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October 29, 2004

Comments

Look on the bright side, Sebastian: at least bin Laden was criticizing Bush, not endorsing him.

And the NYT version has him mentioning Kerry. So the tape is no more than 6 months old.

i have to join you Sebastian, i thought Bin Laden was dead too. the fact that he mentioned Kerry as well as Bush means he is alive as Kerry has only been the contender/front runner since late spring. I can't wait for Kerry to get the chance to go after him, and if he hasn't made significant progress during his first term, i won't be a happy camper. after all he bombed my neighborhood and i'm fighting mad he's still around to make these idiot tapes.

"It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the country (Bush) would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone"

What could he mean by this....? I don't know what this means, but I don't necessarily buy your interpretation. Will read the transcript closely.

He refers to Kerry as the Democratic nominee, I believe.

The only thing really worth discussing is that he's apparently alive and free & what could be done to change that.

I don't what the fuck is with the Pet Goat remark, and I don't why I have a much stronger visceral reaction to that than the rest of the tape. Is the point supposed to be that he assumed that all those innocent civilians would be evacuated, and he was just going for the buildings? Jesus Christ. As if he hasn't written a manifesto on the religious duty to slaughter 4 million Americans, but 1 million children. Not only a murderous fanatic bent on genocide, but an unbelievably passive agressive murderous fanatic without the courage to defend his convictions, doing his best impression of a campaign press secretary.

"We had agreed with the (the Sept. 11) overall commander Mohammed Atta, may God rest his soul, to carry out all operations in 20 minutes before Bush and his administration take notice.

"It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American forces (Bush) would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone at a time when they most needed him because he thought listening to a child discussing her goat and its ramming was more important than the planes and their ramming of the skyscrapers. This had given us three times the time needed to carry out the operations, thanks be to God... "

a more complete quotation of the relevant section. It might refer to planes #3 & #4

Does this mean that the GOP's "It doesn't matter that Bush said he wasn't concerned about bin Laden because bin Laden is dead" excuse is no longer operative? Anyone still want to defend that, as well as his "I never said that" during the debates?

*explitive deleted* you, Osama.

I am looking at a dead man.

Whoever is elected next Tuesday has to make an example of this *explitive deleted* *explitive deleted*. What ever he might think, not a single citizen will rest until he is pushing up the *explitive deleted* daisys.

i know it will sound wimpy and idealistic to many but i for one would be quite happy to see Kerry and Bush release a joint statement regarding this or better yet have a 2 minute press conference together just to express solidarity against this man. If it would unite America in the face of this common enemy i would be very grateful. then they can go back to their respective corners for the next 3 days. I don't want Bin Laden's tape to score points for either side in this election.

Wilfred,

Bush did issue a statement, saying he was sure Senator Kerry would agree with him, that we (the nation) will not be intimidated.

Another blow to hopeful clairvoyance. Maybe this time it'll stay dead.

I refuse to watch the video. All it's going to do is get me very mad.

Wilfred,
nah, the press is having too much fun trying to speculate about if OBL wants Kerry to win or if it hurts Bush. I wonder if some enterprising soul could look at transcripts and see how much time is devoted to what this demonstrates about OBL's network and how much on how the vid will effect the election. From watching CNN-J this morning, it looks like about 10-90 and I'm being generous.

Eminem's video seems downright prescient.

edward, i saw the separate statements. i still think it would be a healing thing for the country if they could set aside the slings and arrows and do a joint message. it would be very good for the country, and it would be nice to see them put us first for just a moment.

He makes these tapes in a cave, does he? And he gets all this relevant news in a cave?

That's some cave.

With comings and goings. By whom? And how often?

How come we don't know this? Or do we?

Katherine, I'm with you. It's the unbelievable coyness of it -- to suggest that somehow, in the 17 minutes between plane 1 and plane 2, they were expecting Bush to come to the rescue of the poor people in the WTC and gee whiz, they never expected to kill that many!

Fix dinner, fix kongs for me dogs, and the snippet still not analyzed. There be news there. Unless Osama is lying of course.

1) He implies very strongly that Bush administration had no specific prior knowledge. That may not be news to us Americans, but internationally it may significant.

2) Osama is saying and implying that the original plan called for all events to occur simultaneously, within twenty minutes, but when they saw that Bush was not available for a shoot-down order, they changed the targets of the second two planes. This implies strongly that there was a confederate on the ground in contact with the hijackers and observing Bush via TV or other means. In America Unless the hijackers were able to observe this from air, but it sounds like they did not have that much autonomy, and it also sounds like Osama had gotten a report from the confederate after the attack.

Does anyone have a good flightpath on the Pentagon plane? Proving Osama a liar should be easy enough.

Interesting reaction across the blogosphere - strong "This will hurt K" opinion as well as strong "This will hurt Bush" opinion can be found across the spectrum. My immediate reaction was "helps Bush" - ditto Sullivan, TPM, and Yglesias - but DHinMI from Daily Kos and conservatives at tacitus.org seem to think it helps Kerry, or is intended to...

God I can't wait until Tuesday (and whatever time is appended to resolve legal sundry), so I can wait a long time before I have to discuss how the re-emergence of a mass murderer affects a f*%&%ing political campaign.

sidereal, yeah, gross to speculate, but the crisis is upon us.

Chris Matthews agrees with me - yuck.

Funny the Batman analogy - via (yuck) M. Kaus.

Re: my full quotation at 6:16. He is talking about Bush being unavailable for a shootdown order changing the plan.

Pulled the 9/11 report to get a timeline. The four planes take off roughly at the same time, from Boston,Dulles,Newark. #1 hits WTC at 8:46, #2 hits WTC at 9:03.
Amer 77 from Dulles is hijacked at 8:51-54,
(after first plane hits WTC)
Indianapolis Airport at 8:56 tries to make contact
(where was Amer 77, heading for LA from Dulles for an hour, not clear maybe Pittsburgh? 3 Mile Island? Hard to say what the original target was; in any case, heads south, and is lost apparently to radar...did it essentially do a u-turn?)
Amer 77 hits Pentagon at 9:37; 51 minutes after WTC 1

"This had given us three times the time needed to carry out the operations" ...bin Laden

Have not yet tracked UN 93

I think analyzing the text, or trying to guess which candidate UBL prefers, is truly a fools game. Suppose this tape is, like so many of the others, an instruction to cells to strike? It's not about our election: he has no reason at all to care, really, who wins. It's about demonstrating that he's in control of the situation. The tape and a strike are no-lose propositions.

Since ObL seems to get television, it would be particularly appropriate if this (http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/smart/agm-65.htm) coming in the door of his cave were the last thing he ever sees.

["this" refers to the AGM-65 Maverick TV-guided missile.]

Francis

Reading deeper into the 9/11 report, Amer 77 was roughly over Cincinnati at the time of the hijacking (8:54). The President was notified of WTC2 at 9:05. (Television picture of whisper in President's ear; but I don't even know if that was live TV)

The report shows Amer 77 doing a 180 back to DC, but really we have no idea of its altitude, speed, location or direction until 9:21. Interesting to think about what target might be within 10-15 minutes of Cincinnatti.

UN 93 essentially makes a u-turn over western Pennsylvania.

U-turns and long flights back to Washington were very risky, UN 93 didn't make it, Amer 77 faced scrambled jets that were out of position. I think they got changed instructions from the ground while in the air.

bob, how are you proposing they communicated with the jet? I suspect we have dug through the phone records/radio intercepts at the time and the 9/11 Com. would have talked about this.

God I can't wait until Tuesday (and whatever time is appended to resolve legal sundry), so I can wait a long time before I have to discuss how the re-emergence of a mass murderer affects a f*%&%ing political campaign.

Amen to that.

"dug through the phone records/radio intercepts at the time and the 9/11 Com. would have talked about this."

I read slowly and completely thru the relevant early section and saw nothing about cell phones, and really nothing that would directly support my speculation. I am not saying Bush could have scrambled planes or prevented anything, the report says as late as 10:30+ it was not possible. However that does not speak to what Osama, the hijackers, or any ground support imagined might be done.

There is no discussion in that section about the unusual flight paths, or any real interest in targets or understanding the hijackers actions.

I presumed cell phones. I don't know how well records are kept, or if they were searched. There was some information available on the planes, but were the full television feeds available? I don't know.

He does look to be in awfully good shape for a dialysis patient who's supposedly been on the run for 2+ years. Wherever he is, he's been getting regular meals and medical attention. I don't think that's Afghanistan. Pakistan?

Re: the Batman Effect, let me get this straight:

  • Bush has had just over three years to track this guy down.
  • Bush dares not acknowledge the man's existence unless directly asked about him.
  • When directly asked Bush says "I truly am not that concerned about him."

    Now a video of OBL taunting Bush surfaces, and the take-home message is that our only chance to finally bag this piece of garbage is to re-elect Bush? Does this tape somehow magically erase Bush's past failures rather than highlighting them in flashing neon? Is the sweet spot for capturing Bin Laden somewhere between three years and seven years? What the f*ck?

    Batman actually fought and captured the joker all those times. Batman didn't simply knock off some of the Joker's henchmen, get frustrated then run off to pummel the Penguin on his day off because it was easier and he had a grudge. Batman never said "I am truly not that concerned about the Joker." If he had, you bet your ass I'd be on the phone to Aquaman.

  • So what's the opinion on whether this tape is genuine? ObL looks just like the pre-9/11 pictures -- too much, perhaps. He certainly doesn't look like he's been living in a cave for two years.

    Real or fake, it definately helps Bush. Frightened people tend to vote Republican.

    gromit, that was the post of the day!

    Real or fake, it definately helps Bush. Frightened people tend to vote Republican

    Don't be so sure. It could also stand as a stark reminder Bush has had over 3 years to run this murderer to ground and has not. It also points up Bush's changing stance on OBL ranging from "dead or alive" to "not concerned with him."

    Remember, Kerry's had a pretty effective theme with the Tora Bora foul up and taking an eye off the ball with the Iraqi misadventure; this tape reinforces that theme.

    To the faithful, all events validate belief.

    If there has been "No terrorist attack since 9/11"? (Putting aside for a moment the fact that there has been another terrorist attack: the still-unsolved anthrax mailings)? Vote for Bush, for "keeping us safe."

