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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Timetables and exit strategies

President Bush spoke at the US Naval academy today. His theme? Well, Bush wants to close off talk of troop withdrawal from Iraq:
These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington. (Applause.)

Some are calling for a deadline for withdrawal. Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere -- but I believe they're sincerely wrong. Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory. As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."

Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies -- that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America. To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief.
Is anyone really talking about an artificial deadline? What kind of withdrawal plan would NOT constitute "cutting and running"?

Since June, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) has been calling for a "flexible timeframe for the completion of the military mission in Iraq" and offered December 31, 2006, as a "target date." Feingold argues that US troops are fueling the insurgency and hurting the army. His proposed legislation, as the Senator pointed out today in a response to Bush, would require the administration to establish "clear and achievable benchmarks" for withdrawal.

On November 17, Representative John Murtha (D-PA) went even further than Feingold. Murtha called for immediate redeployment of US troops, based on his belief that the war is destroying the army, that American troops in Iraq are prolonging the violence, and that such a withdrawal would increase the security on the ground. Murtha is certainly no wimp and apparently has very close ties to the military that he once served. Many political analysts thus interpret his plan as the unofficial line of much of the US officer corps. This clearly worries the White House -- enough that lines about "cutting and running" are appearing in presidential rhetoric.

Did the President offer any "clear and achievable benchmarks? Well, Bush said this today:
I will settle for nothing less than complete victory. In World War II, victory came when the Empire of Japan surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri. In Iraq, there will not be a signing ceremony on the deck of a battleship. Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation.
Once again, it appears as if the President is arguing against a strawman position and offering mere platitudes in a debate calling out for serious thinking.

If Bush thinks he is engaging Feingold or Murtha, then he needs to explain how their positions differ from his own -- in the 2000 campaign. At that time, Bush said that the US needed
"to be judicious as to how to use the military. It needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious."
That statement, by then-Governor George W. Bush, was offered in the second debate against Al Gore.

Bush liked this line so much that he used some version of it in many, many foreign policy speeches and in all three debates against Gore.

Note, by the way, that Governor George W. Bush probably would have opposed the mission to democratize Iraq:
I'm worried about overcommitting our military around the world. I want to be judicious in its use. You mentioned Haiti. I wouldn't have sent troops to Haiti. I didn't think it was a mission worthwhile. It was a nation building mission, and it was not very successful. It cost us billions, a couple billions of dollars, and I'm not so sure democracy is any better off in Haiti than it was before.
The White House continues to claim that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism, and says that those commiting violence are terrorists, but that doesn't mean we have to believe them.

In any event, it is absolutely 100% clear that the Powell Doctrine is dead.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

First, do no harm

Fiona Terry, who currently works for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Myanmar, has won the 2006 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. The Louisville Courier-Journal has the story that will likely be picked up by Australian papers soon:
Although well-intentioned, humanitarian aid to Rwandan refugees in Zaire became the fuel for more repression and death, Fiona Terry says.

For analyzing how that occurred and urging international aid groups to understand that their actions can have unintended consequences, Terry was awarded the 2006 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order....

Terry, 38, is an Australian who worked for Medicins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in camps in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

She wrote a book in 2002, "Condemned to Repeat? The Paradox of Humanitarian Action," about that tragedy and similar ones in refugee camps around the world.

"Not enough organizations look into the political side of their aid, what they're contributing to," Terry said. "They turn a blind eye to it."
The award is a $200,000 prize. Terry's book was published by Cornell University Press and is available in paperback.

Dr. Terry provided the newspaper with quite a bit of detail about the Zaire case:
In Zaire, Terry said she saw how the assistance that nations, including the United States, were sending was being diverted to illegitimate purposes.

"The aid was helping the refugees," Terry said, "but the refugees were being controlled completely by the same people who had committed genocide in Rwanda."

The majority Hutus had directed a bloodbath against the minority Tutsis, resulting in up to a million deaths and a mass exodus of Tutsis and moderate Hutus to neighboring countries.

As the Tutsis wrested power from the Hutus in Rwanda, many of those responsible for the mass killings ended up in the camps as well. They "were stealing the food and preventing the refugees from going home," Terry said.

Eventually, the French section of Medicins sans Frontieres, including Terry, pulled out of Zaire.

"We have an obligation to say no sometimes -- 'This is unacceptable,' " Terry said.

The Hutu militia used the camps as bases to attack Rwanda, and in 1996 Rwanda attacked and destroyed the camps.

"Up to 200,000 people went missing from the camps," Terry said. "It was really a slaughter."
Terry also claims that aid to Afghan refugees in Pakistan gave birth to the Taliban.

I'm looking forward to meeting Terry in April when she visits Louisville. Full disclosure: I have been the chair of the Grawemeyer World Order committee for more than a decade.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Suspicious Minds

Today, the AP reported this unfortunate news about a Republican member of Congress, forced to resign because of his illegal links to a defense contractor:
Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and tax charges and tearfully resigned from office, admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to co-conspirators....

