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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Political Unrest in the Red States

Apparently, the University of Kentucky Student Government Association has narrowly passed what Beth Wilson, Executive Director of the Kentucky ACLU, called a "strongly worded resolution against the USA PATRIOT Act." That pointer is to the text of the proposed resolution -- not to a story about its passing. I do not know if it was amended. Supposedly the website is going to be updated very soon.

I searched Google News for the "Patriot Act" resolution and learned that similar resolutions are being debated and passed all over the US -- including in many Bush Red states.

Elko County Nevada unanimously passed a resolution opposing any parts of the act that are unconstitutional.

Kansas City's Council voted 11-1 for a resolution that "warns against violating civil liberties and discriminating against racial or ethnic groups in the process."

Dallas County, Texas approved a resolution denouncing the Act. According to the story from the Star-Telegram, 3 states and 225 local governments (I've read that it is actually 250 now) have taken stands against the Act. The Austin City council is apparently one of them, though Austin is a left-leaning island in a sea of conservatism.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee has a full list, and as of February 25, 2004, the 257 "local resolutions, ordinances and ballot initiatives" cover 44.8 million people. Cleveland Heights, Ohio, is another Red state area that has recently acted on this issue. Page down the list and some areas stand out because of their size (LA, NY, King County, WA, which is where Seattle is located), many college communities, and some typically conservative areas. In addition to the ones I mentioned above, I note Durham, NC, Boise, ID, Dillon, MT, Tucson, AZ, the entire state of Alaska (plus many local areas)...check out the list (pdf file).

The other 2 states are Vermont and Hawaii.

Update: The daily independent student newspaper of the University of Kentucky (the KY Kernel), confirms that the SGA did pass the resolution by a single vote after an hour-long debate.

The Bill of Right Defense Committee has a separate webpage listing student resolutions.

Oh, and the ACLU has an interesting map identifying areas of the country covered by anti-Patriot Act resolutions. Note the large chunks of Wyoming, Idaho and Arizona. Libertarians are not happy.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Kerry on terror

Today, John Kerry outlined his anti-terror plan in a speech out in LA. I guess I was out in front of the candidate yesterday.
I do not fault George Bush for doing too much in the War on Terror; I believe he’s done too little.

Where he’s acted, his doctrine of unilateral preemption has driven away our allies and cost us the support of other nations. Iraq is in disarray, with American troops still bogged down in a deadly guerrilla war with no exit in sight. In Afghanistan, the area outside Kabul is sliding back into the hands of a resurgent Taliban and emboldened warlords.

In other areas, the Administration has done nothing or been too little and too late. The Mideast Peace process disdained for 14 months by the Bush Administration is paralyzed. North Korea and Iran continue their quest for nuclear weapons – weapons which one day could land in the hands of terrorists. And as Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld has admitted, the Administration is still searching for an effective plan to drain the swamps of terrorist recruitment. The President’s budget for the National Endowment for Democracy’s efforts around the world, including the entire Islamic world, is less than three percent of what this Administration gives Halliburton – hardly a way to win the contest of ideas.

Finally, by virtually every measure, we still have a homeland security strategy that falls far short of the vulnerabilities we have and the threats we face.
Kerry's vision is more multilateral and less military than Bush's:
We cannot win the War on Terror through military power alone. If I am President, I will be prepared to use military force to protect our security, our people, and our vital interests.

But the fight requires us to use every tool at our disposal. Not only a strong military – but renewed alliances, vigorous law enforcement, reliable intelligence, and unremitting effort to shut down the flow of terrorist funds.

To do all this, and to do our best, demands that we work with other countries instead of walking alone. For today the agents of terrorism work and lurk in the shadows of 60 nations on every continent. In this entangled world, we need to build real and enduring alliances.

Allies give us more hands in the struggle, but no President would ever let them tie our hands and prevent us from doing what must be done. As President, I will not wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake. But I will not push away those who can and should share the burden.
And like I said yesterday, Kerry's nonproliferation policy emphasizes Nunn-Lugar:
Fourth, because finding and defeating terrorist groups is a long-term effort, we must act immediately to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. I propose to appoint a high-level Presidential envoy empowered to bring other nations together to secure and stop the spread of these weapons. We must develop common standards to make sure dangerous materials and armaments are tracked, accounted for, and secured. Today, parts of Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal are easy prey for those offering cash to scientists and security forces who too often are under-employed and under-paid. If I am President, I will expand the Nunn/Lugar program to buy up and destroy the loose nuclear materials of the former Soviet Union and to ensure that all of Russia’s nuclear weapons and materials are out of the reach of terrorists and off the black market.
I'm not going to reprint the entire speech, but he calls for more police and firefighters, alternative energy (he wants energy independence from the Middle East within a decade), and greater port security. All this is part of improving homeland security, which he says Bush has failed to fund adequately.

Kerry also offered plans for winning the war of ideas -- "we need an international effort to compete with radical Madrassas." The speech details some plans for exactly that.

All in all, it offers a realistic Democratic alternative to all-war, all-the-time.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Is Kerry soft on terror?

Yesterday, I looked at the National Security Blog and discovered a post entitled "ElBaradei's Warning: We Can't Sit Idly By." After running a long quote noting the importance of the threat from nuclear proliferation, the blogger, John Little, then refers readers to a recent quote by John Kerry claiming that the threat of terrorism had been overstated by the Bush administration. Poke around the website and you know Little is not making this contrast because he agrees with Kerry.

Little implies that even UN-types like ElBaradei agree that nuclear proliferation is a great threat, while Kerry disagrees.

This is a misleading argument on many levels.

First, I'm sure ElBaradei and Kerry would agree that the world is not sitting idly by on the proliferation question. Indeed, both would agree that the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and IAEA are important norms and institutions that need to be strengthened. Both support ongoing work by the international community to engage potential proliferants in meaningful dialogue about their programs, inspect their facilities, and disarm them via arms control. Sanctions have been used to great affect against many worrisome states.

This was the pathway used effectively against Iraq and is in various stages in Libya, North Korea and Iran. By contrast, of course, the Bush administration quickly reversed sanctions against Pakistan in fall 2001, imposed because of their nuclear tests in 1998. They wanted Pakistan's help against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and decided the near-term anti-terror policies were more important than the long-term non-proliferation policies.

Moreover, it was the Bush administration who didn't trust the IAEA's March 2003 finding that Iraq had no nuclear weapon. As I noted recently, Cheney basically accused the IAEA of being fools.

All of these decisions are debatable, but it is obviously false to portray one's political opponents as weak on a particular type of threat just because they feel that it might deserve greater or lesser attention. Kerry clearly supports numerous anti-terror and nonproliferation efforts.

Second, Kerry was talking about terrorism and not proliferation per se, which the Bush administration has linked since the "axis of evil" reference in the State of the Union address in January 2002.

Sure, there's a risk that terrorists could obtain nuclear material, and ElBaradei acknowledges that, but Kerry was talking about the threats I was discussing in multiple posts yesterday. Edwards and Dean, for example, explicitly discussed September 11 in response to the same question.

Bush's blurring of these threats conveniently occurred after its policy reversal on Pakistan (and India, I might add). This blurring has not served the US well in Iraq. After all, the administration's hand-picked hawkish arms inspector, David Kay, himself declared the preemption policy DOA. This is the primary new policy option the administration has announced to address proliferation threats. The Iraq war weakened the US posture.

Third, Kerry and other Democrats have been proposing all sorts of policies to fight terror and work against proliferation (like spending a lot more money on Nunn-Lugar to protect former Soviet arms stocks). They oppose the unilateralist and inflammatory policy pursued by the Bush administration.

In other words, Democrats primarily disagree with the administration about the means to fight the war on terror, not so much about the ends. It is absolutely false to try to frame the national security debate as if Democrats don't care about these issues. They do care a great deal, but they often have different tools in mind.

Of course, many Democrats, including Kerry, think the administration has exaggerated the threats to build public support for its "war on terror." It's pretty clear that the threat from Iraq was exaggerated, including the alleged link to al Qaeda.

Numerous people in the national security establishment (the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, the think tanks) essentially agree with Kerry about the Bush administration's views of many of these threats. Indeed, the Wesley Clark/James Webb view might represent a plurality opinion -- Iraq was a distraction from the real war on terror.

That doesn't mean that everyone doesn't also agree with ElBaradei about the importance of proliferation.