    If there is another terrorist attack? Vote for Bush, because... wait, I have it written down here somewhere... because...ah, yes: "Because Bush is strong and terrorists fear him." (Why they should fear him, when he's the best recruiter - and, now, explosives supplier - they've ever had, is never addressed.)

    The war in Iraq is a success: Vote for Bush, the Victorious Leader.

    The war in Iraq is a disaster: Vote for Bush, the Resolute Leader.

    OBL is dead: Vote for Bush.

    OBL is alive and, apparently, well: Vote for Bush, who...um...who...Look! Over there! It's Saddam Hussein in jail!

    This has been Bush supporter philosophy from the git-go: thou shalt suspend all logic; reason not from Point A to Point B, nor shall thee notice when Point A contradicts Point B; thou shalt only applaud whatever Bush says and does. Yea, verily.

    I no longer even try to comprehend it, because the only way to comprehend it is to not only go insane, which might have a certain romantic allure, but to also lose all self-respect, which has no allure at all.

    Kaus is not a serious person. He's like Slim Pickens riding the bomb down -- a clown permitted to run the the Apocalypse.

    That the blogworld believes it is a serious alternative to Walter Cronkite and that the Republican Party, in its propaganda before taking power and its actions since, has convinced a great many citizens that their government cannot be trusted in any of its actions or statements, have done irreparable harm to the Republic.

    I don't know who to believe any longer.

    @$@& Bin Laden, and %$#@ his words and &%$@ those who give his words purchase.


    Does this tape somehow magically erase Bush's past failures rather than highlighting them in flashing neon?

    yes.

    Bush's team has already called on Kerry to assume a (one sided) "12-hour truce" to allow America to absorb this.

    if Kerry tries to make anything out of it, the response is going to be a faux-shocked "look at this nobody trying to make light of our dire dire situation. he's trying to interfere in our Manly Terror Fighting Business!"

    the children will scurry under daddy's jacket until the danger passes.

    Has Kerry said he'd do that? Christ, I hope not.

    I don't see why the candidates should come together, fall apart, dance in a circle, or do anything whatsoever in response to a Bin Laden tape other than do exactly what they were going to do anyway. If Bin Laden wants to have an affect on our election, the obvious thing to do in response is pretend that he doesn't exist.

    He has spoken to us in the past, and he didn't use words. Why should we pay any attention whatsoever to his words?

    Next subject.

    Well, it certainly appears I was wrong about him being dead. I'm shocked he kept his mouth shut for so long. The timing of this is of course related to US elections. And I'm 100% with Trickster on this. Best response is to ignore it for the time being, excepting of course taking whatever additional security precautions would be appropriate, assuming this is also a signal for an attack - though probably shouldn't officially raise the alert level, just based on the politics of the situation.

    As for the fascination with the goat, its probably from either his previous carnal knowledge of same, or maybe he saw Farhenheit 9/11, where Michaal Moore made the same charge (I think - didn't bother to watch it.)

    If Bin Laden wants to have an affect on our election, the obvious thing to do in response is pretend that he doesn't exist.

    A point that I've made, albeit with a healthy helping of vulgarity, on many an occasion.

    A Tom Tomorrow cartoon from April, that someone reposted on livejournal just now as it seemed topical.

    Obviously this hurts Bush. (Well, in terms of simple logic, it does.) Gromit's right (as well as funny).

    Nevertheless, Anarch and Trickster are right: Osama bin Laden released this tape in order to affect the US elections. It doesn't matter whether he favors Bush or Kerry or Nader - any or none or all. None of the candidates should change their campaign based on anything that Osama bin Laden says or does.

    With the political climate as it is and every wonk mostly caught up in the campaigns, everyone seems to be looking at this video only through that lens. I think there is certainly some effort to effect the American elections (in what way I do not know), but more importantly I think this tape was made for Arab populations and Muslims sympathetic to his cause around the world. The timing is perfect because every man and woman across the world with a tv or radio is hearing news about the American elections and this tape will certainly make it into the news cycle for a while and be replayed more times than any of us can count.

    The tape is very odd - he is not trying to come across as some rag tag guerilla fighter trying to stop "evil crusading America." He is not in a cave and he is not holding a gun. He is talking with followers saying how great he is. It's a campaign commercial. He coates his idealogy partially in the rhetoric of reason. He's trying to explain his motivation and retroactively justify his actions on Sept. 11 - making the case for war after the fact by talking about Beirut, Israel, and American actions in the Middle East.

    On a very basic level, he is stretching a hand out to the large population of Muslims who sympathize with his cause, but do not believe in the killing of innocents. He is is saying that he did not mean to kill so many, they only died because "It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American forces (Bush) would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone at a time when they most needed him because he thought listening to a child discussing her goat and its ramming was more important than the planes and their ramming of the skyscrapers." = "their leader was incompetant." (Much like the argument about sanctions on iraq. The sanctions didn't kill people, Hussein did) He is trying to convince them that there was a reason and justification for this violence and the innocents dying was an unfortunate by product, collateral damage in a war that needed to be waged. (Much like the justification on the Iraqi civilian dead)

    He's working to rally the middle to his side by avoiding the harshest religious rhetoric and trying to come off as a thoughtful, reasonable, religious leader. He is one of the few powerful figures in the Middle East who is actually trying to justify his actions. Who would you rather a follow, a leader who decrees on whimsy or someone making his case to the public at large?

    Admitting he masterminded Sept. 11 (something apparently many Muslims in the Middle East do not believe) is a big step. I am not sure where that plays in. He makes a case for it at the same time, perhaps trying to lead the audience from denial to a justified acceptance of the fact.

    This is a very dangerous thing, and we can not be blinded by our own hate for the man to clearly see what he is doing. I agree with some of the commentators above that it will be a relief when this election cycle has finished so we can look at policy again outside of the campaign. I don't think there is any doubt that this tape wasn't explicitly made for us, but to strengthen and increase his base by playing towards an already somewhat supportive populace.

    Thanks, rogan josh: you articulated a point that was nagging at me. I know Americans tend to ignore the fact that there is a big, complex, often-scary world "out there" past our borders - and that 90% of the blog-commentary, frex, that I have read about the OBL video has concentrated (almost obsessively) on its possible effects on the US election. However, it IS possible that Osama was NOT making his "admissions" and pitch JUST for the US' sake (much as we hate to admit that we are not the center of the world) - but to a larger audience.
    In any case, I see the release of this tape as a sort of equivalent to the 3/11 Madrid bombings (albeit without the actual bombs: virtual terrorism, as it were - and what is the implication of THAT?): however, just as a guess, I don't think it will have as much effect on our election as it did Spain's.
    Oh, and now that we have an admission from old OBL that he DID indeed plan the 9/11 attacks - just another reason to erase his ass from the planet a.s.a.p. The big question is how?

    This tape makes Bush look bad, but it doesn't hurt him in the election. It reminds us that this guy willingly killed thousands of Americans for reasons that change with each tape he releases. He has completely admitted to being responsible for 9/11. One can no longer make the argument that it was a Zionist/American plot so that we could get cheap oil.

    Whether the following is a fair comparison is certainly debatable; I think we all want to catch a murderer overnight, but experience has taught us that it usually takes years to catch some people. Intuitively most Americans recognize this fact, hence the tape shouldn't hurt Bush.

    Casey L says:

    If there has been "No terrorist attack since 9/11"? Vote for Bush, for "keeping us safe."

    If there is another terrorist attack? Vote for Bush, "Because Bush is strong and terrorists fear him."

    The war in Iraq is a success: Vote for Bush

    The war in Iraq is a disaster: Vote for Bush, the Resolute Leader.

    OBL is dead: Vote for Bush.

    OBL is alive and, apparently, well: Vote for Bush

    This has been Bush supporter philosophy from the git-go:thou shalt suspend all logic


    How arrogant is it to accuse those of us who support Bush of having suspended all logic? How am I supposed to engage CaseyL, when that is his starting point? Also, many on the left, certainly in Europe seem to act as if they are intellectually superior to those on the right.

    I say now, that it is this snobbery and lack of respect for others from so many on the left that has greatly contributed to creating a rift in our country and between the U.S. and Europe.

    I may disagree with many on the left, but I don't think Hilzoy, Edward or Katherine are dumb or illogical. I think they prioritize their own concerns in such a way that are different from mine, which leads them to different conclusions. I disagree with them often, but what would it say about me if I told them:

    ...the only way to comprehend it is to not only go insane, which might have a certain romantic allure, but to also lose all self-respect, which has no allure at all.

    So now I have no self-respect. It is precisely these type of comments that work to create the huge rift between the left and right.

    CaseyL, I can vote for Bush for every reason you stated and it still be logical.

    "No terrorist attack since 9/11"? Vote for Bush, for "keeping us safe."

    That seems to be an accurate statement. We haven't had an attack and most likely it is because the terrorists underestimated the response of President Bush.

    If there is another terrorist attack? Vote for Bush, "Because Bush is strong and terrorists fear him."

    This is probably a true statement for the exact same reason that I stated above.

    The war in Iraq is a success: Vote for Bush

    General Patton said, ""In war the only sure defense is offense..."

    If one believes as I do that Hussein led an evil regime that was an enemy of the U.S., then going on the offense is the only strategy that would effectively eleminate him as a threat.

    Did he have operational coordination with AQ? Most likely not. Even the hijackers didn't have operational coordination will all the others. That's not how terrorists cells work. Would Hussein most likely aid AQ in some way? I don't know, but with all the weapons he had I would prefer not to risk my life or other Americans in order to find out if I could trust the same man who gassed his own people and tried to assassinate Bush I.

    If we can help democracy grow in the ME, then that will have huge implications in the Moslem world. The verdict is still out on whether this "offensive" strategy will be effective in the long run.

    The war in Iraq is a disaster: Vote for Bush, the Resolute Leader.

    There are times when changing quarterbacks in the middle of the game can be an effective strategy. For me John Kerry is not a quarterback I would want to replace Bush. However, there may have been some other Democrats I would have considered.

    OBL is dead: Vote for Bush.


    Aired December 14, 2001 on CNN:

    Before we talk about their experiences, and a little bit about what war is like, Senator Kerry -- and this is for all of you, how goes it so far in Afghanistan, in your opinion?

    SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think our guys are doing a superb job. I think we've had, things break for us, the way, one would want them to, but in addition, I think the people you just heard, they are trained, they are ready. I think we have been smart, I think the administration leadership has done it well and we are on right track.

