November 17, 2003

The Memo

Youíve probably already seen this report by Stephen Hayes, who obtained a leaked memo, documenting Saddam Husseinís supposed ties to Al Qaeda.

I am not qualified to go over this stuff. I donít know how to tell the real intelligence from the bogus. But I will say this.

The idea that Saddam Hussein would never cooperate with Al Qaeda because the Baath Party is secular and Osama bin Laden is fundamentalist is wishful thinking in the face of conflicting evidence. Saddam Hussein has publicly boasted of his financial support for Hamas, which is every bit as fundamentalist as Al Qaeda. And the Baath Party in Syria has been propping up Hezbollah, the ďParty of God,Ē for years.

No one should be surprised if this report turns out to be true or even partly true.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 17, 2003 12:10 AM
Comments

I think it's pretty safe to say that Saddam wouldn't give a rats ass about al-quaeda's goals. It would also be safe to say that he didn't give a rats ass about the palestinians.

However he did aid Hamas, not because he supported their cause, but because their cause included making trouble for people Saddam would have liked to see trouble caused for. Similarly, he would probably have been willing to lend some degree of support to al-quaeda, not because he supported their goals, but because their actions would harm the US.

Posted by: David at November 17, 2003 12:27 AM

That sums it up well David.

Supporters of the war never suggested that Osama and Saddam were close allies. But it only takes two pieces of information to realise the danger of inactivity.

1) Al-Qaeda declared to turn America into a deadly sea of radiation. Hamas would do the same to Tel-Aviv if given a chance.

2) You need infrastructure and a state-run weapons program to produce weapons grade plutonium. Iraq would be the best supplier, even though they hadn't yet developed them.

Posted by: Jono at November 17, 2003 03:46 AM

Hamas supports nothing like Osama's goal of re-establishing the Caliphate, nor is Saddam's secularist regime a target of Hamas as it is of Osama. Saddam and Osama have been mortal enemies: Osama's plans require that Saddam be eliminated as the ruler of Iraq. However now that we are exactly where Osama wants us, planted in an Arab country killing Muslims and aiding Osama's propaganda program aimed to trigger the collapse of governments throughout the Muslim world, Osama has an interest in keeping Saddam in the fight to bleed us (Osama's version of the Flypaper theory) while he finally gets to operate and recruit inside Iraq without Saddam's Security and Intelligence services arresting his operatives.

So for motives, Osama wants to hurt the US in order to further his ambitions to revolutionize the Islamic World. At some point you have to figure Saddam wishes we would just leave him alone. Osama wants to get rid of Saddam eventually, whereas we were supposedly after Osama (911, remember?) With all due respect to the victims of Saddam's tyranny, Osama and not Saddam should have been our top priority target: he is much more dangerous given his ambitions and as events have shown, the sanctions against Saddam were working. After dealing with Osama, next stop Saddam.

Incidentally the reported source of the memo is Douglas Feith, PNAC'er and former head of the notorious OSP, Office of Special Plans, which was responsible for much of the bogus, cooked and hyped bovine digestive residue on WMD's and Osama used to justify the invasion and which incidentally bears much of the responsibility for our wonderfully successful planning for the postwar pacification. You know, like setting Force levels, deciding how many MP's would be required, the mass dismissal of the Iraqi Army and Police, not detaining and screening Military and Government Officials for Baathist stalwarts (as we did in Germany after WWII) and so forth. Apparently Feith is of the prime supporters of the theory that Chalabi would enter Baghdad with the kind of popularity and credibility among Iraqis that would enable him to step in as Iraq's new leader. In other words Feith's fingerprints are all over the unexpected (to him) mess in Iraq. None of which means the memo is necessarily false, but unless you're Bill Bennett that's the smart bet. Two of the ways Intelligence and Security agencies gather data is by making contact with targets hoping to turn your contact and also trying to infiltrate the target's organization: I've been surprised so far that no such evidence has been uncovered in the Iraqi files. Saddam's people were apparently very effective at preventing al-Quaeda infiltration of areas of Iraq they controlled. could be Saddam was so paranoid Osama might turn his people and penetrate Iraqi's spooks that he outright forbade even probing contacts.

