One of These Things is Not Like the Other

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One of these things just doesn't belong.

Over here we have the latest CIA assessment of potential links between Saddam and al Qaeda. Executive summary: none. Oh, and that deal about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi getting treatment in a Baghdad hospital for an amputated leg? Scratch that, two legs.

Over here we have Don Rumsfeld desparately trying to the square the CIA findings with his own belief system, to wit Iraq and al Qaeda talked about all kinds of things including safe havens and WMD. Only pointy-headed CIA-types refuse to see what that means.

Bottomline, if this pissing match between the CIA and the Bush administration goes on much longer we'll all get hosed.

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  1. Cheney/Edwards tonight is going to be a revival of the Monty Python “Dead Parrot” sketch.

    Edwards: This parrot has gone to meet its maker!

    Cheney: No it isn’t.

    Edwards: It is!

    Cheney: No it isn’t. It’s pining for the fjords.

  2. This is incredibly unimportant at this point. All the Bushies can do is make themselves look worse by clinging. Just say, “Look, known baddie with unknown WMD capability had previously been shopped for support by the guys that just blew us up. That is bad, whether he agreed to support them at that previous meeting or not. It was critical that we find out as soon as possible what capbability there was. Zarqawi was running all over Baghdad, and we are not willing to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt. We aren’t putting Saddam on trial here, we are weighing risks.”

  3. Either the Bush administration is full of idiots, or they believe the American people are idiots. It is probably the latter. There are a number of conservative thinkers and even liberal warhawks who can make a persuasive argument that the Saddam/Al Qaeda connection is not the issue. Even the WMD is a diversion. We invaded Iraq not to attack the 9/11 killers directly but primarily as part of a bigger strategy to transform the Middle East and dry up support for terrorist organizations in general. To make the world a better place. It is a bold proactive strategy, one that makes a lot of theoretical sense, even if difficult to implement, and this strategy earned the Administration a lot of support from liberal idealist types, including Tony Blair. But I have never heard anyone inside the upper levels of the administration publicly state that this is actually what they are thinking. Instead they continually conflate 9/11 and Saddam directly. I used to think this was a cynical ploy because Karl Rove et al. felt that playing on the emotions of 9/11 made more sense politically. However, after watching the debate, I’m beginning to think that Bush himself believes the 9/11-Saddam connection and the neocons making strategy don’t trust our President to understand the bigger picture.

  4. I believe that a Saddam/al Qaeda connection existed, but to what degree and at what point in time did they start colluding is up for grabs. Sure, can use the argument that the Baathists really had no time for Islamic fundamentalists, but with both having big hardons against the US there is no reason to believe they would not want to grind an axe together. Saddam’s main bitch was primarily against Israel, and he was friendly to Palestinian terrorists of all stripes, but sometime after the first WTC bombing shortly after 9/11 did the contact with Al Qaeda begin. Of course I really doubt Saddam had anything to do with 9/11 itself and I agree with Vanya as far as there is a much bigger plan in the neo-con mind that nobody is really discussing in depth in the mainstrean media because they’re so focused on WMD’s, and what the Bushies really believe as far as a Saddam/al Qaeda connection so as to be used as an excuse to go to war in Iraq.

  5. I believe that a Saddam/al Qaeda connection existed, but to what degree and at what point in time did they start colluding is up for grabs. Sure, can use the argument that the Baathists really had no time for Islamic fundamentalists, but with both having big hardons against the US there is no reason to believe they would not want to grind an axe together. Saddam’s main bitch was primarily against Israel, and he was friendly to Palestinian terrorists of all stripes, but sometime after the first WTC bombing shortly after 9/11 did the contact with Al Qaeda begin. Of course I really doubt Saddam had anything to do with 9/11 itself and I agree with Vanya as far as there is a much bigger plan in the neo-con mind that nobody is really discussing in depth in the mainstrean media because they’re so focused on WMD’s, and what the Bushies really believe as far as a Saddam/al Qaeda connection so as to be used as an excuse to go to war in Iraq.

