Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Against Stupidity Even the Gods Struggle in Vain


        Who would have guessed that there were lessons to be learned from the Clinton Administrations attempts to make peace between Israel and the Arabs.  But apparently there were, according to Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State.  The problem is, either she won't tell us what they are.

At Length:

        Madeleine Albright criticized President Bush for:
        "a deliberate way of not learning the lessons" of Clinton's efforts to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  She said Clinton had so impressed the Arabs that he "could be elected president of any country" in the Middle East.

        What lessons would these be?

        Very hard to say, because Albright either didn't tell the audience what they were, or the Austin American-Statesman chose not to report them. Trying to figure them out myself, 'President Clinton was a chump on this issue,' is one that comes to mind.  'You get good press if you parrot Clinton's opinions' is another (as with President Penis, Albright finds the Iraq Campaign "was a mistake", but one that must be "concluded successfully."  I think that's Liberal for 'Any blame must be directed against the Republicans and Bush, any credit must accrue to Democrats, or at least be bipartisan.').  But for the rest of the lessons, I can't think of any (feel free to add any that come to your mind in the comments).

        But I think Bush did learn the main lesson: there's no point in "negotiating" with those who have no intention of keeping agreements they make.  So he didn't even try with Saddam, just gave the fool enough rope to hang himself.  Pity Clinton and Albright never learned that, or, if they did, petty neither had the balls to act on the knowledge.

        A lesson Maddy needs to learn: telling people your boss impressed the Arabs is not helping your party, or his wife's presidential candidacy.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Mark Steyn on Fantasy, Reality, and the Future

        From the London Telegraph:
        There's one image of the Second World War that sums it up: in London, the morning after a night of Luftwaffe bombing, Churchill would walk through the ruins; in Berlin, Hitler never visited bombed-out areas and, just in case the driver should take a wrong turn, he drove through the streets with his car windows curtained.

        If you can't bear to pull open the curtains, chances are you're going to lose.  When it's a bet between reality and delusion, bet on reality.  What does the European political class really know of today's challenges?  We mock the Islamists for wanting to turn the clock back to the eighth century.  But, if it's a choice between eighth-century reality or 21st-century fantasy, it's not such an easy call.

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Some Recommendations For Animal Rights Activists

        From Baen's Bar, my favorite bulletin board, commenting on an attempt to ban hunting and fishing in Canada:

Ian Springer

        These people really need to spend some time on a farm.  A little contact with reality may well change their minds.  Not all of us get most of our provender from a grocery store after all.  I'll spend the next 9 months eating deer meat and whatever else I knock over during the season.

        Plus being arm deep in a cows ...er...is probably a quick way back to reality.

Charles Prael

        No, Ian. Before they spend time on a farm, they need to spend time having a windshield installed in their stomachs, so they can see how to
_get_ to the farm.

        Though I've never understood how they can breath with their neck stretched through that little tiny sphincter...

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A Few Links

        A Democrat I'd Be Proud to Vote For Reports on Iraq.

        A Frogman reminds us of Bush in Iraq.

        How the Marines have been living.

        Commander Salamander debunks the New York Times mindset concerning Europe.

        Just read them, please.

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More Evidence of Disinformation?


        There's increasing information suggesting that one reason the CIA got stuff wrong before the Iraq Invasion was because we were deliberately deceived by our "allies."

        There's also information suggesting that the WMD intelligence was either more accurate than now believed, or Saddam was deliberately trying to convince us he had weapons he didn't have.

        Bloggers should be investigating both issues.  The CIA and the MSM won't.

At Length:

        In my post on Curveball, I considered that maybe the "foreign liaison service" that was handling the Iraqi decided to plant some disinformation.

        Now we have this from Lawrence Wilkerson, Sec. of State Powell's Chief of Staff:
        The French came in in the middle of my deliberations at the CIA and said, we have just spun aluminum tubes, and by God, we did it to this rpm, et cetera, et cetera, and it was all, you know, proof positive that the aluminum tubes were not for mortar casings or artillery casings, they were for centrifuges.  Otherwise, why would you have such exquisite instruments?

        (Note: if the link above fails, it's also here.  In either case, it's a looooong mother.)

        Which suggests that someone, was lying about those tubes, either the French, for unknown reasons, or the Department of Energy because they didn't want to admit Saddam was stockpiling components for a uranium enrichment facility.

        It would be nice if some technical experts would obtain some of these tubes, and try to make enrichment centrifuges with them.  And it would be nice if the Administration would either declassify the information the French gave on those centrifuges, or give us a good reason why it should stay secret — or tell us that Wilkerson is a liar, and the French never gave us such information.

        If I were an optimist, I'd suggest that the CIA will learn to be careful of "foreign liaison services," and will insist on vetting sources more thoroughly.  Also, that if they found "foreign liaison services" deceiving us, they'd burn them publicly.  As a realist, fuggedaboudit!  They'll never change.

        Wilkerson also has interesting information on what could be confirmed by satellite reconnaissance, suggesting that either Saddam did have some chemical weapons stockpiled, or was trying to convince us he did:
        But I saw satellite evidence, and I’ve looked at satellite pictures for much of my career.  I saw information that would lead me to believe that Saddam Hussein, at least on occasion, was spoofing us, was giving us disinformation.  When you see a satellite photograph of all the signs of the chemical weapons ASP — Ammunition Supply Point — with chemical weapons, and you match all those signs with your matrix on what should show a chemical ASP, and they’re there, you have to conclude that its a chemical ASP, especially when you see the next satellite photograph which shows the U.N. inspectors wheeling in in their white vehicles with black markings on them to that same ASP and everything is changed, everything is clean.  None of those signs are there anymore.

        Well, Saddam Hussein really cared about deterring the Persians the Iranians — and his own people.  He did’nt give a hang about us except on occasion.  And so he had to convince those audiences that he still was a powerful man.  So who better to do that through than the INC, Ahmad Chalabi and his boys, and by spoofing our eyes in the sky and our little HUMINT, and the Brits and the French and the Germans, too.  That’s all I can figure.

        Well, unlike Wilkerson, I can also figure that the satellite photos were correct, and when the U.N. inspectors showed, the contraband had been moved.  So did Saddam have a chemical weapons supply that he exported or hid?  Or did he deliberately try to convince us that he had them and wouldn't get rid of them, in order to scare the Iranians, deter the Iraqi National Congress, deter us, and just plain look powerful in the Muslim world? (The Arabs live in a shame/honor culture, after all.)  This subject also needs more exploration.  Too bad the MSM and the CIA seem determined to bury it.  But that shouldn't stop bloggers.  Up and at 'em, fellow Pajama Wearers!

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Undoubtedly Another Coincidence


        Since the destruction of their sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Iraq, al-Qaida hasn't had many successes.  It's performance and strategic sense have gone straight downhill.  Why, if the CIA, the Democrats and the MSM weren't known to be infallible, I might think that al-Qaida used to get extensive state support in its planning and operations.

At Length:

        In my last post, I noted a strange coincidence: As part of the Katrina evacuation, all the drug dealers and users left New Orleans, and from then till at least November 10th, there wasn't a single murder in NOLA.

