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(UNDER CONSTRUCTION)

:: Wednesday, July 30, 2003 ::

Media Relations Ethics 101

I was quite disturbed by the press conference this afternoon by Indiana law enforcement officials, on the Shannon Sherrill case. Seeing Mike Sherrill's hopes being dashed after learning that he had been duped by a cruel imposter was bad enough, but it appears that we got to see his reaction nearly in real time:
The girl's father, Mike Sherrill, said he took the news of the alleged hoax "real hard," breaking down in sobs while talking to reporters.

"I wasn't expecting this at all. When they called me with the information that we were going to have a news conference, I thought they were going to bring Shannon in here. I thought this was something," he said before covering his face and breaking into tears.

According to the AP version, Sherrill learned that this was a hoax 15 minutes before the press conference.

Keeping such news under wraps so as not to bleed off thunder for your dog and pony show is standard practice in media relations, but they had time to make a flippin' name placard for this poor guy. The whole spectacle just looked unseemly to me. I can't imagine parading someone in front of the media right after giving him what was probably the worst news he's heard in nearly two decades. What the hell?

:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:52 PM [+] ::
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"Hostage Taking?"

A large segment of the blogosphere is chirping about this story:
Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: "If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics are justified, he said, because, "It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been released in due course, he added later.

The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.

Most of the bloggers who have been calling attention to this brief passage (which is certainly not the whole story about the event described, as it was offered as a vignette in a broader piece on intelligence gathering successes in Iraq) have raised valid questions about whether this crosses the line to "kidnapping" noncombatants to intimidate combatants into surrendering -- clearly illegal, immoral, and, as Jurjen Smies notes, contrary to U.S. Army doctrine.

Then there's Jim Henley. He prefers to approach the issue with uncharacteristic characteristic hysterics and Damn You All To Hell™ melodrama:
Stamp it on our coins. Include it in the prayers that open Congress. Add it to the instruction block of all triplicate government forms. Use it as the description line for your warblog.
. . . and to the Republic for which it stands, One Nation, Under God, Indivisible. If you want your family released, turn yourself in.

[...]
By the way. I never want to hear another word about the alleged iniquities of Justin Raimondo, ANSWER, Robert Fisk, Patrick Buchanan, Lew Rockwell or even, god help us, the French. Not one more fucking word.

Forensics for Dummies: when you don't have sound reasoning or empirical evidence going for you, go heavy on the emotional blackmail.

But seriously, am I misreading the quoted passage? It seems quite clear to me that Col. Hogg never seriously considered holding the Iraqi general's family indefinitely, if he decided not to turn himself in. As Hogg says in his justification, the wife and daughter were legitimate subjects for detention and questioning, and he fully intended to release them regardless of whether his quarry called hs bluff (yes, I think it was a bluff).

If Drum, Kleiman, and Henley have evidence to the contrary, they should cite something besides the WaPo story, because it simply does not support their conclusions. What we have here is really nothing more than a PSYOPS tactic -- and a crude one at that -- against the the Iraqi officer: they were fucking with him.

Morally, I have no problem with that, so long as the general's wife and daughter were treated properly and not detained indefinitely as was threatened -- and I don't doubt that this was the case. As for the legal aspects, I'm not aware of any provisions in the Geneva Conventions that prohibit deception -- even cruel deception -- to induce surrender.

So, I'm sure I'll have lots more words about Fisk, ANSWER, and any other morally blind fool who would equate Col Hogg's tactics with apologia and appeasement for the monster whom this poor, hapless general served.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 8:18 PM [+] ::
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Bias in the Eye of the Beholder

An Instapundit reader links to a photo used by the BBC in its "Afghans 'Live in Climate of Fear'" story with the suggestion by a reader that the photo was cropped to remove Afghan women who were smiling. The only problem with that is that the women cropped out weren't smiling.

That said, the BBC does misrepresent the photo, placing it in an entirely different context. Even the caption they put on it was misleading. But it's not as if the BBC has pioneered this practice. I can remember the Clinton White House going ballistic over a news magazine's use of a photo of Bill in a somber moment accompanied by a Whitewater headline. But this kind of thing is pretty commonplace nowadays (not that that's any excuse).

UPDATE: OK, now this is beyond the pale. Wake me when they sell this enterprise to Rupert Murdoch.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 3:22 PM [+] ::
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Norm!

