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Monday, October 20, 2003

Latest in anti-proliferation efforts

Already, it has been a busy week for the remaining two members of the so-called "axis of evil." When President Bush applied this label to Iran and North Korea in his January 2002 "State of the Union" address, terrorism was on everyone's mind. It has now been made quite clear, however, that the primary western security concern relating to these states is old-fashioned nuclear proliferation.

The US is now floating an offer not to attack North Korea (well, officially, US officials are talking about "security assurances") in exchange for the renunciation of North Korea's nuclear program. The deal is reminiscent of the bargain agreed between the US and Soviet Union in 1962 to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis. In exchange for an agreement not to attack Cuba, the Soviets would withdraw their missiles.

While US-Cuban ties have remained sour for 4 decades, the deal has mostly worked. Hopefully, North Korean proliferation can be prevented via peaceful diplomacy.

In the case of Iran, the foreign ministers of Britain (Jack Straw), Germany (Joschka Fischer) and France (Dominique de Villepin), are visiting Iran to discuss Iran's nuclear program. The details are a bit different, but the deal's logic is similar:
Diplomats said the EU ministers would demand Iran cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), accept tougher U.N. inspections and halt uranium enrichment.

In return, the ministers would offer to recognise Iran's right to a civilian nuclear energy programme, give some technical assistance and guarantee Iran's access to imported fuel for nuclear power plants.
The IAEA has set an October 31 deadline to set up inspections that can confirm Iranian compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty. Otherwise, the IAEA might recommend the UN Security Council impose sanctions.

Perhaps the EU has decent leverage on Iran since it has long pursued trade ties to moderate Iran, rather than sanctions, which the US has used since the Shah fell and American hostages were taken.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Playing hard-to-get

Reuters is running a story that follows up on my blog from yesterday.

The Bush administration hopes that last week's UN Security Council resolution opens the doors for friendly states to send some troops to Iraq. Essentially, UN legitimacy provides political cover for what would likely be an unpopular decision.

It now seems that neither Pakistan nor Saudi Arabia is going to follow through. They've framed their remarks in terms that sound an awful lot like popular sovereignty, ironic given the military and monarchical roots of those governments:
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two key allies in the U.S.-led war on terror, ruled out on Sunday sending troops to Iraq without the consent of the Iraqi people.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Iraqis had shown no desire to have foreign peacekeepers in their country.

"This express opinion from the Iraqi people has not been shown to us," he said at a joint news conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri in Islamabad.

"Up till that time at least for Saudi Arabia....we will not send any troops."

Kasuri said Pakistan would also wait for an invitation from Iraq before making any decision on contributing troops to a multinational peacekeeping force authorised by a unanimously passed U.N. resolution on Thursday.

"If the people of Iraq ask for help, Pakistan as a brotherly country will do what it can," he said.

"But we will wait for that to happen and when that happens, I am sure the public opinion in Pakistan will also change."
This is not going to please Washington, where Congress has been heatedly debating Bush's $87 billion request.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Rethinking the UN vote

Since last blogging on the topic. I've been thinking a bit more about that UN vote from Thursday.

What did the US gain?

The unanimous UN vote certainly provides a measure of political legitimacy; thus, some other states can more readily act to assist the US.

However, it is not yet clear what precisely that additional assistance will mean.

While none of France, Germany or Russia intend to provide cash or troops, they are going to attend the aid conference next month. In the past two days, US coalition partners Japan and Spain have promised some limited help (less than $1.5 billion in all), timed I'm sure to give the impression that the ball is already rolling -- and to coincide with Bush's visit in the case of Japan.

Moreover, states like India now might be able to provide some troops, though I'd guess they'll want someone else to pay for them. Even if they end up going as UN peacekeepers, the US would pay a substantial portion of their costs. The US pays about 20-25% of the overall UN budget and a higher portion (around one third) of peacekeeping costs. So far as I know, peacekeeping isn't yet planned and would require another resolution by the Security Council, which means France and Russia would have to agree at least not to veto. Do not count on that any time soon.

So, the new UN agreement might provide a small amount of cash and some troops. My guess is that the administration hopes that this veneer of multilateralism will suffice to provide domestic support for the overall Iraq project. That will mean tens of billions in additional US funds (the $87 billion, at minimum) and the ongoing deployment of over 100,000 American troops.

If this multilateral cover works, then the US efforts at the UN will have "succeeded," even if the UN role remains quite insignificant and other states pony up very little.

In other words, I think some were beginning to worry about sustenance of domestic political support for the Iraq project. Calpundit has blogged a little about the recent congressional effort to turn the latest aid into a loan.

The French, Germans and Russians did get a bit more out of the resolution than I originally reported as well. For example, Kofi Annan, as well as the Iraqi Governing Council, will have a voice in the political process that is supposed to set a timetable for a constitution and elections.