Back to Feith, he's a close associate of Wolfowitz. In fact, recalling Wolfowitz's prediction of a postwar 'cakewalk' in Iraq, Feith would be the contact man with the caterer.

Posted by: JihadNix at November 17, 2003 07:42 AM

"You need infrastructure and a state-run weapons program to produce weapons grade plutonium. Iraq would be the best supplier, even though they hadn't yet developed them."

Bingo! One pillar of a rational foreign policy.

Posted by: Stephen at November 17, 2003 07:42 AM

Department of Defence has described the leaked report as inaccurate.

Posted by: Scott Wickstein at November 17, 2003 08:07 AM

Actually, Scott, what they said was "News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate."

Posted by: Phil Smith at November 17, 2003 08:25 AM

The DOD does not call the memo inaccurate. What it calls inaccurate are reports that the DOD confirmed the accuracy of the information. The DOD then goes on to state that the classified information was obtained through the CIA, etc. All I got out of the link provided was that the DOD was issuing a "no comment" on whether the information was correct.

Posted by: Peter G at November 17, 2003 08:25 AM

Matthew Yglesias covers the manifold reasons why this is obviously a political leak by the same guy who has come to so many miserably false conclusions before now.

Don't get sucked into the Administration's wishful thinking.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 17, 2003 09:17 AM

Did Feith "cook" intelligence for Britain, Russia, France, Germany, and Israel too? If so, wow, he gets around.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 17, 2003 09:18 AM

The DOD may not have said that the memo was inaccurate, but they do say that it is not what it was touted as. That is, it is NOT an analysis of the connections between Saddam and al-Quaeda. It is simply a list of information which was used by Feith to support his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Given that we have seen that the administration, and in particular Feith's Office of Special Plans, has engaged in the cherry-picking of intelligence to support it's policies, I'm more than a little suspicious that this is more of the same. The DOD says that the memo is "not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions."

As for the article itself, it cites most of the information in the memo as coming from a "reliable source" rather than from any kind of hard evidence (documents, sigint, etc.). Also, with the exception of his first point, almost all of this is old intelligence. That is, it predates the war and our discovery that many of our "sources" (read: INC) on Iraq were simply lying to further their own agendas. I would think that makes the reliability of such sourced intelligence suspect. Didn't we have "reliable sources" who assured us that Saddam was stockpiling massive quantities of WMD? Further, the article often makes use of associated "commentary and analysis" from the memo. Whose analysis is it? Judging by the source, it seems likely that the "analysis" portion is from Feith's OSP, while the raw intel is from the CIA, NSA or DIA. Makes me wonder about the impartiality of the analysis.

There is nothing new here, just the same old assertions wrapped up in formal language with a classified bow on top. To get a contrary view to the Standard article, try Ackerman's in the Washington Monthly.
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0311.ackerman.html

Posted by: Smokey at November 17, 2003 10:08 AM

Right, Smokey.

Hans Blix (2003), VX in Iraq had probably been "weaponized." There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared, and that at least some of this was retained.

Madeline Albright (1998), "Saddam's goal ... is to achieve the lifting of U.N. sanctions while retaining and enhancing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. We cannot, we must not and we will not let him succeed."

Al Gore (2003), “The removal of Saddam from power is a positive accomplishment in its own right for which the President deserves credit”

Bill Clinton (2003), "It is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted-for stocks of biological and chemical weapons in Iraq.

Posted by: d-rod at November 17, 2003 10:33 AM

d-rod

Everyone else was mistaken, only Bush lied. Why do you keep cluttering the issue with facts?

