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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.

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