Also, the aid monies are going to be handled by a multilateral group and not by either the US or the Iraqis. This will help assure transparency (indeed, there's a specific provision for transparency) and accountability in the development process.

This "democratization of development" is a first step toward countering worries I've mentioned before about crony capitalism -- or "vote buying" by the US with states like Turkey, who will receive a big loan package even as they deploy troops to Iraq.

The UN's role is not going to expand quickly, however, as the AP is reporting even today that Annan remains reluctant to send the agency's people back to Iraq until the country is more secure. Since visiting US VIPs don't stay in Iraq when they visit, it seems pretty obvious that westerners still view the situation as unstable, at best.

The resolution says the UN will play a role in Iraq "as circumstances permit." Some might read that as a way to keep the UN out of the process, but Annan is apparently using it as a way to highlight worries about security on the ground.

Hopefully, the situation on the ground will get better and the recent vote portends a genuine multilateral commitment ot the future of Iraq. America's new UN partners, however, are not yet convinced that the Bush administration is committed to such genuine multilateralism.

I'll continue to keep an eye on the situation.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Clash of civilizations?

As regular readers of this blog know, I think words have consequences. The words leaders use to sell policies can contribute to the success of the policy -- or can incite opponents to rise up to assure its failure. In any case, I regularly report and analyze the words used by President Bush, members of his administration, or supporters in the media or think tanks.

Yesterday, the LA Times reported about a troubling series of comments by Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence.

These are the key paragraphs (note: Mark A. R. Kleiman had the link, but the blogs I read haven't really said anything about this yet):
Yet the former commander and 13-year veteran of the Army's top-secret Delta Force is also an outspoken evangelical Christian who appeared in dress uniform and polished jump boots before a religious group in Oregon in June to declare that radical Islamists hated the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan."

Discussing the battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, Boykin told another audience, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

"We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this," Boykin said last year.

On at least one occasion, in Sandy, Ore., in June, Boykin said of President Bush: "He's in the White House because God put him there."
George W. Bush, remember, took a lot of political heat for saying something similarly stupid in the week following the 9/11 attacks. He said (this from the BBC), "This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a long time." Osama bin Laden tells his potential recruits that they are fighting against crusaders and Jews.

The Christian Science Monitor reported at the timethat the President's remark "recalled the barbarous and unjust military operations against the Muslim world," by Christian knights. The Monitor was quoting Soheib Bensheikh, Grand Mufti of the mosque in Marseille, France, who added that the statement "was most unfortunate."

Paris daily newspaper Le Monde, according to the same article, editorialized that the comment had the "air of a clash of civilizations, there is a strong risk that it will contribute to Osama bin Laden's goal: a conflict between the Arab-Muslim world and the West."

Critics are making much the same point now about Boykin's rhetoric. Back to the LA Times story from yesterday:
"The first lesson is to recognize that whatever we say here is heard there, particularly anything perceived to be hostile to their basic religion, and they don't forget it," said Stephen P. Cohen, a member of the special panel named to study policy in the Arab and Muslim world for the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

"The phrase 'Judeo-Christian' is a big mistake. It's basically the language of Bin Laden and his supporters," said Cohen, president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development in New York.
President Bush ended up retracting his statement and Boykin will probably be pressured to stop expressing his beliefs publicly -- at least while he's in a position of authority. Part of his job means cooperating with Muslem leaders to garner information useful in the war on terrorism. The US certainly doesn't want to tick off those states any more than it already has

I've seen a CNN broadcast about this story and the LA Times says NBC has it too. It's likely going to be all over the newspapers and in other media throughout the Muslem world. The administration can distance itself from the remarks, impose censorship in Iraqi media, but ultimately cannot prevent comments like these from inflaming greater anti-American feeling.

As the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday, the Muslem world is already quite paranoid about the Judeo-Christian axis. The prime minister of Malaysia, Mahatir Mohammad told the recent Islamic summit:
"They succeeded in gaining control in most of the [world's] powerful states, and they – a tiny community – became a world power. But 1.3 billion Muslims must not be defeated by a few million Jews. A way must be found."
It would be much easier to get upset about this sort of paranoid and divisive language coming from the Muslem world when American generals serving in top Pentagon posts aren't making quite similar remarks.

As my academic colleague Marc Lynch has written, the world really needs to pursue a "dialogue of civilisations" rather than a "clash of civilizations." His Millennium journal article isn't available on-line, but those interested can read his recent piece in Foreign Affairs, "Taking Arabs Seriously." Here's the abstract:
The Bush administration's tone-deaf approach to the Middle East reflects a dangerous misreading of the nature and sources of Arab public opinion . Independent, transnational media outlets have transformed the region, and the administration needs to engage the new Arab public sphere that has emerged.




