Friday, January 30, 2004
The Administration Hasn't Been Cleared on WMD
I think it's a joke to say that the Bush administration didn't manipulate the information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. You have Powell saying Saddam "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction" in a speech in February 2001. Two months later, Condi Rice said of Saddam, "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt." But boy did they change their tune less than a year later. If you want more, check out the testimony of Scott Ridder, the former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq, although the above two statements give lie to the notion that everyone, all along, thought that there were huge WMD stockpiles in Iraq.
Certain members of the CIA have taken the rap for the Bush Administration. In press statements, Kay sucked up to Bush while the search was in process, and he is transferring blame to the CIA now. Tenet took the blame for the "16 words" about Iraq's nuclear program in Bush's state of the union speech last year, but if you looked into it, it was clearly bullshit. The administration had been informed that the Niger story was bogus back in October of 2002. They had been told by the CIA -- by Tenet, even--to take it out of a different speech. When Condi was asked on TV why the claim was still in the state of the union, she said that everyone forgot. She said, "We are trying to put now in place methods so you don?t have to be dependent on people?s memories for something like that."
We forgot? You don't "forget" about things like that. I love Tom Tomorrow's comeback on that one:
Gosh, I guess we all forget things from time to time. What we had for dinner last night, or whether a key piece of evidence supporting a planned unilateral invasion is credible or not. Things like that. At least they're working on methods to supplement fallible human memory. And Condi, if you're reading this, might I suggest Post-It notes? You can just scribble a quick note to yourself -- yellowcake uranium story utterly fictional, say -- and stick it on your computer monitor, so that when you get to work on that State of the Union address, you and everyone else who vets the SOTU speech in the entire goddamned White House don't "forget" anything.
Another thing... Don't forget the report in the New Yorker that "some senior Administration people [including VP Cheney], soon after coming to power, had bypassed the government?s customary procedures for vetting intelligence." Normally, the CIA processes raw intelligence to corroborate it and make sure it isn't frivolous noise. But Cheney wanted to make sure they didn't miss any dirt to support their desired actions, and he latched on a vague suggestion of an Iraq / Niger link regarding uranium that CIA consultants said lacked credibility.
I'm not disagreeing with the statement that there are problems with the CIA's set-up... both with their setup (too much reliance on satellites and not enough people on the ground) and with constraints against voicing opposing viewpoints. But it that's not grounds for saying that the Bush administration isn't at fault. They spun the information so hard that it broke. As Kenneth Pollack, who made the case for invading Iraq in his book The Threatening Storm, now says
The intelligence community did overestimate the scope and progress of Iraq's WMD programs, although not to the extent that many people believe. The Administration stretched those estimates to make a case not only for going to war but for doing so at once, rather than taking the time to build regional and international support for military action.
On the other side of the Atlantic, you have the Hutton report exonerating the Blair administration from naughtiness in exaggerating the WMD threat and in leaking the identity of David Kelly, the source of the BBC story who later appeared dead in the woods near his house. I was seething when I heard Blair on the radio yesterday saying "we never leaked Kelly's identity." Yet when the controversy was in full steam, you had a reporter saying that it was easy to figure out Kelly's identity with a little poking about on the Web. The government had leaked enough information so that he was clearly identifiable, and when the reporter narrowed it down to two names, they confirmed which one it was. To say that they didn't leak his identity is like quibbling over the definition of "leak".
Furthermore, in reading some of the testimony from the Hutton hearings, it's not justifiable to say that they didn't exaggerate the WMD threats. The whole 45 minute claim was basically out of nowhere and even that nowhere source was exaggerated. It was only Hutton who exonerated Blair. When Hutton was appointed (by Blair) he was identified as having a distinguished career, but was also called "a pair of safe hands", according to an interviewee on NPR yesterday.
Finally, there are still the other reported complaints from intelligence agents that they felt pressured to come up with specific findings. That is what this whole Wilson/Plame case was about. The media always says that it was to punish Wilson for going against the president. But I've only heard one person say what I also think is the real reason: it was to give a signal to other intelligence officers what the price could be for speaking out.
If you don't think this administration pressures people and manipulates information and intelligence for its own purpose, just look at what's happening in the EPA. When it came time to publish a State of the Environment report, they clashed with the administration over the environment. An internal memo was leaked from this period of negotiations in which it was stated that they could not comply with the White House and still publish a credible report on climate change. So they just purged that section from the report completely. At the same time that the Bushies claim there is no greenhouse effect, you have the Pentagon actively strategizing for the changes that may come. As far as the EPA goes, I've read headlines now saying that the administration is trying to change the scientific research process to make the results more controllable.
UPDATE: See this compendium of evidence that the Bush Administration "repeatedly and deliberately refused to listen to intelligence agencies that said its case for war was weak," put together by the Center for American Progress. Also see this Krugman Op-Ed; he also says the Plame leak was partially to intimidate other intel officers from speaking out against the administration.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Current Status of Media Consolidation Fight
Here's the dope on where the current Media Consolidation fight stands, last I looked:
(1) The FCC passed a suite of rule changes last June 2 which would allow lots more media consolidation on the local and national levels (one corporation could own (from memory) 3 TV stations, 8 radio stations, the newspaper, and the cable system in one city.
