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March 18, 2008

Comments

On the other hand, Bush Jr. was not remotely in Kerry's league or in Gore's on these same metrics. It was painfully obvious to me and (I'm assuming) to you, but.

It's also not helpful (at least for McCain) that he has no flexibility with his base. His answers to any question must be one of the following:
1) Tax cuts
2) Bombs away
3) Deregulation
4) Faith-based

It's going to be painfully clear that not only can McCain not answer anything but also that the GOP as a whole can't answer anything because they've narrowed their policy options down to a comedic size.

It's also not helpful (at least for McCain) that he has no flexibility with his base. His answers to any question must be one of the following:
1) Tax cuts
2) Bombs away
3) Deregulation
4) Faith-based

It's going to be painfully clear that not only can McCain not answer anything but also that the GOP as a whole can't answer anything because they've narrowed their policy options down to a comedic size.

Even more than exposing his non-grasp of issues, I'm hoping Hilbama can goad McCain into one of his full-bore temper tantrums on live TV.

ModestoKid: On the other hand, Bush Jr. was not remotely in Kerry's league or in Gore's on these same metrics. It was painfully obvious to me and (I'm assuming) to you, but.

...but when the mainstream media is on your side (and they certainly appear to be strongly in support of McCain - he's getting McBush tender treatment on all his sensitive spots) and when the voting machines can be rigged to support you: well.

Kudos to Obama: he handled the first SwiftBoating of the campaign that was targetted at him extremely well. There will be more SwiftBoat style attacks.

Or, in other words: Bush was patently incompetent and less able than either Gore or Kerry: lost debates, lacked experience, came across as an ignorant buffoon. After nearly 8 years of staggering the US from disaster to disaster, none of which he was able to remedy and many of which were directly the result of his incompetence, 1 in 5 Americans still think he's doing a good job. There is no way to feel hopeful about McCain not standing a chance because he's patently less able than Obama: if Bush can be appointed President twice, so can McCain.

Um, it's not like the people who got us into the Iraq situation knew or cared about any of these petty details either, and it didn't hurt them any The American public was apparently eager to embrace a strongman president who promised to protect them. Why would people suddenly get rational?

He said it at least twice in that press conference, so this is no mere slip of the tongue.

Just in case someone wants to argue that it is, he said the same thing on Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday: "As you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they’re moving back into Iraq."

Yep, he's that clueless. "There are bad foreigners out there, and they're probably all conspiring against us." It's a way of looking at the world that aspires to solipsism.

I wonder if Hillary might want to rethink her claim that she and McCain are on equal footing with respect to national security issues.
Much as I dislike her, she's not a moron. Or so I'd thought. But maybe she should be held accountable for her judgments of people's level of foreign policy expertise. McCain is her colleague--doesn't she know how stupid he apparently is?

Why would people suddenly get rational?

Because economic and foreign policy are way less of an abstraction this time around. If you think things are going well for you, then the notion of $8B per month in Iraq may or may not seem silly but it's not going to outrage you.

That doesn't hold true when you start wondering if small fractions of that $8B could keep you from becoming destitute and/or homeless.

You're exactly right, Hilzoy, but as you also note, the press doesn't call Bush or any of a number of conservatives on exactly this sort of mistake or intentional BS. It's one of my biggest pet peeves about discussions of Iraq in the national public discourse. It's right up there with claiming everything's great over there.

Yes the Sunnis kill the Shia, and both hate the Kurds, who all hate the Turks, who are conspiring against the Alewites, who keep a wary eye on Hezbollah, whose two offshoots Hamas and Fatah like to kill each other, and then the ordinary moms and dads break into Egypt, where they are sold expired food items in exchange for counterfeit money and bring back longer-range rockets to base in their homes. But Al Qaeda is the worst group ever, and Osama Bin Laden is the worst guy ever. That’s why Al Qaeda hates Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and Israel, and the Great Satan, and the House of Saud. Then there are the Arab Sudanese Muslims who kill the Black Sudanese Muslims, but that’s something completely different.

May peace be upon you.

2:10 – 2:99 - 2:104 – 2:171 – 3:28 – 3:48 – 3:73 – 4:64 – 4:89 – 4:101 – 4:144 – 5:51 – 5:57 – 5:59 – 5:60 – 6:106 – 8:55 - 9:5 – 9:29

McCain is one of many.

His answers to any question must be one of the following:
1) Tax cuts
2) Bombs away
3) Deregulation
4) Faith-based

For example:

Lending crisis? (3)
Social Security? (1)
War with Iran? (4)
Democrats? (2)

Is Bill in his last comment just trying to rewrite "National Brotherhood Week"?

