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July 18, 2003

Okay, one more before I go

If you will forgive the language, this shit is seriously fucked up. From Creative Loafing:

"That was my mom," I tell them. "The FBI's coming for me." They laugh; it's a good joke, especially when the FBI actually shows up. They are not the bogeymen I had been expecting. They're dressed casually, they speak familiarly, but they are big. The one in front stands close to 7 feet, and you can tell his partner is built like a bulldog under his baggy shirt and shorts.

"You Marc Schultz?" asks the tall one. He shows me his badge, introduces himself as Special Agent Clay Trippi. After assuring me that I'm not in trouble, he asks if there is someplace we can sit down and talk. We head back to Reference, where a table and chairs are set up. We sit down, and I'm again informed that I am not in trouble.

Then, Agent Trippi asks, "Do you drive a black Nissan Altima?" And I realize this meeting is not about a friend. Despite their reassurances, and despite the fact that I haven't committed any federal offenses (that I know of), I'm starting to feel a bit like I'm in trouble.

They ask me if I was driving my car on Saturday, and I say, reasonably sure, that I was. They ask me where I went, and I struggle for a moment to remember Saturday. I make a lame joke about how the days run together when you're underemployed. They smile politely. Was I at work on Saturday? I think so.

"Were you at the Caribou Coffee on Powers Ferry?" asks Agent Trippi. That's where I get my coffee before work, and so I tell him yes, probably, just before remembering Saturday: Harry Potter day, opening early, in at 8:30.

So I would have been at Caribou Coffee that Saturday, getting my small coffee, room for cream. This information seems to please the agents.

"Did you notice anything unusual, anyone worth commenting on?" OK, I think. It's the unusual guy they want, not me. I think hard, wondering if it was Saturday I saw the guy in the really cool reclining wheelchair, the guy who struck me as a potential James Bondian supervillain, but no: That was Monday.

Then they ask if I carried anything into the shop -- and we're back to me.

My mind races. I think: a bomb? A knife? A balloon filled with narcotics? But no. I don't own any of those things. "Sunglasses," I say. "Maybe my cell phone?"

Not the right answer. I'm nervous now, wondering how I must look: average, mid-20s, unassuming retail employee. What could I have possibly been carrying?

Trippi's partner speaks up: "Any reading material? Papers?" I don't think so. Then Trippi decides to level with me: "I'll tell you what, Marc. Someone in the shop that day saw you reading something, and thought it looked suspicious enough to call us about. So that's why we're here, just checking it out. Like I said, there's no problem. We'd just like to get to the bottom of this. Now if we can't, then you may have a problem. And you don't want that."

You don't want that? Have I just been threatened by the FBI? Confusion and a light dusting of panic conspire to keep me speechless. Was I reading something that morning? Something that would constitute a problem?

The partner speaks up again: "Maybe a printout of some kind?"

Then it occurs to me: I was reading. It was an article my dad had printed off the Web. I remember carrying it into Caribou with me, reading it in line, and then while stirring cream into my coffee. I remember bringing it with me to the store, finishing it before we opened. I can't remember what the article was about, but I'm sure it was some kind of left-wing editorial, the kind that never fails to incite me to anger and despair over the state of the country.

Here's the article that got the author in trouble. Tell me again about how the innocent have nothing to hide...?

(My cartoon runs in both of these papers. Wonder if reading it will qualify somebody for a visit from Agent Trippi someday?)

Via skippy.


July 17, 2003

Here's my hat, what's my hurry

A busy weekend ahead, and then I'm off to the Emerald Isle. I'll try to get a few posts up as circumstances allow, but for the most part, this site now officially returns to energy saver mode for awhile. (And you'd probably be smart to hold off on emailing me until I get back, lest your message get lost in the inevitable avalanche.)

Oh, one more thing: don't forget to buy the book. Seriously--I'm counting on you to make this thing a success. ("Success" being a relative term, of course.)

As they used to say on The Prisoner: be seeing you.

Make of this what you will

Judicial Watch was one of the conservative groups that went after Clinton, on Richard Mellon Scaife's dime, back in the day. At the time, founder Larry Klayman stated, ""I take it to heart when I see the government not telling the truth, not doing the right thing and covering up."

