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November 06, 2005

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Nor does the fact that Clinton officials believed that Saddam had WMD in 1998 have anything to do with whether they would still have believed it in 2003, after Hans Blix had gone tromping all over Iraq looking for WMDs and come up empty-handed. (Someone else wrote this, but I can't recall who. I'll update if anyone can point me to the person I should credit.)

Damn near everyone and their kid brother, including me, so I have no idea whether there's even anyone to credit, let alone who they might be.

I assumed that we were feeding intelligence to Hans Blix, for two reasons...

Didn't someone like Powell explicitly say they were giving directions to Blix? And I'm almost positive Blix (or someone in the IAEA) said explicitly that they were being directed by American intelligence and still coming up with nothing. I suppose the possibility existed that we were feeding Blix et al. false intelligence, but I can't imagine that to be the case (more or less for the same reasons you outlined above, as well as the fact that it would be colossally stupid).

When is Charles going to write us a post about the slanderous prose being used by conservative pundits to attack Democrats?

IOKIYAR

When you are born again...you are beyond "good and evil"

and

In the name of liberty, freedom and democracy ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

amen.

Worth noting (as at least Atrios and Mark Kleiman already have) that al-Libi was tortured in the course of extracting the false information. See this Newsweek article from June.

Slightly off-topic, but there were also people in the media pushing the Saddam/al Qaeda connection--Jeffrey Goldberg in the New Yorker, for instance.

http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/030210fa_fact

Republicans have been quoting Clinton officials on the subject of Saddam's WMD recently, even though, as Matt Yglesias points out, ""If a Clinton administration subcabinet official said it, it must be true" is not an epistemological principle one normally associates with conservatives."

I think this is a matter of projection; they're convinced that for a liberal to admit that anything the Clinton administration said was wrong will make us cry, because of our cult-like devotion to the Clinton family. The fact that this is far more their mode of thought than ours hasn't gotten through.

"This was not rocket science."

No, but without getting into any of the other substance, since I do agree with the broad outlines, I'm hesitant to see what are actually potentially complex intelligence issues reduced to a version of "common sense will give us the right answer!," because in general that's an approach to such questions that is at least apt to go wrong a substantially significant percentage of the time. It's not a reliable, or advisable, metric, even though it will also turn out to produce broadly correct results a significant, perhaps a majority, amount of the time. (Off the top of one's head, one of the broadest and most obvious cases: neither ideological predilection, nor a generally trusting nature of either participant, would have led one to predict the Molotov/Ribbentrop Stalin/Hitler Pact; neither would it lead one to derive the fact that Henry Kissinger was sharing our most secret intelligence on Soviet Forces in the Far East with Chou En-Lai prior to the public knowledge of Nixon-Mao communication, without even the knowledge of anyone in the U.S. military or intelligence community; for instance.)

The idea that the administration hyped intelligence is not something you have to scribble in crayon at 4am. It's pretty clearly true. David Brooks should be ashamed, but not nearly as ashamed as those who twisted intelligence in order to send other people off to fight and die for their fantasies.

Shame? Why it's not them or their chidren who are being killed, wounded or crippled in Iraq!

A draft that picked up ever hawkish liberal ( or their children), every chickenhawk that supported the war should be implemented so that the asswipes who got us into this war pay the consequences of their actions!

So when are people who supported this war going to enlist? And I am thinking of you Sebastian, Von, Charles!

Gary: I didn't mean to suggest that common sense was a substitute for intelligence. I did, however, think that it established a burden of proof: I was disinclined to believe in any alliance between al Qaeda and Iraq, and would have needed either evidence (as we had in the case of the Molotov/Ribbentrop pact) or credible assurances (and I never found what the Bush administration said credible, not just because I didn't trust them to start with, but also because the sorts of collaboration they alleged were either apparently poorly substantiated or relatively minor, or both.

"Someone else wrote this"

Lots of someones. I've been yelling that at von since the beginning of the no-WMD conclusion. I assume it's a standard anti-war argument.

You can watch Brooks pushing this line here.

Kevin Drum pointed out that the manipulation of intelligence was just the first step in the dishonest sales pitch. Not only was the possibility that Saddam had WMD's exaggerated into a claim that he had them, but also unnecessary fears were raised about what he might do with the weapons. The public was deceived into thinking Saddam was a threat to his neighbors or to us. In truth, even Isreal didn't regard him as a threat--he had their lowest threat rating. Other countries thought he was a jerk and an anachronism, but only Iran had any reason to fear violence from him. That's an ironic situation, of course, because the US collaborated in his use of violence against Iran--threatening behavior and nerve gas are OK when used for our purposes, I guess. So anyway the additional lies were that Saddam was a threat and that he was connected somehow to 911 or a war against terrorism.
I think all the defensiveness from people like Brooks is a sign of blood on the water. Somewhere, when I was surfing around yesterday, I saw a summary of opinion polls that put Bush's overall approval down to 35 (that's 35 points too high, of course) and the belief that he misled the country about WMD's was up over 60%. So the Bush administration has to get the spinmeisters busy.