"Oh the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Muslims
And eveybody hates the Jews."

Because though his comment doesn't scan, then in that case it at least makes a vague kind of sense. Otherwise his point seems to be 'they're all evil Muslims, we don't need to know anything more.' Which is precisely how you got into this current mess.

But McCain is the most right about Iraq.

I don't understand Bill's post either, tho I second the speculation that it's meant as a Tom Lehrer joke. In case any of it was serious, it's worth noting that so far, Al Qaeda doesn't seem to care much about Israel, thank G-d. The Palestinians are very 'not our kind' from the POV of the Saudi religious elite that bin Laden pretends to represent. So although he and his group make a few obligatory speeches about how awful it is that a non-Muslim country is on sacred Muslim territory (a/k/a Eurasia), they don't do anything about it. Their attention has been pretty solidly focused on wresting control of oil pipelines away from America, and as we all know, Israel has no oil. For once, this deficiency seems to be paying off.

After nearly 8 years of staggering the US from disaster to disaster, none of which he was able to remedy and many of which were directly the result of his incompetence, 1 in 5 Americans still think he's doing a good job. There is no way to feel hopeful about McCain not standing a chance because he's patently less able than Obama . . . .

The first of these sentences is exactly why I think/hope that your second sentence is wrong. You can't fool all of the people all of the time, although evidently you can fool 51% twice, and 20% almost always.


Agree w/ Rea. Bush has already trashed the Republican brand, so in the general election, the only problem will be McCain's "independent" facade. His hug with Bush will help a lot with that, and a nice chart of his lockstep voting record on key issues should do the rest.

That protean mercurial McCain. Slips from the mind’s grasp with little twisty sleights-of-mind. ¿How does he do it?
A mind moving rapidly into the unknown. And the three rules of professionalism: prepare, prepare, prepare.
Few have been as prepared as he.
A waste of taxpayer’s money for all the good it’s done.
Oh please, no!
(Just trying to get inside his head. Scary.)

It gives fresh and piquant depth to the idea of muddling through. McCain has come to the kingdom for such a time as this, and in such a state! Imagine, if you will, this man picking up the 3 am phone.
He may in fact be losing it, you know. As in downhill from here.

Obama's foreign policy is already lethal. Hillary may be as stupid as Kerry. Plame and Joe are foreign policy death. Dems will kill over the foreign budget every year. So, will other countries. We have been at war. War is expensive. Foreign policy money is now 30 billion because of lobbyists that want to take the military spending and move it into agencies and NGOs.

War is winding up and dems are going to have to be responsible for the killing over the foreign budget. Obama wants to tax the GDP like Blair. Hillary wants to pay the lobbyists. Dems want to spend our money overseas on social programs as the economy gets weak. We need the money at home. 30 billion could take a lot of people off the streets. More could guarantee an income at par with most Americans for the disabled and unable to work. Dems can't justify the foreign policy money to their own people. It can't be more obvious they need to avoid foreign policy spending and forget the big plans for America's money in the world.

Obama's foreign policy is already lethal. Hillary may be as stupid as Kerry. Plame and Joe are foreign policy death. Dems will kill over the foreign budget every year. So, will other countries. We have been at war. War is expensive. Foreign policy money is now 30 billion because of lobbyists that want to take the military spending and move it into agencies and NGOs.

War is winding up and dems are going to have to be responsible for the killing over the foreign budget. Obama wants to tax the GDP like Blair. Hillary wants to pay the lobbyists. Dems want to spend our money overseas on social programs as the economy gets weak. We need the money at home. 30 billion could take a lot of people off the streets. More could guarantee an income at par with most Americans for the disabled and unable to work. Dems can't justify the foreign policy money to their own people. It can't be more obvious they need to avoid foreign policy spending and forget the big plans for America's money in the world.

rea: Your 5:34 made me laugh. Thanks.

Don't you remember Bush's debate experiences? By the time the debates roll around, expectations will somehow have been lowered enough that if McCain gets through without drooling on himself or throwing a chair he'll be declared the winner.

I wish I'd been there to whisper "No, no, Iran is training SPECTRE".

Yeah, Bush got a free pass - but I don't think that the electorate is going to go for the "nice guy to have a beer with" standard in this election, like they did after 8 years of a "policy wonk." This time, I think people are going to demand that the President calm their fears. The contest will be between the fear of al Qaeda attacking our cities, and an economy so screwed up that we can't afford to live in our cities any more.

>But the second is that people have not yet had the chance to see Obama and McCain go head to head.