Thursday, October 16, 2003

Latest in the "war on terror"

Critics of the UN, many of whom are Bush supporters, often point out the weak (and often perverse) symbolic moves made by the UN. States like Iraq or Libya, because the only membership requirement is sovereigny, sometimes (quite dubiously) get to chair commissions on disarmament or human rights.

These same critics often ignore the genuinely good and quite significant actions taken by the UN. The WHO, for example, played a huge role in wiping out malaria and thereby helped saved millions of lives.

So, was today's unanimous UN Security Council vote more like stupid symbolism or genuine positive action?

Media talking heads keep refering to it as "the US-backed resolution," but the US had to make many, many concessions to gain unanimous support. The US, in short, didn't bring a lot of states around to its position. Those states gained real changes they wanted and then held their noses and voted for it. Because, after all, they did not support the war and don't want to help the US very much in its occupation of Iraq.

The somewhat dated NY Times story (registration required) makes this quite clear:
But in a serious reservation, they [Germany, France and Russia] said they would not go beyond the support they had already agreed upon in order to ease the burden of the American forces in Iraq.
In short, the US has gained a piece of paper in exchange for...no additional troops or cash.

That's a win for the "US-backed resolution"?

Actually, I think this is a balanced resolution to the current disagreement -- though I side with the Europeans on the likely final outcome. Ultimately, the UN is going to have to take much greater control in Iraq's "nation-building" and I support this first step toward making that possible. However, as I've often argued, the US is going to have to make even more concessions, and ultimately the Iraqis are going to have to be in charge of their own reconstruction. And that doesn't mean Pentagon selected former exiles should be put in charge.

This resolution asks those formed exiled Iraqis to come up with a plan for a constitution and elections by December 15. In other words, the Europeans wanted a timetable for legitimate government and they got one. It is a weak start, but it is a start.

In any case, it will be interesting to see if administration spokespersons will be out in full force touting this resolution, perhaps trying to point to it as evidence that they were right about Iraq all along.

If so, let's hope the media counter by asking whether the resolution will mean cash and troops. After all, the UN does a lot of foolish and symbolic things that administration supporters love to note.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Tragic metaphor

Imagine an art movie that includes this scene:

A woman (known to the audience as a former Miss America), driving a sports utility vehicle, accidentally collides with and kills a German bicyclist at an intersection of two city streets.

Would you think that the writer/director was a little over the top?

Well, I probably would, even though I really dislike SUVs.

Americans, as the world knows, have access to very cheap gas and drive huge gas-guzzling SUVs (even in cities and suburbs).

Germans, by contrast, pay high gas taxes on the fuel for their cars and generally do not drive SUVs.

In global terms, as I've noted before, George W. Bush pulled the US out of the Kyoto process, even as Germany has taken a lead role in fighting global warming.

In any case, this past weekend, the accident I described as hypothetical actually happened in Louisville, Kentucky. Former Miss America Heather French Henry (she's married to the state's Lt. Governor) said that the sun was in her eyes and so she did not see the German biker.

I might point out that Heather French Henry is 5 feet, 6 inches tall and may have had trouble seeing while driving her huge SUV -- sun in her eyes or not. The news stories point out that the biker was not wearing a helmut and apparently was crossing the street against the light, while Henry was making a turn with a protected arrow.

Thus, no charges are going to be filed. It was simply a terrible accident.

If gas cost between $3-4 per gallon, Americans would drive many fewer SUVs and could think about committing to Kyoto. There was an interesting article last week in the Christian Science Monitor explaining how a bunch of states are moving forward on this issue without Washington.

I hope they succeed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Myth-making about Iraq

Over at Volokh, Randy Barnett recently sent readers to an article in the NRO by Victor Davis Hanson called "Legends of the Fall; More myths about the current war."

Barnett really doesn't blog about it, but I presume he's sympathetic to the argument since he sent his readers to the National Review.

The article is a crock. Shall I count the ways?

1. Hanson makes a big deal of the minimal casualties felt by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq -- comparing the total (he uses 400 deaths, though this doesn't include the 1800 more soldiers seriously wounded) favorably to the 3000 lost on 9/11.

Of course, he doesn't mention innocent Afghan and Iraqi casualties. Many put the Afghan total at 3000 and I've seen estimated Iraq casualties in the 7-8 thousand range as well. It is unhelpful that the Pentagon makes virtually no effort to document them.

Oddly, Hanson does mention 1000 Iraqi deaths associated with Bill Clinton's bombing of Iraq. Funny how he counts dead Iraqis for partisan purposes only.

2. Hanson claims:
In fact, those who employ terror of the type that culminated (rather than began) on September 11 are real people with real government backing. They cannot operate without money, havens, and at least passive complicity.
Yet, there is widespread dispute about the degree of complicity. Hanson specifically points to Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, so he is clearly worried about both indirect support and terrorists that do not primarily target the US. Indeed, he mentions Hezbollah, which is primarily focused on targeting Israel in the hope of creating an independent Palestine.

