhaps played an even bigger role shaping public opinion in preparation for war -- on grounds that even the administration now openly denies.

And there are clearly connections among these neocons. As Tony Karon of Time reported in July Wolfowitz provided a complementary blurb on Mylroie's book. He wrote that she "argues powerfully that the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was actually an agent of Iraqi intelligence."

That Time story also quotes Richard Perle's blurb, a neocon serving on Bush's Defense Policy Advisory Board: "Laurie Myroie has amassed convincing evidence of Saddam Hussein's involvement in the first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center. If she is right -- and there are simple ways to test her hypothesis -- we would be justified in concluding that Saddam was probably involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks as well."

The story does a very good job of showing why Mylroie is wrong -- and points out that her testimony before government authorities (congressional hearings and the 9/11 Commission) has been effectively questioned and refuted.

However, who countered Mylroie when she shaped public opinion on FOX or CNN?

No one, apparently.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Linking the deficit and Iraq

A recently released Newsweek poll shows a lot of new public unease about US policy in Iraq:

"Nearly half of respondents, 47 percent, say they are very concerned that the cost of maintaining troops in Iraq will lead to a large budget deficit and seriously hurt the U.S. economy. And 60 percent of those polled say the estimated $1 billion per week that the United States is spending is too much and the country should scale back its efforts."

The poll also found:

"SIXTY-NINE PERCENT of Americans polled say they are very concerned (40 percent) or somewhat concerned (29 percent) that the United States will be bogged down for many years in Iraq without making much progress in achieving its goals. Just 18 percent say they're confident that a stable, democratic form of government can take shape in Iraq over the long term."

Part of the problem may be the latest attempted linking of the cost of war in Iraq to domestic economic problems. State and local governments are cutting services and education spending -- plus, many police officers and other "first responders" are serving in Iraq.

This information has been widely distributed over the internet, but you might want to check out the story in full: TOMPAINE.com - What Can $87 Billion Buy?.

The author compares Bush's $87 billion supplemental request for Iraq with other spending priorities. Here are a few bullet points:

"$87b Is More Than The Combined Total Of All State Budget Deficits In The United States

$87b Is Roughly The Total Of Two Years Worth Of All U.S. Unemployment Benefits

$87b Is Enough To Pay The 3.3 Million People Who Have Lost Jobs $26,363 Each

$87b Is More Than Double The Total Amount The Government Spends On Homeland Security

$87b Is More Than 10 Times What The Government Spends On All Environmental Protection"

You get the idea.

Will this issue have traction? I do think this is an excellent way to frame some of the tax/deficit issues many Democrats are raising. Many are already talking up homeland security, health care, and other needs, but most are discussing these spending needs in terms of the tax cuts.

The war and the Defense budget are other important competitors for bucks. Wesley Clark, more than any of the other "anti-war" candidates, can perhaps raise these issues much more directly and credibly (the dovish hawk, in contrast to many other Dems positioning themselves as hawkish doves).

Of course, Clark is going to have to quickly move from biography (4 star General, Kosovo, Rhodes Scholar, top of his class at West Point, Arkansas) to well-rounded candidate with worthy ideas about America's future.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Updates

Today, I'm going to point readers to a few stories that address points I've addressed here in the last two weeks.

First, the Bush administration's pre-war lies. USA Today, of all places, had a story yesterday about CNN's pre-war coverage of Iraq and its WMD, "Amanpour: CNN practiced self-censorship." CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour said about her employer's coverage: "it's a question of tone. It's a question of being rigorous. It's really a question of really [sic] asking the questions. All of the entire body politic in my view, whether it's the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever, did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels."

Along those same lines, Joshua Micah Marshall has a story in the September Washington Monthly ("The Post-Modern President Deception, Denial, and Relativism: what the Bush administration learned from the French") arguing that the Bushies have a firm policy agenda that they support with whatever arguments seem convenient to selling their case. This is political spin taken to a new post-modern level. Beyond lying about politics, Marshall is describing a complete lack of concern with evidence -- and a complete rejection of expert advice that disagrees with its ideology.

Next, post-war politics.

Reuter's reports that Tony Blair is meeting today with Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder in hopes of formulating a common European policy on post-war Iraq. While it may simply be wishful thinking, Martin Koopman, of the German Council on Foreign Relations, concludes that the meeting could force the US to change its position. "If Germany, France and Britain really achieve a common position, it would make it very difficult for the United States to oppose such a position in the Security Council," he said. "In any case, it would mean an extreme upgrading of Europe."