In sum, neither the Kerry position on the war nor his position on terror are inconsistent. Terrorism and proliferation are worrisome, but other issues matter too and the administration has inflated threats (and arguably had political reasons for doing so). Kerry and the Democrats have advanced many worthwhile ideas about strengthening multilateral cooperation and targeting higher priority concerns.

By way of contrast, do the Republicans have careful plans to insure the 40 million who lack health insurance? Do they have an economic idea other than making permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

More on "the threat"

I'm still pondering the "threat."

Thanks to a faithful reader, I just finished reading a book review by Pat Buchanan at the American Conservative website. While discussing An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror by David Frum and Richard Perle, Buchanan writes this:
In the worst of terror attacks, we lost 3,000 people. Horrific. But at Antietam Creek, we lost 7,000 in a day’s battle in a nation that was one-ninth as populous. Three thousand men and boys perished every week for 200 weeks of that Civil War. We Americans did not curl up and die. We did not come all this way because we are made of sugar candy.

Germany and Japan suffered 3,000 dead every day in the last two years of World War II, with every city flattened and two blackened by atom bombs. Both came back in a decade. Is al-Qaeda capable of this sort of devastation when they are recruiting such scrub stock as Jose Padilla and the shoe bomber?

In the war we are in, our enemies are weak. That is why they resort to the weapon of the weak—terror. And, as in the Cold War, time is on America’s side. Perseverance and patience are called for, not this panic.
More than one lefty blogger has said this lately, but it feels odd agreeing so openly with Buchanan.

And he has more good stuff:
In 25 years, militant Islam has seized three countries: Iran, Sudan, and Afghanistan. We toppled the Taliban almost without losing a man. Sudan is a failed state. In Iran, a generation has grown up that knows nothing of Savak or the Great Satan but enough about the mullahs to have rejected them in back-to-back landslides. The Iranian Revolution has reached Thermidor. Wherever Islamism takes power, it fails. Like Marxism, it does not work.

Yet, assume it makes a comeback. So what? Taken together, all 22 Arab nations do not have the GDP of Spain. Without oil, their exports are the size of Finland’s. Not one Arab nation can stand up to Israel, let alone the United States.
Buchanan even quotes FDR, approvingly! "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Incidentally, the Frum-Perle book is apparently pretty scary -- calling for a sequence of wars with a variety of enemies: North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran!

Buchanan writes a scathing and intelligent review. He's clearly neither a neo-con nor a progressive internationalist!

Heck, read the entire review.

Are you ready to be scared to death?

I don't usually read the Fox News website, nor do I much admire the political acumen of Dick Morris (famous for helping Clinton with the "triangulation" strategy that pitted the Democratic President against his own fellow party members in Congress).

Nonetheless, I think the latest offering by Morris on Fox is an accurate view of the 2004 presidential race.

The latest Fox poll reveals that President Bush is deadlocked with potential challenger Senator John Kerry 45-45, which Morris says is big trouble for Bush because undecideds often vote against incumbents.

More importantly, Morris points out that the President/Republicans trail Kerry/Democrats on almost every important potential campaign issue: most notably, on the economy, health care, and education. The spreads are not especially close either, ranging from 11 to 21 percent.

The only issues Bush and the Republicans win are fighting terrorism and handling the situation in Iraq. The spreads are 23 and 14 percent on these issues.

Unfortunately for Bush and company, Americans say that the three most important issues in this year's election are the economy, health care (or Medicare) and education. That's a bit misleading because 8 % said homeland secuirty and 6% said terrorism, which adds to 14% and puts it above education as an issue.

In any case, Morris says Bush has been so successful fighting terror that Americans are now (erroneously) "taking safety for granted." As a result, they are free to focus on what are to his mind relatively less important issues like health care and jobs.

To me, this is the dumbest comment in the entire piece:
Americans are wrong to see terrorism as a fourth-place issue. Education or the economy or health care won't knock down buildings and kill 3,000 people. Terrorism will.
This is precisely the view that devastated Democrats in the 2002 midterm congressional elections.

Lack of health care does kill Americans. How many premature deaths result when 43 million people are uninsured and tens of millions more are underinsured? The Institute of Medicine estimates 18,000! TV doesn't have a spectacular fireball to run and rerun, but the consequences for individuals are every bit as cataclysmic. In human terms, that is six September 11 events every year.

Joblessness too can be devastating. I found this evidence on the Applied Research Bulletin webpage of the Canadian government's website, from 1996:
The ARB analysis reviews several studies with different approaches to better understand the impact that unemployment may have on people's physical and mental health and to determine the social costs it entails for individuals and society. Some of the studies seek to assess the psychological impact of unemployment. Others attempt to determine the effects of unemployment-related stress or shock on the incidence of various illnesses or on mortality. These two types of studies are generally based on assessments conducted among laid-off unemployed workers or studies of the unemployed. They show that the unemployed visit doctors much more frequently than workers and are more often admitted to hospital. These studies, however, are not able to establish a systematic relationship between the incidence of use of hospital services and an increase in unemployment.

Studies conducted by Dr. M. Harvey Brenner in the United States, however, are among the few that establish a direct link between unemployment and social pathologies. In the research he conducted for the U.S. Congress in 1984, Brenner estimated the direct relationship between the increase in the U.S. unemployment rate and the occurrence of several social pathologies, including the mortality rate, cardio-vascular or cirrhoses deaths, the homicide and suicide rates, admissions to psychiatric hospitals and arrests and incarcerations. For example, Brenner estimates that a 10 percent increase in the unemployment rate would have the direct effect of increasing the mortality rate by 1.2 percent, the suicide rate by 0.7 percent, and the rate of incarcerations by six percent. Serious studies like Brenner's indicate that social problems are attributable to unemployment.
About 2.4 million people per year die in the US, so a 1.2% increase is 28,800. If one extrapolates, that means a 1% increase in unemployment directly increases mortality by 2,800 people.

Nearly a September 11 for every 1% increase in unemployment.

Morris would have the President emphasize the prospect of WMD terrorism rather than other very real problems of Americans. Expect the President to scare us between now and November:
The more Americans think he has succeeded in mitigating the terrorist threat, the more they vote for Kerry. The more they feel that terrorism is still at our doorstep - as it is - the more they back Bush as the better wartime leader.

The traditional incumbent recipe of claiming success backfires here. Bush must make clear to us all the threats that remain, not try to take credit for the end of the terror danger. He must make the most of what he has yet to achieve, rather than try to sell his successes.

Success extinguishes his mandate. Tasks that remain before us rekindle it.
Morris cites polling data that shows even elevating the threat level affects public opinion on this issue -- so it won't even take an attack for Bush to emphasize this issue.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Progressive Internationalism

Ralph Nader's decision to run for President potentially exposes the Democratic nominee (most likely John Kerry) to political attacks from his left. Today, I'd like to address that problem.

Talk radio, of course, is buzzing about Kerry's anti-war past. Hosts and callers in that right-dominated media malign Kerry on a daily basis for his ties to the anti-war movement. If you don't believe me, just tune into a program for an hour.

In any case, the internet splits much more evenly between left and right. And it is apparent that some 'net writers on the left are worried that John Kerry is a closet super-hawk. A friend of mine (and regular reader) sent me a recent Counterpunch article that links Kerry to "progressive internationalism," and then charges that supporters of this worldview embrace the neo-conservative agenda for American foreign policy. Indeed, Mark Hand says the Democrats are more evil because they are less transparent about their plans:
Kerry and his comrades in the progressive internationalist movement are as gung-ho about U.S. military action as their counterparts in the White House. The only noteworthy difference between the two groups battling for power in Washington is that the neocons are willing to pursue their imperial ambitions in full view of the international community, while the progressive internationalists prefer to keep their imperial agenda hidden behind the cloak of multilateralism.
I think this charge is about as fair as the Fonda/Kerry doctored photo.

To begin, the author's title for Counterpunch is misleading: "Kerry Tells Anti-War Movement to Move On." Given the current context, and the immediate comparison to Bush, those not paying attention might think that the author accuses Kerry of ignoring the current war in Iraq. But to make the "move on" point, Hand quotes Kerry about the Vietnam war:
If those of us who carried the physical and emotional burdens of that conflict can regain perspective and move on, so can those whose involvement was vicarious or who knew nothing of the war other than ideology and legend.
Hand does not want to absolve the US or its veterans for allegedly committing war crimes in Vietnam. Fair enough. We could debate those points.