  6. I imagine a sketch where members of the administration come in and lay on a therapists couch, and begin talking about Iraq:

    Bush: Well I guess it all comes down to the fact that he tried to kill my daddy.
    Rumsfeld: I delivered the weapons to him. I had no idea. I had to fix my mistakes.
    Cheney: Strategically, we need to control the oil. (Why does he always get the “oil” line?)
    Rice: I need to prove that my theories aren’t all academic.
    Wolfowitz: Muslims are the problem. They kill Israeli’s they kill Americans. All they know is killing, and they must be controlled.

    After the war started, I had one of those “barber shop” moments that I’ve always associated with Mayberry. The men in the shop were talking about the war and nobody was happy about it. A couple of thoughts were floated: the one that got the most nods. “We should have finished the job the first time.”

    Al Qaeda, WMD, human rights, spreading democracy, etc. They’re all sizzle.

    I’m not disappointed that we went to Iraq. I think that it’s a good thing. That it comes down to cleaning up a mess we created. That it comes down to ending sanctions that punished the people in the hopes that we could make them suffer enough to kill their leader.

    Furthermore, Iraq has proven a boon in that it is unlikely that we will ever implement the “Bush Doctrine,” which is a pile of crap, for the foreseeable future. We’ll have proof next time, or we won’t go.

    The sales job the administration has done does not indear the bastards to me. I admit it was a job that needed doing and one that there was never going to be a good time to get it done.

    I feel like I got the car I wanted, but still hate the salesman.

  7. This is incredibly unimportant at this point.

    if and only if, mr ligon, you believe that such claims as were made to this effect by the bush administration prior to invading iraq were an honest mistake — and not in any way part of a propaganda campaign designed to put a gullible public squarely but unknowingly behind the initiation of a neoconservative Global Democratic Revolution by implicitly indicting the uninvolved.

    i submit that, for that reason, such deception IS vitally important — for the same reason the watergate break-in was important. fixating on the pragmatic and ignoring the intent because one finds it unpalatable is poor management.

  8. Even if anyone were to give some sort of credence to a ‘grand strategy’ to transform the Middle East. It’s execution has been the most spectacularly bungled non-reported event of this administration.

    Even if there was a grand strategy, the actions driving the Iraqi occupation (yes, that is what we should call it) have all had the fingerprints oof the Bush re-election team all over them; nothing that has transpired has given even one shred of support to the theory we are out to ‘transform the Middle East’. It has all been done with an on the cheap, quick in-quick out attitude. From the inadquate planning for troops sent in to the revolving door of adminsitrators. First we had Jay Garner who was going to turn it over to Chalabi (the awaited Iraqi savior), then it was Bremer, than it was a series of failed proposals for voting and apportionment. The rush to appointment of an interim government, the rush to partial elections.

    The work in Iraq is hard work, but this administration had no clue going in (actually they did but they ignored all the experts), and they have no clue how to get out either.

    Even if the neocons had any kind of strategy, its execution has depended on a two-pronged approach of keeping Bush himself in the dark as to the true goal (he’s tooo much of a simpleton to understand any kind of nuance) and keeping the rest of the country in the dark as well.

    The only viable means of accomplishing both has been the continu conflation of Saddam/Iraq with terrorism. . .

    Unfortunately the wheels are starting to come off, given the President’s inability to articulate what he fundamentally does not understand, from the last debate.

    It will be interesting to see Cheney pick up the pieces and try to put the Saddam/terrorism Humpty Dumpty policy together again.

  9. I believe that a Saddam/al Qaeda connection existed

    mesh, i’m glad to see you use the proper verb, because in the face of the lack of any evidence you do indeed hold a belief.

    whether or not belief systems should play a role in your decision in november is up to you, of course.