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at November 17, 2003 10:44 AM

Yes, but these are arguments for containment and inspections, not conquest and vague hope for a magical Iraqi democracy.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 17, 2003 10:45 AM

d-rod,

Hans Blix, Madeline Albright, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore are just a bunch of lying liars who lied!

(Well, maybe not.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 17, 2003 10:48 AM

Uh Kimmitt,

It was the Clinton Administration that authored the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, stating "regime change" as the official U.S. policy regarding Iraq, including a 500 page report on why "containment" could no longer work. The damn liars also believed there was a growing relationship between Saddam and OBL, sorry.

Posted by: d-rod at November 17, 2003 10:54 AM

Kimmit,

which is it? First there were no WMD, and Bush lied, but when quotes from the previous administration surface, they become "evidence" only for inspections and containment...

That's lame, even by your standards.

Are you actually agreeing that the concensus was that WMD are a valid concern? But not enough of a concern to invade, but only to inspect and contain...?

And I love your racist comment about magical democracy. Who'd expect the wogs to actually aspire to, or be able to handle the freedoms that Kimmit has?

I'm old enough to remember when the LLL used to bitch about the USA supporting brutal dictators. Now they've been reduced to bitching aobut taking them out...

Francis

Posted by: Francis at November 17, 2003 10:56 AM

d-rod (and Michael Totten),

Blix, Albright, Clinton, and Gore said...

The difference being, none of them invaded Iraq. As Kimmit said, our pre-war intelligence gave us good reason to insist on continued inspections. It did not give us good reason to unilaterally invade. And whether or not regime change by itself is/was a good thing is not the issue. It is whether the way we did it, for the reasons we stated and at it's cost to us, was (a good thing).

Posted by: Smoky at November 17, 2003 11:13 AM

Francis,

I'm sure Kimmit can speak for himself, but allow me to point out that your imputations of racism on his part are way over the line. Questioning the workability of democracy in Iraq is not tantamount to racism. You owe him an apology.

Posted by: Smokey at November 17, 2003 11:19 AM

Smokey, YES IT IS. Saying the Iraqis can't get a functioning democracy is racism, pure and simple. Remember, the justification for slavery in the South was that Africans couldn't take care of themselves, and needed white people to look after them. That is racism. So is saying the Iraqi people can't look out for themselves.

Posted by: FH at November 17, 2003 11:38 AM

Please.

This is racism:

"Iraqis are congenitally incapable of living in a democracy. Even the Iraqis who live in the US are Islamofascists at their core and need to be sequestered for our safety."

This is not:

"I don't like the odds of a democracy suddenly emerging from a country which has been under totalitarian rule for decades and has no tradition of secular, democratic rule. We have some nasty examples of democracies failing historically, and they looked a lot like Iraq."

Get over your hysteria.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 17, 2003 11:45 AM

"The difference being, none of them invaded Iraq. As Kimmit said, our pre-war intelligence gave us good reason to insist on continued inspections. It did not give us good reason to unilaterally invade."

Not necessarily. One could conclude if Clinton had invaded, 9-11 woudn't have happened. One could also conclude that if Bush hadn't invaded, there might now be a mushroom cloud over New York. Each president has had to make momentous decisions based on partial evidence, and hindsight is a wonderfu thing.

Posted by: Yehudit at November 17, 2003 11:49 AM

Actually, Saddam wasn't a threat to his neighbors and his own people either. He was a peace-lovin' mustachioed guy who enjoyed a glass of white wine now and then over dinner as he plotted his latest fun-lovin' extermination--Marsh Arabs or Kurds this time? Plastic shredder, truck battery, or a little rape prior to execution? So many choices, so little time.

We all know that Bush and Blair are the real warmongers, don't we. Saddam is just a nice guy trying to make it in a tough neighborhood.

Posted by: Daniel Calto at November 17, 2003 01:00 PM

Are you actually agreeing that the concensus was that WMD are a valid concern? But not enough of a concern to invade, but only to inspect and contain...?

Yep, that's about right. Inspect and contain Iraq, while we kept our full attention on Al Qaeda.

