Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The French Were Right

Carnegie Analysis (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
By Project Director Joseph Cirincione

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

In a February 23 speech, President Bush asserted what has become a common defense of his decision to go to war with Iraq. All nations saw the danger, he said, but only he had the courage to act. It is true that many nations believed that Iraq likely retained some undeclared chemical or biological weapons. But few thought the danger so grave and immediate as to require war over containment and intrusive inspections. In the UN Security Council, France was the most outspoken opponent of the rush to war. For their opposition, the French were ridiculed and reviled by many Americans, with the Congressional leadership going so far as to remove "French" from the fries and toast on Capitol Hill menus. One year later, rereading the French position, even the most ardent Franco-hater should admit they owe France an apology.

For the rest of the analysis, see Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Sunday, February 22, 2004


The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare
The climate could change radically, and fast. That would be the mother of all national security issues


January 26, 2004
By David Stipp

[Blog editor's note: Until today (Sunday, February 22, 2004) I had heard nothing about a "secret" Pentagon "nightmare" report that holds that radical climate change, not terrorism, may be the most immediate and serious threat to American national security. So far as I can tell, the report first surfaced in a January piece in Fortune magazine, hardly a hotbed of radical alternative journalism, but didn't receive much wider attention until today. (For instance see the The Guardian) At the very least, what's of more than passing interest is a Pentagon report that holds global warming and the like could pose a huge threat to world stability at the same time the Bush Administration is arguing that such concerns are of little merit. Stay tuned for further developments... ]

Global warming may be bad news for future generations, but let's face it, most of us spend as little time worrying about it as we did about al Qaeda before 9/11. Like the terrorists, though, the seemingly remote climate risk may hit home sooner and harder than we ever imagined. In fact, the prospect has become so real that the Pentagon's strategic planners are grappling with it.

The threat that has riveted their attention is this: Global warming, rather than causing gradual, centuries-spanning change, may be pushing the climate to a tipping point. Growing evidence suggests the ocean-atmosphere system that controls the world's climate can lurch from one state to another in less than a decade—like a canoe that's gradually tilted until suddenly it flips over. Scientists don't know how close the system is to a critical threshold. But abrupt climate change may well occur in the not-too-distant future. If it does, the need to rapidly adapt may overwhelm many societies—thereby upsetting the geopolitical balance of power.

For the rest of the article, see Fortune

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Weapons 'capacity' of Iraq challenged

By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff, 2/17/2004

WASHINGTON -- Prewar Iraq was highly unlikely to produce a device that could easily inflict mass casualties -- despite President Bush's current assertion that Saddam Hussein had the "capacity" to make a weapon of mass destruction, former weapons inspectors and former national security officials say.

Bush's assertion about Iraq's capabilities, which he made repeatedly during his interview last week on the NBC television program "Meet the Press," is a central prong of his administration's defense that the war was justified despite the failure to find stockpiles of unconventional weapons. It is a theme to which Bush is likely to return often in this election year. And it marks Bush's first characterization of the Iraq threat since the testimony of his former chief weapons inspector, David Kay.

For the rest of the report, see Boston Globe

Distorting the Intelligence

New York Times
February 17, 2004

The Senate Intelligence Committee made the right call last week when it decided to examine whether top administration officials had exaggerated or misused the intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs. Whatever horrendous errors the intelligence analysts made were surely compounded when the president and other senior officials emphasized unlikely worst-case scenarios to win support for the invasion.

In making its case for war, the administration leapt well beyond the battlefield chemical weapons that Iraq had used in the past and repeatedly raised the specter that Iraqi nuclear and biological weapons might cause truly enormous casualties. Top officials warned that Saddam Hussein might use these terrifying weapons against the American homeland, either by providing them to terrorists or by firing biological weapons directly from points offshore. In making such claims, the administration went beyond the intelligence consensus in important areas.

