Sunday, July 11, 2004

NY Times: An Intellectually Dishonest Account

Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda Relationship

The New York Times is determined to discount any justification for the Iraq War. More importantly, it seeks to cast dispersions at the presidency of George W. Bush. Many experts view this year's presidential election to hinge on the Iraq War, the events "on the ground" and its casus belli. Not surprisingly, candidate John Kerry has centered much of his campaign not on the authorization for war (for which he voted in the affirmative), but in the way it has been carried out and the so-called dishonest reasons for it.

The Times was quick to jump the gun in June with the disclosures at the final public 9/11 Commission hearings. It was at that event that the final Staff Reports were presented both verbally and in writing. The very next morning, Times readers were greeted with above the fold headlines that proclaimed "9/11 Panel Finds No Link" and a lead-in: "The staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks sharply contradicted one of President Bush's central justifications for the Iraq war, reporting on Wednesday that there did not appear to have been a ''collaborative relationship'' between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The assertion came in staff reports that offer."

It was that article and similar headlines at the Washington Post et al that led to Commission Chair Keane and Commission Vice Chair Hamilton to reassert that there was several contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda dating back to the early 1990s.

It also bears noting that President Bush never stated that there was a "collaborative" relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. He did state that in a post 9/11 world, we cannot allow any (form of) relationship between Iraq with al Qaeda that could result in such a collaboration -- the very essence of preemption.

Now comes a new NY Times article headlined "9/11 Report Is Said to Dismiss Iraq-Qaeda Alliance." But again the Times plays fast and loose with the words they use. What is meant by the word connections? What is meant in using the word ties? And, how about this latest word "alliance"? And which of these gradations gives justification for waging war with the Saddam regime?

In my opinion, any relationship, tie, connection, or alliance would be very troubling. As troubling as the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda, probably even more troubling. Many in the Intelligence Community would counter that al Qaeda, a fanatical religious entity, and Saddam, a secular baatish sunni regime, would be distrustful even hateful of one another. However, that argument brings more discomfort than comfort.

Considering virtually everyone agrees that there were some form of ongoing relationship, the only possible point of mutual interest would be the death and destruction of the United States, the kicking out of the infidels from Muslim lands.

Unfortunately, the NY Times with articles based on nuisanced and slanted reporting masks rather than defines the Iraq War, the 9/11 Commission, and the pivotal issues of the day.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Secretary Powell's Finest Hour

Secretary of State Colin Powell has lent his leadership to the crisis in Darfur and the Sudan. No one should want to sit idle while the racially motivated rape, murder and ethnic cleansing transpire. The UN has entered late, prompted by the strength demonstrated by Secretary Powell, in a situation eerily similar to Rwanda.

Secretary Powell has been on the scene, intermittently, since June 2004. A Wall Street Journal article dated June 30, 2004, provides context about the situation he finds there:

"Secretary of State Colin Powell wants a firsthand look at what has been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Powell is planning to travel to the Darfur province in western Sudan Wednesday to visit some of the camps serving as temporary shelters for civilians displaced by a vicious ethnic struggle that began 16 months ago.

An estimated 1 million black Africans have been displaced during the conflict with Arab militias backed by the Sudanese government. Satellite photos reveal the razing of hundreds of villages. The U.S. says between 10,000 and 30,000 Sudanese have been killed in fighting between Arab militias backed by the government and the black African population. The government denies it is supporting the militias.

A U.N. human rights investigator said Tuesday that she saw "strong indications of crimes against humanity" during a 13-day visit this month to western Sudan and called for the international community to investigate. Asma Jahangir told reporters at the U.N. that she found "absolutely clear indications" that Arab militias were being protected by the Sudanese government. She said the number of black Africans killed by Arab militias is "bound to be staggering."

Accompanying Powell for the three-hour visit were Sudanese officials who thus far have had a far different take than he does on how serious the situation is. With Powell at his side at a news conference Tuesday night, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail acknowledged that there may be some humanitarian problems in Darfur but insisted "there is no famine, no malnutrition and no disease" in the area.

He promised to be responsive to U.S. appeals for Sudan to lift restrictions on humanitarian access to Darfur and to disarm the militias. Powell and Ismail spoke after the American visitor took his case for swift humanitarian relief directly to President Omar el-Bashir. Powell said: "There is a need for additional security so that the humanitarian effort can go on unimpeded."

