Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

10/08/2009 (10:08 am)

Iran, and a Blast From the Past

The Wall Street Journal brings up an interesting point from the past today regarding Iran’s imminent nuclear capability, and it bears on a great deal of history from the Bush years.

Back in December of 2007, a gathering of government intel professionals produced a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) claiming “with high confidence” that Iran had ceased its nuclear development as of 2003. That this was not true is evident now. What the Journal reports is that the intelligence community was already well aware of the recently-announced uranium enrichment facilities and weapons design efforts at the time the NIE was published. This demonstrates that the NIE was published as propaganda; they knew it was false, but it served a political purpose, so they published it anyhow. I reported this at the time, and confirmed it with evidence later.

The purpose it seems to have served is to cripple the US’ response to the threat of a nuclear Iran. The Bush administration may have been planning air strikes back in 2007 to address the budding threat; the NIE was the culmination of political infighting within the Executive branch to stop the administration’s unilateral response to the Iranian threat, and more or less signaled the President’s capitulation to his internal adversaries. Scott Horton, the reliably loony leftist at Harper’s, reported this at the time in an article that errs by assuming that the NIE was the truth and that it was Cheney et al that were operating on false information (an assertion we now know to have been 180 degrees off the mark, something that sensible people would have expected even then.)

The propagandistic NIE was merely the last shot in the long-standing revolt by leftists within the US intelligence community against the Bush administration — a revolt that was only a hair shy of being a full-blown attempt at a coup d’etat. Leftist rogues within the intelligence community were actively undermining Bush administration policies, and executing plots with the sole intent of discrediting the President. I’m convinced that the entire Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame affair was one of these — an operation planned and executed by rogues within the CIA to discredit the President. I wrote about the revolt at the time, in the early days of this blog (you can review my thoughts by clicking on the Intelligence Community topic under my topical index, at the bottom of the sidebar.)

History has done us the favor of sorting out the truth quickly, but we should not miss the lesson. The lesson is not just that the NIE was wrong. The lesson is that the intelligence community was deliberately manipulating reports throughout the Bush years with the intent of discrediting the administration and crippling its policies. We should apply this knowledge to whatever we now take for granted from the Bush years that came to us by way of the intelligence community — like the claim that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Almost a year ago, Jeff Lewis at the American Thinker produced an essay explaining the cost of leftist power-seeking in the form of crippling our response to nuclear proliferation:

George W. Bush has been crucified for five long years in the media, by the feckless, hysterical and cowardly Europeans, by the United Nations, and of course by the Democratic Party, because he took the only sane action possible in the face of the apparent WMD threat from Saddam. Because presidents don’t have the luxury of Monday morning quarterbacking. They cannot wait for metaphysical certainty about threats to national survival and international peace. There is no such thing as metaphysical certainty in these matters; presidents must act on incomplete intelligence, knowing full well that their domestic enemies will try to destroy them for trying to save the peace.

But that is water under the bridge by now. What’s not past, but rather a clear and present threat to civilization are the consequences of the unbelievable recklessness of the International Left — including the Democrats, the Europeans, the UN, and the former communist powers. Because of their screaming opposition to the Bush administration’s rational actions against Saddam, we are now rendered helpless against two even more dangerous challenges. With Saddam there was genuine doubt about his nuclear program; the notion that he had a viable program was just the safest guess to make in the face of his policy of deliberate ambiguity. In the case of Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il there’s no guessing any more. They have nukes and missiles, or will have within a year.

The entire anti-proliferation effort has therefore been sabotaged and probably ruined by the Left. For what reason? There can be only one rational reason: A lust for power, even at the expense of national and international safety and peace. But the Left has irrational reasons as well, including an unfathomable hatred for adulthood in the face of mortal danger. Like the Cold War, this is a battle between the adolescent rage of the Left and the realistic adult decision-making of the mainstream — a mainstream which is now tenuously maintained only by conservatives in the West.

And now, in the face of a growing Iranian threat, our Peerless Messianic Leader has eliminated the planned missile shield aimed at protecting Europe from an Iranian nuclear threat, in exchange for assistance in managing that threat from Russia, which arguably supplied Iran with the means to produce nuclear weapons in the first place.

David Horowitz has argued for years that there exists an unspoken alliance between radical Islam and radical Socialism. It becomes plausible to assert that radical elements in the US — read “progressives,” and include the President — have more policy goals in common with Iran than they have with conservatives in America, and would prefer a nuclear Iran to a Middle East with stable republics like Israel and a free Iraq. Might this explain President Obama’s fecklessness regarding the Taliban in Afghanistan? Can we trust the President to act in the international community with America’s best interests at heart, or is he serving a wider agenda?