Cunningham answered "yes, Your Honor" when asked by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he had accepted bribes from someone in exchange for his performance of official duties.
Cunningham pled guilty to a variety of charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion. Cunningham, in a related statement, admitted to receipt of $2.4 million in bribes, including $1 million in cash.

Cunningham was apparently paid by defense contractor Mitchell Wade of MZM Inc., which provides various battlefield intelligence support to the Pentagon worth tens of millions of dollars.

The Defense budget is enormous -- perhaps as much as one-third of the federal budget if every defense-related expenditure is included. The amount is a staggering $840 billion!

Frankly, academics pay too little attention to the political power of the so-called "military-industrial complex." The kind of evidence revealed in the Cunningham case is only too rarely made public and academics need empirical evidence to fuel their theoretical musings.

Of course, the implications of the oversight are enormous.

Cunningham, a decorated Vietnam pilot, served as chair of the House Intelligence subcommittee on terrorism and human intelligence. Did he ever make statements that inflated threats posed by terrorists or rogue states? Should his loyalty to the Bush administration's "war on terror" be viewed cynically? He obviously gained personally and sold out his office. How many votes and voters did a hero like Cunningham influence?

And Cunningham is certainly not alone even in the current investigation. Florida Senate candidate and current House member Katherine Harris has also received lots of suspicious campaign donations from MZM employees. Likewise, Republican Representative Virgil Goode of Virginia received "bundled" MZM employee contributions that may prove to be illegal.

And this is just related to one relatively minor defense contractor -- not a giant like Lockheed Martin ($30 billion in 2003), Boeing ($27 B), Northrop Grumman ($18.7 B), BAE Systems ($17 B), Raytheon ($16.9 B), etc.

Is it naive to think that many members of the Congress -- and perhaps officials in the executive branch as well -- are "bought off" by campaign donations and other perks from these companies?

Thomas Jefferson wanted to prohibit a standing army in the Bill of Rights because he worried about democracy's ability to work under such a strain.

Former five-star general and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, explicitly warned against the dangers posed by the "military-industrial complex" in his "Farewell Address," January 17, 1961: we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
The "iron triangle" linking the Pentagon, the Congress, and defense contractors is potentially quite dangerous. The machine needs the continual infusion of cash to churn out weapons, whether those arms are needed for war or not.

Sometimes, of course, it is easier to convince the public of the need for weapons if they are frightened.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Don't get fooled again

It's the standard fallback position. "Things may be going to hell in Iraq, but...

...the intelligence about WMD was completely wrong, but...

...democracy is hard work, but..."

Blah, blah, blah.

The punchline is often the same: "At least Saddam Hussein is gone."

Remember Dick Cheney's frequent punchline from the 2004 campaign?
Had the decision belonged to Senator Kerry, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, today, in Iraq.
Well, to quote Pete Townsend, "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."

BBC, November 27, 2005:
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has said that human rights abuses in Iraq today are as bad as those during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

In an interview with the UK's Observer newspaper, Mr Allawi said that Iraqis were being tortured and killed by secret police in secret bunkers....

"People are doing the same as (in) Saddam Hussein's time and worse," Mr Allawi told the newspaper.

"It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam.

"These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam Hussein, and now we are seeing the same things."
You may have missed the news earlier this week, but US troops found a secret prison inside an Iraqi interior ministry department. They found 170 "apparently abused captives."

Line: "At least Saddam is gone."

Response: "Don't get fooled again."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

References to Moneyball philosophy

One of my first blog posts was about Michael Lewis's book Moneyball, an excellent work about baseball analysis informed by relatively advanced statistics.

SABR member Dave Black posted the following to SABR-L on November 17, 2005:
Moneyball is now a descriptor of a specific philosophy for building a baseball team.

As I re-read the book, I tried to identify specific quotes that would describe the Moneyball philosophy.
And here are the handy references Black provided:
p. 33 -- The ability to control the strike zone (meaning K/BB ratio) is the best indicator of future success (for a hitter).

p. 34 -- The larger the number of pitches faced per plate appearance, the more effective an offense is likely to be.

p. 37-38 -- College stats are better for predicting the future of players than high school statistics. For high school players the competition is too weak and the sample size it too small.

p. 57 -- The number of runs a team scores correlates closely to OBP.

p. 125 -- Closers are overpriced and rarely worth the investment of a large contract.

p. 129 -- The ability to get on base is undervalued. (NOTE: Is it now overvalued because of the book?)

p. 137 -- Hitting ability contributes far more to the success of a team than defensive ability.

p. 248 -- Player development follows similar, predictable patterns.

