Canada Defends Freedom Against Gay Iraqi Onslaught

Canada was right to invade Iraq to protect freedom. If they hadn't, Saddam surely would've sold WMD to Al Qaeda, who, after decimating Stockholm in 2000 with VX smuggled into dance clubs and spas, was busy bottling cyanide and ricin disguised as price-controlled drugs imported from the more socialistic US and China. If those drugs had hit Canadian shelves, Canadians would've grown wary of their national health care system.

Canadian citizens were also right to arm themselves with assault rifles and handguns. Else the Al-Qaeda-linked Canadian Gay Marriage League, secretly funded by Saddam, would've succeeded in forcing red-blooded heterosexual males into lives of abject monogamy.


9/11 to Star in Tonight's Speech Nothing New

UPDATE at end of post.

According to Tim Grieve of The War Room, expect lots of implied connections between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda from Bush's speech tonight. Sneak peek:
"The terrorists can kill the innocent – but they cannot stop the advance of freedom," Bush will say. "The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11 … if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi … and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden."

Later, Bush will say: "We are fighting against men with blind hatred -- and armed with lethal weapons -- who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq – just as they tried to shake our will on September 11, 2001. They will fail."
Since there's no context, we can't say what, exactly, Bush™ is up to. But given that his June 18 radio address implied a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, I'm not expecting a big surprise tonight. Remember this?
As we work to deliver opportunity at home, we're also keeping you safe from threats from abroad. We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens. Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. These foreign terrorists violently oppose the rise of a free and democratic Iraq, because they know that when we replace despair and hatred with liberty and hope, they lose their recruiting grounds for terror.
Um, a little clarification there.... We kinda sorta made Iraq into a bloody terror buffet, according to the CIA's recent report. Club Iraq offers mostly Saudi-born guests terrorists the best training ground on the planet. As the New York Times' Douglas Jehl reported,
The officials said the report spelled out how the urban nature of the war in Iraq was helping combatants learn how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of the fighting in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet campaigns of the 1980's. It was during that conflict, primarily rural and conventional, that the United States provided arms to Osama bin Laden and other militants, who later formed Al Qaeda.
Thanks, Mr. Bush! Helping breed and train terrorists for future bloodshed!

If Bush™'s previous "major policy" speeches are any indication, this one will tell us nothing new. Just lots of button-pushing bullshit full of appeals to fears and the flag. Please, Mr. Bush, prove me wrong. People are dying.

UPDATE: Maybe a little conflation of 9/11 and Saddam, but not much, and a couple of whoppers, on which more later, if there's even a point. Basically, same shit, different speech. The plan? Resolve! We're training Iraqi troops! Great.... How's that comin'? Got any numbers for us, other than some undifferentiated "160,000"? Any idea how long that training regimen takes?

And the downward poll-slide continues....

Bush Survey Results by State

Taegan Goddard's found a table of Bush-approval-rating survey results.

Hint to Congress: Now might be a good time to consider pushing for Phase Two of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee investigation into the Administration's use of intelligence before the Iraq war.

Considering that the "last throes" of the insurgency will likely last longer than the war so far, it might be a good idea to figure out 1) what the hell we're going to do about that, and 2) who might, you know, be kinda sorta responsible for this bloody travesty scandal catastrophe mess.


WaPo Gets Its Memo On

The WaPo now has a big front-page article examining the behind-the-scenes attempts of the British government, as revealed in the Downing Street documents, to shape how the Bush Administration approached Iraq during the run-up to the war.

Bill and Brit Spar on Rove

Brit Hume and Bill Kristol spar once again on Fox News Sunday. Crooks and Liars has the video of Bill Kristol arguing with Brit Hume over Rove's remarks last week. Once again, Bill Kristol takes the side of civilization, by saying Rove's remarks were unjustified, and a turd drops from Hume's tongue. I hear he's coming out with a new Brain Rinse Formula soon....

Airing Grievances

Raw Story on the secret air war. Key paragraphs:
A U.S. general who commanded the U.S. allied air forces in Iraq has confirmed that the U.S. and Britain conducted a massive secret bombing campaign before the U.S. actually declared war on Iraq.

The quote, passed from RAW STORY to the London Sunday Times last week, raises troubling questions of whether President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in an illegal war before seeking a UN resolution or congressional approval.

While the Downing Street documents collectively raise disturbing questions about how the Bush administration led the United States into Iraq, including allegations that "intelligence was being fixed," other questions have emerged about when the US and British led allies actually began the Iraq war.
GlobalSecurity.org, a military defense group, raised concerns about the air strikes when they mushroomed in early 2002, though their worries produced few press reports.

The group saw the strikes as a means by which the U.S. could degrade Iraqi defensive capabilities, and as a precursor to a declared war.

"It was no big secret at the time," GlobalSecurity.org director John Pike told RAW STORY. "It was apparent to us at the time that they were doing it and why they were doing it, and that was part of the reason why we were convinced that a decision to go to war had already been made, because the war had already started."

Pike says the allied forces used their position in the 'No-Fly- Zone' to engage in pre-emptive action long before war was formally declared.
"They explicitly altered the rules of engagement," he added, "because initially the rules of engagement had been that they would shoot back if [someone] shot at them. Then they said that if they were shot at, they would shoot at whatever they wanted to."

One U.S. Air Force vet told a hearing in Istanbul this weekend, "I saw bombing intensify. All the documents coming out now, the Downing Street memo and others, confirm what I had witnessed in Iraq. The war had already begun while our leaders were telling us that they were going to try all diplomatic options first."
The rest here.

BONUS: In case you missed it, here's the bombing graph that accompanies the story.

UPDATE: Ron Brynaert of Why Are We Back in Iraq? is busy examining all that prewar bombing and Michael "Downing Street" Smith's reporting on it. The article is a work in progress and promises to be worth revisiting. (Via Wonkette.)

American General Confirms Secret Air War in 2002

We all know that Bush and Blair tried awful hard not to go to war with Saddam. We also know that while they were trying really, really hard to convince the rest of the world that the weapons inspectors that Saddam agreed to allow back into Iraq shouldn't be given time to do their jobs, Bush and Blair were bombing the daylights out of Iraq in preparation for the war that they were still trying really, really hard to prevent. The Times of London reported this last month, and now an American general's confirmed it. Highlights:
Addressing a briefing on lessons learnt from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 "carefully selected targets" before the war officially started.

The nine months of allied raids "laid the foundations" for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.
Moseley's remarks have emerged after reports in The Sunday Times that showed an increase in allied bombing in southern Iraq was described in leaked minutes of a meeting of the war cabinet as "spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime."

Moseley told the briefing at Nellis airbase in Nebraska on July 17, 2003, that the raids took place under cover of patrols of the southern no-fly zone; their purpose was ostensibly to protect the ethnic minorities.
As Agitprop remarked, "No wonder coalition troops were able to sack Baghdad in only three weeks in March 2003. They had already destroyed most of Saddam's defenses the year before."

Remember: We had to invade in March 2003 because Saddam would most likely hand off the weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaeda (which he wasn't in cahoots with even though the Administration kept saying that he was) as a last resort if he felt cornered—say, by an invasion of Iraq. Dear RNC, how's the koolaid?

BTW, according to Michael Smith, who wrote the article and who is now justifiably famous for reporting on the Downing Street documents, it was Raw Story's Larisa Alexandrovna who found the Moseley quote.


Karl, You Ignorant Slut

Shakespeare's Sister has a little some'n ta say ta Mistah Rove. A lot of people do. But she was there when the towers fell. (Via Incoherent Theory. New blog; if you're not a Bush fan, check it out.)

