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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Friday, February 06, 2004
"Will Holmes or Watson be Investigating?"
Democrats in Self-Destruct Mode CLXVIII
A special treat from somebody with the unlikely moniker H.D.S. Greenway at the Boston Globe today.
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YOU HAVE to give George Bush and Tony Blair credit for agreeing to set up independent commissions to investigate what has now become a major embarrassment: the absence of anything in Iraq that could have caused mass destruction. Of course, the bipartisan political heat was becoming too intense to simply sweep this under the table. The best that Bush could do was put it in an investigative deep freeze until after the election so that it won't cause indigestion during the campaign.
But if you have persuaded your public to go to war on a false premise, then shouldn't somebody take responsibility? Aren't accountability and transparency virtues that our Western democracies preach? But then again, accountability and transparency on why we went to war have been nearly as hard to find as Saddam Hussein's weapons.
Both the British prime minister and the American president have been let partially off the hook by the case of the two Davids. Lord Hutton, who looked into the matter of the suicide of British scientist David Kelly, found that Tony Blair had not "sexed up" the intelligence, as the BBC had said. David Kay, the recently resigned weapons inspector, told Congress that this was an intelligence failure, not a case of politicians cooking the books.
But I find it hard to believe that the final reports will not indicate that political pressure upon process the picking of choice bits from the chicken entrails that intelligence gathering often is will not turn out to have been decisive. Intelligence has never been an exact science like predicting eclipses of the moon. It is all a matter of interpretation.
Those cozy little visits of Vice President Cheney down at CIA just to make sure that the analysts were going to do the right thing and the setting up of a special office for special plans at the Pentagon by Donald Rumsfeld just to make sure that CIA wasn't going to miss anything that could support the cause are symptomatic of the problem. Blair is right that decisions about war and peace should be left to parliaments. But parliaments have a right to insist that the information on which they base their decisions is not politically manipulated.
Much will depend on who is doing the investigating of the case of the purloined perception Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson. The makeup of the commissions will tell us much about the outcomes, as will their scope. As Joseph Cirincione, director of the Carnegie Endowment's Non-Proliferation Project, recently said: "Defining it too broadly is just as bad as defining it too narrowly. It diverts attention and resources away from the major failure that has to be repaired."
We also know now that the voices that finally gained Bush's ear were the ideologues who wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11 with a neo-Wilsonian scheme to turn it into an American-style democracy that would topple dictatorships and monarchies by example and be good for Israel. The disaster of 9/11 provided an excuse to do so.
The Bush and Blair administrations are saying that intelligence failures aside, Saddam was so terrible that the end justified the means. Maybe they will turn out to be right in the long run. I certainly hope so. But if Iraq goes dreadfully wrong, the decision to go to war won't look so good.
The bungling of the Pentagon in postwar Iraq has convinced many Iraqis and others that the war is a bad model for exporting democracy. I heard one of America's key allies, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, say at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos that the only good thing in Iraq was that "the dictator is gone." The country itself, he said, is worse than "Iraq prior to the war, worse than during the war." He called it a "training field for terrorist organizations."
Perhaps a bit unfair, but the good will that the United States could have engendered has been largely dissipated, and the occupation now risks a popular resistance instead of just opposition from die-hard Saddamites and the odd foreign jihadi. There has been no accountability in Washington for that failure either.
But the case of the nonexistent weapons, or the dog that could not bark in the night when so many thought it could, will reveal much about how intelligence, and indeed foreign policy, is conducted in the years to come.
Bush and Blair were not the only ones who believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, but it will be much harder to call for preemptive war after this. "The game's afoot," as Holmes was wont to say.
H.D.S.Greenway's column appears regularly in the Globe.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
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Just another editorial the likes of which you won't see in the nation's "newspaper of
An editorial at OpinionJournal today:
Pardon us for interrupting the Beltway brawl over Iraq intelligence, but has anyone else noticed the recent landmark progress against nuclear proliferation? The latest breakthrough came this week in Pakistan, where a scientist confessed on television to his nuclear weapons deals during the 1990s.
Intelligence debates are good political drama, though CIA Director George Tenet's speech yesterday is a persuasive rebuttal to the charges that U.S. intelligence was "politicized." The news in his remarks is that the U.S. had prewar information "from a source who had direct access to Saddam and his inner circle" that Iraq had WMD.
