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Sunday, November 30, 2003

They lied about WMD!

According to a widely reported AP story by Charles J. Hanley, Iraqi scientists lied to Saddam Hussein about the status of WMD programs. Readers can find it, for example, at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on-line edition. Here are the lead paragraphs:
Iraqi scientists never revived their long-dead nuclear bomb program, and in fact lied to Saddam Hussein about how much progress they were making before U.S.-led attacks shut the operation down for good in 1991, Iraqi physicists say.

Before that first Gulf War, the chief of the weapons program resorted to "blatant exaggeration" in telling Iraq's president how much bomb material was being produced, key scientist Imad Khadduri writes in a new book.

Other leading physicists, in Baghdad interviews, said the hope for an Iraqi atomic bomb was never realistic. "It was all like building sand castles," said Abdel Mehdi Talib, Baghdad University's dean of sciences.
The main Iraqi scientists cited in the story also says the US government lied to justify war:
At best, Khadduri writes, it would have taken Iraq several years to build a nuclear weapon if the 1991 war and subsequent U.N. inspections had not intervened.

His self-published "Iraq's Nuclear Mirage," a chronicle of years of secret weapons work and of a final escape into exile, is part of this senior scientist's emergence from a low profile in Canada - intended to refute what he calls a "massive deception" in Washington that led the United States into war.

Months of searching by hundreds of U.S. experts have found no trace of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in Iraq, just as U.N. inspectors found none before the war. No Iraqi scientists have confirmed the programs were revived in recent years.
The story describes Khadduri as a US/UK trained physicist who "was in a pivotal position as coordinator of all its scientific and engineering information" until 1998. Of course, the story also references Iraqi scientists with more recent insight:
An ex-bombmaker still in Iraq is just as dismissive of the unsubstantiated U.S. allegations.

"There was no point in trying to revive this program. There was no material, no equipment, no scientists," former bomb designer Sabah Abdul Noor said in a recent interview at Baghdad's Technology University.

"Scientists were scattered and under the eyes of inspectors, totally scattered. To do a project, you have to be together."

Talib, the newly elected university dean, was an anti-Baathist who didn't participate in the bomb program, but was close to many who did. They vastly oversold their accomplishments before 1991, the physicist said.

"They put a lot of lies on Saddam Hussein," he said in a Baghdad interview. "They took a lot of money out of him through what you call, in English, bluffing." When their installations were finally demolished, it "saved their necks" by burying their mistakes, he said. "They could tell Saddam, `There's nothing left.'"
Hanley notes that the IAEA concluded in 1997 that Iraq never produced more than a few grams of nuclear-capable material -- when 40 pounds would have been needed for a bomb.



Saturday, November 29, 2003

Is the US Violating the Geneva Conventions?

While many analysts ask this question in respect of the prisoners at Guantanamo, I'm following Billmon's lead and asking this in terms of US practices in Iraq.

The AP reported Wednesday that the US had arrested the family of one of Saddam's Deputies. Apparently, the US has previously held the families of Iraqi scientists as well.

In a nutshell, these arrested people are hostages. As the AP story indicates:
The detention of the relatives of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a lifelong Saddam associate who is No. 6 on the list of most-wanted Iraqis, was an apparent attempt to pressure his surrender or gather intelligence that might lead to him.

[Lt. Colonel] MacDonald gave no details on why the wife and daughter were seized, but American forces have frequently arrested relatives of fugitives to interrogate them on their family member's whereabouts and as a way of putting pressure on the wanted men to surrender.

The media director of the Amnesty International USA, Alistair Hodgett, questioned the tactic, saying if the women were arrested to pressure al-Douri to turn himself in, they were being used as "bargaining chips."

"At a minimum, the U.S. should clarify on what legal basis (they) ... have been detained. If the purpose of their arrest is to exert pressure on Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and force his surrender, then it is cause for grave concern," Hodgett said in a statement
Billmon points out that this is a pretty blatant violation of the Geneva Convention:
Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons...

Taking of hostages
In Billmon's comments, someone else has quoted the part of the Geneva conventions that makes the same activity illegal for occupying powers, which is the official international status of the US in Iraq.

My readers might also recall the recent bulldozing of family residences in Iraq, which is also apparently illegal -- and the State Department has criticized it when Israel has done it.

It's awfully difficult for the US to argue in behalf of the rule of law and against the targeting of civilians by terrorists if its activity isn't a hell of a lot different.

Friday, November 28, 2003

The Iraq Diversion

WIth that title, you might think I'm writing about President Bush's Thanksgiving trip to Iraq. Nope.

Warren Strobel of Knight-Ridder published a good article Wednesday with a title that concisely summarizes his major point: KR "Iraq war diverting resources from war on terror, experts say." Here are a few key paragraphs:
According to current and former officials, the Bush administration diverted precious assets, including U.S. military special operations forces, intelligence operatives and spy satellites from tracking al-Qaida to the war in Iraq.

By one official's estimate, half of the special operations and intelligence resources focused on al-Qaida were redirected to support the March 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. That figure could not be confirmed.

Former White House counter-terrorism coordinator Rand Beers, who resigned in March just before the Iraq war began, said that U.S. troops, CIA paramilitary officers and intelligence collection devices were withdrawn from Afghanistan and refurbished for use in the war against Iraq.
The article includes a denial from the Pentagon's Steve Cambone, but quotes a number of experts on-and-off the record who note that institutions like the CIA have a finite number of specialists, translaters, etc. If they are used in Iraq, they cannot be used elsewhere. Even the flood of cash over the past two years cannot help them make up the gap too quickly.

Strobel also notes a fairly frightening new globalization of terror:
Counter-terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland recently visited the Tri-Border Area, a lawless region where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet that has been used by Islamic terrorist groups to hide and raise funds. Fifteen minutes after arriving in Paraguay, he said, he was offered explosives and arms - for cash.
As I've recently noted, Wesley Clark is emphasizing that Iraq is a diversion from the war on terror.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Food holiday

Just in time for the US Thanksgiving holiday,the NY Times has this headline (registration required): "Hunger Worsens in Many Lands, U.N. Says." The findings are depressing:
The number of hungry people worldwide has swelled in recent years, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, because of war, drought, AIDS and trade barriers, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The report, "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003," found that after falling steadily during the first half of the 1990's, hunger grew in the latter half of the decade.

Between 1999 and 2001, the report found, more than 840 million people, or one in seven, went hungry. Most alarming of all, between 1995 and 2001, the number of malnourished people across the developing world grew by an average of 4.5 million a year.
So what can be done about it?
The rise in hunger came even though the world produced ample food..."Bluntly stated, the problem is not so much a lack of food as a lack of political will," the report declared.

The agency called on rich countries to invest in improving agricultural productivity, conserving natural resources and expanding access to global markets for farmers in the developing world."
If that last bit sounds familiar, it is because developing countries were making that argument at the recent WTO negotiations.

Rich nations need to stop subsidizing agriculture so heavily (this would have beneficial budgetary and environmental consequences too) and open markets to food trade from poor states.

Happy thanksgiving readers.




Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Wesley Clark

By chance, I read two Wesley Clark pieces today. The first is a fairly lengthy article authored by the General in The Washington Monthly, "America's Virtual Empire." Essentially, Clark offers an extended critique of US foreign policy under Bush -- especially the neoimperial aspects.

It is particularly interesting that Clark makes many of the criticisms Bush made in 2000. Here's a good snippet on nation-building:
U.S. foreign policy has become dangerously dependent on its military. The armed forces are now practically the only effective play in the U.S. repertoire. Only they have the personnel, funding, and transportation to deliver relief supplies; organize training for armies and police; install communications and power; advise ministries of justice, health, and finance; build bridges; support election efforts; and inoculate and treat host populaces. Yet such problems are not among their primary missions. The troops often resent being asked to tackle these issues, to which they bring, often very understandably, a narrow, almost mechanical approach. For all their versatility, they lack the knowledge, skills, staying power, and scale to manage seriously a large nation on a continuing basis. They are unable to foment deep-rooted political development. They lack the skills and experience to revise constitutions, rework property laws and criminal statutes, and methodically bore into the deepest aspects of the societies. Troops are not police officers; the kind of investigations and anticorruption efforts essential in nation-building are largely beyond them.
There's much more and I encourage people to read it.

