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