    Kerry and I seem to agree on how Bin Laden has been pursued. I think we break with the overall strategy in the War on Terror. Killing Bin Laden will not solve the problem. A bigger strategy had to be embraced.

    OBL is alive and, apparently, well: Vote for Bush

    Refer to the Patton quote about being on offense. I think it is safe to say that President Bush has pursued terrorism more so than all previous presidents combined. I want him to continue that.

    CaseyL please point out the logic to me in the following analysis...

    From the very beginning everyone believed Hussein was an evil tyrant

    From the beginning everyone believed Hussein murderered and oppressed his own people.

    From the very beginning the left was against Bush freeing the oppressed people of Iraq.

    Despite Bush's motivation for going to Iraq shouldn't the left have welcomed the freeing of 25 million poeple from an oppressive and murderous regime instead of fighting against it? Shouldn't the left celebrate and embrace the liberation of 25 million people? Shouldn't the left claim victory that their ideals have one the day with respect to helping the impoverished and the oppressed?

    Jay C.,

    Thanks for the acknowledgement and I'm glad other people share my belief that we are missing the point in this highly charged political environment.

    I think it might play like a 3/11 in the sense of "virtual terrorism," but as on 3/11, I do not think the effect will be easy to either foresee or look back on clearly. At this point, I do not know what to do about Osama. Certainly, we should make every effort to find the man, but, as far as public knowledge is concerned, we do not know where he is. Maybe somewhere in Pakistan, maybe in Afghanistan, maybe even in Iraq or Iran, who knows? Anything seems possible.

    I do believe, there are intelligence resources in the government that have a better idea than I do where he is and I can only hope we are pushing whatever foreign governments neccesary to get him. That's one of the reasons I think this tape makes it more difficult. If enough people start believing in Osama, it could easily translate in an inability for Middle Eastern governments to bring him to us. Or, in the worse case scenario, lead to uprisings if he is caught. I don't think we are at that point, but the trend in Middle Eastern attitudes is certainly heading in that direction. If the discontent rises to greater levels and he comes to personify it, we will have even bigger problem on our hands.

    [S]houldn't the left have welcomed the freeing of 25 million poeple from an oppressive and murderous regime instead of fighting against it? Shouldn't the left celebrate and embrace the liberation of 25 million people? Shouldn't the left claim victory that their ideals have one the day with respect to helping the impoverished and the oppressed?

    Of course, freeing 25 million people is a great thing, in and of itself. And really, I think asking the question in that way, free of context, is insulting to me, to intelligence, and to the complexity of the reality on the ground. Why should it be necessary for me to declare that I'm in favor of freedom and justice just because I disapprove of a foreign policy venture that is a stark departure from our historical foreign policy? Why is it necessary to tell us for the ten millionth time that Saddam Hussein was an evil and despicable tyrant? Do you really think we disagree?

    It's just that in this case, all things considered, I thought that invading Iraq was a bad idea that would have bad consequences. I'm still hoping to be proven wrong but I don't feel wrong yet and I feel that it's a bit premature to say we've done something good for the people of Iraq, for ourselves, and/or for the world.

    Trickser,

    I addressed that question directly to CaseyL. Why should he accuse me of lacking logic because I support Bush? That blade can easily cut both ways.

    Trickster says:
    "Why should it be necessary for me to declare that I'm in favor of freedom and justice just because I disapprove of a foreign policy venture that is a stark departure from our historical foreign policy?"

    You don't, but I think as you emphasized context is required. Building common ground is required. You stating it helps that discussion.

    "It's just that in this case, all things considered, I thought that invading Iraq was a bad idea that would have bad consequences."

    I can understand you taking that position. Just because I disagree with you doesn't make you illogical, insane or lacking in self-respect.

    That was my point to CaseyL!

    "I feel that it's a bit premature to say we've done something good for the people of Iraq, for ourselves, and/or for the world."

    And look what we have discovered... we agree...

    Blue says:

    "If we can help democracy grow in the ME, then that will have huge implications in the Moslem world. The verdict is still out on whether this "offensive" strategy will be effective in the long run."


    rogan josh, excellent point.

    Jay: however, just as a guess, I don't think it will have as much effect on our election as it did Spain's.

    Depends how Bush or Kerry use it. Neither of them (AFAIK) have reacted inappropriately, so far: by which I mean, neither of them have made the former Spanish government's mistake of playing unscrupulous politics with it.

    Of course, Bush has done nothing but play politics with September 11 - he's used it as a trump card to justify unrelated policies from stripping US citizens of civil liberties to invading Iraq. And if this tape reminds people that Bush has done nothing effective about capturing Osama bin Laden, while pouring billions of dollars and thousands of lives into Iraq, of course that will effect the election.

    But it would be a mistake for Kerry to directly point that out: just as it would be a mistake for Bush to try and blame his administration's failure to capture Osama bin Laden on Kerry/the Democrats. (Think I'm joking? Unfortunately not. If this were mid-October instead of end-October, I'm morally certain that would be the meme going round before the week was up.)

    Kerry's reaction was fully Presidential. He said what he'd do, and he refrained from pointing out directly that Bush hadn't done it.

    Bush's reaction was a bit desperate, but at least he's not blaming the troops or John Kerry. Perhaps even his advisors recognise that it's too late for that.

    Well said, Trickster. I would add a couple of points:

    The belief that Iraq is well on the way to western-style democracy is unwarranted.

    The final outcome is as yet unknown. We may well see a civil war followed by the rule of a new tyrant. We may see a US puppet dictator who is a bit less murderous than Saddam. We may see other things, and many quite plausible outcomes are not that huge an improvement over Saddam.

    In addition, Blue ignores the cost, to us and the Iraqis. Are there 100,000 civilians dead, or "only" 15,000? We have over a thousand deaths, and a bill in the hundreds of billions of dollars. It may seem cynical to put a price tag on the freedom of the Iraqis, but it is not. One question to ask is what good could have been accomplished by using our resources elsewhere. What, for example, could we have accomplished in Sudan? How many lives saved?

    If you are going to sell the Iraq war as a humanitarian enterprise, then these things matter.

    Bernard,

    "In addition, Blue ignores the cost, to us and the Iraqis"

    Mind reading foul... you have no idea what I am thinking.

    All those are appropriate questions to ask.

    Add these to your list...

    1) What would be the cost in money and humanity if the sanctions ended and he continued his weapons programs.

    2) What would be the cost in money and humanity if Hussein gave some of those U.N. monitored weapons to terrorists.

    3) What would be the cost in money and humanity if Hussein let terrorists train in Iraq.

    If you are going oppose overthowing a dictator who supports terrorism in the Middle East and who uses WMD against his own people and neighbors and invades his neighbors then the answer to these questions matter in a post 9/11 world

    If you are going oppose overthowing a dictator who supports terrorism in the Middle East

    Awfully vague, Blue. Saddam Hussein's active support for "terrorism in the Middle East" consisted of giving money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers after they had carried out their mission. Given the fact that the Palestinians are the "good cause" of the Middle East, this is pretty much a blatant let-me-buy-some-goodwill tactic. If we're talking about support for al-Qaeda, there's Saudi Arabia - and the Bush administration appears to oppose overthrowing that dictatorship, even though they have strong ties to terrorism.

    and who uses WMD against his own people and neighbors and invades his neighbors then the answer to these questions matter in a post 9/11 world

    However: it is simply not possible to justify a full-scale immediate invasion on the grounds of actions carried out more than 10 years earlier. If the Reagan-Bush crowd felt that it was vitally necessary to stop Saddam Hussein from using WMD against his own people and attacking Iran, the time to act would have been the 1980s, when the mass graves were being filled and Saddam Hussein was waging war against Iran. But at that time, the Reagan and Bush administrations supported Saddam Hussein.

    If it's a choice between candidates purely on the grounds of their sustained opposition to terrorism and governments who support terrorism, then Kerry is your man. If what you want is politicized "it's okay when our guys do it" then pick Bush.


    Was Saddam a danger to the region and the world? To the region, sure; to the world, you can't rule it out. He was a bad guy who had used his military power aggressively on multiple past occasions.

    However, I think it's worthy of note that his immediate neighbors, i.e., those who had the most to fear from him, were almost universally opposed to the idea of invading Iraq. And I tend to think they had a point.

    Saddam was a danger, but really showed no sign of being a grave danger. We beat him down in 1990-91, and it was pretty clear, to me at least, that he was staying down. He hadn't raised a finger against a neighbor in 12 years. We continued to have vague fears of his WMDs, but teams of WMD inspectors had roamed through his country for several years, and although they didn't have unfettered, instant access to every site, really they got to go almost everywhere they wanted to go, they destroyed a grunchload of weapons, and we had no concrete or new intelligence that Saddam had WMDs other than the lack of proof that he had destroyed his old weapons. We had zero concrete proof of new manufacture; in fact, of course, there was none.

    As far as cooperating with terrorists, every indication was that Saddam was utterly opposed to sharing political power by allowing terrorists to pursue their own ends within his country, that he wasn't about to give his security blanket weaponry away, and that he was historically and philosophically opposed to al Qaeda. And I think Jesurgislac nailed, and in fact I would say there's really little question that Jesurgislac nailed Saddam's only support for terrorist, the retroactive donations to the families of successful suicide bombers. That was small potatoes and political, the result of cost-benefit analysis redounding to Saddam's own personal benefit.

    Yes, Saddam was a threat, but there were certainly bigger threats in the world, including one--Osama Bin Laden--who had actually come into our nation and killed thousands of people. And who was promising more. There were other non-friendly states with much more advanced weapons programs. Other states that provided much more succor to terrorists. States where terrorists trained openly.

    Instead we went into possibly the one Middle Eastern Arab nation that was the most hostile to terrorists. We went into a drained swamp with a hose, and now the mosquitoes are breeding. We replaced order with what is the most fertile ground for the formation of large and active terrorist groups: chaos.

    And we played right into what Bin Laden had been telling Middle Eastern Arabs about us: that we were an aggressor nation, that we were going to mount a new Crusade against all Arabs just to get the oil. And while we've been watching personal interest stories about Fort Bragg families and their support for the troops on our TV channels, Middle Eastern TV channels have shown the "collateral damage," the bombing damage to homes and restaurants, the badly-burned and maimed women and children, the rows of bodies. The Arab world didn't like us very much in 2002, but it is much much worse today, and presumably the prospective recruiting pool for al Qaeda and its affiliates/imitators is much much wider and deeper.