The second piece is an interview from the October 16 Rolling Stone. Obviously, I fall behind reading the non-political magazines in my house.

The interview has some strong words. Here's a taste, as Larry Solum would say:
We made a historic strategic blunder. We attacked a state rather than going after a terrorist. Iraq had no connection to the war on terror. Of all the states in the Middle East to give chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to terrorists, least likely was Iraq.
Here's something on one of my favorite topics -- the public sphere:
I don't believe that government is made better by secrecy and restraint. It's made better by transparency, by being open and honest. If you're right, you're right. If not, you take your licks.
There's not a great deal to learn in this interview, but it shows a little of Clark's personality and devotes a lot of attention to foreign policy.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Red State Death Rate in Iraq

Did everyone see the recent story about how rural soldiers are dying disproportionately in Iraq? It was in The Washington Post on the 16th, but also appeared in other local papers around the country. Journalist Bill Bishop wrote:
The U.S. military doesn't publish data on the hometowns of its recruits. But several months ago, Robert Cushing, a statistical consultant to the Austin American-Statesman and a retired University of Texas sociologist, began tracking the home counties of those who died in Iraq. In his analysis, Cushing found dramatic differences in casualty rates between urban and rural areas. The smaller the county's population, the higher the death rate, as evident in the chart below.
I lifted this from my local newspaper (I cannot get it to align correctly, so I'm using bold to distinguish the columns):

County Per Males Ages Deaths as Death Rate Per
Population Size 18-54 of Nov. 9 1 m population size
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
50,000 or less 10,648,161 80 7.51
50,000-100,000 7,276,420 47 6.46
100,000-250,000 11,937,306 70 5.85
250,000-500,000 11,072,831 57 5.15
500,000-1 million 14,965,415 57 3.81
1 million plus 19,057,382 67 3.52
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total US 74,957,515 378 5.04


Back to Bishop:
If deaths in Iraq were spread evenly across the United States, 53 soldiers from counties of fewer than 50,000 would have died. As of a week ago, the death toll for these mostly rural counties stood at 80.
So, does this mean that people from Bush's red states are more likely to enlist in the military, or does in reflect some sort of disparity in military assignments?

The article considers enlistment rates. The University of Chicago's General Social Survey
"in surveys conducted from the 1970s through the mid-'90s, found no difference in the military enlistment rates of those from small towns or farms and those from cities with more than 250,000 people.:
But there's no current data to verify if these surveys remain accurate.

As I've blogged before, George Bush aimed his 2000 campaign partly at military families -- playing up Clinton's use of the military and promising to use force only in narrow circumstances. Bluntly, he argued that it was overstretched.

The latest Washington Monthly has an article suggesting that military families are becoming frustrated with Bush's military deployments, and might constitute an important swing voting bloc in the 2004 election. I'm skeptical, but I guess Clark could get them.

Whatever it means, the data is interesting.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Progress in the War on Terror?

Gary Sauer-Thompson, on his public opinion blog, had a link to a November 21, 2003 story from the The Australian: "Al-Qa'ida on run: US terror chief."According to the story, the US is on the verge of winning the war on terrorism:

Al-Qa'ida is all but finished and the focus of the war on terror has shifted to its offshoots around the world, US ambassador for counter-terrorism J. Cofer Black said yesterday.

There were fewer than 200 terrorist attacks around the globe in 2002 - the lowest level since 1969.

"The measurables - the yardstick of how we're doing in counter-terrorism is very very positive, and this message always gets lost," Mr Black told The Australian.

He said more than two-thirds of the al-Qa'ida organisation, or 3400 operatives and supporters, had been arrested, detained or killed, and that $US144million ($204 million) in assets had been frozen by 171 countries.

"The guys associated with 9/11 are having a terrible time of communicating, of moving resources and creating and developing terrorist operations," Mr Black said.

"The end is near for these guys, and we will catch Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
By the way, Ambassador Black also dismisses the idea that Iraq is a hotbed of bin Laden terrorism:
Mr Black rejected suggestions that Iraq had become a magnet for a new generation of Islamic terrorists, saying most of the trouble was being caused by Saddam loyalists.

While there were undoubtedly terrorists from Syria and Lebanon in the country, "the vast majority of the threat that's currently represented in Iraq comes form the loyalist elite special forces of the Saddam Hussein regime."
Gary Sauer-Thompson argues, based on recent terror attacks in Turkey and elsewhere, that Black has it wrong about Al Qaeda:
I would suggest that the terrorist bombing in Istanbul that targeted the British consulate and the London-based HSBC bank (and last week's synagogue bombings in Istanbul, and the bombing in Saudi Arabia the week before that), indicates that Al Qaeda has managed to regroup and rebuild its operational capabilities in the Islamic world. Rather than Al Qaeda being on the defensive it is on the offensive. Al Qaeda is capable of politically challenging the hegemonic power of the US....The strategy is to challenge US hegemony by destablising Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan----and Pakistan and Indonesia.
Meanwhile, the State Department has now issued its second recent blanket warning for all Americans abroad to be alert for anti-American terror.

The attacks in Turkey, by the way, make me wonder if there isn't at least a little truth in Huntington's work on the clash of civilizations. He argued in summer 1993 that the worst civilizational violence will occur in the "fault lines" dividing civilizations -- places like Yugoslavia, Turkey, Kashmir. Is Istanbul, a great cosmopolitan city, on its way to becoming like Beirut or Sarajevo, which were once tremendous cities?



Saturday, November 22, 2003

Patriotism, Iraq Policy and the War on Terror

I haven't seen the new Republican TV ads, but I've seen a lot of quoted text in the news and on various blogs.

Here's what the AP said about the ad's message:
If you're tough on President Bush, you're soft on terrorism. Denounce the Iraq war, and you're retreating from terrorists. That's the message the White House and its political allies want Americans to get from the Republican Party's first television commercial of the 2004 campaign.
Of course, those who challenge the President about the war in Iraq are not unpatriotic. Almost all support the war on terrorism, but they might disagree vehemently with the President about how it should be prosecuted.

Consider this list of "traitors" by the standards implied in this ad.

First, former President George H.W. Bush wrote this in his 1998 book:
"We should not march into Baghdad," he wrote in his 1998 book, A World Transformed.

"To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero...assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerilla war.

"It could only plunge that part of the world into even greater instability."
Second, current Vice President Dick Cheney said this in 1991 interview:
I was not an enthusiast about getting U.S. forces and going into Iraq. We were there in the southern part of Iraq to the extent we needed to be there to defeat his forces and to get him out of Kuwait, but the idea of going into Baghdad, for example, or trying to topple the regime wasn't anything I was enthusiastic about. I felt there was a real danger here that you would get bogged down in a long drawn-out conflict...I think if we had done that we would have been bogged down there for a very long period of time with the real possibility we might not have succeeded..
Third, Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote this in a 1992/1993 Foreign Affairs article.
"The Gulf War was a limited-objective war. If it had not been, we would be ruling Badhdad today--at unpardonable expense in terms of money, lives lost and ruined regional relationships."
Do you think these are all too dated? How about this from on op-ed piece by Brent Scowcroft ("Don't Attack Saddam") in the August 15, 2002 Wall Street Journal? Scowcroft, by the way, served as National Security Advisor to Bush Senior and Gerald Ford. I'm picking juicy quotes from the op-ed, but you can read it yourself:
there is scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations, and even less to the Sept. 11 attacks. Indeed Saddam's goals have little in common with the terrorists who threaten us, and there is little incentive for him to make common cause with them.

He is unlikely to risk his investment in weapons of mass destruction, much less his country, by handing such weapons to terrorists who would use them for their own purposes and leave Baghdad as the return address.

There is little evidence to indicate that the United States itself is an object of his aggression.

An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken.

But the central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence.

At a minimum, it would stifle any cooperation on terrorism, and could even swell the ranks of the terrorists.
One final set of quotes from former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who served under Bush senior. This is what he said about war in Iraq promoted by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz:
I don't think it's legitimate policy at this stage, unless the president can demonstrate to all of us that Saddam has his finger on a nuclear, biological or chemical trigger and he's about to use it.

And finally, it doesn't seem to me that we've thought through at all what we do when we overthrow him. Are we going to stay there for the next six years?

I don't understand why this rush to judgment to do it right now when we have no demonstrated reasons for doing it right now. So I'm kind of -- I lean toward Scowcroft unless the president can prove to me that there is an immediate reason to do it now.