For my part, I think it is long past time to revive treason as a crime suitable for legitimate prosecution. Perpetrators of active disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining actual governmental policy should be prosecuted seriously, with decades-long prison terms at a minimum for active attempts at crippling lawful policy. It is one thing to oppose policy publicly, and to argue against it; it is another thing entirely to undermine that policy actively. Congress should pass laws to that effect, with clear exceptions made for active defense of the US Constitution against unlawful acts by the Executive branch.

07/26/2008 (9:05 am)

And the Crowd Goes Wild

Finally, a politician telling the relevant truth. In front of the American GI Forum Convention in Denver yesterday, McCain denounced “the audacity of hopelessness,” while comparing Obama’s dismal record on the Iraq war to his own. Text supplied by Power Line.

Senator Obama and I also faced a decision, which amounted to a real-time test for a future commander-in-chief. America passed that test. I believe my judgment passed that test. And I believe Senator Obama’s failed.

We both knew the politically safe choice was to support some form of retreat. All the polls said the “surge” was unpopular. Many pundits, experts and policymakers opposed it and advocated withdrawing our troops and accepting the consequences. I chose to support the new counterinsurgency strategy backed by additional troops — which I had advocated since 2003, after my first trip to Iraq. Many observers said my position would end my hopes of becoming president. I said I would rather lose a campaign than see America lose a war. My choice was not smart politics. It didn’t test well in focus groups. It ignored all the polls. It also didn’t matter. The country I love had one final chance to succeed in Iraq. The new strategy was it. So I supported it. Today, the effects of the new strategy are obvious. The surge has succeeded, and we are, at long last, finally winning this war.

Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn’t just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better.

And as our troops took the fight to the enemy, Senator Obama tried to cut off funding for them. He was one of only 14 senators to vote against the emergency funding in May 2007 that supported our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. …

Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later: “My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now.” His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn’t have been more wrong.

By November 2007, the success of the surge was becoming apparent. Attacks on Coalition forces had dropped almost 60 percent from pre-surge levels. American casualties had fallen by more than half. Iraqi civilian deaths had fallen by more than two-thirds. But Senator Obama ignored the new and encouraging reality. “Not only have we not seen improvements,” he said, “but we’re actually worsening, potentially, a situation there.”

If Senator Obama had prevailed, American forces would have had to retreat under fire. The Iraqi Army would have collapsed. Civilian casualties would have increased dramatically. Al Qaeda would have killed the Sunni sheikhs who had begun to cooperate with us, and the “Sunni Awakening” would have been strangled at birth. Al Qaeda fighters would have safe havens, from where they could train Iraqis and foreigners, and turn Iraq into a base for launching attacks on Americans elsewhere. Civil war, genocide and wider conflict would have been likely.

Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened. Our military, strained by years of sacrifice, would have suffered a demoralizing defeat. Our enemies around the globe would have been emboldened. …

Senator Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear. I told you the truth.

Fortunately, Senator Obama failed, not our military. We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right. Violence in Iraq fell to such low levels for such a long time that Senator Obama, detecting the success he never believed possible, falsely claimed that he had always predicted it. … In Iraq, we are no longer on the doorstep of defeat, but on the road to victory.

Senator Obama said this week that even knowing what he knows today that he still would have opposed the surge. In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chooses failure. I cannot conceive of a Commander in Chief making that choice.

This is the unvarnished truth, something depressingly rare from politicians.

From a tactical standpoint, it’s a good start. About a week from now, we need similar points added regarding Obama’s purely opportunistic shifts on FISA, Israel, abortion, campaign finance, gun control, NAFTA, and capital punishment (hat tip to Strata-Sphere for the flip-flop list.) I believe there are similar issues that can be drawn from Obama’s tenure in the Illinois Senate as well. However, Iraq is the keynote issue here, and deserves a little time standing on its own in the public eye. The fact is that Barack Obama is a shameless, opportunistic political chameleon, and will not tolerate well being painted as that.

What’s Obama going to say? In public, I imagine he’ll posture about the unfair attacks, “smears,” from his opponent, and remind us that he represents a break from those divisive politics of the past, probably with a veiled reference to his race to remind us what bigots we all are to criticize him. In private, this comment from a Progressive at Dean’s World gives us a view of the blow-back from the Left, and it’s not pretty.

So far, the Leftward blogs are silent. Score a solid punch for McCain.

Photo by AP/Carolyn Kaster.