I hope there's still room for me on this bandwagon, but I have to say that all the hoopla over Norman Geras' essay on the Iraq War is well deserved.

Is this some kind of corrollary to the Only Nixon Could Have Gone to CHina Rule, that the most eye-watering moral clarity on the war on terror comes from the likes of Hitchens and other unreconstructed Leftists? My favorite passage, primarily because it reminds me why I was once enamored with the likes of Chomsky and Kolko:
Humanitarian intervention. First, there is a long tradition in the literature of international law that, although national sovereignty is an important consideration in world affairs, it is not sacrosanct. If a government treats its own people with terrible brutality, massacring them and such like, there is a right of humanitarian intervention by outside powers. The introduction of the offence of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trial after the Second World War implied a similar constraint on the sovereign authority of states. There are limits upon them. They cannot just brutalize their own nationals with impunity, violate their fundamental human rights.

Ah, those were the days, weren't they? Beer and pot were cheap, love was free, and progressives placed human rights over sovereignty -- i.e., the sanctity of the state. Contrast Geras' unapologetic endorsement for humanitarian intervention with Harper's publisher and alleged Liberal John MacArthur's critique of the same.

MacArthur parrots the same Buchananite revisionist history about the war in Kosovo that are the staple of the Raimondos and Henleys of the world (Serbs only ethnically cleansed Albanians in response to NATO bombing, and the retributive violence against Kosovar Serbs was actually greater -- both outright lies), thus proving Geras' point about Leftists "displacement" of its most fundamental values by "a misguided strategic choice" -- i.e., anti-Americanism. I remember a similar phenomenon in the mid-90's -- Conservatives, after bemoaning things like the Boland Amendment that tied the president's hands in foreign policymaking (and they were nearly all on record as saying this was the exclusive domain of the executive branch) suddenly began to channel Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. What mattered was the occupant of the White House and his priorities; principles were secondary considerations.

Jeff Jarvis has issued a call to arms of sorts, to reclaim the mantel of Liberalism from the likes of MacArthur. But it doesn't look to me that they'd put up much of a fight for it. In a world where Ramsey Clark defends Milosevic, I think opportunities abound for "centrists" (or, if you prefer, "neoliberals") to offer a viable alternative to Bush's foreign policy -- one that recognizes the right of the U.S. to act to protect its national interests, while at the same time promoting its values and principles more effectively than Conservatives ever could.

More on that later ...
:: COINTELPRO Tool 1:31 PM [+] ::
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Just In Time Policymaking

It's good to know that now that we have an amphib headed for Liberia that we have finally banned the importation of "blood diamonds" from West Africa. Too bad there isn't much time for it to have a demonstrable effect on the environments our Marines may soon be up against.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:38 AM [+] ::
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:: Monday, July 28, 2003 ::

A Roadmap to Rewarding Terror?

Michael Totten's TCS column provides the best argument I've seen for why Palestinian statehood, far from being crucial to winning the war against Islamic fascism, should take a backseat to it:
From the point of view of extremists, suicide-murder pays. Apocalyptic acts like those unleashed on September 11 provoke an overwhelming military response. But small-bore acts by Palestinians against Israelis produce an opposite reaction. Endless media coverage stokes a rising public sympath y and encourages calls for appeasement and even surrender.



It is time to ask ourselves honestly: Is it possible to support a Palestinian state without encouraging terrorists elsewhere?



There are many stateless Muslims; the Chechens in Russia, the Kurds in the Middle East, the Uighurs in Eastern China, and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Opinion leaders tsk-tsk the Russians, but no one holds demonstrations for the liberation of Chechnya . The Kurds are good people and they deserve their own state, but nearly everyone agrees it would only make trouble. Few even know the Uighurs exist. Meanwhile, as the Palestinians continue the jihad, the number of their supporters isn't declining. It's rising. The lesson for extremists is clear: the squeaky wheel gets greased.

But far from poo-pooing the possibility for a solution, Totten also argues that a roadmap (not this one) can work, if it is rooted in moral clarity. "First, defeat terrorism. Second, nurture democracy. Third, negotiate a settlement.":
The most crucial detail of all will come in the third and final phase when a permanent settlement is decided. There must be a post-facto punishment for the intifada.

No future Palestinian state should be geographically larger than the one already offered by Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak in 2000. Even if the Palestinians get only one acre less in the end, the intifada must be shown to have yielded them nothing.