Though I appreciate the early SNL reference, I think Mr. Rove might more properly deemed a "whore." I know, I know, it's a rarity in politrix....

UPDATE: On an extremely tangential note, the website for the restaurant where T.G. of Incoherent Theory works has an online arcade. If you have Flash, which you probably do, you can play Pac Man, Asteroids and several other old-school games.

Take it, Karl. You Know You Want It

Anything happens these days and the next day there's a blog. Well, now there's one for Karl. He deserves hundreds. We can confirm nothing about the following post. But we like it, so here it is.
I'm writing you from [Location Withheld] Iraq, about 35 miles NW of Baghdad.. And I'm too tired to give Karl the verbal beating he deserves for his insults. I'm too tired because we're jsut a bit shorthanded over here, fighting his war for him. A war taht has made nearly every country in the world fear and distrust America, a war fought for a knowing lie dreamed up by Karl and his buddies, none of whom have ever heard a shot fired in anger, or helped pick up the parts of another human being after an IED blast.

I enlisted after the war beganm and after I'd gotten my degree. I could easily have stayed home and watched the war on TV, and Karl does. I do not support this war in the slightest, but I will not sit at home and lecture others on their insufficient patriotism when the nation is in need. I joined because I believe in giving back some measure of service and devotion to my country.

To hear a man like Karl insinuate that only conservatives are really patriotic is a knife in the back to every man and woman in Iraq who serves here. At least a third of us voted against Bush and pals. The number increases every day that we stay here, forced to make bricks without straw for months on end.

We've been here for 6 months. We're going to be here for at least 6 more. And next week we're moving to a more 'active' sector because the unit there is rotating home and the are is still too hot to entrust to the IA or IP, most of whom are still not fit to guard a traffic light, despite two years of efforts on our part. For some of us, this is our second tour through Iraq. My unit, [Withheld] was the tip of the spear in OIF I. At least half of us are combat veterans of a major battle and liberals. Can any of your gang say that, Karl?

Never insult me and my fellow liberals again, Karl. Watching a fat, hateful thing like you that has never faced any greater danger in your life than a long golf shot denigrate every liberal who has put on a uniform is more demoralizing than ten thousand speeches that uphold America's highest ideals from Sen. Biden or Byrd.
For the record, we think Karl Rove would make a great greased pig.

(Via People Get Ready.)


What's Really Going on with Cheney?

Is his knee bugging him or is it something more serious? (Via Americablog.)

Kerry Urges Completion of Investigation into the Use of Prewar Intelligence

How did Bush™ use prewar intelligence on Iraq? Based in part on the Downing Street documents, Kerry and others urge the Senate Select Committe on Intelligence to finish Phase Two and report their findings.


The War President

Krugman on the Downing Street Memo. Highlights:
The administration has prevented any official inquiry into whether it hyped the case for war. But there's plenty of circumstantial evidence that it did.
The U.S. news media largely ignored the memo for five weeks after it was released in The Times of London. Then some asserted that it was "old news" that Mr. Bush wanted war in the summer of 2002, and that W.M.D. were just an excuse. No, it isn't. Media insiders may have suspected as much, but they didn't inform their readers, viewers and listeners. And they have never held Mr. Bush accountable for his repeated declarations that he viewed war as a last resort.

Still, some of my colleagues insist that we should let bygones be bygones. The question, they say, is what we do now. But they're wrong: it's crucial that those responsible for the war be held to account.

Let me explain. The United States will soon have to start reducing force levels in Iraq, or risk seeing the volunteer Army collapse. Yet the administration and its supporters have effectively prevented any adult discussion of the need to get out.

On one side, the people who sold this war, unable to face up to the fact that their fantasies of a splendid little war have led to disaster, are still peddling illusions: the insurgency is in its "last throes," says Dick Cheney. On the other, they still have moderates and even liberals intimidated: anyone who suggests that the United States will have to settle for something that falls far short of victory is accused of being unpatriotic.

We need to deprive these people of their ability to mislead and intimidate. And the best way to do that is to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility, and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism.
The rest here.

US Acknowledges Torture at Guantánamo and Elsewhere

A day after a UN human rights team accused the United States of stalling on three years worth of requests to visit detainees at Guantánamo Bay and announced it would investigate without US help...
GENEVA (AFX) - Washington has, for the first time, acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at US detention centres in Guantánamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a UN source said.

The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the ten-person panel, speaking on condition of anonymity.

'They are no longer trying to duck this and have respected their obligation to inform the UN,' the Committee member said.

'They they will have to explain themselves (to the Committee). Nothing should be kept in the dark,' he said.

UN sources said this is the first time the world body has received such a frank statement on torture from US authorities.
Unfortunately, the hearings are scheduled for May 2006. The document won't officially be made public until then. We're betting on a leak.

Of course, the report was anonymously sourced, so it's probably all a lie, right? Because in an interview with Wolf Blitzer yesterday, Vice President Cheney asserted that "They're very well treated down there. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want." Somebody should ask him where he's getting his information. From Curveball, perhaps?

(Via Raw Story.)

How Not to Use Medical Personnel at Gitmo

Hey, doc, I've got this detainee who won't talk. Little help?
Military doctors at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have aided interrogators in conducting and refining coercive interrogations of detainees, including providing advice on how to increase stress levels and exploit fears, according to new, detailed accounts given by former interrogators.
In addition, the authors of an article published by The New England Journal of Medicine this week said their interviews with doctors who helped devise and supervise the interrogation regimen at Guantánamo showed that the program was explicitly designed to increase fear and distress among detainees as a means to obtaining intelligence.

The accounts shed light on how interrogations were conducted and raise new questions about the boundaries of medical ethics in the nation's fight against terrorism.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman...said that while some health care personnel are responsible for "humane treatment of detainees," some medical professionals "may have other roles," like serving as behavioral scientists assessing the character of interrogation subjects.
Several ethics experts outside the military said there were serious questions involving the conduct of the doctors, especially those in units known as Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, BSCT, colloquially referred to as "biscuit" teams, which advise interrogators.

"Their purpose was to help us break them," one former interrogator told The Times earlier this year.
The New England Journal of Medicine article, which primarily concerns sharing detainee medical information with interrogators, has this to say about the practice:
Once caregivers share information with interrogators, why should they refrain from giving advice about how to best use the data? Won't such advice better protect detainees, while furthering the intelligence-gathering mission? And if so, why not oversee isolation and sleep deprivation or monitor beatings to make sure nothing terrible happens?

Wholesale disregard for clinical confidentiality is a large leap across the threshold, since it makes every caregiver into an accessory to intelligence gathering. Not only does this undermine patient trust; it puts prisoners at greater risk for serious abuse. The global political fallout from such abuse may pose more of a threat to U.S. security than any secrets still closely held by shackled internees at Guantánamo Bay.

Finally, a Saddam Novel in English

Saddam's latest novel, finished just in time for his ouster, is finally going to be published. In English. That's right, folks. Now you, too, can taste the delights of what promises to be the best of bad dictator fiction.

Karl Rove's White House Phone Number

White House: (202) 456-2369. If you ask for Rove's office, the operator will put you through to the White House Comment Line. You know what that weaselly fuck said Wednesday night. Spread love.