Powell felt Cheney and his allies -- his chief aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz; and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and what Powell called Feith's "Gestapo" office -- had established what amounted to a separate government. The vice president, for his part, believed Powell was mainly concerned with his own popularity and told friends at a dinner he hosted a year ago celebrating the outcome of the war that Powell was a problem and "always had major reservations about what we were trying to do."

From:
Bush Began to Plan War Three Months After 9/11
Book Says President Called Secrecy Vital

By William Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 17, 2004; Page A01

Pollkatz has Bush at 34.7%. That's on a smaller sample than the normal two-week period. The fascinating plot.

Powell is obviously Woodward's source. Powell believed the government had been seized by a "Gestapo office" of neoconservatives directed by Cheney. "It was a separate little government that was out there," writes Woodward of Powell's view. The only precedent is Iran-contra.

Powell was appalled by the mangling of intelligence as Cheney and the neocons made their case to an eager Bush and manipulated public opinion. But Powell had put on his uniform for his commander-in-chief. In the White House, his capitulation was greeted with a combination of glee and scorn. Powell would make the case before the world at the United Nations. Cheney's chief of staff, I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, gives him a 60-page brief that Powell dismisses as filled with "murky" intelligence. Powell goes to CIA headquarters himself, where he discovers that "he could no longer trace anything because it had been 'masticated over in the White House so that the exhibits didn't match the words'." He hastily constructs his own case, which turned out to be replete with falsehood.

From:
Published on Thursday, April 22, 2004 by the Guardian/UK
What Colin Powell Saw but Didn't Say
The Rush to War in Iraq Echoes Reagan's Iran-Contra Scandal
by Sidney Blumenthal

Hey NeoDude, how bout a blockquote tag to go with those excellent quotes.

sorry

Dan Darling's take - I generally take what I read in Winds Of Change seriously.

I think that most of those Soviet missiles are still targeted at us right now, returning the favor of our missiles still targeted at Russia. This is a lot more personally bothersome to me than any pseudo-WMD Saddam could have had.

My only quibble with your post is that I would replace every occurence of "hype" with "invented out of whole cloth and lied with a straight face".

"In truth, even Isreal didn't regard him as a threat...."

Um, laying aside that countries lack specific consciousness, I think you'll have trouble supporting that claim in fact. (It's also useful to credibility to be able to spell the name of the country under discussion.) (Generally arguments are stronger when unsupportable or weak elements are stripped out, I suggest.)

"I generally take what I read in Winds Of Change seriously."

Would I be more credible if I used my posting rights there, then?

Gary:

Minimally, there were recently (during the time of our saber-rattling) claims in the press that Israel considered Iran a substantially greater threat to its security than Iraq. Moreover, prior to the war, IIRC, Jane's rated the Iraq military as .25 of its former strength. Those sorts of things may lead to the "Israel didn't consider Iraq a threat" conclusion.

I suspect googling would take a while, but it's probably doable. (I'd focus on the NYT and the WP.)

I read the Dan Darling thing, and the premises are false. I don't mean lying, I mean faith-based and wrong. Bush was advised to remove the critical sixteen words because the information contained was known to be false or probably false-- a very good reason for removal. Dan seems to think that unprovable assertions or highly questionable assertions such as the sixteen words should be made in order to provide the "ignorant" public with the "information" needed to get their suppport for the war. But wait a minute--public ignorance isn't enlighted by the spread of questionable material. Before we donate our children and our tax dollars to a war, the leadership should give us the straight stuff about the reasons for the war, if there is any to be had. Dan's thesis--that bush didn't provide enough shakey info and didn't insist on the veracity of his shakey info-- is just an intellectual's wordy way of saying Bush should have lied better.
All of this begs the real issue which is that we didn't invade Iraq because of Saddam's imaginary threat or Saddam's imaginary connections to Al Quaida. Bush wanted to ivade Iraq because he bought into the Great Game fantasy about establishing an pro-American government which could be used as a launching pad for the imposition of more pro-American goverments throughout the Middle East. Saddam was the place to start, not because he was a threat, but because he wasn't. The Bush administration thought the whole conquest of Iraq and imposition of a pro-US Sunni dictator would be easy. Then on to Iran. Pearle outlined the whole dream on "Fresh Air" in the spring of last year. The dream was also written up in various forms by Wolfowitz, Ackerman, and so on, the behind-the scenes types in charge of foreign policy up the time of the invasion. . They all knew perfectly well that Saddam wasn't a threat. In their eyes he was an opportunity. None of this was ever explained to the "ignorant" public because there were no facts that could be used to promote their theory. It was faith based speculation. The rationale for the war as presented to us ignoramuses and to Congress was simply a sales pitch since the inner circle of advisors knew very well that the public would not support the fifty years of war envisioned by Pearle.
Dan seems to think that Bush's problem is that the public remains ignorant. Wrong. Bush's problem is that the public is fiding out more and more what a tissue of exaggerations, false assumptions, and disinformatin the sales pitch was.
I'm disappointed in Dan Darling. I often read his stuff. This particular post is pretty dismal.