Half of us on the Democratic side are still hoping to avoid this scenario completely. What you forget (and I fear Obama doesn't yet grasp) is that if it is Obama vs. McCain instead of Obama vs. Hillary, the MSM is going to be on the side of St. John.

"who keep a wary eye on Hezbollah, whose two offshoots Hamas and Fatah like to kill each other,"

Wow, this is so amazingly wrong.

What you forget (and I fear Obama doesn't yet grasp) is that if it is Obama vs. McCain instead of Obama vs. Hillary, the MSM is going to be on the side of St. John.

Given that the "MSM" is going to be on Angry Johnny's side no matter who the Democratic nominee is, I fail to see your point.

"I wish I'd been there to whisper 'No, no, Iran is training SPECTRE'."

The Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity is the real threat.

Gary,

Aaugh. Uncle!

In the Hugh Hewitt interview that Elvis Elvisberg links to, and I assume in the interview hilzoy references, no one called McCain out for being wrong and ignorant. Here and elsewhere in blog land, McCain is being castigated, but for most Americans paying any attention to this, they have just been informed by an authority that Iran supports al Qaeda. If McCain repeated this "gaff" in a debate with Obama, and Obama called him out on it, for many viewers this would simply mean that Obama was dangerously naive and overly trusting of the evil Iranians (indeed, McCain and Hewitt specifically play off of the idea that Obama would meet with the Iranian president, even though the Iranians are backing al Qaeda).

This isn't ignorance, this is an intentional campaign of disinformation. If the Democratic candidate denies McCain's claim, they simply look weak on national defense, and if they try to point out how insane McCain's claim is, they end up looking like an egg-head intellectual who thinks the differences between different sorts of Muslims matter. It would be as bad as trying to explain that the Iranians aren't Arabs.

I'm with jesurgislac on this one. Don't underestimate what McCain is doing here or think that it made the Democrats job one iota easier. It didn't.

If that had been Bush or Chain-Eye, I'd have expected two things:
1)No correction or backing down
2)Insistence that Iran and Al Qaeda are indistinguishable (the same as Saddam and Osama bin Laden).
Let's see how the Son of Cain does in the future. If this happens again, I'll be suspicious that it is a deliberate psychological preparation for the next war.

No hilzoy you are wrong. McCain isn't clueless, he is lying. He is just following the administration's line on this, which is; 1 Lie, pretending al Queda is responsible for much of the violence in Iraq. 2. Lie, pretending that Iran is the main source of supplies, training, and manpower.

Yes it is unintentionally funny that the two lies when put together make themselves even more obvious than they already were to anyone who happens to be aware that al Queda is a Sunni organization which reqards Shiites as heretics and hates them, and that Iran is a Shia nation.

Unfortunately for the country the fraction of Republican leaning voters who are capable of grasping those facts is insignifigant.

Given that the "MSM" is going to be on Angry Johnny's side no matter who the Democratic nominee is, I fail to see your point.

It's not whether any of us peons get this fairly basic point, it's whether or not Obama and his campaign understand it. I'm personally not all that encouraged.

This is a pretty minor gaffe by McCain -- he said one thing while he was clearly thinking another -- which is common in off-the-cuff remarks. He also corrected himself immediately.

But something in Hilzoy's post deserves a little further consideration:

It's like saying that some neo-confederate group is secretly funneling money to Louis Farrakhan, and then having an aide have to whisper: no, no, it's the Aryan Nation; wrong extremists!

Well, no, not really. You're suggesting that al Quada (largely Sunni) and Shia extremist groups are opposites, or, at least, are invariably in conflict. But that's clearly not true. There is a long history of Shia and Sunni extremists, including terrorist organizations, that have cooperated over time. For example, Iran (Shia) has supported Hamas (Sunni).

So it's not at all implausible that al Quada might receive training or support for Iran. As many have pointed out (including me and Mr. Balgravia Dispatch), the Iranian regime is first and foremost a regime of pragmatists.

McCain's specific claim was wrong, but it's a mistake to go running all the way to the other side -- as the aforementioned comment does.

I have been noting for some time that McCain seems to be on a kind of "autopilot" when he comments or answers questions. To me, a professional in communication disorders, it seems to go beyond having a limited set of political talking points to express. Rather, it appears to border on pathology. He often speaks in a near monotone, and does not seem to be exercising "executive control" or conscious monitoring of what he says. I cannot imagine that he is so clueless as his remark about al-Qaeda might suggest. Nor does it seem to me to look like deliberate lying. It appears to be more a kind of mindlessness stemming perhaps from fatigue or mental disengagement. In my opinion, this bears watching. I am no fan of McCain, and am not trying to evoke sympathy for him. The prospect of having another president of reduced cognitive capacity is truly frightening. If Obama wins the nomination, it will indeed be very interesting to observe McCain's ability to function in a debate.

