Saturday, June 07, 2003

Asking the ultimate question
Brad DeLong thinks some pretty dark thoughts regarding the administration's failure to secure suspected WMD sites in Iraq:

The thing that makes no sense at all is the feckless insouciance of the search for NBC weapons in Iraq. Securing possible NBC sites and preventing such weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists does not seem to have been an important army mission in Iraq. Why not? I want a reason. I really, really, really don't want to have to entertain the possibility that there are people in the White House who think that it would be, on balance, good if Al Qaeda had some sarin or some anthrax in its arsenal--that another atrocity and 10,000 more dead at the hands of terrorists would give America incentive to undertake its proper mission in the world. Please help me. I really, really, really want to believe in another reason for why taking every step to prevent the transfer of Saddamist NBC weapons to terrorists was not one of the army's principal missions in Iraq...

Well, will blatant incompetence in defending America do? How about the notion that the administration took America to war by knowingly lying to the American People and Congress? Those are pretty much the only logical alternatives.

Of course, neither one of those possibilities is very complimentary to the administration. And both are good reason for anyone who loves this country and believes in democracy to want this administration gone as soon as possible. But hey, at least they're not quite as bad as the possibility Brad discusses.

On balance, I wouldn't want to be an administration supporter right now. There's really no way to spin this story adequately, and somehow, "you all just hate George Bush!" seems a little less than satisfying, under the circumstances. If only it would all go away...

Brad also points to this story by Jack Balkin. Mr. Balkin asks a highly relevant question:

Many people have defended the recent war on the grounds that even if weapons of mass destruction were not found, it's worth the price because we have freed the Iraqi people from a terrible tyrant. I agree that this is a very good thing, especially as we learn more and more about how terrible Saddam's regime truly was, although I wonder whether we are now prepared to invade Burma or Zimbabwe, or any other country ruled by a terrible tyrant, in order to free those people as well.

But what is more important is the question whether we would be willing to free the Iraqi people if we knew that the price would be the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their placement in the hands of terrorist organizations. No one who has supported the war on the grounds that it freed the Iraqi people has come to terms with *that* question.

Excellent point.

Coming thick and fast

Looks like the major media are finally nailing this story.

New York Times: Some Analysts of Iraq Trailers Reject Germ Use

Washington Post: Bush Certainty On Iraq Arms Went Beyond Analysts' Views

Los Angeles Times: Pentagon Agency Lacked Proof of Banned Iraqi Arms

CBS News: Questions Swirl Around WMD Charges

ABC News: Ex-Official: Evidence Distorted for War (actually, an AP story. ABC hasn't quite worked up the courage to go after the story themeslves, evidently)

NBC/Newsweek: Truth and Dare

Salon: Weapons of Mass Deception

And one we didn't comment on before: Bush is now pledging to "reveal the truth" regarding Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (TM) program. What a nice change-of-pace that will be.

Further, the AP reports this morning that another U.S. soldier has been killed in Iraq (bringing the total to at least 7 in as many days) and Iraqi Shiites are vying for power with the U.S. (CNN reports on this also) And things don't look so good in Afghanistan, either. That country remains in turmoil and reconstruction isn't happening like it should, if we want to avoid handing the country back to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Finally, that foreign poll is starting to make headlines -- you know, the one that indicates the rush to war in Iraq has damaged everything from the esteem in which we're held (Bush finishes behind bin Laden) to public support for our war on terror.

Like a well-oiled machine...

Friday, June 06, 2003

Hamas is refusing to talk

The terrorist group has cut off talks with the Palenstinian Authority regarding stopping their terrorist attacks against Israel.

Let's hope this latest attempt at peace (a newly-claimed reason for the war on Iraq, BTW) isn't DOA already.
Today's headlines

The unemployment rate in May crept up to 6.1%, and now stands at its highest point in 9 years (not counting those who have given up looking for work). The inability to find WMD in Iraq is becoming more embarrassing by the day. And John Ashcroft's "Justice Department" has told its gay employees they can't hold their annual gay pride celebration after Christian Right activists complained about last year's event.

Just a lovely day in right-wing America...

Thursday, June 05, 2003

The denials are somewhat less than convincing

Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's top policy advisor, conducted a press conference yesterday to deny the "Pentagon's Special Working Group" (you know, the group set up to "review" the intelligence on Iraq to find the stuff our intelligence agencies "missed", like links to al Qaeda and evidence for all the Weapons of Mass Destruction...) cooked the evidence. As the New York Times story indicates, this met with some criticism:

After Mr. Feith's nearly hourlong briefing, some defense officials familiar with classified intelligence assessments on Iraq, its ties to terrorists and what the govern ment charged were its weapons of mass destruction programs, said they were baffled or angered by his remarks.

One senior official, who said he was skeptical of Mr. Feith's account, was too angry to answer immediately. Another official said simply, "There was a lot of doublespeak out there."

It's notable that there are discrepancies between Feith's account yesterday and the record. Among them was the claim that the special group was disbanded in August of last year. Don Rumsfeld noted in October that it was still active, and several independent accounts confirm this.

Feith also denied that the group looked at the Iraqi WMD issue, focusing instead on terrorist connections. However, moments later he conceded "yes, I imagine they looked at WMD along with other stuff".