07/21/2008 (1:37 pm)

C'est la Guerre

Any of you who are attempting recovery from Boomer Whining Addiction should probably skip this post, ’cause I’m whining a little. I’d hate to be the cause of any of you falling off the wagon.

I think we’re watching one of those moments in American political history where a candidate is going to be handed a huge advantage simply by the luck of the draw. We’ve seen elections swung on the basis of nicely timed sound bites that really mean nothing at all. Remember how Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter by chiding him in a debate, “There you go again?” The sound bite meant absolutely nothing. Sure, there was substance behind Reagan, and Carter’s presidency was a bad joke, but the sound bite crystalized the difference and gave Reagan a huge boost.

Or, do you remember the debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore, in which Gore kept sighing in an irritated fashion at Bush’s comments? In terms of actual policy, it meant nothing at all, but we were all reminded of the irritating twit in class who really did think he was smarter than the rest of us, and we disliked him for it. Those impatient sighs may just have cost Gore the presidency.

We can all name a few others as well. “At long last, have you no sense of decency?” The Kiss. “I voted for the 87 billion before I voted against it.” Hillary’s tears. Nixon’s five o’clock shadow when he debated Kennedy. Those moments when the electorate proves that it’s moved more by symbol than by substance, and the fates of lives and nations turn on the mere turn of a few fortunate or unfortunate words.

This weekend, Barack Obama visited Iraq, at a moment in time when Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki had just about finished solidifying his political fortunes. Just about at the moment Obama stepped of the plane, Maliki observed that he’d really like the American troops out of Iraq, and the 16 months Obama mentioned seemed like a reasonable timetable.


The blogs are a-twitter with the repercussions. Rightwards are trying their darnedest to emphasize that the only reason we’re at this point at all is because President Bush, with John McCain’s full support, persisted in pursuing his policy in Iraq, while the likes of Obama were posturing stupidly about how the war was lost. That’s actually true, but it doesn’t matter. The electorate lives on easily digested appearances, not on sound analysis. Obama showed up in Iraq and President Maliki endorsed his position. C’est la guerre. The war is over.

There’s no way this was staged, and frankly, I doubt that Obama has the brains to even attempt to stage such a coup. He’s been flopping around like a grounded trout, saying this and that. Just by pure luck, the last attempt at a statesmanlike position on Iraq to come out of his mouth corresponds to something the President of Iraq just happened to be saying as Obama stepped off the plane for his first visit to Iraq. This was Fate, with all her mocking irony, stepping in and in a single, irrevocable twist, robbing McCain of his strongest argument.

I’m not calling the election, and I’m historically pretty bad at that sort of thing. However, this weekend’s events struck a terrible blow to McCain’s chances. If Obama manages to sound presidential about anything at all, a huge block of unconvinced voters pull the lever for him.

Hot Air recites how awkward this is for McCain, and the Politico rounds out the awful weekend with an explanation about how the rest of the cards just happened to fall for Obama while he’s on the ground in the middle east. Even Liberal Values, making a brazen if thoroughly false attempt to paint this as a vindication for the left’s position on Iraq, gets the effect on McCain’s position right.

07/08/2008 (8:36 am)

Al Qaeda Purged From Iraqi Cities

The Times of London reported this Sunday that US and Iraqi forces are pushing al Qaeda out of its last urban stronghold in Iraq, in what Major-General Mark Hertling, US commander in northern Iraq, describes as the “irreversible turning point.”

American and Iraqi forces are driving Al-Qaeda in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country in the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror.

After being forced from its strongholds in the west and centre of Iraq in the past two years, Al-Qaeda’s dwindling band of fighters has made a defiant “last stand” in the northern city of Mosul.

A huge operation to crush the 1,200 fighters who remained from a terrorist force once estimated at more than 12,000 began on May 10.

Operation Lion’s Roar, in which the Iraqi army combined forces with the Americans’ 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, has already resulted in the death of Abu Khalaf, the Al-Qaeda leader, and the capture of more than 1,000 suspects.

The Maliki government in Iraq has been taking strong measures to rid the country of rogue military elements. A few months ago, he targeted the Madhi Army of Moqtada al Sadr, and reduced it to a small handful of malcontents in hiding, with al Sadr exiled in Iran. Now it’s al Qaeda’s turn, and they’re successfully being driven out of their last city in Iraq, leaving them at the mercy of rural tribesmen. While they’ve been driven out of Mosul once before, the situation today is very different, and it seems likely that al Qaeda will no longer be able to project force in Iraq. President Maliki is declaring victory over terrorism in Iraq, according to Hot Air:

Maliki has declared that the terrorist siege of Baghdad and Iraq has collapsed. He blamed unnamed foreign nations for funding the terrorist wave against his nation, and hailed the new Iraqi Army for its tenacity against the radicals of all stripes.