RepubAnon: …but I don't think that the electorate is going to go for the "nice guy to have a beer with" standard in this election, like they did after 8 years of a "policy wonk."

Poll: Beer drinkers appear more likely to vote for Sen. John McCain in November, while those who enjoy wine say they’re more likely to vote Democratic in the fall.

OCSteve, I have to stand up for my fellow beer drinkers with another sentence from the article: "Among registered voters who prefer beer to wine, McCain has a 53 percent-46 percent edge over Sen. Hillary Clinton while McCain winds up in a virtual tie with Sen. Barack Obama among beer drinkers."

And us beer snobs were probably underrepresented.

Von it wasn't some slip of the tongue. As dday points out on Hullaballo he said the exact same thing on Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday.

And Kathy that is kind of the point of having talking points. So that when you are working the 16+ hour days of campaign time you can just repeat the same talking points again and again without needing to be alert.

KCinDC: True enough. I like beer, wine, and a good martini. No wonder I’m so confused.

von: against the Israelis, and in a place where no Shi'a are going to come to power, yes. Next door, where AQI is killing Shi'a, and there are a number of powerful and friendly (to Iran) Shi'a groups who are at war with AQI, I don't think so.

Hilzoy- Are you ignoring me on purpose?

I don’t have to do the research now – but didn’t the last NIE claim that an AQ leadership council meets in Iran? That this group worked to establish AQI? Was that refuted? Also one thing to consider, given his position on the Armed Services Committee he may be seeing a lot of things you and I don’t. (Could have been a slip based on classified information?) No love for McCain, but I don’t think it is as cut and dried as Iran wouldn’t be involved because AQ is Sunni.

Rather, I don’t have time to do the research now...

OCSteve: I like beer, wine, and a good martini. No wonder I’m so confused.

Definitely if you drink them all at once.

Frank: no. Fwiw, I think that McCain is quite capable of lying, but on this occasion, I think he's just clueless.

McCain is rapidly eroding my willingness to consider him if Hillary is the Democratic nominee. Please pull it out, Obama.

OCSteve: but didn’t the last NIE claim that an AQ leadership council meets in Iran?

This would honestly be as likely as claiming that the Southern Baptist Convention meets in Vatican City.

It is possible that a group of AQ are meeting in Iran - it's a big country, and there are Sunni Muslims in Iran - 8% of the population, mostly ethnic minorities. But AQ is Sunni, and Iran is Shiia, and it's not as if relations between Sunni and Shiia have been getting any better recently - and finally: it's not as if it would be the least bit advantageous for the government of Iran to ally itself with al-Qaeda.

It's like claims being made prior to the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein was linked with al-Qaeda. Overthrow of Saddam Hussein was on al-Qaeda's To Do list because he had established a secular state: alliance with a terrorist group would not have been advantageous to Saddam Hussein: it was not likely. Yet claims were consistently made, and proved - like the claims of WMD - to be based on no evidence.

So, even if the NIE is now claiming they know of links between Iran and al-Qaeda: We know that in the very recent past they built up "links" out of nothing between Iraq and al-Qaeda, to justify an invasion, so they've lost any right they had to be assumed to be providing accurate information.

It seems much more likely that just as they invented links for Iraq, they are inventing links for Iran.

Jes: it's not as if it would be the least bit advantageous for the government of Iran to ally itself with al-Qaeda.

I think they get plenty of advantage out of making whatever trouble they can in Iraq - enough that they are willing to at least tolerate some dealings with AQ.


so they've lost any right they had to be assumed to be providing accurate information

I’d accept that if so many people hadn’t accepted the NIE finding that Iran halted their nuke program as gospel. Either we have a clue what they’re up to or we don’t. Can’t pick and choose when to believe them…

Same with the 911 Commission Report. They identified multiple Iran/AQ ties (not 911 involvement). But some people (not saying you) will dismiss that as ludicrous while holding up other parts of the same report to “prove” something else. These reports have something for everyone I guess…

von: against the Israelis, and in a place where no Shi'a are going to come to power, yes. Next door, where AQI is killing Shi'a, and there are a number of powerful and friendly (to Iran) Shi'a groups who are at war with AQI, I don't think so.

I apologize for going a little further OT, Hilzoy, but this is a more interesting debate to me whether McCain's gaffe. I think that it's entirely possible that the Iranian regime could perform a similar the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend analysis w/r/t AQI (although perhaps not AQ generally). Despite the admitted insanity of its President and certain other elements, Iran's leadership is deeply and systematically pragmatic.