And what do you know? It looks like he meant it.

(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption and abuse, said today that documents turned over by the Commerce Department, under court order as a result of Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force, contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as 2 charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” The documents, which are dated March 2001, are available on the Internet at: www.JudicialWatch.org.

The documents are here. There's a transcript of Bill Moyers interviewing Klayman here.

Afterthought: if this is on the level, the implications are extraordinary. I always had it in the back of my mind that Cheney was stonewalling on the energy task force to hide the corruption, the ties to Enron and so on. But what if the sons of bitches were sitting around deciding how to divvy up Iraq? What if that most reductionist of slogans is a simple statement of fact: it's all about the oil?

Update: I am informed that the lawsuit was filed jointly by Judicial Watch and Sierra Club, a fact which Judicial Watch did not choose to highlight in its press release.

Propaganda remix

Seven Stories just sent me a copy of Micah Ian Wright’s collection, You Back the Attack, We’ll Bomb Who We Want! It’s great to see all of these pieces collected in one volume, with accompanying commentary, and even an index which reprints the original posters he used for source material. I was also interested to learn that Wright is a vet who spent "four years invading other countries as an Airborne Ranger." My only quibble is that Wright’s work really deserves a larger format than 6x9, but don’t let that stop you from buying it.

(I’m not sure why more publishers don’t send me relevant releases, given this site’s large and extremely targeted audience, cough cough hint hint.)

A new era of responsibility

A remarkable exchange between the White House Press Corps and Ari's replacement, Scott McClellan (for which we are indebted to Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo--so go spend some time over there, okay?)

QUESTION: Regardless of whether or not there was pressure from the White House for that line, I'm wondering where does the buck stop in this White House? Does it stop at the CIA, or does it stop in the Oval Office?

Scott McClellan: Again, this issue has been discussed. You're talking about some of the comments that -- some that are --

QUESTION: I'm not talking about anybody else's comments. I'm asking the question, is responsibility for what was in the President's own State of the Union ultimately with the President, or with somebody else?

Scott McClellan: This has been discussed.

QUESTION: So you won't say that the President is responsible for his own State of the Union speech?

Scott McClellan: It's been addressed.

QUESTION: Well, that's an excellent question. That is an excellent question. (Laughter.) Isn't the President responsible for the words that come out of his own mouth?

Scott McClellan: We've already acknowledged, Terry, that it should not have been included in there. I think that the American people appreciate that recognition.

QUESTION: You acknowledge that, but you blame somebody else for it. Is the President responsible for the things that he said in the State of the Union?

Scott McClellan: Well, the intelligence -- you're talking about intelligence that -- sometimes you later learn more information about intelligence that you didn't have previously. But when we're clearing a speech like that, it goes through the various agencies to look at that information and --

QUESTION: And so when there's intelligence in a speech, the President is not responsible for that?

Scott McClellan: We appreciate Director Tenet saying that he should have said, take it out.

QUESTION: But it's the President's fault.

Scott McClellan: In fact, if you look back at it, I mean, we did take out a different reference, a reference based on different sources in a previous speech because it was said -- the CIA Director said, take it out.

QUESTION: Let me come back to your "nonsense" statement here, and let me slice it as thinly as I possibly can, just growing out of what Scott asked. Is it nonsense to say that the White House wanted this information included in the State of the Union and negotiated with the CIA to find a way to put it in to the State of the Union?

Scott McClellan: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Is it nonsense to say that the White House wanted this information in the speech and went through negotiations with the CIA on a way to get it in the speech?

Scott McClellan: That there were discussions? Speech drafts go -- we've stated that these speeches go out to the principals, it goes out to the State, it goes out to DOD, it goes out to CIA, when it's going through the drafting process.

QUESTION: Scott, you said it was "nonsense" to say that the White House was pressuring the CIA to put this in the speech. Is it nonsense to say --

Scott McClellan: I think the question that you asked about was that someone was insisting --

QUESTION: Durbin said, a White House official insisted --

Scott McClellan: -- insisting that it be put in there in an effort to mislead the American people, I think is what --

QUESTION: You didn't explicitly give a motive.

Scott McClellan: And I said I think that's just nonsense.

