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November 29, 2004

They know who their friends are

Over at Iraq the Model Omar speculates:

It's been usual for foreigners (diplomats, workers, journalists...etc) in Iraq to take lots of security precautions when they move around in Baghdad or some other Iraqi cities; they try to hide anything that might reveal their identities and I even noticed that they began to choose ordinary cars-from the kinds that many Iraqis own instead of fancy new cars- for use in their rides to avoid attracting attention.

This is of course as a result of the kidnappings and various attacks that targeted foreigners in Iraq regardless of the nature of their presence here. This created the feeling that every foreigner walking on the streets is an easy target for direct gunfire or for kidnapping (for money or to be beheaded later). This even included Arabs and Arab firms and even Iraqis working in Arab firms. In short, anyone who is here to do something that might be good for Iraq.

One group of foreigners really caught my attention by ignoring all the dangers and moving in the streets of Baghdad showing their identity so clearly.

One might think that this group of people did so because they are very bold but actually I don't think this is true for this case. Why? Because simply they were French.  Yesterday, I saw a single car with the words "FRENCH EMBASSY" written in Arabic on the windshield moving in Karrada crowded neighborhood in broad daylight. They didn't seem to be in a hurry and were driving slowly unlike other foreigners who try to drive as fast as possible to avoid being tracked and chased.

It seems that the French are not afraid of the terrorists. Were they excluded from the terrorists' targets list for some reason? Is there a peace truce between them? Did we miss something here? Because the French are moving freely and saying for the terrorists:  "Hey, it's us, so don't mistake us for your enemies, the other foreigners! And we are not just ordinary French. We are the French government! And we are certainly not doing something good for Iraq, so relax!"
This may explain why no one is anymore worried about the two French journalists; they're in friendly hands!

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November 26, 2004

Hunger for regime change

In today's post entitled A Failed Revolution, Ali at Iraq the Model described the fear and distrust that prevailed in the days of Saddam.

In the past in Iraq (and till now in all arab and Muslim countries except for very few, and since Trotsky came up with his idea of the “Everlasting revolution”), any attempt to change the government or even part of it was considered as a “conspiracy against the revolution” and an act of treason that no one would imagine a more horrible crime and a worse punishment for.

In Iraq for a long time a revolution seemed to us to be the only way to overthrow Saddam and achieve our dreams in freedom, justice and democracy. There’s always something fascinating about revolution especially for people like us who suffered for a long time under a very brutal dictatorship.

[...]

Trusting others was almost impossible and very risky. We had to consider that we were not only risking our lives but also the lives of our family, close friends and relatives and the future of our relatives to the 4th degree! One of these days at Saddam’s time some friends were gathering in our house. We were just chatting and having fun. Our neighbor who is a Tikriti and worked for the intelligence knocked on the door and when I opened he asked me about the cars outside our house. I told him that these were our friends’. He said to me, “You know that gathering is against the law and if it wasn’t for the fact that you’re my neighbor and I respect your family, I would’ve sent you behind the sun. Be careful, as I understand but other people may not” He said it in a warning tone not as an advice!

But hope won the day and Ali and his compatriots gathered to lay plans for takeover. 

The group chose me, my brother Mohammed and a friend of ours to go to the authorities and talk to them, as we were still hoping to do this peacefully without unnecessary bloodshed...

Learn the startling outcome. More right here.

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November 23, 2004

Open-source Material

Former CIA Analyst Michael Scheuer, in his tour of the talk shows, now says there was no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. Tim Russert questioned him about that on Meet the Press.

MR. RUSSERT: You've talked about Iraq being a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda, that you said the invasion of Iraq was not a pre-emption, it was an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat. But I want to bring you to an interview you had on Tuesday on "Hardball" where you said, "The only part of [the case for the war in Iraq] that I know about is that I happened to do the research on links between al Qaeda and Iraq." Question: "And what did you come up with?" Scheuer: "Nothing." If you go back and read your first book, "Through Enemies' Eyes," you seem to lay out a pretty strong case of connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Let me show you page 190: "In pursuing tactical nuclear weapons, bin Laden has focused on the [Former Soviet Union] states and has sought and received help from Iraq." This week's new Weekly Standard lays out this one: "There's information showing that in '93-94, bin Laden began" working "with Sudan and Iraq to acquire a [chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear] capability." And this: "We know for certain that bin Laden was seeking [chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear] weapons ... and that Iraq and Sudan have been cooperating with bin Laden."