        Here's another strange coincidence.  Before Sept. 12, 2001, al-Qaida had major successes attacking U.S. targets.  And during that time, al-Qaida had sanctuary from Sudan, then Afghanistan, and possibly Iraq (from sometime in 2002 till March 19th, 2003, al-Qaida definitely had sanctuary in Iraq).  And before Sept. 12, 2003, al-Qaida showed great smarts, hitting U.S. targets of high visibility.

        Yet since we took their state sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Iraq away, and destroyed the governments of those states, al-Qaida has been on a downhill slide.  They can't seem to launch any assaults in the U.S., they haven't pulled off a single successful assault in the U.S.  There have only been a few successful al-Qaida operations in Europe.  The best Osama's crew can do is funnel RIFs into Iraq, where about twenty die for every member of the U.S. military they kill. And the al-Qaida IQ seems to have deteriorated radically -- they never used to blow up Sunni Arabs in all directions, resulting in them being seen as scum by fellow Muslims.

        What an odd turn of events.  Why, if the MSM and the Democratic Party hadn't assured me daily that al-Qaida never had state support, and particularly not state support from Iraq, I might think that Laurie Mylroie was right, and that Saddam actively assisted al-Qaida from 1993 on, when the World Trade Center was bombed the first time.

        But who you gonna believe, the liberal pundits or your lying eyes?

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Breakthrough in Criminology!


        The real story of Hurricane Katrina and crime in New Orleans.

  • They evacuated the city.

  • The drug dealers and users left with the everyone else.

  • The dealers and users didn't come back.

  • The murder rate fell to zero.

  • The rate of all other crimes is near zero too.

  • I know it's against all common sense, but apparently, as James Taranto put it, the root cause of crime is criminals.  Who'd a thunk it?

At Length:

        I know you will find this hard to believe.  I had trouble with it myself.  But it seems the New York Times has discovered how to get rid of crime.  Literally.

        Before Hurrican Katrina, the murder rate in New Orleans was the highest in the U.S.  Currently it's the lowest, approximately zero.  There wasn't a single known murder after the hurrican hit, through November 10th.

        You see, when they evacuated the city, all the drug users and dealers left too.  They hadn't come back, as of a few weeks ago, and it turns out they were the ones doing the murders!  No dealers and users, no murders.

        I know you'll find it almost impossible to believe.  I boggled too.  It goes against all common sense to think that just getting rid of the criminals reduces the crime rate.  Don't we have to address root causes?  Don't we have to remake society?  Isn't it all the fault of the middle class and the non-criminals?  Apparently not.  Knock me over with a feather.

        Hmm, I wonder if this could have something to do with the paradoxical fact that the crime rate has been going down while the prison population went up?  Could it be that if we just locked up enough criminals, the crime rate would fall to near zero?

        Nah.  The whole story's too outrageous to be true.  Must be a coincidence, or a practical joke from the Times.

        Hat tip: James Taranto.

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Taranto on Target

        In a Best of the Web Today from a few weeks back, he writes about Joe Klein and the Republican 'Politics of Personal Destruction' and the 'attack' on Brent Scowcroft:
        Think about what Klein is doing here, though.  He "reports" that the White House is trying to "destroy" Scowcroft, based on an anonymous source's description of an e-mail that not only Klein but the source himself hasn't read!  It's such a hilariously inept bit of journalism, we have to wonder if Klein didn't intend it as satire.

        Hmm, could Mary Mapes be pulling our leg?

        And also read his entry on "Sweeney Todd Democrats" and "James Earl Coulter" (it seems the Georgia Giant is channelling the Blond Attack Dog).

  Heck, just read it all, and put Taranto on your daily checklist.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Stock Market Rally

        It's all Bush's fault.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Comment on Abortion and the Courts

        From Canis Iratus:
        Roe V. Wade has had a disastrous and insidious effect on the highest judicial process in the country.  It has hijacked an entire branch of the United States government, which means we only have two left.  It has reduced all public discussion of constitutional law to one word: ABORTION.  The grand legacy of John Marshall, John Jay, and Oliver Wendell Holmes is now represented by a single lump of tissue: ABORTION.  The evolution of judicial thinking in the greatest nation on earth has been stopped dead by ABORTION.  The vitally important democratic function of reviewing and choosing suitable candidates for the greatest court in history has been gruesomely hewed down to a single splinter: ABORTION.  Blind-folded Justice is almost mute; she can only croak the word ABORTION.

        Socrates, what is truth?  ABORTION.  Conan, what is best in life?  ABORTION.  What's the atomic weight of Germanium?  ABORTION.  What is the very meaning of existence itself - what single word breaks the silence of those infinite spaces that filled great Pascal with dread?  ABORTION, ABORTION, ABORTION, ABORTION, ABORTION.

        Like I said, enough of this monomaniacal cretinism. Enough already.

        And then, it get funnier.

        The Angry Dog is correct. Take the issue out of the hands of the federal courts, and put it back where it belongs, in the state legislatures and state courthouses.

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The Beat Goes On, and the Self-Delusion With It

        Pajamas Media has a post up about the Europeans' latest attempt to persuade the Iranians not to enrich Uranium for nuclear bombs.  Currently, they're threatening Iran with referral to the Security Council for "possible sanctions" if the Iranians don't fold.  Yeah, right.  Iran, by the way, says it will resist any International Atomic Energy Agency inspections that it considers "overly intrusive," and is already refusing to cooperate with the IEAE.  Up next: really cross words from the Axis of Weasels.

        The important thing in this story is that all these European powers say they consider Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is a bad thing, but none of them are willing to say 'The day we think you have a nuke, we invade.  And if you try to use one on us, well, we have lots and lots more, and we will use them against you.'  On the other hand, none of them has any non-military plan to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, if it really wants them.  On the gripping hand, the Europeans can't bring face the fact that some acts can only be prevented by killing the would-be actor.

        Does anyone still find the farce amusing?

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Some Thoughts on the CIA and its Persistent Failures of Analysis, Part I


        This is the first of a series of posts on why the CIA in particular, and the USAmerican Intelligence Community in general, so often get things wrong.

  • The CIA's first big mistake is an overemphasis on prediction of what foreign nations will do.

At Length:

        With all the hoorah about the question of Iraq/al-Qaeda ties, pre-War Intelligence, the Curveball case, and whether Bush distorted intelligence, and my ongoing attempt to do a history of Plamegate, I've been thinking about the Central Intelligence Agency a bit.  The history of the CIA is one of screwing up royally by failing to anticipate enemy actions.  Here are some thoughts on why that happens.

        In the first place, anticipating what other countries will do is arguably a low priority for an intelligence service.  States are not people, but in the end, there are people in charge of a state's actions.  And people have minds to think with, and free will to decide with.  Further, there's the 'dialectical' aspect of competitive games: what player A decides to do is likely to be influenced by what A thinks his opponent, B, will do.  A case in point is the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.  The CIA and the rest of the intelligence community decided that Saddam would not invade.  So, no one told Bush 41 "You'd damn well better think about what we do if he annexes Kuwait, sir," and nobody told Saddam what that action would be.  Which may have led to a grave miscalculation on Saddam's part, for, if James Dunnigan and Austin Bay are correct, Saddam decided to take over Kuwait on the spur of the moment, thinking the U.S. would let him get away with it.

