Wednesday, October 20, 2004

SWEET LITTLE SIXTEEN

This blog has been created in response to comments by blogger Carl Frank at NO OIL FOR PACIFISTS, posted on Sunday, August 28, 2004.

Dear Carl,

I hope you don't think I crawled off to die in the weeds after you took me to task, almost two months ago. It took weeks to plough through all your links. Actually, I printed them out so I could make notes. Quite a tome. Not the kind of book I like to curl up with, but your words demand careful consideration. By the time I was done scribbling all over my stack of pages, I had too many notes and too much to say to put into a "comment" at the end of your post. So I took your advice and created my own blog. Here are my comments on your piece and just two of your many links:

First of all, when did I "insist Kerry’s Vietnam lies are merely political tall tales and thus won’t influence the election?" I never used those words and I purposely never used the word Vietnam. I did, however, use the words "false memories", which you assumed were in reference to Kerry and Vietnam. You were right, in that the term had been used in that context. My mistake. But since you brought it up, I will gladly say that if John Kerry’s Vietnam experience does indeed "justify his policies" then that’s another reason I’m voting for him.

I reckon there are quite a few of us whose "policies" were influenced, or justified, by the war in Vietnam. Some of us even flip-flopped. Those decisions didn’t come easy, Carl. They were born of daily, heart-wrenching struggle. We grew up believing in our country and everything it stands for. We grew up asking what we could do for our country. You think it was easy to decide our country was wrong? You think we turned on a dime? Or that we flip-flopped as a career move? Not even close.

I supported the war in Vietnam, at first. Just like all but two of our legislators. Having lived behind the Iron Curtain, I was big on saving the world for freedom and what we now call "spreading Democracy". I went to work for President Johnson, at the tender age of 21 - based on my position on the war. My disillusionment began as I composed letters to his fellow Americans from the President of the United States. Just to clarify, I didn’t work at the White House, but at the Democratic National Committee - in the now-infamous Watergate building, where letters came to the President as head of the party.

Later, in Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign, I was part of the political operation that tried in vain to get Humphrey to break with Johnson on Vietnam. We failed, and Humphrey lost to Nixon.

As the years went on I moved further and further from the mainstream... all because of Vietnam. Where I am now, politically, has everything to do with the war in Vietnam, Carl, and I daresay the same is true for you and many of your readers.

Not having served in Vietnam myself, I do not claim to know what went on over there. I will never read enough books, click on enough websites, or study enough about war to ever think I know better than a Vietnam vet what he experienced over there. In fact, I have no problem whatsoever believing opposing versions of the same story when it comes to the war in Vietnam.

I have worked with many Vietnam veterans over the years - from "the first American advisor", Major General Edward Geary Lansdale and his crusty cohort, Lou Conein, to diplomats, spooks and early non-combatants, to grunts, river rats, tunnel rats, medics, fighter pilots, door gunners, Marines and Navymen, from photojournalists and writers to nurses and donut dollies. They range from gung-ho diehards to Vietnam Vets Against the War to vets obsessed with the abandonment of our POWs. I can’t quote chapter and verse from military records and after action reports like you, Carl, but I’ve heard a lot of stories - and I still agree with the guy who said, Everything you ever heard about Vietnam is true.

So, back to your piece. You say, "Johnston supplies two arguments: First, President Bush’s falsehoods are worse; and, second, Kerry’s exaggerations are trivial." Carl, I said no such thing. You made that up out of your pretty little head.

What I DID say was, because of Bush’s lies, nine hundred and fifty American lives had been lost. That was over a month ago. The number has risen past a thousand now. Because of President Bush’s carefully woven web of lies - lies that JUSTIFIED his POLICIES on Iraq - over a thousand Americans are now dead.

Kerry’s "exaggerations" have created nothing more than a blizzard of internet fodder and chatter. So I guess you’re right after all. Kerry’s exaggerations are trivial. And George Bush’s falsehoods are worse. Far worse.