But I think Hand goes way overboard in his critique of Kerry. Here's what Hand has to say about Kerry's call for the country to "move on" from Vietnam:
"In this one passage, Kerry seeks to justify the millions of people slaughtered by the U.S. military and its surrogates during the twentieth century, suggests that concern about U.S. war crimes in Vietnam is no longer necessary, and dismisses the antiwar movement as the work of know-nothings.
This is ridiculous

Does anyone read "justification" for the war into Kerry's comment? Does Kerry now believe (because of new perspective) that the war was a just cause and that America blew it by failing to "win"? No, of course not. Kerry and Senator John McCain, recall, were leaders in the effort to normalize US relations with Vietnam. And Kerry still talks about the numerous mistakes the US made in Vietnam. Kerry worked for reconciliation and peace, which is what I think he means in calling for the US to "move on."

Moreover, I do not think Kerry is referring to the antiwar movement as "know-nothings." Obviously, the author has literally twisted Kerry's words to make them seem more inflammatory. People who know nothing of the war other than legend or ideology surely includes the very large portion of Americans too young to know much of anything about the war, except what they've learned from an occasional movie. And frankly, there are lots of people who lived through the war experience who are blinded by ideology -- on both the right and the left.

On the right, callers to talk radio say Kerry called Vietnam Vets war criminals. Hand says Kerry wants to "move on" from war crimes investigations. Kerry is taking unfair heat from both sides.

Reconciliation and peace: Move on. That's a meaningful third way.

At the base of Hand's claim about "progressive internationalism" is a document ("The Hyde Park Declaration") Kerry (and numerous other Democrats) signed at the urging of Bill Clinton in 2000. The policy part of the document is called "A New Agenda for the New Decade" and it includes a very short section on "Promoting Peace and Security At Home and Abroad."

If one reads the entire foreign policy section, it is difficult to get upset:
2. Build a Public Consensus Supporting U.S. Global Leadership

The internationalist outlook that served America and the world so well during the second half of the 20th century is under attack from both ends of the political spectrum. As the left has gravitated toward protectionism, many on the right have reverted to "America First" isolationism. This collapse of the old Cold War consensus threatens America's ability to provide international leadership on both the economic and security fronts.

What's needed is a new foreign and security strategy for a new era. Our leaders should articulate a progressive internationalism based on the new realities of the Information Age: globalization, democracy, American pre-eminence, and the rise of a new array of threats ranging from regional and ethnic conflicts to the spread of missiles and biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. This approach recognizes the need to revamp, while continuing to rely on, multilateral alliances that advance U.S. values and interests.

A strong, technologically superior defense is the foundation for U.S. global leadership. Yet the United States continues to employ defense strategies, military missions, and force structures left over from the Cold War, creating a defense establishment that is ill-prepared to meet new threats to our security. The United States must speed up the "revolution in military affairs" that uses our technological advantage to project force in many different contingencies involving uncertain and rapidly changing security threats -- including terrorism and information warfare. This also means undertaking a systematic overhaul of the military to create a force that is more flexible, integrated, and efficient.

Goals for 2010

A clear national policy with bipartisan support that continues U.S. global leadership, adjusts our alliances to new regional threats to peace and security, promotes the spread of political and economic freedom, and outlines where and how we are willing to use force.

A modernized military equipped to deal with emerging threats to security, such as terrorism, information warfare, weapons of mass destruction, and destabilizing regional conflicts.
Arguably, this pre-September 11 document was much more relevant to the 2000 Gore campaign than it is to the 2004 election. It is noteworthy that Democrats were worried about terrorism and WMD (as are about 90% of Americans) at that early date.

The 2000 document, by the way, has been updated by New Democrats (from the Democratic Leadership Council), and they do, as Hand says, use the phrase progressive internationalism" to describe their foreign policy aspirations. The DLC's website list Kerry as a member of the "New Democrat" coalition, but the DLC had lots of horses in the 2004 Presidential race: John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, and Joe Lieberman. I'd bet Kerry was at best the third choice of most DLC members.

In any event, it does seem fair to at least consider what the DLC would like a newly elected Democratic president to do in foreign policy. I've cherry-picked a few quotes to highlight some major contrasts with the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration:
By insisting on our right to act unilaterally, by ignoring intelligence assessments that conflicted with his desire to act, and by underestimating the resources needed to accomplish the missions, the president is putting America's battlefield gains in jeopardy. By focusing too much on U.S. military might as its main foreign policy instrument, the administration is abdicating its responsibility to fashion an effective, long-term political and economic strategy for changing the conditions in which Islamic fundamentalism breeds and from which new threats to our national security are most likely to arise. And by pushing ideologically motivated tax cuts and repudiating the nation's hard-won commitment to fiscal discipline, President Bush also is reducing our future capacity to act around the world and weakening American economic leadership and leverage.
Wesley Clark and other Democrats were offering this same critique throughout the campaign.

Here's more:
Instead of mobilizing our friends and isolating our enemies, this administration is isolating the United States from the rest of the world, squandering the good will and alliances built up over decades by successive U.S. leaders. American military strength is at an all-time high but our moral authority around the world is at an all-time low.
Does Hand disagree?

And finally, this:
Progressive internationalism stresses the responsibilities that come with our enormous power: to use force with restraint but not to hesitate to use it when necessary, to show what the Declaration of Independence called "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind," to exercise leadership primarily through persuasion rather than coercion, to reduce human suffering where we can, and to create alliances and international institutions committed to upholding a decent world order.
OK, so the DLC still supports the "Clinton Doctrine" of humanitarian intervention. While I think it has to be carefully crafted, I can imagine using force to stop genocide or other crimes against humanity.

Is this the best the disenfranchised left has to offer?

Bring it on.

Kerry, McCain and the Chickenhawks

Ronald Brownstein's February 16 column in the Los Angeles Times offered some interesting analysis of John Kerry's political acumen.

Brownstein begins with a compelling anecdote:
The year was 1996, and Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry was seeking his third term against charismatic Republican Gov. William Weld. In a debate, Weld was hammering Kerry over his opposition to the death penalty, even for cop killers. Kerry silenced the room with his response.

"I know something about killing," Kerry said simply. "I don't like killing. I don't think the state honors life by turning around and killing."

That exchange vividly demonstrated how much Kerry, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, relies on his experience as a Navy combat veteran in Vietnam to define his political identity.
It sounds like Kerry actually learned something from the Michael Dukakis flameout.

Nonetheless, some Vietnam veterans are apparently still angered by Kerry's post-service anti-war stance and congressional testimony. Brownstein, however, quotes Republican Senator John McCain's take on this point: "John Kerry, by virtue of his service in Vietnam, earned the right to oppose the war if he chose to."

My guess is that most of the American electorate (and virtually anyone who might even consider voting for Kerry in November), will agree with McCain.

The oddest element of all this is the attempt to link Kerry to "Hanoi" Jane Fonda by fabricating a photo showing the activists together on a podium at an anti-war rally. Brownstein notes that the two did meet two years before Fonda went to Hanoi, but Kerry quit the anti-war Veterans movement because he thought it was too radical.

Fonda's public relations have been almost completely rehabilitated since her "Hanoi Jane" days. Of course, she has apologized profusely for her trip to Hanoi. During the 1980s, she emerged as a fitness queen. In 1983, 1984 and 1985, Fonda had the top-selling video in the United States (hers was 10th best in 1982). In 1986 and 1987, she had the two top-selling videos in the land. In 1988 and 1989, she had to settle for third. Look at the lists, she was surrounded by big budget Hollywood movies.

Then, in 1991, Fonda married CNN mogul Ted Turner and started showing up annually for Atlanta Braves (self proclaimed as "America's team") post-season baseball games. The left started criticizing her (and former President Jimmy Carter) for doing the "tomahawk chop" during those games.

Fonda and Turner lived in Montana, which is a Red state. She stopped making movies for more than a decade and reportedly became a born-again Christian.

Is this the best they've got?

No wonder Kerry keeps saying, "Bring it on."

Sunday, February 22, 2004

(Foot)Note: Honorary Degree for Rice

I checked out the biography of Dr. Condoleezza Rice on the White House website and learned that she's received a number of honorary degrees:
She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Morehouse College in 1991, the University of Alabama in 1994, the University of Notre Dame in 1995 and the Mississippi College School of Law in 2003.
Why I am noting this?

Well, on September 13, 2002, the University of Louisville's Board of Trustees agreed to confer an honorary degree on Dr. Rice.

This March 8, Dr. Rice will be speaking in Louisville and will apparently receive this honor, in "Public Service."

As I've repeatedly noted, Dr. Rice often spoke about the "mushroom cloud" fear to justify attacking Iraq. And as regular readers know, that was a red herring.

