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January 30, 2004


I've resisted superficial comparisons to the tech bubble, but honestly--$40 million (give or take) for Iowa and New Hampshire? Talk about a burn rate...

Thanks to everyone...

...who contributed to my impromptu fundraiser for my out-of-work pal in San Francisco. We raised enough to get the landlord off his back for now, and that's no small thing. I hope I'll have good news to report on the job front as well--I will post an update when I know anything. As promised, I've gone through and picked out ten contributors at random who will be receiving signed prints within the next week.

Friday's must-read


Surely even supporters of the Iraq war must be dismayed by the administration's reaction to David Kay's recent statements. Iraq, he now admits, didn't have W.M.D., or even active programs to produce such weapons. Those much-ridiculed U.N. inspectors were right. (But Hans Blix appears to have gone down the memory hole. On Tuesday Mr. Bush declared that the war was justified under U.N. Resolution 1441, no less because Saddam "did not let us in.")

So where are the apologies? Where are the resignations? Where is the investigation of this intelligence debacle? All we have is bluster from Dick Cheney, evasive W.M.D.-related-program-activity language from Mr. Bush and a determined effort to prevent an independent inquiry.

True, Mr. Kay still claims that this was a pure intelligence failure. I don't buy it: the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has issued a damning report on how the threat from Iraq was hyped, and former officials warned of politicized intelligence during the war buildup. (Yes, the Hutton report gave Tony Blair a clean bill of health, but many people including a majority of the British public, according to polls regard that report as a whitewash.)

In any case, the point is that a grave mistake was made, and America's credibility has been badly damaged and nobody is being held accountable. But that's standard operating procedure. As far as I can tell, nobody in the Bush administration has ever paid a price for being wrong. Instead, people are severely punished for telling inconvenient truths. And administration officials have consistently sought to freeze out, undermine or intimidate anyone who might try to check up on their performance.

A little trip down memory lane...

Alternate title: Fun with Google.


January 29, 2004

Imminence, again

This is old ground for readers of this site, but the Center for American Progress has what should be the final word on whether or not Americans were led to believe the threat from Iraq was "imminent."

It's another good litmus test: anyone who keeps whining that "Bush never specifically used the word 'imminent'" is really not worth taking seriously in any way.

Not tossing rose petals quite yet

From the Miami Herlad:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Whispers of "revolution" are growing louder in Baghdad this month at teahouses, public protests and tribal meetings as Iraqis point to the past as an omen for the future.

Iraqis remember 1920 as one of the most glorious moments in modern history, one followed by nearly eight decades of tumult. The bloody rebellion against British rule that year is memorialized in schoolbooks, monuments and mass-produced tapestries that hang in living rooms.

Now, many say there's an uncanny similarity with today: unpopular foreign occupiers, unelected governing bodies and unhappy residents eager for self-determination. The result could be another bloody uprising.

"We are now under occupation, and the best treatment for a wound is sometimes fire," said Najah al Najafi, a Shiite cleric who joined thousands of marchers at a recent demonstration where construction workers, tribal leaders and religious scholars spoke of 1920.

The rebellion against the British marked the first time that Sunni and Shiite Muslims worked in solidarity, drawing power from tribesmen and city dwellers alike. Though Shiites, Sunnis and ethnic minorities are rivals in the new Iraq, many residents said the recent call for elections could draw disparate groups together. A smattering of Sunnis joined massive Shiite protests last week, demanding that U.S. administrators grant the wishes of the highest Shiite cleric for general elections.


The historic rebellion has broad resonance. A band of anti-American insurgents has named itself the "1920 Revolution Brigades," and Sistani himself, in a newspaper advertisement this month, asked Iraq's influential tribes to remember that year.


To many Iraqis, today's U.S. occupation reads like an old play with modern characters: America as the new Britain, grenade-lobbing insurgents as the new opposition, and Ahmad Chalabi and other former exiles on the Governing Council as the new kings.

"We've sacrificed many martyrs and we would do it again," said Sheik Khamis al Suhail, the secretary of the tribal council. "In 1920, we faced a struggle between Muslims and non-Muslims in Iraq. We are living under basically the same conditions now, and revolution is certainly possible."

Iraqi Shiites, who make up 60 percent of the country's population of 26 million, look to Sistani for leadership.

