Category ►►► Fiskings

March 21, 2006

AP: Saddam, the Frustrated Innocent Victim

Fiskings , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

An Associated Press laugher today from Charles J. Hanley introduces a "frustrated" Saddam Hussein, appealing Iraq's innocence of WMD-related charges to his inner circle, unable to understand why the meanies at the UN and the United States won't believe that Iraq long before gave up any ambition to develop WMD.

Mr. Hanley subsequently asserts -- perhaps forgetting the bright line AP always maintains between commentary and news reporting -- that this is all true: the assertion that Iraq maintained WMD programs (if not "large stockpiles") was a dreadful mistake (or lie) all along, Hussein was innocent, and (Mr. Hanley insists) the Iraq Survey Group's final report completely vindicated Saddam Hussein:

In his final report in October 2004, Charles Duelfer, head of a post-invasion U.S. team of weapons hunters, concluded Iraq and the U.N. inspectors had, indeed, dismantled the nuclear program and destroyed the chemical and biological weapons stockpiles by 1992, and the Iraqis never resumed production.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on,
and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

-- Wm. Shakespeare, the Tempest

The final dispatch of Charles Duelfer's ISG investigation? Good; let's take that as our "gold standard." Let us compare it to the sheer audacity of Mr. Hanley's misstatements, sly inuendo, and outright fabrications. The result may astonish anyone not familiar with AP's modus operandi.

All right, let's kick on the afterburners and get this crate airborne....

(I know some readers dislike long posts; but sometimes, especially with fiskings, you just gotta do it. Apologies in advance.)

Exasperated, besieged by global pressure, Saddam Hussein and top aides searched for ways in the 1990s to prove to the world they'd given up banned weapons.

"We don't have anything hidden!" the frustrated Iraqi president interjected at one meeting, transcripts show.

At another, in 1996, Saddam wondered whether U.N. inspectors would "roam Iraq for 50 years" in a pointless hunt for weapons of mass destruction. "When is this going to end?" he asked.

Huh... can we figure out any reason -- other than pure anti-Saddam bigorty and prejudice on the part of the international community -- why the UN would intensify inspections in 1996, despite the fact (as Mr. Hanley sees it) that Iraq was not hiding anything, because (he states) they had nothing to hide?

Perhaps we can turn to the gold standard, the final Duelfer report. This is the section discussing the infamous "chicken farm" documents... which Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel had hidden in his chicken ranch, and which he revealed when he defected.

Kamel was one of Saddam Hussein's sons in law. He defected in August 1995 along with another son in law, Col. Saddam Kamel al-Majid; both began cooperating with UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission). Although Kamel insisted that he had ordered all the pre-Gulf War WMD destroyed, the fact that there was so much more than anyone had suspected, more than the UN had found, and tremendously more than Iraq had ever revealed, shook the confidence of the UN that they could rely in any way upon Hussein's cooperation.

(Later, both Kamel and al-Majid were lured back to Iraq, where they were both slain "resisting arrest" by the Iraq security forces.)

When Saddam discovered that Kamel and al-Majid had gone over, he panicked. The Iraqis had no idea what Kamel was telling UNSCOM, but they knew that he knew a lot. They also knew they had to get out in front of the information. Since it was compromised anyway, Saddam believed that they could quickly release the evidence themselves and make some PR gains -- all oriented towards getting the sanctions, including the inspection regime, permanently lifted.

In February 1996, the Iraqis "discovered" the chicken-farm documents and released them to UNSCOM. But Saddam's hopes were dashed that this would help the case to lift the sanctions:

Although Iraq’s release of the “chicken farm” documents initially created a more positive atmosphere with UNSCOM, the relationship grew strained as UNSCOM and the IAEA inspections became more aggressive. The release destroyed the international community’s confidence in the credibility of follow-on Iraqi declarations of cooperation. UNSCOM concluded that it had been successfully deceived by Iraq and that the deception effort was controlled and orchestrated by the highest levels of the former Regime. UNSCOM therefore directed its efforts at facilities associated with very senior members of the Regime and designed inspections to uncover documents rather than weapons. The situation eventually reached an impasse then escalated to crisis and conflict. From this experience, Iraq learned to equate cooperation with UNSCOM with increased scrutiny, prolonged sanctions, and the threat of war. In response, Baghdad sought relief via a weakening of the sanctions regime rather than compliance with it.

Might that possibly explain why UNSCOM increased the frequency and intensity of their inspections in 1996?

Let's see what else Mr. Hanley has to say....

[Inspections] ended in 2004, when U.S. experts, after an exhaustive investigation, confirmed what the men in those meetings were saying: that Iraq had eliminated its weapons of mass destruction long ago, a finding that discredited the Bush administration's stated rationale for invading Iraq in 2003 - to locate WMD.