MR. SCHEUER: Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT: So you saw a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden?

MR. SCHEUER: I certainly saw a link when I was writing the books in terms of the open-source literature, unclassified literature, but I had nothing to do with Iraq during my professional career until the run-up to the war. What I was talking about on "Hardball" was I was assigned the duty of going back about nine or 10 years in the classified archives of the CIA. I went through roughly 19,000 documents, probably totaling 50,000 to 60,000 pages, and within that corpus of material, there was absolutely no connection in the terms of a--in terms of a relationship--in the terms of a relationship...

MR. RUSSERT: But your book did point out some contacts?

MR. SCHEUER: Certainly it was available in the open-source material, yes, sir.

So. Because Through Enemies' Eyes relied on "open-source material", are we to conclude that it's unreliable? Is "open-source literature, unclassified literature" somehow suspect? And what does it mean "no connection… in the terms of a relationship?" What counts as a relationship?

One thing lacking from the CIA intelligence gathering capabilities on Iraq was the Human Intelligence, HUMINT. Cracking Saddam's inner circles with CIA operatives or informants was impossible. What could the CIA have known, and have put into its classified documents, about Saddam's relationships if Saddam didn't want anybody to know?

More and more I'm coming to see this election season as the War on Bush, and even though the election is over, the war isn't. A significant issue in this election was to my mind, the question of who would select our president, the American people or the media elite. Try as they did, the media elite didn't win. There has been great temptation on the part of bloggers to cast the struggle as one between the Mainstream Media and the pajama bloggers, but I can't say I agree with that. It's still the old left verses right with the left entrenched in Mainstream Media and the right finding voice first in talk radio, then in blogs.

But now I wonder is there something else going on here? Is this a fascinating parallel that we see? Some present and former CIA operatives seem to be operating in an inverse of Mainstream Media fashion. The power of the left in Mainstream Media has been their power to withhold information from the public. Think Walter Duranty. Have they, the left, established a beachhead at the CIA?

Here is Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard who notices the intriquing alliance.

Conventional wisdom was already firm: Goss and his cronies, embittered CIA failures all, were out to exact political revenge. John Roberts, anchoring CBS Evening News, wondered aloud, "What went wrong?" A Boston Globe editorial claimed the Goss "purge" was likely the "settling of partisan scores rather than an effort to introduce genuine accountability."

Let's entertain an alternative scenario: that after several years of painful and very public intelligence failures by the CIA, the new director and his team hope to make changes that will protect Americans; that Goss will draw on his decade as a CIA operative in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe and his seven years as chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence to ameliorate a deteriorating situation that he watched from the front row; that perhaps it is the CIA officials who leaked against Bush who have a political agenda or interests to protect.

It was possible to take in most press accounts over the last week and never encounter those possibilities. It would appear that reporters who cover the intelligence community--particularly beat reporters from the Washington Post, the New York Times, Newsday, and Knight Ridder newspapers--often simply regurgitate storylines presented to them by the most political current and former CIA officials. Democratic elected officials furrow their brows about the partisan Republicans. And so we arrive at yet another bizarre moment in the often perplexing political sociology of Washington: The political left and its friends in the establishment press are in a full embrace of the most illiberal and secretive component of the U.S. government.

No "connection in terms of a relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda is to be found in classified CIA documents. I wonder if one will be found when they are de-classified.  What's been going on at the CIA?  Who outed Valerie Plame?

Posted by Tom Bowler at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 20, 2004

CIA

According to this Weekly Standard article by Mathew Continetti, former CIA counterterrorism officer Micheal Scheuer was given the green light to talk to the media about his new book, Imperial Hubris.  That is, he could talk all he wanted as long as he confined his discussion to Bush bashing.  Once CIA management came under scrutiny, that permission was withdrawn.

Who gave Scheuer carte blanche to attack Bush? At a breakfast with reporters on Friday, Scheuer gave his answer: former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.

Scheuer told reporters on Friday that, traditionally, he would have to arrange interviews through the CIA public affairs office. Each interview would have to be cleared before

Scheuer was allowed to talk. With Imperial Hubris, however, that wasn't the case. The book's advance publicity had hyped the fact that a CIA officer was anonymously breaking with the administration's anti-terror strategy. Interview requests flooded in. But Scheuer said that Harlow told him, "We're giving you carte blanche." Harlow's condition? Scheuer was supposed to let the public affairs office know who he talked to--after the interview(s) had taken place.