In a related development, the State Department may be about to cede what little moral clarity is left in our policy toward the Palestinians, by reportedly considering a modus vivendi with Hamas and Islamic Jihad:
"Any organization that has a terrorist component to it and supports that kind of terrorist activity cannot have a place in the peace process," Powell said. "Now, if an organization that has a terrorist component to it, a terrorist wing to it, totally abandons that, gives it up, and there's no question in anyone's mind that that is part of its past, then that is a different organization. But right now, Hamas still has a social wing to it that does things for people in need, but, unfortunately, its good works are contaminated by the fact that it has a terrorist wing that kills innocent people and kills the hopes of the Palestinian people for a state of their own."

Officials said the guidelines on the reformation of Islamic insurgency groups might not apply to Islamic Jihad. They said that unlike Hamas, Jihad only has a military wing. But they said Jihad could be offered an option to turn into a political movement.

Unbelievable. Does Powell really think that these people are harmless without their semtex?

:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:57 PM [+] ::
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:: Sunday, July 27, 2003 ::

Another Brewing Scandal

CNN has now picked up David Corn's story alleging that the Bush administration "outed" CIA operative Valerie Plame, as retribution for her husband, Amb. Joseph Wilson, having embarrassed the administration on the Niger uranium issue. Chuck Schumer is now calling for hearings into the matter.

I haven't seen much reaction to this (except for Kevin Drum and Mark Kleiman, who has been all over this story). One post of note is from Don Luskin, whose originally hysterical attack on Paul Krugman (whom he apparently thought was the first to make this allegation) is a case study in retractions and backpedaling. His original take:
Now on to the fifth sentence: "Think about that: if their characterization of Mr. Wilson's wife is true (he refuses to confirm or deny it), Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative." Huh?! When did "their characterization" of Ms. Plame go from being an "operative" (per Novak) or an "official" (per Time) to being a "covert operative"? That's Krugman's characterization. That's not reporting... that's not commentary... it's just plain old making stuff up. Apparently the Times has learned nothing about fact-checking from the Jayson Blair scandal...

Quite a startling example of sophistry here, but then again perhaps he should be given the benefit of the doubt, considering he apparently didn't know John Corn from David Corn. "I smell another New York Times retraction coming up," Luskin wrote, then dutifully wrote one of his own. Several, actually. Poor and stupid, indeed.*

But at least Luskin's level of effort demonstrates that he considers the matter to be quite serious, which is more than I can say for much of the blogosphere.

Personally, I find it quite hard to believe that this leak was sanctioned by the highest levels of the administration. But, as with the Niger uranium scandal itself, their handling of this has thus far been embarrassing. Given Don Rumsfeld's call for prosecuting these kinds of leaks to the full extent of the law, I would think the White House would have been the first to call for an investigation.

And what about Robert Novak's culpability in all this? Kevin Drum comments in his own post that a reporter running with this kind of information is "pretty routine," while providing it is not. I don't agree with that at all.

Clearly, whoever provided this information to Novak is guilty of a criminal act, while Novak's publication of it is not. But as I've written before, there are still reporters out there who would have given such information to the proper authorities, not their readers.

I've dealt extensively with the pentagon press corps, and I can attest that most defense reporters would not publish information they knew would put intelligence agents at risk. The catch -- and there's always a catch -- is that they reserve the right to make such a judgment themselves, rather than treat all "classified" information as being off limits.

In any event, I look forward to an arrogant gasbag like Novak being called on to testify for such an investigation. And it's worth asking what the reaction would be if a left-of-center columnist -- someone like, oh, say Paul Krugman -- had published this kind of information. I'd be the first to check Luskin's blog for that.

*As a parting shot, I cannot resist noting Luskin's reaction to Bill Thomas' embarrssing treatment of the minority party's contingent in the House Way and Means Committee:
And what exactly would you have done when the Democrats tried to obstruct passage of this entirely sensible proposal? Whatever his errors of style, don't forget that thanks to him we got a 25% capital gains tax cut this year.

Dick.




:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:23 PM [+] ::
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:: Friday, July 25, 2003 ::

Excesses in the Blogosphere

I had been a long admirer of bloggers' capacity to "fact check your asses" before I started blogging myself, and still enjoy being a small part of an enterprise that continues to challenge the arrogance of sloppy journalists who think they are beyond reproach.

That's why it pains me to see some of the same sloppiness -- particularly in the form of irresponsible accusations against big media -- being committed by so many bloggers.