"Those sorts of things may lead to the 'Israel didn't consider Iraq a threat' conclusion."

"Israel considered Iran a substantially greater threat...." is perfectly defensible. It's also entirely different than the other statement. So is "Israel considered Iraq's threat to have lessened since 1991" or "Israel considered the threat of Iraq to be less than its peak," or any number of other formulations than the absurd, false-as-stated, one above. And in short, the overwhelming majority of the Israeli governmental-security-military establishment was happy with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Which is neither here nor there, it turns out, in terms of discussing whether it was wise for the U.S.

But this is a side-issue that I have no desire to drag the thread off on. It's just that my eyes bugged out to see such nonsense embedded in there. (I also tend to have an unfortunate reaction to people discussing Israel when they can't even spell it; it doesn't, shall we say, betoken significant familiarity with the subject.)

I don't know what the Israeli government does now, but in the period leading up to the war they assigned a number to various countries to indicate comparative levels of threat. Iraq got the lowest rating. Source: probably Kevin Drum or Juan Cole. Possibly "All Things Considered." I don't feel like googling to find out. People can believe me or not as they see fit.

"Pearle outlined...."

Perle. Richard Perle.

"Iraq got the lowest rating."

Indeed. Israel finds the Fiji Islands, and Peru, far more threatening.

"People can believe me or not as they see fit."

Or they could actually have followed the Middle East closely on their own for over thirty-five years, and actually know considerably more than Kevin Drum does about it. I've been reading Israeli papers weekly, and often daily, directly for over a decade, and by mail weekly for about forty years, on top of considerable other study of Israel and the rest of the Mideast most particularly since 1967; I have numerous friends and relatives there. I actually know what I'm talking about if I bother to say something on the topic, more than not. Beg pardon if I don't allow that Kevin, who knows pretty much squat about Israeli politics or the details of its history, having made some vague statement that you interpret to the point of saying something that is flatly untrue and indefensible, is not going to convince me that a statement only someone utterly ignorant would make -- ""Israel didn't consider Iraq a threat"" -- is true. (Juan Cole is worse than Kevin on Israel; he's active ignorant and wrong when on the topic, as a rule; Kevin merely has the general level of knowledge of an average American; note that we're not talking about Iraq, where I do read Cole with interest, though by no means automatic acceptance; on Israel, though, he's wrong more often than not; he also has no credentials claiming expertise in Israel at all, any more than he does about the Congo.)

And I won't just ask people to believe me. It's hardly necessary when you know what you're talking about.

Whatever you read, Lily, you apparently misunderstood it, or didn't have the general knowledge to put it in context. Sorry.

"Iraq got the lowest rating."

Indeed. Israel finds the Fiji Islands, and Peru, far more threatening.

"People can believe me or not as they see fit."

Or they could actually have followed the Middle East closely on their own for over thirty-five years, and actually know considerably more than Kevin Drum does about it.

And I won't just ask people to believe me. It's hardly not necessary when you know what you're talking about.

Crap. Once again the software claims I posted too recently, wouldn't let me post, and when forced backwards, it destroyed the revised, previewed, message, and posted the first draft.

This is getting tiresome.

Gary, maybe I'm just in a bad mood, but it seems to me that you could have made your points without being obnoxious or arrogant about it. That is, if you wanted to. For instance, a reasonable person would understand that "Iraq got the lowest rating" didn't literally mean what it said, and no implied comparison with the Fiji Islands was intended. Probably what was meant was that amongst the realistic threats to Israel, Iraq got the lowest rating--comparing it to various other countries or terrorist groups in Israel's neighborhood that might intend them harm. You could have replied to the obvious sense of what was meant, either confirming or denying it, based on what you know on the subject and done it without hostility, instead of showing us that you're capable of unleashing sarcasm bombs with yields in the low megaton range. There was a time when I thought that well-written sarcasm was impressive, but having seen so much of it online in the last few years it's gotten so I value it no more than a string of expletives, which is all it amounts to anyway.

"Gary, maybe I'm just in a bad mood, but it seems to me that you could have made your points without being obnoxious or arrogant about it."

Doubtless so. I'm often over-irritated at sloppy expression, defenses of ignorant absurdity, and, as I said, people making assertions about things they can't even spell. But that's no excuse for being rude, so my apologies to Lily and all for that.

Gary,

Doesn't the headline of your first cite say General: Israelis exaggerated Iraq threat?

Seemed to me to outline a story of deliberate hype similar to what occured in the United States and Great Britain.