        The first thing an intelligence service should do is lay out what it thinks another nation is capable of doing.  The second thing it should do is say "We aren't mind readers here, and even if we were, people can change their minds."  Intelligence should then lay out the what it thinks foreign states might do, with the rough probability figures of the various plans.

        Another reason it's hard to predict what other people will do is the difficulty of realizing that other people are really OTHER, they're different from you, they have different thought processes and different goals.

        For instance, Miles Copeland, in his book
  The Game of Nations, says that he didn't think Nasser intended to attack Israel in 1967 (Copeland was one of the State Department's Egypt experts.)  Instead, he thought Nasser was "conducting an election."  He'd stir Egyptians up about Israel, then magnaminiously back down at the last second.  If Copeland is wrong, it shows his, Copeland's, problem in getting into other people's minds.  If Copeland is correct, then Nasser erred in not asking himself 'What will the Jews think of my actions?  Will they attack?"

        Another Mid-East example is the Yom Kippur War of 1973.  Israel had a "concept," of what Egypt and Syria would do, and the "concept" stated that Egypt would not attack Israel until certain conditions were met.  The reason they decided that is, apparently, that the "concept" fit with what the Israeli military would have done if they were running Egypt.  The "concept" also stated that the Syrians wouldn't attack unless Egypt attacked at the same time.  (For more on the "concept," see Military Misfortunes by Cohen and Gooch, or The Sword and the Olive by Martin van Creveld.)  The result was that when signs of an impending Syrian attack accumulated, they were dismissed because obviously Syrian would only attack when Egypt did.  When signs of an impending Egyptian attack accumulated, they were dismissed because the "concept" stated that Egypt wasn't in a condition to attack Israel yet.  But Anwar Sadat's conception of when it would be worthwhile to attack Israel was different from Israel's "concept," and the Jewish state was caught flat-footed, in danger of being destroyed.

        I had intended to list all the CIA's errors as I saw them, but this is getting too long, so I'll do one post per major error.

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Extended Thoughts On “Curveball”

        In her latest Newsweek column, “Murtha’s Moment,” Eleanor Clift says:
        If Bush wants to retrieve his credibility, he should call off the attack dogs and make a televised speech to the American people conceding that the certainty he presented about weapons of mass destruction was not there, and that the administration relied on a single source, aptly named “Curveball,” who was later discredited.  Bush can then present his case--what he saw, why he acted, and why he still believes he did the right thing.

        I rebutted Clift’s column here, but the Curveball story I found while researching the rebuttal is itself worth looking at.

        The best source for Curveball material is The Silberman-Robb Commission Report, (all the others, aside from the Senate Select Committee Report, seem to be recycles of journalist’s comments; if you know of any other original sources, I’d love to see them), and I found out this:
        By 1999, the CIA assessed that there was some Iraqi research and development on BW and that Iraq could restart production of biological weapons within a short period of time.  The 1999 NIE on Worldwide BW Programs judged that Iraq was “revitalizing its BW program” and was “probably continuing work to develop and produce BW agents.” 233 f

        The Intelligence Community’s concern about Iraq’s BW program increased in early 2000, and the Community began to adjust upward its estimates of the Iraq BW threat, based on a “substantial volume” of “new information” regarding mobile BW facilities in Iraq. 234  This information came from an Iraqi chemical engineer, subsequently codenamed “Curveball”, who came to the attention of the Intelligence Community through a foreign liaison service.  That liaison service debriefed Curveball and then shared the debriefing results with the United States.  The foreign liaison service would not, however, provide the United States with direct access to Curveball.

        STOP! Was there really a “Curveball?”  Did he really tell the “foreign liaison service” anything?  Who is this foreign liaison service?  [Update, 4/14/2006: It was Germany's foreign intelligence service, according to newspaper articles from April of 2006.]  Why wouldn’t they allow the U.S. to speak to Curveball directly?  Are they hiding something?  If so, what?  We may never know, as nobody seems to want to follow this story up.  And what does it say about the CIA, that they swallowed the Curveball story from the beginning, without getting suspicious of the foreign service?  For that matter, what does it say about the Silverman-Robb Commission, that they accept this stuff so easily?

        But maybe I’m being too hard on the CIA and DIA, as the Silberman-Robb report says the “several” other foreign intelligence services found Curveball credible.  Then again, the CIA and DIA didn’t bother to attempt to “validate” Curveball’s information.  Perhaps the other foreign services were equally slipshod?

        So, the CIA was getting information that allegedly originated with Curveball.  What is it he supposedly said?

        “Curveball”, an Iraqi chemical engineer, defected to the unidentified foreign country in 1999.  He claimed (or so the foreign service said) to have worked in Saddam’s biological weapons program, and offered information, saying that Iraq had “mobile fermenters” that could move from place to place producing biological weapons.  ‘His’ technical information was highly detailed, initially appeared to check out (for instance, designs he had allegedly worked on were sent to the U.S., where the CIA had them built.  They worked), and other human sources corroborated him.  Also, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) had turned up Iraqi military documents that referred to mobile fermenters. (see text to footnote 342)

        Question: if the “foreign laison service” was so ready to give us this information, why did they not want us to talk to him?  Hypothesis: the foreign country this service is part of had helped Iraq in its biowarfare program.  To keep things confused, they took a real Iraqi defector, and falsely ascribed information to him.  Some of the information was true, others false.  But none of it originated with Curveball.

        Anyhow, in May, 2000, a Department of Defense (DoD) “detailee” (a DoD official assigned to work with the CIA) managed to meet with the person the foreign service said was Curveball.  The DoD official noted that Curveball appeared hung over.  Since Curveball knew he had a meeting the next morning with DoD, but got drunk the night before anyway, this suggested Curveball might be an alcoholic.  Further, the person identified as Curveball spoke excellent English, while the “foreign service” had told the U.S. several times that Curveball didn’t speak English.

        It’s worth noting, though, that the first record of the DoD official saying this is on February 3rd, 2003.  If the detailee really thought Curveball might be unreliable in 2000, why didn’t he note that at the time?  I’ll address this at length in another post.

        Regardless of whether Curveball was hung over, and whether it was reported, at this point, someone should have asked what was going on, and why the “foreign service” wasn’t telling the U.S. the truth.  But they didn’t.  Nor did the U.S. “Intelligence Community” ask if Curveball might have personal problems that would throw doubt on his credibility.

        Not really addressed by Silberman-Robb: why was the DoD official allowed access to “Curveball,” but no one else from the U.S.?  The Senate Committee report says the DoD guy was supposed to “administer DELETED,” and Silberman-Robb says that U.S. Intelligence was wondering about a report that Curveball had possibly been exposed to a biological warfare agent.  So it sounds like a test to see if he had blood antigens to the agent, or a vaccine against it.  It also sounds like an excuse for not making Curveball available to the U.S.

        Getting back to our story, by early 2001, the “foreign service” was reporting that Curveball was “‘out of control,’” and could not be located.  I find it hard to believe that the foreign spies couldn’t find Curveball, but perhaps I’m wrong.  Still, it suggests to me a “cover your ass” maneuver designed to excuse them if his information was later discredited, as it was.