I must tell you, I think they're devious. And I think they have had for some time this view that this is a -- well, first of all, I think they are committed to getting rid of -- and have been for years -- committed to getting rid of Saddam Hussein because they think we should have done it the first time around.

I am scared to death that they are going to convince the president that they can do this overthrow of Saddam on the cheap, and we'll find ourselves in the middle of a swamp because we didn't plan to do it in the right way.

[T]here are a level of questions that remain. For example, what -- who replaces him? Do we have to stay there and occupy Iraq? If that's the case, it would not be a better place.

I mean, I can tell you right now if the new regime that follows Saddam is perceived by the Iraqis to have been put in place by the United States, it will have a half-life of about 10 minutes...
This, by the way, was from an interview by Fox News, August 19, 2002.

People need to complain, LOUDLY and OFTEN, about this Republican ad's message.

Update: I added a couple of missing links and posted this to daily kos . People who want to comment can do so there.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Howard Dean and the Progressive Agenda

I haven't said much about Howard Dean lately, so let me touch on a couple of news items that caught my attention.

First, everyone presumably knows about the confederate flag flap triggered by Dean's comments during a debate. People also know about his partial retraction, presumably.

But do they know about the repair measures he's pursued? For example, Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is expected to endorse Dean in the next few days. In a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun, Cummings called Dean "somebody who can energize our base" and "the kind of candidate we need to run for president."

I'm not certain how much these kinds of endorsements make, but politicians obviously think they are valuable. Cummings, by chance, is coming to my University to speak in the near future and I hope to learn more about his views on Dean. I'll blog about it I learn anything valuable.

Second, Dean announced this past week that he intends to re-regulate various industries in an attempt to ward off Enron-style corporate abuses and to prevent further media concentration. Libertarians, predictably, are up in arms about this even though many would agree that corporate abuses need to be addressed.

The libertarian line isn't all that far from the Democratic Leadership Council's , which wants to find market-based ways to overcome corporate abuses.

Is the answer to market failure even more markets? Perhaps, but what is the answer? Even the libertarian writer Megan McArdle, discussing Dean's plan, acknowledges that the answer is quite evasive. After all, she "would be surprised indeed to find that he has solved a problem that is still worrying some of the finest minds in finance and economics."

Perhaps the answer is targeted regulation. It does seem like a good idea to prevent too much concentration of media power. Utility de-regulation did have some horrible consequences as Enron and the California energy disaster (which are related problems) demonstrated -- not to mention WorldCom. Plus, unregulated stock options are a big problem that helped promote the bubble economy of the late 1990s.

Dean's fellow Democrats (like Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman) blasted him right away without allowing much time for real discussion of his plan. Indeed, Clark has said at times that he was motivated to run in part by Enron and problems he had observed first-hand in investment banking.

After reading just a small bit about Dean's plans, I wonder if Nobel winner Joseph Stiglitz is behind them? Last year's anti-globalization book has been following by this year's The Roaring Nineties that debunks many myths about the 1990s' economy. He slams telecom deregulation, apparently. The American Prospect's book reviewer summarizes a key Stiglitz claim:
He shared a 2001 Nobel Prize in Economic Science for his pathbreaking contributions to the concept that markets function imperfectly, hurting many people, because the information available to market participants is inadequate. So government has to intervene, adroitly through rules and regulations, to make markets function properly.
Stiglitz, unlike Dean, doesn't seem to be such a stickler for deficit reduction, so maybe I'm seeing something that doesn't exist. Obviously, I'd be right if Stiglitz (with cause) joined the Economists for Dean That website, by the way, has been giving a lot of play to the mutual fund scandal, which also fits into this picture (as Paul Krugman readers know).

Alert to my friends supporting Kucinich, Braun or Sharpton: this is a progressive and populist idea Dean is pursuing. It's worth examining in more detail.

For that reason, I wouldn't mind reading Brad DeLong's take on Dean's plans. Brad?

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Iraq and al Qaeda, continued.

Lots of prominent bloggers (like Matthew Iglesias , Mark Kleiman and Josh Marshall) are still talking about the Weekly Standard article I discussed yesterday, and other recent press reports discussing Iraq and al Qaeda.

Newsweek, for example, has an on-line story that makes most of the points I made yesterday -- plus a little more work by the reporters, Mike Isikoff and Mark Hosenball.

Slate also has a piece by Edward Epstein that investigates whether 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta might, after all, have been able to visit an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague, April 2001.

Meanwhile, Laurie Mylroie gave a talk just last week at the American Enterprise Institute with fellow neocon Richard Perle. As my loyal readers know, Mylroie may be responsible, more than any other individual, for Americans falsely thinking that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was behind 9/11.

I think skeptics are taking the wrong approach.

The Bush administration may well be right that there were a few odd meetings between Iraqis and al Qaeda members through the 1990s. Read the various articles, however, and you quickly learn that bin Laden apparently rejected an overt offer to move his operation to Iraq because he didn't want to be linked to the "infidel" Hussein. The two forces had quite different -- and incompatible -- goals.

Moreover, the real issue is whether Iraq was a prime target in the war on terrorism. Lots and lots of threats are higher order. I've blogged about Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, shoulder launched missiles, etc.

As Wesley Clark pointed out again this weekend, the real story is that Iraq has diverted substantial attention and resources away from the war on terror. Republican critics like Brent Scowcroft were saying this before the war.

The neocons and their supporters in the administration simply didn't listen.

Update: Read today's Whiskey Bar entry for a great summary of how the war in Iraq distracts from the war on terror.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The Pentagon Strikes Back -- at its embedded Neocons

This past weekend, many news media outlets covered a leaked memo written for the congressional intelligence investigators by the Pentagon's Douglas Feith (one of the embedded neocons). He was asked to provide the committee with all the "raw" intelligence reports available before the war that had led the US to draw conclusions about an Iraq-al Qaeda link. The memo was leaked to the Weekly Standard and they printed a long story that was on the web Saturday.

A key part of any intelligence job is sifting through the data to figure out what the real picture looks like. Many critics have accused the administration of latching on to any intell that supported their worldview and ignoring dissent.

Nonetheless, the comedian who follows Jon Stewart stared into the camera on Monday night and declared that war opponents were obviously wrong and should apologize for saying there was no justification for war in Iraq. Fox News apparently ran with the story all weekend and at least one right-tilting major blog declared "case closed." Actually, that was also the name of the Weekly Standard's article.

What people may have missed was the very important same-day denunciation of the reports from the Department of Defense.

I'm going to reprint the entire press release (since it's a government document, that's perfectly legal!). You can find it at DoD News: DoD Statement on News Reports of Al Qaeda and Iraq Connections; DefenseLINK Template.
News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate.

A letter was sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Oct. 27, 2003, from Douglas J. Feith, under secretary of defense for policy, in response to follow-up questions from his July 10 testimony. One of the questions posed by the committee asked the department to provide the reports from the intelligence community to which he referred in his testimony before the committee. These reports dealt with the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.

The letter to the committee included a classified annex containing a list and description of the requested reports, so that the committee could obtain the reports from the relevant members of the intelligence community.

The items listed in the classified annex were either raw reports or products of the CIA, the National Security Agency or, in one case, the Defense Intelligence Agency. The provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies and done with the permission of the intelligence community. The selection of the documents was made by DoD to respond to the committee’s question. The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, and it drew no conclusions.

Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal.
As anyone can see from this last paragraph, the DoD probably isn't happy with Doug Feith (or whoever leaked his memo).

And while Stephen Hayes, the author of the Weekly Standard piece, isn't really backing down much in light of the new memo, he does say that his story "never claimed knowledge of the authenticity of all 50 enumerated intelligence data points." Typically, Hayes attributes the wilder claims to Feith.

Should we have faith in Feith? I remain skeptical. There are some really strong claims coming from intelligence people coming to light saying there was no substantial link between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Watch this clip from Fox News

I generally don't post twice in a day, nor do I regularly watch Fox News, but I highly recommend that everyone with a decent internet conection go to the Fox News site and watch the video associated with this link. It is an interview with General Wesley Clark and it runs for several minutes.

The best part comes a couple of minutes into the clip.

My call? Home run for Clark.