This is the familiar trope: that the only reason the Bush administration ever enunciated prior to the invasion was WMD... and now that we haven't found "large stockpiles" of WMD, that has "discredited" the "rationale" for the war.

But in fact, each of the following was offered before the war as casus belli:

  • The WMD programs;
  • To enforce UNSC resolutions, particularly 1441;
  • Because of his non-compliance with his treaty obligations, primarily in refusing to cooperate with UNSCOM inspections;
  • Hussein's links with terrorist organizations -- including al-Qaeda, whose members he gave sanctuary to after they were routed from Afghanistan; but also including Hamas and Hezbollah, and (we now discover) al-Qaeda affilliate Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines;
  • Because of his staggering record of crimes against humanity;
  • In order to liberate the Iraqi people from the dictator; these first six can be found, e.g., in the president's 2003 State of the Union Addressed (January 28th);
  • In order to establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East to serve as a model for other Moslem countries (February 2003);
  • Because Iraq had repeatedly attacked American fighter jets patrolling the no-fly zone and had tried to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush in 1999 (both put forward September 2002).

Well, quite a number of enunciated reasons other than WMD, all promoted extensively and very publicly prior to the invasion, which began March 19th, 2003. Yet Mr. Hanley seems completely unaware of, even oblivious to, their existence. Either he has forgotten (most reporters have the memory of a mayfly), or else he never even noticed at the time. I wonder which he would claim?

Here he comes again:

Even as the documents make clear Saddam's regime had given up banned weapons, they also attest to its continued secretiveness: A 1997 document from Iraqi intelligence instructed agencies to keep confidential files away from U.N. teams, and to remove "any forbidden equipment."

Since it's now acknowledged the Iraqis had ended the arms programs by then, the directive may have been aimed at securing stray pieces of equipment, and preserving some secrets from Iraq's 1980s work on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Thus are great nonsense arguments promulgated. Like the King of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland, we begin with the verdict -- that "Iraqis had ended the arms programs by [1997]" -- and any subsequent evidence that they had not (the warning to remove "forbidden equipment") is reinterpreted in light of the preexisting conclusion. It's magic!

What does Mr. Hanley's gold standard say about this time period?

Throughout 1997-1998, Iraq continued efforts to hinder UNSCOM inspections through site sanitization, warning inspection sites prior to the inspectors’ arrival, concealment of sensitive documentation, and intelligence collection on the UN mission.

Pretty odd behavior for a regime that had ended their arms program long before and sought only to preserve a few "secrets" from their WMD efforts a decade earlier.

Saddam's inner circle entertained notions of reviving the programs someday, the newly released documents show. "The factories will remain in our brains," one unidentified participant told Saddam at a meeting, apparently in the early 1990s.

At the same meeting, however, Saddam, who was deposed by the U.S. invasion in 2003 and is now on trial for crimes against humanity, led a discussion about converting chemical weapons factories to beneficial uses.

When a subordinate complained that U.N. inspectors had seized equipment at the plants useful for pharmaceutical and insecticide production, Saddam jumped in, saying they had "no right" to deny the Iraqis the equipment, since "they have ascertained that we have no intention to produce in this field (chemical weapons)."

Not that Mr. Hanley would ever editorialize in the middle of a news story, but -- converting bio-chem factories "to beneficial uses"? Doesn't he actually mean converting to civilian use? How do we know the uses were "beneficial," when there is a persistent charge that what Iraq really did, following the Gulf War, was convert their WMD programs to dual-use capability, military and civilian -- and then argued that having at least a potential civilian capability meant the stockpiles could not be considered WMD.

In the end, the Iraqis persuading the CIA... which of course desperately wanted to be persuaded, since that would damage Bush. And we did find tremendous stockpiles of potential (dual-use) WMD: for example, drums of cyclosarin-based "pesticides" concealed in camouflaged bunkers and ammo dumps, where they sometimes sat within feet of empty chemical rockets and shells. Iraq, by the way, is one of the few countries that used cyclosarin as a chemical weapon (for example, during the Iran-Iraq war). Other countries used the related but far more effective (and impossible to hide as "dual-use") sarin instead of cyclosarin.

Kenneth Timmerman has documented this extensively, for example in his piece in Insight Magazine -- which alas has exceeded its expiry date and is no longer available on Insight's website. It is available on Timmerman's own site, however (though in annoyingly large type).

And in fact, Duelfer himself reported that the Iraqi chemical-weapon scientists had been retained at "civilian" pesticide production facilities, such as the Tariq Company in Fallujah. I wonder why?