P. 274 -- Playoff results are essentially random because of a small sample size.
By the way, economists Jahn Karl Hakes and Raymond D. Sauer have authored "An Economic Evaluation of the Moneyball Hypothesis." Hakes and Sauer conclude that any market under-valuing of OBP (on-base percentage) was history by the time Moneyball was published. This is their abstract:
Michael Lewis's book, Moneyball, is the story of an innovative manager who exploits an inefficiency in baseball's labor market over a prolonged period of time. We evaluate this claim by applying standard econometric procedures to data on player productivity and compensation from 1999 to 2004. These methods support Lewis's argument that the valuation of different skills was inefficient in the early part of this period, and that this was profitably exploited by managers with the ability to generate and interpret statistical knowledge. This knowledge became increasingly dispersed across baseball teams during this period. Consistent with Lewis's story and economic reasoning, the spread of this knowledge is associated with the market correcting the original mis-pricing.
The full paper is available for download at various sites. Just click the link for the abstract to obtain the link(s).

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving scold

BBC, November 22:
Nearly six million children die from hunger or malnutrition every year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation says.

Many deaths result from treatable diseases such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria and measles, the agency says.

They would survive if they had proper nourishment, the agency says in a new report on world hunger.
The article includes links to the full report on "food insecurity" as well as the Executive Summary.
"Reducing hunger should become the driving force for progress and hope," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf wrote in the report.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

More on the lies that lead to war

Journalist James Bamford has a tremendously explosive story about the Rendon Group in Rolling Stone magazine (posted November 17, 2005). The story mentions some of the Rendon group's activites over much of the past twenty years, "selling" virtually every war and military intervention the US has fought since Panama.

Most of the article is about Iraq's non-existent WMD.

For some years, the Rendon Group has been a Defense Department contractor, after years of working with CIA. The contracts have apparently been worth between $50-100 million between 2000 and 2004. The story credits Rendon with essentially creating the Iraqi National Congress and explicitly linking dubious Iraqi defectors to journalist Judith Miller of the New York Times. Consider the story of Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, who claimed to be an Iraqi
civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.
The CIA determined that this story was a complete fabrication in December, 2001.

But the Rendon Group worked with the INC, the White House's Office of Global Communications, and the White House Iraq Group in order to coordinate the Iraq message in the buildup to war. Rendon and the INC took al-Haideri to Bangkok to meet with a couple of journalists:
[The INC's] Zaab Sethna, who organized the al-Haideri media exclusive in Thailand for [Australian freelance television reporter Paul] Moran [a covert Rendon operative] and Judith Miller...

...the falsified story about weapons of mass destruction that he [Moran] and Sethna had broadcast around the world lived on....In a report ironically titled "Iraq: Denial and Deception," the administration referred to al-Haideri by name and detailed his allegations -- even though the CIA had already determined them to be lies. The report was placed on the White House Web site on September 12th, 2002, and remains there today. One version of the report even credits Miller's article for the information.
Apparently, Rendon also worked with Donald Rumsfeld's short-lived Office of Strategic Influence and its less prominent successor, Information Operations Task Force.

The entire story reminds me of the false reports from the first Persian Gulf war claiming that Iraqi soldiers had removed babies from incubators in Kuwait -- and left them to die. In that case, the PR firm Hill and Knowlton coached the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the United States to tell this lie to Congress.

President George Herbert Walker Bush, former director of the CIA, personally referenced this story when making the case for the earlier war. More than once. OK, many, many times.

Obviously, this is a followup to The Lies that Lead to War.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Another Downing Street Memo

Holy cow! Was the US seriously thinking about bombing al-Jazeera?

From the British paper The Mirror, November 22, 2005:
PRESIDENT Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals.

But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.

A source said: "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." Al-Jazeera is accused by the US of fuelling the Iraqi insurgency.
An anonymous government official is quoted as saying that Bush's remark was made in jest, but several sources are cited as claiming that it was absolutely serious.

Former Labor Defence Minister Peter Kilfoyle has challenged the Blair government to publish the transcript of the leaders' private conversation.

Britain is prosecuting someone for allegedly leaking the contents of this memo under the Official Secrets Act.

In 2001 al-Jazeera's Afghanistan office in Kabul was hit by two US bombs. In 2003, al-Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub was killed in a US missile strike on the station's Baghdad headquarters.


Monday, November 21, 2005

The unpopularity of Bush's war

Wars are almost always initially popular. Public support for the President typically increases when wars began.

However, the longer the US is at war, as casualties mount, the popularity of war declines -- as does presidential popularity.

In March 2003, only 25% of the public thought that the Iraq war was a mistake.

By October 2003, that figure was 40%.

By June 2004, 54% thought the war was a mistake. That figure hasn't really budged and may be creeping up. It is unlikely that the public will change its mind. An article by Linda Feldmann in today's Christian Science Monitor notes the implications for US policy:
analysts say, once someone loses confidence in the conduct of a war, it is exceedingly difficult to woo them back.

Pollster Daniel Yankelovich, writing in the September/October 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, states that "in my judgment the Bush administration has about a year before the public's impatience will force it to change course."
John Mueller of Ohio State refers to an emerging "Iraq syndrome," which I discussed here more than a year ago.
The just-released quadrennial survey of American attitudes toward foreign policy - produced jointly by the Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations - shows a revival of isolationism. Now, 42 percent of Americans say the US should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own" - up from 30 percent in 2002.