Another Conservative Cries Foul

Gregory Djerejian of The Belgravia Dispatch has a post about Gitmo, detainee abuse and winning the war that is 100% on the money. Even Bushophiles might like it. Hugh Hewitt might disagree, but he'd have to do so respectfully. Three of many key paragraphs:
Simulating the slopping of menstrual blood on a detainee's face is repulsive, it is grotesque--it should never have happened in a U.S. run detention center. Period. It also most assuredly constitutes an "outrage(s) upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment"--in contravention of the Third Geneva Convention. (I know, I know--the Geneva Conventions don't apply, but I'm blogging from Geneva, so let's just pretend for a second). And wait, maybe, to a fashion, they do apply somewhat:
On February 7, 2002, President Bush announced that the U.S. government would apply the "principles of the Third Geneva Convention" of 1949 to captured members of the Taliban, but would not consider any of them to be prisoners-of-war (POWs) under that convention. As for captured members of al-Qaeda, he said that the U.S. government considered the Geneva Conventions inapplicable but would nonetheless treat the detainees humanely.
Was the treatment of the detainee Dick Durbin recounted "humane"? Was the sexual degradation involved in the menstrual high jinx in Gitmo "humane"? Is the death of some 108 detainees in U.S. custody "humane"? Well, not from where I'm sitting friends. And at least a quarter of these deaths may have been homicides (I suspect the proportion is actually higher). But, hey, who gives a shit? We didn't put them through some Saddamite-shredder, or pour nitric acid on them, or rape their daughters in front of them for kicks, or hack an arm or tongue off--it's torture lite, the cool, American, Gitmo-way. 'Cept 108 people are dead. A footnote, you might say. Get on board you sap; there's a war on!
No, better that we standardize the rules and have a top-tier, bipartisan outside commission thoroughly look at America's detention facilities and policies from the bottom-up, the inside-out. There's simply too much rot that has been accumulated these past years. And the bright sunlight of judicious, wholly unbiased and serious scrutiny is needed to disinfect it. This will help America re-gain its footing as undisputed avatar of the rule of law and standard-bearer of human rights on the world stage. We owe this to ourselves, to our country, to our grandchildren. It's the right way. And it's not a joke. It's deadly serious.
(Via Kos.)


Savant Returns

He's back. And, you know, irate.

Dick Does Wolf

After having truth beaten bloody, stripped naked, ball-gagged and left for dead in an alley, Vice President Dick Cheney did an interview with Wolf Blitzer.

Ballsy Journalism Watch, Part II

A long exchange with Scottie. I cut out a chunk. Read the whole exchange here.

Q Does the President agree with the Vice President that the Iraqi insurgents are in their last throes?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the commanders are briefing right now, and they are the ones who are on the ground. They are in the best position to give you that. General Abizaid just spoke about it a short time ago and talked about the determined and ruthless enemy that we're facing. Foreign terrorists are coming to Iraq because they recognize how high the stakes are. Well, we do, too. That's why we're fighting them in Iraq and that's why we're going to defeat them in Iraq.

Q But he seems to have contradicted -- Abizaid seems to have contradicted what the Vice President said, on the face of it.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you have to look at the context of the Vice President's comments.

Q I did, I looked.

MR. McCLELLAN: And you don't point them out. What did he talk about?

Q He said there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we can selectively quote people or we can look at the context of the comments, and I think that's what is important to do. That's why I was stepping back and pointing out to you what the Vice President was talking about.

Q So he was talking about the political process moving forward, not -- let me ask you this. What is the Vice President basing his -- where is he getting his evidence? What is he basing his claim on, if the commanders on the ground are saying --

MR. McCLELLAN: It doesn't appear that you've looked at the context of his comments, and I would encourage you to do that. And I just addressed this question when you asked it.

Q I was there in this -- when he said, "in the throes of," --

MR. McCLELLAN: You were in the interview?

Q He did not mean political, he meant the whole situation in Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: You were in the interview? I think you should look --

Q You can't change his meaning. You guys are trying to step back now, and I don't blame you.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I disagree with you.

Scottie Shovels Karl’s Shit

Q Last night Karl Rove, in a speech, accused the Democrats of trying to send the terrorists into therapy and not responding appropriately to 9/11, whereas the Republicans, he felt, responded appropriately. He's been called on to make an apology. Will Karl Rove will apologize, and is this elevating the discourse, the way you said the President will do?

MR. McCLELLAN: Talking about different philosophies and different approaches? That's what Karl Rove was talking about. He was talking about the different philosophies and our different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism. And I don't know who is even making such a suggestion.

Q Harry Reid.

Q Nancy Pelosi.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would think that they would want to be able to defend their philosophy and their approach. I mean, I know that the Democratic leadership at this point is offering no ideas and no vision for the American people, but Karl was simply pointing out the different philosophies and different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism.

Q He said the Democrats wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. That's not injecting politics into the tragedy of September 11th?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's talking about the different philosophies for winning the war on terrorism. The President recognizes that the way to win the war on terrorism is to take the fight to the enemy, to stay on the offensive, and to work to spread freedom and democracy to defend the ideology of hatred that they espouse, and the ideology of tyranny and oppression.

Q So will the President ask Karl Rove to apologize?

MR. McCLELLAN: Of course not, Jessica. This is simply talking about different philosophies and different approaches. And I think you have to look at it in that context. If people want to try to engage in personal attacks instead of defending their philosophy, that's their business. But it's important to point out the different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism. And that's all he was doing.

Q So you're suggesting that Rove's approach to discussing the philosophy that Democrats -- is to say that they want to prepare indictments and seek counseling. That's their philosophy, is that what you were saying?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the comments were saying -- the conservative approach and the liberal approach is what he was talking about.

Q He was saying that that's the comparison in their philosophies?

MR. McCLELLAN: He was speaking to a political organization. There are many who have looked at the war on terrorism and said it is a law enforcement matter, that we should prosecute people. The President recognizes that it is a war and that we must stay on the offensive, we must take the fight to the enemy. The best way to defeat the enemy is to fight them abroad and bring them to justice before they can carry out their attacks here at home.

Q And the therapy? What about the therapy?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's what he's -- and I think that's what he's talking about.

For the record, Rove's second comment was much worse: "Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

China Bids for Unocal

Ah, the pleasures of globalization.

Supreme Court: Seize Away!

Property rights? Fuck em. (Via Mixter.)

Iraq: Like Houston. Or...Not.

Tom DeLay has an...interesting view of contemporary Iraq:
WASHINGTON - When House Majority Leader Tom DeLay sat down with reporters on Tuesday on Capitol Hill, he was asked to assess President Bush's campaign in Iraq and to respond to criticism that the military mission is not going well and the White House needs to develop an exit strategy.

DeLay offered this response: "These things take time and they take a long time, and some people get weary of the constant barrage that we see in the media.

"You know, if Houston, Texas, was held to the same standard as Iraq is held to, nobody'd go to Houston, because all this reporting coming out of the local press in Houston is violence, murders, robberies, deaths on the highways," DeLay said.

"And if you took that as the image of what is a great city that has an incredible quality of life and an incredible economy, it's amazing to me. Go to Iraq. And see what's actually happening there.

"Everybody that comes from Iraq is amazed at the difference of what they see on the ground and what they see on the television set."
Iraq's newly arrived US ambassador has a—shall we say—contrasing view:
"I am horrified by the daily suffering of the Iraqi people. The terrorists attack ordinary people, teachers, doctors, newly trained police and others who are assisting the people of Iraq...."

"Foreign terrorists and hard-line Baathists want Iraq to descend into civil war. Foreign terrorists are using the Iraqi people as cannon fodder," said Khalilzad, who previously served as US ambassador to his native Afghanistan.