To read the rest of the editorial, see New York Times

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Secret report warns of Iraq 'Balkanisation'

By Nicolas Pelham in Baghdad
Financial Times
February 12 2004

A confidential report prepared by the US-led administration in Iraq says that the attacks by insurgents in the country have escalated sharply, prompting fears of what it terms Iraq's "Balkanisation". The findings emerged after a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the top US general in Iraq, John Abizaid, on Thursday.

"January has the highest rate of violence since September 2003," the report said. "The violence continues despite the expansion of the Iraqi security services and increased arrests by coalition forces in December and January."

The report, which is based on military data and circulated to foreign organisations by the US aid agency USAid, diverges with public statements by US officials who claim that security in the country is improving.

For the rest of this story, see Financial times

Friday, February 13, 2004

Setting the record straight

Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate

Blog editor's note: This column by Molly Ivins is perhaps the most compelling one I've read by an American observer on the issue of the Bush administration, WMD and the war with Iraq. To dismiss what she has to say simply because she is a "partisan" is easy to do by uncritical supporters of the President, but more thoughtful people would do well to consider her case and the evidence she presents.

- AUSTIN, Texas -- Just for the record, since the record is in considerable peril. These are Orwellian days, my friends, as the Bush administration attempts to either shove the history of the second Gulf War down the memory hole or to rewrite it entirely. Keeping a firm grip on actual historical fact, all of it easily within our imperfect memories, is not that easy amid the swirling storms of misinformation, misremembering and misstatement. But since the war itself stands as a monument to what happens when we let ourselves get stampeded by a chorus of disinformation, let's draw the line right now.

To read the rest of Ms. Ivins' analysis, see Working for Change

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

US image abroad will 'take years' to repair
Experts tell Congress 'bottom has fallen out' for US support abroad.

By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com
February 9, 2004

In testimony last week to the House Appropriations subcommittee in Washington, The New York Times reports that Margaret Tutwiler, in her first public appearance as the State Department official in charge of public diplomacy, acknowledged that America's standing abroad had deteriorated to such an extent that "it will take us many years of hard, focused work" to restore it.

"Unfortunately, our country has a problem in far too many parts of the world," she said, "a problem we have regrettably gotten into over many years through both Democrat and Republican administrations, and a problem that does not lend itself to a quick fix or a single solution or a simple plan."

For the rest of this report, see Christian Science Monitor

Sunday, February 08, 2004

10 Questions Russert Didn't Ask
The missed opportunities for follow-ups

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher

Blog editor's note: Editor & Publisher is the "bible" of the newspaper industry

NEW YORK (February 08, 2004) -- Partisans may debate whether Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning was too tough or too easy on President George W. Bush in his questioning. Certainly, Russert challenged Bush sharply on several occasions, but he also missed opportunities to raise at least 10 highly relevant questions:

To see what the questions are (and they're tough ones), see Editor & Publisher

The Biggest Mistake of All

What follows is an excerpt from an 2-8-04 OpEd piece by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. To read the entire column, see New York Times

"'But the great mistake of the neocons and this administration,' notes my friend George Packer, the New Yorker writer who has done great reporting from Iraq, 'was to think that America could fight this war alone. We could not win the cold war without our democratic allies abroad, and without real sacrifice at home, and we cannot win this one without both either. This is a huge, long-term war of ideas that needs our public's participation and that of our allies. But this administration has never summoned that.'"

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Feds Win Right to War Protesters' Records

Associated Press Writer
Saturday February 7, 2004

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - In what may be the first subpoena of its kind since the Communist-hunting days of the 1950s, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists.

In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were served this past week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury Tuesday, the protesters said.

Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas, served by a local sheriff's deputy who works on the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

For the rest of the story, see Guardian

Secret Obsessions at the Top

New York Times
February 7, 2004

To unravel our intelligence failures in Iraq, it helps to look back at what was once one of the most secret and scary chapters in U.S.-Soviet relations. An intelligence failure risked nuclear war in the 1980's — but this was a mistake by the K.G.B.