Moot point now, though.

Posted by: Q at November 17, 2003 01:09 PM

FH,

No, it is not racism. Racism requires statements about race, it is the ascribing of certain tendencies and characteristics to an individual or group based on their belonging to a particular biological group. Lacking such, accusations of racism are completely ridiculous and unwarranted.

Posted by: Smokey at November 17, 2003 01:20 PM

Smoky, Kimmitt, et al

Is there not a difference between assessing pre-war intelligence on WMDs and assessing how the Bush administration acted on that intelligence? You seem to move fluidly from one question to the next, claiming originally that Bush lied about WMD (and Saddam-al Qaeda ties), then conceding that many others have made this point but claiming now that this was not a reasonable basis for going to war. That's bait-and-switch debating is it not ("Bush lied" "OK he didn't lie but the war was wrong anyway")?

Leaving aside the fact that these were never the reasons (or in any event the major reason) for going to war, shouldn't Bush's critics at least be consistent on what it is they are criticizing him for? And how exactly does not going to war with Iraq make Blix, Albright, Clinton, and Gore's statements as to Iraq's WMD capabilities any different from Bush's?

Posted by: Hacksaw at November 17, 2003 01:32 PM

Yehudit,
One could conclude if Clinton had invaded, 9-11 woudn't have happened. One could also conclude that if Bush hadn't invaded, there might now be a mushroom cloud over New York.

On what basis, exactly, could one conclude that? On the first, regardless of what you may think of the purported links between Saddam and AQ, I don't think anyone would claim that Saddam was substantially involved in 9/11. So how would toppling him have stopped it? By intimidating Al Quaeda into aborting it? I have to say, they don't look particularly cowed right now. As for your second conclusion, just how would this mushroom cloud have been generated? Saddam had no nukes and no functioning program to make nukes. What he had was a bunch of barrels of yellowcake and some (insufficient) centrifuge parts buried in a garden. How he could have gone from that to a workable device in less than a year, not to mention delivering it to NYC and detonating it, is beyond me.

In short, one could conclude a lot of things, but one should sometimes refrain from doing so, lest others conclude that one is talking out one's ass.

Posted by: Smokey at November 17, 2003 01:36 PM

Hacksaw,
And how exactly does not going to war with Iraq make Blix, Albright, Clinton, and Gore's statements as to Iraq's WMD capabilities any different from Bush's?
There is a difference between saying "I think Saddam has WMD's, and we should pressure him to disarm if he does" and "I'm sure that Saddam has WMDs, and I'm confident enough to launch an enormously expensive unilateral war in order to disarm him." It is the difference between my thinking OJ did it and my taking the law into my hands and gunning OJ down for doing it.

When I say that Bush lied, I do not mean that he lied about thinking Saddam had WMDs. There were good reasons to think so; Saddam had them in the past, he intentionally mislead the international community about his capabilities, etc... Many people on the right and left were mistaken about that. The lies are the apparently factual statements made by the administration about our intelligence regarding those WMDs: Iraq has x tons of Sarin and x tons of VX gas. Iraq has purchased aluminum tubes which can only be used to process uranium for nuclear weapons. Iraq has attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. These are statements of fact which are untrue, i.e. lies. This is a far cry from noting that Iraq has failed to account for biological and chemical weapons, or that Iraq may have retained some anthrax. Lies are false statements made with the intent to deceive. The administration consistently pushed information with questionable sourcing and of dubious veracity as being solid intel, in order to convince the public that Iraq was a threat. It was not "we think..." it was "we know..." That is the difference.