The number of attacks blamed on Islamic extremists has escalated since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shiite-led government on April 28. Nearly 1,200 people have been killed since then.
(DeLay via Raw Story.)

A reporter might want to ask Mr. DeLay if lots of people are being blown apart in Houston. You know, with bombs.

The Motives of Liberals

Think Senator Durbin's remarks were bad? Karl Rove's are worse. Last week, Durbin made a stupid comparison for rhetorical purposes. Last night, Rove saw that and raised it. The New York Times reports that, at a fundraising dinner in Manhattan, the Prince of Darkness said that
"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers...."
Mr. Rove also said that American armed forces overseas were in more jeopardy as a result of remarks last week by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who compared American mistreatment of detainees to the acts of "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others."

"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Mr. Rove asked. "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."
That's as despicable as it gets. And it's inexcusable. But it makes me wonder. If Durbin's foolish comparison was motivated by a desire to aid the enemy, what motivated Rumsfeld not to send enough troops or armor, Bush not to plan for the war's aftermath, Rice not to act on intelligence before 9/11, and all of them to rush to war, knowing the alleged threat wasn't imminent but the timing was politically expedient?

In any case, Josh Marshall astutely observes that "these statements are meant to outrage you. You're a targeted audience. They're meant to perpetuate a state of maximal polarization in this country—the state of affairs most suited for vampires like Mr. Rove to suck the nation dry."

If your representative is a Republican, encourage him to make Rove apologize. (Article via TPM; apology link via Atrios.)

UPDATE: The Republican National Committee aids the enemy. From Wonkette:
Today, the Republican National Committee released an ad called "Wild Thing." And guess what? It features Dick Durbin's remarks about detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay. The same words that are putting our troops in greater danger, and yet the RNC is emailing the ad to "15 million grassroots supporters" and posting it at GOP.com, where terrorists, Al Jazeera producers, and the liberal saboteurs who want to undermine this great country of ours and put our troops at risk have access to it! Is it time to put Ken Mehlman on the Noodles Jefferson diet?


Mystery Reporter 2 on the Downing Street Memo

Recently, Mystery Reporter 2 read our (my) exchange with John H. of Power Line and sent us his musings on the Downing Street Memo.

The Downing Street Memo is provocative and interesting and was initially underplayed in this country. It offers a rare window into the highest levels of American decision making about the Iraq War. But it's far from conclusive as I'm sure you'd agree. Bush obviously wanted a war, but a small bit of wiggle room if Saddam made a clean brest of his doings, which Bush knew wouldn't happen.

The whole trope about "fixing intelligence around policy" is the most suggestive part of the DSM, but unclear in its meaning.

I can see at least two interpretations. The political left's take is "Aha, here's the proof that our leaders were deliberately cooking intelligence to justify an invasion that was otherwise unjustifiable." It's plausible and perhaps true. Perhaps Tenet and company knew the evidence was insupportable so they goaded the CIA analysts to tell them what they wanted to here. There's been contradictory evidence on this point.

But there is a second, more charitable interpretation. George Tenet and the bulk of the American political establishment appeared to genuinely believe, albeit based on ultimately suspect evidence, that Saddam was hiding WMDs and was trying to reconstitute his WMD capacity. The debate was about how far along Saddam was, not whether this was true. We had intelligence that was still stuck in 1998 when the inspectors were kicked out and we didn't know what was true in 2002. If you're George Tenet and you honestly believe this and no ones challenging you, except to pick nits, then it's not a great leap to start framing intelligence in this manner.

The Downing Street Memo is interesting here in using the word "policy." Tenet might well have been saying to his Brit counterpart, "The American policy is to invade Iraq so my job is to come up with the most convincing intelligence rationale for this course of action. I'm not going create intelligence, but I will highlight the best stuff we got that suggest Saddam is up to no good and can't be allowed to conspire against the U.S. any longer." I think Tenet and others in the Bush administration were true believers who brushed aside any uncertainties they came across because everyone was certain that Saddam was basically up to no good WMD-wise and was at least a latent threat to US interests. They pushed the paltry evidence for this beyond its bounds to sell the war and scare the American public into supporting them, but they honestly believed it was true. Unfortunately for everyone, everyone was wrong. We rightfully should expect more from our leaders and they failed us.

By this interpretation, Tenet did not believe that intelligence was being fixed. It was being marshaled to support a justifiable policy goal; the problem was the evidence was weak and had to be dressed up a bit, but that didn't mean it was untrue. Tenet's Brit counterpart, however, looked at this and concluded that Tenet and company were putting the intelligence info into Photoshop and erasing the flaws. And then he responded with a condescending smile, flashing his bad teeth at Tenet, and quickly wrote up this memo before proceeding to the nearest pub to chat about fut ball with his mates.

I don't know which interpretation is right. The only way to answer this is for Congress to finally investigate what Bush and company did with their intelligence. Was there intentional mendacity or were they just fools who should have questioned their zealous beliefs? I'd be really interested in finding this out, as would I'm sure much of the American public.


Want to know when the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is going to investigate the Administration's use of intelligence? Call Pat Roberts, Chairman, at 202-224-4774 or email him here.

Feel free to remind the senator of what he said on MSNBC:
I'm perfectly willing to do it, and that's what we agreed to do, and that door is still open...so we will get it done, but it seems to me that we ought to put it in some priority of order, and after we do get it done I think everybody's going to scratch their head and say, 'OK, well, that's fine. You know, let's go to the real issue.'
Senator, that is the real issue.

Durbin Apologizes

Durbin has apologized for "a very poor choice of words."

From AP: "Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line," said the Illinois Democrat, at times holding back tears. "To them I extend my heartfelt apologies."

Now can we talk about the real issue here?

We're still waiting for a litany of apologies from Bush™. It's amazing how humans can be more offended by a comparison than by, you know, goading a nation into war that results in many thousands of dead and wounded and hundreds of billions of dollars swirling down the toilet—thanks in part to rank incompetence at the highest level. Not to mention rewarding failure with promotions and medals.

A word of advice for all non-Bush-supporters: Hyperbole doesn't win us any points with anybody, and it often leads to Bush fans harping on the hyperbole itself, distracting everyone from the big issue du jour. So stop using it. Or at least be funny.

UPDATE: Balloon Juice castigates Durbin for caving and addresses the whole prisoner-treatment issue (highly recommended). Gilliard tells Durbin to go fuck himself. (Via dailyKos.)


Operation Yellow Elephant

Help young Republicans enlist! Power Line's own John H.'s son recently turned 18. Will his father encourage him to enlist? Speaking of, what about Bush's daughters? Don't they love the country their father's president of enough to lessen the recruitment shortfall? In a related development, the College Republicans refused to run a recruitment ad because it was "too negative." No word yet on why they refuse to link their website to military recruiters.

UPDATE: Tim Grieve of The War Room asks why Bush hasn't encouraged his daughters to enlist.

Frist = Boneless Chicken

Josh Marshall (on the Al Franken Show) on Frist, who's just reversed himself on Bolton: "Frist is a boneless chicken." Spread it around. Please.

Durbin's My Question

[Correction appended.]

The latest conservative bandwagon is driving for an apology from Senator Durbin for his rhetorical excess last week. What did he do? He read a FBI agent's description of a Gitmo prisoner's treatment. Then he said that, if we didn't know better, we'd think we were reading the account of a prisoner in the custody of Nazis or Soviets or the Khmer Rouge.

Hyperbolic? Yes. Traitorous? No. Not by any measure.