"If Sistani called for revolution, I would sacrifice my life for the good of my country," said Hamdiya al Niemi, a 27-year-old street vendor whose father raised her on stories of the 1920 uprising. "My father was so proud talking about that time, how we kicked out the British and how we should never allow foreigners to rule our land."

Quite an exoneration

From Yahoo News:

LONDON (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair was directly involved in talks that led to the naming of David Kelly as the source of a BBC report alleging that intelligence on Iraq was "sexed up," the judge who conducted an inquiry into Kelly's suicide revealed.

"The prime minister and a number of very senior officials became directly involved in the discussions relating to what actions should be taken by the government in relation to Dr Kelly's statement to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that he had spoken" to BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, Lord Brian Hutton said Wednesday.

The discussions ultimately led to the ministry's press office confirming Kelly's identity to reporters who, working from a set of clues, correctly guessed his name.

"The decision by the MoD to confirm Dr Kellys name was not part of a covert strategy to leak his name, but based on the view that it would not be sensible to try to conceal the name," Hutton said.

Okay, let's review. Blair was directly involved in the decision to release Kelly's name, but only because it was the "sensible" thing to do. And, as discussed yesterday, the WMD report was--to paraphrase Lord Hutton ever so slightly--"sexed up"--but only subconsciously, so no one's really to blame.

All right, then.

Where do you think they learned evil biology?

At Evil University, of course.

Palast on Hutton
Based on the Blair government's claim, headlines pumped the war hysteria: SADDAM COULD HAVE NUCLEAR BOMB IN YEAR, screeched the London Times. BRITS 45 MINS FROM DOOM, shrieked the Sun newspaper.

Given these facts only a sissy pacifist, a lunatic or a Saddam fellow traveler would fail to see that Prime Minister "Winston" Blair had no choice but to re-conquer it's former Mesopotamian colony.

But these headlines were, in fact, false, and deadly so. Unlike America's press puppies, BBC reporters thought it their duty to check out these life or death claims. Reporters Andrew Gilligan and Susan Watts contacted a crucial source, Britain's and the United Nation's top weapons inspector. He told reporter Watts that the Weapons of Mass Destruction claims by Blair and our own President Bush were, "all spin." Gilligan went further, reporting that this spin, this "sexed up" version of intelligence, was the result of interventions by Blair's PR henchman, Alistair Campbell.

Whatever reading of the source's statements, it was clear that intelligence experts had deep misgivings about the strength of the evidence for war.
The source? Dr. David Kelly. To save itself after the reports by Gilligan and Watts, the government, including the Prime Minister himself, went on an internal crusade to out the name of its own intelligence operative so it could then discredit the news items. Publishing the name of an intelligence advisor is serious stuff. In the USA, a special criminal prosecutor is now scouring the White House to find the person who publicly named a CIA agent. If found, the Bushite leaker faces jail time.

Blair's government was not so crude as to give out Dr. Kelly's name. Rather, they hit on a subterfuge of dropping clues then allowing reporters to play '20 questions' - if Kelly's name were guessed, they'd confirm it. Only the thickest reporters (I name none here) failed after more than a couple tries.

Dr. Kelly, who had been proposed for knighthood was named, harangued and his career destroyed by the outing. He then took his own life. But today is not a day of mourning at 10 Downing Street, rather a day of self-congratulations.

There were no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear warheads just short of completion, no "45 minutes to doom" bombs auguring a new London blitz. The exile group which supplied this raw claim now calls the 45 minute story, "a crock of shit." Yet Blair's minions are proclaiming their vindication.

This is not just a story about what is happening "over there" in the United Kingdom. This we must remember: David Kelly was not only advisor to the British but to the UN and, by extension, the expert for George W. Bush. Our commander-in-chief leaped to adopt the Boogey Man WMD stories from the Blair government when our own CIA was reticent.

So M'Lord Hutton has killed the messenger: the BBC. Should the reporter Gilligan have used more cautious terms? Some criticism is fair. But the extraordinary import of his and Watts' story is forgotten: our two governments bent the information then hunted down the questioners.