  10. nothing that has transpired has given even one shred of support to the theory we are out to ‘transform the Middle East’.

    except, chris, that bush has given entire speeches on the topic and neoconservative organizations and thinkers, both in and outside of the bush administration, have been calling for exactly such a plan for a decade or more.

    the development and execution of such plan as they had has been exceedingly poor, i agree with you — so much so that calling it a “plan” is probably to ennoble it undeservedly. but the idealism, the philosophy is in fact the driver for the bush adminstration in iraq (and, might i guess, eventually syria and iran) — and that can be seen in the words and writings of influential neocon philosophers like wolfowitz, kristol, fukuyama and others.

  11. that bush has given entire speeches on the topic and neoconservative organizations and thinkers, both in and outside of the bush administration, have been calling for exactly such a plan for a decade or more.

    Thank you for pointing this out.

    Academic discussions on transforming the Middle East are one thing. But this is not what has been sold either to the American public or to our allies, as the debate the other night so clearly showed. The constant fear-mongering belies a different motive.

    And again, the actions on the ground in the treatment of prisoners (Abu-Ghraib), the inability to come to grips with the Shia-Sunni divide, the Kurd-Turkish divide. . .all these belie any understanding of either the culture or the reality on the ground that face the troops. All this was well known prior to our going in.

  12. Chris A – http://www.pnac.org

    Look at the names. Look at the strategy they’re selling. Look at the dates.

    Jasan, RTFA. No evidence that Zarqawi was provided refuge by Saddam.

    deron, if you drive away from a sleazy car salesman with a good car at a good price, you got lucky. Don’t go back him next time.

  13. there is no reason to believe they would not want to grind an axe together

    Except of course for the fact that the terrorists wanted Saddam gone every bit as much as they wanted whatever it is they want from us. And I realize that it takes a lack of brains to think that suicide-bombing is an effective tactic, but I have a hard time believing that anyone would be dumb enough to strengthen somebody in order to fight a common enemy while in possession of full knowledge that they’ll have to take them on themseves once the common enemy is gone.

  14. I have a hard time believing that anyone would be dumb enough to strengthen somebody in order to fight a common enemy while in possession of full knowledge that they’ll have to take them on themseves once the common enemy is gone.

    I hate to break this to you, but we did this with Saddam Hussein against Iran.

  15. Chris is right. The Bush regime has been playing with US power like a dilettante who has finally been given the job of his dreams. Lots of guys who watch football have interesting theories about how their team could do better, but no owner is rushing to hire them.

    The reason why smart governments are so cautious about using military power is because, frankly, failure isn’t an option. Once you start something, you pretty much have to finish it or suffer a disastrous loss of face.

    For all that we tremble at the thought of giving up and going home, that is not the worst possible consequence. The worst is that we might actually put forward every ounce of effort and still fail. We might be left bankrupt, bewildered, and weak, instead of angry, humiliated, and heavily armed. The first has people sharpening their knives for us, while the second has them snickering at us, but giving us a wide berth.

    I don’t expect that Bush or his cohorts understand that kind of “nuance.” I don’t expect that they really understand that people from different cultures think differently. In their minds, the Middle Easterners are really just Americans who dress funny.

  16. joe:

    I did RTFA. I said, “Zarqawi was running all over Baghdad, and we are not willing to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt.”

    From TFA:

    “”It’s still being worked,” he said. “It (the assessment) … doesn’t make clear-cut, bottom-line judgments” about whether Saddam’s regime was aiding al-Zarqawi.

    He said the report contained new details of al-Zarqawi ‘s prewar activities in Iraq, including the arrests in late 2002 or early 2003 of three of his “associates” by the regime.

    “This was brought to Saddam’s attention and he ordered one of them released,” he said, providing no further details.

    “What is indisputable is that Zarqawi was operating out of Baghdad and was involved in a lot of bad activities,” he said, including ordering Foley’s killing.”

    For some, the idea of a ‘link’ between OBL and Saddam means you have photos of the two in bed together, preferably with full audio of nefarious plan pillow talk. For others, that AQ had petitioned Saddam for support, that both despised the US, that Saddam had unknown WMD capability, and that Zarqawi was not being contained by Saddam establishes sufficient grounds for concern. Saddam is guilty until proven innocent when US interests are at stake.