If you'd read the description without knowing who was holding the prisoner, what would you think? What swaggering imbeciles like Mark Steyn don't understand (or aren't honest about) is that to assert that some American troops mistreated a prisoner the way troops in a given bloody dictatorship would is not to assert that American troops in general are like troops of that dictatorship. Durbin was driving home a point. He overreached.

But while we're making comparisons, what about the CIA agents who did this?
Al-Jamadi was brought naked below the waist to the prison with a CIA interrogator and translator. A green plastic bag covered his head, and plastic cuffs tightly bound his wrists. Guards dressed al-Jamadi in an orange jumpsuit, slapped on metal handcuffs and escorted him to the shower room, a common CIA interrogation spot. There, the interrogator instructed guards to attach shackles from the prisoner's handcuffs to a barred window. That would let al-Jamadi stand without pain, but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be stretched above and behind him. The documents do not make clear what happened after guards left. After about a half-hour, the interrogator called for the guards to reposition the prisoner, who was slouching with his arms stretched behind him. The interrogator told guards that al-Jamadi was "playing possum" — faking it — and then watched as guards struggled to get him on his feet. But the guards realized it was useless. "After we found out he was dead, they were nervous," Spc. Dennis E. Stevanus said of the CIA interrogator and translator. "They didn't know what the hell to do."
If you substituted "KGB" for "CIA," would that pass the offended conservatives' paper-bag test? If not, what about this?
The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
No, these incidents didn't happen at Guantanamo, but that's not the point. The point is the legitimacy of comparisons and asking people to use their imagination to understand why the way we're treating (some) prisoners is unacceptable. We don't think Durbin should apologize. We think offended conservatives should answer the question. Further, we think the Administration should apologize for allowing and even encouraging this kind of behavior. But we know that won't happen. Actually, if we follow Bush's logic, we should give Durbin the medal of freedom.

As Biden said, we need an independent commission to investigate the entire American archipelago and recommend what we should do about it. It's long past time we did.

Correction: Previously, this post referred to a question that was not explicitly stated: "If you read the description Durbin read to the Senate, who would you think was treating prisoners that way?" I'd characterized the question as Durbin's, but he didn't phrase it as a question; I did.


A Possible Solution for Iraq

Juan Cole has an overview of what we face in Iraq, what could happen and what we could do about it.

Saddam Fan of Reagan, Doritos

GQ's July issue has a treat: an interview with several of Saddam's American guards. GQ has a brief excerpt on their site. The Associated Press has an overview of what GQ found out. Highlights from the stingy GQ excerpt:
"He talked about how Reagan sold him planes and helicopters and stuff," says Jesse. "And basically funded his war against Iran," says Sean. "He said, 'I wish things were like when Ronald Reagan was still president, and I said, 'Yeah, I wish they were, too, because then I wouldn't be here.'"

When Sean told him that Reagan had recently died of Alzheimer's, Saddam got quiet for a minute, then said, "Yes. This happens."
From the AP story full of nuggetty Saddam goodness:
NEW YORK - Thrust unexpectedly into the role of prison guards for Saddam Hussein, a group of young American soldiers found the deposed Iraqi leader to be a friendly, talkative "clean freak" who loved Raisin Bran for breakfast, did his own laundry and insisted he was still president of Iraq, says a report published on Monday.

...[Saddam] had harsh words for both President Bushes, each of whom went to war against him.

"The Bush father, son, no good," one of the soldiers, Cpl. Jonathan "Paco" Reese, 22, of Millville, Pa., quotes Saddam as saying. But his fellow GI, Specialist Sean O'Shea, then 19, says Saddam later softened that view.

"Towards the end he was saying that he doesn't hold any hard feelings and he just wanted to talk to Bush, to make friends with him," O'Shea, of Minooka, Pa., told the magazine.

A third soldier, Spc. Jesse Dawson, quoted Saddam as saying of Bush, "`He knows I have nothing, no mass weapons. He knows he'll never find them.'"
The soldiers say Saddam was preoccupied with cleanliness, washing up after shaking hands and using diaper wipes to clean his meal trays, his utensils and the table before eating. "He had germophobia or whatever you call it" said Dawson, 25, of Berwick, Pa.

The article quotes the GIs on Saddam's eating preferences — Raisin Bran Crunch was his breakfast favorite. "No Froot Loops," he told O'Shea. He ate fish and chicken but refused beef at dinner.

For a time his favorite food was Cheetos, and when those ran out, Saddam would "get grumpy," the story says. One day the guards substituted Doritos corn chips, and Saddam forgot about Cheetos. "He'd eat a family size bag of Doritos in 10 minutes," Dawson says.

Saddam prayed five times a day in his cell and kept a Quran that he claimed to have found in some rubble near the underground hideout. "He proudly showed (it) to the boys because it was burned around the edges and had a bullet hole in it," the story says.
Saddam told the guards his capture in an underground hideout on Dec. 18, 2003, resulted from a betrayal by the only man who knew where he was, and had been paid to keep the secret. [This corroborates Debkafile's theory about why he was so docile and scruffy when captured: the spider hole had been his prison. -Rob]

"He was really mad about that," says Dawson. "He compared himself to Jesus, how Judas told on Jesus. He was like, `that's how it was for me." If his Judas never said anything, nobody ever would have found him, he said."

Porter Goss' "Excellent Idea"

From AP:
The director of the CIA says he has an "excellent idea" where Osama bin Laden is hiding, but that the United States' respect for sovereign nations makes it more difficult to capture the al-Qaida chief. [Pause for laughter. Wipe coffee from monitor.]

In an interview with Time for the magazine's June 27 issue, Porter Goss was asked about the progress of the hunt for bin Laden.

"When you go to the question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play," Goss said. [Pause for laughter. Breathe.]...
Maybe Goss forgot which Administration he was in.
Goss did not say where he thinks bin Laden is, nor did he specify what country or countries he was referring to when he spoke of foreign sanctuaries. But American officials have long said they believed bin Laden was hiding in rugged mountains along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
From AFP:
Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar are not in Afghanistan, the US ambassador said, a day after a top Taliban commander said the pair were alive and well.

"Mullah Omar is not in Afghanistan. I do not believe that Osama is in Afghanistan," Zalmay Khalilzad told a press conference.
I'm trying to read between all these lines, but my new glasses haven't come in yet. What gets me is that for a long time now we've been told that Bin Laden is probably in Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, more or less as stated in the AP story above. If that's what Goss meant, why didn't he say so? It's common knowledge. If he thinks Bin Laden is elsewhere, he might want to inform the troops searching for him. In mid-March, right before Condi dropped by for a visit, Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, told the BBC that
his forces got their clearest trace of Bin Laden after the Pakistani army launched an offensive in the tribal region last year.

"There was a time when the dragnet had closed and we thought we knew roughly the area where he possibly could be. That was, I think, some time back, not very long... maybe about eight to 10 months back," he said.

"But after that, this is such a game, this intelligence, that they escape. They can move and then you lose contact."
And apparently the capture on May 2 of Al-Qaeda member (?) Abu Farraj al-Libbi yielded no leads.

We take it Goss was bullshitting. Or all those suckers searching for Bin Laden are. Or [insert hypothesis here].


The Nelson Report on The Downing Street Memo(s)

Josh Marshall quotes this week's Nelson Report on the Downing Street Box Set of Memos. Here it is in full (apologies to TPMophiles for the repeat):
[There is] an increased press and Congressional focus on the so-called "Downing Street Memo", from the then-head of Britian's secret service to Prime Minister Blair, stating flatly that President Bush and his top advisors had determined to go to war with Iraq well in advance of playing out the UN process.