    Meanwhile, I felt certain on day one of the invasion that the ultimate governmental outcome in Iraq would be either Shi'ite theocracy, another strongman, civil war, or a combination of the three--and I'm just as certain of that today. I see little hope for any other outcome.

    And you want a nice little bonus? Whatever happens in Iraq, whatever the result, in the eyes of the Middle East and the World, it will be our fault.

    So there's a hint of why I opposed the invasion of Iraq. And really, this far down the road, I wonder why more of this isn't self-evident to more people.

    "Saddam Hussein's active support for "terrorism in the Middle East" consisted of giving money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers after they had carried out their mission. Given the fact that the Palestinians are the "good cause" of the Middle East, this is pretty much a blatant let-me-buy-some-goodwill tactic."

    I don't disagree with this at all, but we also know that terrorists went to Iraq after Afghanistan. For me both acts are supporting terrorists in the middle east.


    "However: it is simply not possible to justify a full-scale immediate invasion on the grounds of actions carried out more than 10 years earlier."

    Immediate invasion... when did that happen? I am certain that we can both agree that there was security resolution after resolution regarding Iraq. We have been fighting a low level war with Iraq for over 10 years. Since, Gulf War I. I have personal experience with that fact. Nothing was immediate about the 10 years of failed policy towards Iraq.

    But, the real point is that we are living in a post 9/11 world. And that fact has changed many things regarding our approach.

    "If it's a choice between candidates purely on the grounds of their sustained opposition to terrorism and governments who support terrorism, then Kerry is your man."

    Just out of curiousity what actions of Kerry lead you to support that conclusion?

    http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=241
    FactCheck.org examined the official, published records of those hearings. And indeed, Kerry is listed as attending only 11 of those hearings.
    Kerry's apparent absence from 38 of the hearings actually figures out to an absentee rate of 77.6%.

    The Bush ad also says Kerry was absent for every single Intelligence Committee meeting during the year "after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center." That's true. The official records list four public hearings in 1994 -- the year after terrorists set off a truck bomb in the Trade Center's underground garage -- and Kerry is listed as attending none of them.


    His resolve after the invasion of Kuwait was quesitonable:

    ‘Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition ... to the early use of military force by the US against Iraq. I share your concerns. On January 11, I voted in favor of a resolution that would have insisted that economic sanctions be given more time to work and against a resolution giving the president the immediate authority to go to war.’ --letter from Senator John Kerry to Wallace Carter of Newton Centre, Massachusetts, dated January 22 [1991]

    Thank you very much for contacting me to express your support for the actions of President Bush in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From the outset of the invasion, I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush’s response to the crisis and the policy goals he has established with our military deployment in the Persian Gulf.’ --Senator Kerry to Wallace Carter, January 31 [1991]”

    Regarding the rights of Israeli's to protect themselves for terrorism:

    “And I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government’s decision to build a barrier off the green line, cutting deeply into Palestinian areas. We do not need another barrier to peace. Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israel’s security over the long- term, they increase hardships to the Palestinian people, and they make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder.” (Sen. John Kerry, Remarks Before Arab American Institute National Leadership Conference, Dearborn, MI, 10/17/03)

    US Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, described Israel’s construction of a security barrier as a ‘legitimate act of self defense’

    Regarding self defense:

    "In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straight forward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies"

    “I believe the Bush Administration's blustering unilateralism is wrong, and even dangerous, for our country. In practice, it has meant alienating our long-time friends and allies, alarming potential foes and spreading anti-Americanism around the world.”

    “I voted to THREATEN the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations.” (Sen. John Kerry, Remarks At Announcement Of Presidential Candidacy, Mount Pleasant, SC, 9/2/03)

    What the heck, THREATEN? I can see Hussein and Bin Laden shaking in their boots when President Kerry threatens them.

    I can accept that you can't stand George Bush and you want change. I'm okay with that. But seriously, I don't think you can really compare Kerry with the actions Bush has taken on terrorism.

    Blue:

    I see nothing whatever in your long posts that supports the Admin's decision to shift focus to Iraq before the job with AQ was finished.

    Offense is a fine strategy, but only well competently executed. Examples of offense having been a failing strategy are too numerous to mention, but maybe the most apt is Hitler's invasion of Russia. No need to go east while the war in the west was still on. Indeed, I don't see why he couldn't have waited until after Japan had worked out whatever it was going to work out with the US. Hubris, and poor long term planning, made what was plausible turn into a total debacle. Napoleon in Russia. Allen in Montreal. Arnold in Quebec. Burgoyne at Saratoga. Lee at Antietam. Of these, only Ethan Allen's rash rush into Montreal had only local consequences -- the others all had vast consequences beyond mere battlefield losses. Which distinguishes them from the many minor reversals that any force can expect to experience in a war. (I've said before that I think the neo con plan to spread democracy in the ME starting with Iraq resembles Burgoyne's 1777 offensive, and suffers from many of the same difficulties. From the "catastrophic success" at Ticonderoga to the whispering of exiles that he'd be greeted as a liberator, with Jane McRae filling the Abu Ghraib role. Burgoyne was liberating people from tyranny -- and least he was convinced he was, as were a majority (but far from all) people in his home country.)

    Without timing and planning, no amount of spin turns offense into a good defense.

    An incompetent and unrealistic offensive strategy in the ME ends up alienating people we want on our side in the fight against Al Qaida, needlessly costs the lives of our soldiers, and doesn't make us any safer at all.

    "Saddam Hussein's active support for "terrorism in the Middle East" consisted of giving money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers after they had carried out their mission."

    That is such a distortion as to nearly be a lie. His support consisted of giving huge amounts of money to terrorists, including non Palestinian terrorists, it consisted of letting them train in his country and it consisted in him harbouring them when they were on the run from the US and other countries. And that is just what we can prove.

    Sebastian, you've just cited a bunch of facts I'm not familiar with.

    Sebastian Holsclaw: That is such a distortion as to nearly be a lie. ..... And that is just what we can prove.

    Actually, I don't believe any of that has been proved, but if you think it has, feel free to cite and prove it.

    Blue: I don't disagree with this at all, but we also know that terrorists went to Iraq after Afghanistan.

    Well, yes. When Bush invaded Iraq, he set up a situation in Iraq where terrorists can operate freely. As someone else observed, this was taking a drained swamp and refilling it. And?

    Blue: Immediate invasion... when did that happen?

    March 19, 2003. Don't you remember? Without any Security Council resolution to justify it, with UN inspection teams asking for more time, Bush went ahead and attacked.

    Just out of curiousity what actions of Kerry lead you to support that conclusion?

    Well, take a look at his Senate record. As a very new Senator, he opposed Ronald Reagan at the height of his popularity: Reagan was supporting terrorism, Kerry was opposing it. Google on Kerry Iran-contra and you'll find multiple stories about this: it's no secret. Here's one. There are many more. You want to google on Kerry BCCI, too.

    "However, I think it's worthy of note that his immediate neighbors, i.e., those who had the most to fear from him, were almost universally opposed to the idea of invading Iraq. And I tend to think they had a point."

    That's an excellent point. I sometimes wonder about that myself. Do you have any theories about why that is? Surely, Kuwaiti's should have been more supportive. Then, I guess they were. My own theory is that his neighbors oppose having a democracy in the midst of them since that would be a big threat to the existing power structures.

    "Saddam was a danger, but really showed no sign of being a grave danger."

    And this is were I think intelligent people can disagree. We all see different threats and risks. After 9/11 I am not willing to trust him or trust what actions he might take with his lethal arsenal.

    Trickster Saddam's ties to AQ and terrorism are well documented in the 9/11 report. I assume that is what Sebastion is referring to... just a sample from the report.


    Page 58 - Bin Laden built his Islamic army with groups in various countries, including Iraq.

    Page 61 - Bin Laden willing to explore a relationship with Iraq.

    Page 61 - Bin Laden agrees to stop supporting activities against Saddam; Reports indicate Saddam may have supported, or at least tolerated, Ansar al-Islam.

    Page 61 - Bin Laden met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer, and asked for assistance. No evidence of an Iraqi response. This was not the last attempt.

    Page 66 - Iraq took the initiative to contact Al Qaeda.

    In mid-1998, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative. In March 1998, after Bin Ladin’s public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin’s Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large air attacks in December.

    Page 125 - Clarke points out that Iraq had discussed hosting Bin Laden.

    Clarke commented that Iraq and Libya had previously discussed hosting Bin Ladin, though he and his staff had their doubts that Bin Ladin would trust secular Arab dictators such as Saddam Hussein or Muammar Qadhafi.

    Page 128 - Clarke suggests that a chemical factory is probably the result of an Iraq-Al Qaeda agreement. Chemical evidence backs that up.

    The original sealed indictment had added that al Qaeda had “reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.”109 This passage led Clarke, who for years had read intelligence reports on Iraqi-Sudanese cooperation on chemical weapons, to speculate to Berger that a large Iraqi presence at chemical facilities in Khartoum was “probably a direct result of the Iraq–Al Qida agreement.” Clarke added that VX precursor traces found near al Shifa were the “exact formula used by Iraq.”110 This language about al Qaeda’s “understanding” with Iraq had been dropped, however, when a superseding indictment was filed in November 1998.

    Page 134 - Clarke discusses the possibility--even likelihood--that Bin Laden would move to Baghdad, if attacked in Afghanistan, and cooperate with Saddam.

    Page 334 - Clarke's report found anecdotal evidence of an Iraqi link to Al Qaeda, but no compelling case that Iraq was involved in 9/11.

    And from the commissioners themselves:

    "Were there contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq? Yes. Some of them were shadowy, but they were there," commission Chair Thomas Kean told reporters on Thursday.

    "There were connections between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein's government," said commission Vice Chair Lee Hamilton. "We don't disagree with that.


    I recommend reading the report in more detail... going beyond the "no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." that was spun so well by the media.

    "Yes, Saddam was a threat, but there were certainly bigger threats in the world, including one--Osama Bin Laden--who had actually come into our nation and killed thousands of people.

    Yes, and what has Osama been able to do lately? Do you think of Osama was captured terrorism would just end? 3 years is a pretty long time to go without and attack from and enemy as ruthless as AQ.