    I have a similar view of the whole aluminum tube incident. The fact is that the material used in those tubes was off limits for a reason. We do not have to prove Saddam was doing anything regarding WMD with them. The mere fact that Saddam was Saddam was grounds to remove him, and any degree of uncertainty that could be eliminated by toppling him adds to the case. He does not get the benefit of the doubt.

    The deception of the Bush Administration is of the form of throwing every negative thing Iraq has ever done at you to see what sticks. They overstate their certainty about pieces of evidence, but don’t lose sight of the fact that there was plenty wrong. You don’t have to believe that the aluminum would be used in a centrifuge to acknowledge that Saddam wasn’t supposed to purchase that grade of aluminum AT ALL.

    I agree 100% with deron’s comment about the car and the salesman, if not with some of the particulars of his supporting reasoning. I am also worried that a different, more pleasant salesman would not have sold me the car that I wanted.

    Believing that this is all about Afghanistan or even AQ is simplistic, and I would be much more sympathetic if I heard Kerry say something like, “Well, the target choice was very poor. My priorities would be to get control of nuclear material in Russia (which is THE best Kerry positon on any issue, by far) AND to flat out deny Iran, N. Korea, and Iraq nuclear development capability even if it means invading all three.” I don’t ever hear that second part though. I just hear fantasy talk about holding summits and convincing those countries to play nice. It all adds up to reinforce my very real concern that a New Democrat won’t put boots on the ground to make sure.

  17. Jason,

    “…very real concern that a New Democrat won’t put boots on the ground to make sure.”

    Are you saying Kerry is a New Democrat?

    A “New Democrat” like Bill Clinton or Joe Lieberman (DLC types) would probably do that – but JFK is an old Liberal Democrat”.

  18. “A “New Democrat” like Bill Clinton or Joe Lieberman (DLC types) would probably do that – but JFK is an old Liberal Democrat”.”

    Bill would launch missiles. Deterrence means missiles. Boots are not acceptable. I understand the sentiment, believe me, but you can’t turn a country upside down to find everything the local tyrant has been hiding with a cruise missile. I would be cool if you could …

  19. He said the report contained new details of al-Zarqawi’s prewar activities in Iraq, including the arrests in late 2002 or early 2003 of three of his “associates” by the regime.

    “This was brought to Saddam’s attention and he ordered one of them released,” he said, providing no further details.

    Jason-

    Keep in mind that this evidence of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Zarqawi concerns the time period when it was already pretty clear to most of the world that the US was going to invade Iraq, and the only question was when. As crazy as Saddam Hussein is, he surely must have known that the US would seize control of Iraq. At that point he might be quite willing to let Islamists establish bases in Iraq, figuring that it will cause trouble for the US during the post-war reconstruction/occupation/whatever-other-term-one-might-prefer.

    Interestingly, however, most of Zarqawi’s activity, especially before a US invasion became a certainty, was in the Kurdish area, outside of Saddam Hussein’s control.

    This suggests that the religious fanatic in question didn’t unite with the secular dictator in question until war became a certainty and Hussein had nothing left to lose from siding with somebody that he might otherwise not trust. I realize that there’s always the risk that they’ll do so anyway, even without war. Still, when we go to war we should at least keep in mind that war will transform certain risks into certainties.

    If we don’t keep those facts in mind, high-level gov’t officials might do something stupid, like use the phrase “cake walk”. Oh, wait a minute…

  20. I have a hard time believing that anyone would be dumb enough to strengthen somebody in order to fight a common enemy while in possession of full knowledge that they’ll have to take them on themseves once the common enemy is gone.

    I hate to break this to you, but we did this with Saddam Hussein against Iran.

    and with stalin against hitler. and with the mujahedeen against the soviets. and again and again and again. this process of choosing the lesser evil goes by the name of international politics, i believe. there’s no point in naively denying that playing potential enemies off one another to one’s own benefit isn’t a viable strategy.