Last summer, when the false Niger documents became public knowledge, Rice tried to argue that dissent within the intelligence community had been buried in (unread) footnotes.
All that I can tell you is that if there were doubts about the underlying intelligence in the NIE, those doubts were not communicated to the President. The only thing that was there in the NIE was a kind of a standard INR footnote, which is kind of 59 pages away from the bulk of the NIE. That's the only thing that's there. And you have footnotes all the time in CIA -- I mean, in NIEs. So if there was a concern about the underlying intelligence there, the President was unaware of that concern and as was I.
That's pretty clear.

Apparently, however, this claim was not true:
In a National Intelligence Estimate published last October, the intelligence arm of the State Department called "highly dubious" allegations that Iraq was shopping for uranium in Africa. The dissenting view was presented in the main body of the report, not buried in a footnote, sources say.

...doubts lodged by State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, known as INR, have since been validated. It turns out the intelligence was based at least in part on forged documents.

The White House now concedes it was a mistake to include the charge in the president's speech, though it argues it also relied on other intelligence from undisclosed foreign sources.

But National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the president's use of the uranium allegation was ultimately cleared by the CIA after some changes in wording. And she described State's objection to the allegation as only a "footnote" in the back of the 90-page report.

CIA Director George Tenet did not call it a footnote, however, in a carefully worded statement he released Friday as the scandal heated up.

"We stand fully behind DCI's [director of central intelligence] statement," CIA spokeswoman Michele Neff told WorldNetDaily. "If he doesn't refer to it as a footnote, then it's not a footnote."

It's not clear what part, if any, Rice read. She maintains that both she and Bush were "unaware" of concerns raised by the CIA when it vetted the uranium line in the State of the Union drafts sent to Langley.

However, Tenet says some of his analysts "raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence" with Rice's office, warning her staff against using it in the speech. What's more, Tenet just three months earlier reportedly called Rice's deputy to yank the line from the president's speech in Cincinnati.
Personally, I read both text and footnotes.

As it turns out though, State's views were in an Annex to the NIE:
INR's Alternative View: Iraq's Attempts to Acquire Aluminum Tubes

Some of the specialized but dual-use items being sought are, by all indications, bound for Iraq's missile program. Other cases are ambiguous, such as that of a planned magnet-production line whose suitability for centrifuge operations remains unknown. Some efforts involve non-controlled industrial material and equipment -- including a variety of machine tools -- and are troubling because they would help establish the infrastructure for a renewed nuclear program. But such efforts (which began well before the inspectors departed) are not clearly linked to a nuclear end-use. Finally, the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious.
And yes, I'd probably read that too on something so important.

Update: I didn't thoroughly discuss all the back-and-forth that occurred last summer. Calpundit notes an additional admission by Rice's Deputy (Stephen Hadley) that the Niger line should not have been in the 2003 State of the Union address.

Paul Kerr of the Arms Control Association has the chronology on the Niger story through the beginning of the war in March 2003. The BBC has a timeline that has detail through mid-July.

British officials have long maintained that they had independent (but foreign) sources confirming that Iraq sought uranium in Africa. IAEA officials have requested documentation, but I haven't found any evidence on-line that this has been released.

Update II: A friend sent me a link to a Washington Post story from last summer that has a lot of good detail.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Working Group Publicity

The University of Pittsburgh newspaper, University Times has a nice story concerning the Working Group on Preemptive and Preventive War.

Gordon Mitchell, one of the coordinators of the group, was interviewed for the lengthy story. Here's his comment on the inconsistent logic behind the Bush Doctrine:
I find it curious that the same Bush administration officials who were so quick to discard deterrence in the National Security Strategy [NSS] are now reviving deterrence logic to justify Operation Iraqi Freedom. The NSS said deterrence won’t work against so-called rogue leaders who are allegedly irrational and even insane. Yet now we are hearing that the invasion of Iraq is causing the, quote, “axis of evil” to disarm because the leaders of North Korea, Iran and Libya have made rational and sane calculations that they do not want to be the next target of a U.S. attack.
Oh, and this is pretty damning too:
It is absolutely absurd, for example, that members of Congress who tout their tough-on-terror credentials keep cutting Nunn-Lugar threat-reduction programs — programs that are aimed at increasing the security of fissile material and providing aid, primarily to Russia and the former Soviet republics, to prevent nuclear scientists from those countries from sharing information that could be used to build unconventional weaponry.

An absolutely key anti-terrorism strategy is public diplomacy, since it has the potential to take away terrorists’ most valuable weapon, which is the reservoir of anti-American hatred that fuels terrorist recruitment. This gets back to the coordination theme: An overemphasis on military prevention is likely to undercut the effectiveness of public diplomacy, which may be the most promising long-term tool we have to counter terrorism.
And this gets to the heart of the intelligence problem:
The mainstream intelligence community actually did a decent job. The 2002 National Intelligence Estimate was full of caveats regarding the Iraqi threat of unconventional weapons. The problem came when politicians started stripping those caveats away and relying on sketchy intelligence data provided by Wolfowitz’s boutique. Imagine ignoring the advice of an established investment counselor and instead basing your whole retirement strategy on stock tips you overhear at the bus stop. That’s a real recipe for intelligence breakdown, and it looks like that’s exactly what happened in our government in 1976 and 2003.
Read the entire article, it's good!

It would be great if someone would syndicate all -- or even parts -- of it.

INC Inc.

It has long been known that the intelligence provided by Iraqi defectors, including those associated with the Iraqi National Congress, was mostly bogus.

Now, INC leader Ahmad Chalabi says the INC is willing to take the fall for the bogus intelligence -- effectively getting the White House and the CIA off-the-hook. Consider this statement from yesterday:
Mr Chalabi, by far the most effective anti-Saddam lobbyist in Washington, shrugged off charges that he had deliberately misled US intelligence. "We are heroes in error," he told the Telegraph in Baghdad.

"As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants."
The story points out that the information about the famous mobile bio warfare labs originated from a defector coached by the INC. Ultimately, US intelligence sources didn't figure all this out until after the war -- and after Colin Powell talked about them at the UN Security Council.

On a related note, Chalabi is apparently learning about defense contracting from Dick Cheney. His family members and business associates are doing nicely in the rebuilding of Iraq:
U.S. authorities in Iraq have awarded more than $400 million in contracts to a start-up company that has extensive family and, according to court documents, business ties to Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon favorite on the Iraqi Governing Council.

The most recent contract, for $327 million to supply equipment for the Iraqi Armed Forces, was awarded last month and drew an immediate challenge from a losing contester, who said the winning bid was so low that it questions the "credibility" of that bid.
The article, by Knut Royce in Newsday, reports also that another $80 million contract is being used to hire Chalabi guards (the Iraqi Free Congress) -- who may then constitute a private army.

Whenever you read a story about oil field security over 4000 miles of pipeline, keep in mind that Chalabi associates may be responsible for their defense -- thanks to your money.

Note: Thanks to the Dreyfuss Report for some of these links.

Update: Jim Lobe has a good piece on this too -- Thanks to a reader for the pointer.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Humanitarian intervention?

As I've often noted, the 2000 Bush campaign went to great lengths to emphasize that the US should only use force when a US "vital interest" is at stake. Bush openly repudiated the so-called Clinton Doctrine, which was essentially the "promise" (Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hedged on its universality) of US action to stop genocidal acts:
"we can say to the people of the world, whether you live in Africa, or Central Europe, or any other place, if somebody comes after innocent civilians and tries to kill them en masse because of their race, their ethnic background or their religion, and it's within our power to stop it, we will stop it."
Now, of course, with the failure to find WMD in Iraq and the lack of "smoking gun" evidence linking Iraq to al Qaeda, many Republicans are stressing the humanitarian side of the "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

This is just bunk.

Here's Vice President Cheney on "Meet the Press" just a few days before the war started:
MR. RUSSERT: The Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial about the administration and its rationale for war. And let me read it to you and give you a chance to respond: “The Bush administration’s months of attempts to justify quick military action against Iraq have been confusing and unfocused. It kept giving different reasons for invasion. First, it was to disarm Hussein and get him out. Then, as allies got nervous about outside nations deciding ‘regime change,’ the administration for a while rightly stressed disarmament only. Next, the administration was talking about ‘nation-building’ and using Iraq as the cornerstone of creating democracy in the Arab/Muslim world. And that would probably mean U.S. occupation of Iraq for some unspecified time, at open-ended cost. Then, another tactic: The administration tried mightily, and failed, to show a connection between Hussein and the 9/11 perpetrators, Al Qaeda. Had there been real evidence that Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, Americans would have lined up in support of retaliation.”