OCSteve, if people believe that the Bush administration has done all it can to cherry-pick and manipulate intelligence to support its political purposes, then it's not at all inconsistent for them to be much more skeptical of information coming out of the intelligence services that supports the administration's case than of information that undermines it.

OCSteve: I think they get plenty of advantage out of making whatever trouble they can in Iraq

Oh, that again. Wrong nation. The US is making whatever trouble it can in Iraq. Iran does not benefit noticeably from the US deciding to destabilize the situation in Iraq: no country in the region does. Having a civil war going on in the country next door is not beneficial, and of course especially not beneficial when the foreign military occupation of the country next door keeps trying to claim Iran is part of it. Don't be gullible about this.

I’d accept that if so many people hadn’t accepted the NIE finding that Iran halted their nuke program as gospel.

Well, that's because Iran halting their nuclear program is plausible. The senior Ayatollah has issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, declaring them "unIslamic", and while possession of nuclear weapons is the only guarantee a country has that the US won't launch an aggressive attack against them, the US is militarily so weak now that it would make sense for the Iranian government to believe that they won't need to violate a fatwa to save their country from American aggression.

But Iran's Shiia government conducting a secret alliance with a Sunni terrorist group is not plausible. It would be like Bill Donahue claiming that the Pope is conducting a secret alliance with John Hagee.

Same with the 911 Commission Report. They identified multiple Iran/AQ ties (not 911 involvement). But some people (not saying you) will dismiss that as ludicrous while holding up other parts of the same report to “prove” something else.

Until the US invasion, Iraq was the only country in the region in which al-Qaeda was not able to create functioning groups - Saddam Hussein was Sunni, but he also ran a rigid police state in which dissidents had not a chance. Now, of course, there are no countries in the region which don't have "al-Qaeda links" - in fact, Iraq is safer than most countries because of the chaos and disorder. Claiming that because al-Qaeda groups exist in Iran that means "Iranian links" to al-Qaeda makes as much sense as claiming that in the 1990s the US government was "linked to the IRA" because IRA groups were operating in the US. Sure, Americans were funding terrorists who were bombing UK cities, and US politicians met with members of Irish terrorist organizations. The same kind of "evidence" of Iranian/al-Qaeda links, in fact. Is this more clear to you now?

The relevant portions of purported Iran-AQ ties is in Chapter 7 of the 9-11 Report. Page 257-258 seem the most notable. Here are the two parts that, to my mind, are the most relevant:

Turabi sought to persuade Shiites and Sunnis to put aside their divisions and join against the common enemy. In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support—even if only training—for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States. Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In the fall of 1993, another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as in intelligence and security. Bin Ladin reportedly showed particular interest in learning how to use truck bombs such as the one that had killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983. The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations.

And...

In sum, there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers. There also is circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle hijackers into Iran in November 2000. However, we cannot rule out the possibility of a remarkable coincidence—that is, that Hezbollah was actually focusing on some other group of individuals traveling from Saudi Arabia during this same time frame, rather than the future hijackers.

Even if we were to hold that both the intel and the analysis backing this statement was 100% reliable, and this report was produced in a period where I have almost no faith in what came out of the U.S. government, it's pretty weak tea. I note there was more documented direct cooperation b/w the United States and Islamic Iran, including the provision of arms, than what is described above.

To amplify Jes' point about the critical difference between AQ operating secretly in a country versus AQ operating with explicit government support, shouldn't we attack Saudi Arabia long before we attack Iran since so many more terrorists are associated with that little kingdom than with Iran?

Also, given that AQ has launched attacks against Iran and Iranian citizens, I doubt that the Iranian regime is working closely with them. After all, is the US working closely with AQ right now? Iran has accused AQ of blowing up mosques inside Iran; a close operational connection just doesn't make any sense.

And OCSteve, I at least reserve the right to compare NIEs and commission reports with other corroborating evidence before accepting or rejecting them categorically. The US government is very large institution consisting of disparate groups operating with different motives; there's no reason to accept or reject all government intelligence or commission reports categorically. Even if Bush was not the President, that would be a ridiculous policy.

KathyP, I really don't think it's appropriate to read so much into it.

Von it wasn't some slip of the tongue. As dday points out on Hullaballo he said the exact same thing on Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday.

Where's dday's post?

I think that McCain's quick correction here suggests that this example was some slip of the tongue. But McCain may very well have been wrongly ambiguous (or just plain wrong) elsewhere.