    How many troops do you think we should have in Afghanistan to capture Osama? Should we invade Pakistan next week to get him? How many troops should we put in the ground in Pakistan? What is your strategy?

    And the bigger threats... do you support the invasion of North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria or Iran. Are you in favor of putting some troops in Chechnya? Did you support them in 2002?

    "States where terrorists trained openly."

    Please list for me what states since 9/11 openly train terrorists and haven't crushed or surrounded by American troops? Are you so sure that if we had not invaded Iraq terrorists would be training there.

    "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the leader of a terrorist group that is responsible for a number of deadly attacks throughout Iraq. He and his men trained and fought with al-Qaeda for years. Zarqawi's network helped establish and operate an explosives and poisons facility in northeast Iraq. Zarqawi and nearly two-dozen al-Qaeda associates were in Baghdad before the fall of Saddam's regime. In 2002, one al-Qaeda associate bragged that the situation in Iraq was "good" and that Baghdad could be transited quickly."


    Charley,

    "I see nothing whatever in your long posts that supports the Admin's decision to shift focus to Iraq before the job with AQ was finished."

    I wasn't actually trying to, but since you asked maybe the fact that putting 200K troops in Afghanistan wasn't really practical. Again, even Kerry thought the strategy used in Afghanistan was excellent. And he's a Vietnam veteran... so he has to know.

    Are you seriously comparing Hitler's advance on Russia while fighting the Allied powers to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan? I just don't really see the sense in responding to that. If you really want me to please let me know and I will elaborate.

    "An incompetent and unrealistic offensive strategy in the ME ends up alienating people we want on our side in the fight against Al Qaida, needlessly costs the lives of our soldiers, and doesn't make us any safer at all."

    Personally, the following is my favorite quote. It was this quote that in 1992 that inspired me to open my first business.

    "It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

    Theodore Roosevelt, 1910


    And what would standing on the sidelines accomplish?


    Blue: That's an excellent point. I sometimes wonder about that myself. Do you have any theories about why that is?

    There's no need to get elaborate about it: they opposed the invasion of Iraq because they agreed with Colin Powell that Saddam Hussein was not a threat to them. Given that Hussein was not a threat, they saw no point in starting a war, which was pretty much bound to make everything worse. That's something war does, and they've all had more recent experience of war than Americans have.

    I wasn't actually trying to, but since you asked maybe the fact that putting 200K troops in Afghanistan wasn't really practical.

    It was estimated in January 2002 that Afghanistan needed $15B over the next five years for reconstruction.

    How much has the US spent on the invasion of Iraq, by now?

    Jes,

    Blue: I don't disagree with this at all, but we also know that terrorists went to Iraq after Afghanistan.

    Jes: Well, yes. When Bush invaded Iraq, he set up a situation in Iraq where terrorists can operate freely. As someone else observed, this was taking a drained swamp and refilling it. And?

    That's just not true. It is well documented that AQ members went to Iraq before the U.S. invasion.

    * Following the defeat of the Taliban, almost two dozen bin Laden associates "converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there," Mr. Powell told the United Nations in February 2003. From their Baghdad base, the secretary said, they supervised the movement of men, materiel and money for al Qaeda's global network.

    * In 2001, an al Qaeda member "bragged that the situation in Iraq was 'good,'" according to intelligence made public by Mr. Powell.

    * That same year, Saudi Arabian border guards arrested two al Qaeda members entering the kingdom from Iraq.

    * Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi oversaw an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, Mr. Powell told the United Nations. His specialty was poisons. Wounded in fighting with U.S. forces, he sought medical treatment in Baghdad in May 2002. When Zarqawi recovered, he restarted a training camp in northern Iraq. Zarqawi's Iraq cell was later tied to the October 2002 murder of Lawrence Foley, an official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in Amman, Jordan. The captured assassin confessed that he received orders and funds from Zarqawi's cell in Iraq, Mr. Powell said. His accomplice escaped to Iraq.

    *Zarqawi met with military chief of al Qaeda, Mohammed Ibrahim Makwai (aka Saif al-Adel) in Iran in February 2003, according to intelligence sources cited by the Washington Post.

    * Mohammad Atef, the head of al Qaeda's military wing until the U.S. killed him in Afghanistan in November 2001, told a senior al Qaeda member now in U.S. custody that the terror network needed labs outside of Afghanistan to manufacture chemical weapons, Mr. Powell said. "Where did they go, where did they look?" said the secretary. "They went to Iraq."

    Jes:March 19, 2003. Don't you remember? Without any Security Council resolution to justify it, with UN inspection teams asking for more time, Bush went ahead and attacked."

    Could you please elaborate on how that justifies the use of the word immediate in describing the action? I seem to remember years in the 90's that the U.S. was fighting and guarding against Hussein. Heck, maybe I made all that time up. Hussein has 10 years to open up Iraq in a way that South Africa did. He didn't and he paid the price. Both you and him would benefit by accepting that reality.


    On planet earth the UN said:

    Holding Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations under previous resolutions, the Security Council this morning decided to afford it a “final opportunity to comply” with its disarmament obligations, while setting up an enhanced inspection regime for full and verified completion of the disarmament process established by resolution 687 (1991).

    By the unanimous adoption of resolution 1441 (2002), the Council instructed the resumed inspections to begin within 45 days, and also decided it would convene immediately upon the receipt of any reports from inspection authorities that Iraq was interfering with their activities. It recalled, in that context, that the Council had repeatedly warned Iraq that it would face "serious consequences" as a result of continued violations.

    We all know that Hussein never going to and certainly never allowed "“immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access” to any sites and buildings in Iraq, including presidential sites." as required by Security Council resolution 1441.

    Since, he didn't there were serious consequences... just as the Security Council resolution warned him.

    That's just not true. It is well documented that AQ members went to Iraq before the U.S. invasion.

    Sorry, yes - I'd forgotten about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But that doesn't qualify as evidence for Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism: al-Zarqawi's training camp was in northern Iraq, an area Saddam Hussein did not control: and the Bush administration had the chance to take out al-Zarqawi's training camp, several times, and didn't do it because it "feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam." (cite)

    In short, where Saddam Hussein was in control, there's considerable evidence he didn't support terrorism: and citing al-Zarqawi as evidence only raises the question why Bush & co didn't take him out when they had the chance.

    Could you please elaborate on how that justifies the use of the word immediate in describing the action?

    "Immediate": Occurring at once; instant: Of or near the present time.

    That is, rather than waiting to invade Iraq until the UN inspection teams had found evidence of WMD, or until the Security Council had authorised military action, Bush invaded. This was, it has since become clear, absolutely the wrong thing to do.

    To argue that it didn't count as "immediate" because it was 12 years since the Gulf War is really, really muddled thinking. As Colin Powell himself said, in 2001: "We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq." cite

    blue - I'd've posted earlier, but had RL things to do. Others have posted better than I could why going after Saddam Hussein was a dubious idea.

    I'm sorry you feel insulted by my post. I'm even sorrier I can't back down from it.

    In the past, I've tried to be polite and recognize that other people disagree with my views, and have their own good reasons to do so.

    I can't do that anymore. My capacity for polite political discourse began deteriorating after 2000, when our Constitutional institutions were bypassed to let a Supreme Court decide an election. Let me say right now: I KNOW Bush would have won anyway if the election had gone to the House. That's not the point. The point is a Bush victory in the House - as much as I would have hated it - would have been Constitutionally legitimate.

    After 9/11, I took a deep breath and supported George Bush. I supported the war in Afghanistan - and took a lot of flack for it from some liberal friends - heck, I CHEERED the war in Afghanistan.

    Then I saw how the Bush Admin used the national outrage and panic to push the Patriot Act through Congress. I thought that was lousy. When I learned what some of the provisions of the Patriot Act were, I thought it was worse than lousy. It was J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon all over again: using public fear to get police powers we would never give them if we had time to calm down and think about it.

    I stopped cutting Bush any slack at all once the push to war with Iraq started. I remember reading - AT THE TIME - about stovepiping intelligence, about shutting out critics within the military, about the dubious accuracy of the Bush Admin's charges against Saddam. I remember thinking - AT THE TIME - this was a con. (Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator. There are a lot of those in the world - some of them are our allies. Are we supposed to go to war against all of them?) I thought - AT THE TIME - the threat of war, the authorization vote, was a good tactic: it got the weapons inspectors back in to finish their job. I was flabbergasted when the push to war overrode the putative purpose for the war: that is, when the weapons inspectors had to clear out because the troops were going in. What the heck was that all about?

    I don't want this post to be pages and pages long; I'll compress from here on.

    The 9/11 Commission. The August 6 memo. The utter incompetence of Condi Rice. The in-your-face secretiveness. The spectacle of a US Attorney General defying Congress on a matter of national security - inventing his very own version of Executive Privilege - and getting away with it.

    The security detentions at Gitmo. The tortures at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and in Afghani prisons. The torture memos. The Bush Admin's contemptuous dismissal of Constitutional law, international law, and treaties we have upheld for generations; coupled with its inexorable, constant attempts to grab more authoritarian power.

    The loyalty oaths at campaign rallies. The harassment, physical assaults and arrests of people at those rallies. The "Pledge of Allegiance to Bush" at those rallies. The coordinated, campaign-funded and campaign-approved voter suppression going on all over the country, by campaign operatives who, when they're unmaked in one state, are simply moved to another.

    I haven't even mentioned the transformation of the American economy into a plutocracy, the deficits and national debt that have economists breaking out in cold sweats, the replacement of science policy with policies driven by crony interests and fundamentalist religious biases, or the Republican's calling OBL's tape a "gift" to the Bush Campaign.

    After seeing the damage the Bush Admin has wrought on this country, and on the world, my patience and courtesy are used up. I truly, truly, do not understand why half the country supports George Bush. His "strength" is a mimickry of the real thing; his attitude towards American principles is one of ignorant disdain; and his campaign is based on appeals to fear and unreason.

    I can't be polite about it. Sorry.

    Gosh, have any of the claims Powell made at the UN in Feb. 2003 been substantiated?

    no

    CaseyL,

    "I'm sorry you feel insulted by my post. I'm even sorrier I can't back down from it."

    It's not so much that I feel insulted it's that I think that behaviour destroys any common ground we might find.

    "My capacity for polite political discourse began deteriorating after 2000, when our Constitutional institutions were bypassed to let a Supreme Court decide an election."