As I wrote last week, Blair is facing a lot of domestic pressure on Iraq. His own "doctrine of international community" fits better with European multilateralism than it does with American unilateralism. Now that the war is over, it would not be surprising to see him work with natural partners.

Oh, and the French aren't the only ones suggesting that Iraq should very soon be governed by Iraqis. Yesterday's Washington Post reported that 5 members of Iraq's 25 member Governing Council (appointed by the US), are calling for a quick end to the US occupation and a transfer of power to Iraq.

Think about that. Hand picked Iraqs (including Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, the Pentagon's darling) are rejecting the US. Chalabi, who is this month's Governing Council President, said: "There must be a move forward to sovereignty for Iraq. We want to work with the international community to achieve that as soon as possible."

Monday, September 15, 2003

Blogging

I know, I know. So far, this space looks more like a daily political column (occasionally infused with baseball) than a blog.

So let me send you to Peace Tree Farm to check out the lyrics from "Man in Black." It wasn't Johnny Cash's biggest hit, and it doesn't get played all that often compared to many of his other recordings, but it is a great song. Read the lyrics and think "progressive populism."

Joshua Micah Marshall of The Washington Monthly is reporting rumors that the Kay report on Iraqi WMD may not be released at all. 1400 scientists, military officials and intelligence experts have been searching Iraq for 4 months and haven't found any WMD. This will, of course, remain a story even if the report remains secret.

Political cash

It's not on-line, but The American Prospect's September issue had an interesting book review by Thomas Byrne Edsall. In it, the author explains why the new campaign finance law ironically hurts Democrats more than it does Republicans (even though Democrats have been more favorable to reform and Republicans long resisted it).

The law precludes Big Labor and wealthy individuals from spending large sums on elections. While corporate America is also similarly limited, it has apparently been much more effective convincing like-minded individuals to write small checks. Individual Republican "Rangers" and "Pioneers" exploit their personal and business connections to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Their task is made easier because McCain-Feingold doubled the limits on individual contributions.

Moreover, corporate donors have lately been writing the overwhelming majority of their checks to Republicans, after decades of relative balance (because of long-time Democratic control of the House, and then Clinton).

By contrast, individual unionists and rank-and-file Democrats apparently don't write those smaller checks with as great a frequency. At every level below $100,000, Republicans raise more money than do Democrats. Party leaders have blamed poor databases and legal debts from the campaign spending investigations of the 1990s. Anyway, it adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars difference between the two parties! A July/August story in The Atlantic Monthly by Seth Gitell called the reform "The Democratic Party Suicide Bill." Apparently, the RNC has about a 3:1 advantage over the DNC as of the end of August, 2003.

To free elected officials from the evils of fund-raising and the possibility of quid pro quo payoffs, the US needs publicly financed elections. The total figure spent on elections is peanuts in the grand scheme of the federal budget. As opponents of reform like to point out, Americans spend only a few billion dollars on all elections annually -- state and federal combined were $4 billion in 1996.

But opponents point to these figures as a reason to reject reform. After all, how could anything important be bought for such a low cost? What Senator, House member, or President would pander to donors for such paltry sums?

Whatever the answer to these questions, publicly financed elections would be relatively cheap -- and they are not very likely to happen anytime soon.

That means rank-and-file Democratic party members are going to have to dig deeper into their own pockets more frequently if they hope to keep pace with Republicans.

If they do not make many more small contributions, incumbents (as usual), will win most elections. After all, given President Bush's remarkable fund-raising, it is quite apparent that those happy with his agenda are writing lots of checks. He is on course to have $200 million for the primaries (through September, when the convention begins) -- and he's likely to be unopposed!

Democratic candidates taking public money will be limited to spending $45 million during the primary campaign (until August, when they hold their convention). Incredibly, even though McCain-Feingold raised individual contributor limits, it did not similarly raise spending limits!

As I said last week, Howard Dean (or some other candidate) could effectively have the Democratic nomination locked up the day after the early March Super-Tuesday primaries. If that person accepts public money, President Bush will outspend the Democrat several-fold during April-May-June-July-August.

So don't be surprised when the leading Democrats reject public money.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Irrelevant?