The importance of this victory is hard to underestimate for what it does for the Maliki government in Iraq, but it’s also important in our efforts against al Qaeda worldwide. Face is everything in the Middle East. Al Qaeda as an organization declared its intent to make Iraq the center of their new Caliphate, but instead suffered a devastating and humiliating defeat at the hands of Iraqi and American infidels, making it clear that Allah did not choose them to establish His domain in Iraq, and possibly not anywhere else. The meme of the anti-war Left has included that the President’s Iraq policy produced a recruiting bonanza for al Qaeda; that’s a one-sided and short-sighted claim. Al Qaeda still exists as an organization outside of Iraq (as the Pakistanis are discovering) and is still recruiting and training fighters, but they’ve lost face (not to mention tens of thousands of fighters and hundreds of millions of dollars), and clerics who once supported international jihad have now denounced bin Laden and his attempts to achieve it. We’ve made progress in the War against Islamic radicalism.

Consider the mindset of the American press, which has absolutely failed to report any positive progress in the Iraq war. They would argue “It’s not news,” but that’s clearly nonsense; it’s huge news. However, the press long ago committed to embarrassing the President by highlighting any perceived weakness in his policy, and what we’re watching here is the vindication of his Iraq policy. They can’t countenance that, so they keep silent. The silence is their admission that they are no longer news organizations.

I’ve never considered the Iraq war a mistake; I thought it was a bold move to address the enormous problem of 1.6 billion Muslims raised to think of the West as satan, by creating a free, independent, Muslim republic right there in the middle east that Muslims could look to as a model. It’s five years later, and the plan seems to be working. President Bush has never been good at selling his policies to the nation, but he’s always been good at sticking to a plan until its completion. My hat is off to his tenacity, and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never denounced him for his Iraq policy.

07/07/2008 (8:00 am)

WMD Housekeeping

The last of Saddam’s Hussein’s yellowcake was successfully transferred to Canada this weekend, leaving in its wake a little crossfire between leftie and rightie blogs about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The yellowcake itself is old, dating from before the 1991 Iraq war, and the International Atomic Energy Agency knew all about it, but it was definitely purchased for the purpose of a nuclear program, and it was definitely owned by the Iraqi government.

I’ll take the reminder of the historic issue to reassert some of the relevant documentation regarding the Iraq war. Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs were real. They were carefully documented by a number of foreign governments, not just ours. Reports on these weapons were compiled before George W. Bush took office, and were the basis for the Clinton administration’s assessment that Saddam Hussein was a significant danger to the US. The subsequent propaganda campaign by the Democrats, with the cooperation of the American press, to pretend that these programs did not exist and that the President lied about them is a study in infamy and mendacity.

Here’s the British government dossier on Iraq’s WMD programs from 2002. It concurs with everything the Bush administration said about Iraq’s programs.

Here’s US inspector David Kay’s testimony before the CIA concerning what he found of Iraq’s WMD programs after the US invasion. It documents ongoing biological and chemical weapons programs. The only thing that was not found was the expected stockpile of chemical weapons; the programs were there, and ongoing.

And here’s that reminder about what Democrats were saying about Iraq as a threat to the US before it became convenient for them to use Iraq as a weapon against the President, (with a cool, slow sound track by Traffic):

The facts are clear. Read the documents for yourself, and draw the obvious conclusions.

05/30/2008 (12:59 pm)

Nukes & Spooks, Put Up Your Dukes

Leftists are predictably and tiresomely crowing “We told you so” in response to Scott McClellan’s tattler book. With the assistance of memeorandum, I selected one of the more serious leftist slime jobs and deconstructed it here.

The site is “Nukes & Spooks,” a blog by three McClatchy journalists. Their article contains a summary of the left’s disingenuous indictment against the Bush administration, based entirely on their own previous reporting, thereby making the point that McClellan’s book adds nothing new to the debate (the same point I made Wednesday). What they’re complaining about, though, is nothing more than normal governance in an uncertain environment, and review of their article confirms that that’s all they have. They’re trying to paint ordinary government workers as Snidely Whiplash, complete with maniacal cackle and curling moustaches. It would be funny if they weren’t so successful at it.

Here’s their indictment:

* The Bush administration was gunning for Iraq within days of the 9/11 attacks, dispatching a former CIA director, on a flight authorized by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, to find evidence for a bizarre theory that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993.