(2) The implementation of these rule changes have been put on hold by an injunction pending a legal challenge. This challenge, brought by the Media Access Project and the Prometheus Radio Project will be heard soon.
(3) There have been a number of efforts in the House and Senate to reverse these rule changes, most of them piecemeal. The opposition to the rule changes has been mostly Democrat, but some Republicans have been vigorous, too (including Trent Lott).
The best effort to support, I think, is a Resolution of Disapproval which would cancel all the rule changes. It passed in the Senate through through a special process which bypassed committee. In the House, it's being held indefinitely by Speaker Hastert even though 205 Reps signed a letter demanding it be brought to the floor. They could force the bill to the floor if 211 Reps supported a measure to(some who signed the letter may not want to do this).
At the Nat'l Conference on Media Reform in November, I spoke to NY Rep. Hinchey. He said he and others would be pushing to force their bill to the floor at the begining of this year. I don't see any mention of it on his website, but I know it hasn't been dropped. WHEN IT GETS CIRCULATED, IT IS THIS EFFORT MUST GET PUBLIC SUPPORT. SOME REPRESENTATIVES WILL NEED PURSUADING. I just emailed Hinchey's office to find out about the status of this bill.
(4) Meanwhile, CBS-Viacom is giving favors to Bush to defeat these rollback efforts. With blatant horse-trading, they cancelled the Reagans and are blocking MoveOn's ad in the Super Bowl. In return, the Omnibus Spending Bill a week ago included a custom rider to allow companies own stations reaching 39% of the market (Fox and I think CBS were already over the old limit).
The power that these corporations wield is stunning. They've got their propaganda and distractions bombarding us at an incredible rate. To think that the airwaves are technically public property...
Always a good place to go on this issue: http://www.mediareform.net
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
The officials who identified Ms. Plame as a C.I.A. officer to Mr. Novak were apparently trying to cast doubt on the credibility of Mr. Wilson, who emerged as a prominent critic of the administration after being enlisted by the C.I.A. to investigate a claim related to Iraq's reported nuclear weapons program.
It wasn't so much about casting doubt on Wilson or even about punishing him. It was to make an example of him to other Intel agents who might want to challenge the president.
Congress returns from its holiday recess this week to face budget issues that were unresolved at the end of 2003. The Senate has yet to approve an immense omnibus spending bill that provides funding for most of the government's operations. It also includes many provisions that had been rejected when considered separately.
** Undo Congressional Block of New Rules on Overtime and denying overtime pay rights to 8 million
** Kill Congressional moves in both houses to block greater media consolidation (just the national tv cap).
** Fund $11 billion in projects for specific states that the congress never authorized. (McCain said it's plain that the New Years parties haven't ended in Congress.)
** Block a bill aleady passed in Congress to label meat's country of origin (In spite of Mad Cow disease).
** Require FBI to destroy documents on gun background checks within 24 hours rather than the current 90 days.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
George W. Bush, with the help of his advisor, Karl Rove has mastered the art of portraying himself as a man of great principle, integrity, honesty, caring, compassion, and character.
Somebody predicted Kerry's win in Iowa
Friday, January 16, 2004
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Saddam Hussein warned his Iraqi supporters to be wary of joining forces
Halliburton is going to Mars
From an old Petroleum News. They'd be drilling for water this time...
If there is life on Mars, it would probably be microorganisms in water deep below the surface of the planet. Dr. Geoffrey Briggs, director, Center for Mars Exploration at the NASA Ames Center, told “Meet Alaska” that NASA is looking at ways to drill on Mars to look for water — and the life it might contain.
Thanks to This Modern World and Billmon.
Monday, January 12, 2004
This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that exchange. But they were not Iraq's main target.
This Counterpunch article on O'Neill says, "In the latest edition of Z Magazine, the details of how Iraqi oil revenues are being illegally diverted from the Central Bank of Iraq into the Federal Reserve...[blah blah blah]."
The Price of Loyalty
The big buzz from Paul O'Neill's interview on 60 Minutes yesterday is that Iraq was in the crosshairs from day one of the administration. But I think that's only one of three major points. The other two are:
2) Just how clueless and disconnected the president is, and how he is being manipulated.
3) This manipulation forced through the second tax break for the rich, against even the president's concerns.
1) Enemy Iraq
And what happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.
2) Clueless George
"At cabinet meetings, he says the president was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection."
3) The Second Tax Cut
He says everyone expected Mr. Bush to rubber stamp the plan under discussion: a big new tax cut. But, according to Suskind, the president was perhaps having second thoughts about cutting taxes again, and was uncharacteristically engaged.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Saturday, January 03, 2004