So what Mr. Hanley reports, with a straight face, as "converting chemical weapons factories to beneficial uses," actually means, though he may be ignorant of it, converting chemical weapons factories to dual-use capability, knowing this would mean the international community (which includes the American CIA and State Department) would rush to exonerate Saddam Hussein if the dictator gave them even the smallest hook to hang their hats on. As Pat Collins, the Hip Hypnotist, proved, the easiest thing in the world is to hypnotize those who urgently want to be hypnotized.

Repeatedly in the transcripts, Saddam and his lieutenants remind each other that Iraq destroyed its chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s, and shut down those programs and the nuclear-bomb program, which had never produced a weapon.

The image of Hussein and his top regime officials loudly and emphatically "remind[ing] each other" -- at a meeting they themselves were videotaping -- that they had destroyed all their banned WMD reminds me of the lousy science fiction writing that frequently appeared in magazines edited by Hugo Gernsback in the early 1930s...

"Golly, Will-X2283, it is amazing that today, in 2034, we can sit in comfort while traveling at more than one hundred miles of an hour in this evacuated subway tube."

"Why yes, Jon-K1119! If a traveler from one hundred years ago were to be magically whisked to this time period, he would be amazed not only at our transportation innovations but also by the fact that our underground hydroponics fields can feed four thousands in the same space that, in his day, would only feed four hundreds."

It doesn't seem to occur to Mr. Hanley that videotaped meetings at which people vigorously "remind each other" of facts they all know are probably meant for eventual public consumption... or at least later legal cover.

In any event, Charles Duelfer himself -- Mr. Hanley's gold standard -- noted that Saddam Hussein was very suspicious even of his own top people and concealed from them much of the WMD work that was ongoing. He was contradictory and contrary, often telling a person they had no WMD on one day, and a few days later telling the same person that they had superweapons that would drive the infidels and crusaders from the land.

In any event, whatever top regime officials may have "remind[ed] each other" of during those meetings, the fact remains that in the early 1990s, Saddam had every intention of maintaining and reconstituting his WMD. Duelfer reports in the section "Decline (1991-1996)":

Many former Iraqi officials close to Saddam either heard him say or inferred that he intended to resume WMD programs when sanctions were lifted. Those around him at the time do not believe that he made a decision to permanently abandon WMD programs. Saddam encouraged Iraqi officials to preserve the nation’s scientific brain trust essential for WMD. Saddam told his advisors as early as 1991 that he wanted to keep Iraq’s nuclear scientists fully employed. This theme of preserving personnel resources persisted throughout the sanctions period.

Since the next section of the final report is titled "Recovery (1996-1998)," the alert reader can probably surmise Duelfer's conclusion.

Two quick hits show the extraordinary depth and subtlety of Mr. Hanley's reasoning:

"We played by the rules of the game," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said at a session in the mid-1990s. "In 1991, our weapons were destroyed."

Why yes... by us. Aziz is quite correct: Iraq's weapons were destroyed in 1991 -- by the Coalition forces operating under UN authority. That is, we destroyed what we found.

But did we find it all? Mr. Hanley has an answer to that, too:

Amer Mohammed Rashid, a top weapons program official, told a 1996 presidential meeting he laid out the facts to the U.N. chief inspector.

"We don't have anything to hide, so we're giving you all the details," he said he told Rolf Ekeus.

Mr. Hanley says that Rashid in fact "laid out all the facts" to Ekeus... but then he quotes Rashid saying only that he told Ekeus that he'd laid out all the facts. Evidently, Amer Mohammed Rashid's word is good enough for Mr. Hanley. After all, the mere fact that a man is a tyrant, a terrorist, and guilty of crimes against humanity is no reason to impugn his character, is it?

And at last we come full circle, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, to where we began, with Mr. Hanley's remarkable claim about the final report of the Iraq Survey Group, written by the CIA's Charles Duelfer:

In his final report in October 2004, Charles Duelfer, head of a post-invasion U.S. team of weapons hunters, concluded Iraq and the U.N. inspectors had, indeed, dismantled the nuclear program and destroyed the chemical and biological weapons stockpiles by 1992, and the Iraqis never resumed production.

So what does Charles Duelfer say for himself about the latter period leading up to the war?

Saddam invested his growing reserves of hard currency in rebuilding his military-industrial complex, increasing its access to dual-use items and materials, and creating numerous military research and development projects. He also emphasized restoring the viability of the IAEC and Iraq’s former nuclear scientists. The departure of UN inspectors and Iraq’s refusal to allow their return permitted MIC to purchase previously restricted dual-use materials and equipment that it needed for both weapons development and civilian applications. In addition, MIC had greater flexibility in adapting civilian technology to military use....

There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise. In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted.

Perhaps I'm not adept at reading between the lies, but that really doesn't look much like saying the WMD programs "never resumed production." To me, it looks more like Iraq was gearing up to go back into full production the moment sanctions were lifted -- and even earlier, using dual-use technologies.