Last week, after CBS reported that CIA officials had, indeed warned White House officials about their doubts concerning the Iraq's pursuit of uranium in Africa, a few bloggers pounced. One in particular actually accused CBS of falling for the same hoax to which the newspaper Capitol Hill Blue had previously fallen prey. Instapundit linked to the post approvingly, saying that "MICHAEL UBALDI POINTS OUT THAT CBS IS STILL REPEATING the retracted Capitol Hill Blue story."

Since the CHB story had been attributed on the record to an source who turned out to be nothing more than a con man, I found it crazy that CBS' David Martin would have fallen for such a fraud even after CHB had realized its gullibility. Turns out my suspicions were correct, as no reading of the two stories could lead a lucid individual to conclude that they were sourced to the same individual. For one thing, CBS cited a number of anonymous intelligence officials, not the lone nut relied on by Capitol Hill Blue.

Also, the stories themselves were markedly different. Capitol Hill Blue's source had stated flatly that the president had been personally briefed on the CIA's concerns, while Martin's story, despite the bullshit headline, made no such claim. I e-mailed Reynolds and expressed my concern that he would give an endorsement to such a baseless smear against the CBS reporter. He answered that he it sounded to him as if CBS had "probably" based its story on the same source used by CHB. Yep, "probably."

I e-mailed him back pointing out the marked differences in the two stories, and asked if "probably" might not be a sufficient standard by which to smear a reputable journalist's reporting. Never heard back from him, and his link to this canard remains, unamended. How very Rainesian of him.

Not for nothing, but CBS's story turns out to have been pretty much on the mark. Predictably, I haven't seen much of a reaction on the blogs to Stephen Hadley's admission.

More recently, we had an accusation on an Iranian dissident Web site that CNN had been offered a video tape showing the mullahs violently cracking down on student activists, and refused to air it. CNN has denied the accusation, and, considering that the site in question has pulled its story in favor of the CNN statement, I'd say they're probably in the right.

To their credit, nearly every blogger I've read who linked to this apparently false story has also posted CNN's denial (Instapundit has not). But really, should there have been a bit more skepticism before posting it in the first place? Strangely, the Web site criticized CNN for not airing its video, yet provided no link to the video on its own site. In fact, I haven't been able to find it anywhere, so I'm inclined to share CNN's doubts about whether it even exists.

I can understand the sympathy for the Iranian dissidents' point of view, and indeed, the accusation did seem to fit an established pattern. But the fact remains, if CNN or any other major media outlet had run with such an accusation, by, say, ISM, without even asking their sources to produce the video, they never would heard the end of it.




:: COINTELPRO Tool 7:35 PM [+] ::
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Those Fragile Arab Sensibilities

Just in case this hadn't already convinced you that Reuters is nothing more than a propaganda factory masquerading as a news wire, get a load of this:
DUBAI (Reuters) - Televised images of the bodies of Saddam Hussein's sons shocked many Arabs on Friday, who said it was un-Islamic to exhibit corpses, however much the brothers were loathed.

Arab and international networks showed the bodies identified as Uday and Qusay, laid out at the makeshift airport morgue, their faces partly rebuilt to repair wounds.

"Although Uday and Qusay are criminals, displaying their corpses like this is disgusting and repulsive. America claims it is civilized but is behaving like a thug," Saudi civil servant Saad Brikan, 42, told Reuters in Riyadh.

Amazing. Reuters treats every statement coming from a U.S. official with paranoid suspicion, but they buy this stuff without question. Nary a scare quote in the whole story.

Then there's this:
Another civil servant Hasan Hammoud, 35, said: "America always spoils its own image by doing something like this. What is the advantage of showing these bodies? Didn't they think about the humanitarian aspect? About their mother and the rest of their family when they see these images?"[emphasis added]

I should fucking hope so.

There's been a lot of sniveling about the "hypocrisy" of the U.S. releasing such imagery, when we reacted so strongly to media outlets in Europe and the Arab world showed footage of dead U.S. soldiers. But the reason the Pentagon objects to that is out of respect for the soldiers' families.

Is there anyone who seriously believes that this is a going concern in the case of Uday and Qusay?


[via Damian Penny]
:: COINTELPRO Tool 6:23 PM [+] ::
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:: Monday, July 21, 2003 ::

Can't Beat the Weekly World News


:: COINTELPRO Tool 1:45 PM [+] ::
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:: Thursday, July 17, 2003 ::

A Textbook Case of Bad PR

The Cal Poly free speech scandal continues to pick up steam.