QUESTION: I'm just trying to slice it a little bit narrowly, to say, is it nonsense to say that the White House wanted this information in the speech and negotiated with the CIA on a way to get it in the speech?

Scott McClellan: Are you asking me to characterize the discussions that occur going on during the speech drafting process? I don't --

QUESTION: I'm saying, does your "nonsense" statement apply to the idea that the White House wanted it in the speech and negotiated with the CIA on a way to get it in the speech?

Scott McClellan: I think that it still goes back to, these drafts go to the various agencies, it goes to the CIA, this is an intelligence matter. It was based on information in the National Intelligence Estimate. That's the consensus document of the intelligence community, and that's what the information was based on in that speech.

QUESTION: So what I asked you about in that speech, your "nonsense" statement --

Scott McClellan: I'm trying to walk you --

QUESTION: You're trying to walk me out the door. (Laughter.)

Scott McClellan: I'm trying to walk you through this.

QUESTION: So your nonsense statement doesn't apply to what I just asked you?

Scott McClellan: I'm trying to walk you through the drafting process. And that's why I was trying to put it in context, so you understand how this occurs.

QUESTION: Scott, on Keith's question, why can't we just expect, basically what would be a non-answer, which is, of course the President is responsible for everything that comes out of his mouth. I mean, that's a non-answer. Why can't you just say that?

Scott McClellan: This issue has been addressed over the last several days.

QUESTION: Why won't you say that, though, that's, like, so innocuous and benign.

Scott McClellan: The issue has been addressed.

This is interesting

(Note: I've bumped this up on the page due to the update at the bottom of the entry.)

WASHINGTON -- CIA Director George Tenet told members of Congress a White House official insisted that President Bush's State of the Union address include an assertion about Saddam Hussein's nuclear intentions that had not been verified, a Senate Intelligence Committee member said Thursday.

Sen. Dick Durbin, who was present for a 4 1/2-hour appearance by Tenet behind closed doors with Intelligence Committee members Wednesday, said Tenet named the official. But the Illinois Democrat said that person's identity could not be revealed because of the confidentiality of the proceedings.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan was quick to dispute Durbin's account. "That characterization is nonsense. It's not surprising, coming from someone who was in a rather small minority in Congress who did not support the action we took," McClellan told reporters.

Durbin, appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America," said that Tenet "certainly told us who the person was who was insistent on putting this language in which the CIA knew to be incredible, this language about the uranium shipment from Africa."

"And there was this negotiation between the White House and the CIA about just how far you could go and be close to the truth and unfortunately those sixteen words were included in the most important speech the president delivers in any given year," Durbin added.

More. Seems unlikely that Durbin would make this up out of whole cloth, though I suppose it is, as Tony Blair might say, "not beyond the bounds of possibility."

What we need now is for somebody to leak a name…

UPDATE: Looks like the name was leaked.

Durbin said that during the closed-door hearing, Tenet told the lawmakers that a White House official insisted the State of the Union address include the assertion about Saddam’s nuclear intentions. Durbin said that person’s identity could not be revealed because of the confidentiality of the proceedings, but sources, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity, said that Tenet “reluctantly” identified the official as National Security Council member Robert Joseph. One source said that the revelation led to a series of questions about Joseph’s role.

I'm not sure if Tenet's reluctant revelation is new as of this NBC report (dated today), but NSC Special Assistant to the President Robert Joseph (who is apparently the staffer who reports to Condoleeza Rice on nuclear proliferation) was reported as denying that he said any such thing as early as July 13. If the denial does pre-date Tenet's allegation--and I repeat, as a lone blogger just trying to piece together news stories, I don't know if it does--perhaps it was pre-emptive.

At the very least, ladies and gentlemen, I think we have another candidate for "fall guy."

As Drudge would say, "Developing..."

I'm not going to be around much for awhile, but I'm sure Atrios, Kos, skippy and many others will stay on top of this.

One more update: The NBC evening news is reporting that the White House may use executive privilege to keep Joseph from testifying before the intelligence committee. Not that they have anything to hide, mind you.

Er, not exactly

Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe:

Let's see. Before the current frenzy over those 16 dubious words in the State of the Union address, there was the frenzy over the inability of allied troops in Iraq to find a weapons of mass destruction ''smoking gun'' - stockpiles of banned nerve gas and lethal biological agents.