Gary, maybe I'm just in a bad mood, but it seems to me that you could have made your points without being obnoxious or arrogant about it.

Count me in, I am against the obnoxious Gary, but I kind of like it when he spanks me.

lily:

Bush wanted to ivade Iraq because he bought into the Great Game fantasy about establishing an pro-American government which could be used as a launching pad for the imposition of more pro-American governments throughout the Middle East. Saddam was the place to start, not because he was a threat, but because he wasn't.

Right on. Which is why Bush could not answer Sheehan as to what was allegedly the "noble cause" for this war. And why the war defenders such as Charles have never been able to answer that question.

Thus was a war brought on by warmongers, who had to sell it with phony baloney since Americans do not support this war "Great Game" fantasy.

And once again, you don't spread democratic ideals by waging aggressive war baed on lies for justification. Funny how that works.

Gary Farber: Doubtless so. I'm often over-irritated at sloppy expression, defenses of ignorant absurdity, and, as I said, people making assertions about things they can't even spell. But that's no excuse for being rude, so my apologies to Lily and all for that.

Asserting a link between a person's ability to spell a word and her depth of knowledge of that subject would fall into the category of ignorant absurdity, Gary. People make mistakes. Some people can't spell due to disability (in which case the above treatment would be about as tasteful as ridiculing a stutterer's elocution). I get my i-before-e's mixed up all the time. Does this invalidate my opinions and observations on all things related to belief, deceit, Vietnam, or Sergei Eisenstein? Moreover, misspelling a word once does not demonstrate inability to spell that word. I've seen you make your share of typos, and I have yet to see anyone question your authority to speak based on them.

Generally arguments are stronger when unsupportable or weak elements are stripped out, I suggest.

In which case I'd suggest that the practice of pillorying folks for typos doesn't belong in your repertoire, since it distracts from whatever substantive points you make.

If there ever was an actual Good Old Days where people disagreed respectfully (even when being emotional), I pine for it.

I think the full meaning of the new internet term "farbered" (it's like pwned, but worse) will be that someone else both corrected some painful spelling or grammatical error in your post/comment and proved that he or she had already made your point a million times more convincingly in an earlier, well-supported post or massively destroyed your point in a previous, well-supported post.

"Asserting a link between a person's ability to spell a word and her depth of knowledge of that subject would fall into the category of ignorant absurdity, Gary."

Ya think?

But misspelling isn't a typo, amd consistent misspelling isn't an accident, and I've yet to see a person referring to "Isreal" who actually had it in a paragraph that was either correct, or indicated substantial knowledge of Israel. I'm sure it will happen someday (I'm sure it's happened and I've not noticed). However, when that happens, I'm unlikely to do anything worse than correct the error. I learned not to do worse from Mr. Ghandi.

In any case, I asserted no such link whatsoever, so the point hardly needs refuting.

"I think the full meaning of the new internet term "farbered"....

It used to mean (for a limited set of people) "googled" before "googled" meant that, actually.

Just so the definition specifies that whatever I do, I do it in a nice, cuddly, mushy way, which all stems from my soft, sweet, gooey, chewey insides. Yum!

I bought Moore Bros CDs based on what belle said, and when I try to play them, everybody thinks I'm some kind of sissy. Slart is a sissy too because he doesn't post very much. He at least start a Good Old Days Pining open thread.

How to drive Farber crazy (short list):

Ghandi
Azimov
Isreal
Tolkein

Sissy? No. I'll accept disorganized, intellectually sloppy, distracted (I've been toying with posting more on this, but I keep getting sidetracked), busy being a dad, busy being a Death Machine Engineer, busy being a husband, and busy posting comments that are unclear, confusing, wrong, or both (heh), which then generate a couple of hundred comments of clarification and/or further obfuscation. If there were any money in that last, I'd be a wealthy man.

But, seriously, I'll let you know the results of the brain scan, when I get them, if I can remember to.

amd consistent misspelling isn't an accident

But Gary, I believe you have said on several occasions that you generally don't look at who is writing the comments when you respond. So how do you know that it is a consistent misspelling?

Of course, you are consistent, in that the last time you made a comment about lily, it was after she wrote this:

BY the way, the minute I admit that I am a teacher I get paranoid that people are going to criticize my spelling, punctuation, tec. so I will pre-empt that with this disclosure; I am also legally blind in one eye and have very poor vision in the otherr one. I read get by by using context skills and a sort of global scanning technique. I can't see my typos.)

And, of course, you are also consistent in that you have apologized both times, but (and maybe this is just me) wouldn't it be nice if you just consistently let it pass?

Are there really two 'e's in 'chewey'?

Gary Farber: In any case, I asserted no such link whatsoever, so the point hardly needs refuting.

Gary Farber, earlier on this thread: I also tend to have an unfortunate reaction to people discussing Israel when they can't even spell it; it doesn't, shall we say, betoken significant familiarity with the subject.