Posted by: Smokey at November 17, 2003 02:01 PM

All those who hate Douglas Feith or anyone else. That is not the point. There are FIFTY citations of Saddam-al Qadea links in that memo with more, evidenly, to come. No one--repeat:NO ONE... has attacked a single one of those points substantively as yet. All they do is kill the messenger. This is behavior typical of fascists, not people who support democracy. Much of the left is no longer left. It is far right--or what Mao once called "left in form but right in essence." (from the essay "On Contradiction")

Posted by: Roger L. Simon at November 17, 2003 03:21 PM

Yehudit: One could conclude if Clinton had invaded, 9-11 woudn't have happened. One could also conclude that if Bush hadn't invaded, there might now be a mushroom cloud over New York.

Smokey: On what basis, exactly, could one conclude that?

Smoke, how 'bout this: if Clinton had invaded Iraq, right-wing radio would have gone so crazy that the airplane controls would bug out, causing the hijackers to steer into the Hudson river.

I'm still working on the mushroom cloud part.

Posted by: Oberon at November 17, 2003 03:24 PM

The lies are the apparently factual statements made by the administration about our intelligence regarding those WMDs: Iraq has x tons of Sarin and x tons of VX gas.

As near as I can tell, these kinds of statements were based on the following logic. "We know Saddam had X at this particular time. He's never accounted for X. He's actively sought to thwart inspectors' efforts to find X. He's proven himself to be a habitual liar. He has strong incentives to comply, yet he dissembles and delays and disrupts. Therefore, it reasonable to conclude that he still has X. Or at te very least, it would be very foolish to gamble that he does not have it."

Now, it is possible to make a reasonable conclusion and have been wrong in retrospect. But that is not the same as lying. (I have yet to hear a reasonable account of where the missing WMD's went from the anti-war side. I'd love to hear one.)

Iraq has purchased aluminum tubes which can only be used to process uranium for nuclear weapons.

The administration explicitly acknowledged that this conclusion was controversial in Powell's speech to the UN. Experts differed on the the interpretation, and Powell made no effort to pretend otherwise. He presented the evidence that supported his claim, which was fairly compelling. In any case, the tubes were forbidden under the sanctions REGARDLESS of their suitability for refining plutonium. So, again, not a lie by any stretch of the imagination. It's just a perfectly reasonable part of a larger case for action.

Iraq has attempted to purchase uranium from Niger.

The State of the Union assertion was that the the British intelligence had 'learned" that Saddam had attempted to purchase uranium in Africa. To the best of my knowledge, this statement has never been denied by British intelligence. It's not so far-fetched a thing to believe that Saddam had such ambitions. We know he wanted nukes -- he's said so -- and he was never shy about trying to get what he wanted. You might say that Bush ought to have verfiied the Brit's intelligence before alluding to it in a SOU address -- a point that the administration has conceded -- but to report what a trusted friend has told you is not the same thing as lying.

The anti-Bush contingent has conflated this statement with the forged documents from Niger, repeatedly making it sound as if Bush tried to pass off the forged documents directly to the public. Hmm... What might we call that tactic?

These are statements of fact which are untrue, i.e. lies.

In fact, this is what you have done yourself, Smokey. Now perhaps you are merely ill-informed, but if we are to take your definition of lying at face value, then you yourself must be a liar. Nice petard there, stretch.

Posted by: Browning at November 17, 2003 03:26 PM

Roger, you are addressing something that has been addressed many times by philosphers and politicians in the past, that the far-left and the far-right ultimately are indistinguishable from one another. Not to say Smokey or Kimmitt constitute the "far-left", but they will use arguments from that area of the spectrum. They don't trust anything that doesn't agree with their world viewpoint. This is something everyone has a problem with. Evidence: GOP opposition to Milosevich(bad spelling, I know). They have let hatred or contempt cloud their vision, and won't see the wall until they hit it square on. You managed to escape that Roger, because you cared more about the reality than the ideology. When the two didn't fit, you went with reality. I think that Kimmitt et al have gone the other way, and gone with ideology. After reading some of his stuff, I am convinced he isn't totally obliviousl, like much of the LLL, but it will take a big shock to know him into reality.