    Shouldn't you really be mad at the Democrats in control of Palm Beach county and their selective recount of only certain precints? Or maybe the Gore officials who filed in the Leon County State court in Florida? Or maybe Al Gore for filing papers with the Florida Supreme Court? Or maybe the Democrat leaning Florida Supreme Court that overstepped its authority.

    I guess it's all just Bush's fault Gore did those things.

    "Then I saw how the Bush Admin used the national outrage and panic to push the Patriot Act through Congress"

    Shouldn't you be angry with John Kerry, too?

    Kerry Voted For Patriot Act. The Patriot Act was passed nearly unanimously by the Senate 98-1, and 357-66 in the House. (H.R. 3162, CQ Vote #313: Passed 98-1: R 49-0; D 48-1; I 1-0, 10/25/01, Kerry Voted Yea)

    “Most of [The Patriot Act] has to do with improving the transfer of information between CIA and FBI, and it has to do with things that really were quite necessary in the wake of what happened on September 11th.” (Sen. John Kerry, Remarks At Town Hall Meeting, Manchester, NH, 8/6/03)

    I can see how your position make sense as long as you vote for neither Bush or Kerry.


    "Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator. There are a lot of those in the world - some of them are our allies. Are we supposed to go to war against all of them?)"

    Not yet, but certainly we should prioritize the ones that might be first in line to do us harm.

    "The security detentions at Gitmo."

    Are referring to the ones we have released and have gone on to murder again or the ones we still have in detention? Just checking.

    "The coordinated, campaign-funded and campaign-approved voter suppression going on all over the country, by campaign operatives who, when they're unmaked in one state, are simply moved to another."

    Are you talking about all the lawyers the Democrat's have hired and already started law suits in Ohio... or maybe the ones they have sent to Florida? Just checking.

    "transformation of the American economy into a plutocracy"

    from factcheck.org

    Kerry's most recent financial disclosure shows the couple's assets worth between $198,794,683 and $839,038,000, mostly in his wife's name.

    Bush is also a multimillionaire, however. The President disclosed assets worth somewhere between $8,837,079 and $21,936,000 last year, according to the Center for Public Integrity."


    I guess this all means you are endorsing Nader or some other write in.

    CaseyL,

    "My capacity for polite political discourse began deteriorating after 2000, when our Constitutional institutions were bypassed to let a Supreme Court decide an election."

    Here's an interesting article relating to who you should really be upset with about the 2000 election.

    http://www.signonsandiego.com

    "Richard Nixon would have captured the 1960 presidential election but for five states he lost by 5,000 votes or fewer – Missouri, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico and Hawaii.

    Gerald Ford would have retained the presidency in 1976 but for two states he lost by no more than 5,600 votes – Ohio and Hawaii.

    Though the 1960 and 1976 elections were close, though they turned on a few thousand votes in a handful of states, the outcomes were faithfully accepted by the American people, by Republicans and Democrats alike.

    That's because neither Nixon or Ford demanded that the votes be recounted in the states in which they lost by narrow margins. And neither Nixon or Ford insisted they were denied election because of voting irregularities in some state or another."


    Frankly, Blue, after the SC debacle of 2000--we can't call ourselves a democracy anymore. At best, we can only hope to do better in the future; to try and build a democracy in the future.

    Surely, the Gore v. Bush decision will go down in history as indelible a stain on our principles as Plessy v. Ferguson (but for different reasons).

    ["Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator. There are a lot of those in the world - some of them are our allies. Are we supposed to go to war against all of them?)"

    Not yet, but certainly we should prioritize the ones that might be first in line to do us harm.]

    Blue, this is truly worrisome that you seem not to understand that going to war with another nation on the notion that said nation 'might be first in line to do us harm' is nothing more than militaristic jingoism of the worst sort. This makes a mockery of us as a nation which trumpets itself as a believer in the rule of law. Who pray tell, would get to determine what would constitute such a 'threat of harm?' I guess we can take it that you do not believe in the 'just war' dcotrine? Is it that any war instituted by the US is just by definition? I am in shock and awe at your powers of self-deception in that event.


    And like many others on this thread, the day that the Supreme Court accepted Gore v. Bush and decided a political Q, one that they had no business deciding was the day that our country lost its claim to democracy. Now Scalia complains that the Court decides or is asked to decide too many political Qs. Well scuse me, Tony, but you have only yourself to blame for that.

    Howdy. I think it would be good for all of us to refrain from making blanket statements about "the supporters of X", just because it's nearly election day and I suspect people are getting a bit frazzled (I know I am.) It's not that I don't understand the temptation; it's just that I think that it's a temptation to be resisted.

    Blue: I don't want to get into a discussion of all your points, but one of them struck me. You said: "2) What would be the cost in money and humanity if Hussein gave some of those U.N. monitored weapons to terrorists." -- Well, whatever the cost might have been, we certainly didn't avoid it by going to war. We seem to have taken all those weapons out of the control of someone who (however despicable in other ways) had never shown the slightest interest in sharing them with terrorists, pulled out the inspectors, and then left them lying around for anyone to steal. The only thing we didn't do was send the terrorists engraved invitations saying "come steal these weapons." If some of those weapons did not make their way into the hands of terrorists, it would astonish me. So I have no idea why you think this counts as a reason for going to war.

    Blue - Are you deliberately cherry-picking, distorting, and misunderstanding everything I said? Or are you truly incapable of comprehending what you read?

    "Frankly, Blue, after the SC debacle of 2000--we can't call ourselves a democracy anymore. At best, we can only hope to do better in the future; to try and build a democracy in the future.

    Surely, the Gore v. Bush decision will go down in history as indelible a stain on our principles as Plessy v. Ferguson (but for different reasons)."

    Frankly, I'm annoyed.

    A) The precious-to-Democrats Florida Supreme Court is every bit as much to blame for the debacle as anyone. They were specifically warned by the USSC in the first case to stick to an actual reading of the statutes, and they chose not to.

    B) According to the NYT recount venture, Bush would have won under the FLSC standard of vote counting.

    So unless you advocate a vote-counting standard where you don't decide which method to use until you find out who wins under each method, I think your reaction to the case is extremely overblown--because it did not change the outcome, and because the FL Supreme Court was engaged in huge amounts of creative game-playing itself.

    Sebastian,
    Would you have been less annoyed if Jadegold, instead of saying 'SC debacle', had said "The problem with poorly designed ballots and voting machines which failed to register the true will of those voting that was exacerbated by poor decisions by Katherine Harris and a lack of leadership by Jeb Bush (not to mention the problems with unpostmarked military ballots and clear mistakes in the determination of voting roll membership) that led to a decision by the Florida Supreme Court that was overturned by the US Supreme Court debacle". I for one don't recommend flaunting Gricean maxims.

    Blue:

    ""It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

    Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

    And what would standing on the sidelines accomplish?"

    Well, for one thing, if soon after that quote TR had stood on the sidelines instead of indulging in a fruitless and vanity-driven quest to return to power, his party would not have lost the 1912 election.

    Your reference above to the practicality of putting 200,000 troops in Afghanistan is a complete non-sequitur. I am aware of no evidence that supports the strategic choice to embark on the Iraq war - democratic transformation project before bin Laden was killed and his movement completely decapitated. I do not think 200,000 troops would have been required in Afghanistan to accomplish this, and am not aware of anyone else who thinks so either. We were on the right track. It was working.

    I think for the point I was making Hitler's attack on Russia was apt. You said that offense is always the way to go (and your favorite TR quote goes the same way). I said this was facile, and that a while well thought out and well executed offense might be a good idea, there were inumerable examples when offense turned out to be a really bad idea. Do you think the timing of Hitler's invasion was a good plan, from the German perspective? Or do you think it wasn't "offense"? Or do you think Hitler could not have waited a year longer, perhaps reaching some kind of settlement with the Brits, before launching what turned out to be (and I think you will agree) a monumentally bad, regime destroying, offensive. Well, at least he wasn't standing on the sidelines.

    WRT AQ, I did not suggest, and have never suggested, that we ought to stand on the sidelines. I've suggested that we should avoid incompetence and stupidity. And arrogance and hubris.


    A word before I go to bed about Bush v Gore. IIRC, Florida election law in effect at the time called for very local challenges. What many fault Gore for doing was exactly what the statute required. I never thought the Fl Sup Ct had overstepped (I recognize that SH and I have very different ideas about what courts are supposed to do). I think if there had been time for the standards that would have applied to the recount that court ordered, we would have seen that the decision was not ultimate-result oriented. I do think the Supreme Court overstepped, first by entering the stay without weighing the potential harm to Gore, and then by finding an equal protection violation without the requisite intent. Water under the bridge, and one hears that some on the Court were surprised and a little stung by how many people reacted to the decision as I did: rather than being grateful that the Court had lifted a mess from the gutter and cleaned it up, dismay that the Court had gotten itself down into the gutter. Moral capital is a precious thing, for an otherwise powerless branch of government, and they may well have spent more than they had thought they would. Live and learn.

    Of course, Bush could have redeemed their faith in him, and could have been looking at a landslide of LBJ proportions. I think that on a number of issues, he could, by alienating say 5-10 percent of his base, win over 20-30 percent of the other side. Oh well, we'll never know . . .

    Sebastian:

    the FL Supreme Court was engaged in huge amounts of creative game-playing itself.

    NO. It was applying its law based on prior precedent, which was also consistent with most of the other state's concerning hand recounts. Hand recounts was the law of the land pretty much everywhere, and the underlying principle based on prior Florida cases was that the best effort was to be used to determine voter intent.

    The US Supremes made up nonsense law in order to vote in Bush. No reputable legal thinker supports the decision's legal reasoning without being intellectually dishonest in doing so.

    The one thing that was somewhat nonsensical about Florida law was that it permitted recounts as to only some of the vote. As for the whole hanging chad story, that stemmed from the problems with that voting technology.

    I am not a fan of the additional contention that the election was "stolen," even though the outcome was illegitimate. The key underlying factor was the extraordinary circumstance of an election involving millions of votes turning on a few hundred votes, while using voting machines with a known 2 to 4 % error rate.


    I was wrong about Osama being dead.

    Something I have wondered about is why so many people seemed to have formed this idea in the first place. I always figured there was at best a 10% chance he was dead. The evidence was that he was in Tora Bora and then got away, to melt into the best hiding place in the world -- the Pakistani tribal areas. The only chance that he was dead was an extremely lucky shot that just happened to take him out during the Afghan battles, or his alleged kidney problem.