This Seems Like a Very Bad Idea

There's a very disturbing story from the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau yesterday, "In Tikrit, U.S. destroys homes of suspected guerrillas." The US is borrowing dubious counter-insurgency tactics from Israel:
In a tactic reminiscent of Israeli crackdowns in the West Bank and Gaza, the U.S. military has begun destroying the homes of suspected guerrilla fighters in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, evacuating women and children, then leveling their houses with heavy weaponry.

At least 15 homes have been destroyed in Tikrit as part of what has been dubbed Operation Ivy Cyclone II, including four leveled on Sunday by tanks and Apache helicopters that allegedly belonged to suspects in the Nov. 7 downing of a Black Hawk helicopter that killed six Americans.

Family members at one of the houses, in the village of al Haweda, said they were given five minutes to evacuate before soldiers opened fire.
Why is this a bad idea? Well, as the Palestinian experience suggests, it motivates new insurgents:
On Monday, angry residents of al Haweda, where three of the destroyed homes were, said the tactic will spawn more guerrilla fighters and perhaps spark an Iraqi uprising similar to the Palestinian intifada in the West Bank and Gaza.

"This is something Sharon would do," said 41-year-old farmer Jamel Shahab, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. "What's happening in Iraq is just like Palestine."
Even the US State Department has criticized Israel's past actions:
The State Department's 2002 human rights report, released in March, said such policies "left hundreds of Palestinians not involved in terror attacks homeless." In September, department spokesman Richard Boucher criticized Israel for destroying a seven-story apartment building in Gaza during a raid on a suspected Hamas militant.

There was no official reaction in Washington.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested Monday that the tactic was not sanctioned in Washington.
This is the US military's justification on the ground in Iraq:
The operation is expected to continue through Wednesday, said Col. James Hickey, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division.

Hickey said the four homes were destroyed on Sunday because enemy fighters lived and met there. Leveling the homes will force the fighters to find other meeting places, he said.

"Those four people used those houses as sanctuary, and we're not allowing them to have sanctuary," Hickey said.

"We're going to turn the heat up and complicate their battlefield," driving them into the desert, he said. "There they will be exposed and we will have them."
In the article, White House's Scott McClellan refers to the fighters as terrorists, but that is inaccurate so long as they are attacking US forces. It's an occupied country and they are attacking their occupiers. Given the questionable legality of the US attack in the first place, the insurgency might even be legal under international law.

I'm certainly not condoning the violence on either side. The US needs a non-violent approach to Iraq. Soon, I'm going to blog about exactly that.

Hint: Several years ago I participated in a project directed by Christian Ethicist scholar Glen Stassen on just-peacemaking.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Lois and Clark; Beware of Hidden Kryptonite

Josh Marshall has recent links to two interesting stories. I think they are related, though Marshall doesn't tie them together in his blog. I will.

One link is to a story by Lois Romano in the Washington Post about changes in Wesley Clark's campaign. Marshall does a good job of highlighting the key paragraphs and explaining the apparent changes in Clark's New Hampshire strategy and in his advising team.

Since I blogged about Clark's "Meet the Press" interview yesterday, this story caught my eye for a different reason. Obviously, Clark is running a quite different campaign from Howard Dean. While Dean built his following (and cash reserves) by opposing the war on Iraq, Clark has been making nuanced security arguments -- recognizing the apparent need to take on WMD proliferation, al Qaeda and other security threats.

His New Hampshire strategy is going to emphasize his ideas and military background -- in an apparent attempt to highlight his contrast with Dean and perhaps to clear the field of other anti-Dean candidates (who do not have his foreign policy credentials). Romano notes that Clark hopes to make the primary contest a two-man race shortly after New Hampshire:
The Clark campaign's goal in the next few weeks is to demonstrate that it has both the resources to take on the former Vermont governor and a candidate whose military résumé makes him far more electable. "Our strategy is that Wesley Clark is the candidate to beat George Bush, and we have to make that clear to people," said Lara Bergthold, the political director.

"The Democratic Party is going to have to take a hard look at itself in the mirror and decide whether it can gamble on Dean when the stakes are so high," said Matt Bennett, Clark's director of communications.
Given what Clark said on MTP Sunday, I think this is a viable approach. Dean isn't really threatened by the other anti-war candidates, and Clark is trying to be both anti-war and focused on terror. He splits the difference, isolating Kerry, Lieberman, Gephardt and Edwards (who voted for the Iraq war resolution).

One potential problem for Clark's strategy? What if the Bush administration actually starts listening to Clark by internationalizing the Iraq occupation and calling in NATO? After all, the administation already announced its intent to hand over political control by June -- essentially caving to French/German demands.

Would such a shift completely undercut Clark's campaign strategy? I'm not suggesting this would be the administration's motive -- but if it were to occur, I think the General would have a difficult time highlighting his credentials. More cynical observers might conclude that Karl Rove could do this to assure a Bush-Dean race, which they might feel better about than Bush-Clark.

So back to Josh Marshall, who also linked to this story in the Independent today by Leonard Doyle and Stephen Castle. The paper is reporting that the US is not merely planning a political handoff to Iraq. It says the US is about to convert the troop command into an international force!
The United States accepts that to avoid humiliating failure in Iraq it needs to bring its forces quickly under international control and speed the handover of power, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, has said. Decisions along these lines will be made in the "coming days", Mr Solana told The Independent.

The comments, signalling a major policy shift by the US, precede President George Bush's state visit this week to London, during which he and Tony Blair will discuss an exit strategy for forces in Iraq.

Mr Solana underlined the change of mood in Washington, saying: "Everybody has moved, including the United States, because the United States has a real problem and when you have a real problem you need help." There is a "growing consensus" that the transfer of power has to be accelerated, he said. "How fast can it be done? I would say the faster the better."

He added: "The forces will have to be there under aa different chapeau. The more the international community is incorporated under the international organisations [the better]. That is the lesson I think everyone is learning. Our American friends are learning that. We will see in the coming days decisions along these lines."
And the change might well mean a more active role for NATO.
Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, arrives in Brussels tonight for talks with EU ministers, which he will combine with a meeting with the retiring Nato secretary general, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Diplomats say that Mr Powell is expected to "test the water" about the involvement of the transatlantic alliance in Iraq.
Obviously, this is all political whispering, but I cannot believe Solana (recall, Spain is part of the "coalition of the willing") would say these things unless he had some pretty strong indications of impending change.

Bush critics have been saying for a long time that the US would have little to lose by truly internationalizing the force structure. Maybe they are actually listening?

If this internationalization occurs, the "anti-Dean" candidate (whoever that turns out to be in the primaries) will be the one emphasizing the dangers of Bush's crony capitalism in Iraq.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Is Wesley Clark the Candidate?

This morning, I watched most of the Wesley Clark interview on "Meet the Press." Tim Russert confronted Clark with a lot of the "gotcha" stuff that has been noted in some media over the past weeks. However, Clark did a fairly good job of heading it off.

Sometimes he pointed out that the remarks were taken out of context or that his speeches, op-ed columns, and TV appearances had included a lot of nuance that would serve to condition his apparent past support of Bush policy and/or personnel.

He wasn't as good as Clinton in the famous 60 minutes interview (was that during the Super Bowl?), but it was direct and seemed sincere.

Quite early on in the interview, Russert asked Clark what he would say to President Bush if the latter asked for advice. This is his excellent reply:
"Mr. President, the first thing you've got to do is you've got to surrender exclusive U.S. control over this mission. You cannot build the kind of international support you need if we retain exclusive custody of the mission, and there's no point in it. Build an international organization like we did in the Balkans. We call it the Peace Implementation Committee there. Call this one the Iraqi reconstruction Development Authority. Bring in every nation that wants to contribute, give them a seat at the table, put a non-American in charge and the responsibilities are to assist the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq, and then go to the Iraqis and there's no reason to wait until June to give the Iraqis back their country. We should be transferring that authority tomorrow. They've already elected local councils. Let each local council send two people to a central location. Let that be a transitional central government. Give them staff and let them start forming up the kinds of committees they need to have visibility over and make decisions on what's being done in Iraq. Give the country back to the Iraqis. We're not there to occupy it; we're only there to help. So let's give them their country back."
Of course, as I noted yesterday, the Bush administration is already moving in this direction.

It was odd that Clark said the Iraq war was technically legal, but Kosova was technically illegal (though legitimate). I buy the latter, but this war was widely viewed as illegal by international lawyers -- and other states.