According to Pew Research Center director Andrew Kohut, that 42 percent figure is also similar to how the US public felt in the mid-1970s, at the end of the Vietnam War, and in the 1990s, at the end of the cold war.
So, again, more evidence that the current president has weakened American national security.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Iraq "Threat"

I've got a community talk to prep for tomorrow and a big stack of papers to grade. Thus, don't expect much blogging for a couple of days.

To tide you over:
Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 80

Updated - February 11, 2004

Edited by Jeffrey Richelson

Originally posted December 20, 2002
Hat tip to Deep Blade, who has been confronting Professor John C. McAdams of Marquette University about the argument that "Bush lied."

McAdams, who is a scholar of American politics, seems to be branching out from his more typical pursuit -- debunking various conspiracy-related claims about President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

McAdams is interested in truth, so I offer this: It is simplistic to claim that Bush lied, but it is very misleading and incomplete to argue that the administration sold the Iraq war for the reasons it provided at the time. While "almost everyone" suspected that Iraq had chemical weapons (and perhaps biological weapons), the nuclear claim was critical to the war and was quite dubious. Lots of international security experts were convinced of this at the time -- especially after Mohammed elBaradei testified in March 2003.

Big name scholars like University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer and Harvard's Steve Walt were arguing that Iraq was not a threat to the US....EVEN IF the administration's assumptions about Iraqi weapons were true.

The administration willfully distorted the truth and played up a minor threat. The Downing Street Memo from July 23, 2002, makes clear that even the UK realized that the Bush adminstration was out for war against Iraq, regardless of the facts:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
Former anti-terror chief Richard Clarke makes the same charge. So does former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.

The policy was to invade Iraq. 9/11 and WMD provided the dubious rationale.

All of us have a responsibility to ask, "Why?"

If all this is not enough to keep you busy over the weekend, then go back and read Dr. Glen Rangwala's "Claims and evaluations of Iraq's proscribed weapons."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Quick history lesson

Clinton did it too, right?
Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate)



Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act.
As for that part:

(a) AUTHORITY TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE- The President may provide to the Iraqi democratic opposition organizations designated in accordance with section 5 the following assistance:

(2) MILITARY ASSISTANCE- (A) The President is authorized to direct the drawdown of defense articles from the stocks of the Department of Defense, defense services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training for such organizations.

(B) The aggregate value (as defined in section 644(m) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961) of assistance provided under this paragraph may not exceed $97,000,000.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nattering Nabob of Negativism?

One of my former students, anonymously in comments, wrote the following about my continued blogging about Iraq:
As someone who knows you, I personally, I hate to see all this negativity in your blogs... hasn't it gone on long enough? Where's your love of baseball? Is there anything else positive going on worth blogging about? I would find it hard to sign up to take classes under you or anyone else that had such a negative fixation on something.

Keep that statement in mind and consider this: :
In a speech in San Diego in 1970, then Vice President Spiro Agnew used the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism" to describe supposed intellectuals who attacked American policy. "Natter" is defined as "to nag, to find fault peevishly," and a "nabob" is "a native provincial deputy or governor of the old Mogul empire in India; a native district ruler in India" or "European who has become rich in India" or "a very rich man" (Websters New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Deluxe Second Edition). Agnew's speech writers undoubtedly put the terms together because of their alliterative value, but the phrase does paint an interesting although unpleasant word picture of a self-important person nagging and criticizing everyone else.
The phrase, "nattering nabobs of negativity," was apparently coined by then-Agnew speechwriter William Safire.

Then again, the continued criticism did bring down both Agnew and Richard Nixon.


You can read my reply in comments, but I should note that this statement has been on my blog since the day it began in September 2003:
I'm interested in international relations, American foreign policy, globalization, US presidential elections, public debate...and major league baseball. Not necessarily in that order.
My critique of the war in Iraq covers multiple areas -- the most important issue in American foreign policy, presidential politics, and public debate.

In fact, I consider the Iraq war among the largest mistakes in American foreign policy in at least the past 30 years. Should I ignore it and move on?

It's not going to happen.

Note: In April, I did accurately predict the 2005 NL MVP, as well as the 2004 AL MVP. Don't ask about most of my other baseball predictions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

G.W. Bush: partisan revisionist historian

Last Friday was Veteran's Day, President Bush used the opportunity to play partisan politico and revisionist historian. He spoke the following words at the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Tobyhanna, PA.
And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war. When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I accept the responsibilities, and the criticisms, and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision.

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power. (Applause.)

The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. (Applause.) These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. (Applause.) Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. (Applause.) And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory.
Where to start?

Congress voted to authorize the use of force in October 2002, over five months before President Bush went to war on March 19, 2003. The resolution included numerous caveats as the President was supposed to use his judgment as to whether or not Saddam Hussein and Iraq posed a threat that needed to be addressed with military force.

The President's sequencing is totally wrong. Congress simply did not approve a firm presidential decision to remove Saddam Hussein.