Such an interpretation is, of course, arguable, as per the Bush/Blair press conference last week, about which you will have read, and will read more tomorrow, given a suddenly large push by more than 100 Hill Democrats. Our point for tonight is that this memo, really a series of memos, has had a strange life...but after a delayed reaction in this country, it seems to be leading somewhere...where, exactly, is the question.

We can report, not as a partisan, but as an observer who happened to be working for a Congressman deeply involved in the Pentagon Papers fight of 1971, that old hands note eerie similarities to the start-up process of questions raised, and the potential for Congress to become more seriously involved.

Two examples of related concerns to the "Downing Steet" memos: DOD Secretary Rumsfeld's pre-positioning of thousands of troops and large stores of equipment, months before the final decision was made; the top-level White House involvement in the "torture memo" process that led directly to the international humiliation of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, despite internal warnings from then-Secretary of State Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage.

Add those up, add your own examples, and you will know why you hear conversations in the past couple of days using the "impeachment" word...not as a prediction, this is way too soon and/or extreme for now...but as part of an attempt to measure historic parallels, and to think aloud on how far this process might go. Maybe nowhere? Or, maybe we're just seeing the beginning of something. We mention it tonight because the conversation is being held less quietly than before, and politics in Washington may be about to get even worse, if you can imagine anything worse.

David Sedaris in New Orleans

David Sedaris. This Friday. Garden District Book Shop (in the Rink). 6:30 PM.

You know, I rarely get excited, even about genuinely exciting things. I am now officially excited.

Ballsy Journalism Watch, Part 1

We should've officially started this series a while back, since we've been posting WH press briefing excerpts now and then in which journalists get all up in Scottie's grill 'n shit. Andrew Sullivan has an excerpt from a recent briefing (gaggle?). In it, ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Terry Moran asks Scott McClellan what the evidence is for the Iraqi insurgency being in its "last throes." Best line: "Is there any idea how long a 'last throe' lasts for?"

Raw Story Fundraiser, June 17-July 1

Help Raw Story's staff eat now and then. Or buy them some laptops. They're one of the few independent news organizations out there. Give em some love.

Your Morning Swarm

Get a heaping helping of Downing Street Memo blogswarmy goodness here.

Torture, Insurgent Style

From the NYT:
KARABILA, Iraq, Sunday, June 19 - Marines on an operation to eliminate insurgents that began Friday broke through the outside wall of a building in this small rural village to find a torture center equipped with electric wires, a noose, handcuffs, a 574-page jihad manual - and four beaten and shackled Iraqis.
The men said they told the marines, from Company K, Third Marines, Second Division, that they had been tortured with shocks and flogged with a strip of rubber for more than two weeks, unseen behind the windows of black glass. One of them, Ahmed Isa Fathil, 19, a former member of the new Iraqi Army, said he had been held and tortured there for 22 days. All the while, he said, his face was almost entirely taped over and his hands were cuffed.
The rest here.


AP Gets Its Memo On

The Associated Press has a Downing Street story out today covering a variety of documents. Money quote:
Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert who teaches at Queen Mary College, University of London, said the [leaked UK gov't] documents confirmed what post-invasion investigations have found.

"The documents show what official inquiries in Britain already have, that the case of weapons of mass destruction was based on thin intelligence and was used to inflate the evidence to the level of mendacity," Dodge said. "In going to war with Bush, Blair defended the special relationship between the two countries, like other British leaders have. But he knew he was taking a huge political risk at home. He knew the war's legality was questionable and its unpopularity was never in doubt."


The Tortured State of Discourse

Red and Blue Blogistan both are abuzz about Senator Richard Durbin's statement on the floor of the Senate yesterday in which, to the outrage of many Bush-supporters, he actually reviewed some of the practices being used in American prison camps outside of the US. The popular quote is
When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:
On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.
If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.
It's certainly shocking, although not the most shocking report of American prisoner mistreatment in the Global War on Terror (note: Iraqi terrorist groups' treatment of prisoners is a bit worse, which of course makes anything short of that okay). Blue Blogistanis are shocked at the torture; Red Blogistanis are appalled not by the torture itself, but by that last part, involving 20th-century European and Asian dictators.

Take P*w*r L*ne (no, please, take them). After listing the millions said dictators had killed, Paul M. reacted thus:
The big lie is nothing new in politics. Hitler and Stalin were master practicioners. What's unusual about Durbin's lie is that it slanders his own country. Normally that kind of slander is uttered only by revolutionaries seeking the violent overthrow of the government. Yet Durbin purports to be part of a loyal opposition.

What possessed Durbin to do it? How, after harping constantly on the importance of our image to winning the war on terrorism, could he cast the U.S. in such a false light? It's not likely that he intentionally set out to injure his country. Until I hear a better explanation, I'll put it down to a kind of sickness or derangement brought on by hatred -- of President Bush, the military, etc. -- coupled with a very weak immune system (i.e. intellect).
This reaction might make sense when you understand how differently Paul's blog "partner" John H. views torture at Guantanamo:
The mildness with which terrorist detainees have been treated stands as an imperishable monument to the greatness of the American spirit and the moderation of the Bush administration.
How's the koolaid taste, John? Add enough sugar to the blood?

In sharp contrast, Blue Blogistani Billmon's got it on the nose:
Exaggerating for political effect is a technique at least as old as Jonathan Swift.... Still, quantitatively and qualitatively, we're not even in the same universe as Stalin's paranoid empire.

But if Durban had wanted to be completely honest, he would have skipped the rhetorical flourish about the Soviets, the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, and instead pointed out that if we didn't know better, we might think today's horror stories out of Guantanamo and Abu Graib and Baghram were tales told about prisons in El Salvador, Honduras and Argentina thirty years ago -- or South Vietnam, forty years ago.

And if he really wanted to get reckless with the truth, he could have explained the reasons for that resemblance.

But that's probably more truth than even Dick Durban can afford.
(Billmon's post via dailyKos.)

Durbin's full statement (in HTML) is here.


Senator Durbin's Statement on Torture

The whole statement here. All HTML; no muss, no fuss.

Why the Downing Street Memo Matters
An Open Letter to Michael Kinsley and Andrew Sullilvan

Andrew Sullivan and the LA Times' Michael Kinsley, among others, are underwhelmed by the Downing Street Memo. In particular, they're underwhelmed by the claims that the memo constitutes proof that the Bush administration fixed "the facts and intelligence" on Iraq "around the policy" for invasion.

This is as it should be.

Kinsley points out that, as recorded in the memo, an official identified as "C," or Richard Dearlove, then head of Britain's foreign intelligence service, "offered no specifics, or none that made it into the memo. Nor does the memo assert that actual decision-makers told him they were fixing the facts. Although the prose is not exactly crystalline, it seems to be saying only that 'Washington' had reached that conclusion."

Sullivan is even less impressed, arguing that "[all] the memo shows is one individual's take on what was going on in Washington." He might not have noticed that, according to Knight Ridder's Walcott and Strobel, "a former senior U.S. official [, speaking on condition of anonymity,] called it 'an absolutely accurate description of what transpired' during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington."

While both are correct, even if Sullivan is misleadingly so, they both miss the point. That's unfortunate, because both are highly intelligent, perceptive men whom I admire, and both could do much to advance the story.