Out of professional curiosity, I've been looking for some kind of public response by university officials to the growing outrage over this case, and have found very little in the way of a public comment. Just a little something I learned in Consent Manufacturing school -- generally, you can't get away with ignoring an issue like this.

But the Cal Poly Web site now has this item, which has to be one of the most pathetic attempts at damage control I've seen in a while. It directly addresses the issue of free speech on campus ("Free Speech and the First Amendment are at the core of our identity as an American university"), while making no mention of Steve Hinkle or his case. As proof of the school's commitment to free expression, the piece offers a photo from an MLK commemorative march, and lists a number of Left-wing student activities the university has allowed: an activist workshop by Michael Albert, a "Middle East Lecture Series" made up entirely of advocates for one side in the conflict (give you two guesses on which side that is), and a token rally to support U.S. troops.

But here's the most insulting part: the item notes that university officials graciously allowed the speech by author Mason Weaver -- the flyers for which were the cause for punishing Hinkle -- to take place as planned. Again, this item makes no mention of Hinkle, and is offered as if it somehow mitigates their actions against the student -- as opposed to making it appear all the more outrageous. The sheer gall of this is stupefying.

OK, so maybe a dismissiveness and hoping the scandal will just go away doesn't look like such a bad course of action for these guys after all.


:: COINTELPRO Tool 6:57 PM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 ::

It Should Be Settled

According to A. Jay Cristol, the Miami judge and Navy veteran whose FOIA lawsuit for USS Liberty documents finally forced the NSA to release its recordings of Israeli Air Force radio transmissions during the attack, the Liberty incident should now be settled "for all but that 2 percent of die-hard conspiracy theorists."

But despite the fact that the released recordings and transcripts affirm Cristol's conclusions about the attack, much of the reporting has portrayed it as a still-open case. Scott Shane's story in today's Baltimore Sun is typical in its generosity, providing an uncritical platform for the comm points peddled by James Bamford, spokesman for the 2 percent. I can understand the desire to write a "balanced" story, but that does not excuse the Sun (or CNN, or UPI) for publishing Bamford's statements, which could easily have been verified as dishonest.

It should be noted that Bamford was exposed and proven a liar long before the NSA released these SIGINT intercepts. He continued to repeat the claim that Marvin Nowicki, the only person with firsthand knowledge of the intercepts who had discussed them in any detail before they were released, believed that they "proved" the attack was deliberate, but quite the opposite is true. Bamford also claimed that the NSA leadership was "virtually unanimous in their belief that the attack was deliberate" -- another bald-faced lie.

Despite his record (Scott Shane, for one, certainly knows of his dishonesty, as he had reported on it in the past), Bamford continues to get top billing in mainstream media reporting on the incident. In any event, Bamford now claims:
The Israeli ground controller who called the ship "Arab" and "Egyptian" may be just repeating a bogus cover story, Bamford says. At one point, he notes, the controller directs the helicopter crews to check whether the survivors speak Arabic or English.

"If they knew it was an Egyptian ship, why did they think the crew might speak English?" Bamford asks.

In addition, the recordings show that one of the helicopter pilots spotted an American flag and read the ship's identification number. If the helicopter pilot saw those identifiers, Bamford asks, why didn't the fighter pilots and torpedo boat crews?

I dunno, Jim. Think it might have something to do with hovering capabilities?

Actually, the torpedo boat crews were able to see Liberty's ensign, after they had already damaged the ship and broken off their attack. According to the Isrealis, the MTB crews caught their first glimpse of Liberty's limp ensign at around 1451L that day, roughly 30 minutes before the Super Frelon helicopter identified the ship as American (seeing only the red portion of the flag, the MTB's first reported that it was a Soviet ship, which scared the shit out of IDF headquarters). A few minutes later, they finally identified the ship as American and offered assistance (they were declined).

The MTB's were not able to identify the ship sooner because Liberty, having just been strafed by Israeli Mirage jets, fired on the MTB's first. Also, the Israeli boats approached Liberty from the Southeast -- moving into the sun, which would have made identifying the colors of a flag on the ship virtually impossible.

Also, Shane's story fails to mention that the flag Bamford refers to was actually the second flag flown by Liberty that day. The first one had been shot to ribbons by the Mirages, and the crew hoisted its holiday ensign -- a 7-by-13-foot flag, in place of its 5-by-8-foot standard.