The troubles with Iraq predated 9/11 by about 15 years. The US Congress had already confirmed US policy of regime change in Iraq as early as 1998, based on the invasion of Kuwait, followed by 7 years of Iraqi intransigence in meeting UN requirements. If the complaint is that the administration had Iraq in mind before 9/11, the only sane response is “Of course; why shouldn’t they have?”

Furthermore, administration personnel had discussed Middle East strategy far in advance of 9/11, and even in advance of taking office, and already had a plan in mind for pacifying the anti-American sentiment that was brewing in the Middle East. Yes, that plan involved Iraq. That the McClatchy folks find this somehow ominous suggests they think it’s a bad thing to be aware of current tensions and have a plan in mind. Color me unimpressed.

The alleged connection between the 1993 WTC bombing and Iraq was still under consideration at the time. I don’t recall that the administration used it as a reason supporting the Iraq invasion, for which reason I can’t imagine why it’s somehow damning that they sent someone to verify its accuracy. Yes, they already had Iraq in their sights; go reread the previous two paragraphs if you wonder why.

* Bush decided by February 2002, at the latest, that he was going to remove Saddam by hook or by crook. (Yes, we reported that at the time).

Yes, and if you’ll read the article they linked to, you’ll discover that the Bush administration stated this plainly and in public. There was certainly no outcry against his doing so at the time; the most common liberal response was that if we attacked Hussein, he’d use his WMDs on our troops, sending tens of thousands home in body bags. What, exactly, is their indictment? That they publicly stated that they intended to fulfill a policy that had been decided by an act of Congress in 1998? We’re supposed to be aghast at THAT? Why?

* White House officials, led by Dick Cheney, began making the case for war in August 2002, in speeches and reports that not only were wrong, but also went well beyond what the available intelligence said at that time, and contained outright fantasies and falsehoods.

If you’ll read the McClatchy article they claim proves Cheney went “well beyond what the available intelligence said at that time,” what you’ll find is that we had no hard evidence pointing to an unusual breakthrough in weapons technology. If you’ll read Cheney’s speech that they linked to, you’ll discover that he acknowledges this and explains why it’s meaningless, because Hussein was engaged in an ongoing pattern of deception that had hoodwinked our intelligence, and the UN’s, before. Cheney’s point was that if we know Hussein is working on weapons, and we know he’s deceiving inspectors about what he’s doing, we’d be insane to simply assume he’s not getting anywhere. That’s not fantasy; that’s a sober assessment. To say otherwise is to counsel foreign policy based solely on wishful thinking; and if the administration HAD taken that passive approach, and Hussein had developed serious weapons, they would have condemned them for that, too. (Author’s update: Cheney’s argument here was echoed by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller on the Senate floor on October 10, 2002. “We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam Hussein has been able to make in the development of weapons of mass destruction.” I’m curious to know how alleged misinformation could have produced Rockefeller’s agreement with such an argument.)

* Dissenters, or even those who voiced worry about where the policy was going, were ignored, excluded or punished.

There’s always dissent to any major decision. Some point of view always loses. Anybody who wants to claim that their sober opinions were ignored will get plenty of opportunity to do so from any administration, discussing any topic. I can’t think of a single policy in any administration in which the complaint that “dissenters were ignored” could not be raised — for which reason I simply can’t understand what the indictment is supposed to be here. What is it, besides an insane demand that the President submit every internal decision to nationwide scrutiny?

They name Joseph Wilson among the dissenting voices. We already know why he was ignored — he was not even part of the administration, and he lied.

* The Bush administration didn’t even want to produce the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs that’s justly received so much criticism since.

The administration’s case against Iraq contained a series of indictments that were already well-documented and had long been the subject of public debate. Claims included that Hussein had brutalized his own population, had destabilized the region by building an unusually large military and attacking his neighbors, had flouted UN resolutions, had fired at US aircraft, had reconstituted forbidden weapons programs, and had sponsored international terrorism. To my knowledge, the only parts of the entire case that have ever been disputed are the quantity of chemical weapons (but it’s admitted that he had some), the robustness of the nuclear program (but it’s admitted that he had one), and the use of aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons (they were actually for a missile system that was also forbidden by the terms of the UN agreement.) The bulk of the US case against Hussein was indisputable.

The call for an unwanted NIE was simply one of dozens of instances of the Democrats in Congress attempting to exercise unconstitutional powers over the conduct of the Executive branch of government. And I’m just curious: doesn’t the later criticism vindicate the assessment that an NIE was uncalled for?