"The book was misunderstood," Scheuer said on Friday. "It's a book about the failure of senior intelligence officers," not an ad hominem attack on the president. During his first round of publicity interviews, he tried to set the record straight. "Once I turned it around," however, "and talked about leadership in the intelligence community," Scheuer said, "well, that was the end of the day." Since Bush was no longer his target, Scheuer had been gagged.

Of course, one reporter asked, Harlow couldn't have made the decision to promote Scheuer's book alone. Scheuer nodded. He said that Harlow would've needed authorization from his superiors for such a move. Harlow's superior at the time? Former CIA director George Tenet.

By all appearances the CIA was heavily engaged in politicking.  So the question is, Will Porter Goss be able to de-politicize the agency? 

Sen. John McCain hits home by describing the CIA as "dysfunctional" and "a rogue agency." Goss echoes that judgment in his memo by reportedly saying that the agency's job is "not [to] identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies." The suddenly loquacious Scheuer said that the agency had been happy to let him oppose the administration, although, he said, that had not been his intent.

Another question that leaps to mind, so who outed Valerie Plame

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November 15, 2004

Slow death for the FMA?

I bring this up because of recent family discussions on the issue of gay unions.  Disagreements would be a better word.  So in the interest of perspective:

Back on February 24, 2004 the President said this:

Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society. Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all. Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife. The amendment should fully protect marriage, while leaving the state legislatures free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage.

America is a free society, which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens. This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions. Our government should respect every person, and protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities. We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger.

In the October 26, 2004 365Gay.com, Washington Bureau Chief Paul Johnson wrote:

(Washington)  President George W. Bush has softened his approach to same-sex unions as he makes his final bid to reach out to moderate voters in the final days of the campaign.

Tuesday morning Bush told ABC's Charles Gibson that he would support civil unions but remains opposed to gay marriage.

I disagree with Mr Johnson.  I don't believe this represents a softening of approach.  I've thought from the outset, that Bush favored civil unions, and I got that from the comment he made in February about leaving the states free to define legal arrangements other than marriage.  He's been pretty clear about wanting to prevent activist judges from legislating the issue from the bench.

So now that the election is over, and Bush has said out loud that he favors civil unions, will there be a rush to pass this amendment?  And if there is, what happens if and when it passes and goes on to the states?  I've pondered these questions in an earlier post, and I suggested then that we contain our hysteria on the issue.

At a web site called BeliefNet I found these interesting exit poll numbers.

Which Comes Closest to Your View of Gay and Lesbian Couples? Kerry Bush Nader
They should be allowed to legally marry
Percentage of Electorate: 25
77% 22% 1%
There should be no legal recognition of their relationships
Percentage of Electorate: 37
29% 70% 0%
They should be allowed to legally form civil unions, but not marry
Percentage of Electorate: 35
47% 52% 0%

According to these numbers 60% of voters favored either gay marriage or civil unions.  Of those who favor gay marriage nearly a quarter voted for Bush, which indicates that it was not a hot button issue for them in this election.  Of those who favor civil unions more than half voted for Bush.

Here are some more interesting numbers to put some perspective on the Federal Marriage Amendment debate.  According to CNN, 23% of gay or lesbian voters felt that the President's position on gay marriage was either not a threat to gay rights, or not enough of a threat that they could actually bring themselves to vote for John Kerry.

ARE YOU GAY, LESBIAN OR BISEXUAL?
BUSH
KERRY NADER
TOTAL
2004
2000
2004
2004
Yes (4%)
23%
-2
77% 0%
No (96%)
53%
+3
46% 0%

While these numbers may not say much about the 2004 presidential election, the fact that 60% of voters favor either gay marriage or civil unions, says a to me that a constitutional amendment won't have an easy time of it when it comes to ratification by the states.  And further, if a constitutional amendment somehow or other manages to pass, it's probable that there will be a rush to pass legislation creating civil unions in many states.  My bet - the amendment won't make ratification. 

Posted by Tom Bowler at 10:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 12, 2004

No Surrender II

Lately Thomas Friedman has been indulging himself in the kind of Monday morning quarterbacking I find particularly annoying.  He carries on about the importance of battle for Iraq and how it is now slipping away because of administration incompetence. 