    This guy was a survivor, having trained by fighting Russians for years. Believing he was dead always seemed to be wishful thinking -- indeed, dangerous thinking akin to Bush's "not being concerned" about him.

    dmbeaster: Something I have wondered about is why so many people seemed to have formed this idea in the first place.

    Salesmanship on the part of Bush & Co, I think. Seriously, I can't think of any alternative. There was no evidence he was dead, there was evidence he was alive. But it certainly suited Bush & Co, in the run-up to invading Iraq, to claim he must be dead - and therefore Bush didn't have to fulfil any of his promises to actually invest resources in finding him and bringing him to justice.

    "Salesmanship on the part of Bush & Co, I think. Seriously, I can't think of any alternative. There was no evidence he was dead, there was evidence he was alive."

    Three times no. I'm as rabidly ABB as the next guy, but I thought OBL was likely dead because
    a) the "evidence" was poor and from highly suspect sources (or at best often suspect and partisan domestic sources)
    b) he's a very distinctive human being at 6'4 w/kidney problems
    c) Pakistan (and its semi-dictator) could have earned a lot of gratitude by turning him over to Bush (who would likely have a second term during which to reward Pakistan)
    d) the embarrassment to alQ that would result from OBL's capture would tempt some of his people (I'd think anyway) to frag him and leave the remains under some mountain
    e) his long silence
    f) the Bush admin (despite its incompetence) has had time to burn and incredible resources to draw upon and a huge incentive to capture OBL.

    rilkefan: Okay, I accept that. But:

    a) the "evidence" was poor and from highly suspect sources (or at best often suspect and partisan domestic sources)

    But there was no evidence at all in the other direction - no proof that he was dead.

    b) he's a very distinctive human being at 6'4 w/kidney problems

    With a lot of allies and friends and a very rich family.

    c) Pakistan (and its semi-dictator) could have earned a lot of gratitude by turning him over to Bush (who would likely have a second term during which to reward Pakistan)

    On the other hand, General Musharraf could play both sides: get Bush's public gratitude and endorsement as an ally of the US, turning over harmless refugees like Moazzam Begg - without ever actually going to the trouble of trying to find Osama bin Laden and alienating a lot of his subjects.

    d) the embarrassment to alQ that would result from OBL's capture would tempt some of his people (I'd think anyway) to frag him and leave the remains under some mountain

    Hero worship. This is, I think, what a lot of people miss: to many people round the world, Osama bin Laden is a hero. To us, he's a villain. Not to them.

    e) his long silence

    Well, that is true. On the other hand, once Bush invaded Iraq, there was no need for Osama bin Laden to say anything: the US was acting exactly as al-Qaeda could have wished.

    f) the Bush admin (despite its incompetence) has had time to burn and incredible resources to draw upon and a huge incentive to capture OBL.

    The Bush administration is incompetent: and according to report, all along Bush was far more interested in attacking Iraq than in finding Osama bin Laden. To Bush & Co, Saddam Hussein was the important enemy: Osama bin Laden wasn't. If Bush can't identify the traitor in the Plame affair, who actually works at the White House, what chance does he have of finding someone in the hills of Pakistan?

    Regarding all those who stated that bin Laden was dead, I wish to quietly and humbly focus attention on the true priority here, the key point, the element that has hitherto been overlooked. Yes, in my own utterly modest, unassuming, broad-minded, big picture sort of way, I will soberly and gently say: neener-neener.

    Thank you very much. You may now carry on about your business. Wait! First touch the hem of my sleeve, with respect. All right. You may go now.

    Sadly, I must take issue with Rilkefan's comment above. I've always thought the evidence that OBL was alive was far stronger that that suggesting he was dead.

    On (a)--yes, surely some of the evidence comes from 'suspect' sources. However, there was no great wealth of evidence suggesting he was dead.

    (b): Yes; although I've read conflicting accounts as to the seriousness--or even existence--of his kidney problems.

    To my mind, what works most strongly in favor of Rilkefan's belief is the existence of a huge reward for OBL's head.

    (c): Pakitan is a tough call; many observers believe the ISI is nearly a branch office of Al Qaeda. Moreover, the continued existence of OBL tends to help Musharraf politically.

    (d): This was kind of a weak argument and belies the nature of the relationship of AQ to its spiritual leader.

    (e): There hasn't been a long silence. As Peter Bergen notes, the top leadership of AQ (including OBL) has been pumping out audio and video tapes at an average of one every 6 weeks since 9/11.

    (f): The resources devoted to apprehending OBL aren't there. It's not a problem of mere aggregate manpower; it's the issue of devoting intelligence resources that are now fully committed to Iraq.

    Jes, re a) I wasn't talking about proof at all; and the "evidence" was what followed - a sore-thumb guy with a big price on his beard with a compulsion to talk and who could talk (v. the other tapes) was silent.

    Jadegold, re e) I never claimed all of the alQ leadership was dead, but (unless I missed something) OBL had been off the air for a long time.

    Point c) is too hard to argue without actual expertise. I had a sort of Wild West view of the borderland and perhaps too high an estimate of what Bush could do for Musharraf.

    Re d), there's no question OBL must be like a demigod to his followers - but one who could do great harm to their cause if captured. If one believed (as I argued above) that there were reasons to expect his capture, someone close to him might take the next logical step.

    Well, it's hard for me to understand how $25 million or whatever doesn't buy you the head of one guy who's not president of the US (or the head of a police or policeish state), but there you go. My reason for posting above and here was just to assert that people can be wrong without having "drunk the Kool-Aid".

    "Well, that is true. On the other hand, once Bush invaded Iraq, there was no need for Osama bin Laden to say anything: the US was acting exactly as al-Qaeda could have wished."

    Argh, talk about buying into the propaganda, Bin Laden wanted the US out of the Middle East. Invading Iraq was a lot of things, and by some people's judgment very ill advised. But one thing it was not, was 'exactly as al-Qaeda could have wished'. Bin Laden, by all indications, didn't even believe that we would invade Afghanistan. 9-11 was supposed to be part of the long string of largely unanswered attacks that different Middle Eastern groups have been making against the US for decades.

    Well, it's hard for me to understand how $25 million or whatever doesn't buy you the head of one guy who's not president of the US (or the head of a police or policeish state), but there you go.

    Agreed. The alarming point, however, about the most recent videotape is the fact OBL--and his followers--must feel pretty good about their long-term futures to engage in this bit of marketing or p.r. spin. Hardly, the sort of thing you'd expect from someone who is on the run or living in a 'spider hole.'

    But one thing it was not, was 'exactly as al-Qaeda could have wished'.

    To the contrary. OBL hoped to provoke the battle or war of civilizations. It was OBL's aim to make this a war pitting the West against Islam. Bush danced nicely to OBL's tune.

    Michael Scheuer, aka Anonymous:

    "It's a disaster. I'm not an expert at all on Saddam or WMD (weapons of mass destruction) or Iraq but as it factors into the war against al-Qaeda or al-Qaedaism it was a tremendous gift to bin Laden.

    "It validated so many of the arguments he's made over the past decade. We have the first one, the most important in the Arabian peninsula, we occupy that in their eyes. We now occupy Iraq, the second holiest place, and the Israelis have Jerusalem, the third.

    "The idea that we would smash any government that posed a threat to Israel - that's validated by our actions

    "And his claim that we lust after control of Arab oil; Iraq has the second greatest reserves in the Arab world.

    "So it's been an astounding victory for Osama bin Laden in terms of perceptions and perceptions are reality so often."

    To steer between the reefs, I think OBL did not expect or want Bush to invade Iraq, but that it was useful for him in many ways. Short term Sebastian's right, long term Jadegold's right, probably (though a functional democracy in Iraq in 10 years would make S right here too I think.)

    BTW, Peter Bergen has an article--several months old--related to what OBL planned and what transpired here.

    Bergen has collected a number of informed opinion that suggest--at least--the Iraqi misadventure has worked to Al Qaeda's benefit.

    Hilzoy,

    Do you really think that it's more likely that around 300 tons were looted or that maybe Hussein moved them?

    And these looters are really smart... they knew to loot the best stuff.

    Even, better if its now in the hands of the terrorist, they knew right were to go to get the good stuff. How would they know that?

    Blue, in all likelihood the looters had military backgrounds or were in fact the people who had administered the site - perhaps with pre-war orders to use the site post-war if possible to carry out the insurgency.
    If you won't concede the above, you'll certainly agree that the locals would have known there was some sort of military depot there and would have been able to understand the "boom" picture on the explosives...

    How would they know that?

    A number of ways spring readily to mind. First, some of the insurgents/terrorists/criminals may have worked at the site and known what and where the good stuff was. Second, the locals certainly knew what what stored at the site--just as if you live by a US military base, you probably know the purpose of that facility. Third, terrorists do perform some intelligence functions--since we knew Al Qaqaa was a repository for explosives, the terrorists also knew likewise. Fourth, put yourself in the position of a looter. Imagine a facility that has been guarded night and day for years--is no longer guarded. Would that suggest an opportunity for looting?

    Jade,

    Sounds reasonable to me... what were the terrorists doing in Iraq so early in the war?

    Are you saying that maybe they were already in the country before the war even started?

    Rif,

    One I don't think we know that those explosives were actually looted.

    But, I can easily concede...

    "Blue, in all likelihood the looters had military backgrounds or were in fact the people who had administered the site - perhaps with pre-war orders to use the site post-war if possible to carry out the insurgency."

    Are you trying to say that it wasn't due to the administration's incompetence? That maybe these people already had a plan in place.

    "understand the "boom" picture on the explosives..."

    Versus the "boom" picture in the other tons of explosives. I could see looting guns, bullets some shells, but I might have a little fear about picking up something with a "boom" picture on it. Unless of course, I really knew what I was doing.

    Hilzoy,

    "Blue: I don't want to get into a discussion of all your points,"

    Somebody has hijacked your handle... cause I know that can't be you talking.... ; -)

    Poor poor pitiful me has the flu, and thus instead of being in PA as planned I get to answer Blue's question. So: first, we know that at least a bunker full of HMX was still behind IAEA seal as of April 18, 2003, that we cut the seal, and then left it unguarded. Officials who were there at the time add this:

    In a new disclosure, the senior U.S. military officer and another U.S. official, who also spoke on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that an Iraqi working for U.S. intelligence alerted U.S. troops stationed near the al Qaqaa weapons facility that the installation was being looted shortly after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003.