Since the American people probably don't want to think about their country acting against international law, this probably wasn't a bad answer. In any case, Clark was much stronger on operational questions. This was another good moment for the General:
I think we need to change the force mix in Iraq as rapidly as we can. I think we need a lighter, more mobile force, more agile, more intelligence-driven. We need to take those 1,400 people who are searching for weapons of mass destruction, pull them off the search, give that to the United Nations people, use them to help us track down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and to help us find the people in Iraq who are attacking our soldiers. And then we need to start reducing the size of the U.S. force there. We may have to temporarily increase it, but we need to transform what it does. All these heavy forces have big logistics footprints. I mean, you have lots of logistics. You have lots of unarmored Humvees, you have lots of opportunities for ambush. We need to reduce those opportunities.
Let me post two more long answers. Here's how Clark defended his decision to oppose the $87 billion request:
I do support money for the men and women on the ground. I came out against this because to vote for this resolution, at that time, was to give the president of the United States a blank check, a blank check because he didn't have a strategy. And I think what the troops in Iraq need more than anything else is a strategy for success. Each day that they go forward without a strategy, the danger increases, and that's the responsibility of the president of the United States, to provide that strategy. He hadn't done so. And it was the duty of the Congress to press the administration to do it. They didn't. They gave him a blank check. Now, if they had pressed and said, "Mr. President, we're not going to give you this until your spokesmen come up here and you lay out a strategy. What are you trying to do there? What's going to happen in the region. Give us the vision, tell us your time lines. Give us your estimates." If he'd done that, then of course we would have supported -- I would have supported taking care of the troops. That wasn't done. And that was the duty of the United States Congress, to have the--”hold the executive branch accountable.
That's great stuff. Here's what he said to explain how Bush has weakened the fight versus al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan:
I was one of those, along with Senator Bob Graham, who believed at the outset that this was a distraction. This was a distraction from the more important war against al-Qaeda. And, in fact, it was a distraction, Tim.

When we went into Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, CENTCOM was already planning the operation in Iraq. Instead of planning how to get Osama bin Laden, instead of putting the U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan to finish the fight against al-Qaeda and bring back Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, we had our top leadership distracted in preparing what to do about Saddam Hussein. And then, when we could have put the U.S. troops in, we withheld them, because there was uncertainty as to how long we would be in Afghanistan and how soon we might need those troops to go into Iraq.

So we've stretched and we've accommodated the Afghanistan mission, we've done as little as possible. In military terms, it's been "economy of force." And the result is today that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are coming back in Afghanistan.
I was going to stop, but as I read the transcript, I do think Clark was great. Here's a direct challenge to the so-called "Bush Doctrine":
This administration made a fundamental choice early in the war on terror to go after states rather than to go after terrorists. They wanted to use the conventional power of the United States armed forces to take down states. And Don Rumsfeld's still talking about it, as though these old states are central to the problem of terrorism. The problem with that is they aren't, and when you take them down, you're left trying to pick up the pieces, as has happened in Iraq. Attacking Iraq has done almost nothing to help us deal with the problem of al-Qaeda.
I'd like to see Russert question Bush one-on-one for the better part of an hour, asking similar questions and playing old film footage. Later in the interview, Clark said the administration had framed one-sided intelligence about WMD to mislead the public. It was strong stuff and I'd like to see Bush answer it directly.

Clark even brought up one of my persistent beefs -- the failure to do anything about Rwanda. Unlike Bush, Clark regrets the US inaction.

Mid-December, by the way, Clark is going to Europe to testify against Milosevic. That will make for an interesting campaign moment. It would give him yet another way to frame the argument against Saddam Hussein. Done differently, the war in Iraq might have led to a trial of the Iraqi dictator.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Out of Iraq? Hold on a minute...

By now, I'm sure everyone is aware that the Bush administration has reversed itself and now wants Iraq to achieve self governance by the middle of next year. Officially the occupation would be over.

The new Bush plan is very close to what the French and Germans have been asking for since the occupation began. Ideally, of course, constitutional authority and elections will coincide.

I'm as cynical as the next guy -- and it sure looks like the administration is caving to its critics (like it did in 2002 on the Homeland Security Department)...so I wonder if Karl Rove et al will soon be reframing it so that the original supporters are forced to oppose the idea?

That's what happened with the labor rule changes to Homeland Security.

Anyway, the key point concerns the legitimacy of the new government. If the Bush Pentagon hands the keys to Baghdad over to the westernized INC, administration critics should be up in arms. Those guys are not going to enjoy popular support.

Moreover, it is important to note that this is not going to get the administration off the hook for Iraq. US troops are going to remain in Iraq under some negotiated arrangement with the new local political authorities. Here's what the Secretary of Defense has to say:
"The time table or the way ahead that the (Iraqi) Governing Council has been describing relates to the governance aspects of the country and not to the security aspects," he said. "That's on a separate track."

Rumsfeld said the United States continues to plan to rotate a new contingent of troops into Iraq next year, with no final pullout date set yet. Accelerating the political process will not affect military planning, he said.

"This has nothing to do with U.S. troops and coalition troops in Iraq," he said.
Obviously, US troops are still going to be potential targets for insurgents.

Then again, many critics think the US troops are targets because they represent illegitimate power. If the new Iraqi government is widely perceived as legitimate, then the attacks should diminish and that would be a good thing.

This story requires much more scrutiny in the months ahead. The devil, as they say, will be in the details.

Friday, November 14, 2003

The French are right, again.

Yesterday, Dan Drezner posted, "A Marriage Made in Protest" on his blog. It concerns French governmental sponsorship of an anti-globalization meeting. He quotes a Financial Times article about the European Social Forum, which is meeting in Paris right now (1200 organizations and 50,000 people). According to the FT, President Jacques Chirac authorized the French foreign ministry and prime minister's office to pony up about 20% of the $4.3 million budget. Here's the meetings' purpose:
The main agenda will discuss propositions for an alternative "anti-liberal" development model for the European Union that is also more citizen-friendly. But attention will also focus on ways to challenge US "unilateralism".
Dan wonders why it took so long for the French to "hook up" with the anti-globalization crowd (perhaps he is implying this because many of them are anti-American).

Drezner is basically a right-leaning libertarian who supports the WTO and is thus quite sympathetic to globalization.

Of course, I think the FT and Drezner should be more worried about their own views than they are about the social protesters.

Perhaps the meeting is going to focus on an "'anti-liberal' development model" because the current model has failed to fulfill the liberal project?

The Cancun WTO negotiations recently failed because of the hypocrisy of agriculture subsidies. Rich nations want them, they are inconsistent with free market ideas, and to be fair, Drezner has argued against them. But that doesn't end them. Those subsidies make it quite difficult for poor countries to compete in an economic sector where they might well have comparative advantages.

Moreover, there are other important dimensions to global liberalization beyond the mobility of capital and goods.

What about liberal freedom of movement? The EU states have embraced this within their limited sphere, but the US (especially post-9/11) has been far more concerned with tightened borders.

How can liberals desire mobile capital without mobile labor? That is completely one-sided and clearly favors transnational business at the expense of workers everywhere.

There's also the question of global governance, which the anti-globalization forces have long sought. Liberalism isn't blindly libertarian and the protesters make solid points about environmental standards, labor rights, etc.

I would argue that we should postpone our worries about global "anti-liberal" forces until the state members of the WTO take liberalism much more seriously.

Allowing mobile capital and goods is NOT especially liberal. It merely exploits limited labor mobility and weak governance arrangements.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

This is a filibuster?

OK, I don't have much of substance to contribute to the blogger thread about the Senate judicial filibuster. Larry Solum (who alerted me) has the complete run down.

However, I do think Jon Stewart on The Daily Show had the absolute funniest one-liner. Stewart played a tape from Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who apparently quoted Shakespeare's Hamlet during the filibuster: "Me thinks thou doth protest too much."

Stewart then faced the camera and said something like this, "For a guy who once equated homosexuality and beastiality, the Senator sure seems to know a lot about the theater." The end of that sentence featured a change in Stewart's vocal pitch and a great twirl of the finger.

Aside: I'm guessing Santorum doesn't want Pittsburgh to pursue the "creative class."

While I'm on the subject, The Daily Show is genuine "must see" TV in my book. It can be difficult to watch when he has celebrity guests, rather than political ones, but I'm really looking forward to the 2004 election year coverage.