You say, "Bush’s Sixteen Words Were True" and then claim that I said "the President overstated Saddam’s ability to acquire nuclear fuel in his January, 2003 State of the Union address". What I actually said was:

He got caught with imaginary yellowcake on his hands.

Imaginary yellowcake that justified his policy to go to war in Iraq, I might add.

You say I belittle Bush’s basis for the so-called "16 words".

Actually, what I belittled was the litany all "right-wingnuts recited ad nauseam when President Bush got caught with imaginary yellowcake on his hands. IT WAS ONLY SIXTEEN WORDS, they bellowed and brayed, as if to justify their presence in the State of the Union Address". At least you quoted me accurately on that bit.

Let’s have a look at those sixteen little words. Perhaps they’re worthy of belittlement.

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium (yellowcake) from Africa."

"LEARNED"? Why not "confirmed" or even, "informed us"? It’s an odd choice of words. It glares. Raised as I was, in a nest of spies, certain words set off certain alarms for me. Neutral words. Words that can go either way.

Learned FROM WHOM? Could be just about anybody, couldn’t it? Maybe they learned it from US intelligence via some cutout in Africa? Were the British government looking at the same documents the Senate considered before voting to authorize the President to invade Iraq? Documents that turned out to be forgeries? These are questions that come to mind as I gaze at Bush’s sweet little sixteen.

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

"RECENTLY SOUGHT"? What does that mean? When is recent? How serious is "sought". Phone call? Letter of inquiry? Clandestine meeting in an alley? Conversation between friends?

And so what? Every country in the Middle East - and well beyond - has been trying to score yellowcake since Bomb One.

If being in the market for uranium justifies war, why haven’t we occupied the whole Middle East, North Korea and France?

And how does it qualify as a cause for "going to war as a last resort" - a promise from Presidential candidate George W. Bush?

Back to your blog. This seems as good a time as any to compliment your host, blogspot.com, on the way they have set the site up. Unlike my humble yahoo page, you can link to all the backup you want, right there within the body of your post. Very nice.

Not having access to a high speed or reliable internet connection, I printed out your backup material. Or as much as I could before the printer ran out of ink. Quite a tome.

I’m a slow reader, Carl, and I have a very fragile attention span. But I printed out your links, punched three holes in the whole stack, and lugged it around with me like a dutiful student. I read every word.

Under "Liberals disputed the phrase" you link to several articles, starting with a piece dated Thursday, June 12, 2003 in washingtonpost.com, entitled CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data. By "Liberals" I assume you mean the CIA, The Washington Post, and Walter Pincus, who wrote the piece. By "Liberal" I also assume you mean Wrong, by definition. But never mind that now.

Pincus states that "Bush’s claim" (insert 16 words) "was disputed by a CIA-directed mission to the central African nation in early 2002", according to "senior administration officials and a former government official... But the CIA did not pass on the detailed results of its investigation to the White House or other government agencies."

In other words, the CIA swallowed the poison pill. Took the fall. Provided "plausible deniability". Don’t get me wrong. I’m not passing myself off as an expert on these matters, just giving my gut reaction as an adult child of an undercover agent of the CIA. I may be "out of the loop" but I have an excellent ear for company bullshit.

"The CIA’s failure to share what it knew," says Pincus (with a name like that how could he not be a com-simp?) "helped keep the uranium story alive until the eve of the war in Iraq, when the United Nation’s chief Nuclear Inspector (obviously a bleeding-heart liberal) told the Security Council that the claim was based on fabricated evidence."

Fabricated evidence. The same evidence British Intelligence "learned" from?

Back to Pincus: "A senior intelligence official said the CIA’s action was the result of ‘extremely sloppy’ handling of a central piece of evidence..." A CIA hand goes up, the player says, "My bad", and the game goes on.