Arguably, the way to address this problem is via negotiated settlement, not war.

I'm all for focusing more attention on Saudi Arabia, but the administration isn't on board with that and I do not mean we should attack them.

Doesn't anyone want to talk about other means of countering terrorism?

Do we really want a war with Iran? Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger (for Bush's father) told the BBC earlier this year that he'd support impeachment if Bush next attacked Iran or Syria.

3. Hanson also says the costs have been relatively low, but does not explain who will pay for the $100 billion in reconstruction he guesses is still to come. Remarkably, he estimates the costs of 9/11 at $1 Trillion -- so you know he's being somewhat dishonest with his numbers. This is clearly a partisan attempt to downplay the potential costs of rebuilding poor nations and overstating the effects of 9/11 so as not to blame the recession on policies of the current administration.

I wonder if Hanson would have argued to reject the recall of Gray Davis because 9/11 had inadvertently destroyed California's economy and created a huge budget deficit?

4. Hanson then addresses war dissent and notes the lack of "sit-ins, daily demonstrations, and teach-ins...military resistance and the cut-off of funding."

Where was Hanson in February? Seriously, did he notice the millions of people rallying in the streets in the world's major cities? The war, as conventionally defined, is over. Americans and others are not yet protesting the occupation, but I suspect that could happen as the human costs become more clearly evident over the long haul. Moreover, I suspect that the military resistance he's looking for is right before his eyes. The Iraqis killing American soldiers are fighting occupation. As I've said before, self determination is a very powerful idea.

Hanson also pretends that many of the Democrats running for President support the current US policy. He refers to a statement General Clark made before the horrible machinations that lead to the Iraq war (many US allies were likewise safely on board the "war on terror" before about October 2002) and implies that Dean doesn't have an alternative plan; yet, Dean and other Democrats clearly want to get the US out of Iraq as quickly as possible and turn the problem(s) over to the UN.

It's the exact move than France, Germany and Russia are asking in return for their support. Such a changed policy would lead to a UN Security Council resolution that likely means international money for reconstruction and troops from places like India.

Why is the US resisting this? Is it related to the crony capitalism many suspect?

5. Next, Hanson addresses international opposition. He asserts that only a handful of states are peeved at the US ("Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden, Greece, Syria, Palestine, Algeria, and a few other Arab states"), but ignores world opinion surveys that reflect global (not diplomatic) views. The British government doesn't currently reflect British public opinion on this issue, for example, so you know Hanson's view is quite misleading.

Plus, he's already listed a number of America's closest friends. I blogged just the other day about opposition to the US occupation of Iraq by the 57 state Organization of Islamic Countries.

Here's a challenge for people like Hanson. Name 5 countries where public opinion polls show clear support for the US position on Iraq -- either before or after the war.

6. Finally, Hanson ends by attempting to debunk the "WMD crisis" myth.

Except he doesn't debunk it. Instead, Hanson relies upon two highly dubious arguments. First Hanson counts on the fact that we'll learn more in the next year that will make Iraq seem better, rather than worse. Maybe, but David Kay pretty strongly implied that he's unlikely to find any serious ongoing WMD program in Iraq. And he acknowledges that Iraq had no nuclear program whatsoever. None.

So much for the mushroom cloud imagery administration officials like Condi Rice often used to sell the war.

Second, Hanson says that North Korea and Iran will learn a lesson from this crisis and develop their bombs "before invading neighbors or confronting the United States."

What a crock. Does anyone think either state plans to invade neighbors? Deterrence theorists and policymakers have long agreed that nuclear bombs are not useful for offensive invasions. Deterrence works. The US has nukes deployed in South Korea. Why would North Korea risk holocaust for a dubious gain?

The same logic applies to Iran. What precise threat does Iran pose to any neighbors -- or to the US for that matter? Iran does support anti-Israeli terrorism, but it's a huge leap to imagine them moving from funding suicide bombers in Israel to arming terrorists with nuclear bombs to target the US.

And don't forget the lesson I mentioned previously on this blog. Arms control worked in Iraq (the inspectors found and destroyed Iraq's arsenal 1991-1998) and Iran is cooperating with the IAEA even now.

If this is the best PR related to the "war on terror" that the administration's backers can mount, the President is in for a very long year in the run up to the 2004 election.

Monday, October 13, 2003

The spoils of peace

The $87 billion President Bush wants for Iraq, I assume everyone knows, is not for foreign aid. Like the earlier $79 billion package, much of the money will go to Pentagon contractors and other firms that will do work in Iraq and get paid in the US.

Most readers of this blog already know that there are very serious potential problems with the economic rebuilding of Iraq. For example, Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, has received some very nice no-bid contracts related to the war on terror. Last week, the Christian Science Monitor had a good story about possible oversight of this process.