What might be better termed the "Downing Street Box Set" of documents (steadily moving up the political charts) is more suggestive than conclusive. It provides a glimpse into the thought processes of an ally on the road to war and it shows some of the information we gave it along the way. Because of this, it gives the American public and the rest of the world something to which we are rarely privy: a glimpse into the thought processes of the White House, from the point of view of an ally's officials who have no vested interest in clouding the truth.

The officials who wrote the Downing Street documents are not former Bush administration employees seeking revenge for getting demoted or fired. And yet what they say is of a curious piece with what former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, former Counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke and Bush ghost-writer Mickey Herskowitz said about Bush and his administrations' desire to "take out Saddam." Never mind the plans for Iraqi oil, the interviews with candidates for Iraqi Leader, the general plan for "cutting off the head" in Iraq and the meetings with oil executives that, as reported in Harper's and on BBC Newsnight, promptly followed Bush's first inauguration and were widely unreported in the US media.

Those underwhelmed by the Downing Street Memo point out also that it tells us nothing new. Few, unfortunately, have commented on the other documents, which are even more revealing and flesh out what the original leaked memo said. They're right, though: The original memo told us what we already knew, if we had been keeping up with the story and not drinking the right-wing koolaid along with the administration. As Michael Kinsley said on June 12, "Of course, if 'intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,' rather than vice versa, that is pretty good evidence of Bush's intentions, as well as a scandal in its own right. And we know now that this was true. Fixing intelligence and facts to fit a desired policy is the Bush II governing style, especially concerning the Iraq war...."

Unfortunately, those who get their news from major cable news outlets—the vast majority of Americans—would likely not know that.

Which is exactly what the administration wants. And this is why the Downing Street Memo and its siblings are so important: They raise again the question that was buried before the election. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was supposed to investigate and report on how the administration used the intelligence it got and what it might have done to ensure that it got only the intelligence that it wanted. We never got that report. We were told it would come after the election. And after the election, we were told it was on the back-burner; there were more pressing concerns for the committee to address.

As Senator Pat Roberts, committee chairman, said on NBC's Meet the Press, when asked about the "Phase Two" report: "I'm more than happy to finish this, and I want to finish it, but we have other things that we need to do.... I don't know what that accomplishes over the long term. I'm perfectly willing to do it, and that's what we agreed to do, and that door is still open...so we will get it done, but it seems to me that we ought to put it in some priority of order, and after we do get it done I think everybody's going to scratch their head and say, 'OK, well, that's fine. You know, let's go to the real issue.'"

That is the real issue. It always has been. Maybe that's why ombudsmen from the New York Times and The Washington Post were unhappy about the lack of coverage. NPR's Daniel Schorr called the Downing Street Memo "the undercovered story of the year" when he reported on it on May 22. In the noxious, fact-averse environment we live in, it's imperative to our republic that the American public know how and why we went to war. Only then can we know whether the thousands of dead and wounded, and the creation of ever more jihadists and Baathist rebels—regardless of whether Iraq becomes a functioning democracy—was worth it.

Related leaked British documents supporting and fleshing out the Downing Street Memo:Other realitique posts on the Downing Street Memo and accompanying documents:

Keep Irony Alive

Four years and six months ago, Irony was savagely mauled in public and in the dark. Since then, it has remained in hospital. The Heretik clarifies.

Democratic Downing Street Memo Hearings on CSPAN 3

Hearings begin 2:30 PM ET. So 1:30 for us CST folk. More here.


Congress to Justice Dept.: No Records for You!

From AP:
The House voted 238-187 despite a veto threat from Bush to block the part of the anti-terrorism law that allows the government to investigate the reading habits of terror suspects.
That's no narrow victory, either. Hopefully, some of the same representatives will keep the FBI from setting fire to the Fourth Amendment.

Mr. Freedom Fries to Push for Answers on Downing Street Memo

U.S. U.S. Representative Walter Jones (news, bio, voting record) (R-NC) is seen in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. June 15, 2005. Jones will co-sponsor legislation about calling for the truth regarding the Downing Street Memo and reasons how the U.S. got involved in Iraq.
And here we thought conservative former Reaganaut Paul Craig Roberts was the only one who cared about whether Americans were led down the garden path. (Via Raw Story.)

Schiavo Autopsy Faked!

According to uber-liberal MSNBC, "a coroner who performed an autopsy on Terri Schiavo reported Wednesday that she suffered from an irreversible brain injury and would not have recovered as her parents insisted was possible. It also found no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused."

Yeah, right. Realitique asks, "Who paid him to say that?"

Pinellas-Pasco County "medical examiner" Jon Thogmartin told a press conference, contrary to the credible claims of Terri Schiavo's dedicated parents and the swarms of Randall-Terry-led Christians and Republican Congressman who supported them, that "her brain was profoundly atrophied." He added that "there was massive neuronal loss, or death. This was irreversible and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons."

What does he take us for? Are we really that easy to dupe? Read the rest of these lies here. (Via Raw Story.)

UPDATE: More lies from the death-loving NYT!
The autopsy, for instance, showed that physical abuse or poison did not play a role in her collapse, [Thogmartin, the medical examiner,] said. Ms. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had accused their daughter's husband, Michael Schiavo, of abusing her, which he has steadfastly denied. Dr. Thogmartin also said there was no evidence she had had an eating disorder before she collapsed, although a disorder was widely suspected because she had diminished levels of potassium in her blood.

And despite a widely televised video that appeared to show Ms. Schiavo responding to voices and other movement in her room, the autopsy said that Ms. Schiavo was blind in her final days. The medical examiner said she would not have been able to eat or drink had she been fed by mouth, as her parents had requested. The autopsy found no evidence that she suffered a heart attack, or that she had been given harmful drugs that may have accelerated her death.
Will Terri's death murder go unavenged?

Vetting the DSM and Other Documents

Raw Story's Larisa Alexandrovna reports on the vetting process used for the leaked UK documents. Includes a table of the batch of DSM-related documents that came out Monday (DSM and Cabinet Office briefing paper not included).


Find the Discrepancy in This Picture

I'm sure this has been noted elsewhere, but see if you can fathom this chasm: Bill Clinton lied on the stand about getting head and got impeached. Bush and his cronies dissembled about the Saddam/Al-Qaeda/9-11 connection and the state of Iraq's nuclear program and capablities and got re-elected. They subsequently shamed the United States by opening the door to torture and then doing nothing to those ultimately responsible for it. 1700 Americans are dead. Thousands more are wounded. Many thousands of Iraqis are dead or wounded, the vast majority of them innocent civilians. Anyone see a discrepancy here?

UPDATE: Just a few Bush administration quotes either insinuating or explicitly stating links between Saddam Hussein (and Iraq) and Al-Qaeda. I would argue tentatively that mentioning Al-Qaeda post-9/11 implicitly includes 9/11; you may disagree. The point of the rhetoric was more to frighten the public about a possible future attack than to exact revenge. From AP (via USA Today):

Rice, Sept. 25: "There clearly are contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq that can be documented; there clearly is testimony that some of the contacts have been important contacts and that there's a relationship here. ... And there are some al-Qaeda personnel who found refuge in Baghdad."

Bush, Oct. 7: "We know that Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy—the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al-Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade" and "we've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases."


Bush, State of the Union address, Jan. 28: "And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda."

Bush, Feb. 6: "Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with al-Qaeda" and "Iraq has also provided al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training."


Cheney, Jan. 21: "I continue to believe—I think there's overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government. I'm very confident that there was an established relationship there."