And after examining the statement in question about vis-a-vis racism, I apologize for my statement. Workability, versus capacity, may seem small in difference, but mean a lot to me. Saying that democracy likely won't work in Iraq now is far different than saying that Arabs can't handle it. That is the argument I usually hear, so I switched to auto-response mode. Sorry.

Posted by: FH at November 17, 2003 03:35 PM

'There is a difference between saying "I think Saddam has WMD's, and we should pressure him to disarm if he does" and "I'm sure that Saddam has WMDs, and I'm confident enough to launch an enormously expensive unilateral war in order to disarm him." It is the difference between my thinking OJ did it and my taking the law into my hands and gunning OJ down for doing it.'

You know, that analogy doesn't quite work. Let's try tweaking it:

OJ has already committed assault, gone to jail, is now on probation, and has a restraining order in his name. Now use the analogy. i think you just got a whole lot closer.

Posted by: tsmonk at November 17, 2003 04:21 PM

Yes, tsmonk, and add in that this OJ won't obey the restraining order, pays suicidal hitmen, kills people in his household, and associates with mass murderers, and tries to build bombs in his basement. Oh, yes, and the cops won't arrest him for doing those things.

No, it would be wrong to take the law into our own hands. Else, what sort of a society would we be condoning?

Posted by: Jim at November 17, 2003 04:47 PM

Oberon,

Re "mushroom cloud" - Saddams favorite arms supplier was the USSR (now Russia). IIRC there are still nuclear devices unaccounted for from the Russian inventory. Whether the devices remained totally under the control of state agencies or have passed into the control of others has not been made known. Those devices are the rationale for the need and use of radiation detectors at US ports.

Would Saddam sell or pass a nuclear device to OBL? Who knows? What has been reported (interrogation of Tariq Aziz) is that the Russians (and the lovely French) were reassuring their dear client Saddam right to the end that the US would not "really" invade.

There are also reports that the Russians and French both advised Saddam concerning removal of WMD stocks to Syria for "safekeeping". Answers as to the veracity of these reports may be contained in the trainload of documents taken from the Iraqi security apparatus and being examined by the US government.

Were the Russian/French reassurances in aid of the US maintaining an edge with regard to tactical advantage in the invasion? Why are they so quiet these days? Does loan forgiveness loom as additional hush money?

Assertions concerning the veracity intelligence reports will always be suspect until events prove them out. The fact that this memo is out in the open today suggests that we will be seeing additional proof shortly.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at November 17, 2003 04:50 PM

"The lies are the apparently factual statements made by the administration about our intelligence regarding those WMDs: Iraq has x tons of Sarin and x tons of VX gas. Iraq has purchased aluminum tubes which can only be used to process uranium for nuclear weapons. Iraq has attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. These are statements of fact which are untrue, i.e. lies."

Well, they would have been if they were said that way. They were not. The Nigerian connection was said to be false by a certain person who says his friends there claim it did not happen - but the Administration said "Africa", and there is some (admittedly unverified) intel about two other countries there being approached. The bio-chemical stocks were "possible" because Saddam did not allow verification of their destruction: even Scott Ritter has said that when he left in 1998 his teams were still uncovering undocumented stocks, he just says those would have deteriorated and that he personally does not believe more were made. The tubes in question were similar to a number which were slated for rocket use (itself a potential violation) but not the same, they were made to a much highr spec with added fittings - they could have been downgraded for other uses, as Secretary Powell said at the UN, but that would have been quite expensive so why order them that way? Speculation, sure, but with some basis.

Posted by: John Anderson at November 17, 2003 06:59 PM

Mr. Ballard,

We had to invade Iraq because "there are still nuclear devices unaccounted for from the Russian inventory"?

That's a good one. You obviously have a talent for satire. Your style is a bit understated, though -- for a minute there I thought you were serious.

Posted by: Oberon at November 17, 2003 08:10 PM

Jeez, the more information that comes out connecting Saddam with Al Qaeda, the greater the motivation on the part of some liberals to claim that Saddam was a Boy Scout.