Tonight's bit about the US accidentally bombing the dye factory was also very funny.
For the first time in six months, the U.S. resumed air attacks in Baghdad Wednesday. In the first of two bombings, a U.S. gunship destroyed an Iraqi dye factory that the U.S. claimed was a base for militants opposed to the U.S. occupation.
Stewart turned to the camera, noted the bombing was partly in response to recent attacks against US Apache helicopters, and said, "take that Iraqi tie-dye" artisans.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Pakistan: Typhoid Mary of Proliferation

Iran and North Korea, of course, are the remaining two members of the so-called "axis of evil." While these states have long been on the State Department's list of states accused of sponsoring terror, they have not historically been viewed as sponsoring anti-American attacks (well Iran did in the 1970s and 1980s) or cooperating with al Qaeda. North Korea, in particular, is on the list because it is a retirement home for long-ago terrorists. Iran is accused of sponsoring anti-Israeli terror in the name of the Palestinian cause.

So, the reason these states are part of the "axis of evil" is that they pursue weapons of mass destrcution. Yes, the states have been anti-American, but it is a big stretch to pretend 9/11 significantly altered US foreign policy towards those states.

That's because the US, since the end of the cold war, has focused much of its attention on so-called rogue states.

Consider what the Bush administration was saying before 9/11, for example. Richard Armitage of the Bush administration said the following when visiting India in May 2001:
Asked to name the rogue states, he referred to Libya, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and other countries ``in your neighbourhood''. Pressed to elaborate, he said ``we have questions about Pakistan which are well known and of which you are equally aware''.
Pakistan? Aren't they a key ally in the war on terror?

In fact, not long after this Armitage remark appeared in the Indian press, the US clarified that it did not consider Pakistan a rogue state.

Still, America's policy toward Pakistan did change significantly after 9/11. Because Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, the US imposed sanctions required under American nonproliferation statutes. Within weeks of 9/11, however, once Afghanistan was under the microscope, the US decided it needed Pakistan and reversed the sanctions.

I wonder what kind of message that sent to potential proliferants? Perhaps the US has higher priorities than non-proliferation?

In any case, many experts believe that Pakistan is the major source of nuclear technology that makes proliferation possible. For example, consider this statement by Paul Leventhal of the Nuclear Control Institute (made in May 2003):

I would hope the one thing the IAEA will do [when it looks into Iran] will be to tell what it knows based on its viewing of these machines, but Pakistan is strongly suspected of having transferred the centrifuge technology that it stole from Europe in the late 1960’s and they also transmitted that technology to North Korea, and they-in the initial case, transferred it to China. So this is the Typhoid Mary of proliferation these days, and Pakistan from a U.S. interest standpoint is probably our biggest concern.
So every time you read a story about US concerns with Iran or North Korea, think about Pakistan.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Mission Accomplished? Apparently Not

Fred Kaplan wrote an article for Slate today (thanks to Josh Marshall for the link) called "War Declared, Again; We're not pulling out of Iraq, so it's logical that we're pushing in deeper." Kaplan described a major new offensive ("it's a safe bet the change in policy will go well beyond semantics"):
In a heavily guarded news conference in Baghdad today, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, called the state of conflict there a "war." John Burns, the New York Times correspondent covering the event, quotes Sanchez's aides noting that the general's choice of words was deliberate—his way of injecting realism into the debate back in Washington. "We are taking the fight into the safe havens of the enemy in the heartland of the country," Sanchez stated. That sounds like war, all right.

To reinforce the impression, word also got around today that the White House has called L. Paul Bremer back to Washington for talks. Bremer is the civilian chief of the U.S.-led occupation authority. He left Baghdad quite promptly, deferring a long-scheduled meeting with the Polish prime minister, whose own troops have recently arrived in country for patrol duties. The guess around the Pentagon is that Bremer's role in postwar reconstruction will probably be scaled back, if not suspended, at least until the war is really over.
The New York Times quote needs to be placed in the complete context:
"We are taking the fight into the safe havens of the enemy in the heartland of the country where we continue to face former regime loyalists, criminals and foreign terrorists, who are trying to isolate the coalition forces from the Iraqi people and break the will of the international community," General Sanchez told a heavily guarded news conference in the Iraqi capital. He added, "They will fail." [paragraphs snipped]

In response to questions, he added, "What we are embarking on here is the absolute necessity to defeat the enemy," in pursuit of which the "application of all combat power that is available to us" would be used.
Interestingly, five days ago, a peace list I'm on included a post called Rumblings of a Surprise US Air Attack. The information came from the Scottish Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, which apparently has "peace watchers" that monitor US Air Force Bases (Fairford and Welford) in the UK:
Since Saturday, November 1, people in the Highlands of Scotland have been witnessing large movements of US warplanes overhead. Experienced observers say the large numbers are reminiscent of those that preceded the bombing of Iraq in 1998 and military strikes on Libya in the 1980's, as well as the first Gulf War.

At the weekend, warplanes were flying over at a rate of roughly one every 15 minutes. In addition to watching them from the ground, the plane spotters have also been able to overhear pilots talking by listening to their radio
frequencies.

At this rate, some 288 warplanes would have passed over Scotland in three days.

It is thought that the planes have flown on a route from the US over the north pole to bases in Europe and the Mediterranean. The size and scale of the movement suggests that the US may be preparing to strike at a country in the Middle East in the next week or ten days.
The Gulf War, of course, was a much larger operation than the '98 bombings or the Libyan bombings, so it's hard to gauge what's about to happen.

But it certainly looks as if the US is about to prove that it is still at war in Iraq.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Dirty Bombs

There is an AP news story in today's San Jose Mercury News on the "very significant" risks of so-called "dirty bombs." Here are the opening paragraphs:
Federal investigators have documented 1,300 cases of lost, stolen or abandoned radioactive material inside the United States over the past five years and have concluded there is a significant risk that terrorists could cobble enough together for a dirty bomb.

Studies by the Energy Department's Los Alamos laboratory and the General Accounting Office found significant holes in the nation's security net that could take years to close, even after improvements by regulators since Sept. 11, 2001.

"The world of radiological sources developed prior to recent concerns about terrorism, and many of the sources are either unsecured or provided, at best, with an industrial level of security," the Los Alamos lab concluded two months ago in a report that was reviewed by The Associated Press.
Before everyone enters panic mode, note that there is good news buried in the story:
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Beth Hayden said the agency recognizes the potential dangers of such materials and al-Qaida's interest in them - "there are millions of sources," she said. But she added most of the 1,300 lost radiological sources were subsequently recovered and the public should keep the threat in perspective.

"The ones that have been lost and not recovered, I'm told, if you put them all together, it would not add up to one highly radioactive source," Hayden said. "These are low-level sources."
Similarly, the Deseret News (apparently a Utah paper) reported recently about some findings delivered at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) meeting. Here are the most important paragraphs:
Wednesday, radiation oncologists meeting in Salt Lake City debunked what they called "myths" about dirty bomb damage.

The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) members have, since the terrorist attacks, been examining danger radiation exposure might pose. And it's not, they say, what has been generally presented.

Radiation from dirty bombs would not be apt to contaminate and eventually kill people in a large geographic area.

"The conventional explosive itself will probably do more damage than the radiation that's tagged to the bomb," said ASTRO spokeswoman Nancy Daly, who is also a nurse with a master's degree in public health and nursing. "That's not to say there are not people who would be exposed and of concern, but more people will have life-threatening injuries from whatever the device is that explodes."
On the other hand, if you want to be scared, the Washington Times (again!) reported in mid-October that an al Qaeda operative was nosing around McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada looking for materials to build a dirty bomb. Apparently, several al Qaeda operatives have been spotted this past year or so in Hamilton and the US thinks there's a terrorist cell there.

The real "dirty bomb" materials of great concern, I'm afraid, are in lightly guarded rooms in Russia.



Sunday, November 09, 2003

Sex and the 2004 Election

I just finished the September / October 2003 issue of the Utne Magazine and was taken by an argument in "How Sex Rocks the Vote" by Anne Geske an Utne intern.

Here are the most interesting paragraphs.
today there is a more reliable predictor of people's political allegiances than their pocketbooks: where they stand on sexual issues.