Cheney, Monday: Saddam Hussein "had long-established ties with al-Qaeda."
From the BBC:
US President George W Bush - 17 June 2004:

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda."
US Vice-President Dick Cheney - January 2004:

"There's overwhelming evidence... of a connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq".
US Secretary of State Colin Powell - January 2004:

"I have not seen smoking gun, concrete evidence about the connection, but I do believe the connections existed."

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice - September 2003:

"Saddam was a danger in the region where the 9/11 threat emerged."

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - November 2002:

"Within a week, or a month, Saddam could give his WMD to al-Qaeda."
UPDATE II: I left out of the BBC quotes above the following two quotes, for consistency, because they are not from the administration and do not support what the administration repeatedly claimed.
9/11 Commission - 16 June 2004:

"We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda co-operated on attacks against the United States."

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace - January 2004:

"The most intensive searching over the last two years has produced no solid evidence of a co-operative relationship between Saddam Hussein's government and al-Qaeda."
And just for fun, here's a reiteration of our previous quotation of Rickett's memo to Blair concerning Iraq prior to Blair's April visit with Bush in Crawford.
5. US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Aaida [sic] is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that:

6. the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for;

7. it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran).

Newest DSM-ish Docs Verifed

MSNBC reports: latest leaked UK documents verified. (Via Raw Story.)

Looks like the Downing Street Memo hearing on Thursday is gonna be fun.

As mentioned below, links to HTML versions of the documents here.

Original PDFs of scans here.

Legal Guide for Bloggers


Even More Documents

The Heretik has a list of British gov't documents from March, 2002, dealing with Iraq and Blair's pending visit to Bush's Crawford ranch—the tet a tet referred to in the Downing Street Memo. I can't vouch for the documents, but they read just like the DSM and Cabinet Office briefing paper; go here for the debate on their authenticity. [UPDATE: NBC has verified them.] Raw Story also has them, along with an Iraq War Timeline. The whole set of PDFs can be downloaded from Cryptome here.

Some highlights from a memorandum in the list. Written by Blair political director Peter Ricketts, the memo's dated Mar. 22, 2002.
3. By broad support for the objective brings two real problems which need discussing.

4. First, the THREAT. The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September. This is not something we need to be defensive about, but attempts to claim otherwise publicly will increase scepticism [sic] about our case. I am relieved that you decided to postpone publication of the unclassified document. My meeting yesterday showed that there is more work to do to ensuer [sic] that the figures are accurate and consistent with those of the US. But event he best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years ont he [sic] nuclear, missile or CW/BW fronts: the programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up.

5. US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Aaida [sic] is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that:

6. the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for;

7. it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran).

He Didn’t Get the Memo

Below is an exchange I had with John H. of P*w*r L*ne yesterday. The post I was responding to comes first, followed by the email exchange. My only regret is that I wasn't more circumspect in my assertion about the administration and Al-Qaeda (they may have played footsie with Saddam but we have no evidence that much else occurred). The reason I'm posting this exchange will be obvious in the last paragraph of John's last response (feel free to scroll down there first).

About That Downing Street Memo

Every day or two we get an email from a lefty demanding to know why we haven't written about the "Downing Street memo" that John Kerry and others are treating as a bombshell revelation. Actually, we wrote about that memo (and quoted it in full) more than a month ago, just after it became public. Our analysis is here: "A Gun That Doesn't Smoke." In a word, the memo is extremely interesting, but tells us nothing new about pre-war intelligence on Iraq, and is anything but a bombshell.

DEACON adds: It looks like even lefties can get ahead of the curve if they read P*w*r L*ne. [Realitique wrote about it on May 2. P*w*r L*ne's post came four days later. -Ed.]

On 6/13/05, Rob wrote:

You claim that the DSM (and you may claim that about the newest document) is no "smoking gun." In the sense that we've heard most (not all) of what it says before, that's true. The difference between the Downing Street Memo and, say, the pre- and post-war reporting by Knight-Ridder and Seymour Hersh and others, the claims of Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill, the Niger forgeries and Joseph Wilson's story, Mickey Herskowitz's claims, and the demonstrably false claims of the administration that Saddam and Al-Qaeda were in cahoots, is that the Downing Street Memo is a high-level British government document, which Blair has yet to disavow. It is the most solid documentary evidence to date that the Bush administration mislead the American public into supporting a war that had to occur when it did only because of upcoming elections in the United States. If the DSM isn't a smoking gun, it sure has the whiff of burnt gun-powder about it.

P*w*r L*ne wrote:

Rob, it's hard to tell from your email what you're talking about. The Downing Street memo, which I assume you've read, makes clear that Blair and his advisers had no doubt that Saddam possessed WMDs, and they were very concerned about ways in which he might use them in the event of war. So what's your point?

John H.

On 6/13/05, Rob wrote:

My point was exactly what I said in my last message.

You mentioned WMD, but that's only a minor part of the memo. What's clear from the DSM and the Cabinet Office paper published yesterday, is that:

"it seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force."

Except that, inconveniently, Saddam let the UN inspectors in. We didn't give them enough time to do their job. Why? Because we were interested in overthrowing the regime, not in assessing Saddam's WMD.

As the Cabinet Office briefing paper makes clear, the UK thought the UN weapons inspectors would have barely set up shop by the time the war would need to begin. Though they underestimated the inspectors' abilities, this merely confirms that the Bush administration used WMD as a pretext, as the administration's use of fraudulent Niger documents show. It was all rhetoric.

[P*w*r L*ne wrote:]

Now you're quoting one guy who formed an opinion about President Bush's thinking, based on a brief series of meetings in Washington. This guy was a British official, not an administration insider. By late July 2002, preparations for the war obviously had to be underway; Bush may or may not have thought that war was inevitable at that point, but what's the difference? He could have changed his mind if events had gone differently, but he didn't.

Likewise with someone's opinion that the case for war was "thin." (This view apparently is attribued to the Foreign Secretary, but this is ambiguous.) Once again: so what? It's hardly a shock that a British diplomat thought the case was "thin." Quoting his opinion doesn't advance the debate on the merits at all.

Obviously, some people were in favor of the Iraq war, and others opposed it. There are legitimate grounds to debate the wisdom of the policy. But it is silly to argue that President Bush did anything but act in what he thought was the country's interest, based on the information then available. If you disagree with him, fine. But debate the policy issues. This endless chorus of "Bush lied" just makes you and your colleagues look silly.

[John H.]

[Emphasis mine.]

UPDATE: My reply:

Yes, the man judging that the "case was thin" was, as you pointed out, the Foreign Secretary. I should've been clearer. The man who reported that "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." was the head of MI6, Richard Dearlove, who met with George Tenet. And according to the Knight-Ridder story of May 6, a former US official called Dearlove's description of that meeting with Tenet (as reported in the Downing Street meeting minutes) "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired."

I'm not sure what makes me and my "colleagues look silly." Why should I debate only policy and now the extremely dishonest way in which a policy is implemented? Should I not analyze Bush's repeated dissembling on Social Security (There's a crisis! But, I admit, my proposal won't fix it! That's why I'm on tour to promote it!)?

The President and several of his employees in the White House dissembled on a regular basis in order to whip up support for an invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003. Maybe Bush thought he was doing what was in the best interest of country--I don't know his motives--but apparently he thought he couldn't be honest about why we had to go to war (esp. when we already had weapons inspectors on the ground). But that should come as no surprise: it's the dominant pattern of his administration.

And please don't assume that I think Bush knew there was no WMD. I never said that.

I wonder what the sky looks like in their world.

Note: John H. didn't sign the his last message, but presumably he wrote it. Not that it matters.