Just because Douglas Feith used these factoids as data points to be submitted to the now moribund Senate Intelligence Committee does not make these citations any less factual. Guilt by association does not an argument make.

Whether or not Douglas Feith is a nice guy or a PNAC Neo-Nazicon (one applies degrees of National Socialism depending on one's political point of view), one has to ask where these factoids came from. Dear old Doug didn't pull them out of the ol' rectum, that's for sure. They came from data collected by intelligence agencies all over the world.

In other words, for the antiwar liberals to be correct about this, everyone must be lying. Not just Douglas Feith, but everyone. Allow me to suggest that the possibility that everyone is lying is rather remote.

Nor did the DOD "debunk" the article in question. This despite the hopes of many throughout liberal America that this report would be exposed as Yet Another Tissue Of Lies from the BushCheneyJunta (...that's me channeling Ted Rall again...). Apparently, many liberals hold to the belief that alliances of convenience are completely foriegn concepts to all sober, upright, and morally straight Islamic fascists and millenialist jihadi.

Many (not all) liberals don't want evidence to be confirmed that Saddam and Al Qaeda played snuggles because it screws up their entire world view. This world view holds that Ba'athist Saddam and Islamist Usama were blood enemies and would never in a million years cooperate. That the opposite is turning out to be the case should have been familiar to anyone who understands that terror is a favorite arrow in the quiver of any totalitarian. But these facts will open few eyes, for minds are made up and people have a huge psychological investment in their position on the war, or against Bush, or both. This works for both sides of the argument, and shows what happens when political discourse evolves into, say, the moral equivalent of WWF Saturday Night Smackdown.

In point of fact, I'm over here waiting with baited breath for one leftist or another to indicate that either Saddam, Usama, or both were never a threat to the United States, but rather were frustrated, misunderstood Agrarian Reformers. Sort of like Che, but without the t-shirt franchise.

As an aside, has anyone here figured out how much money Ernesto Guevara could have made by licensing his image (this assumes he made it out of Bolivia in 1967 and went to L.A. to hook up with Michael Ovitz....)? Somehow I can see Che kicking back on his estate in Maui sipping on a Blue Hawaiian.

Meanwhile, on a tangental note, I understand that throngs of Peace Activists and Labour Party rank and file constituents have taken to the streets to protest the bombings of two Synagogues in Turkey......

(....sound of crickets....)

Of course! How forgetful of me. They're protesting Bush!

Silly me.

Posted by: section9 at November 17, 2003 08:31 PM

Browning,

On the aluminum tubes:

Condi Rice:
They "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs."

Dick Cheney:
"What we have seen recently is that [Saddam Hussein] is trying through his illicit procurement network to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium... [W]e do know with absolute certainty that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon." "

These statements are both blatantly false. The tubes in question are very well suited for missile production, and were intended for just that. Whether they were prohibited under the sanctions is beside the point, as we are only talking about the administration's claims about their use for nuclear weapons production.

The administration has spun the Niger flap very well. Uh...the British did it. The only reason that was sourced to the Brits in the first place was the CIA raised a huge stink about the reliability of the information, according to Alan Foley of the CIA. The claim that they meant some other country in Africa is a crock, belied by earlier statements in which they specified the country in question:
"The Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger." US Department of State Fact Sheet, Oct 2002
"Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake." Nat'l Intelligence Estimate, Oct 2002
A draft of a Bush speech for October originally contained the claim that Iraq tried to purchase "500 metric tons of uranium oxide from…Africa" (the CIA successfully petitioned for it's removal.) As the forged Niger documents were not publicly debunked by the IAEA until three months later, and more than a month after the SOTU speech, it's clear he was talking about Niger, not some other country in Africa that Saddam attemted to buy 500 tons of yellowcake from. Using that information so prominently while knowing it to be questionable shows an intent to deceive.

Posted by: Smokey at November 17, 2003 08:53 PM

Section 9: Anyone who claims Saddam was a Boy Scout is not a liberal. They're nutcases on the fringe. Cut it out.