En route to Sudan , Powell told reporters: "The death rate is going to go up significantly over the next several months," regardless of how quickly outside aid can be provided. He said the situation in Darfur was moving toward genocide, "but we are not there yet." He avoided confrontational rhetoric during the news conference with Sudanese officials because he believes Sudanese cooperation offers the best hope for a solution.

Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested that U.N. troops may have to undertake a mercy mission to Darfur. Without being specific, Powell indicated that the idea was impractical. Annan also was here delivering the same message as Powell to Sudanese officials. The two diplomats have been in constant touch on the crisis in recent weeks.

"If that government is not able or willing to do it, the international community has to do something about it," Annan said. "It cannot sit idle and complain that yet again we have had mass killings." Annan flies into Khartoum Wednesday and, like Powell, will inspect the western Sudan region. Powell is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit here in 26 years. His stop is part of a concerted administration effort to make sure that Darfur's victims aren't ignored in the way that Rwanda's 800,000 dead were during the ethnic savagery there 10 years ago. At least 15 U.S. airlifts have brought food, blankets and plastic sheeting to Darfur over the past month.


Secretary Powell deserves our appreciation for providing leadership in these grave circumstances.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Internationalize Iraq Canard: Democrats Walk the Plank

Finding differences on national security is difficult in this year's presidential campaign. Senator Kerry attempts to draw a separation on the basis of bringing unwilling countries (i.e., Germany and France) into the Iraq War while admonishing the Bush administration for not bringing these countries along from the onset.

This weekend's well-timed "leaks" of the Democratic Party's platform draft underscore the Kerry/DNC position:

Washington Post - July 4, 2004

"The platform says Bush's doctrine of preemption has cost the United States the support of traditional allies and accuses the administration of repeatedly missing opportunities to attract international support for the mission in Iraq. The document calls for a new effort to rebuild alliances, saying the path to victory in the war on terrorism "will be found in the company of others, not walking alone."

New York Times - July 3, 2004

Treading carefully, the Democratic document does not rule out the use of pre-emptive military action. But it describes it as an act of last resort, not a tenet of American foreign policy.

"We will never wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake," it reads, "but we must enlist the support of those we need for ultimate victory."

Yet it's difficult to take the Kerry/DNC position on Iraq very seriously:

1. The recalcitrance in the French and German position has considerably less to do with how "nicely" Chirac and Schroeder are or have been courted to help and more to do with the pervasive anti-Americanism that has existed for decades. To wit, the only time the "unwilling" French and Germans took pause at this anti-Americanism was a day or two coinciding with 9/11. There main reasons for anti-Americanism is that the US will not buckle under the dictates of the World Court and Kyoto Protocol, dating back to 1997.

2. Chirac and Schroeder are each under political pressure at home with great risk of losing their positions. The probability of them going against the popular anti-war, anti-Americanism that exists in their countries in order to invest blood and treasure in Iraq is near zero

3. The economies of German and France are languishing under considerable governmental cost-reduction pressure. Even if they weren't staunchly anti-American and anti-war, the feasibility of their countries investing in Iraq is highly remote.

The commitment made at the recent NATO conference by Germany and France to help train Iraqi security forces is about as good as it gets. But that still does not preclude Senator Kerry from suggesting that he could do more. I challenge anyone to provide Senator Kerry's specific plan of action in compelling France and Germany to invest more into Iraq.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Lehman's Big Mistake: What Bedevils Us

Last Sunday former Reagan Secretary of the Navy and current 9/11 Commission commissioner made an a major error. Not that Mr. Lehman had malicious intent, quite the contrary. What Mr. Lehman did was attempt to counter a highly partisan commissioner, Richard Ben-Viniste on Meet the Press, by overstating the case about a Saddam Fedayeen lieutenant with alleged ties to 9/11. Something Mr. Lehman must have immediately picked up on because he almost immediately began to equivicate his initial statement shortly after making it. But Ben-Viniste being the Watergate prosecutor that he was, quickly picked up on the speculation and rendered a challenge to come forward with all known information to the 9/11 Commission.