Pincus reports that "a senior administration official (clearly a liberal wacko) said the case was indicative of larger problems involving the handling of intelligence about Iraq’s alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and its links to al Qaeda, which the administration cited as justification for war. ‘Information not consistent with the administration agenda was discarded and information that was [consistent] was not seriously scrutinized’."

In other words, Carl, ersatz intelligence paved our way to war. I think what we want, Carl, is accurate, not ersatz intelligence.

Pincus: "As the controversy over Iraq intelligence has expanded with the failure so far of US teams in Iraq to uncover proscribed weapons, intelligence officials have accused senior administration policymakers of pressuring the CIA or exaggerating intelligence information to make the case for war. The story involving the CIA’s uranium purchase probe, however, suggests that the agency also was shaping intelligence on Iraq to meet the administration’s policy goals."

Ersatz intelligence shaping policy. Over a thousand American lives lost. Worse than trivial, my friend.

Ersatz intelligence shaping policy: "Part of the agency’s standard operating procedure", according to Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), former chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and a candidate for president, "when it wants to advance the information that supported their (the administration’s) position and bury that which didn’t."

The evidence that Saddam was "seeking to buy uranium in Niger one or two years earlier" was based on some documents that were most likely forged, according to a former Ambassador, now known to be Joe Wilson, sent by the CIA to investigate the claim.

Pincus:

However, the CIA did not include details of the former ambassador’s report and his identity as the source, which would have added to the credibility of his findings, in its intelligence reports that were shared with other government agencies. Instead, the CIA only said that Niger government officials had denied the attempted deal had taken place, a senior administration [official] said.

"This gent made a visit to the region and chatted up his friends," a senior intelligence officer said, describing the agency’s view of the mission. "He relayed back to us that they said it was not true and that he believed them."

Such clever little words, carefully designed to marginalize the source. The art of lowballing. Vintage CIA.

Thirteen months later, on March 8, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, informed the U.N. Security Council that after careful scrutiny of the Niger documents, his agency had reached the same conclusion as the CIA’s envoy. ElBaradei deemed the documents "not authentic," an assessment that U.S. officials did not dispute.

In other words, Carl, ersatz intelligence.

Ersatz: According to Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary: SUBSTITUTE. SYNTHETIC. According to Microsoft Word’s Thesaurus: IMITATION. SYNTHETIC. ARTIFICIAL. FAKE. FALSE. MANUFACTURED. SURROGATE.

Fake intelligence. Over a thousand American lives lost.

Towards the end of Pincus’ article, he says, "Later it was disclosed that the United States and Britain were basing their reports on common information that originiated with forged documents provided by Italian intelligence officials".

Let’s see. Isn’t the Italian president one of the coalition members that Bush says he talks to every day? And aren’t these documents the same ones that John Kerry looked at when he voted to give the President authority to take out Saddam?

OK, so that’s Pincus, on the left. On the right, you link to Jeff Jacoby at townhall.com, who on July 12, 2004, takes A New Look at Bush’s ‘16 words’. Jacoby complains that "A furor erupted over that statement when a CIA consultant and ex-diplomat named Joseph Wilson, who had gone to Niger in 2002 to look into the matter, publicly claimed that the charge wasn’t true. The White House agreed that the line shouldn’t have been in Bush’s speech, but far from quelling the uproar, that admission only intensified it." Oh, the horror.

I guess they expected to shove a hand into the air, say, "My bad", and get on with the game. Too bad about all those picky liberals.

"Within days," Jacoby writes, "Howard Dean was making comparisons to Watergate, a group of left-leaning former intelligence officers were calling for the resignation of Vice President Dick Cheney (who had taken a close interest in the uranium evidence), and the Bush-is-a-liar shrieking reached fever pitch."

Are these "the sirens in Kerry’s nightmares", Carl? Bellowing warnings of President Nixon’s war crimes? You may be an expert on any number of subjects, but I doubt you are privvy to John Kerry’s subconscious. And God forbid we should compare one Republican President’s war crimes to those of another. Obviously nothing but liberal bias.