Before that, there was the frenzy over the administration's failure to prevent the post-liberation pillaging of more than 170,000 treasures from the Iraqi National Museum - a frenzy that faded when it turned out the real number was closer to 50.

The actual lowball estimate at this point is 13,000 from the storage room, and another 47* from the exhibition room.

Of course, it is technically true that 13,047 is closer to 50 than it is to 170,000...but I don't think that's what he meant.

(And you gotta love the dismissive reference to a "frenzy over the inability" to find WMDs. As if anyone who actually expected the administration to find the very rationale for the war is just some kind of hysterical nincompoop.)

*This number was initially reported in an AP article as 47,000, but all the subsequent articles I've seen on the topic report it as 47, so my guess is that the AP report was a typo. More bad information to muddy the water, unfortunately, though I'm sure there are plenty of people who will be willing to split the difference and call it, well, 33.

Why now?

Timothy Noah wonders:

But what makes the yellowcake lie so special? That it was a justification for going to war? Then what about Bush's comic insistence in May that "We've found the weapons of mass destruction"? That lie was arguably worse than the yellowcake lie, because it was retrospective rather than speculative, and more demonstrably untrue. What about the cost of the war, which the Bush administration insisted couldn't be estimated in advance? Larry Lindsey reportedly lost his job as chairman of the National Economic Council for blabbing to the Wall Street Journal that the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. Mitch Daniels, then White House budget director, scoffed at Lindsey's estimate and said the cost would be more like $50 billion or $60 billion. But now the Washington Post is estimating the cost of the war and its aftermath at … $100 billion.

Why was there no media frenzy when Bush lied about this year's tax cut? "My jobs and growth plan would reduce tax rates for everyone who pays income tax," Bush said before Congress passed it. Not so! The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center found 8.1 million taxpayers who would receive no tax cuts. Or what about when Ari Fleischer said the prisoners of war at Guantanamo were "receiving far far better treatment than they received in the life that they were living previously"? This was difficult to square with the fact that there had, at that time, been 27 suicide attempts.

That’s part one, and you should go read the rest. In part two, he answers his own question:

The yellowcake lie landed on Page One solely because it occasioned a brief and fatal departure from the Bush White House's press strategy of stonewalling. "Bush Claim on Iraq Had Flawed Origin, White House Says" read a New York Times headline on July 8. Glancing through the story, Chatterbox initially puzzled over its Page One placement. Didn't we know already that Bush's yellowcake line was a lie? Then Chatterbox realized that the novelty component wasn't the lie, but the Bush administration's admission that it had told a lie. In the Bush White House, this simply isn't done. Observe, for instance, how the new Bush press secretary, Scott McClellan, handled a question yesterday about Bush's weird statement that we went to war because Saddam refused to admit weapons inspectors into Iraq:

A: What he was referring to was the fact that Saddam Hussein was not complying with 1441, that he continued his past pattern and refused to comply with Resolution 1441 of the United Nations Security Council, which was his final opportunity to comply. And the fact that he was trying to thwart the inspectors every step of the way, and keep them from doing their job. So that's what he's referring to in that statement.

Q: But that isn't what he said.

Ignoring this, McClellan moved on to another reporter's question, about North Korea.

But on Yellowcakegate, short-timer Ari Fleischer—after an obviously wearying exchange with reporters in which he conceded that the State of the Union line was based on the erroneous premise that we knew Saddam had sought yellowcake from Niger—let down his guard further and conceded that yes, it had been a mistake to put the story about the yellowcake safari into the State of the Union speech. "Knowing all that we know now," read a prepared statement he put out, "the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech." (Weirdly, Fleischer was identified only as a "senior Bush administration official," even though this was the White House's official pronouncement on the matter.) Joshua Micah Marshall has noted in his Talking Points Memo blog that Fleischer's mea culpa would have been more honest had it begun, "Knowing what we knew then." Still, it was honest enough to electrify the press.

They're going to try to gaslight you

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the classic film of the same name, in which Charles Boyer tries to convince Ingrid Bergman she is going mad, by sneaking around in crawlspaces and making strange noises and causing the gaslights in the house to flicker, and various things like that, and then denying any awareness of these odd goings-on, telling her she must be imagining it all.