The administration continually said throughout fall 2002 and into 2003 that it hoped to avoid the use of force and that the resolution would help assure America's leverage in negotiations to return the international weapons inspectors to Iraq. Congress did not declare war in October 2002; it authorized presidential discretion so as to pursue this gambit. On many occasions, White House officials signalled even that Saddam Hussein could stay in power if he disarmed.

Once the weapons inspectors were in Iraq, however, the administration seemed to ignore their words and deeds -- except when they thought the words supported their hawkish position. I've frequently cited the IAEA finding after hundreds of on-site inspections: there was no evidence that Iraq had a nuclear program.

Did Congress take a second vote to approve a war? No, Bush went to war.

Did John Kerry and other Dems who voted for the use of force resolution in October 2002 support war in March 2003? No, Bush went to war.

Did the world community think the evidence from the inspections justified war? No, Bush went to war.

Did the UN authorize the use of "any means necessary" to disarm Iraq or remove Saddam Hussein from power? No, Bush went to war.

The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the administration did not unduly pressure the intelligence analysts who were investigating Iraq, but it explicitly did not examine the administration's use of that data in its push for war. Many of the most inflammatory claims came before the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate was produced.

Likewise, neither the Senate nor the Robb-Silberman Commission examined the independent intelligence shop that Doug Feith was running from the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon. That's one reason Dems want Phase 2 of the intelligence investigation.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The administration's deceptions

In the wake of President Bush's Veteran's Day speech and the Senate Intelligence Committee decision (finally) to begin "Phase 2" of their investigation of the use of pre-war Iraq intelligence, Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall, and other prominent bloggers are revisiting this question: "Did the Bush administration mislead the country during the runup to the Iraq war?"

During the discussion of this issue, a number of related questions always recur, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to compile my answers.

1. Did Congress vote to go to war in October 2002?

On October 13, 2004, I wrote "Keeping Track of One Lie."

Also relevant, July 26, 2004 entry: "Kerry's Iraq Vote."

And, September 23, 2004: "Did Kerry Vote for War or Leverage?"

2. Did Congress vote "to remove Saddam Hussein from power" (as the President claimed) -- or were they voting for disarmament?

On January 15, 2004, I wrote "The Disarmament Mission."

See also, my January 10, 2004 entry "A Better Case?"

3. Was the question of political manipulation of intelligence already investigated, either by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence or the so-called Robb/Silberman Commission?

On July 9, 2004, I examined the new "Senate Intelligence Report."

April 2, 2005, I looked at Robb/Silberman: "Presidential Intell Commission."

4. Did "everyone" believe that Iraq had WMD?

January 25, 2004, I blogged "Which analysts said "no WMD" before the war?"

On July 16, 2004, I wrote "Powell's 'Ad - Lie' Presentation."

This is also relevant: February 3, 2004: "Blair too calls for WMD inquiry."

5. Did Congress have access to the same intelligence?

January 19, 2004, I blogged about the administration's efforts to cherry-pick worst-case intelligence: "Good Read: The Lie Factory."

After making the worst-case, they stripped away the caveats. See my reports of February 20, 2004, "Working Group Publicity," and January 27, 2004, "New Spin on Iraq."

See also January 28, 2004: "David Kay Visits Congress."

6. Did the Duelfer Report prove that Iraq actually had a threatening WMD program?

My most extensive remarks are in this November 9, 2004 report on the "Oil for Food Scandal."

7. Would the US have gone to war if Iraq merely had chemical and biological arms, rather than nuclear weapons?

See my October 10, 2004 entry "War fever?"

And check these out: December 9, 2003, "His Gift from the Wizard: A Spine!" and October 25, 2003, "Imminent threat?"

This is related, from August 19, 2005: "New Report: Iraq WMD intell was willfully distorted."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

UK Identity Card Followup

Katherine Courtney, Director of the United Kingdom's Identity Cards Programme, notes in the October 2005 issue of the IMIS Journal:
“Twenty-one of the 25 member states in the European Union already have some form of identity cards, and the information that will be contained on the proposed ID cards in the UK will be no more than is currently stored on an individual’s passport or driving licence.”
IMIS stands for the Institute for the Management of Information Systems.

The controversial ID card completed its parliamentary committee process in July, so it is slowly moving toward implementation. Assuming the bill passes, the British government hopes to have the first identity cards issued in 2008. The card is designed to help the UK prevent terrorism, control and/or manage immigration, curtain fraudulent access to government services, and assure "accredited users" efficient confirmation of their identity.

The programme will certainly be unprecedented. Ms. Courtney, again:
"with 90 to 100 million records, each holding at least three pieces of biometric data on an individual, we expect ours to be the largest programme of its kind in the world.”
The three biometrics will be "iris, facial, and fingerprint." It's actually 13 sources of biometric info if you count each finger and eye separately.

I blogged previously about this topic in December 2003.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Over in the right column, you'll find a Feedburner RSS link that I just set up.

Subscribe now.

I've been trying to figure out if anyone is reading the RSS. Feedburner provides a count.

That counter is currently at 0.