Lets just say I have an unfortunate reaction to people claiming they didn't do things they clearly did.

I thought it was "Chewie". How Farber would end up with Wookiee-like insides would probably make for interesting discussion, even if it's a hyperbolic reference to how Chewie could threaten to pull someone's arms out of their sockets in one scene and get all weepy about carbon-freezing in the...well, in the next movie.

Here's a puzzle for you: How does a creature whose species' vocuabulary doesn't include B or hard C sounds end up with the name "Chewbacca"?

Here's a puzzle for you: How does a creature whose species' vocuabulary doesn't include B or hard C sounds end up with the name "Chewbacca"?

That being the case, how does a Wookiee pronounce "Kashyyyk"? Or "Wookiee", even?

Heh, looks like I'm no longer qualified to discuss matters of Wookie "vocabulary".

Join the club, Gromit. It's a big one, so the dues are small.

As for "Kashyyyk" and "Wookie", I always figured those were like all those instances where we have an English name for place, though the native name is different.

If I subtracted misspellings, ignorant absurdities, poorly supported arguments, and sarcasm from my comments I could enter some sort of blogospherian monastic order and practice eternal silence.

Pause for applause.

I'm surprised a medical condition has not yet been named which describes a reading or proofreading disorder, specific to e-mail and blog commenting, which prevents individuals from spotting misspellings and punctuation errors in their writing. I suffer from it (aside from the usual sloppiness). I just can't see the mistakes, even with multiple previews; it's as if there are pixels missing.

I spell just fine in handwritten form or on a manual typewriter.

That said, I'm glad Gary corrects things, even with the sarcasm. After all, I remember the corrections my 7th grade teacher suggested with the help of a chalk eraser flung at my head from the other side of the classroom. I do notice Gary does not correct me; I chalk this up to being considered hopeless -- which is accurate.

I do find it odd, though, that in a medium (blogging on the Internet) which congratulates itself as opening up the ongoing egalitarian, interactive, conversation in this Republic to EVERYONE while condemning the pinched, elitist, stuffshirts in the increasingly irrelevant traditional institutions (who have dumb things like stylebooks ;)) that folks find it troublesome when standards fall by the wayside.

I'm all for standards. Mao Zedong was not; thus the need for continuous revolution. Though I notice he always got to be Chairman.

Everyone has an opinion, even the guys whose opinion is expressed best by spitting tobaccy on the imported rugs.

Didn't Andrew Jackson's smelly backwoodsman walk all over the fine damask on the White House furniture in their muddy boots at the inaugural party and drink brandy without the annoying middleman contrivance of a crystal glass?

That's O.K. After all, I love the human race and think each and every one should have a voice. It's people that I can't stand.

Speaking of monasticism, I just received my orders.

P.S. When I sense my writing is not up to snuff, first I do a line of snuff and then I throw in a bunch of random semicolons.

reading or proofreading disorder, specific to e-mail and blog commenting, which prevents individuals from spotting misspellings and punctuation errors in their writing.

Semi-seriously, there's something about writing in Courier in a little box that makes it very hard for me to proof. I committed an its/it's error yesterday, and that never happens outside of blog-comments -- I've stopped even noticing dropped letters and transpositions.

But misspelling isn't a typo, amd consistent misspelling isn't an accident . . .

Ergo, since misspelling isn't a typo, we can all assume from here on out that Gary does not know how to spell "and."

Wait -- sometimes misspelling actually is a typo? Huh.

Ghandi was that Bhuddist fella, right?

And Saddam Hussein did pay 25 grand to the families of suicide bombers, and I'd say that is pretty much a boldfaced threat, rather than not much of a threat.

I'm not sure what the condition is called, but if i remember correctly the suggested procedure is called a thullenectomy.

Gary Farber: In any case, I asserted no such link whatsoever, so the point hardly needs refuting.

Gary Farber, earlier on this thread: I also tend to have an unfortunate reaction to people discussing Israel when they can't even spell it; it doesn't, shall we say, betoken significant familiarity with the subject.

Lets just say I have an unfortunate reaction to people claiming they didn't do things they clearly did.

Well, I thought I made a link between the misspelling of the word "Israel" into "Isreal" and my reaction to that; the subsequent clause was amplification. But you're correct to point out that my use of "whatsoever" was wrong; I'm afraid I discounted the latter clause in my head, which doesn't work for other people, so thank you for the correction.

Otherwise, was "my apologies to Lily and all" unclear? Insufficient? Do we need to discuss whether I actually "pilloried" Lily for a typo (rather than for stating something that is flatly wrong)? Perhaps not.

"...wouldn't it be nice if you just consistently let it pass?"

In some cases. I completely forgot about Lily's eyesight problem, I'm afraid. Oops. Still doesn't let someone off for stating factually absurd things, though. Of course, I've made that point; on the other hand, there's a string of comments here. Perhaps I should just respond no further, then, and let them pass.