Von,

McCain corrected himself only after someone else whispered into his ear. You don't get points for quickly correcting yourself on your own after someone else tells you that you're saying wrong things. Especially not after saying the same thing without correction in other venues.

Jes, I find it impossible to square your faith that it is simply impossible for AQ and Iran to cooperate in any measure with the 9-11 report excerpts quoted a few moments later in the thread by Spartikus. And, as I noted to Hilzoy earlier, Iran is even more likely to take a realpolitik approach to AQI (which, for these purposes, can be viewed as a separate organization).

Again, just because McCain's original statement is incorrect does not mean that it is absolutely impossible for Iran and AQI, or even Iran and AQ, to cooperate if it's to their advantage. We need to start assuming that our enemies are rational actors, not dismissing them as religious nuts.

Again, just because McCain's original statement is incorrect does not mean that it is absolutely impossible for Iran and AQI, or even Iran and AQ, to cooperate if it's to their advantage. We need to start assuming that our enemies are rational actors, not dismissing them as religious nuts.

Obviously we cannot prove that any connection is absolutely impossible, but there is a fairly high bar to pass and the claims you've presented aren't crossing it. Given that AQ has blown up buildings in both the US and Iran, can you explain why the Iranian government would be more likely to cut deals with AQ than the US government? Given that AQ is under very close scrutiny (i.e., US sigint and financial surveillance is closely watching AQ) and given that Iran has its own transnational surrogates that operate under far less scrutiny, why should the Iranian government waste its time with AQ? What does AQ have right now that is so valuable given that many intelligence agencies have concluded that AQ used up their best and brightest on 9/11?

I agree with you that the Iranian leadership behave as mostly rational actors and that's how we should analyze their behavior, but there are so many rational reasons to believe that AQ is not involved with Iran that you need to make a much much stronger positive case.

Hilzoy, How do you deal with the following then?

"According to recent reports received by Western intelligence agencies, the Iranians are training senior al-Qa'eda operatives in Teheran to take over the organisation when bin Laden is no longer leader.

Iran has always maintained close relations with al-Qa'eda, even though the Shia Muslim state is known to have many ideological and strategic differences with the terror group's Sunni leadership."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/11/14/wiran214.xml

Von: I find it impossible to square your faith that it is simply impossible for AQ and Iran to cooperate in any measure with the 9-11 report excerpts quoted a few moments later in the thread by Spartikus

I find it annoying when a cynical, realistic approach, based on the facts available, and bearing in mind that the Bush administration extorts lies and distortions the way a spoiled child extorts candy, is referred to as "faith".

"Faith" is what Charlie Brown had, every time he took a long run at that football Lucy was holding. Charlie Brown was a two-dimensional cartoon character in the funnies who could not learn better or Peanuts would have lost its best joke.

Real human beings have the capacity to be better than Charlie Brown. You do, Von. So does OCSteve. You can describe as "faith" my conviction that you can quit making the run at that football Bush is holding, if you like.

AQI (which, for these purposes, can be viewed as a separate organization)

If you can get Bush and McCain to say that AQ and AQI are separate organizations, then maybe I'll start giving them some benefit of the doubt.

forget about my query about the UK Telegraph piece. It was not responsisble journalism, it was a hit piece by Con Coughlin, who I knew nothing about, but now, via Wikipedia, more than I ever wanted to know:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Con_Coughlin

McCain is rapidly eroding my willingness to consider him if Hillary is the Democratic nominee.

Supporting waterboarding is OK, but mixing up names isn't? I will **NEVER** understand McSame supporters. They make less sense, to me, than Bush supporters.

moe -- I was just getting to it, so thanks for letting me know.

Jeff: I can sorta kinda imagine that one. I would assume, first, that McCain supported waterboarding reluctantly, and would not, as President, implement it. That doesn't make me think a lot of his courage and leadership, but it's something. On the other hand, being completely clueless about the most important foreign policy issue we face, and one he is preparing to build his campaign around, is pretty scary. Especially since there is no reason to think that this is an isolated bit of ignorance, and every reason to think the opposite.

Hilzoy, at this point, while it would be good to have an American administration that believes US soldiers shouldn't torture prisoners*, it's important for cleaning up the legacy of the Bush administration to have a President who believes that evidence obtained by torture should not be admissible in court. And in that respect, I don't trust McCain at all: he voted to deprive prisoners of habeus corpus.

*Whether that's by waterboarding, sleep deprivation, forced standing, stress positions, sexual threats/humiliation, or any other form of torture - I don't consider banning specific techniques to be especially useful, so long as torture as a principle is upheld/supported.

"Poll: Beer drinkers appear more likely to vote for Sen. John McCain in November, while those who enjoy wine say they’re more likely to vote Democratic in the fall."