* The October 2002 NIE was flawed, no doubt. (My note: see?) But it contained dissents questioning the extent of Saddam’s WMD programs, dissents that were buried in the report. Doubts and dissents were then stripped from the publicly released, unclassified version of the NIE.

Yes. They assessed the evidence, reported what they believed was correct, and omitted what they believed was incorrect. This sounds like normal procedure to me. What’s the indictment?

* The core of the administration’s case for war was not just that Saddam was developing WMDs, but also that, unchecked, he might give them to terrorists to attack the United States. Remember smoking guns and mushroom clouds? Inconveniently, the CIA had determined just the opposite: Saddam would attack the United States only if he concluded a U.S. attack on him was unavoidable. He’d give WMD to Islamist terrorists only “as a last chance to exact revenge.”

Leftists love to say that “the core” of the admininstration’s case was WMDs, but that was only one point; I outline the more complete case above, in the paragraph beginning “The administration’s case against Iraq…” They ignore the rest and focus on WMDs because that’s the only part of the case that’s even remotely debatable. They’ve done it so many times that they’re no longer aware how dishonest a tactic it is; but it’s dishonest, and at some point they must have known it.

As to what the CIA had “determined,” the interesting point is that the later evaluation of captured Iraqi documents concluded something very different. The research documents that Hussein’s government cooperated extensively with various terrorist organizations (of which al Qaeda is only one of dozens), that Hussein habitually used terrorism as a tool of statecraft, that his goals included attacks on America wherever he could pull it off, and even that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda when their goals coincided. This research confirms a major complaint the Bush administration leveled against Saddam Hussein’s government.

So the indictment against the Bush administration here has become that they rejected a CIA assessment that was incorrect. They should be applauding here, not condemning. In fact, I can’t imagine indicting the Bush administration for ignoring just about anything George Tenet told them.

* The Bush administration relied heavily on an Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi… The same INC-supplied “intelligence” used in the White House propaganda effort (you got that bit right, Scott) also was fed to dozens of U.S. and foreign news organizations.

I can’t comment on Chalabi, as I don’t know how much they relied on him. I simply know what the administration’s publicly stated case was; and I can’t find any part of it that was inaccurate, other than the quantity of chemical weapons and the intended use of aluminum tubes. And frankly, I’m not convinced that the quantity of chemical weapons was inaccurate; there’s some evidence that such weapons were found but not categorized as WMDs (because the shells weren’t filled, the chemical agents were still in barrels,) and some more evidence suggesting they might have been moved.

* It all culminated in a speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 making the case against Saddam. Virtually every major allegation Powell made turned out later to be wrong.

To be sure, that wasn’t the culmination of anything other than an attempt to involve the UN. The real culmination was the President’s State of the Union address the previous month, which was pretty accurate (yes, even the famous 16 words that they later wimped out and waffled on. Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium, and British intelligence did tell us this.) But Powell’s report documented Iraqi efforts to sidestep inspectors, which was true. It documented that Hussein never intended to cooperate with the UN, which we know to have been true. It documented comments that many of the weapons had been evacuated; no evidence rebutting this has ever been presented, and it explains why we didn’t find stockpiles of chemical weapons. It documented weapons sites that had held weapons, but were empty when the UN inspectors arrived; there’s no reason to doubt this. “Virtually every allegation Powell made turned out later to be wrong?” They wish.

* The Bush administration tried to link Saddam to al Qaida and, by implication, to the 9/11 attacks.

I listened to several broadcasts in which Vice President Cheney stated very, very clearly that they did not believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks; they did believe, however, that he was involved in financing and abetting international terrorists. This turned out to have been correct.

* An exhaustive review of Saddam Hussein’s regime’s own documents, released in March 2008, found no operational relationship between Saddam and al Qaida.

The same review found extensive relationships between Hussein’s regime and international terrorist groups, both explicit and implicit, and found an indirect relationship with al Qaeda. This report confirmed nearly everything the Bush administration had been saying about Iraq’s involvement in international terrorism. The extent of McClatchy’s sheer, outright lying on this subject has been documented earlier on this blog.

* The Bush administration failed to plan for the rebuilding of postwar Iraq, as we were perhaps the first to report.

That they failed to plan is simply false. That the plan was not so good, is true. The error of Paul Bremer’s approach to post-war Iraq is pretty well documented by now. We’ve adjusted. It’s working better now.