Bamford, true to his M.O., takes specific passages of the transcripts out of context, then holds them up against the strawman he's constructed for the Israeli side. The Israelis have maintained that Liberty's flag was not visible before or during the attack. These transcripts support that contention. Bamford takes evidence that the Israelis saw the flag after the attack -- which is consistent with their version of events -- and offers it as proof that they lied.

Bamford points to evidence of the possible Israeli massacre of 800 Egyptian prisoners at the time and suggests that Israeli officers wanted to cover up the war crime.

What evidence? No one -- least of all Bamford -- has ever put forth any evidence to support this claim. But like all conspiracy theory motives, there doesn't need to be any evidence. All that is needed is the possibility that it could have happened. That the Sun would portray this as anything more than an unsupported allegation is shameful.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:12 PM [+] ::
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More on Lynch and "News Management"

Jurjen Smies on the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company:
Obviously, the plight of the 507th was the result of a cockup (or, more accurately, a sequence of cockups). But war is messy and unpredictable business, and there is simply no way to guarantee nothing will ever go wrong. Perhaps a slower advance on the Coalition's part would have helped to prevent the 507th's wrong turn, but who knows how much longer the campaign might have lasted, and how many other lives—on both sides—would have been lost in the process? As I speculated in March,
I think the Coalition battle plan is based on the concept that Iraqi armed resistance is house of cards, and Saddam Hussein and his Inner Circle are the card which will bring the house crashing down. Rather than laboriously dismantling the house card by card, the Coalition is going for that card.

I stand by that assessment, and I think characterising CentCom's strategy as a "wanton desire" is unfair. It is possible to argue with the benefit of hindsight that CentCom took unnecessary risks, considering the speed with which organised Iraqi resistance collapsed. But at the time nobody was expecting that events would unfold the way they did.

And yet, this aspect of the PFC Lynch saga has been hyped about as much as the rest of the story, with Nightline portraying the ambush as if it were Little Big Horn.

This has been a particularly annoying aspect of the reporting on Iraq -- particularly on the Lynch story. In establishing a motive for the military's alleged "mythmaking," a common refrain has been that the Lynch story as a bit of a deus ex machina -- providing the U.S. with some much-needed morale booster when the war didn't appear to be going so well (or words to that effect).

But the war was going well for the U.S. at the time. Quite well, thank you very much. So, if the pentagon had to engage in One of the Most Stunning Examples of News Management Ever Conceived™ to convince the public of that fact, who's really guilty of distorting reality here?
:: COINTELPRO Tool 2:25 PM [+] ::
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Oops

The Washington Times gets duped:
The Washington Times yesterday published a letter to the editor, purportedly from Stephan M. Minikes, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe, which we now learn was a forgery. We have been so informed from the highest level at the State Department, and we accept as true that the ambassador was not the author of this letter. The letter was sent to us, via e-mail, on Sunday from what appears to be the ambassador's State Department e-mail address. On being informed by the State Department that the letter was a forgery, we immediately removed it from our Web site, and immediately notified the wire services, which had filed dispatches based on the letter, that the letter was a forgery.

Amb. Minikes' real views on the State Department culture can be found here.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:09 AM [+] ::
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:: Tuesday, July 15, 2003 ::

Pushing the Limits of Spin -- and Shame

Tim Blair reports that Scott Ritter has written a book "to educate people" on how wrong everyone has been about Iraq's WMD program.

I actually look forward to reading it, if its contents live up to the expectations of revelations like this:
BLITZER: Let's get right to the issue at hand, though. Do you have any doubt that Saddam Hussein would have loved to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program?

RITTER: Well, you know, now, you're getting into speculation. What I have said is we have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting the nuclear weapons program. And I tend to believe that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Wait a minute, wait a minute. What about the equipment that was just discovered the other day buried in the backyard of a former Iraqi nuclear scientist that had been buried there since before the first war? They were supposed to give all that stuff up, as you well know, as a result of the cease-fire?

RITTER: You're right on one point. As I well know. I led the investigation into Mahdi Obeidi. I interviewed him for many hours, looking for just this material. In fact, had the United States not pulled the plug on the inspections I was trying to carry out in August 1998, we had plans to go to Obeidi's house with ground-penetrating radar, to look for this material.