Dick Morris and Mark Penn, advisers to Bill Clinton during the 1996 election campaign, came up with a polling technique that produced consistent results: The more liberal a person was on sexual attitudes, the more likely the person was to vote Democrat. Conversely, the likelihood a person would vote Republican rose in direct proportion to how conservative his or her attitudes were toward sex.

A map showing percentages of adult movies in the home-video market by state "bore an eerie resemblance" to the 2000 election results, remarked former Delaware governor Pete du Pont in a recent Wall Street Journal Web site column.
There's also a human rights dimension to the argument. Geske cites some kind of survey conducted by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States that
found that the vast majority of states that voted for George W. Bush are states that are less responsive to issues of sexual rights and sexual health. Criteria used in this survey included the right to engage in sexual behavior in private, the right to express one's sexual orientation, and the right to sexual information and health services.
This actually got me thinking of another related point. Locally, I've read a number of articles lately about the so-called "brain drain" as bright students and young adults from Louisville go elsewhere for college. The community is trying to figure out ways to reverse this trend.

There's some recent academic work suggesting that the "brain drain" problem is at least partly sex/tolerance-related. Academic Richard Florida recently published a book Rise of the Creative Class that directly addresses migration of young, talented workers -- and links sex/tolerance to economic vitality of cities. While I haven't read it, there were a couple of related articles I did read in the Washington Monthly and in Governing.

Put simply, Florida argues that creative people migrate from intolerant places (many red states on the 2000 electoral map) to more tolerant places (especially "hip" urban areas in the blue states on the 2000 electoral map). Gay rights is one key indicator of tolerance. This is from Florida's WM article:
Talented people seek an environment open to differences. Many highly creative people, regardless of ethnic background or sexual orientation, grew up feeling like outsiders, different in some way from most of their schoolmates. When they are sizing up a new company and community, acceptance of diversity and of gays in particular is a sign that reads "non-standard people welcome here."
Here's an interesting excerpt from the Governing article by Christopher Swope:
Florida doesn't argue that homosexuals are more creative than heterosexuals. And he's not saying that gays are the secret of urban salvation. But he does make the case that in today's knowledge economy, where younger people especially jump from job to job and move from city to city, the cultural attributes of place matter more than the old virtues of corporate loyalty.

And one of the many things the creative class looks for in a place to live, the argument goes, is tolerance, not just toward gays but toward people who have purple hair, wear nose rings or are culturally distinctive in almost any way at all.

As Richard Florida sees it, the number of gays in a community is a proxy for tolerance. Gays may therefore serve as a bellwether of a city's economic fortunes. "Homosexuality represents the last frontier of diversity in our society, and thus a place that welcomes the gay community welcomes all kinds of people," Florida writes. "Openness to the gay community is a good indicator of the low entry barriers to human capital that are so important to spurring creativity and generating high-tech growth."
Louisville, for example, was #45 of 49 cities ranked in Florida's "creativity rankings" for large cities.

In any case, some of the articles on Florida's book-related website suggest that lots of cities (like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati) are explicitly changing their laws regarding gay rights in hopes of attracting wealthy young gays and other "hip" youth. They are trying to reverse old migration patterns.

Personally, I wonder if part of the red/blue geographic split already strongly reflects past migration. The solid Bush states across the South and from the prairies to the Rockies have perhaps lost a large proportion of their youth to NY, Chicago, SF and other "hip" cities. That makes it hard for Democrats to win in those states.

Of course, Bush's winning states saw their populations increase between 1990 to 2000, reflecting the Souths' ability to attract business. That makes it easier for Republicans to win. And it gives Bush 7 bonus Electoral College votes in 2004, if all else remains equal.

If legal tolerance spreads -- businesses are competing for the tolerant youth and often want cities to pass gay rights measures -- and as "hip" places pop up in the South (Florida mentions Austin and the NC research triangle), voting patterns might also change.

It's interesting food for thought and raises important political questions:

Could the key to future elections depend upon young gays remaining in their local communities?

Does this mean that apparent Republican plans to use gay marriage as a wedge election issue could backfire in key ("swing") tolerant states? I'm thinking of Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire, and perhaps Pennslyvania, Ohio and Indiana (Florida's articles emphasize how cities in these three states are overtly trying to become "hip" and tolerant).

Does this give a whole new meaning to the Republicans' "southern strategy?"

Update: I also posted this entry to my diary at the Daily KOS. Since that blog allows comments (registration required), this is a chance to see whether my readers want me to create a more public feedback option. I get a few pieces of email per week, but nobody has indicated a desire for public comments.

For now, I'll let readers know if an entry is also going to be posted to Daily Kos. This was only my second attempt. The first was "Let the Reframing Begin: Anti-Terrorism Strategy," posted on October 29. It's still there if you want to comment on that one.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

The 2004 Athens Olympic Games

Yahoo! Sports has an AP story about Friday's quarterfinal loss by the US national baseball team in the Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Because the tournament became single elimination after the pool play, and because only the top 2 teams qualify for the Olympics, the US will not be represented in the 2004 Athens games.

The US won the 2000 gold medal.

Fans who watched the World Series might remember the announcers for Fox speculating about whether Roger Clemens might pitch in next year's Olympics after retiring from the majors. Clemens will not be winning an Olympic medal in Athens.

The US had been undefeated (3-0) in pool play and the team lost to Mexico who had been 0-3 in pool play. Why bother with a pool if a team with zero wins can still win the championship, you might ask? Well, Mexico was apparently replacing the Bahamas, which failed to show up for its game!

The tournament's structure is certainly flawed. Major league baseball plays 162 game regular seasons because it takes a lot of games to determine baseball's best teams. In a small sample of games, even outstandings teams can lose a game or two or three.

Just over halfway this past season, my KC Royals had the biggest lead in baseball (7 games, as I recall) at the All Star break. Because the Minnesota Twins had the best AL record after that dividing point, KC watched the playoffs on TV.

Of course, mlb's playoff system is not perfect either -- even if it manages to get the best teams into it. The last two World Series were won by "wild card" teams (and 3 of the last 7 or 8), which by definition were not as good as the first place team in their division. By comparison, wild cards have rarely won the Super Bowl. In football, home team advantage makes a much bigger difference. Plus, in baseball, a good start by a pitcher on a given day can make a huge difference in determinining a game's outcome.

The other Olympics-related story for yesterday concerned the visit to Athens by FBI Director Robert Mueller. Given the new concern with terrorism and the past history of violence at the games (Munich 1972 and Atlanta 1996) many analysts have great security concerns about the Greek games. Back in August, The Guardian quoted a security expert who said Athens would be a "peach of a target."

So far, the visit has not been reassuring. Mueller's visit was marked by several bomb explosions at downtown banks.

Time Europe had a fascinating story about Olympics security in August 2002. Mostly it retold the story of the Munich terror, but it very strongly suggested that it's almost impossible to secure the event against determined terrorists.

Friday, November 07, 2003

European planning against WMD threats

Last week, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a synopsis of the European Union's Strategy against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which the EU released back in June.

Have the Europeans offered a viable alternative to the Bush Doctrine? It looks like it to me. I doubt the administration would agree.

The document primarily emphasizes the EU commitment to existing arms control and disarmament regimes. They want to provide more resources to strengthen the IAEA and other inspection processes.

Moreover, in the case of chemical and biological weapons the EU wants to "work towards declaring the bans on these weapons to be universally binding rules of international law."

This is quite significant.

Typically, international law only applies to the states that agree to it. The International Criminal Court attempts to apply jurisdiction to states that do not assent, on the theory that dictators and genocidal criminals might not agree to ICC jurisdiction in advance. The US opposition to the ICC based on sovereignty would thus suggest potential opposition to this EU proposal to criminalize WMD.

If those fail, they call for the UN Security Council to employ coercive measures:
Political and diplomatic preventative measures and resorts to the competent international organizations form the first line of defense. When these measures have failed, coercive measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and international law (sanctions, selective or global, interceptions of shipments and, as appropriate, the use of force) could be envisioned. The UN Security Council should play a central role....

The EU will place particular emphasis on defining a policy reinforcing compliance with the multilateral treaty regime. Such a policy must be geared towards enhancing the detectability of significant violations and strengthening enforcement of the norms established by this treaty regime. In this context, the role of the UN Security Council, as the final arbiter on the consequences of non-compliance-as foreseen in multilateral regimes-needs to be effectively strengthened.
Again, given the way the US reacted to the UN Security Council this past year in regard to Iraq, this doesn't seem to indicate US-European agreement.