In particular, the story focused on Republican Senator Susan Collins (of Maine), who is worried about the possibility of profiteering and cronyism. The article, for example, mentions the $1.4 billion contract awarded to an Halliburton subsidiary and a $680 million contract awarded to Bechtel after secret bidding. The bids were submitted by just 6 firms that contributed $3.6 million to federal election campaigns, 2/3 to Republicans.

With the Vice President's old firm doing well and new (big) rewards handed over to Republican donors, it is easy to see how some might see crony capitalism at work.

A couple of years ago, Senator Collins helped draft a bill that required competitive bidding for this sort of activity -- but it allowed various loopholes, including one for national security.
"The problem is there is no oversight to see that these exceptions are used appropriately," she says. As chairman of the committee she once worked for, Collins wants those loopholes closed. Her "sunshine rule," cosponsored with Sen. Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon, was approved by the Senate as an amendment to President Bush's $87 billion request for Iraq.

Recently, Josh Marshall blogged about the new lobby firm, New Bridge Strategies, that is positioning itself to connect US clients to the multibillion Iraq package. The firm's principles include Bush's 2000 campaign manager Joe Allbaugh (he was also Bush's cheif-of-staff when W. was Texas Governor). The Looters with Limos (I love that name)blog was also on to this story at an early date.

My friend Pete Dombrowski has been studying security-related economic issues for a long time and he knows much more about this issue than I do. He gave a talk about various military-commerical linkages in May that is available on the internet.

In the long section that I am going to quote, he suggests that these economic relationship could help perpetuate some of the false threats that I've been blogging about in relation to specific contexts, such as the war on terror and Iraq. He certainly advocates healthy skepticism:
Large multibillion defense contractors from Lockheed Martin to Boeing to Northrop Grumman also help the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the Marines explore their understanding of the future. Using complex computer programs, futuristic facilities, and the expertise of retired officers and officials, the military has a great deal of help from its counterparts in the military industrial complex We as taxpayers pay dearly for such assistance, but it can be difficult to tell whether we get what we truly need for our tax dollars.

Without necessarily impugning the motives and patriotism of the men and women who participate in planning activities of all sorts, the potential conflicts of interest are clear. Who, after all, has the most to gain from envisioning a conflict-ridden world twenty years in the future, complete with heavily armed, aggressive adversaries working tirelessly against American interests? Who, after all, has an interest in developing expensive new technologies (stealth, precision-guided munitions, directed energy weapons and the like) to meet unforeseen but dangerous, "asymmetric" threats? Of course, the military has a stake in not being caught off-guard, unprepared for catastrophic threats to the physical security of Americans. But industry too, has a stake. It has a stake in selling as much of the most advanced equipment available as is possible. The future shocks always predicted for just over the horizon may turn out to be schlock as we discover that the assumptions and technologies underlying our most complex military planning processes may be deeply flawed or at a minimum blind to basic truths. For ordinary citizens, the point is to remain skeptical about both the challenges that face our country and the ways in which our experts tell us we can meet and defeat potential threats.

Did I mention that Pete works for the US Navy?

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Sunday service

Today, I accepted two invitations to church services. Since one of my kids was singing at a Presbyterian church and the other was reading in a Baptist service, how could I decline?

In any case, the services reminded me of just how progressive people of religious faith can be. When journalists interested in politics write about faith, however, they regularly focus on so-called "fundamentalists" or perhaps merely "religious conservatives." There are, of course, notable exceptions -- like this recent piece in The Washington Monthly from Amy Sullivan. Sullivan argues that a successful Democrat in 2004 will have to appeal to people of faith.

Do not be afraid.

Clearly, if one takes Christianity seriously, many important progressive values are deeply embedded in it. The two services I saw today focused on peace and justice.

The Presbyterians are raising money this month for their church-wide peacemaking efforts. As someone with an interest in that specific argument, I was taken by their efforts to fund non-violent dispute resolution. In his local church's case, they are helping Christians facing various kinds of threats in Indonesia. The practices embraced by Jesus have been echoed in the work of Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi; yet, I'm not sure how often these ideas are actually taught in Political Science or related academic disciplines.

Given some new published work, perhaps that will change.

The Baptist service today was taken from Mark 10:17-31. In this verse, Jesus warns an affluent follower that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Talk about a radical progressive!

The pastor leading the service was clearly trying to generate some empathy for the poor and downtrodden. While talking about the particular scripture reading, she referenced a comment by Jesus (in Matthew 22) noting that the second most important Old Testament commandment (after loving God) was to "love your neighbor as yourself." She was also building to the offering, but I'm not going to be cynical today.

After a quick web search, I found this relatively old (2000) article from Richard Parker in The American Prospect. In this piece, Parker makes arguments similar to some I've made above -- and makes many more. Check it out:
In an era when progressive voices seem few in number, when many progressive organizations struggle to meet payrolls, let alone advance agendas, America's progressive religious world represents a large body of committed and caring human beings--deeply bound, out of their own understanding of the connection between justice and the divine--who seek a world most of us could generously affirm.