But then, it's Associated Press. Perhaps that's all I really needed to say.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 21, 2006, at the time of 9:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 30, 2005

Ignatius's Flatulent Fatuity

Fiskings , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I must confess, I don't particularly follow David Ignatius's column in the Washington Post. A quick romp through some of his archives tells me I haven't missed much: Ignatius appears to be an off-the-shelf anti-Bush liberal in the mold of, say, Joe Biden; not all the way over to Pat Leahy or Ted Kennedy, but definitely farther left than Joe Leiberman. If you know what I mean.

I could have skipped the trip down memory lane and learned everything I needed to know about Ignatius from today's column, linked by Power Line's Paul Mirengoff: "Rice's Rising Star." Paul boils it down to saying that "if Colin Powell didn't exist, the MSM, in conjuction with the State Department, would have to invent him." He's right, as usual; Ignatius's piece simply simpers over the little nuggets that he thinks indicates Condoleezza Rice is more Kissingeresque than Wolfowitzian (the nuggets are carefully plucked from a bucket that contains a lot of contrary indicators, but no matter). But I think it's worse than that: with its evasiveness, misleading implications, and downright fabrications, it reminds me of the worst of -- well, of Robert Fisk of the inaptly named Independent in the U.K.

Let's dive in, shall we?

While President Bush continues to talk about "staying the course" in Iraq, the nation's top diplomats and military commanders have in fact been changing the course this year to fit changing circumstances. They are planning on significant reductions of U.S. troops once a permanent Iraqi government is chosen in the Dec. 15 elections.

Now, what could the implication of this bit be? I suppose what Ignatius means is that when Bush says "stay the course" he means "never make even the slightest change in troop levels, deployment, personnel, location, mission, or diet. Everything in stasis. Nothing can ever change. Ten years from now, we'll have the same troop level... in fact, the very same soldiers! Nobody will even be allowed to visit the toilet."

I suppose that must be what Ignatius takes from the phrase "stay the course," because elsewise, the predicate would be a grand non-sequitur. I'm not sure what is Mr. Ignatius's native tongue, but the univerally accepted definition of "stay the course" allows for "slighly changing the course to fit changing circumstances, so long as you're not making an inexplicable U-turn in the middle of the road." Similarly, if you're driving along Glendale Avenue, and I tell you to "stay the course," you are still allowed to turn your steering wheel sufficiently to follow the street as it bends; and you can even stop at red lights along the way.

The real question is whether "planning on significant reductions of U.S. troops once a permanent Iraqi government is chosen in the Dec. 15 elections" is or is not the very course that Bush set upon in the first place. In Bush's speech to the Anapolis midshipmen today, he said "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." This phrase caused a slight shiver of déjà-vu... has he ever said that before?

August 2005: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

June 2005: Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

February 2005, State of the Union Address: We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out. We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself. And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned.

(He should have just thought of saying "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" last February; he could have saved himself a lot of wind.)

I must say, that seems pretty consistent to me, Dave. Almost like, I don't know, staying the course.

What is intriguing is that the administration's emerging position isn't all that different from the critique offered last week by Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden. Both are talking about cutting U.S. troop strength, relying on Iraqi security forces and brokering a compromise among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

Aha, Ignatius has latched onto the dirty, little secret of the Bush administration: the president always looks to Joe Biden for a lead! I'm not sure how exactly this fits into the timeline above; what was Joe Biden (D-DE) saying about our Iraq strategy prior to the State of the Union address nearly a year ago?

On the other hand, I suppose we should consider the faint possibility that the arrow of causality may point the other direction... that Joe Biden (and John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton, and all the other Democrats who still make some effort not to appear as mad as a hatter) simply parrots the current Bush agenda -- but whines a lot about it. I'm sure there must be some other explanation, however; one certainly wouldn't expect as distinguished a statesman as Joseph Biden to plagiarize someone else's thoughts.

Rice stands at the intersection of the Iraq debate. Watching her try to find a balance among Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, not to mention Democrats and Republicans, I am reminded that in her younger days, she was a figure skater.

Another illuminating metaphor from Captain Left-Turn. But what is its purpose?

The Gaza agreement was Rice's first real "Kissingerian" moment, and in some of her public comments, she's sounding like a realist in the Kissinger-Scowcroft tradition. The idealistic, belligerent approach of the neoconservatives isn't much in evidence in her State Department.

Oddly, it's also not much in evidence among the neoconservatives. One mostly finds an "idealistic, belligerent approach" among left-liberals in academe, Hollywood, and at the mainstream media... particularly in op-ed columns in the Washington Post.

Colleagues say that she's running the department with confidence and that she's as good at administering her own agency as she was bad at coordinating interagency disputes when she was national security adviser.