"Wait -- sometimes misspelling actually is a typo? Huh."

This is a semantic issue, I expect. "Misspelling" to me means that someone doesn't know how to spell a word. A typo is committed as an accident of the typing fingers. The two are not, in fact, at all the same thing. In my usage and understanding, anyway. Neither is a moral failing.

The ObWings software is still rejecting my comments as having been made too soon after the last. Is it only me having this problem? (I've cleared my cache, to see if that will help.)

Fifth try: No, it doesn't help. Well, that's one way to discourage me from commenting.

Now on 12th try....

"Thullenectomy"

I've had three, but it keeps growing back.

I'm getting the 'prove you're human' box about every other comment as well. Typing in the text from the little box has worked every time to get the comment through, though, so it hasn't been a problem.

(And any mockery I piled on with above was meant in good humor.)

If I were on the U.N. Internet Oversight Commission, I would be tempted to experiment on Gary Farber as well.

I'm getting the 'prove you're human' box about every other comment as well.

Try using smileys ;-) Also, if you can find the correct font, dot your i's with little hearts. This seems to work for thread-jack bots.

DaveC: And Saddam Hussein did pay 25 grand to the families of suicide bombers, and I'd say that is pretty much a boldfaced threat, rather than not much of a threat.

To most people, being paid 25 grand is not considered to be any kind of threat at all.

Sorry, Dave: although the grammatical structure says you mean one thing, disentangling the context from the grammar says what you really mean is that for Saddam Hussein to give money to the families of suicide bombers was a "pretty boldfaced threat", presumably because it could be directly interpreted as financial support for terrorists.

Except that it's really hard to interpret that as a threat. I find it hard to believe that Palestinian suicide bombers (as far as I know, Saddam Hussein was not giving money to any other kind) were wholly or even partly motivated by the idea that, after they were dead, their families might receive a cash bonus from Saddam Hussein. I think you'd need considerably more motivation than that to go blow yourself up, and the Israelis have, for decades before Saddam Hussein started his cash payments, been providing that kind of motivation to Palestinians. A reward that potentially comes after your death is not much of a motivation to kill yourself.

In any case, even if we assumed that all or even some Palestinian suicide bombers after Saddam Hussein began his payments were motivated by the possibility of Saddam Hussein's giving their family money, that would constitute a potential threat to Israel. A potential threat to Israel does not justify a US invasion - certainly not an invasion which Israel itself was not inclined to support.

I'm getting the 'prove you're human' box about every other comment as well.

Mine went so far as to administer the Voight-Kampff test. Weird.

. . . and the Israelis have, for decades before Saddam Hussein started his cash payments, been providing that kind of motivation to Palestinians . . .

Urgh.

Thanks everyone who defended me. I have gotten laser surgery on one eye which has improved my vision and I hope to get glasses in December.
I blog for fun. I do not regard myself or anyone else on the comment thread as a professional writer or political pundit. I am not aware that anyone has been appointed to be Offical Quality Control Officer for Obsidian Wings. To me, this is a place where people can discuss things politely. I think that "politely" includes disagreeing or correcting without put-downs. I am aware that I don't always meet that standard myself but i don't think I violate it often.

For what it's worth, I think I found the original blog post by Juan Cole here, that refers to the Israeli (Mossad's) annual threat assessment. The articles linked by Cole seem to the source for the tidbit on Iraq's "low threat ranking". At least one assumes that is the source from quotations such as this:

As best as can be recreated from the statements of senior officials of Israel's intelligence branch and the Israel Defense Forces, Israel's intelligence assessment during the period leading up to the war in Iraq answered the above questions in the following manner:

* Iraq had chemical and biological weapons that it retained from before the Gulf War. This included a few dozen chemical and biological warheads whose whereabouts were unknown, and shells carrying chemical and biological materials, intended for arming warplanes and long-range missiles.
* Iraq had no more than a few dozen ground-to-ground missiles and one or two launchers, which were hidden during the Gulf War and remained in Iraqi hands. Iraq had not manufactured new missiles since the Gulf War, and no exercises or maintenance for its missile system were conducted since then. Therefore, the intelligence assessment held that if the system were to be used, it would be in deficient condition both technically and operationally. This would be expressed in the rate at which missiles could be launched and in the Iraqis' ability to keep the launchers concealed, but did not, however, mean that Iraq could not launch missiles at Israel. Rather, the message was that Iraq possessed the capability of launching a small number of missiles against Israel, and that there still existed a slim possibility that it could launch missiles with non-conventional warheads.
* Iraq had neither nuclear weapons nor an active nuclear program.
* Iraq had a number of fighter planes and possibly an unmanned aerial vehicle that could be used in attempts to carry out chemical or biological strikes against Israel.
* It was very unlikely that Iraq would attack Israel with conventional weapons, and even more unlikely that it would attack Israel with non-conventional weapons. An attack might occur primarily in the event that Saddam was facing a complete military defeat and the crumbling of his regime. In such a case, he might decide to undertake the desperate suicidal act of launching a few missiles against Israel. The likelihood that Saddam would order the launching of missiles against Israel early in the war or before it began was even lower.