In 1981, we now know, the K.G.B. chairman said at a secret conference that President Ronald Reagan was planning to launch a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. The Soviets became consumed with the U.S. threat, just as the Bush administration became obsessed with the Iraq threat. The K.G.B. ordered all its offices in NATO countries to seek evidence of Mr. Reagan's plans for a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and they code-named the effort RYAN.

Once K.G.B. officers knew what Moscow wanted, they found "evidence" everywhere of Mr. Reagan's secret plans for a nuclear strike — confirming Moscow's worst fears.

For the rest of this interesting analysis, see New York Times

The Intelligence Commission

New York Times
February 7, 2004

President Bush's new commission to review why the intelligence on Iraq misfired looks more like an effort to deflect attention until after the election than a genuine attempt to get to the bottom of the Iraq fiasco. Though dignified and bipartisan, the members lack the technical expertise to really unravel what was wrong with American intelligence and suggest how to fix it. And Mr. Bush withheld the mandate to get at the big political question they could answer: Did the administration hype intelligence to increase support for the war?

The co-chairmen are appropriately of opposite parties: Charles Robb, a Democrat who married Lyndon Johnson's daughter and went on to be elected as governor and senator in Virginia, and Laurence Silberman, a Republican and retired appeals court judge who was a Reagan appointee. The other five members include Senator John McCain, a maverick Republican known to speak his mind; Lloyd Cutler, who was legal counsel for two Democratic presidents; Richard Levin, president of Yale University; and Patricia Wald, a liberal who was chief judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. The only appointee with a deep knowledge of intelligence gathering is Adm. William Studeman, a former deputy director of central intelligence.

This group lacks the stature and name recognition that would give its findings commanding credibility. Worse yet, it looks as if Mr. Bush, who chose not to allow a truly independent panel, will limit its mandate to a review of intelligence gathering and analysis. He has given the panel the authority to examine why the prewar estimates of Iraq's weapons stockpiles differ from what has been found and to evaluate intelligence on weapons programs in other countries. Mr. Bush did not ask the panel for an unfettered look at how his administration had presented the intelligence in making the case for war. By dodging that, the president leaves voters to find their own answers.

For the original text, see New York Times

Administration's Message on Iraq Now Strikes Discordant Notes

New York Times
February 7, 2004

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 — It will be more than a year before the country hears the conclusions of the commission that President Bush reluctantly appointed on Friday to examine what has gone wrong with American intelligence collection.

But in recent days, it has been obvious in Washington that something has also gone awry in a White House that prides itself on never wavering from its message, especially when the subject is Iraq. At moments, Mr. Bush and his national security team — badgered for explanations about whether the country would have gone to war if it knew then what it knows now — have sounded as if these days, it is every warrior for himself.

Rather than uniform and disciplined, their answers have been ad hoc and inconsistent. And the result is that the president appears very much on the defensive just at a moment when his aides thought he would be reaping the political benefits of ridding the world of Saddam Hussein.

For the rest of Sanger's news analysis, see New York Times

Friday, February 06, 2004

Get Me Rewrite!

February 6, 2004

Right now America is going through an Orwellian moment. On both the foreign policy and the fiscal fronts, the Bush administration is trying to rewrite history, to explain away its current embarrassments.

Let's start with the case of the missing W.M.D. Do you remember when the C.I.A. was reviled by hawks because its analysts were reluctant to present a sufficiently alarming picture of the Iraqi threat? Your memories are no longer operative. On or about last Saturday, history was revised: see, it's the C.I.A.'s fault that the threat was overstated. Given its warnings, the administration had no choice but to invade.

A tip from Joshua Marshall, of www.talkingpointsmemo.com, led me to a stark reminder of how different the story line used to be. Last year Laurie Mylroie published a book titled "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the C.I.A. and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror." Ms. Mylroie's book came with an encomium from Richard Perle; she's known to be close to Paul Wolfowitz and to Dick Cheney's chief of staff. According to the jacket copy, "Mylroie describes how the C.I.A. and the State Department have systematically discredited critical intelligence about Saddam's regime, including indisputable evidence of its possession of weapons of mass destruction."