    But, they said, the troops took no apparent action to halt the pillaging.

    "That was one of numerous times when Iraqis warned us that ammo dumps and other places were being looted and we weren't able to respond because we didn't have anyone to send," said a senior U.S. military officer who served in Iraq.

    A reporter who interviewed the looters themselves saw them looting al Qaqaa after the fall of Saddam, and writes:

    "Daniel, who spent nearly two hours at Qaqaa with a group that has since become known as the Islamic Army of Iraq, could not confirm seeing buildings that carried the agency's seal or explosives that were marked to be of the HMX variety. But her report is one of terrorists having easy access to a vast weapons inventory.

    "I was utterly stupefied to see that a place like that was pretty much unguarded and that insurgents could help themselves for months on end," Daniel said on Friday. "We were there for a long time and no one disturbed the group while they were loading their truck."

    A man who identified himself as Abu Abdallah and led the group Daniel was with, told her that his men and numerous other insurgent groups had rushed to Qaqaa after U.S.-led troops captured Baghdad on April 9 last year. The groups stole truck-loads of material from what used to be the biggest explosive factory in the Middle East in the expectation that coalition forces would move quickly to seal it off, Daniel was told.

    Abu Abdullah and his men showed her the arsenal of rocket launchers, grenades and explosives hidden near their small farm houses, she said.

    But much to the insurgents' surprise, Qaqaa was not sealed off by U.S. soldiers, leading many groups to stop hoarding and instead going for regular refills of explosive materials, according to Abu Abdullah.

    Daniel said she saw how poorly guarded the munitions complex was. During the drive there last November, she recalled seeing few patrols and "far away" from the site. The truck was stopped only once, for about three minutes, Daniel said, by a U.S. soldier in a tank.

    Daniel said those who went to Qaqaa to stock up on munitions appeared ready to use them to attack the occupying forces. On Nov. 22, a few days after her visit at Qaqaa, Abu Abdallah's group fired a surface-to-air missile at a DHL cargo-plane. The men gave her a video tape of themselves launching the attack in which she says she clearly recognized Abu Abdallah."

    These and other sources make it clear that we provided virtually no security at al Qaqaa, and that as a result it was looted after the invasion. The reasons for these seem to be two: first, we had too few troops to secure anything like all the weapons sites we knew about, let alone the ones we actually found; and second, we decided to let Ahmed Chalabi, not the CIA, dictate our priorities:

    "Al Qaqaa was on a classified list of Iraqi weapons facilities that the CIA provided to Pentagon and military officials before the invasion, said the U.S. intelligence official.

    But when the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command produced their own list of sites that a limited number of U.S. "exploitation teams" should search, priority was given to those identified by exiled Iraqi opposition groups, he said. Al Qaqaa wasn't one of them."

    We also know that we allowed nuclear materials, chemical weapons, and biological agents to be looted, which (to me) supports the general claim that we didn't have nearly enough troops securing weapons sites, and thus that people might well have driven up to al Qaqaa with trucks and made off with stuff.

    But even if you don't buy any of these sources, consider the following question: if we had been using our considerable resources to monitor weapons sites like al Qaqaa, wouldn't you think the Pentagon would have figured out what went on there by now? Doesn't the fact that now, eighteen months after the invasion, they seem to be at a loss to say what happened to these weapons suggest that they weren't paying enough attention? It does to me.

    Are you saying that maybe they were already in the country before the war even started?

    No. I didn't write that and I don't believe it was implied.

    Iraqi weapons sites, including Al Qaqaa were common knowledge before the invasion and readily available information on the internet(s).

    what were the terrorists doing in Iraq so early in the war?


    Are you saying that maybe they were already in the country before the war even started?

    Well, then, good thing we went to war and stopped them before they could . . . well, oops, I guess not, huh?

    Blue -- you had so many points that even I was daunted. But to address a few that came up while I was writing my last message: (a) they knew where to look. -- Not necessarily; we know that they took the good stuff. But lots of evidence suggests that they didn't leave the rest of the stuff behind. If they took lots and lots of stuff, the fact that they took the good stuff along with everything else need not suggest any particular expertise. Though I suspect that at some point experts got in there. There are lots of people who might have known what the good stuff was and how to recognize it. Officers of Saddam's army who melted away to start an insurgency leap to mind as a possibility.

    If the looters had a plan in place, which I think is far from clear (the reporting I've read suggests that they started grabbing what they could, and got more ambitious and particular when they realized there was no security at all), that wouldn't mean that it wasn't due to our incompetence. We have the best army in the world. Had we seriously tried to secure the arms depots, at least those that we knew about (like al Qaqaa), I feel confident we would have succeeded, whether or not the looters had a plan. But we didn't have enough troops to do that. That was the problem.

    I mean, just consider the implications of this statement: "what does seem clear is that the U.S. military opened the bunkers at Al-Qaqaa and left them unguarded. Since then, the material has disappeared." Here's David Kay's reaction: "There was HMX, RDX in there. The seal was broken. And quite frankly, to me the most frightening thing is not only was the seal broken, lock broken, but the soldiers left after opening it up. I mean, to rephrase the so-called pottery barn rule. If you open an arms bunker, you own it. You have to provide security." We didn't. And now it seems very likely that those weapons are being used against our troops.

    Blue, you should distinguish between "terrorists" (people plotting against civilians etc outside the context of the war) and "insurgents" (people [some of a terrorist bent, some of a nationalistic bent, some of an avenging bent, etc] now attacking our soldiers). Prewar there weren't any insurgents. There were guys with military training, guys with families in apts fated to get blown up by helicopter gunships, guys who hated the US, guys in the Baath who were trained how to profit from sites the admin incompetently left unguarded due to hubris and a lack of manpower, guys who happened to have driven forklifts at munitions dumps and heard some officers talking.

    Look, if Bush&Co had run the war well except for slipping up on Al Qq and had forthrightly fessed up, this conversation wouldn't be happening, and Bush wouldn't be looking at a difficult electoral map.

    Sebastian: Argh, talk about buying into the propaganda

    Argh yourself, Sebastian. I haven't accused you of buying into Bush's propaganda. Yet.

    Hilzoy,

    You and NY Times need to get together... they now seem to think.

    "Mr. Bush has been on the defensive all week over reports that the United States might have failed to secure nearly 400 tons of high explosives in Iraq after the invasion last year."

    Emphasis on MIGHT is mine.

    Also, NY Times said on Oct 20:

    In a major misreading of Iraq's strategy, the C.I.A. failed to predict the role played by Saddam Hussein's paramilitary forces, which mounted the main attacks on American troops in southern Iraq and surprised them in bloody battles.

    The agency was aware that Iraq was awash in arms but failed to identify the huge caches of weapons that were hidden in mosques and schools to supply enemy fighters"

    Sounds like the Times thinks he dispersed weapons before we ever got there.

    Way back in March of 2003 it seems the times knew that Hussein might disprese weapons to fight an insurgency.

    http://www.nytimes.com/cfr/international/backgroundiraq2032503.html?oref=login

    Also the times said this:

    "He lost control of the militia in 1996, apparently after transferring sophisticated weapons to it from the Republican Guard without Saddam's permission, experts say."

    Also, from the Times...

    If the whole country was an ammunitions dump, how could anyone expect to secure it all?

    In Iraq, commanders say it would be an impossible job...

    The officers also note that weapons were not just in depots. Much was dispersed by Mr. Hussein before the war, or in its early days. Much has been looted since. And the arms still in the depots might not alter battle on the ground, since the insurgents already are well armed.

    Another interesting quote from the Times:

    "It is unclear. Many explosives are being rounded up. But identifying HMX takes experience, and in granular form it can be easily divided up and hidden."

    Moreover, the HMX and RDX at Al Qaqaa may be available elsewhere in the country. "There's probably a lot of stuff that is chemically identical to this all around Iraq, but it wasn't under seal because it wasn't located at a place previously associated with nuclear work," said one senior administration official.

    Hilzoy says:
    "if we had been using our considerable resources to monitor weapons sites like al Qaqaa, wouldn't you think the Pentagon would have figured out what went on there by now?"

    Not necessarily. Seriously, companies can't often figure out what's in their own building. The gov't really doesn't even know how much money it has... the examples of go on and on. Heck, we have even lost nuclear weapons.

    Nothing can replace reliable human intelligence. Since, the 70's we have lacked that capability.

    Hilzoy says:
    "Doesn't the fact that now, eighteen months after the invasion, they seem to be at a loss to say what happened to these weapons suggest that they weren't paying enough attention?"

    It could also suggest that you place too much faith in Hussein's good will... that he just left all the weapons there and couldn't possibly have tried to hide them anywhere else.

    However, I wouldn't want to disagree with that to strongly. It could be a valid point. I have to admit I am okay with not securing the facilities immediately. People were shooting at our guys. The priority should be on killing the enemy.

    But, I have never said we had plenty of troops in Iraq. I think it would have been nice to have more troops, but I am not convinced that would have helped. It might have even made the situation worse.

    All of my sources currently in Iraq do not say that lack of troops is the problem. From the beginning that has been consistent with what my friends have told me.

    Maybe, we should have gone in as full blown occupiers and dominated the entire country. Hindsight is 20/20. I must admit that I still don't think that would be an effective overall strategy. Think about it... 70% of Iraq really isn't occupied by the coalition. Isn't that a good think from and Iraqi perspecitve?

    I'm just curious... would you have supported the invasion if 500,000 troops had been requested or would you have been even more against it?

    Blue, I don't think you've ever had the experience of living in a society where barter is important. If you had, you would realize that people don't view looting like going down to Wal mart. Rather than, 'Gee, lima beans are pretty cheap, but I can't stand them, so I'm not going to buy them' it's more like 'Wow, a pallet of lima beans, maybe I could trade these for case of motor oil somewhere'. There was tons of discussion about the looting that was going on, but, to quote someone, "freedom is messy". Just because a place was picked clean does not constitute proof that there were terrorists waiting to swoop down and take the good stuff and we were therefore justified in invading, just as the looting that occurred in the aftermath of the Rodney King trial would not have justified before the fact arrests of African American males in LA

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