Whether there was an actual list of regional nations which the Mossad placed rankings on, is unanswered.

Lily's comment seemed off the cuff.

Lily's comment seemed off the cuff.

And undeserving of the public flogging.

"Except that it's really hard to interpret that as a threat. I find it hard to believe that Palestinian suicide bombers (as far as I know, Saddam Hussein was not giving money to any other kind) were wholly or even partly motivated by the idea that, after they were dead, their families might receive a cash bonus from Saddam Hussein. I think you'd need considerably more motivation than that to go blow yourself up, and the Israelis have, for decades before Saddam Hussein started his cash payments, been providing that kind of motivation to Palestinians. A reward that potentially comes after your death is not much of a motivation to kill yourself."

I don't think anyone would blame Palestinian mass murders or attempted such on Saddam Hussein, or allege that he provided a primary motivation for such.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean everything above should be passed over in silent acquiescence.

First of all, even if I know someone is planning to go blow you and everyone in your home up, if I offer $25,000 to the family of that person to do it, I don't think my acts could reasonably be construed as unthreatening. It's constructions of this nature that provide valid amunition for attacking anti-war people; such a gloss is morally obtuse.

I think you'd need considerably more motivation than that to go blow yourself up, and the Israelis have, for decades before Saddam Hussein started his cash payments, been providing that kind of motivation to Palestinians.
Similarly this sort of construction would never be accepted (and shouldn't be) if phrased as "the Palestinians have, for decades before the establishment of the Israeli State, been providing motivation for killing Palestinians in revenge, and taking their land," for instance. Neither should it be accepted as morally just if it serves to justify Palestinian killing.

"A reward that potentially comes after your death is not much of a motivation to kill yourself."

When you live in the kind of poverty many Palestinians do, it's not at all a bad partial contributor to a motivation, actually. Willingness to "martyr" oneself isn't in the least incompatible with loving and caring about one's family, and their well-being.

"A potential threat to Israel does not justify a US invasion - certainly not an invasion which Israel itself was not inclined to support."

Fair enough on the first part, as I already made that point as regards the irrelevance of Lily's point about Israel. On the other hand, what support do you offer for the latter?

I'm impressed by the effort to torture Juan Cole's remark into saying the opposite of what it says:

Respected Israeli security thinker Shlomo Brom argues in the current Strategic Assessment that Mossad fell down on the job in realistically assessing the threat to Israel of Iraqi weapons programs and stockpiles. (I.e. there were no significant WMD programs and very, very few if any stockpiles, but Mossad kept saying that both existed and were serious threats.)
Well, the Israeli governemnt and military-intelligence establishment couldn't have been mistaken in taking the stance that Hussein was dangerous unles they, you know -- and this appears to be the complicated part -- taken the stance that Hussein and Iraq were dangerous. Right or wrong, that's what they thought, that's what they said, and this was no secrect. (Indeed, you can find one hundred jillion anti-Semitic and Islamic sites explaining that the war was All About Israel Causing It; they're incorrect, of course, but hardly mistaken in having noticed that Israel considered Iraq a significant threat.)

To precisely parallel such a description of Israel's stance to the U.S., one would have to claim that all the evidence now available on WMD proves that the U.S. government was asserting in 2002 that Iraq was not a threat. You know, just like Israel did.

And both observations would be equally accurate.

It's good to see the usefulness of saying "But this is a side-issue that I have no desire to drag the thread off on." Why would people want to miss an excuse to drag Israel into the arguments about the war, after all? Gotta work it in somewhere.

Similarly this sort of construction would never be accepted (and shouldn't be) if phrased as "the Palestinians have, for decades before the establishment of the Israeli State, been providing motivation for killing Palestinians in revenge, and taking their land," for instance. Neither should it be accepted as morally just if it serves to justify Palestinian killing.

This would be clearer:

...if phrased as "the Palestinians have, for decades before the establishment of the Israeli State, been providing Israel with motivation for killing Palestinians in revenge, and taking their land," for instance.
Sorry for sloppiness.

The evidence available isn't conclusive, but what Lily said re Israel is a defensible position. I suspect she was thinking of something Scott Ritter has said on various occasions. For instance:

Actually, the other -- well, I mean, post-1998. Something happened between 1998 and 2003 that got Amos Gilad, one of the – a senior Israeli intelligence official who was cooperating with this disarmament effort, to suddenly change course and reverse all of the analysis that the Israelis had done. By 1998 Israel knew that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed. In 1994, Israel was the number one threat -- or Iraq was the number one threat facing Israel, because of W.M.D.