Happy reading.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bush administration ethics, cont.

Former Admiral John Poindexter was appointed to head the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness Office sometime before February 12, 2002. He resigned August 12, 2003.

This is from the "Executive Summary" of the Iran-Contra Report by the Special Prosecutor, August 1993:
...the Iran operations were carried out with the knowledge of, among others, President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George Bush, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey, and national security advisers Robert C. McFarlane and John M. Poindexter; of these officials, only Weinberger and Shultz dissented from the policy decision, and Weinberger eventually acquiesced by ordering the Department of Defense to provide the necessary arms;

Poindexter in April 1990 was convicted by a jury on five felony counts of conspiracy, false statements, destruction and removal of records and obstruction of Congress.

...[White House Chief of Staff Donald] Regan in 1992 provided Independent Counsel with copies of notes showing that Poindexter and Meese attempted to create a false account of the 1985 arms sales from Israeli stocks, which they believed were illegal, in order to protect the President.
The White House, February 25, 2002:
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me just say about Admiral Poindexter, Admiral Poindexter is somebody who this administration thinks is an outstanding American and an outstanding citizen who has done a very good job in what he has done for our country, serving in the military....The President thinks that Admiral Poindexter has served our nation very well.
The convictions were reversed in 1991 on the grounds that the prosecution's evidence may have been tainted by exposure to Poindexter's testimony before the joint House-Senate committee investigating the matter, which testimony was compelled by a grant of "use immunity".

Thursday, November 10, 2005

That was then....this is now

There's so much talk about ethics in Washington, I thought it would be useful to examine the Bush administration in a bit more detail.

In the next few days, I'm planning to look back at the FINAL REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL FOR IRAN/CONTRA MATTERS (Lawrence Walsh), August 4, 1993.

And then I'll provide an update as to the whereabouts of the individuals under discussion.

Let's start with Elliott Abrams. This is from Walsh's "Executive Summary":
[O]n November 25, 1986...Attorney General Meese announced that Justice Department officials had discovered that some of the proceeds from the Iran arms sales had been diverted to the contras.

When these operations ended, the exposure of the Iran/contra affair generated a new round of illegality. Beginning with the testimony of Elliott Abrams and others in October 1986 and continuing through the public testimony of Caspar W. Weinberger on the last day of the congressional hearings in the summer of 1987, senior Reagan Administration officials engaged in a concerted effort to deceive Congress and the public about their knowledge of and support for the operations.

...Abrams pleaded guilty in October 1991 to two counts of withholding information from Congress about secret Government efforts to support the contras, and about his solicitation of $10 million to aid the contras from the Sultan of Brunei.
December 24, 1992, George H.W. Bush pardoned Abrams.

The White House, February 2, 2005:
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Stephen Hadley announced today the appointment of Elliott Abrams as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy...

In his capacity as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy, Mr. Abrams will assist Mr. Hadley in work on the promotion of democracy and human rights, and will provide oversight to the NSC's directorate of Democracy, Human Rights, and International Organization Affairs and its directorate of Near East and North African Affairs. Working with Secretary Rice and Mr. Hadley, he will maintain his involvement in Israeli/Palestinian affairs.
From 1996 through 2001, when he wasn't working with colleagues at the Project for a New American Century, Abrams was President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Election: countdown to 2006 midterms

Tuesday was election day and many Democrats are smiling because New Jersey and Virginia elected new governors from their party. Of course, the outgoing governors were also Democrats, so these results were not exactly earth-shattering.

There are much bigger fish to fry.

If the 2006 midterm elections could have been held on Tuesday, Democrats apparently would have reclaimed the Congress. From ABC News:
Indeed, 55 percent of Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say they'd like to see the Democrats take control of Congress in 2006. And if the election were today, registered voters would favor the Democrat in their congressional district by 52 percent to 37 percent.
I've already received an email from a blogger working for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wanting me to link to his attack on Louisville's Representative Anne Northup.

Northup is a shrewd politician and I doubt that many of these attacks will stick. She survived accusations that she was a Newt Gingrich crony, so current efforts to link her to Tom DeLay are probably insufficient to topple Northup -- even if she is among the top ten recipients of cash from DeLay's PAC.

It is kind of interesting that she received a score of ZERO from the National PTA on education issues in 2003-2004. Then again, Mitch McConnell got the same score and he's had little difficulty winning in this state.

The same is true of the ZERO score Northup (and McConnell) received from the Disabled American Vets.

In fact, it would appear from the scores that the test votes selected to make the ratings were highly partisan issues that completely split Republicans and Democrats. I think it's a bad measure if a substantial portion of the respondents receive 0 and many more receive 100.

Would you trust a grade school test for your child if the likely outcomes were all or nothing? I'd suspect the motives or actions of the teacher, wouldn't you?

Tim Saler, the blogger for the DCCC, mentions that Northup supports private Social Security accounts -- as a means of "reforming" the program. True, Northup and other Republicans might be vulnerable on that issue.