We are in a polarizing, highly charged political environment where any speculation is only viewed in favorable or unfavorable terms, as it relates to promoting one candidate or the other. Add to this environment the very nature of terrorism and terrorism state sponsorhip, where the shared goals is secrecy and subterfuge, and you have a volatile cocktail. Add to this cocktail the see-saw battle over the caus belli for going to war in Iraq. While President Bush listed five major reasons for the Iraq invasion, the two which get the most play are weapons of mass destruction and the nexus between Saddam Iraq and terrorism, principally al Qaeda.

The reality is that there are few absolutes with terrorism other than the atrocities committed by terrorists and the tragedy they reap on victims and their loved ones. This situation authomatically tilts the field towards the positions of those who demand absolute fact instead of circumstantial evidence. Peter Bergen, acclaimed author and terrorism journalist, stated that he initially supported the war in Iraq but that over time there was insufficient facts for him to maintain that position. Dutifully, he pointed to the absence of WMD in Iraq and his view that there is inadequate facts to support a nexus between Saddam and al Qaeda. However, with WMD and the alleged nexus between Saddam and al Qaeda, it may take years before unrefutable evidence is forthcoming on either matter.

But Lehman's comment on Meet the Press was probably unwelcome news for the Bush White House. People by know have pretty much made their decisions either for or against the war based upon the information that has been generated since May 2003, when 'major' hostilities ended. Anything less than an outright admission by Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussan (or both) would sway the 'Bush lied" crowd. So, more Lehman type conjecture only serves to deepen their skepticism. Those who like President Bush have validated the need for preemptive war would only find the Lehman speculation as reassurance, even if not verified by absolute facts. But it is the undecideds who are most exposed to speculative comments. And such statements require the Bush administration to intercede either to shoot down the speculation or provide verifiable evidence.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

This Just In: Latest "Culture of Death" Rants

The Naysayers' Strange Ratifier

At the G-8 summit this week, French leader Chirac critized the Bush administration's concept for Middle East reform.

According to WaPo journalists Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright,

"White House officials have said the plan, which is intended to unite all of the administration's Middle Eastern initiatives under a common theme, grew out of a speech by President Bush last year, saying the United States was wrong to support autocratic governments in a search for Middle East "stability."

WaPo journalists Kessler and Dana Milbank captured Chirac's sentiments later in the week as

"He also warned that efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East ran the risk of backfiring.

"We must stand ready to help. But we must also take care not to provoke," Chirac said. "For that would be to risk feeding extremism and falling into the fatal trap of the clash of civilizations: precisely what we wish to avoid."

Then comes word from al-Qaeda's number two leader, Zawahiri, as recorded by CNN

"Americans do not want the reforms in the Arab world," the speaker said. "The Americans will not give us democracy and freedom. Democracy and freedom should come from within us, from our own souls, and our children and young generation will benefit from it.

This is yet one more illustration of the odd relationship between Chirac's words and those of the culture of death leadership.

Friday, June 11, 2004

President Reagan's Legacy: If Not Now, When?

Playing out the clock:

President Reagan is being buried this evening at sunset. For his detractors, this week's homage to our 40th president has been challenging and difficult. These detractors had little time to get prepared for his death and the week's memorials. Some reacted by resurfacing from the storage bins the old, tired accusations that were largely put away when he left office 16 years ago; some used the "old jovial, optimistic man" routine; others gave the "cowboy" some of his due, conceding that he did do a few nice things over his two terms.

The latest ploy in play by detractors suggests waiting for history to judge his legacy. Of course, no one offers a time certain for when history is supposed to make such a rendering, perhaps a week from never?

Judging the response by the American citizens this week, and a recent poll indicating that over 2/3s of polled citizens judge President Reagan as a "great" president, it appears that 16 years of history since his leaving office has made such a determination. Does this mean creating a spot for his image on Mt. Rushmore or replacing current figures with Reagan's image on the $10 or $20 bill? Perhaps.

Finally, for those who prefer to play out the indefinite clock on President Reagan's legacy, keep in mind that the JFK on the .50 cent piece was designed in 1964, within months of his passing.

News Analysis: Awaiting history's judgment
R.W. Apple Jr./NYT NYT Friday, June 11, 2004