Sunday, September 10, 2006

Validating the strategy of the terrorists

The WaPo, in a long story about why we still haven’t found bin Laden (short answer: Pakistan isn’t helping, and the US has starved the mission of resources), has an anecdote that if properly sourced should by yet another reason why Rumsfeld has to go: in November 2002, after the CIA assassinated an Al Qaida leader in Yemen, Rumsfeld was livid that it wasn’t the military that had done it, and ordered NSA head Michael Hayden to stop sharing intel with the CIA of the sort that had made it possible. The article says that Hayden claims not to recall the conversation, which is funny because you’d think that would have been an important one to remember. The Post doesn’t seem to have asked Rummy for his recollections. And while the paper is evidently sure enough of its source’s accuracy to put Rummy’s words in quotation marks, its failure to name that source renders the story merely interesting rather than usable (that is, you can’t demand Rummy’s resignation on the basis of this sort of hearsay).

I wonder if the 9/11 tv programs will rerun footage of the many times Bush said that bin Laden “can run but he cannot hide”?

The LAT has an analysis piece that starts by saying that the US military won’t say how it came up with that figure of a 50% reduction in sectarian deaths in Baghdad because, shh, it’s a secret.
During weekly news briefings deep inside barricaded compounds, commanders regularly display slick charts, multicolored bar graphs and PowerPoint presentations, all heralding good news.
“One more indicator that operations are in fact reducing the amount of attacks on civilians is shown here on this graph,” Caldwell assured reporters the other day, pointing to a bar chart dutifully placed on an easel by a stone-faced uniformed subordinate. But all the numbers had been carefully scrubbed. They were classified.
The Iraqi government’s contribution to opacity: the Baghdad morgue has just been banned from releasing death figures, which will now come from the Shiite-dominated Health Ministry, and “Morgue officials who previously provided details have abruptly ‘retired’ or left the country.”

The article also discusses the recent use of the term “death squads” by the Pentagon to describe the groups responsible: “By unmooring death squads from the context of government-backed Shiite militias, U.S. officials have redefined the problem — and avoided a direct confrontation with the U.S.-backed Iraqi leadership.” Now that you mention it, the US used that term in the 1980s to deflect blame from the Central American governments backed by Reagan, applying it to those killing leftists in El Salvador, where the death squads were closely linked to the military, and Honduras, where the death squads were the military.

On the talk show circuit today, Condi and Cheney both denied the Senate report (which Cheney said he hadn’t read) that Saddam Hussein had no connection to Al Qaida.

Cheney also hadn’t read the WaPo article on the hunt for bin Laden. Or the NYT story saying that his ascendancy over the White House is weakening. Evidently he didn’t think he’d be asked about any of this on Meet the Press on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, although he was prepared to discuss current cinema – “‘Snakes on a Plane’ was a real hoot, Tim, a real hoot.”

What else did Cheney, wielding his Index Finger of Doom, have to say? Well, as always he supported a free and open discussion of American foreign policy: “And those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we’ve had in the United States, suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists.”

He refused to say whether there are more or fewer terrorists now than there were 5 years ago.

He claimed that everything he ever said was correct, that we were in fact greeted as liberators, and that when he said the war would be over quickly, “that’s true within the context of the battle against the Saddam Hussein regime and his forces. That went very quickly.” And the “last throes” thing, that was also true, I forget how, but it was true, goddamit!

The Shiite-Sunni “strife,” he said, is entirely the fault of Zarqawi and the mosque bombing.

In an interesting slip when defending Maliki’s visit to Iran (“It also visits the Saudis”), he admitted, “the new government in Iraq. It is a Shia government, no question about it.”

On the Iranian nuclear program, Cheney cited information from the International Atomic Energy Agency, “an international body that I think most people wouldn’t question.” Russert reminded him that he did in fact question the IAEA during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: I asked you on this very program...

VICE PRES. CHENEY: That’s correct.

MR. RUSSERT: ...about ElBaradei and you said he’s wrong.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yes. It wasn’t consistent with our report.

MR. RUSSERT: But he was right about Iraq.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I haven’t, I haven’t looked at it. I’d have to go back and look at it again.
You do that.

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