What do you think is the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think I’ve just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
End of answer.

Russert, as Josh Marshall noted yesterday, went on to ask Cheney about the IAEA's then-fresh declaration that Iraq had no nuclear program. None.

Cheney said the CIA disagreed. Ha! This fails the laugh test. Look at CIA Director Tenet's recent speech about the evidence CIA provided pre-war:
We said Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon and, probably would have been unable to make one until 2007 to 2009.
Then, Cheney said that the IAEA didn't know what they were talking about:
I disagree, yes. And you’ll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree....We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq's concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past.
Of course, as Kenneth Pollack points out in the January/February Atlantic, it's actually very hard to hide a significant nuclear program and US intelligence agencies became incredibly dependent upon UN and IAEA inspectors through the 1990s.

The inspectors were the source of the key US intelligence!

This is all important because the President is now saying that everyone -- the Congress, the Clinton administration, the UN Security Council -- believed Iraq had WMD.

That would leave the administration blameless for starting an unprovoked war without a "vital national interest."

But the problem, as anyone can see, is that events changed dramatically from October/November, when the Congress and Security Council acted, to March, when Bush went to war, precisely because of the return of the UN and IAEA inspectors.

By March, the "mushroom cloud" fear was gone. Only the Bush people, who distrusted the inspectors, believed otherwise. Or ignored the evidence.

I'd like to hear some prominent Democrats say this pronto.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Democratic nomination update

So, how much will support for Kucinich jump now that Dean too has left the race?

Kidding aside, it seems as if something was happening in Wisconsin over the last few days of the campaign making the nomination contest now a 2-man race between John Kerry and John Edwards.

The Zogby poll on election eve had predicted Kerry-Dean-Edwards to finich with these percentages: 47-23-20. That turned out to be significantly off as Kerry got "only" 40%, Edwards finished a strong second with 34%, and Dean trailed with only 18%. Kucinich got 3% and Sharpton 2%.

As in Iowa, a major newspaper (the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) endorsement at the last minute, combined with a good performance in the last debate, may well have influenced some voters to select Edwards. Also, independents (and maybe even Republicans) could have changed the face of the electorate and thereby proved the pollsters wrong.

It's also possible that muddy rumors about Kerry are starting to have an effect on the portion of the voting pool that wants him because of his "electability."

Next Tuesday, voters in Hawaii, Idaho and Utah go to the polls, followed on Super Tuesday, March 2, by California, NY, Ohio, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Edwards win either (or both) of Idaho and Utah, but I've seen no polling data. Figure Kerry to sweep the four New England states on Super Tuesday.

Thus, Edwards must win Georgia, of course, but he also needs to start accumulating delegates if he is to have any hope (however remote) of stopping Kerry. That means he's got to win Ohio plus one other major state.

I mention Ohio because Edwards has been focusing a great deal on lost jobs and the harms of free trade. He's anti-NAFTA, anti-WTO, etc. Apparently, despite the fact that Kerry voted for these accords, he too is starting to talk about their failings.

This is a populist electoral strategy that might play well in the rust belt states that will figure quite prominently in the November election. However, it's not necessarily an issue that will play well in NY (well, maybe upstate) or California or Maryland. I'm not certain about what will play well in Minnesota.

Edwards, like most of the other candidates, has been selling his biography on the campaign trail. It is appealling on some levels: Edwards is the son of a millworker who became the first person in his family to graduate from college -- who then became a trial lawyer fighting corporate America.

With just a little tweaking, Edwards could perhaps spin this into a Washington outsider campaign, since those historically fare well. He has only been in the Senate for four years and has already announced he is not seeking reelection for that seat.

The Bush campaign is already trying to connect Kerry to various special interests, and his long tenure in the Senate makes him "of DC" by default. This might be an appeal that would work in the West next week and in Minnesota the week after.

In sum, the race is narrowing, but it remains interesting. I'm still embracing my prediction from September 12, 2003:
I think Edwards's prospects for a space on the national ticket are going to look much better than they do now by next February.
With all the discussion of a Kerry/Edwards ticket, this prediction is starting to look good.

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is a more likely choice, according to well-known pundit Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, because the Dems need to pick someone who will help in the rust belt. It's geography vs. political ideas and I think Edwards is proving his mettle on the national campaign trail.

Update: Charlie Rose tonight has Mark Halperin, Political Director of ABC News and Ronald Brownstein of The Los Angeles Times. Both reject Edwards as Veep because they think Kerry will pick someone who can help win a swing state -- but they are focusing completely on geography.

The message Edwards is pushing is perfect for the rust belt swing states and its incredible these political analysts cannot see this. So what if Edwards can't help the Dems win North Carolina? He can help win Ohio, Pennsylvania and perhaps other states.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


How long can the US sustain its occupation of Iraq without seriously threatening American security -- by materially diminishing the US ability to respond to other emergencies and by thoroughly sapping the Army's morale?

As I've blogged before, 16 of the Army's 33 active-duty combat brigades are deployed in Iraq, 5 others are deployed in Europe, Afghanistan and Korea and the other dozen are preparing to replace the deployed troops very soon.

As a result, the US has almost no capability right now to engage in new combat missions should it face an unexpected crisis or threat.

Major conflict in Iraq ended nearly 10 months ago, but the troops remain in Iraq to assure order -- performing constabulary functions and nation-building. Some, obviously, are also engaged in counter-insurgency fighting, but I'm not sure of the precise division of labor.

Fine. I personally value these functions of the US military -- though it would be great if they were better trained to performed these functions, and "socialized" to think that this is expected of them.

I'm not sure that either the Army or the Bush administration is really committed to nation-building tasks. For instance, in January 2003, the Defense Department announced that it was closing the Peacekeeping Institute at its own Army War College (which is effectively the Army's in-house thinktank). It reversed this decision later in the year when many non-governmental organizations and members of Congress complained.

Still, DoD opposition to these sorts of missions is fairly open and long-standing. After all, in November 1996, Bill Clinton's first Secretary of Defense William
Perry famously declared :
I've said before, and I will say it again, the U.S. Army is an Army. It is not a Salvation Army. We're not in the business of providing humanitarian relief.
When Perry repeated those words (as he did frequently), he often offered a set of specific conditions for the use of US troops in humanitarian work:
But under certain conditions the use of our armed forces is appropriate. First, if we face a natural or manmade catastrophe that dwarfs the ability of the normal relief agencies to respond. Second, if the need for relief is urgent and only the military has the ability to jump start the effort. Third, if the response requires resources unique to the military. And fourth, if there is minimal risk to the lives of American troops. In humanitarian operations, we only use force to protect our troops or members of humanitarian agencies helping us.
Perry's views are widely shared in the armed forces. Numerous uniformed leaders have been quoted as saying that their primary mission is fighting wars and that they should not be involved in humanitarian or peace operations if that detracts from their primary mission. In 1996, military analyst/writer Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr. quoted both Colin Powell and General John Shalikashvili (former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) making this exact point in the Clinton era.

And of course, George W. Bush echoed this point as presidential candidate during the 2000 debates:
Your question was deployment. It must be in the national interests, must be in our vital interests whether we ever send troops. The mission must be clear. Soldiers must understand why we're going. The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well-defined.

I'm concerned that we're overdeployed around the world. See, I think the mission has become somewhat become fuzzy. Should I be fortunate enough to earn your confidence, the mission of the United States military will be to be prepared and ready to fight and win war, and therefore prevent war from happening in the first place. There may be some moments when we use our troops as peacekeepers, but not often.
Bush often made this point on the campaign trail and I think the military resents the long-term missions they are apparently facing.

The most recent Army Times has an interesting poll that perhaps demonstrates this point. Here's the question:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently told Senators that the present high demand on the military is "very likely a spike." How do you feel?
About 1/4 of respondents said "he's right," while about 2/3 clicked "he's wrong." About 8% responded "I don't know."

These recent results are consistent with results reported in October 2003 by the Washington Post from a Stars and Stripes survey last fall:
A broad survey of U.S. troops in Iraq by a Pentagon-funded newspaper found that half of those questioned described their unit's morale as low and their training as insufficient, and said they do not plan to reenlist.

The survey, conducted by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, also recorded about a third of the respondents complaining that their mission lacks clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as of little or no value. Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training.

The findings, drawn from 1,935 questionnaires presented to U.S. service members throughout Iraq, conflict with statements by military commanders and Bush administration officials that portray the deployed troops as high-spirited and generally well-prepared....