The interesting part of that poll, I thought, was that there are more wine drinkers than beer drinkers in America.

So it wouldn't seem to be a bad thing to be the wine candidate, if you're into that whole "winning" thing.

Frank: "Hilzoy- Are you ignoring me on purpose?"

An observation: your comment consisted, as almost all of your comments seem to tend to consist (please forgive me if I over-estimate or over-state), of pure asserted opinion. No cite to facts. Just opinion and sometimes prediction.

Hilzoy, I observe, tends to reply mainly on matters of fact, or opinion related to fact, far more often than she replies to someone's opinion, which as a rule everyone is, they say, entitled to, and which is undebatable, and thus often leaving little to comment on.

This, I suggest, might perhaps better describe what's happening if your opinions are left uncommented on, then personal animus by anyone against you.

But it's just a thought.

Jes: true. I didn't mean to actually defend that line of reasoning, just to suggest that I could see, dimly, why someone might still be prepared to support McCain under certain circumstances, but be cooler about it on discovering this.

I mean, I'm for a candidate who's good on civil liberties and knows the difference between Shi'a and Sunni. (He slices, he dices...)

The interesting part of that poll, I thought, was that there are more wine drinkers than beer drinkers in America.

Well, more people who prefer wine to beer (31%) than prefer beer to wine (28%). People might be drinking beer (because of cost, for example) even if they prefer wine. But the whole poll, at least as described in the article, seems a little questionable, since even more people (41%) supposedly don't drink at all.

Obama’s Iraq War 5th Birthday speech. (TPM)

since even more people (41%) supposedly don't drink at all

Jeebus. What are they going to do for 4 years if McCain wins?

OCSteve: Jeebus. What are they going to do for 4 years if McCain wins?

Continue to lie about not drinking to social researchers, but keep the moonshine handy. (You'll have heard the joke about how to get all the beer on a fishing trip? Invite two Baptists...)

Hilzoy: I didn't mean to actually defend that line of reasoning, just to suggest that I could see, dimly, why someone might still be prepared to support McCain under certain circumstances, but be cooler about it on discovering this.

Well, if you are a prisoner of the US, it would absolutely be a great change to have torture forbidden and interrogators who use torture removed, I don't deny that: not being tortured would be a positive good for all the US's extrajudicial prisoners and PoWs.

I mean, I'm for a candidate who's good on civil liberties and knows the difference between Shi'a and Sunni.

Either one would be great - I'm still unAmericanly supporting either Clinton or Obama, whichever one wins the nomination. Even though I do feel that Obama's speech was pretty damn good.

Joe Klien posted this email from the McCain campaign:I just received a mass email from the McCain campaign, a statement from the Senator's combative aide, Mark Salter, a response to Barack Obama's elegant--and substantive--critique of McCain's Iraq myopia earlier today. Here's the first paragraph:


Senator Obama says that ending the war will not be easy, that 'there will be dangers involved.' Yet, in that patented way of his, he declines to name those dangers. Let me enumerate a few: al Qaeda, which is now on the run, will survive, claim victory and continue to provoke sectarian tensions that, while they have been subdued by the 'tactics' of the surge, still exist and are ripe for provocation by al Qaeda, which would almost certainly ignite again civil war in Iraq, a civil war that could easily descend into genocide. To say that invading Iraq was used as a recruiting tool for al Qaeda is one thing. To pretend that our defeat there won't provide an even bigger one is foolish supposition. Iran, which trains Shia extremists and is known to arm and equip Sunni extremists, a fact Senator Obama is apparently unaware of, will also view our premature withdrawal as a victory, as will other countries in the region, and the biggest state supporter of terrorists, a country with nuclear ambitions and a stated desire to destroy the State of Israel, will see its influence in the Middle East grow significantly. These are some of 'dangers,' that our premature withdrawal from Iraq will engender, and they all have the potential to destabilize the entire region. A realistic plan to prevent them from occurring is what people with experience in statecraft call 'strategy,' something Senator Obama has not offered yet


Are sunnit extremists the same thing as Al Quaida?

Steve Benen documents 4 separate instances where McCain "accidentally" repeated the same ridiculous claim.

When you get a chance Von, I would be very interested in whatever answers you could provide to the questions I raised in my earlier comment.