While Iraq lacked a nuclear bomb, the source said Saddam "was aggressively and covertly developing such a weapon" and had berated his Nuclear Weapons Committee for not getting one. That source and others may have overestimated the immediate nuclear threat, but we elect Presidents to make difficult security calls based on such imperfect information.
And in any case, let's recall why everyone cared about Iraq's WMD in the first place. The nightmare scenario, all too plausible after September 11, is that a dictator who trucks with terrorists will give them a nuclear weapon to explode on American soil. In recent weeks, the U.S. has made dramatic progress in busting up the global proliferation network that would make this possible, and much of the progress flows from President Bush's decision to disarm Saddam Hussein....
All of this anti-WMD progress contrasts dramatically with what took place during the late 1990s, when the U.S. was supposedly just as worried about nuclear proliferation. We now know that those were the years when Mr. Khan spread his nuclear wares, when Gadhafi gathered his centrifuges, when Iraq kicked out U.N. inspectors and Iran deceived the world, and when North Korea was preparing to enrich uranium even while it negotiated new "disarmament" deals with the Clinton Administration. One obvious conclusion is that none of these proliferators believed the U.S. or U.N. were serious about confronting them. And at the time they were right.
All of that changed with the Bush policy of challenging terrorists and the states that support them after 9/11. With the fall of the Taliban and Saddam, the world's dictators have learned that protecting terrorists or pursuing WMD can interfere with lifetime tenure. So they are deciding to turn state's evidence, against themselves and others. Or to put it in terms even Washington may understand: The Bush strategy is working.
George W. Bush Refused to Commit War Crimes
Democrats in Self-Destruct Mode CLXVII
I admit, I might be kind of confused here.
John Kerry launched himself into public view by claiming (falsely) that the Vietnam War wasn't much else but One Big War Crime. Yet, his own participation in that One Big War Crime is now being contrasted, favorably, with George W. Bush's avoidance (deliberate or otherwise) of participating in that One Big War Crime.
Who is doing this? Democrats. But Democrats started (JFK) and escalated (LBJ) that One Big War Crime. And Democrats have spent the past three decades vilifying the country because of that One Big War Crime. But it was ended by a Republican (RMN). Yet, Democrats are now boasting about Kerry (Democrat) because he was in that One Big War Crime and denigrating Bush (Republican) because he wasn't.
Am I getting this right?
First, from the New York Times, Feb. 4.
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The contrast could not be more striking.
In March 1969, John Kerry, a 25-year-old Navy lieutenant, reached down from the boat he was piloting in Vietnam's treacherous Bay Hap River and in a spray of enemy fire pulled a soldier out of the water to safety. For his valor, Mr. Kerry won the Bronze Star with a combat "V" and his third Purple Heart.
That very same month, George W. Bush was on far-safer ground in Valdosta, Ga., learning to fly fighter planes for the Texas National Guard, a coveted post that greatly reduced any risk that he would be sent to Vietnam — and one that he might not have obtained had his father not been a member of Congress.
Mr. Bush went on to miss a number of National Guard training sessions, although his spokesmen say he made up the dates and his records show he was honorably discharged.
Now, three decades later, the contrast between the military service of Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush has exploded into a campaign issue.
Democrats, who this week accused Mr. Bush of being "AWOL" from the National Guard, are using it as a weapon to undermine Mr. Bush's greatest electoral strength, his record on national security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Republicans roared back on Tuesday, accusing Mr. Kerry of "smear tactics" for saying the president should answer questions about his service record. Taking the rare step of angrily rebutting the charges directly from the White House, the Republicans are trying to turn the issue back on Mr. Kerry and question the character of a man who they say is running a vicious campaign. But they are concerned enough about the political impact of the charges to consider sending Mr. Bush out to begin his official campaigning early, rather than waiting until spring as previously planned.
"Obviously we're in a period where the Democrats have been center stage politically and they've said a lot of tough things about the president," said one Bush campaign official, who was reacting in part to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released on Tuesday showing Mr. Kerry leading Mr. Bush by 53 percent to 46 percent among likely voters. "But it won't be too long now before there are two candidates in the race."
Although Democrats are not unified in the view that the strategy will work, Mr. Kerry's campaign advisers say the dispute, and the intense Republican response, keeps Mr. Kerry's military record as a central focus of the campaign and allows him to show he can engage in the same kind of brutal political warfare as the Bush White House.