Jacoby says the upshot (of the left-wing furor over the sixteen words) is that "Bush’s credibility took a blow, support for the war in Iraq was undermined, and the idea that Saddam’s regime had tried to acquire uranium in Africa for use in nuclear weapons was widely dismissed as false."

Support for the war was "undermined", was it? If the support was based on "bad intelligence" it wasn’t real support in the first place, was it? No. So, what was actually undermined was the false premise for going to war.

And then there’s the idea that Saddam’s regime had tried to acquire refined uranium in Africa for use in nuclear weapons. Jacoby asks the sixty-four dollar question:

What if it was true?

Indeed. Frankly, how could it NOT be true? I just cannot imagine a scenario in which Saddam Hussein did not actively seek uranium for a weapons program. The man was into weapons of mass destruction. And he had them. I personally saw a very long list, provided by a former intelligence officer, of weaponizable chemical and biological agents sold to Saddam Hussein by the United States of America, during a time when he was our enemy’s enemy, and therefore our friend. Given all that, there is no doubt in my mind that he tried to obtain uranium, probably many times. But so what? Even proof of that intention did not justify a rush to war.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re still looking at Jeff Jacoby, who is rather put out by the lack of US media interest in stories pointing to the truth of the 16 words, to wit:

Late last month, the Financial Times, a respected international newspaper, reported that according to European intelligence agencies, Iraq was one of five countries that had negotiated with smugglers in Niger for the illegal purchase of uranium yellowcake. "These claims support the assertion made in the British government dossier... that Iraq sought to buy uranium from an African country," the paper reported in a front-page story on June 27. For some reason, though, the US media showed virtually no interest in following up that revelation. (One exception: columnist William Safire in the New York Times.)

Wait a minute... One of FIVE countries? What about the other four? ? If being in the market for yellowcake is justification for a preemptive strike, why haven’t we invaded them too?

Jacoby says, "In 1999, Saddam’s information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf approached an official of Niger to talk about expanding trade, an approach the official interpreted as a possible attempt to buy uranium. The author of the book? None other than Joseph Wilson - the man who accused the Bush administration last year of making up an Iraqui interest in uranium from Africa."

"Interpreted as a possible attempt"? For this he would stop the presses? Call out the dogs of war? Jacoby bemoans the fact that, "except for a single story in theWashington Post, the media have had virtually nothing to say about Wilson’s new account." Gee, maybe they’re not combing through documents looking to justify the President’s policies. Oh, the bias.

Jacoby makes an interesting point, though. He says, "To be sure, none of this proves that Saddam’s agents sought uranium for use in nuclear weapons."

Maybe not. What they did was clinch the deal on the President’s decision to wage war. Remember the TONE in which they were used. They were the clincher. On top of biological and chemical weapons, Saddam was developing nuclear weapons. Voting against the authority to deal with such a threat would have been a hard dollar indeed - maybe even harder than voting against the Tonkin Gulf resolution.

And how convenient that Kerry’s vote to give that authority, based on that flimsy "evidence", is now Bush’s biggest weapon against him.

4 Comments:

Blogger Carl said...

Cynthia:

My reply posted here:

http://nooilforpacifists.blogspot.com/2004/11/unfinished-business.html

9:50 AM  
Blogger Paparazzi was there... said...

Cynthia, you are slowing down. Are you running out of ammunition.

http://www.blogger.com/posts.g?blogID=18534483

WESTbest Paparazzicarlo

12:11 PM  
Blogger Paparazzi was there... said...

Cynthia, you are slowing down. We need more feed from Beltway City!!!!!:0

Paparazzicarlo
WESTbest

>http://www.blogger.com/posts.g?blogID=18534483

12:12 PM  
Blogger Paparazzi was there... said...

Cynthia, you are slowing down. We need more feed from Beltway City!!!!!:0

Paparazzicarlo
WESTbest

>http://www.blogger.com/posts.g?blogID=18534483

12:13 PM  

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