The claim that the Bush administration was somehow criminally negligent in its approach to the Iraq war, and got everything wrong, is false in nearly every particular. There are a few items they got wrong in the run-up, which is inevitable when relying on foreign intelligence. There are a lot more items they got exactly right. What we’re looking at in the McClatchy article is a hit job against a fairly ordinary administration. Scott McClellan adds nothing but another assenting voice to the worst, most incharitable interpretation of what was actually a fairly sensible policy process.

Update: Doug Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during the Bush administration, wrote a much more cogent book than Scott McClellan about the decision-making process in the run-up to the Iraq war, entitled War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. He addresses the inaccuracies of leftist memes like the McClatchy screed much more credibly than I ever could, by virtue of the fact that he was involved personally. Visit the web site he set up for marketing the book, which contains a number of since-declassifed source documents. Also, note the distinction between the press’ reception of Feith’s remarkably accurate insider account with that of McClellan’s: Both the Washington Post and the New York Times refused to review Feith’s book, which disputes the leftist line.

05/19/2008 (6:09 am)

Iraq Detains 1000 AQ Suspects in Mosul

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki continued his vigorous suppression of violent opponents last week by surrounding the Ninevah province in the city of Mosul and then sweeping the city in order to clean up al Qaeda’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq, according to the Reuters report.

Lieutenant-General Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, head of the Iraqi-led offensive that began a week ago, said 1,068 suspects had been detained so far.

“This operation will last until we finish off all the terrorist remnants and outlaws,” he said.

Bill Roggio’s report at Long War Journal adds that of the thousand detainees, almost 200 are known Tier 1 or Tier 2 operatives, according to US Major General Mark Hertling. Tier 1 operatives are operational leaders; Tier 2 operatives are foreign facilitators, bomb makers, or cell leaders.

“There have been some very big fishes caught,” Hertling said.

The Maliki government continues to offer amnesty to armed combatants who have not killed anyone and choose to hand over their weapons. They are to be paid an unspecified amount for the weapons. The amnesty policy has been successful in convincing a large number of members of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army to lay down their weapons in Baghdad and Basra.

Meanwhile, the AP report includes comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who visited Iraq over the weekend. Apparently Ms. Pelosi is beginning to recognize that the Maliki government is producing national reconciliation, which she complained in February they had not. Rightward bloggers are wondering whether this means Ms. Pelosi has adjusted to reality, or whether this is the beginning of a new Dem strategy (see, for example, Power Line and Commentary observations.)

I’ve been admiring Maliki’s shrewd activism for several months now, as the new Iraqi government flexes its muscles in putting down armed opponents around the nation. Saddam Hussein appears to have tolerated large, armed bodies within his country, but the violence of 2006-7 made it clear that an independent Iraqi republic could not sustain such forces. Maliki is taking sane but effective measures to secure the nation from extremes of violence, and now seems to be closing one of the worst lines of foreign incursion.

The goal of the Iraq war all along has been a stable, free, and prosperous republic to stand as an example of how the Middle East can prosper; the Bush administration staked its policy on the notion that prosperous free republics don’t attack each other and don’t breed terrorists. This long-term goal may yet be achieved, despite fierce opposition from foreign terrorist elements and constant, negative posturing from domestic politicians. I remain one of the few who believes the war was not a mistake, but a bold plan with some chance of success.

05/01/2008 (9:29 am)

Maliki Government Confronts Iran

Continuing to consolidate his coalition government, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent a delegation to Iran to confront them with evidence of Iran’s efforts to train and supply Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

The current action follows Maliki’s successful campaign against the Jaysh al Mahdi (“JAM”), or Mahdi Army in Basrah and Nasiriyah in the south and in sections of Baghdad, which in turn prompted Sunni and Kurdish elements to rejoin Maliki’s government. He now appears to be aiming at separating the JAM from its suppliers, hoping eventually to remove the large, heavily armed militia as a factor in Iraqi politics.

Operations continue against the JAM in the Sadr City section of Baghdad, where the Mahdi Army has taken a pounding but continues to resist the government’s efforts to root them out of the city. Maliki continues to offer quarter and enfranchisement to whichever elements of the JAM or other armed groups wish to disarm and join the government. (Note: the comments at Long War Journal are full of detail and analysis not available through the mainstream press, as usual. I recommend investing the time to browse them.)

Maliki is showing himself an able and active leader in this difficult situation. He may succeed at producing a peaceful, pluralistic government, proving that despite some claims to the contrary, quasi-Jeffersonian democracy is possible among Middle Easterners.

Hat tip to Ed Morrissey, who continues to provide the best coverage of this progress in Iraq from his seat at Hot Air.