In that sense, Democrats called the attack on Mr. Bush a loud warning shot aimed directly at Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief political adviser. Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of Democratic National Committee, led the way on Sunday when he called Mr. Bush AWOL, a charge that Mr. Kerry has not made himself, but also not disavowed.
"The Republican attack machine that's gone nuts today is going to discover that John Kerry is pretty tough," said Bob Shrum, Mr. Kerry's senior adviser, in an interview on Tuesday. "He's going to fight back on national security and the issues that he himself brings to the table."
Republicans countered that the Democrats and Mr. Kerry had gone overboard, that the strategy would backfire and that the charges were old. Questions about Mr. Bush's National Guard service first surfaced during the 2000 campaign when he ran against Al Gore, who served in Vietnam. The issue was revived last month when the filmmaker Michael Moore called Mr. Bush a deserter at a rally for Gen. Wesley K. Clark.
"I think it's a little over the top," said former Senator Bob Dole, who was seriously wounded in World War II but did not make his military record an issue in his 1996 campaign against the incumbent Bill Clinton, who avoided serving in Vietnam. "You have to walk that fine line that you're not exploiting it."
Other Republicans said that voters would not judge the candidates on their military service but on how they best presented themselves as a potential commander in chief charged with protecting the security of the United States. In that regard, Republicans said, Mr. Bush had the overwhelming advantage.
"You've got Bush who's already commander in chief, and has deployed military forces in a successful way, and has proven what he's willing to do," said Bill Dal Col, a Republican political consultant. "And you've got somebody who was in the military 30 years ago, different time, different era. What he did in Vietnam does not play out to what he has to do on the world stage now."
Some Democrats agreed. "This election is not going to be about the military, or the lack of military record of the president, but his performance in handling Iraq and leading the country in a time of uncertainty," said Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster, who is not working for a presidential candidate.
But Mr. Kerry is showing no signs so far of backing off. In recent days, he has been assisted by former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, a triple-amputee from his service in Vietnam who has been virtually sainted in Democratic eyes after being defeated in 2002 when Republicans questioned his patriotism.
"We need a real deal, like John Kerry, not a raw deal, like what's in the White House now," Mr. Cleland said on Friday in Columbia, S.C., with Mr. Kerry at his side. "We need somebody who felt the sting of battle, not someone who didn't even complete his tour stateside in the Guard."
The White House went into a furious counterattack on Tuesday. "It is outrageous and baseless," Scott McClellan, Mr. Bush's press secretary, told reporters, breaking the White House practice that all political questions be answered by officials at Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va.
Ralph Reed, the Bush campaign's Southeast regional chairman, went even further. "It's gutter politics," Mr. Reed said in an interview. "We're absolutely convinced that the American people will reject these smear tactics."
Late Tuesday night, Mr. Kerry fired back. On Fox News, he subtly slashed at Mr. Bush by implying that joining the National Guard was just another way of dodging the draft.
"I've never made any judgments about any choice somebody made about avoiding the draft, about going to Canada, going to jail, being a conscientious objector, going into the National Guard," Mr. Kerry said. "Those are choices people make."
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Now, from Collin Levey at The Seattle Times, Feb. 5.
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Speaking in Seattle on Tuesday, John Kerry told a roomful of ex-Deaniacs that "for the second time in the last few days, a New England Patriot won one on the road." The crowd cheered because it knew what he meant: Patriot Kerry is a Vietnam veteran, winner of Purple Hearts and a Silver Star in Vietnam. And, by the way, he's a Vietnam veteran.
Did he mention that he was a Vietnam vet?
Kerry has been talking about his military credentials more or less since he got out of the military. His first bit of national political notice came from throwing other veterans' medals onto the White House lawn to protest the war. Vietnam has been a centerpiece of his Senate personality. And so far it has been working just fine in the campaign, matching up nicely against both Wesley Clark and Howard Dean.
His strategy for taking on a wartime president in the fall is thrilling in its lunacy. The party of Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis is aiming to disgrace President Bush on the basis of his military record.
Democratic National Committee Chief Terry McAuliffe took the first crack last weekend, accusing Bush of going AWOL in the National Guard. There's a lot more of this to come, one fears. Given Kerry's convoluted record of pro and con votes and statements on Iraq, he's clearly hoping that a little political pre-emption might neutralize the damage done by a heavily anti-war primary and the image of Democrats as the party of wobbly doubters.