But I believe you'll find that when you dig deeper into the Obeidi case, he's not telling the whole truth. Obeidi kept that material on his own volition. Qusay and the security services, you know, didn't hand it out. And the bottom line is, it's components of a nonexistent program. Nobody is trying to make the case that what Obeidi had is representative of anything that represents a viable nuclear weapons program worthy of war.

BLITZER: But that was a violation of what the U.N. -- the U.N. cease-fires had called for, hiding that equipment underground.

RITTER: First of all, it's not equipment. It's components [duly noted -- ed]. It doesn't constitute a viable centrifuge or centrifuge array (ph), and it's not part of a larger program. Obeidi was in violation for maintaining this. Does the fact that he maintained it represent a larger effort by the Iraqi government? We won't know until the investigation is carried out.

But what I'm telling you is based upon my investigation, which went on for many months and involved dozens of hours. Obeidi did this on his own. This wasn't something that ...

BLITZER: But Scott, you know the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. You lived there, you talked to these people. Did anything happen like that of a nature like that, Obeidi doing this on his own without getting approval or someone asking him keep this quiet? That was such a brutal regime. The guy wouldn't have had the guts to do that on his own?

RITTER: Actually, again, Wolf, you're wrong. We have several cases of Iraqi scientists who were very proud of the work they did. Remember, Obeidi was competing with Dr. Diah Jaffar Al-Jaffar (ph) over, you know, who was going to be the first to enrich uranium. He was proud of this program, and when he was ordered to turn it over, I think he maintained these components and these blueprints of his own volition, in a very similar manner that Iraqi scientists responsible for designing guidance and control equipment did the exact same thing.[Emphasis added]

Wow.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 8:38 PM [+] ::
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It's Also Tenet's Fault We've No Cure for Cancer

LGF links to this screed from former Congressman (and current Newsmax gasbag) John Leboutillier, blaming the DCI for pretty much everything that's gone wrong in the war on terror:
Here is a list of the recent embarrassments and failures:

1) Failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks despite specific intelligence that Al Qaeda planned something ‘spectacular’ involving hijacked aircraft. [Complete nonsense, of course. For my take on how "specific" the intelligence was, go here.- ed.]

2) Allowing Bin Laden family members to leave the United States right after the 9/11 attacks before the FBI could interrogate them. [Huh? The CIA is responsible for allowing foreign nationals leaving the country before the FBI could interrogate them? How did this clown even find his office when he was on the hill?-- ed.]

3) Failure to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden and his right-hand man, Dr. B. Alzwahiri, - three times under Clinton and since the 9/11 attacks. [Wow. Now he's responsible for military and law enforcement limitations. And he doesn't even get credit for Ramzi Bin al-Shib, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, or any of the others we have captured. -- ed.]

4) Failure to produce solid evidence of WMD in Iraq sufficient to convince doubtful allies of the necessity to remove Saddam Hussein’s government. [But not for lack of trying. How pathetic. -- ed.]

5) Failure during the war to kill or capture Saddam and his sons – despite two specifically publicized (by the CIA with Tenet’s direct involvement) targeted attacks – at the beginning and near the end of the combat operations.

6) Failure to find any WMD in the 2 ½ months since the war ended.

7) Failure to find Saddam and his two murderous sons since the war ended.

8) Embarrassing the President by allowing the now-infamous 16 words into the State of the Union address.

9) Stonewalling the 9/11 commission by refusing to turn over documents or allow government officials to be interviewed outside the presence of ‘minders’ – a tactic more common to communist or totalitarian governments. [Gosh, now why are these guys pressing the White House to get that information released? They should just go to Tenet. -- ed.]

I guess I should expect as much from someone who would use the phrase "rose to national prominence" when referring to himself. But it's been a long while since I've seen such ignorance of how governmental agencies function and what their missions are. And to think, this guy was a Congressman ...
:: COINTELPRO Tool 3:10 PM [+] ::
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:: Monday, July 14, 2003 ::

Yes, But That 10% Are All PA Officials

The Independent reports mob violence against Palestinian pollsters for revealing that most refugees don't care about a right of return:
Dr Shikaki, a leading West Bank political scientist, was undeterred. He said he was still putting the survey results on the centre's website and seeking the widest possible exposure. "These people," he said, "had no idea what the results were. They were sold disinformation."

The poll, conducted among 4,500 refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Jordan, was the first to ask where they would want to live if Israel recognised a right of return.