        In April 2002 (STOP!  Note that this is over two years after Curveball has defected to the unnamed foreign country, and over a year since the “foreign service” said Curveball was “out of control;” what happened during that year?), a second foreign country expressed doubts about Curveball’s veracity.  Still, they thought he Curveball was telling the truth about some things at least.

        Later in 2002, some CIA analysts developed doubts concerning Curveball.  A CIA division chief allegedly met with the a member of the foreign intelligence service that had custody of Curveball, and was told that there were serious doubts about the defectors mental stability and reliability, that Curveball had had a nervous breakdown, that Curveball might be a “fabricator” — and that the foreign intelligence service would “publicly and officially” deny all this if the CIA raised the issue.  The division chief definitely communicated his opinion that Curveball was unreliable to his subordinates.  The division chief also allegedly told an exectutive assistant to the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence about his concerns, and finally George Tenet, then Director of Central Intelligence.  The DCI, the DDCI, and the DDCI’s executive assistant all said that’s not what they remember.  Other people involved in the affair have differing recolections too.

        The Silberman-Robb commission sums up by saying there were serious doubts about Curveball within the CIA (though not, apparently, so serious that anyone produced a written record of them that could be used later), but that none of these doubts ever got to Secretary of State Powell, who incorporated Curveball’s material into his United Nation’s speech.  Powell and his staff, by the way, wanted the CIA to exclude any information they had doubts about.  The Commission judged it a serious failure on the CIA’s part that the information was in the speech.

        After the Iraq invasion, discrepancies piled up between what the Iraq Survey Group found and Curveball’s story (or anyway, the story the “foreign liaison service” ascribed to Curveball).  The ISG also turned up travel records indicating Curveball wasn’t in Iraq when he said he was.  A year after the invasion, the CIA finally armtwisted the foreign service to let them meet directly with Curveball.  They then definitely concluded that he was a liar.  (Which raises the question, why did the portions of his technical information that could be tested before the war all check out?  And why did the Iraqi military produce documents concerning “‘mobile fermentation’ capability” if they never had any, or never planned to?  The Silberman-Robb Commission didn’t address that issue.)

        In a swamp like this, it’s hard to be sure of anything.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but this whole Curveball story stinks on ice.  Curveball defects to a “Western European Country” where English is not spoken (France?), and gives them information that they believe.  They pass it on to us, but whenever we try to talk to the source directly, there’s a reason it can’t be done.  First Curveball won’t speak to Americans, then he can’t speak English, then he’s behaving erraticly . . . the only constants are the unnamed foreign country’s refusal to let us near him, and their willingness for us to use Curveball’s information as long as we didn’t identify him or the foreign country vouching for him.  Finally, in 2004, we put enough pressure on, and the foreigners let us see him.  When he can’t explain various things, we conclude he’s a liar.  But some of the problems with the information allegedly supplied by Curveball came up before the invasion.  The fact that the foreign service didn’t use that info to tackle his credibility suggests they weren’t interested, or knew he was a liar all along.  Which further suggests that they were trying to manipulate us.

        Why?  I don’t know, and I could be wrong.  But it ought to be possible to find out who the foreign liaison service is.  Why isn’t anyone interested in this?

        One other certainty is that the U.S. intelligence community was fooled.  They accepted various information and assumptions far too readily.  But the Silberman-Robb Commission and the Senate Select Committee did the same.  To a great extent, this is a problem of human beings, not readily fixable by anyone or anything.  Few people want their subordinates telling them they’re idiots, fools, ignorami, etc.  Partly it’s the result of too much secrecy.  But we might be able to get a better intelligence service if we tried.

        But I’m not holding my breath on this.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

I'm in a Bad Mood.

        When I'm in a good mood, certain kinds of blatant dishonesty just amuse me, but today, it really irritates.

        Ed Cone has a column expressing his disdain for, and disappointment with, the political debate on abortion.  He wants some "middle ground."

        Fine, I'll deliver.  On one end, are the extremists who say no abortion should ever be performed, under any circumstances.  On the other side, the people who say if the child was half-way out of the birth canal, and the mother said, "Kill it!", that would be nobody's business but hers.

        What's in the middle of that?  'Some abortions should be legal, but others should be forbidden by law.'


        Cone brushes against that position, once or twice, but he keeps it at arms length.  He notes with approval that there's a middle ground emerging:
        The new governor of Virginia, Democrat Tim Kaine, is personally opposed to abortion, as is Bob Casey Jr., the Democratic senatorial hopeful from Pennsylvania.

        I hereby go out on a limb and predict that Mr. Kaine and Mr. Casey will live up to their convictions — neither of these men will ever have an abortion.

        But Cone doesn't mention any circumstances under which either would forbid a legal abortion.  Because if they were in favor of any restriction under any circumstances, they probably couldn't get on the Democratic ticket, much less win a race.

        At the end, Cone lets the cat out of the bag.  Roe v. Wade might be overturned, and therefore, states might have a chance to make abortion laws.  Would this be a good idea?  Apparently not, because he expresses himself in favor of a Constitutional amendment enshrining a "right to privacy," which as far as I can tell is code for "Write Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton into the Constitution."

        Now, since Ed has a man's name, and mentions having a wife, it seems fairly likely he's male.  So, Mr. Cone, a challenge: Be a man, demonstrate some courage, show us those balls are good for something!  Write plainly 'I, Ed Cone a) am in favor of any abortion at any time for any reason if the pregnant woman wants it; b) am in favor of abortion being legal under some circumstances, but want it forbidden by law under other circumstances; c) am opposed to almost any abortion at any time."  And stop pretending that positions a) or c) can be a middle ground if you just express them properly.

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Again, I'm Missing Something

        A man who testified that he saw a certain person commit murder now says he lied.

        And I should believe him because . . . ?

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Missing the Point

        Gz Expat worries that if bird flu did become widespread, he might not be able to send the wife and kids home, what with all the talk about quarantines.  Instead, they'd be stuck in China, with its primitive medicine.

        Uh, guy, that's the point.  A quarantine is designed to stop people from traveling, for any reason, and thus stop them from spreading disease.  If you're worried, get the family out now.

        'But what if nothing goes happens?'  Then you bet on the wrong horse.  Life is full of uncertainty, you need to get used to it.  Hard old world, man, things are tough all over.  [Insert cliché of choice here.]

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Chutzpah, Example, One of

        Joe Wilson criticizes Bob Woodward.  (If the link above dies, try here.

        Best line in the story:
        "It certainly gives the appearance of a conflict of interest.  He was taking an advocacy position when he was a party to it," Wilson said.

        Hat tips: Michelle Malkin via http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2005/11/carnival-of-insanities_20.html.

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The Wonders of Socialized Medicine

        Explained here.

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Dude, You're Getting Shafted By Dell!


        Don't by Dell Computers.

At Length:

        Eugene Volokh testifies to how ridiculously bad Dell's customer service is.  Fans of Jeff Jarvis won't be surprised.

        When you're in the market for a new PC, I recommend not considering them.