When President Bush was making the case for war against Iraq, he warned the United Nations that it should act with the US or become "irrelevant." Specifically, here's what he said:

"The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"

Apparently, even though the UN did not support the US/UK invasion of Iraq, the President has decided that the UN remains relevant after all. As I've written before, the US is seeking cash and troops from other states -- and Bush realizes that other states want UN authorization before providing this assistance:

"Some countries have requested an explicit authorization of the United Nations Security Council before committing troops to Iraq."

And so, this past week, Secretary of State Colin Powell has been trying to convince US friends that they should cooperate with the US at the UN. Clearly, the administration is trying to convince states like Germany and France that they have a common interest in such multilateral action:

"I recognize that not all of our friends agreed with our decision to enforce the Security Council resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein from power. Yet we cannot let past differences interfere with present duties. Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world, and opposing them must be the cause of the civilized world. Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity -- and the responsibility -- to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation. "

Some media reports, including one from the Associated Press, suggest that the negotiations are making progress -- and that the US has "flinched." However, other reports (including the NY Times, which requires registration to view) suggest that states like Germany and France require a greatly diminished role for the US. They want Iraqi self governance very quickly -- and for the UN, not the US, to supervise the transfer of power.

To me, the most interesting part of all this is that the UN's chief role in world politics is becoming quite evident to everyone. It conveys political legitimacy on genuinely multilateral operations. Many countries will simply not line up behind the US to provide political cover for its foreign policy:

'''The fact the U.S. is coming back to the United Nations at this point is itself an indication the U.N. did not become "irrelevant,"' said Yale University scholar James S. Sutterlin, a former top U.N. political aide.

The world body 'has a unique capacity to mobilize money and legitimize the use of troops,' he said."

This political legitimacy, of course, was lacking in the war itself.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

9/11, the Warren Commission and Government Transparency

A great deal of my academic work concerns transparency, which one colleague calls simply "the opposite of secrecy." The logic of transparency resonates widely, whether applied to governments, markets, or businesses. Citizens, investors and consumers ought to be able to make informed decisions about the large and powerful institutions that have a great impact on their lives.

Governmental transparency, which in the US is embedded in the Freedom of Information Act, helps promote democratic accountability.

For example, there is great demand for a more detailed and public investigation of 9/11. This is not to say that wild-eyed conspiracy theorists should be embraced. Rather, without much greater disclosure of the intelligence failings and other mistakes that helped cause the tragic events of that day, the conspiracy theorists are far better positioned to peddle their nonsense.

Interestingly, a number of widows of 9/11 are among the most ardent supporters of greater governmental transparency surrounding this issue. They are quite dissatisfied with the results that have made public to date. Of course, a bipartisan collection of US Senators and House members also supports the release of more information about 9/11. The Saudi connection, apparently, still remains largely hidden.

As readers might know, the US relatively quickly and thoroughly investigated the events leading to Pearl Harbor more than half a century ago. Leaders wanted to avoid making the same mistakes -- even if some individuals or institutions might be embarrassed by the findings.

That's the kind of real national security work that is needed in this case.

Then again, given how often government officials have lied in the recent past (and often gotten away with it), many US citizens will distrust even authoritative findings. For example, there are still fairly serious people who doubt the Warren Commission's report about the assassination of JFK.

Barr McClellan, a lawyer and father of current White House press secretary Scott McClellan and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Mark McClellan has written a new conspiracy-theory book about the Kennedy murder.

Barr's theory (purportedly supported by new evidence) is apparent from the title: Blood, Money and Power: How LBJ killed JFK.

Given that 9/11 is now more than 2 years behind us, it may already be too late to put this kind of wild theorizing to rest. Imagine the decades of conspiracy theories that may lie ahead surrounding 9/11. Already, the range is mind-boggling.

The same problem may well pervade the war against Iraq -- especially if WMD are never found. As readers may know, the Johnson administration clearly trumped up the Gulf of Tonkin incident that directly resulted in escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Less well known is the private and non-American intelligence evidence suggesting that Iraq was NOT, in fact, preparing to attack Saudi Arabia before the first Gulf War. Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former science advisor on arms control for the state Department, recently wrote about this lie in the Washington Post and linked it to more recent questions about the evidence for attacking Iraq in 2003.

I'm not sure how to conclude other than with a call for greater transparency -- and specifically, more thorough and public reporting about 9/11, Iraqi WMD and its alleged connections to international terrorism.