Then again, after a lot of talk, nobody actually did anything to change Social Security for the worse. And many people embrace the Republican fantasy, supported by their sleight of hand -- preservation of current Social Security benefits with the addition of private accounts.

Naturally, I believe Saler is correct that Anne Northup should lose because of her politics, but he is missing the elephant in the room.

Most importantly to me, the piece doesn't mention Iraq at all, though the constituent mail I've received from Northup's office continued to tout the threats from Saddam Hussein's Iraq long after it became clear that these were greatly exaggerated.

Republicans are in decline because Iraq is a disaster. Her 2006 Democratic challenger needs to point out that Northup has used incredibly poor judgment supporting a war that is killing a few soldiers every day or two, draining American economic resources, and making America both hated and feared around the world.

Moreover, the war is likely increasing the threats to the US by motivating new terrorists and hastening the proliferation incentives of states like Iran and North Korea.

To me, that's a winning issue because it is vitally important. What is more central to a nation than the question of war and peace?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jocks for Justice

Who, in the wild world of sports, speaks out for peace and social justice in the way that Muhammad Ali once did? After all, this is the age of Nike endorsements and globalization, not protest.

Well, did you hear about the former Argentine soccer star who is speaking out against the Free Trade Area of the Americas? You probably did because it was in the news this past weekend.

From the BBC:
[Ex-soccer star Diego Maradona] "has become the unlikely champion of the anti-American demonstrations being held around the Summit of the Americas that George Bush has been attending.

Maradona presents a hit television show and the latest edition features an interview with the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, berating the United States and supporting Maradona and Argentina in their efforts to combat pressure from the US for more free trade and help in the war against terrorism."
Maybe you also heard about the pro basketball player, Etan Thomas of the Washington Wizards, who spoke out in September in the televised aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
“Giving all honor, thanks and praises to God for courage and wisdom, this is a very important rally. I'd like to thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding a tremendous problem that we are currently facing. This problem is universal, transcending race, economic background, religion, and culture, and this problem is none other than the current administration which has set up shop in the White House....

They keep telling us all is equal. I’d tell them that instead of giving tax breaks to the rich, financing corporate mergers and leading us into unnecessary wars and under-table dealings with Enron and Halliburton, maybe they can work on making society more peaceful. Instead, they take more and more money out of inner city schools, give up on the idea of rehabilitation and build more prisons for poor people. With unemployment continuing to rise like a deficit, it's no wonder why so many think that crime pays.
Read the whole thing, it's great.

Finally, and this is a bit older, did you know about the major league baseball player who has been protesting the war in Iraq?

Ron Borges, MSNBC, July 22, 2004:
[Then-Toronto First baseman Carlos] Delgado is the leading anti-war activist in major league baseball. He actually has thought about the U.S. invasion of Iraq and come to the conclusion that more and more Americans and more than a few shame-faced politicians finally have come to as well.

"I think it's the stupidest war ever," the Blue Jays' power-hitting first baseman told the Toronto Star earlier this month
Delgado says he is "Not pro-war. I'm anti-war. I'm for peace."

The Muhammad Ali Center will be opening in Louisville, KY, November 20, 2005. "The Ali Center will reach beyond four walls to promote respect, hope and understanding and motivate visitors to pursue their own paths to greatness."

The Cabal, as seen by an insider

If you haven't yet done so, I encourage you to read the transcript of the Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (Ret.) talk to the New America Foundation on Wednesday, October 19, 2005: "The Bush Administration’s National Security Decision Making Process."

Wilkerson was Colin Powell's Chief of Staff at the State Department, 2002-2005.

You've probably already seen this quote in the newspaper:
But the case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process. What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.
Wilkerson points out that Congress has abandoned its oversight responsibility of the decision-making process and that the situation is especially problematic because of this administration's tremendous secrecy -- and because of Cheney's former ties to Halliburton:
what I was seeing was an extremely weak national security advisor, and an extremely powerful vice president, and an extremely powerful in the issues that impacted him secretary of Defense – remember, a vice president who has been secretary of Defense too and obviously has an inclination that way, and also has known the secretary of Defense for a long time, and also is a member of what Dwight Eisenhower warned about – God bless Eisenhower – in 1961 in his farewell address, the military industrial complex – and don’t you think they aren’t among us today – in a concentration of power that is just unparalleled.
Wilkerson criticizes the current Bush's "ineptitude" and "gracelessness," but praises George H.W. Bush for his diplomacy. Cheney, who served in both administrations, has arguably changed beyond recognition because of an apparent fixation with the risk of a nuclear 9/11.

There are other provocative ideas. He says the military faces two major problems -- one from the shame of the detainee abuse scandals ("we'll probably have to grow a new military") and one from the "brewing" recruitment problems faced by the Army and the Marine Corps ("my army right now is truly in bad shape").

Wilkerson favors the merger of the State and Defense Departments!

And Wilkerson doesn't think the Bush administration has offered a cogent explanation of why the US is in Iraq.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Phase II

Earlier this week, Democrats used Senate rules to force the completion of the second phase of the Intelligence Committee's investigation into Iraq-related intelligence.