I got a brief glimpse of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's news conference on Monday, as the battle for Falluja began. I couldn't help but rub my eyes for a moment and wonder aloud whether I had been transported back in time to some 20 months ago, when the war for Iraq had just started. Watching CNN, I saw the same Rummy joking with the Pentagon press corps, the same scratchy reports from the front by "embedded reporters,'' the same footage of U.S. generals who briefed the soldiers preparing for battle about how they were liberating Iraq.

There was only one difference that no one seemed to want to mention. It wasn't 20 months ago. It was now. And Iraq has still not been fully liberated. In fact, as the fight for Falluja shows, it hasn't even been fully occupied.

There are a couple of other minor differences whose mention has somehow escaped the notice of Mr. Friedman.  First, the order to go into battle in Falluja came from the Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi.  Second, 3000 Iraqi soldiers went into battle along side the Americans.  Let me spell it out for you Mr. Friedman.  There's a interim government with a Prime Minister and there's an Iraqi army.  And their on our side.

The picture Mr. Friedman presents, no progress in Iraq, is not just inaccurate.  And it's not believable that Mr. Friedman is unaware of these differences between now and 20 months ago.  It's just that, when you are a dishonest partisan hack, differences like this can hardly be mentioned.

When a mainstream pundit expresses the thought that Iraq is a disaster, I always wonder compared to what? Does he ever think about comparing it to something like, say, another war?  If any one of them ever has, I haven't heard of it.  There were American Civil War battles where more troops were killed in an hour than died in over three years in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He continues his lament with with what I'm sure he considers his six penetrating questions.  These are purportedly questions that if the administration can answer satisfactorily will convince Mr. Friedman that we have a chance to get it right in Iraq. 

Free advice: until you have answers to the following six questions, don't believe any happy talk coming from the Bush team on Iraq.

Question 1 Have we really finished the war in Iraq ? And by that I mean… 

Do we need to go further with this, or any other of his idiotic questions?  Is it necessary for him to actually clarify what he means?  Just who does he think he's kidding?  He implies that someone thinks it's finished.  Who?  Either his his grip on reality is non-existent or his commitment to truth is non-existent.  Either way I have some some advice of my own:  Don't believe any talk of any kind whatever, coming from Thomas Friedman.  Clearly the No Surrender mentality, recently voiced in a Krugman column, is policy at the Times.

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November 11, 2004

Arafat

The eloquence of Glenn Reynolds is showcased in this essay on the death of Yasser Arafat.

The Captain's Quarters expends a bit more commentary on the subject.

For all the crimes he committed and people he terrorized, the most ironic legacy Arafat left was the utter poverty and degradation he rained onto his own people -- while he and his wife lived it up on their money. And now the people of the West Bank will send him off with a hero's funeral, compounding the irony.

From Arthur Chrenkoff we get Australian Prime Minister John Howard's assessment.

I think history will judge him very harshly for not having seized the opportunity in the year 2000 to embrace the offer that was very courageously made by the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, which involved the Israelis agreeing to about 90 per cent of what the Palestinians had wanted... I think if Arafat had grabbed hold of that opportunity in the dying days of the Clinton administration then the path of things in the Middle East may have been smoother.

I wonder if we weren't just witnessing the Peter Principle at work.  Arafat was a terrorist.  Had peace and prosperity come to the Palestinians what would he have done?  What talent did he have for leadership except murder, intimidation, and plunder?  Of course he had to refuse the offer of Ehud Barak.  Had he accepted he would have put himself out of a job.

Update:  Power Line has more.  Here's a sample:

Some date the beginning of the terrorist war against the United States to the seizure of 67 American hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran by the followers of Ayatollah Khomeni in November 1979 or to the bombing of the barracks in Beirut by Hezbollah that killed 241 Marines in October 1983.

Yasser Arafat, however, is the true father of this war. First Arafat created Black September as an offshoot of his Fatah organization. He presided over the operation resulting in the massacre of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich by Black September in 1972. The following year Arafat became the first Arab terrorist to target Americans.

He personally ordered the assassination of American Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel, Jr. and charge d'affaires Curtis Moore in Khartoum on March 2, 1973. (See my "Who murdered Cleo Noel?") Arafat himself presided over the Khartoum operation and ordered the assassination of Noel and Moore by short wave radio from PLO headquarters in Beirut. Moore and Noel were only the first of many Americans murdered by Arafat's terrorist thugs.