That’s what the Bushies and their sycophants are doing, and will be trying to do, to you and me.

They want to convince you that there’s a perfectly plausible explanation for the whole yellowcake thing—such as the idea that the reference wasn’t to Niger at all, but some unnamed other African nation, or that there’s no reason for all this hand-wringing since Tony Blair still sticks by his story (even if he has recently downgraded his defense to saying that it was "not beyond the bounds of possibility," a caveat which could equally encompass dancing elephants giving a performance on the observation deck of the Empire State Building—but I digress.) They want to convince you that the media is just on a witch hunt, there’s nothing to the story at all. They want to convince you that the intelligence was good, that this is all a tempest in a teapot and not worth anyone’s attention at all, move along, move along, there’s absolutely nothing happening here and we certainly didn’t notice the gaslights flickering, no indeed.

All I can say is, keep your eyes open and your bullshit detector set on high. Whatever clever strategy they come up with to distract attention from this thing, or to convince you that you’ve completely misunderstood everything—take it with a grain of salt.


July 16, 2003

Speaking of children's prisons
NEVER again did families in Baghdad imagine that they need fear the midnight knock at the door.

But in recent weeks there have been increasing reports of Iraqi men, women and even children being dragged from their homes at night by American patrols, or snatched off the streets and taken, hooded and manacled, to prison camps around the capital.

Children as young as 11 are claimed to be among those locked up for 24 hours a day in rooms with no light, or held in overcrowded tents in temperatures approaching 50C (122F).


One of the most disturbing incidents concerns Sufiyan Abd al-Ghani, 11, who was with his uncle in a car that was stopped near his home in Hay al-Jihad at just after 10pm on May 27. The boy’s father heard a commotion and rushed outside to see him sprawled face down on the road with a rifle muzzle pressed against his neck and US officers shouting that someone in the car had shot at them.

Sufiyan was made to stay on the ground for three hours, while more than 100 soldiers poured into the neighborhood, searching houses and cars. Eventually he was taken away with his hands trussed behind his back and a hood draped over his head. No weapon had been found. The boy said that soldiers dug rifle butts into his neck and back and that the first night he was handcuffed and left alone in a tiny room open to the sky.

The following day he was moved to the airport, where he said for eight days he shared a tent with 22 adults, sleeping on the dirt, with no water to wash or change his clothes.

Sufiyan said that he was pulled from the tent one morning, hooded and manacled again, and driven to Sarhiyeh prison, to be kept in a room with 20 other youths aged 15 or 16 — regarded as minors by the Geneva Convention.

A woman inmate took his name and details and when she was released she alerted Sufiyan’s family. On June 21, the family obtained an injunction from a judge ordering the boy’s release, but they were told at the prison that the signature of an Iraqi judge no longer had legal authority. Even when an American military lawyer demanded his freedom, US troops refused to release him until the lawyer appeared at the prison. Privately US military lawyers say that they are appalled at how some of the arrests are being carried out.

Story here, via Atrios.

Just to play devil's advocate...

Let's say that the media are unfairly piling on the administration on the yellowcake story. Let's say they really did have some secret evidence of, say, a different African nation selling uranium to Iraq.

But if that's the case, is this (from Donald Rumsfeld) really the best the administration can come up with in its own defense?

"It didn't rise to the standard of a presidential speech, but it's not known, for example, that it was inaccurate. In fact, people think it was technically accurate."

"Technically accurate"? Isn't that what Bill Clinton argued in defense of his "I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky" line? And, gosh, remind me again--how many people died when Clinton lied?


Wrong on so many levels

Reuters photo, via Yahoo News.

Apparently the international space station was booked

According to the Wall Street Journal (print edition) this morning:

Georgia said Sea Island has been chosen to host next year's G-8 summit, in line with recent venues from which protesters can be kept easily.

Running government like a business
WASHINGTON, July 15 — The White House today projected a $455 billion budget deficit in the current fiscal year, by far the government's largest deficit ever and $150 billion higher than what the administration predicted just five months ago.

Democratic lawmakers said the new calculations showed the folly of President Bush's tax cuts and demonstrated that he was mismanaging the economy.