Like the rest of us, they struggle with their own limitations, their own internal conflicts and weaknesses. Yet time and again at crucial moments in American history, these same communities have risen up to resist abuses of human dignity and justice in the world around them.

Progressives acknowledge that they have to build linkages within a wider community to achieve their goals. Environmentalists, union members, human (and civil) rights activists, feminists and others already work together towards common ends. It would be productive, I suspect, to more overtly attempt to engage progressives of faith.

Perhaps this would create a pathway whereby President Bush could be confronted on his own terms. How can someone who so publicly embraces his faith -- the same faith of peace and justice I've described -- so regularly pursue policies that bring war (even though he speaks of peace) and regressive redistribution of wealth?

It is an important question.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Well...it is bigger than the Coalition of the Willing

Remember the University of Maryland study (from PIPA, the Program on International Policy Attitudes) released on October 2, 2003? Lots of bloggers (like Calpundit) noted its finding that Fox News viewers had more misperceptions about the Iraq war than those who received their news from other media outlets.

One major misperception was that most of the world agreed with the war against Iraq. The truth was that the Coalition of the willing including Britain, Spain, Italy, Australia and a bunch of weak states. Most of the world openly or silently backed critical states like France, Germany, and Russia.

In any case, one way the falsehood was perpetuated, perhaps, was that administration sources kept mentioning how large and impressive the coalition was -- some even implying that it was stronger than the one behind the Persian Gulf War (despite the fact that the earlier war was funded 2/3 by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and much of the rest was paid by Germany and Japan).

Anyway, I wonder if Fox viewers will pick up the news story about one large group of states that is pretty clearly not supportive of America's war and occupation.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has 57 state members and is currently meeting in Malaysia.

According to the BBC, secretary-general Abdelouahed Belkeziz led off by calling for the US (and other members of the Coalition of the Willing) to get out of Iraq.
Addressing the start of the conference on Saturday, Mr Belkeziz said of all the conflicts involving Muslims, the occupation of Iraq and the Palestinian problem needed to be addressed most urgently.

"Foremost of these is the eviction of foreign forces from Iraq, allowing the United Nations to administer Iraqi affairs,"
He told senior officials the Islamic world had been "in the face of the storm" in the three years since the last triennial summit in 2000.

As far as Iraq was concerned, he said the people there had "been afflicted by the occupation of their territories, usurpation of their sovereignty, denial of their independence, destruction, plunder and burning of their country".

He called for Islamic commitment to address the situation following the US-led invasion "with a view to salvaging Iraq and helping its people".

The OIC was formed in 1969 and its summit is going to be attended by leaders from 35 Islamic states. Russia's Putin is also going to attend, as will Kofi Annan (this info from the Reuters story).

It's a big deal.

And many, many of those states are very unhappy with the American occuption of Iraq.

Next week, we will know if they manage to pass some sort of resolution against the occupation. Turkey will be opposed, but who else?

Friday, October 10, 2003

Bush sends his regrets?

Around 1 pm ET today, David Gergen was on CNN talking about the Thomas DeFrank piece in today's NY Daily News. Gergen went out of his way to describe DeFrank as close to the Bush White House and particularly well informed about the Pentagon.

Obviously, there's been a lot of talk about the latest Iraq-related policy (and PR) move by the administration. However, Gergen implies there is much more going on than merely the rise of Condi Rice and the relative decline of Rumsfeld (Atrios thinks the Defense Secretary could be gone later today...).

So far, I cannot find any stories on CNN.com about the segment, but Gergen was strongly implying that the President has a lot of regrets about Iraq policy.

DeFrank's story begins by declaring that Powell and Rumsfeld are going to be out of jobs soon (whether Bush is reelected or not) because Bush is unhappy with his foreign policy team:
President Bush's overhaul of his top Iraq strategists reflects deep unhappiness with his national security team - particularly Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld but also Secretary of State Powell, Bush sources told the Daily News yesterday.

Bush's displeasure means that neither Powell nor Rumsfeld will keep his job in a second Bush term, the sources said.
Very important, especially for Gergen, is that the root of the displeasure is postwar Iraq (and Afghanistan):
"The President feels let down," one well-placed source told The News. "He feels as if Rumsfeld was unwilling to come and get help [for the postwar effort] and thinks his inability to trust anyone other than his immediate subordinates created a serious, ongoing problem in both Afghanistan and Iraq."

Moreover, the source added, "After the war, Rumsfeld wanted to get back to [Pentagon] modernization and transformation and took his eye off the ball."
I'm not sure what to make of Gergen's angle. If Bush has regrets, why are Dick Cheney, Rice and the President going out of their way to play up threats this week?