There's good reason to doubt the accuracy and balanced view of Mr. Feith to begin with. As Dr. Marshall noted at Talking Points Memo yesterday, this gentleman is an extremist among neocons:

I think he can fairly be called a hardcore, Greater Israel, rejectionist -- someone who thinks the whole peace process, even a leaner, meaner one, is a mistake.

It remains to be seen how all of this will play out. Nontheless, it's becoming clearer every day that this is an administration out of control, making poor decisions based upon what it wants to see.

But to those of us who have been following the Dub's economic policy, this conclusion comes as no surprise.

Unemployment getting worse...

Weekly new unemployment claims jumped 18,000 from last week's initial numbers, up to 442,000. Additionally, last week's claims were revised upwards, from 424,000 to 426,000. That means fewer people will be earning the money necessary to keep the economy rolling...

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Comments switch

We'll be going to Haloscan commentary shortly, since I think that system is more responsive and affords more options (like maximizing the comment window...)
Compassionate Conservatism du jour

By now, most of us are aware of the fact that the Congressional GOP, under pressure to stick it to poor people, left out more than 8 million low-and middle-income taxpayers--including military men and women--with their recent tax-cut legislation, preferring instead to maximally reduce taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Now comes word that Tom DeLay, poster-child for the lolipop-stealing, kitten-strangling Right, refuses to allow any legislation that corrects the "oversight":

DeLay said he would not permit legislation making the working poor eligible for the expanded child-care tax credit to come to the House as a separate bill. The tax cut law increased the child-care tax credit to $1,000 from $600 per child.

"They had their chance," DeLay said, referring to legislators who worked on the law. "There's a lot of other things that are more important than that. To me it's a little difficult to give tax relief to people who don't pay income taxes."

As the CBPP study linked-to above indicates, DeLay's statement is simply false -- most of those who are left out do indeed pay income taxes, and all most certainly pay sales and payroll taxes.

Remember this come 2004, folks...

Why we went to war

Right-wingers are nothing if not short-sighted. That short-sightedness, in pushing for war with Iraq, appears to be coming home to roost, exactly as war opponents feared.

As has been mentioned around the blogosphere (thanks to Josh Marshall), a new survey indicates foreign public opinion regarding the U.S. and its leadership is at new lows:

A new survey says residents of some predominantly Muslim countries think highly of Osama bin Laden and give low marks to the United States.

At the same time, majorities in seven of the eight predominantly Muslim countries surveyed said they think their nation will be attacked by the United States. In Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan, more than 70 percent of those questioned had this concern.

. . .

"Something that I never thought I'd see and something that is of great concern to me is that people now fear American power," said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who chaired the survey project.

Folks, this is bad news. This is how military coalitions are created -- to counter a perceived threat. That's how terrorist groups increase recruiting. And this is how you lose the support of countries you need -- the kind of support universally recognized as essentially to winning the actual war on terrorism.

Just another indication that George Bush is putting America in danger...

Tony the angry Blair -- going down?

From the Associated Press comes this report regarding a Parlimentary inquiry into Blair's decision to go to war.

"The truth is nobody believes a word now that the prime minister is saying," Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith shouted above the jeering of Blair's supporters.

Questions have been raised both in Britain and the United States about why coalition forces have not found evidence that Saddam Hussein had chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in stock and ready to use. The issue has been particularly acute for Blair because allegations about those weapons were always his leading reason for going to war.

This is an interesting way to frame the issue, since Bush primarily sold the war in the States also on the premise that Hussein posed a significant threat to the U.S. with which we had to deal immediately.

Folks, the simple fact is unless Iraqi WMD now turn up in some quantity, Blair's finished. He's facing mounting criticism not only from the main pro-war bunch in the UK (conservatives, who obviously would relish the chance to get rid of Blair, regardless) and from his own people. The thing that will be interesting to see is how this will impact politics here at home. Blair's support of the war may turn out to be a sort of Achilles' heel for Bush.

More administration incompetence

What the hell is it with the Bushies, anyway?

First, they badly inflate estimates regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Then, after the war is finished, they act as though the whole deal's over. No guarding of suspected weapons sites, no protection of sources of radioactive/hazardous waste, etc. Now comes word that Iraq's main state-owned missile factory has been utterly ignored in the post-war search for weapons information:

More than a decade of suspicions about Iraq's missile industry and its capabilities for delivering weapons of mass destruction could be investigated quickly now that American forces control the country.

But no U.S. weapons hunters or intelligence officials have visited the heart of Iraq's missile programs - the state-owned al-Fatah company in Baghdad, which designed all the rockets Saddam Hussein's troops fired in 1991 and again this year. Not only that, it's not even on their agenda.

"We have the most sensitive documents here," said Marouf al-Chalabi, director-general of al-Fatah. "We were sure the Americans would target us but they haven't even dropped by."

Most interesting, though, is a statement by al-Chalabi at the end of the article -- and statements like this should have the administration sweating bullets right about now:

Over the past 11 weeks, U.S. search teams have visited more than 230 suspected sites from a list drawn up U.S. intelligence but found no weapons.

Al-Chalabi, who studied engineering at the University of Colorado from 1964 to 1969, is convinced none will be found. He said he showed U.N. inspectors everything he had and was ordered by Saddam not to violate U.N. resolutions.

"We don't have those weapons. I think they must know this by now," al-Chalabi said. "I even signed a paper that said I would be executed if I violated the range fixed by the U.N. resolutions."


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