Do these "colleagues" give any examples of the latter? How did Condi stack up to, say, Sandy? With colleagues like these....

Oh, wait. I get it: the "colleagues" Ignatius means are his own co-workers at the Post. Foolish me.

Bush doesn't do nuance on foreign policy, but that's not so at Rice's State Department.

Bush appointed Rice and evidently is happy with her "nuance." Do I detect a faint whiff of "Smirky the Wonder Chimp"-ism from Mr. I? Any "nuance" emanating from Bush's foreign policy must of course come from the dame, not from the president.

The Bush-is-a-moron meme is so usefully self-referential: because Bush is a moron, any cleverness in his policies comes naturally from the cabinet official, not Bush; but lo! If the president can't even define his own policies, doesn't that prove that he's a moron after all?

This reminds me of the passage in Mark Twain's wonderful account in Roughing It; but nothing else of this column reminds me of great literature. Twain visited Salt Lake City and obtained a copy of the Book of Mormon. The book professes to be "AN ACCOUNT WRITTEN BY THE HAND OF MORMON, UPON PLATES TAKEN FROM THE PLATES OF NEPHI" (the caps are Twain's). And if that is not sufficient pedigree, the testimony of three witnesses is attached. Twain responds:

Some people have to have a world of evidence before they can come anywhere in the neighborhood of believing anything; but for me, when a man tells me that he has "seen the engravings which are upon the plates," and not only that, but an angel was there at the time, and saw him see them, and probably took his receipt for it, I am very far on the road to conviction, no matter whether I ever heard of that man before or not, and even if I do not know the name of the angel, or his nationality either.

Following which is yet another testimonial, this time by eight more witnesses who testify to the veracity of the first boxed set of three witnesses. A total of eleven witnesses (five of them Whitmers) to say they've seen the plates -- which subsequently vanished. Twain again:

And when I am far on the road to conviction, and eight men, be they grammatical or otherwise, come forward and tell me that they have seen the plates too; and not only seen those plates but "hefted" them, I am convinced. I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified.

I think that's the proper approach to take when reading a new column by David Ignatius (did he change his name from Whitmer?) -- make sure you have three witnesses to testify to its veracity... say, Robert Scheer, Paul Krugman, and Gore Vidal. Then scrounge up eight more assorted editors of the Nation, the New Republic, and Mother Jones. And ensure that the original manuscript of the column is inscribed on copper plates that subsequently stroll off.

At that point, even I would be prepared to believe it!

Back to the Angel Ignatius:

Rice's biggest test as secretary of state will be Iran, the center of the volcano that has been shaking the Middle East for the past 30 years. Here again she is pursuing a policy more nuanced than administration rhetoric might suggest. While maintaining a hard line toward the mullahs in Tehran, she is also trying to draw Iran into a network of cooperation on regional security issues.

There he goes again. Is there anybody in the room buying this idea of Condi Rice, Rogue Secretary? (Or should that be Rouge Secretary?) Does anybody truly believe that she's out there, on her own, with no controlling legal authority -- some starkly beautiful but mad concatenation of Al Gore and Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now? I stir. I shift in my seat. I grow restive.

Rice has authorized her ambassadors in Iraq and Afghanistan to meet with their Iranian counterparts to discuss overlapping interests.

She didn't order them killed and eaten? Where was her neocon mind?

In an administration that has been in the doldrums lately, to put it mildly, Rice has been an unusual success story. The figure skater who learned to stay upright on a thin blade is gliding into a perilous new year as the problems of Iraq, Iran and Syria converge.

Aha, now I see why this strained metaphor was used earlier: so it could be used again later, producing equal gibberish. But familiar gibberish we remember from way earlier in the column. Alas, he didn't tell us a third time; if he had, then under the Snark rule, we should be obliged to believe it.

Does she truly speak for this administration on foreign policy? Can she make the Iraq balancing act work? The next few months will give us the measure of the Bush administration's second-term star.

Does David Ignatius truly speak for the quality of columnists in this once great newspaper? Can he figureskate the fine line between vague and vacuous without taking a spill onto the ice of absurdity? Will one more metaphor chill the entire discussion, leaving us wrecked on the rocks?

The problem with this entire column is that it seems vague but is in fact meaningless. The entire piece could be boiled down to Ignatius's fervant desire to see Bride of Powell in the State Department. But even Colin Powell wasn't the Colin Powell that Ignatius remembers: whatever Powell might have done behind the scenes, arguing for delay, inaction, and passivity, in public he always stood up and saluted when the president gave him his marching orders.