In the survey, 34 percent described their morale as low, compared with 27 percent who described it as high and 37 percent who said it was average; 49 percent described their unit's morale as low, while 16 percent called it high.
The Post story acknowledges that the survey was not scientific -- and I suppose it is possible that the respondents reflected the strongest voices of dissent. Those who distributed the "convenience" survey said it was meaningful and Pentagon sources are quoted saying that they take it seriously. The closing line of the story is quite telling -- experts are worried that reservists may decide not to reenlist at "historically high" rates.

Notes: Steven Metz of the Army War College quoted then-Secretary of Defense William J. Perry as telling Congress as early as 1994:
"We're an army, not a Salvation Army."
Apparently, this originally appeared in the NY Times, August 5, 1994.

Second, I'm not sure how seriously we should take Bush's words from the 2000 debates campaign -- he seems to have abandoned a slew of foreign policy promises:
BUSH: Yes, I'm not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say, "This is the way it's got to be. We can help." And maybe it's just our difference in government, the way we view government. I mean, I want to empower people, I don't -- you know, I want to help people help themselves, not have government tell people what to do.

I just don't think it's the role of the United States to walk into a country, say, "We do it this way, so should you."
The 2002 NSS isn't quite so humble:
In pursuit of our goals, our first imperative is to clarify what we stand for: the United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. Fathers and mothers in all societies want their children to be educated and to live free from poverty and violence. No people on earth yearn to be oppressed, aspire to servitude, or eagerly await the midnight knock of the secret police.

America must stand firmly for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property.
Still, it's very doubtful that the US military has the boots or will for pushing American empire too far.

Monday, February 16, 2004

BASIC Report on Iraq WMD

While several analysts at the Washington DC-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote a much-publicized and very critical report about the US use of intelligence on Iraq WMD, I haven't seen much US discussion of a similar report produced by the British-American Security Information Council (BASIC), which was released in January 2004.

The BASIC Report is called "Unravelling the Known Unknowns: Why no Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found in Iraq" and was authored by David Isenberg and Ian Davis (this is the pdf version, which requires an acrobat reader). Their main finding, from the Executive Summary, is succinct:
The conclusion is inescapable: there is nothing to be found. This means that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair made a WMD mountain out of what, at best, was a molehill....

The main conclusion is that the failure to find banned weapons in Iraq suggests very strongly that the UN weapons inspectors succeeded in their mandate, and that the Iraqi government complied with its obligations.
The authors of the BASIC report conclude, as David Kay and I have, that
The failure to find any banned weapons means that it will be harder to trust intelligence reports about North Korean, Iranian or other "rogue state" threats. Already, in the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, China has rejected US intelligence that North Korea has a secret program to enrich uranium for use in weapons.
BASIC also points out, as I have, that the Bush and Blair governments likely distorted the intelligence they had by overselling the threats:
In fact, a very large number of US intelligence professionals, diplomats and former Pentagon officials have notably gone on record, not off the record as is usually the case, to criticise the Bush administration for its distortion of the case for war against Iraq.

Overall, therefore, the evidence clearly suggests that the US and UK governments did not have the intelligence to back up their pre-war claims, and that there was plenty of publicly available information on Iraq's weapons programs that was systematically ignored in the months preceding the war. Thus, the previous confidence in Iraq's possession of advanced WMD appears to have been based on a combination of US and British intelligence misjudgements and the result of distortion by members of the Bush administration and Blair governments.
The BASIC report acknowledges that some of the intelligence was also probably wrong and the authors thus reserve judgment "until further information becomes available."

Will the President's Commission reveal these problems? Don't hold your breath. Consider Senator John McCain's words on this topic, from February 6, 2004:
"The president of the United States, I believe, did not manipulate any kind of information for political gain or otherwise," the Republican senator told reporters on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, Germany.
Thanks to blogger Micah Holmquist for this last link.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Thanks, Readers

Monday, top progressive blogger Atrios linked to my post on Ghorbanifar and the Niger uranium. As a consequence, my hitmeter started spinning rapidly and this blog just had its most successful week...with almost 800 readers a day!

Apparently, some "drive by" readers who peeked in on Monday and Tuesday are checking back on occasion. I'll try to sustain everyone's interest.

Because I traveled out of town last weekend, and this weekend included Valentine's Day, I took it easy for a couple of days and tried to stay off the computer.

Tomorrow is a work day, however, so expect to find new material very soon.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Evil Empire Strikes Again

In NY, at least one media outlet is reporting that the Yankees and Texas Rangers have agreed to a trade that would send Alex Rodriguez to NY for Alfonso Soriano. I hope it's not true.

My reason: ARod (still only 28 years old) is the best player in baseball and I hate the Yankees. It's really as simple as that.

Soriano is a good player, but he doesn't walk enough to be a great player over a sustained period.

I'm guessing that if this deal happens, Jeter will be playing either second or third.

Friday, February 13, 2004

A Conversation with Robert Kagan

Yesterday, I moderated a Kentucky Author Forum event with Robert Kagan, whose Of Paradise and Power just came out in paperback last month.

I've previously blogged about his argument, so I won't repeat that now. Rather, I'm just going to summarize a few of the things he said in response to my questions. Audience members also asked questions, but I was targeting mine at areas of interest to me.

I started by asking Kagan to define a "neoconservative" and then I asked him to outline his "US is from Mars, Europe is from Venus" position. The answers were pretty much what I expected.

Kagan's new "Afterward" argues that the US needs the Europeans to provide legitimacy and the Europeans would like to cooperate with the US so as to have some say in how US power will be used. Eventually, he got around to making this point in the session Thursday.

Kagan said in reply to someone's questions that the Europeans just don't appreciate the WMD/terror threat the same way the US does since 9/11. He admitted, however, that Europeans have long faced terror, but declared that 9/11 was quite unique to the US because of the scale (and because the US had previously been relatively untouched by this problem).

I asked Kagan whether he thought the US and Europe could come to a "common assessment of the threat" (he uses virtually the same phrase as the September 2002 National Security Strategy document)? Specifically, I asked if the US could sustain a "high threat" context given the new revelations by David Kay about Iraqi WMD. Do Americans really believe they are imperiled all the time? Could the US eventually move toward the European view?

Kagan replied that people in Washington and NY certainly continue to feel threatened, as do those who fly planes. He also made a side comment that Kay really hadn't dismissed the threat, which is perhaps literally true, but is certainly not how it is being played out in the public sphere.

Then I asked Kagan to consider a counterfactual. What if the WTC buildings had been badly damaged, but had not collapsed? Would Americans still think the threat was so great if they did not have the visual image of the huge buildings collapsing. He acknowledged that the images were important, but insisted that the US would still rate these threats as high.

Later, I picked up something Bill Hartung of the World Policy Institute said last weekend in DC. When President Bush landed on that aircraft carrier last May, the US ship cost more than the entire North Korean military budget. Yet, the US is now approaching a half trillion dollar defense budget. Given that conservatives typically distrust government spending ("throwing money down a rathole"), did Kagan think the US is spending too much?

Kagan said no, and regretted that the US had reduced its military spending after the cold war ended. At one point, he noted that China was increasing its spending and he wished that the Europeans would spend more -- but doubted that would happen. Since the US is spending only about 4.5% of its GNP on defense, it could afford a lot more. It was common to spend 7% in the cold war, and the US sometimes spent as much as 15%.

Bottom line: even though Robert Kagan appreciates the importance of legitimacy, he still thinks the Europeans are wrong about the threats, wants to see a high level of US defense spending, and worries about the rise of China.

At one point, Kagan noted his support for American military intervention in the 1990s (places like Haiti and Kosovo) and declared that he was an IR liberal. Shortly after that, he said that he accepted realist arguments about the importance of power -- so he was basically trying to marry America's power to its ideals and change the world.

In short, he's still saying what the Project for A New American Century said before Bush was elected President. PNAC (Kagan was a director) called for many of the hawkish policies (warning, pdf file) the US is now pursuing . And the justification then wasn't terror or WMD. The neocons who wrote their playbook wanted to take advantage of the "unprecedented opportunity" presented by a world of great American power facing minimal great power opposition.

Let's hope the Europeans continue to deny legitimacy to the Pax Americana project.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Sharpton's GOP Backers

I've commented on most of the Democrats running for President -- more extensively on the ones who have received more votes. In retrospect, I should have said more about Dennis Kucinich, third place finisher in Maine and Washington state. He's the only one of the candidates I've seen "live."