But Joshua B. Bolten, Mr. Bush's new budget director, said a deficit of this magnitude was "manageable if we continue pro-growth economic policies and exercise serious spending discipline."

"Serious spending displine." As is often the case these days, I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

There were simply no better lies left to tell

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

I know I'm mostly vapor lately, due to miscellaneous work, crises, and other assorted chaos. But I just had to point out Wednesday's Washington Post article explaining out the reason for the biggest Big Lie (among many others, less noticed as of yet) in the State Of The Union address:

Bush Faced Dwindling Data on Iraq Nuclear Bid

... a review of speeches and reports, plus interviews with present and former administration officials and intelligence analysts, suggests that between Oct. 7, when President Bush made a speech laying out the case for military action against Hussein, and Jan. 28, when he gave his State of the Union address, almost all the other evidence had either been undercut or disproved by U.N. inspectors in Iraq. [Emphasis added.]

By Jan. 28, in fact, the intelligence report concerning Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa -- although now almost entirely disproved -- was the only publicly unchallenged element of the administration's case that Iraq had restarted its nuclear program. That may explain why the administration strived to keep the information in the speech and attribute it to the British, even though the CIA had challenged it earlier.

For example, in his Oct. 7 speech, Bush said that "satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at [past nuclear] sites." He also cited Hussein's "numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists" as further evidence that the program was being reconstituted, along with Iraq's attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes "needed" for centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

But on Jan. 27 -- the day before the State of the Union address -- the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported to the U.N. Security Council that two months of inspections in Iraq had found that no prohibited nuclear activities had taken place at former Iraqi nuclear sites. As for Iraqi nuclear scientists, Mohamed ElBaradei told the Security Council, U.N. inspectors had "useful" interviews with some of them, though not in private. And preliminary analysis, he said, suggested that the aluminum tubes, "unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges."

The next night, Bush delivered his speech, including the now-controversial 16-word sentence...

GOP mouthpieces can play down the lie all they want -- as if Bush had plenty of other juicy stuff to convince us that Saddam was about to nuke us all to hell.

Um... no. False. Wrong. What they're saying simply isn't true. So at least they and Bush have something in common.

It was just 16 words, they say, as if the dozens of other lies simply aren't there. And Watergate was just a "third-rate burglary"...

Bottom line: we know -- we know -- that Bush and his flack claque PNAC had been planning military action in Iraq since long before 9/11.

And there's Bush, finally with his military in position, readying for the attack, the very day before his State Of The Union address... and suddenly (as we only later learn), pretty much everything else the White House has to paint Iraq as an imminent threat quite plainly falls apart, in ways the outside world already knows...

Gosh, what to do, what to do.

We all know what happened next.


July 15, 2003

War, lies and yellowcake

I’m not enough of a social scientist to fully understand why the yellowcake uranium story has finally taken hold like it has, but honestly, I don’t really care. It should have been obvious to any reasonably bright pre-adolescent that the entire case for this war was built on a mountain of lies and deceit, and if this is the wedge, the faultline that finally brings it all crashing down, it’s fine with me. They got Al Capone on tax evasion, after all.

Look, all the pieces of the puzzle have been out there in the open for a long time. We know that Rumsfeld and Perle and Wolfowitz forced round pegs of intelligence into square holes of preconception. We know that those same gentlemen have been advocating an invasion of Iraq since the mid-1990s, in order to establish a foothold in the region—the same old dream, held dear by Western imperial powers for most of a century. (A dream which is, in a nutshell, pretty much why we now live in a world where we have to live in fear of madmen hijacking airplanes and flying them into skyscrapers, but that’s another rant.)

We know that stories of Saddam’s involvement with al Qaeda and 9/11 are tales for children and simpletons, no more worthy of our concern than tales of monsters under the bed and ghosts in the closet.

We know that we are being led by ideologues, who came into office with a couple of clear, simple goals—cut taxes, roll back regulations, and if things really worked out well, invade Iraq—and that they've continued to pursue those goals both before and after 9/11, and as the economy sinks lower and lower and the jobless rate hits, I believe, its highest point in nine years—in short, no matter what problem we find ourselves facing, no matter how circumstances may change, they continue to offer the same, unchanging solutions. I believe this is at least close to a technical definition of madness.