Posted by: Q at November 17, 2003 08:58 PM

Oberon,

Given the amount of speculation being passed on as gospel here I really doubted that you would notice.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at November 17, 2003 10:57 PM

Hey, did anyone else catch this?

Using that information so prominently while knowing it to be questionable shows an intent to deceive.

From "Bush is a liar" to "intent to deceive."

Progress! We'll make a nice, Conservative, warmonger out of Smokey yet! Kimmitt, you're next.

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at November 18, 2003 05:06 AM

Smokey,

I think you are underplaying previous claims abut Iraqi WMDs and misrepresenting the Bush administration's arguments. For starters, I think that in terms of the broad characterizations of Iraq's WMD capabilities it is difficult to differentiate between say Clinton and Bush. Even Hans Blix, as noted above, believed that Saddam had both WMD programs and weapons and had not accounted for either. It was the Clinton administration that first adocated regime change in Iraq based in part on the WMD threat and who launched (futile, half-hearted) attacks in response to that threat.

Bush's reasons for going to war encompass many many things, and the WMD threat certainly played a role (though not THE role, as some would have us believe). With regards to that threat, I don't think you can fairly claim that their arguments about the WMD threat took a significantly different route than their predecessors did. Talk all you want about aluminium tubes or Niger documents, they were not presented as some dramatic change in Saddam's WMD posture but rather as more evidence of the same old behavior. Behavior that Clinton, et al had described in similar veins before.

What is different is what Bush decided to do about it. Not because of a dramatic recasting of the WMD threat Saddam presented, but because of a dramatic change in resolve based on lessons drawn from the September 11 attacks. You may disagree with the lessons they drew and the actions they have taken based on those lessons. But that does not change the fact that the Bush administration's characterization of Saddam's WMD threat is a continuation of what had been believed for over a decade and that the Bush lied crowd is blinded to the facts by their overwhelming hate of the president.

Posted by: Hacksaw at November 18, 2003 07:13 AM

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What are your sources on aluminum tube quotes?

Here's mine: "By now, just about everyone has heard of these tubes and we all know that there are differences of opinion. There is controversy about what these tubes are for. Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Other experts, and the Iraqis themselves, argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher. Let me tell you what is not controversial about these tubes. First, all the experts who have analyzed the tubes in our possession agree that they can be adapted for centrifuge use. Second, Iraq had no business buying them for any purpose. They are banned for Iraq."

This was Colin Powell, to the UNSC as he made his case for enforcing 1441. Were your quotes uttered in a weightier context?

It doesn't surprise me that one can go back and find quotes from various administration officials that have not been born out by the facts as things have developed. This is not, however, the same thing as uncovering lies. Surely you must ackowledge that administration officials are not so evilly omniscient that that are incapable of ever saying something wrong unintentionally?

The same reasoning applies to various references to Niger yellowcake prior to the SOTU. Granted, such references are embarrassing (assuming they all the fruit of the forgery) but are they lies?

1. Is it so hard to believe that Saddam sought to buy uranium in Africa? I mean, honestly.

2. If British intelligence was (and still is) claiming that Saddam had such ambitions, and then President alludes to this, how is that a lie? At best you can argue that he should have dropped the allegation from the SOTU until it had been definitively confirmed by his own intelligence. And, as I said, this is a point that the administration has already conceded.

Thay are lies only if one stretches the definition of lie so wide that it ceases to be useful.

But, honestly, I don't why we bother arguing this minutiae. I certainly think the Bush administration is as capable of dishonesty as any political body. They obviously made mistakes. There were weak spots in the administration's case for war, and there are good reasonable arguments to be made, especially in retrospect, that we could have waited to topple Saddam.

On the whole though, given what we knew before the liberation, I still think it would have been foolish to gamble that Saddam would stay boxed in. It also would have been terribly cruel to the Iraqi people.

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