For the rest of this column, see Paul Krugman in NYT

The Administration's Scramble

The New York Times
February 6, 2004

President Bush and his top national security officials spent the week in an increasingly desperate attempt to defend themselves from the damaging conclusion by David Kay, the president's former chief weapons inspector, that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the American-led invasion. None of them succeeded. The strained remarks by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, fell far short of vindicating the way Mr. Bush rushed the nation into war without international support. So did President Bush's own attempt to mount a defense of the war in a speech in South Carolina yesterday.

The saddest spectacle was Mr. Powell, who had argued the case for using force against Iraq before the United Nations, based largely on intelligence that now appears to have been wrong. In an interview with The Washington Post on Monday, Mr. Powell said he was not sure that he would have recommended an invasion had he known Iraq did not have stockpiles of banned weapons. The next day, in remarks coordinated with the White House, he quickly retreated and said, "The President made the right decision." We have seen Mr. Powell do this before. He does not make himself look better by dropping hints about his true feelings and then scurrying back to the loyal soldier's position when scolded by the White House.

To read the rest of the editorial, see The New York Times

Thursday, February 05, 2004

February 5, 2004

Tenet Says Analysts Never Painted Iraq as Imminent Threat

New York Times

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 — The head of the Central Intelligence Agency delivered a passionate and wide-ranging defense of the C.I.A. today, asserting that its analysts never claimed that Iraq posed an "imminent threat" and insisting that they never tailored their findings for anyone.

George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, said the people in his agency acted with great integrity and professionalism before the war with Iraq. He said any errors or shortcomings in their work were a result of the fundamental nature of the spy business, which involves trying to make sense out of deliberate deception and obfuscation.

For the rest of the story, see New York Times

We Had Good Intel—The U.N.'s

The inspectors were 'HUMINT.' They were far more accurate, it turned out, than billions of dollars of satellites

By Fareed Zakaria
Newsweek International Affairs Editor

Feb. 9 issue - "We were all wrong," says weapons inspector David Kay. Actually, no. There was one group whose prewar estimates of Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities have turned out to be devastatingly close to reality—the U.N. inspectors. Consider what Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N. nuclear agency, told the Security Council on March 7, 2003, after his team had done 247 inspections at 147 sites: "no evidence of resumed nuclear activities ... nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any related sites." He went on to say that evidence suggested Iraq had not imported uranium since 1990 and no longer had a centrifuge program. He concluded that Iraq's nuclear capabilities had been effectively dismantled by 1997 and its dual-use industrial plants had decayed. All these claims appear to be dead-on, based on Kay's findings.

For the rest of this story, see MSNBC.com/Newsweek

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Kerry calls on Bush to settle questions on military record

By Patrick Healy
Boston Globe, 2/3/2004

TUCSON -- Democratic presidential front-runner John F. Kerry, who has turned his decorated Vietnam War service into a theme of his campaign, said yesterday that President Bush and the US military should settle questions -- raised recently by Kerry allies -- about whether Bush completed his military service requirement in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1970s.

Before attending a campaign rally here that drew 2,000 people, on the eve of today's presidential primary in Arizona and six other states, the Massachusetts senator said that the matter of Bush's military service record was ''a question that I think remains open.'' Kerry added that he lacked ''the facts'' to make a judgment about accusations that Bush ended his military commitment prematurely.

For the rest of the story, see Boston Globe

Monday, February 02, 2004

Bush OK's Independent
Probe of Prewar Intelligence

By Dana Milbank and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 31, 2004

President Bush has agreed to support an independent inquiry into the prewar intelligence that he used to assert that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, Republican and congressional sources said today.

The shift by the White House, which had previously maintained that any such inquiry should wait until a more exhaustive weapons search has been complete, came after pressure from lawmakers in both parties and from the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq.

There was no official confirmation from the White House today, but several sources in the government said Bush's announcement of support for an independent commission is imminent. Vice President Cheney has begun to call lawmakers on the intelligence committees, who have encouraged the administration to proceed with an inquiry.

For the rest of this story, see washingtonpost.com