04/09/2008 (5:38 am)

Petraeus: Much Progress, Much Work Remaining

General David Petraeus delivered a cautious but positive report to Congress yesterday regarding the progress of the Multinational Forces in establishing the new republic of Iraq. According to Petraeus, violence is down and Iraqis are seeking peaceful alternatives to fighting with each other, but the progress is fragile and reversible. Ambassor Ryan Crocker also testified, praising Iraq’s growing economy and functioning government. Both noted that Iran must be closed out of internal Iraqi politics, and counseled a pause in drawing down troops.

The text of Petraeus’ testimony is here, and the text of Crocker’s testimony is here, both in pdf format. Click on the image below to see Gen. Petraeus’ slides. Content courtesy of Bill Roggio’s Long War Journal.

Meanwhile, the leftward blogs have been going berserk over a silly question from Sen. Joe Biden and its answer by Ambassador Crocker, acknowledging that the al Qaeda presence on the Afghan-Pakistan border is greater than the al Qaeda presence in Iraq, a factoid that any astute 13-year-old could have told us. See the video here on Salon.com, and watch the Victory Dance at Hullaballo, where the headline hyperventilates, “Joe Biden Just Obliterated Every Administration Argument About Iraq.” It’s typical of the talking points top Democrat operatives feed the Echo Chamber — factually true, logically irrelevant. The Democratic base doesn’t understand the concept, “relevance,” so they’ll recite the irrelevant point ad nauseum as though anybody can see how it simply ends the debate. In a sense, they’re right: reciting an irrelevant talking point and refusing to respond to intelligent discussion does, in fact, end any possibility of debate among adults. It’s easy being a Democrat.

The left’s complaints about the war have always had the character of children who watch too much TV: if the show isn’t over in 1 hour, and getting the Bad Guy doesn’t tie things up neatly, it’s time to change the channel. Al Qaeda is only one of dozens of players in the global war against radical Islam, and a stable Iraq can yield long-term benefits that may change hundreds of millions of Muslim minds — but the leftists just want to get the Bad Guy so the show can end.

I found the testimonies of Petraeus and Crocker enlightening and informative, with several details about Iraq that don’t ordinarily make it into the press reports. They’re worth a read.

04/07/2008 (10:59 am)

Speculation About Maliki's Timing

Comments in the wake of Ed Morrissey’s latest analysis of Iraqi President Maliki’s move to erase Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army from the Iraq equation suggest that current US election politics are driving his timing of the move. It’s a plausible theory, suggested by a reader who calls himself Romeo13:

Key here is that Al-Mal and the other centrist Iraqis understand that they only have a short window of time to rein in these militias.

They can read the tea leaves, and understand that the US’ internal politics, which are beyond their control, are now a ticking time bomb. They have to gain military control of the whole country, BEFORE the US elections, because if a Dem wins, they will not be able to count on US backup even between the election, and the Presidential Inauguration.

He continues in a later comment:

One key aspect to the Middle East philosophy and history that most miss is that they will invaribly back the strong horse. Shifting alliances is not looked down on, as it is in the West, and is a much more normal activity. They don’t seem to take is as personally as we do…

With that cultural perception as a backdrop, Al-Mal had our backing, BUT, the Politicians did not know if WE would last long enough to allow him to actually gain control. The surge showed that we were willing to stick with Al-Mal thus making him a “strong horse”, and gaining him more internal back up.

Now, he has to consolidate his power base, and show he will still be able to maintain control IF we leave. So he has about 6 months to get rid of the militias…

Morrissey’s analysis was based on this AP article, that predicts moves to disallow armed militias from running in the upcoming elections. Note my emphasis:

Iraq’s major Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties have closed ranks to force anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to disband his Mahdi Army militia or leave politics, lawmakers and officials involved in the effort said Sunday.

Such a bold move risks a violent backlash by al-Sadr’s Shiite militia. But if it succeeds it could cause a major realignment of Iraq’s political landscape.

The first step will be adding language to a draft election bill banning parties that operate militias from fielding candidates in provincial balloting this fall, the officials and lawmakers said. The government intends to send the draft to parliament within days and hopes to win approval within weeks.

Says Morrissey:

The move against Sadr in Basra clearly had a lot more support from Iraqis than previously thought. Even Shi’ites have had enough of the militia leader and want to see security and control managed from the elected government. The military phase was only the start; the political phase has just begun.

The end may be near for al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The Iraqi Assembly has prevented full-scale US military action against the Mahdi Army for the last four years, but may be ready to step out of the way.

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