My sense is, they really did believe they were going to find WMDs, and that it was therefore okay to lie about it beforehand, because they knew they’d ultimately be vindicated. Of course, they also thought they could just install Ahmed Chalabi as some sort of Presidential Puppetman and retreat into the sunset to a soundtrack of cheering Iraqi throngs. This is what happens when you have CEO’s running a government like a business: no one around them is in a position to tell them that they are living in a fantasy world. And when reality fails to conform to their fantasies, they are perhaps the most shocked of all.

It’s not about whether the yellowcake business was a lie if Bush believed it at the time, or whatever it is the pro-war weasels are arguing. There was so much evidence to the contrary, if he did believe it he should probably be impeached on grounds of sheer incompetence, but that, too, is another rant. No, they knew they were lying—maybe, just maybe not the boy President, whose grasp of current events seems shaky at best (see post below)-- but for damn sure Uncle Karl and that nice Mister Cheney knew it was a lie, and this is the point: it’s still a lie even if it was a lie told in the service of what they believed to be a greater truth.

And now that greater truth is revealed for the ideological fantasy it always was, and a lot of people have lost their lives, and our occupation is costing about a billion dollars a week—a week--and there is no light currently visible at the end of the tunnel.

So the sycophants can amuse themselves debating the technical meaning of a "lie," or spinning elaborate stories about "flypaper strategies" on the basis of three thoughtless belligerent words, but it’s not going to change the very simple fact: Bush lied, people died. I’m glad the media are finally waking up to this, though honestly, they should get about as much credit for it as MSNBC should get for firing Michael Savage, which is to say, none at all. We never should have ended up here in the first place. Where the hell were these people six months ago? Flaunting their damned flag lapel pins and giving us breathless puff pieces about military hardware and presidential determination, and debating whether the antiwar protestors were traitorous dogs or simply mindless dupes. It’s better to be skeptical late than not at all, but it’s a bit like the old saw about closing the barn door after the livestock have escaped. People are dead and we are stuck in Iraq, and that’s the facts, Jack.

Say what?

From Joe Conason's Journal in Salon:

"We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."

George W. Bush uttered that amazing sentence yesterday to justify the war in Iraq, according to the Washington Post.

What? Yes, I promise that's what the man said. (And by "him," the president clearly meant Saddam Hussein -- not Kim Jong-Il, who actually has refused to let international inspectors into North Korea.)

Now a presidential statement so frontally at variance with the universally acknowledged facts obviously presents a problem for the White House press corps. He wasn't joking, and he didn't sound disoriented or unwell. Although Dana Priest and Dana Milbank wrote the story as delicately as they possibly could, they couldn't make it seem less weird:

"The president's assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring: Hussein had, in fact, admitted the inspectors and Bush had opposed extending their work because he did not believe them effective."

Appeared to contradict the events leading up to war? Indeed, that's an exceedingly mild description of what Bush said. There's no plausible explanation, unless the president suddenly flashed back to his Yale sophomore philosophy seminar, grappling with the argument that everything we perceive is mere illusion.

For the moment, however, let's just assume reality does exist. What possessed the president to make an assertion that everyone on the planet knows to be untrue?

More here.


July 14, 2003

William Greider is blogging

Well, sort of blogging. But it's good news in any case.


July 13, 2003

Another cartoon collection you could buy

From Mikhaela.

Well, that was fun

As I expected, the book is now settling into more modest numbers on Amazon—but hey, it was a taste of what’s possible. For a few hours there, it was sitting at #13, one below Hillary Clinton.

In his novel, The Palace of Wisdom, Bob Marshall-Andrews sets the stage with this opening paragraph:

My master beat Galileo at marbles. True, the great apostate was dying and my master was no more than eight years of age, the very best age for marbles. Thereafter it entitled him to say, with some justification that, for a moment, he knew more about the movement of spheres than any man alive. Not a bad story.

I feel a little like that right now. For a moment, my book was up there on the chart, one notch below Hillary Clinton’s million-seller.

Not a bad story.

(By the way--buy the book. In the unlikely event that you missed my post on why it's important to me that you do so, it can be read here.)


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