  21. The mere fact that Saddam was Saddam was grounds to remove him, and any degree of uncertainty that could be eliminated by toppling him adds to the case. He does not get the benefit of the doubt.

    that’s certainly one point of view, mr ligon, and i think millions of americans (after more than a decade of hearing about saddam periodically cast in the most reprehensible light possible) agree with you.

    but one must admit — even on a cursory re-examination of that statement — that such prejudice makes you highly susceptible to anti-saddam propaganda because you’re plainly willing to believe the worst you’re told about saddam uncritically.

    i submit that the white house used that weakness (one compounded by general fear and anger in the aftermath of 9/11) to gain support for the unilateral initiation of an utopian ideological crusade to recast the mideast in our own image.

  22. Believing that this is all about Afghanistan or even AQ is simplistic, and I would be much more sympathetic if I heard Kerry say something like, “Well, the target choice was very poor. My priorities would be to get control of nuclear material in Russia (which is THE best Kerry positon on any issue, by far) AND to flat out deny Iran, N. Korea, and Iraq nuclear development capability even if it means invading all three.” I don’t ever hear that second part though. I just hear fantasy talk about holding summits and convincing those countries to play nice. It all adds up to reinforce my very real concern that a New Democrat won’t put boots on the ground to make sure.

    are you then, mr ligon, denying the efficacy of diplomacy and negotiation in these matters?

  23. al-Quaeda is beside the point wrt Iraq.

    It seems pretty clear to me that Hussein had had tenuous contacts with a-Q in the past (probably feeling each other out), and that we don’t have evidence of recent or substantial contacts. Because Iraq was a police state, he almost certainly knew Zarqawi was in-country, whether or not Z was in the Kurdish area.

    It’s disingenuous to talk about invading Iraq as having a direct relation to pursuing a-Q. It was reasonable to think before the invasion that we might find evidence of a connection, but we haven’t. We knew, however, that Iraq:
    (1) was actively supporting and training terorrists;
    (2) proclaimed itself the US’s foe;
    (3) had had (and used) chemical weapons;
    (4) was acting as though it still had chemical and possibly biological weapons; and
    (5) was seriously interested in (and possibly pursuing) nuclear weapons.

    It seems to me eminently reasonable to think, given those facts, and given 9/11’s demonstration of what terrorists could accomplish, that we should “effect regime change” in Iraq. How best to go about it? That’s a debate for which I lack time and energy just now.

  24. Rumsfeld on the connection between Saddam and Al-Qaida:

    “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3717024.stm

  25. lol — anon, i read that he retracted that comment this afternoon, saying the was “misunderstood” (despite that accurate, direct and unequivocal quote).

    it sounded a bit too truthful, apparently.

  26. “are you then, mr ligon, denying the efficacy of diplomacy and negotiation in these matters?”

    Diplomacy with a tyrant is the art of reminding them that you are willing and capable of destroying their armies and hunting them down in their own country if you think something important is at play. Mostly the hunting them down part. They don’t care if you blow up buildings with cruise missiles, they blow up people all the time.

    Diplomacy absent a sincere fear of being executed by the tyrant is just an excuse for tyrants to pretend they have legitimacy.

    I guess my answer is, in this case, yes, diplomacy demonstrably meant nothing.

  27. I guess my answer is, in this case, yes, diplomacy demonstrably meant nothing.

    so am i right to conclude then that iran and north korea — both states ostensibly opposed to american interests as some define them, both states tyrannical on some level — are fit only for invasion, on the grounds that they defy our will on the question of nuclear proliferation and other issues?

  28. “so am i right to conclude then that iran and north korea — both states ostensibly opposed to american interests as some define them, both states tyrannical on some level — are fit only for invasion, on the grounds that they defy our will on the question of nuclear proliferation and other issues?”

    Let me reiterate, diplomacy with tyrants only works to the extent that tyrants fear that you will kill them. There is no other way to gain good faith at the bargaining table.

    If they defy our will on the issue of nuclear proliferation AND they don’t believe we will come kill them if push comes to shove, yes they are only fit for invasion. If they believe we will come and get them, we can bargain with to the extent that bargaining is cheaper than war.