As it turns out, I've said very little about Reverend Al Sharpton. I've certainly been entertained by some of the things he has said in the debates and he seemed fine on Bill Maher's show on HBO. However, some papers and magazines are reporting a story that makes me question Sharpton's politics.

Specifically, the The Village Voice reports a troubling story called "Sleeping with the GOP" by Wayne Barrett, with Adam Hutton and Christine Lagorio. Barrett and colleagues explain the strange relationship between Sharpton and long-time GOP "operative" Roger Stone.

Stone was the guy who arranged the "Cuban riot" in Florida in 2000 that stopped the presidential recount in Miami (Dade County). His ties to the Republican party go back to Nixon. Here's the scoop:
investigation has documented an extraordinary array of connections. Stone played a pivotal role in putting together Sharpton's pending application for federal matching funds, getting dollars in critical states from family members and political allies at odds with everything Sharpton represents. He's also helped stack the campaign with a half-dozen incongruous top aides who've worked for him in prior campaigns. He's even boasted about engineering six-figure loans to Sharpton's National Action Network (NAN) and allowing Sharpton to use his credit card to cover thousands in NAN costs—neither of which he could legally do for the campaign.
Stone has apparently loaned the Sharpton campaign $270,000, which is a fairly large part of the Reverend's operating funds. By contrast, his FEC matching funds figure was only $150,000.

The journalists theorize that Sharpton is angry about the Democratic party taking the African American vote for granted, so he is selectively making attacks on other candidates so as to teach the party a lesson. Allegedly, this explains some of his political maneuvering in NYC in 2001.

Dean supporters have perhaps the strongest beef, given the attack Sharpton levied in the televised debate on January 11, which coincides closely with the former Vermont Governor's collapse in the Iowa polls:
Sharpton took center stage at a debate confronting Dean about the absence of blacks in his Vermont cabinet. Stone told the Times that he "helped set the tone and direction" of the Dean attacks, while Charles Halloran, the Sharpton campaign manager installed by Stone, supplied the research. While other Democratic opponents were also attacking Dean, none did it on the advice of a consultant who's worked in every GOP presidential campaign since his involvement in the Watergate scandals of 1972, including all of the Bush family campaigns.
This sounds similar to the often-repeated story that Ralph Nader received a couple of million bucks from Bush supporters in 2000 to sap Gore votes in key states.

The Voice story is long and includes a lot of detail. Some Roger Stone staffers and political allies apparently kicked in $250 to help Sharpton meet minimum state thresholds so as to qualify for matching FEC monies.
In Florida, Stone's wife, Nydia; son Scott; daughter-in-law Laurie; mother-in-law Olga Bertran; executive assistant Dianne Thorne; Tim Suereth, who lives with Thorne; and Halloran's mother, Jane Stone (unrelated to Roger, he says), pushed Sharpton comfortably over the threshold, donating $250 apiece in December.
Alas, a Blog is on this story too, with a lot of quotes from the Black Commentator. Here is that journal's take:
the revelations are a deathblow to his actual goal: to become the recognized leader of African Americans. Although the story has been framed in terms of treachery to the Democratic Party, or as evidence of Sharpton’s visceral disdain for white “liberals,” the tale will resonate somewhat differently among African Americans. Sharpton comes across as a hapless stooge of the worst elements of the GOP.
The journal says that African American are still looking for a national leader with a strong voice. Tennessee Representative Harold Ford, Jr. has been on TV a great deal lately, and I'm looking forward to the coverage of his visit to Kentucky today. Perhaps Ford can provide the much-needed voice.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Political Weapons

Yesterday, I mentioned that Michael Ledeen has been a conduit linking US officials like Oliver North and Harold Rhode to Iran-contra figure Manucher Ghorbanifar.

So I thought I'd take a quick look at Ledeen's politics today. He is a well-known neoconservative, based at the American Enterprise Institute who writes regularly for The National Review Online.

Moreover, Ledeen is quite hawkish on Iran and Syria, arguing that the US will never be successful in Iraq until it takes a "regional" perspective. That means "regime change" in the neighboring states.

However, Ledeen does not advocate using military force to topple these states. Ledeen instead advocates using "political weapons" rather than arms. A lot of doves potentially embrace this position, so I thought it might be worthwhile to see what Ledeen has in mind for Syria and Iran:
But unlike Iraq, there is no need for a military campaign. Our most potent weapons are the peoples of Syria and Iran, and they are primed, loaded, and ready to fire. We should now pull the political lanyards and unleash democratic revolution on the terror masters in Damascus and Tehran.
What does Ledeen mean by using political weapons?

I'm not 100% certain. This is what he wrote in The Australian, about Lebanon:
We should unleash the full panoply of political weapons on behalf of Lebanese freedom: a vigorous human rights campaign, attention to the many stories of brutality and abuse coming from the lively Lebanese diaspora, political observers at every Lebanese election, demands for shutting down the infamous terrorist training camps in the Bekaa Valley, and investigations into the state of religious freedom.
And this is what he said about the "battle for the minds" of Iranians:
In Iran, we have a seemingly irresistible political card to play: give the people the same sort of political support we gave the Yugoslavs under Milosevic, the Poles, Hungarians and Czechs under the Soviet empire, and the Filipinos under Marcos.
More specifically, in Iran, Ledeen would support "student and teacher organizations, trade unions" and other worker groups "especially in the oil and textile sectors" that could "organize an insurrection in Tehran and other major cities. They need money (a fraction of what was squandered in the CIA’s failed program to induce an insurrection in Basra), satellite phones, laptop computers..." Ledeen has made perfectly clear his disdain for traditional diplomatic dialogue with the state. But he's confident his measures will work:
"if the United States chooses to give real support to the regime's opponents, there could well be a replay of the mass demonstrations that led to the fall of Milosevic in Yugoslavia and the Marcoses in the Philippines."
It's certainly not clear that the information revolution and Reagan's rhetoric about evil empires toppled Poland, Hungary and the Soviet empire. Decades of containment policy, combined with the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev, had a lot to do with those cases. A lot. Yes, the regimes were illegitimate, but they were also horribly managed and poorer than most people knew. Glasnost revealed the Soviet state and economy for what it was.

In a different op-ed, Ledeen advocated that Israel use "political weapons" against the Palestinians. He advocated using broadcasts, but stated somewhat vaguely that "freedom is the most lethal weapon in the endless struggle against tyranny. An entire generation of Americans forgot it, and was shocked to see its awesome power when Ronald Reagan aimed it at Moscow. A generation of Israelis forgot it, and need to remind themselves of it as they grapple with their life-threatening crisis." Days after 9/11, Ledeen also referenced the Reagan era:
In other words, it is time once again to export the democratic revolution. To those who say it cannot be done, we need only point to the 1980s, when we led a global democratic revolution that toppled tyrants from Moscow to Johannesburg.
I wonder whether Ledeen supported sanctions or "constructive engagement" vis-a-vis South Africa in the 1980s?

Before readers start thinking, hey, this Ledeen guy sounds like a reasonable fellow, consider something more controversial that he's written, which attracted a lot of attention.

Last year during the debate with France and Germany over Iraq policy at the UN, Ledeen argued that the US might have to take the fight against terror to Europe:
Both countries have been totally deaf to suggestions that the West take stern measures against the tyrannical terrorist sponsors in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. Instead, they do everything in their power to undermine American-sponsored trade embargoes or more limited sanctions, and it is an open secret that they have been supplying Saddam with military technology through the corrupt ports of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's little playground in Dubai, often through Iranian middlemen.

I think Chirac will oppose us before, during, and after the war, because he has cast his lot with radical Islam and with the Arab extremists. He isn't doing it just for the money — although I have no doubt that France is being richly rewarded for defending Saddam against the civilized countries of the world — but for higher stakes. He's fighting to end the feared American domination before it takes stable shape.

If this is correct, we will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe.
Of course, Ledeen concludes this piece by writing, "And there, as in the Middle East, our greatest weapons are political: the demonstrated desire for freedom of the peoples of the countries that oppose us."

What does that mean? Aren't Europeans already free?

What did it mean when millions of citizens took to the streets and protested the prospective war against Iraq? What did it mean when pollsters found overwhelming European opposition to war?

Is Ledeen as wrong about countries in the Middle East as he is about Europe?