Condoleezza Rice is far closer to George W. Bush than Colin Powell ever was, and he is likely closer to the president and his vision than any head of State in my lifetime. She is not just close politically but has been a personal friend, almost part of the family, for years. She is certainly closer than Madeleine Albright was to Bill Clinton or George Schultz and Al Haig were to Ronald Reagan. James Baker did mangle a couple of George H.W. Bush's failed political campaigns, but surely Baker was no closer to Bush than to the many other Republicans whose campaigns he mangled. And Warren Christopher is not close to anybody, except perhaps Keith Richards, from whom he was evidently separated at birth.

Jimmy Carter and Cyrus Vance were not exactly buddies before 1977; likewise for Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Dean Rusk was a career State Department man when Kennedy tapped him in 1960, and he stayed on through the Johnson administration; doesn't appear to have been close to either man.

Nope, as far as the best-buddies sweepstakes between presidents and their secretaries of state, Condi Rice and George Bush are it. To imagine that she is "growing in office" and defying President Bush is just cracked: to the extent that she is carrying out more diplomatic policies than she did as National Security Advisor, that simply reflects Bush's own decision, not hers.

Mr. Ignatius, like the brother in the poem, seems to have forgotten an important (if sore) point: the president's "kitchen cabinet" these days simply reflects the whim of the man in the Oval Office -- whoever he is. Gone are the days of William Henry Seward, who conducted his own foreign and military policy as Lincoln's secretary of state, often completely at odds with that of the president. Whatever Condi does is done for the good of the country, as determined by George W. Bush. And if David Ignatius thinks different, he had better tend more to his fiction than his "fact."

From deep 'neath the crypt of St. Giles,
Came a shriek that resounded for miles;
The vicar said "gracious!
Has Brother Ignatius
Forgotten the bishop has piles?"


(And now, having thoroughly alienated all LDS and Catholic readers, and having completed the sequence by admitting I ate bacon this morning, I lay down my pen. Keyboard. Whatever.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 30, 2005, at the time of 10:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 6, 2005

Harry Reid's Babysitting Service

Fiskings , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Politics - National , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

This morning, President Bush delivered yet another exceptionally good speech on the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), this time to the National Endowment for Democracy in D.C. Bush candidly explained where we are now, what our strategy is for the future, how Iraq fits into the plan, and what specifically we're doing to continue winning that smaller war, as well as the larger GWOT itself.

In response Sen. Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas) issued a terse and Kennedy-esque -- Ted Kennedy-esque, that is -- "response" that did not respond to anything the president said; in fact, it clearly was written before the speech, comprising nothing but boilerplate invective from the disloyal opposition. But even so, I will take up the smart man's burden and let you know what Sen. Reid said. It's a tedious task, but somebody gotta do it.

Reid: The Rhetoric Doesn't Match The Reality
Thursday, October 6, 2005

Washington, DC – Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement today on Bush’s continued failure to talk straight to the American people about the war in Iraq:

Failure to "talk straight?" What about Harry Reid's continued failure to use the English language with clarity and precision? What on earth does that phrase, "talk straight," mean anyway? I'm really getting sick of this argument-by-illiterate-catch-phrase... and yes, I do include McCain's "Straight-Talk Express."

"Talk straight" is quite evidently a placeholder phrase, like a movie stand-in: you insert it into a sentence to take the place of what you really mean to say, so you can get the lighting and camera angles right without wasting the real term's time. The problem arises when, after you polish up the sentence, you forget to go back and replace the placeholder with the real words!

In that case, you end up with nothing but airy persiflage: things are looking bad, because the president won't bite the bullet and just do what needs doing. It's gut-check time, Mr. President! It's now or never! The American people eagerly await the straight talk, the real deal... but all you give us is the same-old, same-old. Our patience is not limitless, sir! For the last time, the American people demand to know just exactly where you stand: are you going to stick with the failed policies of the past? Or will you finally, at long last, move forward boldly into the future?

Once again the president had an opportunity to lay out for the American people the facts on the ground in Iraq and his strategy to achieve the military, political and economic success needed in order to bring our troops home.

Uh... yes; exactly like that.

Once again, he failed to do so. Instead, the president continued to falsely assert there is a link between the war in Iraq and the tragedy of September 11th, a link that did not and does not exist.

He did? I just read the speech, and I don't see anything like that in what I read. Of course, I have an unfair advantage over Sen. Reid... I actually did read the speech before attempting to comment on it.

Here is what Bush actually said on this subject, as opposed to what Harry Reid imagined Bush would say a couple of days ago, when Reid actually write his "response":

We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it — in videos, and audiotapes, and letters, and declarations, and websites. First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, quote, their "resources, sons and money to driving the infidels out of their lands." Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter-century: They hit us, and expect us to run. They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993 — only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal, for a time, in Afghanistan. Now they've set their sights on Iraq. Bin Laden has stated, "The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries. It's either victory and glory, or misery and humiliation." The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror.