Oh, oh, oh, I know. They don't regret going into Iraq without very many real allies or occupying Iraq without a clear rebuilding plan.

They regret that they have been unable to keep everyone focused on the big picture (i.e., the "war on terrorism"), especially since war is best sold by playing up threats.

As the President said yesterday:
"Yet wars are won on the offensive -- and our friends and America are staying on the offensive....After all the action we have taken, after all the progress we have made against terror, there is a temptation to think the danger has passed.

The terrorists continue to plot and plan against our country and our people. America must not forget the lessons of September 11th. (Applause.) America cannot retreat from our responsibilities and hope for the best. Our security will not be gained by timid measures. Our security requires constant vigilance and decisive action. I believe America has only one option: We must fight this war until the work is done.

So far, in Iraq, they've found a test tube of a common toxin and 2 mobile facilities that neither the DIA nor State Department intell people think were designed for making biological weapons. They also discovered fuel for firing SCUDS. Stop me when you start to get worried about this stuff.

Russia has much worse WMD-related material left over from the cold war that is barely guarded and both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have produced many more fanatically committed potential terrorists with access to money (and conceivably WMD).

Yet, these states are partners, not targets, of the war on terror.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

"Deny, deny, deny"

Josh Marshall wrote today that he is suspicious about Scott McClellan's denials that either Scooter Libby or Elliot Abrams leaked Valerie Plame's name to the media.

Marshall is concerned because McClellan uses the same phrase over and over again and does not explicitly say that they did not leak Plame's name. McClellan says that neither was "involved in leaking classified information."

I did some hunting around on the web and found a story at Slate by Jack Shafer that might reflect White House spin on this issue, essentially providing a way for these guys to deny the specific charge without lying. Here's what Shafer wrote:
The problem with the Intelligence Identities Protection Act is that it doesn't appear to apply to the Novak case. To win a conviction, the law requires, among other things:

1) That the individual has or had "authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent." If Novak's administration sources had only unauthorized access to the information about covert officer Plame, learning about her identity and her mission, say, in a hallway conversation from a visiting CIA officer, the law wouldn't apply here. Perhaps they might go after the hypothetical CIA officer, but they'd run in to a slew of other legal problems sketched out below.

David Corn wrote, additionally, about a Newsweek claim that there's a NSC staffer who knew of Plame's identity because he or she previously worked closely with Plame. If White House insiders started talking about Plame's work and her marriage to Wilson, and then someone unauthorized to have the information went to Novak and other members of the media, then that person is as innocent of "leaking classified information" as Novak is.

This, perhaps, is their theory of the case. Daniel Drezner seems to buy some approximation, emphasizing the apparent lack of criminal/malevolent intent.

Then again, I'd think the NSC staffer would be guilty of the felony.

However, the second criterion is about the leaker's intentions. Back to Shafer:
2) That in addition to having had authorized access to the information about the covert agent, the individual must have "intentionally" disclosed it to an individual not authorized to receive classified information.

The NSC staffer could be protected by this requirement, perhaps figuring that someone like Libby, Rove, Abrams (or whoever) had authorization to know the information. Or, that person might even say the leak was inadvertent.

Here's the third requirement, again from Shafer:
3) That the individual knew he was disclosing information that identifies a "covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States."
Shafer says that the administration officials might be able to claim that the US was not trying hard to conceal the agent's identity for a future assignment. Or, the person(s) who went to the media without first hand knowledge could claim not to have known that Plame's CIA job was a secret. This might be why people like Novak are now trying to say that Plame-Wilson's identity was not secret. It was common knowledge on the cocktail circuit, or some such thing.

McClellan's parsing thus works out for people like Libby, Abrams or Rove, if they claim only that they did not have authorization to know of the classified information. By the time they heard about it, by definition, the info was not secret anymore. Someone else had spilled the beans. Again, the leaker is as innocent as Novak, at least before the law.

The NSC staffer would be technically guilty of leaking information, but probably did not have intent -- evinced by the fact that the person did not go running to the media.

So, someone in the press needs to push the relatively small group of suspects on the key question. Did you leak Plame's name or confirm her job?

The "classified information" angle is clearly a clever plot -- but I'm not buying McClellan's answer. In this view, the guys who had intent were leaking classified information, even if they didn't have authorized access to it.

Additionally, the administration has used that spin to widen the scope of the investigation so far that the President can express lament that the leaker may well never be caught. Why question the dozen likely suspects when 100s of people can be bothered to show their phone and email logs?



Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Fear of Flying

Since 9/11, the media have occasionally reported on the risk that a passenger aircraft might be downed by a terrorist armed with a shoulder-fired missile. The US sent such missiles to Afghanistan when it was trying to help expel the Soviets. The Pentagon (and CIA) are unable to account for all of them, though I've seen estimates suggesting that not many are missing.