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Forged Documents

Josh Marshall hints that he is on to something big. The journalist-blogger first quotes an intriguing tidbit from Monday's Washington Post story on the Valerie Plame investigation:
A parallel FBI investigation into the apparent forgery of documents suggesting that Iraq attempted to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger is "at a critical stage," according to a senior law enforcement official who declined to elaborate. That probe, conducted by FBI counterintelligence agents, was launched last spring after U.N. officials pronounced the documents crude forgeries.
Sy Hersh's "stovepiping" story reported that the Niger story dates to just after 9/11:
In the fall of 2001, soon after the September 11th attacks, the C.I.A. received an intelligence report from Italy’s Military Intelligence and Security Service, or SISMI, about a public visit that Wissam al-Zahawie, then the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, had made to Niger and three other African nations two and a half years earlier, in February, 1999. The visit had been covered at the time by the local press in Niger and by a French press agency. The American Ambassador, Charles O. Cecil, filed a routine report to Washington on the visit, as did British intelligence. There was nothing untoward about the Zahawie visit. “We reported it because his picture appeared in the paper with the President,” Cecil, who is now retired, told me. There was no article accompanying the photograph, only the caption, and nothing significant to report. At the time, Niger, which had sent hundreds of troops in support of the American-led Gulf War in 1991, was actively seeking economic assistance from the United States.

None of the contemporaneous reports, as far as is known, made any mention of uranium. But now, apparently as part of a larger search for any pertinent information about terrorism, sismi dug the Zahawie-trip report out of its files and passed it along, with a suggestion that Zahawie’s real mission was to arrange the purchase of a form of uranium ore known as “yellowcake.” (Yellowcake, which has been a major Niger export for decades, can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors. It can also be converted, if processed differently, into weapons-grade uranium.)
I'm sorry for quoting so much of this, but Hersh draws a link from Italy to the US intelligence agency, to the Vice President's office.
The SISMI report, however, was unpersuasive. Inside the American intelligence community, it was dismissed as amateurish and unsubstantiated. One former senior C.I.A. official told me that the initial report from Italy contained no documents but only a written summary of allegations. “I can fully believe that sismi would put out a piece of intelligence like that,” a C.I.A. consultant told me, “but why anybody would put credibility in it is beyond me.” No credible documents have emerged since to corroborate it.

The intelligence report was quickly stovepiped to those officials who had an intense interest in building the case against Iraq, including Vice-President Dick Cheney. “The Vice-President saw a piece of intelligence reporting that Niger was attempting to buy uranium,” Cathie Martin, the spokeswoman for Cheney, told me. Sometime after he first saw it, Cheney brought it up at his regularly scheduled daily briefing from the C.I.A., Martin said.
Hersh points out that the administration started publicly claiming that Iraq was acquiring materials to restart its nuclear program in January 2002. In February, Ambassador Wilson was contracted to go to Niger. Later in the year, the British "dodgy dossier" apparently relied upon the SISMI report to assert that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger.

The forged documents themselves apparently emerged in October 2002, about the time the administration started talking about mushroom clouds and Iraq. This is from Hersh's story in the New Yorker:
At that moment, in early October, 2002, a set of documents suddenly appeared that promised to provide solid evidence that Iraq was attempting to reconstitute its nuclear program. The first notice of the documents’ existence came when Elisabetta Burba, a reporter for Panorama, a glossy Italian weekly owned by the publishing empire of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, received a telephone call from an Italian businessman and security consultant whom she believed to have once been connected to Italian intelligence. He told her that he had information connecting Saddam Hussein to the purchase of uranium in Africa. She considered the informant credible.
Berlusconi, remember, supported the war.

Hersh then describes the photocopied documents received by the reporter, complete with codebook so as to interpret them. Burba turned the documents over to the American embassy in Rome on October 9, 2002. Hersh advances several theories about the forgeries. One is that SISMI fabricated them, another is that former CIA agents produced them to prove how intelligence was being mishandled by the adminsitration. Burba, incidentially, like Wilson travelled to Niger and fairly easily established that they were false. Inside the US they were also apparently discredited -- until they got to the Pentagon and Office of Special Plans.

Let's now consider Marshall's suspicions, which he acknowledges are based on circumstantial evidence. First, the circumstances, which Marshall wrote about in late October 2003:
The US and UK start a major roll-out on the nuclear claims. But the response is generally disappointing. There’s major push-back from the IAEA and, secretly in the US, from the CIA.

It was precisely at this moment (in the last days of September and the first of October) that the advocates of the Niger story were most in need of some new evidence. And it was precisely at this moment when the new evidence --- at first seemingly incontrovertible --- popped up in Rome.

And the day after the reporter gets the docs the Editor-in-Chief of her magazine instructs her to take them to the American Embassy.
Marshall provides more precise dates for all this -- take it from me that all this activity was condensed into several weeks during late September and early October 2002.

Today, Marshall wrote this on his blog:
a close look at the timeline of events in October 2002 points to the conclusion that the person who got those documents into the hands of Italian journalist Elisabetta Burba had some knowledge -- either direct or indirect -- of highly secret debates then going in between the Bush White House, the CIA and members of the Blair government in the UK.
I've been doing some digging into the timeline and likely (neocon?) connections and have arrived at some names I think Marshall means.

One is Manucher Ghorbanifar, of Iran-contra fame. Or should I say infamy? Ghorbanifar was the go-between for the US and Iranians when US arms were illegally traded for hostages. The CIA doesn't like him much:
One result of the Iran-contra scandal was a decision by the C.I.A. that it could not trust Mr. Ghorbanifar. A 1987 Congressional report on Iran-contra said that after Mr. Ghorbanifar failed C.I.A.-administered polygraph examinations, the agency issued a rare "Fabricator Notice," warning that he "should be regarded as an intelligence fabricator and a nuisance." He has been considered a con artist by the C.I.A. ever since.
Back in early December, the New York Times ran a story about meetings between Ghorbanifar and two Pentagon officials. In August, Newsday had already identified them as, "Harold Rhode, [Doug] Feith's top Middle East specialist, and Larry Franklin, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst on loan to the undersecretary's office." Apparently, the first meetings were initiated by Ghorbanifar and occurred in Paris, December 2001. Other meetings occurred in June 2002 in Rome:
Rhode recently acted as a liaison between Feith's office, which drafted much of the administration's post-Iraq planning, and Ahmed Chalabi, a former Iraqi exile disdained by the CIA and State Department but groomed for leadership by the Pentagon.

Rhode is a protege of Michael Ledeen, a neo-conservative who was a National Security Council consultant in the mid-1980s when he introduced Ghorbanifar to Oliver North, a National Security Council aide, and others in the opening stages of the Iran-contra affair.
Who set up these meetings between Ghorbanifar and the US officials? Apparently neocon Michael Ledeen (the NYT names him as the broker as well), who is quoted directly in the more recent New York Times piece, after refusing to comment in August to Newsday.

In October 2003, Ledeen was the named source for a story in the conservative Washington Times claiming that Iraq provided Iran with uranium five years ago. He says the CIA refused to follow up the story because it was revealed in these meetings between the Pentagon officials and Ghorbanifar.
"We aggressively pursue all legitimate leads on weapons of mass destruction," chief CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said.

"It is true that we have no interest in meeting Mr. Ghorbanifar since he long ago was proven to be a fabricator and someone who sought to peddle false information for financial gain," Mr. Harlow said.
Fox News also had this story last October:
According to a leading Middle East expert, the CIA missed a golden opportunity to uncover a cache of Iraqi enriched uranium.

Michael Ledeen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said Manucher Ghorbanifar, a figure from the Contra-hostage arms deals from the Reagan years, contacted him.

According to Ghorbanifar, a Shiite Iraqi and a former Iraqi military officer in Iraq had access to enriched uranium. The uranium was reportedly part of a cache hidden by Saddam, some of which had been smuggled to Iran by the Shiite and the Iraqi officer.
Bottom line: Ghorbanifar met with Pentagon officials and discussed uranium smuggling in Rome in 2001-2002.

I don't know if this has anything to do with Marshall's theory, but Ledeen used to live in Rome and apparently consulted for SISMI. Journalist Jim Lobe says it was Ledeen that helped expose Billy Carter's relationship with Libya. And of course, Ledeen was pretty directly involved in Iran-contra.

6/3/04 Update: More people have viewed this post than any other on my blog. Atrios linked to it back in early February and he always directs lots of readers. Now, What Really Happened has linked to it again. Thanks.

As a followup, I took note of Ledeen's daughter Simone's connections to the new Iraq on June 1, 2004.

I think the next most popular posts here concern either Laurie Mylroie or the numerous WMD lies.

7/18/05 update has linked here again. I've blogged recently about this latest wave of readers.