Historically, Democrats have been the first to become frothy and indignant at suggestions that their lack of service translated into questionable patriotism. Clinton's no-show in Vietnam was angrily defended by Kerry himself. On Tuesday night, Kerry reiterated a refusal to make judgments about people's choices to go to jail or to Canada as conscientious objectors.
But while Kerry doesn't "know the facts" about Bush's service in Alabama and Texas Guard units, he also added that the questions about Bush's service are fair and should be answered by the White House. Huh?
In fact, though, while military service is a nice addition to a campaign's repertoire, it's overrated. Most Americans haven't served in the military and don't consider themselves second-class citizens. Bill Clinton never served but beat out two veterans in George Bush and Bob Dole. John McCain, for that matter, was beaten by George W. Bush despite McCain's heroic ordeal as a POW.
More surprising still is the suggestion that Americans may elect Kerry as a reward to a generation of Vietnam vets, who've been sometimes shabbily treated by their country. James Clyburn, the estimable African-American congressman whose endorsement helped account for Kerry's decent second-place showing in South Carolina, even says Vietnam, not Iraq, will be the real issue of the campaign.
He may even be right. Why do we care about military service in our leaders?
It's not solely about service and duty, though those are important things.
It's also about understanding the gravity of conflict and credibility in handling it. The military service of Kerry's hero, John F. Kennedy, was important because it bolstered his profile as a strong-defense Democrat at a moment of high tension in the Cold War.
Nobody has yet detected a similar forcefulness against foreign enemies from Kerry, only against domestic pharmaceutical companies, HMOs and "Big Oil." That didn't stop Clyburn from saying two nights ago that, even if Kerry's Vietnam patrol boat didn't have a name, "we're going to give it a name" like PT109.
Clyburn is undoubtedly sincere. If Kerry listens to very much such advice, however, he'll be walking close to the edge of turning his Vietnam experience into a campy political cliché, or worse.
Wherever Kerry is to be found these days, you don't have to look far to find his friend and supporter, former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, a triple amputee and fellow Vietnam vet. Cleland, who lost his seat to a Republican challenger in 2002, has been put forward at every stop as a martyr to alleged GOP slurs on his patriotism. In fact, as his hometown Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported in detail, Cleland's own campaign originated the strategy of meeting every criticism of his record on homeland security (he had voted 11 times for a Democratic Party-line effort to open up the new department to organized labor) by ginning up "feigned outrage" and accusing opponents of challenging his "patriotism."
Cleland made these alleged slurs a central theme in his Georgia re-election campaign. Kerry would be wise to take note of what happened next: Georgia voters listened carefully to both sides and then tossed Cleland out.
Voters honor the service and patriotism of military veterans. Indeed, so much so that they can be quickly turned off by use of such symbols cynically to evade scrutiny and accountability.
That's why Kerry's best move now might be to shut up about Vietnam. He's about two applause lines away from convincing voters that he's trying to cash in on a war that cost thousands of his fellow volunteers and draftees their lives.
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If Kerry gets the nomination, a big part of the election campaign will be Vietnam but not what Kerry did overseas, nor what George Bush did in the USA, but what Kerry did when he got back home.
The 1st Annual St. Blog's Awards
Best Political Blog
Votes will be taken until Wednesday, February 18, 2004 at 12:00 noon CST.
Federalism and a Federal Marriage Amendment
Finally, the Blogosphere catches up with The Blog from the Core.
Well, The Corner does, at the least.
George Tenet Speaks Up
At Georgetown University yesterday:
CIA Director George Tenet gave a speech at Georgetown University on Thursday [Feb. 5]. The transcript follows.
TENET: I have come here today to talk to you and to the American people about something important to our nation and central to our future: how the United States intelligence community evaluated Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs over the past decade, leading to a national intelligence estimate in October of 2002. I want to tell you about our information and how we reached our judgments. I want to tell you what I think, honestly and directly.
There's several reasons to do this: because the American people deserve to know, because intelligence has never been more important to the security of our country.
As a nation we have, over the past seven years, been rebuilding our intelligence with powerful capabilities that many thought we would no longer need after the Cold War. We have been rebuilding our clandestine service, our satellite and other technical collection, our analytical depth and expertise.
Both here and around the world, the men and women of American intelligence are performing courageously, often brilliantly, to support our military, to stop terrorism and to break up networks of proliferation.
The risks are always high. Success and perfect outcomes are never guaranteed. But there's one unassailable fact: We will always call it as we see it. Our professional ethic demands no less....