Only 10 per cent of the refugees chose Israel, even if they were allowed to live there with Palestinian citizenship; 54 per cent opted for the Palestinian state; 17 per cent for Jordan or Lebanon, and 2 per cent for other countries. Another 13 per cent rejected all these options, preferring to sit it out and wait for Israel to disappear, while 2 per cent didn't know.

This is the reason the PA has refused aid in turning the refugees camps into permanent, economically viable communities. They want to keep their fantasy at all costs, but it doesn't appear to be working.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:10 AM [+] ::
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:: Thursday, July 03, 2003 ::

We're All Nation-Builders Now

Well, almost all of us. It looks increasingly certain that we'll be intervening in Liberia, which should be the final nail in the coffin of candidate George Bush's foreign policy ideas.

Good riddance, I say. And I have to say I'm disappointed in some of the neo-realist snarking about this from some the same people who have been the most sanctimonious in their commentary on Iraq.

Both Charles Johnson and James Taranto rightly take Howard Dean to task for his hypocritical stance on this. But LGF then goes on to say:
He’s right. It is different.

Our national security is not at stake in Liberia.

Can you say “playing politics with the lives of our military?”

I knew you could.

Wow. Way to channel Brent Scowcroft, Charles. Or maybe you were going for Tom Delay? Sorry, no strategic interest here, so no "Democracy Whiskey Sexy" for you poor slobs. And I wonder what this post was all about? It's one thing to criticize the fecklessness of the French and the UN in places like Ivory Coast and the Congo, but when you're not willing to do your own part, is that really "schadenfreude?" I can think of a few other words that would be more appropriate.

For his part, Taranto adds ...
The second difference is that, as Dean puts it, in Liberia "the world community is asking the United States to exercise its leadership." But if America simply does whatever the "world community" wants it to do, in what sense can it be said to be exercising "leadership"?

I haven't witnessed such childlike logic since Bill Murray's explanation for feigning Terets ("If I fake it, then that means I don't have it") in What About Bob?

I for one am not willing to do allow another Rwanda simply because doing something to stop it might make Chirac and de Villepin happy.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:12 PM [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, July 02, 2003 ::

Government Bureaucrat Reviews Government Report

Apart from its imitation of the Onion, I'm not sure what else to make of this Daily Fisk piece:
Alastair Campbell made 11 suggestions and queries about the dossier in which the Government is alleged to have exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in the run-up to war in Iraq, according to a leaked letter.

The Prime Minister's director of communications and strategy was writing to the committee of MPs investigating claims the document was "sexed up" to bolster the case for war. A copy of the letter, published in today's Guardian, said Mr Campbell posed questions and proposed alterations to the dossier.

How could this have happened? And what will we tell the children, many of whom aspire to become low-level bureacrats with the hope that their reports will move up the chain of command untarnished and be released to the public in first-raft form.

The story goes on to note that only six of his 11 recommendations were accepted (four were rejected, and one was OBE), and that some of his comments actually toned down the dossier a notch. He removed the phrase "vivid and horrifying" in the description of human rights in Iraq, and changed "could be used" to [gasp] "are capable of being used."

The story also notes that the most significant change proposed by Campbell, referring to Iraqi WMD's being deployable "within 45 minutes," had been in a previous draft, and there's no indication that any of these changes were unsupported by the Joint Intelligence Committee's information.

One would think that the British press would be more interested in the accuracy of the dossier, rather than reporting on the mundane inner workings of government. If they're resorting to this, then Blair's position must be safer than we've been led to believe.

The Guardian version is here.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:41 PM [+] ::
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When the Story Directly Contradicts the Headline ...

... It's got to be the Age (OK, it could be a few other publications, but in this case it was the Age. OK, more than a few other publications, but you get the point. Get off my case, it was just a rhetorical device thingy):
US 'lied' about Iraq: poll
[...]
A poll by the University of Maryland found that 52 per cent of respondents said they believed Bush and his aides were "stretching the truth, but not making false statements" about Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear programs.

Another 10 per cent said US officials had presented "evidence they knew was false," indicated the survey. Only 32 per cent said they thought the government was being "fully truthful" about the Iraqi arsenal.

I'd put myself in the 52 percent group, but it's still interesting to note that despite the ubiquituous droning of "Bush lied," there are still more than three times as many people who think the administration has been "fully truthful" than there are who believe the evidence was fraudulent.



:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:12 PM [+] ::
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