The New York Times reported this week that an unknown number of these missiles might also be missing in Iraq. Over 300 have been turned in recently, and 100s more have been found by the military.

Incoming planes have apparently been targeted in recent weeks, and this is part of the rationale for keeping the Baghdad airport closed to civilian traffic.

Plus, they are easy to smuggle (they weight less than 30 pounds), 50,000 have been sold to developing countries in the past 15 years, and Jane's says that 30 insurgent and terrorist groups have them.

Swell.

I sat next to a commercial pilot who was a former military pilot last Thanksgiving, when there was the unsuccessful attack in Africa on the Israeli aircraft. I asked him about the threat and he said it was quite real and that there wasn't much that could be done about it short of spending some bucks on countermeasures.

Swell.

If 1 or 2 or 3 (imagine a coordinated attack) American planes were downed inside the US, air traffic would come to a stop. Who would fly? Airlines and government absolutely cannot secure against this threat from inside the airport or inside the aircraft. Attackers would position themselves near airports, far away from federal security personnel.

At my University, planes fly overhead all day at very close range. I'm confident that this is true all over the country for homes, businesses, schools, etc. Earlier this year, both the US and UK (as the BBC reported) warned against the threat from attacks. Roads near Heathrow in London were apparently closed and vehicles were searched. In 1998, rebels downed a Boeing 737 in the Congo.

In his last (September) visit to "Meet the Press," Vice President Cheney addressed a question about this very threat. He said, essentially, that it would be very costly to secure against these missiles:
Well, there are technologies available. They are extremely expensive if you’re going to put them on every airliner. You've got to make choices here about, you know, when you’re dealing with a risk, there may be certain aircraft flying into certain locales that are especially vulnerable that you may want to deal with. But I wouldn't automatically go to the assumption that we need to put the most sophisticated system on every single airplane.

I've seen estimates suggesting that it would cost $7-15 billion to outfit planes with the countermeasures that would mitigate the threat from these missiles. Israel apparently requires defense mechanisms (flares, essentially) on its planes.

If you want to be reassured, the Heritage Foundation's analysts say that a lot of special training is required to fire a missile (though reporters have found US Stinger training manuals on the web), pilots can be trained in evasion techniques, and effective law enforcement can find the missiles before attackers can use them. They also say some planes could get by with just $200 in countermeasures.

The Pentagon is getting serious about a system that costs $2 million per plane, and I'm pretty sure what kind of system I'd prefer while flying as a passenger.

The US has 6800 commercial airlines, and experts say costs could drop 50% if the devices were mass produced. That means nearly $7 billion for protection.

Senator Barbara Boxer (Calif.) is pushing this system.

At $7 billion, it would cost less than 10% of the last budget supplementary request for Iraq reconstruction. Where would you like to spend your anti-terror dollars?

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Iraq and 9/11, continued

I know the blogosphere is focusing on the California recall (Daily Kos), the Plame affair (Josh Marshall) -- even Nobel prize rumors (Brad DeLong).

However, I'm still interested in Iraq.

Several weeks ago, I noted the Washington Post article that reported the odd fact that 70% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11.

There was something weird in this and other stories and I finally figured out what it is. Milbank and Deane go to great lengths to quote various public statements by the President when he talked about 9/11 and Iraq in the same breath. Thus, they argue, he was implicitly linking these stories.

What Milbank and Deane don't report, and I haven't seen this elsewhere either, is that the Washington Post's Bob Woodward played a significant role in making the now discredited connection. His articles for the Post, and his book Bush At War, quoted Bush extensively (so he obviously had high level access to someone).

Woodwad at the Post , in fact, quoted Bush (back on February 1, 2002) as saying this on September 17, 2001:

"I believe Iraq was involved, but I'm not going to strike them now."

Of course, the next clause is:

"I don't have the evidence at this point."

Obviously, I have no idea whether Bush said this on September 17, 2001, or not. Do I believe Woodward? Alternatively, was this someone's political spin months later, in order to influence US foreign policy after finishing in Afghanistan? Someone like Wolfowitz, for instance, could have been spinning to get the war he really wanted (and Woodward establishes those wishes in the 8 part newspaper series -- and the book, I guess, though I haven't read it).

By quoting the President, the Post made it possible for other news sources and "experts" to keep repeating the claim. For example, Laurie Mylroie ("there he goes again") quoted this exact same sentence in a piece she wrote that spouted her own conspiracy theories about Iraq and 9/11. You can read about those here and here.

I should note that Mylroie leaves out the President's caveat -- he had no evidence. She has her own perspective about evidence, after all.

I've learned, by the way, that Rupert Murdoch (who owns Fox and News Corporation and NewsMax.com) published the latest edition of Mylroie's book about the Iraq terror link. Given that information, this story is particularly delicious. And I remind you that Mylroie appeared on Fox again and again and again in fall 2001, spewing her claims about Iraq and 9/11.

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?