The final main proposal concerns the assurance of regional security so as to reduce the motives for state proliferation. Given that the Bush Doctrine is a reaction to WMD after-the-fact, this really isn't a competitive policy. However, the EU does say this could include providing security guarantees to states that feel threatened. This reliance upon the logic of deterrence, rather than the threat of preemption is directly at odds with the Bush approach.

Carnegie's webpage has a lot more detail, but this is all I have time for right now.

I may update later as time allows.

1/12/05 Update: I added the link to the report from the EU webpage. The link on the Carnegie webpage was out-of date.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

There he goes again

Yesterday, Senator John McCain gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations entitled "U.S. Situation in Iraq and Afghanistan." Some media outlets carried stories with excerpts today (actually, the CFR used to have a "not for attribution policy"), but I'm linking to the full text.

While most media focused on McCain's claim that the US needs to deploy more troops in Iraq, the transcript certainly includes many zingers about the overall US policy. I think this is my favorite quote from the text:
There can be little political or economic progress in Iraq until the United States creates a stable and secure environment there. Prematurely placing the burden of security on Iraqis is not the answer. Hastily trained Iraqi security forces cannot be expected to accomplish what U.S. forces have not yet succeeded in doing: defeating the Ba'athists and international terrorists inside Iraq. It is irresponsible to suggest that it is up to Iraqis to win this war. In doing so, we shirk the responsibility that we willingly incurred when we assumed the burden of liberating and transforming their country, for their sake and our own. If the U.S. military, the world's best fighting force, can't defeat the Iraqi insurgents, how do we expect Iraqi militiamen with only weeks of training to do any better?
You might recognize the bolded part since I've heard Defense Secretary Rumsfeld say that it is up to the Iraqis to win the war. And indeed, McCain actually began his speech by criticizing Rumsfield more directly.
When our secretary of Defense says that it's up to the Iraqi people to defeat the Ba'athists and terrorists, we send a message that America's exit from Iraq is ultimately more important than the achievement of American goals in Iraq. We send a signal to every Iraqi -- ally, neutral and adversary -- that the United States is more interested in leaving than we are in winning.

...[snip some paragraphs]

When the United States announces a schedule for training and deploying Iraqi security officers, then announces the acceleration of that schedule, then accelerates it again, it sends a signal of desperation, not certitude. When in the course of days we increase by thousands our estimate of the numbers of Iraqis trained, it sounds like somebody is cooking the books. When we do this as our forces are coming under increasing attack, we suggest to friends and allies alike that our ultimate goal in Iraq is leaving as soon as possible, not meeting our strategic objective of building a free and democratic country in the heart of the Arab world.
The Senator apparently agrees with me that the lack of WMD makes the Iraq mission unclear:
We must explain to the American people what our soldiers are dying for in Iraq, why their sacrifice matters, why we must win, and how we will win -- not how quickly we can get out and leave the Iraqis to their fate.
Much of the text is devoted to explaining why Iraq is no Vietnam. The insurgents are not popular, they have no sanction in neighboring states, and are not being assisted by the populace. Nonetheless, there are appropriate Vietnam comparisons. For example,
We can win the war in Iraq, but not if we lose popular support in the United States of America.
McCain is also concerned about the political legitimacy questions I've raised here. Bluntly, he's for Iraqification of the political structure, but against Iraqification of the security forces. This is almost directly opposite of what the Bush administration is doing:
While Iraqification will not solve our immediate security problems, I believe we must move more quickly to transfer meaningful political authority to Iraqi leaders. The Coalition Provisional Authority continues to make a fundamental mistake in the way it interacts with the Iraqi people. The CPA seems to think that all wisdom is made in America, and that the Iraqi people were defeated, not liberated. For all the comparisons of post-war Iraq to Germany and Japan in 1945, the examples of Italy and France, liberated countries whose people were largely on our side, may be more instructive. The United States is treated as an occupying force in Iraq partly because we are not treating Iraqis as a liberated people.

Sometimes, Ambassador Bremer's office appears as inclined to criticize the Iraqi Governing Council as to work in partnership with it. It is astonishing to many friends of Iraq that the United States created the Governing Council but has not worked sufficiently to help it succeed. Too often, the Governing Council finds itself on the receiving end of orders from the CPA, rather than working in partnership with the CPA to improve daily life in Iraq. The United States will not succeed in Iraq if the Governing Council fails.
In the Q&A, McCain highlighted the fact that recent UN votes and donor conferences notwithstanding, nobody else in the world has really stepped forward to aid the US in Iraq:
I just know of no ally right now, or friend, that is willing to make a significant contribution to our effort there in Iraq.
Bloggers who have criticized the President's recent rhetoric suggesting that the enemy attacks signal US progress will like this one:
No, I didn't agree when the deputy secretary of Defense is in the Al-Rashid Hotel and it's hit by rockets and administration officials say that's a sign of progress. (Laughter.) God spare us more progress!
McCain is so frank, it's easy to see why the media was enamored in 2000. Who doesn't agree with this?
And what I worry about, unless we get to the bottom of this whole thing -- what intelligence reports, what led to certain statements made by certain officials -- is that maybe the next time, Iran, North Korea -- I'm not, you know -- but the next time there may be some kind of crisis -- and we all know that the weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them is one of the greatest challenges we face in the 21st century -- that the American people may be less accepting of an argument that an administration may make. That's what bothers me about that, not what we did on Iraq.
McCain started his address by saying that all Senators are running for President. I don't think he is, but this was a pretty thorough critique of Bush administration policy.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

War of choice?

Matthew Yglesias has a good recent post called "Division For Beginners" that other people might want to read. He's responding to a post by Cori Dauber on Volokh. Dauber is miffed that the media and politicians emphasize soldiers casualties -- by noting the daily death rate. "The zero casualty policy of the Clinton years," she asserts, is wrong and obsolete in the post 9/11 world:
[This policy] had been discredited both as something which distorted mission planning and which was ultimately unworkable in a war of wills with terrorists....[D]id September 11th change our way of thinking about the risks we face and the way we will face them, or not? I do not mean that as a glib and facile question, but as the most important foreign policy debate we have to face in today's world.
Essentially, Yglesias counters Dauber by arguing that the US public won't tolerate very many casualties in a "war of choice" (such as a humanitarian intervention). That's why Clinton's wars led to the zero casualty mantra. By contrast, if the US is responding to aggression or a "clear and present danger," then some (unknown?) number of casualties should be acceptable.

The casualty question is important because lots of studies demonstrate that public support for military action declines as casualties mount. Cori is frankly worried that Americans won't have the stomach for Iraq. She's right to be concerned because it was the central lesson of Vietnam. John Mueller's research (warning PDF file) shows that even popular wars become unpopular over time as casualties mount.

I agree with Cori that the American public may well be more sophisticated in the post 9/11 world. The polity might tolerate a greater number of casualties if it believes the conflict is central to the "war on terror," on which the Bush administration has attached a war against WMD states. But even that adaptation is probably acceptable.

The rub, of course, is that Iraq was sold as a strategic necessity against a "grave and gathering threat," but the evidence from Iraq very strongly suggests that such a threat did not exist. Thus, administration officials are pointing out post facto humanitarian reasons for toppling Saddam.

As I keep noting here, candidate Bush was opposed to US intervention in Rwanda, even when asked it if would have been worthwhile to save 600,000 lives.

Thus, I think Matt Yglesias is spot on in his critique. If the Bush administration cannot show WMD or al Qaeda ties to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, then support for the war is going to continue to decline. It could collapse.

The new presence of foreign fighters in Iraq is a better justification for war, but this will likely mean that the public will start looking around for someone with a better idea of how to fight the war on terror. After all, those foreign fighters weren't there before the US attacked.

Remember, even Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is worried that the war may be creating as many terrorists as it kills.

Cori argues that the question of American will to fight in the face of casualties is the major foreign policy puzzle of the era.

Needless to say, I think she's wrong. The foreign policy question of the day is how most effectively to counter, rather than create, international terrorism and proliferation of WMD.

The lesson of the last 12 years in Iraq is that sanctions, inspections, arms control and deterrence worked. So the WMD part of the puzzle can be resolved, at least when dealing with states.