January 28, 2004

Intelligence failure

Despite the bad news he is forced to deliver, Kay appears to be a team player, and as such, is trying to blame the whole mystery-of-the-missing-WMD thing on the CIA, as well as those crafty Iraqi scientists who lied to Saddam as they frittered away copious amounts of research money on hookers, whiskey and bling bling, or whatever it is they are supposed to have done.

At any rate, there was undoubtedly an intelligence failure here, but not in the sense Kay means. The Center for American Progress provides a timely reality check.

British reserve

Somewhere, I have a bunch of photos I took in London of signs politely and verbosely requesting the viewer's compliance. For instance, where a sign in America might simply command you to "keep off the grass," the British version was more likely to read something like: "If it's not too much bother, we would terribly appreciate your choosing to walk around the grass rather than on it, for you see, we are trying to seed a new lawn, and are ever so grateful for your cooperation." (I'm paraphrasing, but not by much.)

I was reminded of this as I read summaries of the Hutton report, which purportedly clears Blair of the charges of "sexing up" British intelligence (and in which the BBC comes off pretty badly)...specifically when I read this paragraph:

However, (Hutton) did wonder whether the "desire of the prime minister to have a dossier which, while consistent with the available intelligence, was as strong as possible in relation to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMD, may have subconsciously influenced Mr Scarlett and the other members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC assessment".

Harrumph. Quite right, old chap.

In any event, I'm guessing that any time David Kay is brought up, our conservative friends will quickly start discussing the Hutton report instead. So keep in mind that Hutton is focused on the suicide of Dr. David Kelly, and whether Blair believed what he was saying, while Kay is discussing the actual lack of WMDs in Iraq--i.e., whether or not the primary justification for war has turned out to have any basis in reality.

It's an important distinction, and I suspect a lot of people are going to try to blur it.

...a related cartoon from last summer.

(Edited for clairty.)

Taking suggestions

I want to add a few more designs to the shop. What would you like to see?

Politicizing national security

Karl Rove wants the Iraqis to cobble together some form of self-rule by summer--doesn't matter what, just throw something together with duct tape and chewing gum, the important thing is for Bush to be able to claim in the summer of '04 that Iraq has been handed over to the Iraqis and we'll be pulling our troops out of there just any damn day now. "Claim" being the operative word here.

On a similar note, the Bushies want the 9/11 commission to wrap it up and hand over their report and clear out their desks well before the Presidential campaign shifts into high gear, and without looking at too much, you know, evidence:

The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks announced on Tuesday that it was seeking an extension of its deadline to complete the investigation until at least July, raising the prospect of a public fight with the White House and a final report delivered in the heat of the presidential campaign.

The White House and Republican Congressional leaders have said they see no need to extend the congressionally mandated deadline, now set for May 27, and a spokesman for Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said Tuesday that Mr. Hastert would oppose any legislation to grant the extension.

But commission officials said there was no way to finish their work on time, a situation they attribute in part to delays by the Bush administration in turning over documents and other evidence.

Few entities in nature have a stronger instinct for self-preservation than a sitting presidential administration. I understand that. What I don't understand is how anyone, anywhere on the political spectrum, can look on these blatantly self-serving maneuvers with anything other than a mixture of contempt and derision.

Despite John Kerry's win in New Hampshire (pop: 1,275,000), it's probably a bit early to annoit him as the inevitable Democratic candidate for President of the United States of America (pop: 292,470,677). But whoever the candidate turns out to be, I hope he drives these two points home repeatedly until it is impossible to turn on the tv or glance at a newspaper without contemplating George Bush's sheer incompetence and venality--and wondering what, exactly, he's trying to hide.


January 27, 2004

So much...

...for Joementum.

Yet another worm out there

As always, treat attachments with extreme suspicion.

This has been a public service announcement from your friends at thismodernworld.com.

Axis of evil science

I had the news on while I was doing a couple of other things ("multitasking," the kids call it) and I thought I heard something about "evil chemistry," but missed the story. Fortunately South Knox Bubba made the catch:

"Weapons of mass destruction including evil chemistry and evil biology are all matters of great concern, not only to the United States but also to the world community. They were the subject of U.N. resolutions," Ashcroft said.


January 26, 2004

Journey's end

Bob's back in Los Angeles, where I assume he is not enjoying the same sort of, um, invigorating weather as those of us fortunate enough to reside in the Northeast. His final two entries are here and here.


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