Because of the U.N. inspection process, because of the Israeli -- the close link to the Israelis in -- given this information and us investigating information, by 1998 they knew that Iraq didn't have W.M.D. They knew that Iraq wasn't a threat. And they knew so long as inspectors were in place, Iraq wasn't going to be a threat. And so, Iraq had dropped to number six on the list and was falling off dramatically because of Israeli cooperation with the U.N. inspection process. Something occurred between 1998 and 2003 to get Amos Gilad to suddenly say, “No, Iraq's got W.M.D. Iraq is a threat,” and to support the invasion, and I would say that that's sort of the parallel ascendancy of Ariel Sharon and the right wing of the Likud Party with George W. Bush and the neo-conservative cabal that started working together to fix intelligence around policy.

There's also a little corroborating evidence from Martin Indyk and Kenneth Pollack before the war:

POLLACK: ...there is a real risk in going down this path which is every time the inspectors go to a site and find Iraqis cooperative and find the site clean, it reinforces the notion of those people around the world and in the United States who want to believe that the Iraqis are coming clean, that they are coming clean. We've had Iraqis come up to Martin in recent days and say to him maybe the Iraqis don't really have weapons of mass destruction.

INDYK: Correction. It wasn't Iraqis.

POLLACK: Israelis, pardon me. It's different. And when you've got Israelis saying that it's clear Saddam's strategy is working. It is having an impact.

I've also spoken with Capitol Hill staffers who say a significant chunk of the false intelligence from foreign sources came from Israel. They essentially see what happened in the way Ritter does.

I do agree this is a side issue, but it's still worth being accurate about.

I can easily see Sharon thinking Bush was the best sucker to come down the pike in quite a while, and Sharon playing him like YoYo Ma plays a cello in order to get US approval for whatever lunatic policies Sharon and the Likudniks wanted to pursue.

What I have trouble with is Sharon giving Bush bad intel to help start a war with Iraq, which wasn't nearly the threat that Iran and Syria were (and are). Saddam paid posthumous bounties to suicide bombers, but Syria and Iran directly sponsor Hamas and Hezbollah.

The idea particularly strains credulity in view of how the war with Iraq has turned out: a formerly secular state that considered Iran an enemy is now an Islamic state that will likely ally with Iran. Plus the Arab nations are more radicalized than before, and less likely than before to make any peace overtures to Israel.

It's possible Sharon didn't see that coming. Maybe he believed the Bush Admin's fantasies about how Iraq would turn out. But surely he has enough military experience (esp. in re the Israeli failure in Lebanon) to realize it was at best a crap shoot - and that, if the US failed in Iraq, the consequences would directly endanger Israel.

I despise Sharon, but I never thought he was dumb. It seems dumb to hitch Israel's wagon to Bush's star.

It's possible Sharon didn't see that coming.

Did Sharon forsee the rise of Hezbollah? No.

I think it's almost impossible to hold views like Sharon's without having a deeply warped view of reality. And this will lead you to making many stupid decisions.

And I'm almost positive Blix (or someone in the IAEA) said explicitly that they were being directed by American intelligence and still coming up with nothing.

CBS News, Feb 20th 2003:

So frustrated have the inspectors become that one source has referred to the U.S. intelligence they've been getting as "garbage after garbage after garbage." In fact, Phillips says the source used another cruder word. The inspectors find themselves caught between the Iraqis, who are masters at the weapons-hiding shell game, and the United States, whose intelligence they've found to be circumstantial, outdated or just plain wrong.

Except for the fact that the Iraqis didn't have the weapons as this time. IMHO, the reason that the 'liberal' MSM and UN inspectors would use this phrasing is because acknowledgement of that possibility wasn't politically allowable.

"I despise Sharon, but I never thought he was dumb. It seems dumb to hitch Israel's wagon to Bush's star."

Posted by: CaseyL

As has been pointed out before, Sharon has screwed up before, quite badly, in figuring out what his enemies could do, politically. In a certain sense he's like Bush - he didn't get to the office by skill in manipulating foreigners, but by skill in maniupulating a chunk of his own people.

In addition, Sharon might have figured that the US couldn't withdraw, once it had gotten in deeply enough. He was probably also in touch with enough neo-cons that he knew that there were some people in the administration who would regard getting in deeper as a good thing.

Finally, as always, it comes back to 9/11. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Sharon; it's quite reasonable that he'd use it.

I don't know. Maybe the thinking is that you had to remove the gov't of Iraq before you could take a run at removing the gov't of Syria. Assuming (a) flowers and candy all the way from Umm Qasr to Baghdad and (b) Saddam would have used a US invasion of Syria for armed mischief of some kind, this isn't totally off the wall.

Actually if you take the 'greeted as liberators' expectation as an absolute given, then the whole thing almost makes sense.

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