Phase II is supposed to investigate the Bush administration's uses of the Iraq information.

What might the Senate find?

Here are some things I'd like them to unearth:

1. Office of Special Plans was thoroughly politicized.

Ranking Democrat Jay Rockefeller already wondered aloud if the Pentagon's Doug Feith was "running a private intelligence failure, which is not lawful." Various journalists have charged that OSP received information directly from the Iraqi National Congress -- and then "stovepiped" that data to the White House and Office of the Vice President. INC already says that the bogus intelligence didn't matter since the group succeeded in achieving its political goals. Is the same true of the Feith-based crowd?

2. The key intelligence report followed the political uses of the intelligence, not vice versa.

The White House was making bold statements about alleged Iraq threats before any new National Intelligence Estimate was produced. Veep Dick Cheney talked tough to the VFW in August and President Bush lectured the UN in mid-September. Condi Rice worried about smoking gun mushroom clouds on national TV in September.

The NIE came out in October.

3. Analysts were forced to work with politicians looking over their shoulders.

The administration denies that it pressured CIA analysts, but Cheney and Scooter Libby apparently visited Langley on multiple occasions to challenge the intelligence analysts working on Iraq.

4. The attempt to discredit Joe Wilson meant that intelligence was politicized.

Someone leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Robert Novak in order to discredit Wilson -- and perhaps to silence future critics. We still don't know who talked to Novak. Patrick Fitzgerald might not be willing to say anything more than "Official A," but the Senate can learn the truth and expose the leaker.

5. The administration ignored the caveats in the intelligence data and completely overlooked the 2003 IAEA and UN findings.

Go back sometime and look at the certainty in the administration's words. Officials kept using these clauses when talking about Iraqi WMD: "there is no doubt," "we know for a fact," "intelligence...leaves no doubt," "there is no question," etc. And they compounded this error by not only ignoring the IAEA, but also by denigrating the institution that got it right.

How to exit Iraq

Drs. W. Andrew Terrill and Conrad C. Crane have been thinking about how the US might get out of Iraq. This is their free monograph: "Precedents, Variables, and Options in Planning a U.S. Military Disengagement Strategy from Iraq." It is published by the US Army War College and looks to be a good read.

Here's the synopsis:
The questions of how to empower the Iraqis most effectively and then progressively withdraw non-Iraqi forces from that country is one of the most important policy problems currently facing the United States. The authors seek to present the U.S. situation in Iraq in all of its complexity and ambiguity, with policy recommendations for how that withdrawal strategy might be most effectively implemented. They consider previous instances of U.S. military occupation of foreign countries and the difficulty of maintaining domestic support for such operations. The authors view the empowerment of a viable Iraqi central government and a security force to defend its authority as vital to the future of that country, but also suggest that there are severe constraints on the potential for the United States to sustain its military presence in that country at the current level. They conclude that the United States must be prepared to withdraw from Iraq under non-optimal conditions and that the chief U.S. goals should be to devise an exit strategy for Iraq that focuses on bolstering Iraqi government legitimacy even if this does not involve creating a Western style democracy. The authors strongly reject the idea [of] withdrawing from Iraq by the use of a formal timetable, and call for the U.S. to continue its policy of renouncing permanent Iraqi bases. (emphasis added)
From what I know of the institution, it would have been difficult to write this paper without the idea in the first clause of the last sentence.

I'll try to read it over the weekend.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Secret prisons

The Washington Post reported on November 2 that the "CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons."
The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.
Guess what? This is bad for transparency:
The existence and locations of the facilities -- referred to as "black sites" in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents -- are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country....

Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long.
We may not know what happens in these prisons, but we have our suspicions, eh?

After all, we've all seen the Pawn Shop scene in Pulp Fiction.

From ABC:
"The one overriding reason for such a facility is to torture those in detention," said Mark Garlasco of Human Rights Watch. "So that they are away from any prying eyes from the public and from the media."
The administration denies that any torture occurs.

Prove it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Full Niger Forgery Story?

Josh Marshall has posted the "first of a series of installments I'm going to publish here at TPM in which I will lay out the story as I understand it based on my own reporting and research."

Coincidentally (?), Philip Giraldi has written "Forging the Case for War: Who was behind the Niger uranium documents?" in The American Conservative, November 21.
At this point, any American connection to the actual forgeries remains unsubstantiated, though the OSP at a minimum connived to circumvent established procedures to present the information directly to receptive policy makers in the White House. But if the OSP is more deeply involved, Michael Ledeen, who denies any connection with the Niger documents, would have been a logical intermediary in co-ordinating the falsification of the documents and their surfacing, as he was both a Pentagon contractor and was frequently in Italy. He could have easily been assisted by ex-CIA friends from Iran-Contra days, including a former Chief of Station from Rome, who, like Ledeen, was also a consultant for the Pentagon and the Iraqi National Congress.
Giraldi is a former CIA Officer and "a partner in Cannistraro Associates, an international security consultancy."