        By the way, when I had to reinstall software, and we couldn't find the original disk it came with, Circuit City gave us a copy free.  Dell charged Volokh $299.00 when he couldn't find his copy of Windows XP.  When my laptop's USB card broke, the maker repaired it quickly.  But then, I have an HP, not a Dell.

        I repeat, don't by from Dell.

        Hat tip: the Blogfather.

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Ah, There's Good News Tonight!

        Or, good news this morning, if you insist on being picky.

        The favorite candidate of the Daily Kos crowd is Gen. Wesley Clark, the candidate least likely to win a general election.

        As a Republican, that warms my heart, even as Minnesota's winter cools my skin.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Murtha Does It Again

        Sunday on Meet the Press, he accused "commanders" of all being liars, who repeat the falsehoods they're told to utter.  So when they say we're winning, ignore it.

        Fortunately, he has superior information from somewhere or other, that tells us the truth, which is that we're losing.

        But don't you dare accuse him of being unpatriotic.

        Well, it's a story.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More From Strategypage

        Austin Bay says that the article I referenced in my last post was by James Dunnigan, as is this second one.  I'll take his word, though I didn't notice any signatures.

        In any case, the second post I just mentioned has some interesting things in it.  The title is: "There's More Going On in Iraq Than a Media Event."  It begins:
        If it weren't for Internet access to troops, expatriates and Iraqis in Iraq, you would think that coalition military operations in Iraq were a major disaster, and that prompt withdrawal was the only reasonable course of action.  But the mass media view of the situation is largely fiction, conjured up in editorial offices outside Iraq, with foreign reporters in Iraq (most of them rarely leaving their heavily guarded hotels) providing color commentary, and not much else.  So what do the troops and Iraqis say?

        I rather like that remark about reporters in hotels, because it provides a nice counter-point to the stuff about brave reporters from all over the world risking their lives to report the truth.  Even the usually sensible Jay Rosen peddled this to me in an e-mail.

        And just what do the troops say?

        First, there is definitely a terrorism problem. Not an insurgency, not a guerilla war, not a resistance.

        What would happen if we left?

        Remember, this is where the legal concept of "eye-for-an-eye" was invented thousands of years ago. The children of Hammurabi want their measure of vengeance, and if they get it, the current violence in Iraq will look pallid by comparison. All the prevents a wholesale descent into mutual slaughter is the presence of coalition troops.

        A very important development, which the press mostly ignores:
        Second, there is a cultural crisis, in the Arab world in particular, and the Moslem world in general.  The crisis is expressed by a lack of economic, educational and political performance.  By whatever measure you wish to use, Nobel prizes, patents awarded, GDP growth, the Arabs have fallen behind the rest of the world.. . . That is changing, and the war in Iraq has become the center of this cultural battle. . . .This triggered a debate in the Arab world, one that got little coverage in the West.  It began when some Arab journalists openly pointed out, in the Arab media, that Arab reporters had not only been writing fantastical stories that had no relationship to reality, but that this sort of thing had been going on for a long time and, gosh, maybe it had something to do with the sorry state of affairs in the Arab world.  That particular debate is still going on, largely unnoticed in the West.  This is the real war against terrorism, because the terrorists represent the forces of repression and backwardness in the Arab world.

        I guess, when the Arabs were preserving so much of Greek culture for us, they forgot to read Aesop.  Hare, tortoise.

        Terrorists and their fans:
        Third, the bad guys are really, really bad, but they have many prominent allies around the world.  Most Iraqis cannot understand how so many media outlets in the West can keep giving favorable coverage to the Sunni Arab terrorists. . . . The Europeans are much more risk averse than Americans.  We all remember the 1930s, where most of Europe left Hitler alone, hoping that they could talk sense into him, or that he would go away.  Eventually, the good people of Europe (at least those that had not been conquered by the Germans) had to fight the nazis. . . . Europeans have a thing about tyranny.  While not wanting it for themselves, they are more willing than most to tolerate it for others.  Thus the disagreement over going after Saddam.

        Reading that, I am reminded of Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism.  One of Arendt's point was that totalitarianism was the application to the home country of the way European empires behaved towards those it colonized.  From the time mass migration to the New World began, one of the effects has been to draw overseas the troublemakers who don't know their place.  As I've said before, blood tells, and we got the troublemaker "don't tread on me" blood.

        Dunnigan's final point:
        And, lastly, we have the major differences between the media version of what's going on, and the military one. The media are looking for newsworthy events (bad news preferred, good news does not sell, and news is a business). The military sees it as a process, a campaign, a series of battles that will lead to a desired conclusion.  The event driven media have a hard time comprehending this process stuff, but it doesn't really matter to them, since the media lives from headline to headline.

        There I partially dissent.  While stories are usually self-contained, the MSM regularly does 'analysis' pieces, columns about trends, and mentions of what's been happening.  I say they report bad news because they're hoping to discourage the voters.

        The finale:
        But in the end, process usually wins.  News events are often turned into obstacles. Journalists understand that their audience generally has no memory for past reporting that was inaccurate. . . . This time, it isn't quite working that way.  The troops can email back their experiences promptly, and this causes a disconnect in many people, between what they see in the news, and what they are hearing from people who are in the middle of it all.  How all this will play out is as yet unknown, which is what makes it so interesting.  There's more going on in Iraq than a war.

        Read it all if you want, but that's the high spots.

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Perhaps I'm Missing Something

        Strategypage has a pretty good piece on why U.S. troops increasingly hate the media, here.  Mostly I agree, but there's one part that I just don't get:
        To the average G.I., the attitude is, “what are these reporters looking for?” They are looking for a story, and bad news is a story. Good news is not.

        Really?  Say there's an election, with X and Y as candidates.  Can you explain how whatever happens will be bad news, regardless of who wins?  I sure can't.  Yet the media cover elections and report the results all the time.

        You can probably find other examples yourself, but in the end,it all comes down to this: on some subjects, good news is a story, on some subjects any news is a story, but on some subjects, only bad news is a story.  The Iraq War is one of those latter.  Until someone can show me what the criteria are for deciding what kind of news makes "a story," I say it's bias, and I say to Hell with it.

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Whatever Else She is, She's Not Stupid

        "She" being Hillary Clinton.  See this story (also archived here, for when the first link dies).

        Hillary's turning into a very slick politician.

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Fisking Field Marshall Dame Eleanor, First Countess Clift of Clift


        If dishonest reporting was a crime, Eleanor Clift would spend the rest of her life in jail.  And if illogic was a crime, she’d be on Death Row. 

  • In her latest Newsweek column, “Murtha’s Moment,” most of her alleged facts are wrong, and her arguments are imbecilic.

  • Contrary to her opening paragraph, it’s no surprise that Rep. Jack Murtha is calling for a pullout from Iraq.  He opposed the war before he voted for it before he called for a draft and reinforcements or an immediate pullout.  Now he wants us to leave, except for the ones who stay, and to settle things peacefully, until we go back to killing people.  In other words, to return to the Clinton Administration policy of bluffing at every opportunity.