That McCain email continues the proud Republican tradition of nonquantification. Hilzoy did a post once on "benefit-only analysis." This is the inverse, cost-only analysis. Yes, our "defeat" probably will help Al Qaeda. As much as 100 years of fighting in Iraq? Or let's go easy on him, more realistic estimates are at 10-20 years. So, let's say 15 years. Does Senator McCain try to explain why pulling out now will get more people to join AQ over the next 15 years than our ongoing war? And if so, why that difference will hurt us more than the next 12 trillion dollars down the drain, and kill more than another 12,000 Americans? Nope. No attempt to weigh, no contrast and compare.

If you ran a business like this, it would look like Arbusto Energy.

Maybe he has the same end-game in mind: we keep making decisions this way until the Saudis buy out the country.

Hilzoy- If McCain were merely clueless he wouldn't continue to publicly link Iran with al Queda. Now I suppose he could just be senile, but I have a hard time crediting a slip of the tongue explanation for something he did at least 4 times. You should really check out dday's coverage on this at hullaballo. A sample below:

"I've been watching a bit of MSNBC this morning, which is the modern equivalent of medieval self-flagellation. And they're touching on this John McCain story, but treading lightly. Just to re-set the scene, yesterday McCain at a news conference said that it's "common knowldege" that Al Qaeda extremists, who are Sunni fundamentalists, are being trained in Iran, a Shiite theocracy. According to MSNBC, McCain "misspoke" and was quickly corrected by his pal Joe Lieberman, and talking heads have told me that it's really strange because McCain knows the issues so well. They're tellingly not showing the actual tape a whole lot, but they're assuring everyone that it was just a simple misstatement. Ari Melber of The Nation tried to set the record straight but was quickly shouted over. Then the pool reporter repeated reported McCain's spin that it would be "ludicrous" to suggest that he didn't know the difference between the two groups.

Now, this was no "misstatement." It was a lie that McCain has repeated over and over again. In fact, he repeated it again today.


For the third time in two days, the Arizona Republican has pushed the definitively false statement that the terrorist group Al-Qaeda was getting assistance from Iran, even though he was publicly ridiculed for the same false assertion on Tuesday.

This time, in a statement from his campaign honoring the fifth year anniversary of the war, McCain wrote:

"Today in Iraq, America and our allies stand on the precipice of winning a major victory against radical Islamic extremism. The security gains over the past year have been dramatic and undeniable. Al Qaeda and Shia extremists -- with support from external powers such as Iran -- are on the run but not defeated."


This is a real careful statement, putting Al Qaeda and Iran in the same sentence but with enough weasel words to claim that he's not saying what he's actually saying.

Now, I'm not real big on the hypothetical converse argument - as in "If Hillary Clinton said this there would be a firestorm" - but it's factually true. The BBQ-stained media is covering for McCain, playing down the remarks, and actually making statements like this:


NBC News political director Chuck Todd observed, "[H]ad Clinton or Obama done something like this, this would have been played on a loop, over and over."


Yeah, I know! Good thing you aren't doing something so silly!"

"Same with the 911 Commission Report. They identified multiple Iran/AQ ties (not 911 involvement). But some people (not saying you) will dismiss that as ludicrous while holding up other parts of the same report to 'prove' something else."

I've read the Report. The exact conclusion is this:

[...] In sum, there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.There also is circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle
hijackers into Iran in November 2000. However,we cannot rule out the possibility of a remarkable coincidence — that is, that Hezbollah was actually focusing on some other group of individuals traveling from Saudi Arabia during this same time frame, rather than the future hijackers.127
It's thin gruel, indeed. It consists almost entirely of the fact that members of al Qaeda traveled through Iran a certain amount.

As it also happens, the report also says:

KSM and Binalshibh have confirmed that several of the 9/11 hijackers (at least eight, according to Binalshibh) transited Iran on their way to or from Afghanistan, taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports.They deny any other reason for the hijackers’ travel to Iran.They also deny any relationship between the hijackers and Hezbollah.126
Of course, maybe they just didn't break over this crucial point.

And here I thought the waterboarding of KSM made that impossible.

"Until the US invasion, Iraq was the only country in the region in which al-Qaeda was not able to create functioning groups - Saddam Hussein was Sunni, but he also ran a rigid police state in which dissidents had not a chance. Now, of course, there are no countries in the region which don't have 'al-Qaeda links' - in fact, Iraq is safer than most countries because of the chaos and disorder."

I'd like to read about Syria's and al Qaeda's links, and the functioning al Qaeda groups in Syria, please. The same regarding Iran, please.

Cite?

That's al Qaeda, of course, not Baathists or Sunni Iraqi militants in general.

I just ran across a very old link from Jim Henley where he agrees with Chris Allbritton that Iran">http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2006/05/iran_supplying_zarqawi.php">Iran could very well be supplying Al Qaeda. Wish I'd found it last week.

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