Read the whole thing.

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November 10, 2004

Ashcroft Resignation

John Ashcroft is stepping down from his position as one of the left's favorite whipping boys.  According to them he has trampled civil liberties.  While nobody can say exactly where how, they cling to the notion that he is reponsible for passing the Patriot Act, and accuse him of abuses in its name.   

Finiancier and anti-Bush activist George Soros was only one of many who bashed Ashcroft, saying in a speech last summer: “Ashcroft passed the Patriot Act.”

In reality, Congress passed the Patriot Act, and President Bush signed it into law. The vote in the Senate was 96 to one, with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry being one of the 96 “aye” votes.

The reality is that Ashcroft was more of a guardian than an enemy of civil liberties.  His position on the Second Amendment makes that point.  In a letter to the National Rifle Association dated May 17, 2001, he had this to say.

While some have argued that the Second Amendment guarantees only a "collective right" of the States to maintain militias, I believe that the Amendment's plain meaning and original intent prove otherwise. Like the First and Fourth Amendments, the Second Amendment protects the rights of "the people" which the Supreme Court has noted is a term of art that should be interpreted consistently throughout the Bill of Rights.

Even more telling is his respect for the law, as described by Viet Dinh, who served as assistant attorney general under Ashcroft until last summer.

“He led the department in a very, very difficult time and withstood a lot of criticism and despite that criticism, he has remained steadfast and his mission remained clear. That’s why he was such an effective leader of change and a powerful attorney general.”

Dinh added, "Of course there have been mistakes made in specific prosecutions. But when those mistakes were uncovered it is another great mark of John Ashcroft's leadership that he doesn't try to paper it over, or to spin it away politically. In the case of the Detroit (terrorist) prosecutions he came into the court after a full and fair investigation by the Department of Justice and confessed error. He said, ‘We had prosecutors who exceeded the bounds of their authority and who have potentially violated the constitutional rights of the defendants. We hereby drop all the prosecutions and we will see what charges we can bring in a legal constitutional manner.’”

We should all hope the next Attorney General will put the same emphasis on respect for individual rights as did John Ashcroft.

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November 09, 2004

Liberals and tolerance

Under the headline, "San Francisco in No Mood for Tolerance After Bush Win"

Peace and tolerance have long been the words to live by in San Francisco, known for its large gay community, broad ethnic mix and frequent anti-war protests. But days after the election, many residents said they were so worried about an erosion of civil rights, environmental standards and the escalating violence in the Middle East, that they did not know how they could tolerate the Bush administration, or Americans who voted to re-elect him.

I think I get it now.  Everybody else is supposed to be tolerant of liberals.  That's what this tolerance thing is all about.

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On this day in 1965

The entire northeastern United States lost power at about 5:15PM.  At the moment the power went out I happened to be in Windsor, Connecticut driving home for supper.  I had a sociology class that evening at "The Branch" which was what everybody who went there called the Hartford branch of UConn.  I was not your model student, and I was happy to learn the extent of the power failure because it meant I didn't have to go to class.  It was a beautiful night, mild with a full moon, and the outage was an adventure.  A bunch of us got together after supper and built a fire in an outdoor fireplace on the Loomis campus which is down the street from the house where we used to live.  Somebody managed to scare up a few beers, and we sat around talking, drinking Bud, and enjoying the spectacular night. 

I think there might have been some speculation that the Russians were behind it.  After all, it was only three years earlier we had the Cuban missile crisis.  But when the bombs didn't start dropping we started blaming the squirrels, thinking one of them got into a transformer and set off a chain reaction.  Would have been some squirrel.  Apparently it was a power surge that found design flaw in the grid. 

Another rumor had it that the birth rate in the northeast spiked nine months later.  That didn't happen either.  While some people were stuck in elevators and subways, for most it was an adventure not a crisis, and it was over in about 12 hours.  Classes at The Branch resumed the next day.

Side note:  In those days nobody ever heard of UConn.  The Big East had not been born, UConn was part of the Yankee Conference, and basketball was not big.  I attended a Manhattanville homecoming in New York City with my girl that fall.  When she introduced me to her friends she mentioned that I went to UConn.  "And you came all the way from Alaska!?"

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