  29. Jason Ligon says “…diplomacy with tyrants only works to the extent that tyrants fear that you will kill them. There is no other way to gain good faith at the bargaining table.”

    “If they defy our will on the issue of nuclear proliferation AND they don’t believe we will come kill them if push comes to shove, yes they are only fit for invasion.”

    Mr Ligon, where do you propose to get the forces with which to threaten Iran & North Korea? Most of our active forces are tied down in Iraq – where no WMD stockpiles have been found – and we are literally powerless to do anything to “force” Iran or North Korea to disarm.

    At the time the UN inspectors were in Iraq, failing to find anything, it was known that both Iran and North Korea had active programs to develop nuclear weapons. Do you really think the Bush foreign policy has been a success? With our troops stuck in an Iraq quagmire and two hostile powers boldly claiming to have nuclear weapons?

    As for Saddam being guilty til proven innocent – that is the Napoleanic Code, developed in France. I am glad you have not signed on to the anti-French sentiments of the Bush Leaguers.

  30. “Mr Ligon, where do you propose to get the forces with which to threaten Iran & North Korea? Most of our active forces are tied down in Iraq – where no WMD stockpiles have been found – and we are literally powerless to do anything to “force” Iran or North Korea to disarm.”

    Hence my suggestion that the most persuasive Kerry argument would be one about target priorities. If I could be convinced that Kerry would really have swung the sword at either of those other threats effectively, I would probably vote for him. That isn’t the argument being made, though.

    “As for Saddam being guilty til proven innocent – that is the Napoleanic Code, developed in France. I am glad you have not signed on to the anti-French sentiments of the Bush Leaguers.”

    He isn’t a guy whose innocence in general is an unknown. He’s been convicted (as have all tyrants to some degree), but he has escaped prison. The only question is, how costly is it to round him up? One of my gripes with the anti war crowd is the insistence that you treat a known tyrant and declared enemy of your country as though he were a citizen.

  31. If they defy our will on the issue of nuclear proliferation AND they don’t believe we will come kill them if push comes to shove, yes they are only fit for invasion. If they believe we will come and get them, we can bargain with to the extent that bargaining is cheaper than war.

    mr ligon, i agree that negotiation from strength is the only effective negotiation. but i do wonder what the limit of the application of that extortive power will be. is the united states foreign policy now simply that no nation has sovereignty in its internal affairs unless we grant it — that is, empire by extortion? this is certainly the basis of much fear of america as a new, unchecked expansionist state around the world. taking oneself out of our native shoes, from the outside it must appear to some a repeat of german foreign policy of the late 1930s — demand what they cannot give (sovereignty over internal affairs) and conquer with noncompliance as pretext.

    beyond the philosophy and ethics, as a pragmatic matter, like you i doubt we have the tools to conquer the rest of the nations that will not submit to our will — especially as that number will grow as the perception fo american imperial overstretch grows.

    however, i wonder if that reality will stop the bush adminstration from enacting the next phase of the neocon outline of the global democratic revolution. ideology seems to have the priority in the white house. (and, not to draw hyperbolic parallels, but parts of the pnac archive can read like ‘mein kampf’ to a non-american.)

  32. Correction from joe’s reply on the posting: October 5, 2004 12:05 PM

    Here is the write-up at the Information Clearing House on PNAC – The Project for the New American Century.


    The People versus the Powerful is the oldest story in human history. At no point in history have the Powerful wielded so much control. At no point in
    history has the active and informed involvement of the People, all of them, been more absolutely required.

    William Rivers Pitt: 02/25/03

    The Project for the New American Century, or PNAC, is a Washington-basedthink tank created in 1997. Above all else, PNAC desires and demands one
    thing: The establishment of a global American empire to bend the will of all nations. They chafe at the idea that the United States, the last
    remaining superpower, does not do more by way of economic and military force to bring the rest of the world under the umbrella of a new socio-economic Pax Americana.

    A funded neo-con think tank, whose motives are less than academic.

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