I don't know about you, Faithful Reader, but I'm glad I live in a world where we no longer depend on NYT/AP/CBS et al. to tell us what somebody has said somewhere, some time with, perhaps, the very carefully selected excerpt or two. We can now read just about anything for ourselves, almost as it happens.
"Auschwitz Under Our Noses"?
Anne Applebaum writes at WaPo, Feb. 4:
.... Look, for example, at the international reaction to a documentary, aired last Sunday night on the BBC. It described atrocities committed in the concentration camps of contemporary North Korea, where, it was alleged, chemical weapons are tested on prisoners. Central to the film was the testimony of Kwon Hyuk, a former administrator at a North Korean camp. "I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber," he said. "The parents, son and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save the kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing." The documentary also included testimony from a former prisoner, who says she saw 50 women die after being deliberately fed poison. And it included documents smuggled out of the country that seemed to sentence a prisoner to a camp "for the purpose of human experimentation."
But the documentary was only a piece of journalism. Do we really know that it is true? We don't. It was aired on the BBC, after all, an organization whose journalistic standards have recently been questioned. It was based on witness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable. All kinds of people might have had an interest in making the film more sensational, including journalists (good for their careers) or North Korean defectors (good for their cause).
The veracity of the information has been further undermined by the absence of official confirmation. The South Korean government, which believes that appeasement of the North will lead to reunification, has already voiced skepticism about the claims: "We will need to investigate," a spokesman said. The U.S. government has other business on the Korean Peninsula too. On Monday Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told a group of Post journalists that he feels optimistic about the prospect of a new round of nuclear talks between North Korea and its neighbors. He didn't mention the gas chambers, even whether he's heard about them.
In the days since the documentary aired, few other news organizations have picked up the story either. There are other priorities: the president's budget, ricin in the Senate office building, David Kay's testimony, a murder of a high school student, Super Tuesday, Janet Jackson. With the possible exception of the last, these are all genuinely important subjects. They are issues people care deeply about. North Korea is far away and, quite frankly, it doesn't seem there's a lot we can do about it....
This is a deadly serious issue, of course, so I do not mean to politicize it. However, I must say that I find it ironic that the one world leader who decided to act in a similar situation in another part of the world less than a year ago, based on much more & much stronger evidence than may ever be possible in the case of North Korea, is right now being pilloried for having done so and by the very people, I dare say, who are probably really big fans of the Washington Post. I wonder if the irony is lost on the columnist and editors.
And, Dust in the Light gets cited at National Review Online.
Stanley Kurtz writes yesterday at NRO:
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unambiguously mandated the granting of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The decision will take effect in about three and a half months. The time will come to debate the tactics of the gay-marriage battle. Right now is a moment for sober reflection on what is at stake.
At issue in the gay-marriage controversy is nothing less than the existence of marriage itself. This point is vehemently denied by the proponents of gay marriage, who speak endlessly of marriage's adaptability and "resilience." But if there is one thing I think I've established in my recent writing on Scandinavia, it is that marriage can die — and is in fact dying — somewhere in the world. In fact, marriage is dying in the very the same place that first recognized gay marriage....
Kurtz later cites Justin Katz, with whom you very well ought to be acquainted already, Faithful Reader:
As part of his latest counter in his most-recent outbreak of argument with Andrew Sullivan, Stanley Kurtz examines Norwegian marriage at the district level:
One district bans clergy who oppose gay marriage (and these same clergy are the ones who criticize unmarried parenthood). Another district lionizes leftist professors who cite gay unions to prove that marriage has no intrinsic connection to parenthood. If both districts have high out-of-wedlock birthrates, it's reasonable to conclude that gay marriage contributes to those rates.
After completely dodging the fact that Kurtz caught him trying to have it both ways with the term "de facto marriage," Sullivan responds by — get this — comparing Massachusetts and Texas. One must admire the audacity of a pundit who, having just finished speaking of the many factors that contribute to the erosion of marriage, answers an attempt to draw out significant local differences within a notoriously homogeneous region by citing those two states....
Massachusetts' Black-Robed Masters Act Again
Democrats in Self-Destruct Mode CLXVI
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court further decrees many, many more votes for Republicans in next year's general election throughout the USA.
See also Statement by the President.
P.S. The four judicial tyrants have, I gather, not had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of E. J. Dionne.
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