  • Force, by the way, is the last resort of the incompetent — only the incompetent always wait to the last resort to use force, by which time it’s usually too late for anything, even prayer.  (H. Beam Piper)

  • And when the incompetent do get around to using force, they botch it the way they botched everything they’ve already tried.  (Stephen M. St. Onge)

  • The Administration said Murtha was “endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party.”  Clift terms that an attack on Murtha’s patriotism.  I’ll take her word for it that the extremely liberal should automatically be considered unpatriotic.

  • Clift drags President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his Secretary of Defense Robert ‘the Strange’ McNamara into things.  They were informed that the second Tonkin Gulf incident probably didn’t happen.  They believed that it hadn’t, but lied about it to the public.  Bush was informed by the CIA, perhaps incorrectly, that Iraq definitely had Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Bush believed it, and repeated what he’d been told.  In Clift’s eyes, there’s no difference between the two Administrations.

  • Clift says that the Democrats were misled, which I agree with: after so many years of Clinton backing down after talking tough, W. deceived them by talking tough, leading Donks (and probably Saddam) to believe he’d back down too.  But the fact that they couldn’t believe Bush was telling the truth about his intentions doesn’t mean he wasn’t telling what he thought was the truth about Iraq.

  • In a paragraph so illogical I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t read it, Clift tells how Democratic Representative Shelley Berkeley was worried that Saddam would repeat his 1991 missile attacks on Israel.  Cheney allegedly told her they knew where the missiles were, and would destroy them before they launched.  The Rep., thus reassured, voted for the war resolution.  Clift wants us conclude that the Berkeley voted for the war “in part because of false information.”  And if the Rep. had been told ‘Saddam doesn’t have such missiles yet, but he’s working to get them,’ she’d have done what?

  • By the way, Clift never mentions the conclusions of the Duelfer report: Saddam was determined to obtain such missiles, and WMDs too.  Including nuclear warheads.  She also fails to mention that Israel was NOT attacked by Saddam.  Or that, thanks to the invasion, it won’t be.  Ever.

  • Oh, if Berkeley voted for the war “in part” because of false information, what was the rest of her vote based on?  And why didn’t Clift tell us about that remaining motivation?

  • Clift closes by saying that Bush should give a speech ‘conceding’ a bunch of things that aren’t true, and then defend his actions from that standpoint.  This leaves me wondering why she indulges in such transparent and futile lying?  I hypothesize a form of insanity seen the First World War.

        During the Great War, the tactics used made no sense, if the overiding goal was to win.  But the most important military goal was not victory, but rejection of a future that would be intolerable to the officer corps.  Clift, and the rest of the MSM, tell peddle pathetically weak falsehoods that make no sense if the idea is news reporting or successful deception, but their most important motivation is to reject an intolerable future in which they don’t contol information, and through it, voters.  But that future will come despite them.

At Length, Very Great Length:

        Eleanor Clift of Newsweek has a piece about Rep. Murtha, and, as you’d expect if you’ve encountered her work, it’s 100% nonsense.

        Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha is a burly ex-Marine with a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts who rarely speaks to the press.  But he came out of the shadows Thursday to call for a complete pullout from Iraq within six months.  “Our military has done everything that’s been asked of them. It is time to bring them home,” he said. Murtha’s hawkish record on military matters made his announcement all the more surprising. “It’s like George W. Bush saying he wants to raise taxes,” says Lawrence Korb, a defense analyst who served in the Reagan administration.

        Horseshit.  James Taranto had a nice post on Murtha’s shifting positions on the war.  He started by opposing it, and he’s continually changed his mind since 2002.  The Blogfather sums up Murtha’s attitude towards the war as something:
        which he opposed before he voted for it, only to call for more troops before calling for a pullout.

        Getting back to Eleanor the Liar:
        Democrats gave Murtha a standing ovation behind closed doors, but most kept their distance in public.  “It’s a trap,” explained a Democratic strategist.  “If the party comes out for a unilateral six-month withdrawal, that would become the issue for ’06, and they [Republicans] would kill us again.”

        Well give the lady a seegar, she got one thing right.  The Donks won’t say ‘Cut and Run,’ because they don’t dare.  But they want to cut and run, as does Clift.

        Administration officials were less reticent.  A White House statement said Murtha was “endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party.” Indeed, the election campaign tactics are back in all but name, with the president and the vice president attacking critics by questioning their patriotism.  The strategy may rally some of the Republican base.  However, the broader public has made up its mind about this administration’s credibility, and Murtha isn’t the only member of Congress paying attention.

        The bias and slander is typical of Clift.  She finds it perfectly appropriate for her and her allies in the Party to say the Administration deceived them (which is true; Bush told them the truth, but in such a way they thought he was lying like Clinton (hmmm, catchy phrase there: ‘lying like a Clinton’ feel free to use it).  Bush’s truthful tough talk suckered the Donks into playing along with him till it was too late).  But let the Administration point out that Murtha is endorsing Michael Moore’s position, and they’ve attacked his patriotism.  Apparently we’re supposed to forget that Mikey was an honored guest of the Democratic Convention who ended up seated next to former President Peanut.  And we’re now to regard the once proud description “liberal” as equivalent to “traitor”.  Well, the extreme liberal Clift said it, not righty me.

        My greatest political regret ever is that I was born 26 years too late to vote for Harry Truman as President.  I wondered, reading Clift, what he’d have done if heard her.  Then I remembered Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party.  Faced with Democrats who weren’t patriotic, Harry ran them out of the party, including a young man named George Mcgovern.  The modern decline of the Democratic Party began when McGovern, returned to the fold, managed to take the Party over and — but I digress.  Back to Clift’s lies.

          We learned in Vietnam that in a democracy you can’t sustain a war without public support, and time is running out for the Iraq war.  Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to demand accountability on the progress of the war, a meaningless gesture in the sense it requires the administration to do nothing other than supply quarterly reports.  But it signals the first cracks in the Republican coalition, and it emboldens Democrats to keep up their drumbeat assailing the credibility of the leaders who took us into a war we can’t win and don’t know how to end.

        Clift, of course, wants time to run out on the war, which she’s opposed all along.  The stuff about the Republicans “coalition” cracking is her usual wishful thinking, and as for her military expertise, you can assess it here, here, and here.

        By the way, to translate from the liberal, “a war we can’t win and don’t know how to end” is, in English, ‘a war we liberals were opposed to and which isn’t turning out the way we’d like, in defeat for Bush and the U.S.’  As for democracies and war, we learned Clift’s lesson in the Revolution, and had it repeated in the War of 1812, the Late Unpleasantness, and the Korean War.  Your ignorance is showing, Eleanor.

        Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, for example, defends the right of critics to question and criticize their government and its policies.  Hagel served in Vietnam, which he says was “a lie at the beginning.” He explained in an interview aired last weekend on C-Span how his views about Vietnam were altered when he learned how his government falsified information in order to win congressional approval for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Lyndon Johnson the authority to prosecute the war unchecked.  “And so we have now pretty much come to the same place,” he said, meaning our government committed us to military action based on bits and pieces of evidence that bolstered its case for war.  Hagel did have qualms about the invasion, but he voted for the resolution that gave President Bush a blank check for war with Iraq.  Now that we’re there, he says, “We cannot allow this to become a 1975 when we took the last remnants of our influence out on a helicopter on top of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.”