Third, the militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people, and to blackmail our government into isolation.

I'm curious which part of this Reid rejects. Does the good senator argue that al-Qaeda doesn't really mind us being in the Middle East, that they've decided democracy and peace are pretty cool after all, and that they've given up their Blofeldian ambitions of world domination?

Or maybe it's the second paragraph that Reid disputes: perhaps Harry Reid argues that if we pulled out of Iraq instanter, then Zarqawi and his butt-monkey brigade would be mollified and would likewise leave Iraq to return to certain arrest and execution in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Egypt. Or that they would emmigrate out of Iraq to Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Cechnya, but they would retire from the mindless mass murder biz; perhaps they would become shrimp farmers or start a cotton plantation.

If it's Bush's third point that Harry Reid pooh-poohs, then I can only conclude that Nevada's favorite son believes in the power of Islamist jihadi redemption: sure, the terrorist killers may have claimed they want a globe-spanning caliphate from "al-Andaluz" and the Moorish North Africa, the Persian Caliphate eastward to India, the deserts of Arabia, then following the old Ottoman Sultanate through Algiers, Tripoli, Egypt, through Mesopotamia right up against the Caspian Sea in Russia, up around into Europe, across Hungary, and right up to the gates of Vienna, Austria, plus the new elements of the ummah -- Indonesia (the largest Moslem country), Micronesia, the Philippines, and everything in between Australia and China.

Sure, maybe that's what they say; but it's just trash-talk (not straight talk, as Harry Reid gives us). They don't really want nukes, chemical weapons, or biological agents. And Israel? Heck, the jihadis are willing to "live and let live" alongside all those Jews and Crusaders. Don't harsh their mellow, man!

Show of hands: anybody here persuaded by Sen. Reid's read on the Jihadi mindset?

Once again, he failed to do so. Instead, the president continued to falsely assert there is a link between the war in Iraq and the tragedy of September 11th, a link that did not and does not exist.

Harry Reid's homework list:

(The official version of the document from the 9/11 Commission is unsearchable; they seem to have messed up something in the pdf. Here is a searchable version of that same document.)

The truth is the Administration’s mishandling of the war in Iraq has made us less safe and Iraq risks becoming what it was not before the war: a training ground for terrorists.

"Made us less safe." Hm. We're safer with an avowed and bitter enemy of America in charge of the world's second-largest known oil reserve, a military machine that includes missiles and chemical artillery shells, active and ongoing programs to develop nuclear and chemical/biological weapons, and who has deep, extensive, and rapidly expanding alliances with al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups that desperately desire to destroy America -- than we are with 140,000 American troops in Iraq protecting a democratic state that is about to vote on a constitution (and if they reject it, upon another, and another until they get their democracy)?

Yeah, I can see that... if the pronoun "us" in "made us less safe" stands for "Democrats in Congress," and "safe" refers to their electoral prospects. Indeed, Bush's entire prosecution of the GWOT has made Democratic seats in Congress very unsafe indeed, as the last couple of elections -- and the prospects for 2006 -- have shown. So in that sense, Harry Reid is right about this claim. Ten points for Slytherin!

I do note, however, that while Iraq may have become a training ground for terrorists, what it has mainly trained them to do is to be killed by the thousands by Coalition forces. And it has unquestionably become a training ground for American forces, turning us into the premier urban-terrorist warfare-fighting military on the face of the Earth.

It is clear our window of opportunity is closing in Iraq and the president continues to fail to provide a strategy for success in order to prevent this outcome.

See above, long discussion of Reid's obsession with torturing the English language until it converts.

My Democratic colleagues and I submitted four specific questions to the president about his strategy for Iraq that the American people demand be answered.

Which particular American people would those be? I don't recall being asked. Then again, statistical probability suggests that the vast majority of the people will not, in fact, be questioned for any particular poll. I'm willing to believe that Reid, Kerry, Leahy, Schumer, and Kennedy (and any other colleagues Reid has left) all got together and commissioned Gallup or Pew Research to poll the American people on which particular, specific four questions they demand the president answer, which turned out to be the very four that Reid asks below... so if he could give us a link or even a citation of this poll, it would be very helpful.

Instead of answering those questions, the president offered the same failed approach, stay the course. We cannot continue to stay the course, we must change the course. The American people and our brave men and women in Iraq deserve better.

It's like déjà-vu all over again!

Ah... here come those four questions that were determined by extensive polling among statistically weighted representative samples of the American people:


  1. How many capable Iraqi forces do we need before we can bring our troops home?
  2. What is the administration doing to forge a political consensus?
  3. What is the administration doing to make Iraq’s neighbors a part of our strategy?
  4. What progress is being made on the reconstruction in Iraq and how do we know taxpayers dollars are being spent wisely?