        More horseshit.  Bush has been acknowledging that his critics have the every right to criticize him, but says they don’t have the right to rewrite history.  Of course, if that were enforced Clift wouldn’t be able to write.

        There is a parallel with Vietnam in the falsehoods advanced by government to rally congressional support and public opinion for war.  Take the ongoing controversy over exactly what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964.  Although analysts on the scene radioed back to Washington that there was no cause for alarm, President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara glossed over doubts about a second attack on American ships and trumpeted the alleged expansion of the war by the North Vietnamese to rally Congress and the American people to escalate a war that had been losing public support.  Sen. William Fulbright, one of only two senators to oppose the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, said in a speech on the Senate floor, “We will rue this day.”

        By now, your flower beds ought to be well fertilized.  Lyndon Baines Johnson lied repeatedly about the war in Viet Nam and what he intended.  W. has told the truth he thought he knew it about Iraq and his intentions, but clucks like Clift were too stupid to figure out they were NOT being lied to.  (There is, by the way, no “ongoing controversy” about the Tonkin Gulf.  Almost all historians agree the daylight attack happened, while the reported night attack was an honest mistake by the Navy.)

        Johnson and McNamara perpetrated an untruth for the larger good of increasing American firepower in the war, which they believed would deal a decisive blow to the enemy.  Fifty-eight thousand American soldiers lost their lives in that senseless conflict.  Does the fact that their political leaders thought they were acting in good faith at the time excuse the deception?  President Bush and Vice President Cheney accuse Democrats of “rewriting history” by objecting to a war they voted for and claiming they were misled.  But the information presented to lawmakers was selective, and efforts to learn more were stymied.  Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkeley recalls being invited to a pre-war briefing at the White House with Bush and Cheney.  When she expressed concern about Israel’s security in the event of a war, Cheney told her not to worry, that the administration knew where the missiles were that could reach Israel, and the U.S. military would go in and get them first thing.  Using a pointer, he showed her the location on a map.  Berkeley voted for the war in part because of false information.

        By now, I’m finding this funny.  The idea that Robert the Strange and Lyndon the Vulgar thought they were acting in “good faith” by lying to the public is too bizarre to bother with.  The question of whether the Viet Nam war was senseless is another discussion, but it was part of the ongoing struggle with the late Soviet Union (all together now: ‘OOH!  Fat Steve just LOVES to type “late Soviet Union!”’).  I’d ask if she thinks we should have surrendered, but she wouldn’t answer.

        As for the “selective” information, she doesn’t say what was left out, or mention that the U.S. and all major foreign intelligence communities were certain Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  As for efforts to “learn more,” who was attempting to learn more about what?  Clift won’t tell us that, either.

        What’s left is an anecdote from one source, of unknown accuracy, saying Rep. Berkeley was worried that Saddam would attack Israel with missiles, and that she was assured by Cheney the U.S. would destroy them before they could be launched.  This Clift terms “false information,” partially responsible in part for Berkeley’s vote in favor or the war resolution.  Clift would apparently like us to believe that if Rep. Berkeley had been told ‘Don’t worry, Saddam is working on missiles that he can use to attack Israel, and intends to arm them with nuclear, chemical, and biological warheads, but he doesn’t have any at the moment.  We’re going to destroy his regime, and then he’ll never be able to attack Israel,’ well, Rep. Berkeley would have gone back to the House and voted against the resolution, to give Saddam a sporting chance to murder Jews.  If illogic was a crime, Eleanor Clift would be on Death Row.

        Was this conscious deception?  Should Bush and Cheney get a pass because they believed a show of strength in Iraq would serve U.S. interests?  If Bush wants to retrieve his credibility, he should call off the attack dogs and make a televised speech to the American people conceding that the certainty he presented about weapons of mass destruction was not there, and that the administration relied on a single source, aptly named “Curveball,” who was later discredited.  Bush can then present his case--what he saw, why he acted, and why he still believes he did the right thing.

        By now, I’ve gone beyond hilarity, into fatigue.  Was what conscious deception?  Telling Berkeley that the U.S. could take out Saddam without Israel being endangered?  It appears to have been what the Administration believed, and it was in fact true.  Or does Clift mean that telling her the United States knew where Saddam kept his long-range missiles was deception?  To answer that, we’d have to know what the “Intelligence Community” told the Administration about that particular point.  Or perhaps Clift thinks agreeing with Berkeley that Saddam had long ranged missiles was the deception?  In fact, everyone did seem to think that.

        As for the speech Clift wants Bush to make, it would be a lie.  Clift completely distorts the history of the intelligence effort and what was reported to the administration.  The facts, briefly (trust me, this is the brief version): Every intelligence service that keeps track of such things believed that Saddam kept WMDs after the 1991 Gulf War cease fire — certainly all the members of the U.S. intelligence community did, as did former UNSCOM inspectors (see here, here and here).  After the UNSCOM inspectors left in 1998, everyone in intelligence thought that Saddam was increasing his WMD stocks.

        “Curveball”, an Iraqi chemical engineer, defected to an unidentified foreign country in 1999.  Allegedly, he claimed to have worked in Saddam’s biological weapons program, and offered information on it, saying that Iraq had “mobile fermenters” that could move from place to place producing biological weapons. 

        The intelligence service of the still anonymous foreign country passed this information to the U.S. and at least one other country, claiming it was true, although they never verified what they claimed he told them, wouldn’t back his alleged statements publicly, wouldn’t allow the CIA direct access to Curveball, and refused to provide transcripts.  (<sarcasm> Isn’t Bush a horrible person for failing to cooperate with our “allies”?</sarcasm>)

        As time went on, some in the CIA developed doubts about Curveball’s reliability.  By the beginning of Feb. 2003 some CIA analysts thought he’d made it all up, but others still believed him, especially in the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC).  Curveball’s information was used in Powell’s UN speech, despite Powell’s repeated insistence that anything in the least doubtful be excluded.

        After the invasion, the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group (ISG) found much information that cast doubt on Curveball’s allegations, plus travel documents that showed that Curveball had lied about his whereabouts at times between 1995 and 1999.  In March of 2004 the foreign intelligence service finally allowed the CIA direct access to Curveball.  The CIA then decided that Curveball was a liar, and recalled all intelligence reports based on his information.

        So, a foreign intelligence service told the U.S. something untrue, and the U.S. intelligence community believed them.  Clift’s claim that Curveball was the only source reporting that Iraq had WMDs is nothing but a particularly outrageous lie.  And her implication that Bush personally decided that Curveball was trustworthy is almost as bad.

        We are, thank God, at the last paragraph of Clift’s nonsense:
        Bush won’t give that speech because he can’t tolerate ambiguity.  It’s part of his personality.  He gave up drinking cold turkey, and it’s all or nothing.  He demands simplicity, and he equates dissent with disloyalty.  The result is a White House that has become dysfunctional.

        Bush can’t tolerate ambiguity?  It was Clift who found it necessary to ignore facts, lie in all directions, and blame everything on the sinister White House.  I don’t know about Bush’s personality, but I think it’s obvious that Clift’s personality can’t stand ambiguity or complexity.  Everything must be reduced to a simple story about how the big bad Administration lied.  The errors of the intelligence community were all his fault, and the fact that almost all the people in the intelligence community were either career military/civil service, or Clinton political appointees is beside the point.  The pre-invasion assessment of the spooks was that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction.  And even after the invasion, the best the ISG could do was conclude that Saddam probably didn’t have any WMDs when we invaded.  It was still possible that the WMDs were there, but too well hidden to find, or moved out of the country.  In fact Fareed Zakaria predicted the UN inspectors would find nothing at the time they went back in.

        The one thing the Iraq Studies Survey Group was sure of was that Saddam would have restarted his WMD program once the sanctions were lifted or sufficiently eroded.  Saddam had no intention of ever complying with the UN resolutions demanding his disarmament, and always intended to be the dominant regional power in the Mideast.

        We’re at the end of a column that is mostly false in its details, and is wholly false in it’s overall thrust.  It isn’t hard to find this stuff out.  Some googling, a bit of reading, and you’ve got it.  And after Rathergate, it should be obvious that we will do it.  So why does the MSM continue its futile attempts to snow us?  Surely they can lie better than this?

        I offer a psychological hypothesis.  Let us delve into military/social history.

        In the years before World War I, the growing firepower of infantry and artillery weapons had made it obvious to any thoughtful person that bayonet and cavalry charges were obsolete.  For the unthoughtful, the high casualties suffered in frontal assaults during the Boer War and Russo-Japanese War showed what awaited.  H. G. Wells, after looking at those results, promptly suggested that what was needed was “land ironclads”, or as we call them now, tanks.  The War Office’s reaction was “The man’s mad”.  The tank idea had to be reinvented during the conflict, with the Royal Navy and it’s head, a chap named Winston Churchill, being the first to see the need.  Bayonet and cavalry charges proved almost useless, while the machine gun became the dominant battlefield weapon.  The British Army created a special Machine Gun Corps to use them, and a Tank Corps for the new armored fighting vehicles.

        After the war was over, the British Army High Command tried to kill the Tank Corps, which they proclaimed a waste of money.  It did succeed in killing the Machine Gun Corps.  But horse cavalry it wanted to keep.  There’d always be a place on the battlefield for good cavalry, said Field Marshal Sir Douglas, First Earl Haig of Haig, who had used the years 1915, 1916, and 1917 to kill Britain’s soldiers by the hundreds of thousands in unsuccesful frontal assaults.  It’s obvious that military behavior like this had nothing to do with the ostensible goal of winning wars.

        Things become somewhat understandable (though still insane) when you consider the social history of Britain.  Until about 1750, Britain was like almost every society in Europe for almost a millenium and a half, with around 80% of it’s people engaged in food production.  Farmers can’t pack up and leave suddenly, making them easy marks for rule by hereditary aristocrats who rode horses (expensive beasts the common people couldn’t afford).  All power was provided by wind, water, or muscle, almost all communication was by voice.  People were kept in their “proper stations”, and follow the orders of their social superiors.  The Industrial Revolution made changes in that pattern that had been constant since the begining of recorded history.

        But the British Army was still a reflection of pre-industrial society.  The officer corps was from the upper classes, with the high command being almost all cavalry men.  The enlisted men were looked down on, and were discouraged from showing initiative.  In battle, the enlisted men had to stay in tight formation, so the subalterns could keep track of them at all times and tell them what to do.  Only the higher officers were to think for themselves.

        What the modern battlefield required was that the officers get rid of their beloved horses, and embrace noisy, smelly machines.  The enlisted men had to be dispersed, under the immediate command of sergeants and corporals, and the junior officers had to be able to make the decisions the colonels and generals used to make.  The British Army commanders recoiled in horror.  The tactics, operations, and strategy they took into the Great War, and tried to keep after it, were a rejection of an intolerable future.  Better to lose than to win by such methods.

        The rest of Europe was much the same.  If Fascism and Communism were mistaken for “the wave of the future” post-war, it was in large part because they rejected the past, while Europe’s other political movements sought to preserve it.

        The MSM’s tactics, operations, and strategy are also a rejection of a future.  They can’t stand the idea of a society where they don’t get to control us by restricting the flow of information (remember that Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” in 1984 was based on the BBC, where he’d worked during WWII.  And think about the phrase “the fourth estate.”)  It should be remembered that the modern idea of journalism as a profession, with graduate schools and such, arose around the turn of the last century, a period when individual liberty was under attack throughout the Western world (note the rising popularity then of Marxism, F.W. Taylor’s “Scientific Management,” and Freudianism).  The period was also the first in which wire services, transcontinental railroads, and wireless communication made it practical for a few to set up national magazines, newspaper syndicates, and broadcasting networks that would reach the entire country.  But it was only practicle if you had quite a bit of money, and the market could only support a limited number of them.

        For over a century, reporters and editors thrived in that environment.  Being so much better educated and smarter than the hoi polloi, they’d tell the proles how to live and vote.  Not openly, because then they’d resemble the old politically partisan press too closely.  They’d do it by being “flappers”, deciding what we would see and hear.

        No, no, we needn’t thank them for taking the burden of citizenship off our shoulders.  Such generous, big-hearted altruists were happy to do our thinking for us.  Noblesse oblige and all that.  Our lords knew we peasant scum couldn’t survive without them.

        Except that we can, and increasingly we do.  They can no longer decide what we see, hear, and read.  I have no idea where you readers of my blathering live (why not leave a comment and tell me?), but by being on the ’Net I can be accessed all over the world.  Cost to me: pennies for electricity — I had a computer and ’net access anyway, for other reasons, and the Blogger account is free.

        I think the ’Net is why the MSM is full of such egregious and pathetic lies as Clift’s column.  The MSM used to be able to afford subtlety.  The vast majority of what we heard is what they said was the news, what they said was important.

        But now the Old Media finds its audience declining.  It knows it can only control the information of those who stay off the web and don’t listen to Fox News or Uncle Rush.  They have been driven to despair.  Only the stubborn refusal to acknowledge inconvenient facts, and the incessant repeatition of blatant falsehoods will do to manipulate voters.  With their backs against the wall, they shout that War is Peace, Slavery is Freedom, and Ignorance is Strength.

        In military history, one of the most contemptible figures of all time is Field Marshall Sir Douglas, First Earl Haig of Haig, knighted and ennobled for his services to Britain’s “victory” in the First World War.  No matter what he and his cavalry cronies did, they couldn’t find a way to make war using infantry in close formation, or cavalry charging forward with lances and sabers.  And they wouldn’t abandon the cavalry and close infranty formations, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of troops died for nothing.  Haig & Co. left the British military of World War II afraid to fight Germany, and put wounds in the British soul that still haven’t healed.  Clift and her ilk will go down as the ‘British Cavalry Officers’ of the media age, desperately trying to find a way to produce and distribute selective news that controls the voters.  And like Haig and Co., they will fail in every attempt.  A nice person would feel sorry for them, seeing their world crumble unexpectedly around their ears.  I’m not a nice person.  I only feel sorry for the public, being forced to put up with such lousy dishonest reporting.

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