Let's see if we can answer the senator's questions; then he can say "my job here is done" and head back to the video-poker slots.

How many capable Iraqi forces do we need before we can bring our troops home?

I have no idea how to answer this. What is a "force?" If he means "how many individual soldiers," that's a much larger number than if he means "how many battalions."

And what does he mean by "capable?" Wretchard of the Belmont Club has done a bravura job of analyzing just what we have done so far in building up a free Iraqi army, composed of volunteers led by officers who actually care about democracy and freedom, to take the place of the Saddam's old army, led by would-be military dictators (such as Col. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the King of Clubs on my quasi-official Iraqi Deck of Death) and largely manned by wretched Shiite and Kurdish conscripts who desperately didn't want to be there and would flee at the first opportunity.

First the raw numbers. Secretary Rumsfeld reports there are "technically 194,000 Iraqis" in the security forces. In terms of what may properly be referred to as the Iraqi army, General Casey said there were 100 battalions in all. These were divided, in terms of their capability into three categories: Category 1, 2 and 3 -- with Category 1 being the most capable [and available, per Wretchard's update].

The widely circulated report in the press that of 3 Iraqi battalions that were formerly combat ready, only one is currently rated in that status is an example of how the 'quantity of men' issue has been misunderstood. That number turns out to be the number of Iraqi battalions in Category 1, which as we shall see later, is not the critical category at all.

When Democrats disparage the capability level of the Iraqi troops, they refer only to the paucity of "Category 1" battalions; but Category 1 refers to a capability nearly equal that of the United States; and by this measure, virtually no other nation in Christendom has more than one or two such battalions, most not even that. Even Israeli units don't come up to our present capability to fight an urban war against terrorists... though we certainly couldn't have said that prior to the Iraq War. It is the units in the middle capability level, Category 2, that form the backbone of the fighting force in Iraq, as Wretchard explains:

The eightfold increase in company-level operations in five months (from 160 company level operations in May rising to 1,300 in September) is one crude way to estimate the rate of training of Iraqi battalions . If operational tempo has not increased, this suggests that since there are 100 battalions now then there were only about 12 in May and the US military transition teams have been training about 18 new battalions each month. This is a very crude estimate, but it should in the correct order of magnitude.

Of these 100 battalions the truly important number are those in Category 2 (not the Category 1 batts the press was interested in) because it is on these that the operations over the next six months will be fought. The members of Press realized this in the course of the briefing and attempted to get the speakers to state this number without success.

All right, let's pick one measure that Reid might have meant and run with that. What does he mean by asking "how many capable Iraqi [battalions] do we need before we can bring our troops home?" Does he imagine that is the goal: as soon as there are X number of operational Iraqi battalions, we splitski?

This is a perfect example of Democratic illogic. Bush has enunciated a perfectly comprehensible "exist strategy": as soon as the Iraqis begin to be able to take over their own defense, we begin to pull out. This could be accomplished with the 100 battalions in place now, if they improve their capabilities. Or we could raise another fifty battalions who are at the same level as today. Or we could degrade the terrorist ability so much that a mere seventy Iraqi battalions would be enough to drive them out... there are many routes to the victory condition.

Look at it this way. You're driving to the Grand Canyon. When is the trip officially finished -- when you arrive at the parking lot of Bright Angel Lodge? Or do you pull over and park when you have traveled exactly three and a half hours or 210 miles, no matter where you actually are?

What is the administration doing to forge a political consensus?

Among whom? Is this question left over from a previous set of four about, say, Social Security reform?

What is the administration doing to make Iraq’s neighbors a part of our strategy?

Well, we're telling Saudi Arabia to stop exporting jihadi materials to American mosques; we're welcoming Kuwait's and Jordan's recognition of Israel; we're trying to bring Iran's nuclear program before the UN Security Council; we're supporting Turkey's bid to join the European Union; and we're pressuring Syria to pull its intelligence agents out of Lebanon and fighting a riverine campaign along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to seal the Iraq border against Syrian terrorist incursion. Why do you ask, Sen. Reid... has your newspaper been stopped?

What progress is being made on the reconstruction in Iraq and how do we know taxpayers dollars are being spent wisely?

First question in this double-question, reconstruction progress: ca. September 29th, 2005, see this post from Good News Central.

Second question, how we know taxpayer dollars are being spend wisely: we know, obviosuly, because they're being spent by the Bush administration, not by the Democratic Congressional caucus. Was this a trick question?

And that appears to cover the entirety of Sen. Reid's "response." I suspect I'll never have to write this again... because the next time President Bush gives a speech about Iraq -- or about Hurricane Rita, the repeal of the death tax, or the Patriot Act -- Harry Reid will send out this same general, all-purpose "response," and I can just link back to this post.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 6, 2005, at the time of 7:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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