Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Yellow Journalism
So if the Bush administration concocted the idea of a connection between Saddam's Iraq and Al-Queda (as many media outlets are pushing that notion), why then (back in the pre-Bush era of 1999)did both The Guardian and CNN report on meetings that took place between Iraqi envoys and al-Queda representatives - meetings where Saddam extended an offer of asylum to Bin Ladin and his group?

It is amazing to me the extent to which the major media will ignore its own previous reporting on the subject - for the purpose, as it appears to me, to paint Bush in the worst possible light and encourage his defeat in the upcoming election.


At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said... ... excerpted

"Consider one of the seemingly more compelling reports cited in the memo: that Farouk Hijazi, the former chief of Iraqi intelligence and then ambassador to Turkey, flew to Afghanistan in late 1998 to meet with bin Laden. As Stephen Hayes, author of The Weekly Standard piece dutifully notes, accounts of this purported Saddam overture to Osama made its way into the mainstream press at the time—including NEWSWEEK. A Feb. 6, 1999, story in the British newspaper The Guardian contended the purpose of Hijazi’s visit was to offer a presumably besieged bin Laden asylum in Iraq.

But, as Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism official, says, the Feith-Carney memo omits the rest of the story: that bin Laden actually rejected the Hijazi overture, concluding he did not want to be “exploited” by a regime that he has consistently viewed as “secular” and fundamentally antithetical to his vision of a strict Islamic state.

There is, moreover, compelling reason to believe bin Laden clung to this view as late as this year when Bush administration officials were making no secret of their plans to invade Iraq and topple Saddam. In a Feb. 11, 2003, audiotape released by Al-Jazeera, a voice believed to be bin Laden called on Arabs to rise up and strike at the U.S. invaders—a declaration that contributed to a Bush administration decision to ratchet up the country’s threat level at the time. But, less well publicized, bin Laden emphasized in the same tape his interest was in defending the Iraqi people, not an “infidel” like Saddam."

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Granite said...

Indeed, the information you offer is also contained in the link to the Guardian piece that was published in 1999.

"Although he rejected the offer then, Mamoun Fandy, a professor of Middle East politics at Georgetown University, said Bin Laden's position in Afghanistan is no longer secure after the Saudi monarchy cut off diplomatic relations with, and funding for, the Taleban militia movement, which controls most of the country."

What can be construed from the information out there is that there were overtures between Saddam and Al-Queda with meetings between high level Baathists and al-Queda. Both groups with a professed hatred of the US and both groups known to aid and conduct terrorism. Given the new calculus that emerged after 9/11, would you as President allow for any possibility of these two groups joining forces?

On another note, what I gather from your comment is that you are conveying a great degree of faith in Bin Ladin that he would not join forces (or at the very least use Saddam's Iraq for his group's purposes - ie obtain useful WMD technologies). What has Bin Ladin done that has earned that faith in him and trust of his motives (as far as we know them to be from press reports and analysis). Would you as President, after 9/11, hold the same degree of faith that Bin Ladin's Al-Queda and Saddam's Iraq would not join in any manner whatsoever? Would you be willing to put the safety and security of the United States and its citizenry on the line, secure in that faith that they would not join?

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Granite -

How much energy and money have Bushco spent going after Al Qaida and Bin Laden, versus fucking up Iraq? If Bin Laden is the enemy, why direct all your energy into Iraq? How much more secure do you think Homeland Security is now? How far do you think $120 billion dollars would have gone into protecting our shores? (that would be, before we multiplied our middle eastern jihadists by a factor of 10 or more?). Ummmm. Yeah - if all intelligence pointed to Saddam as NOT A FACTOR, I might have spent my energies elsewhere. It's pretty plain that with a pre-planned war against Iraq, falsified or obscured intelligence, and more - that Iraq was always a goal - and Bin Laden was an excuse. And - if you'd truly rather be duped for $120+ billion spent, 10,000+ civilian casualties, going on a 1000 military casualties, and no end to the danger in sight -well, that's your perogative (and your Blog). geo.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More on the "meetings" from major media player "The New York Times" ...

"The Americans confirmed that they had obtained the document from the Iraqi National Congress, as part of a trove that the group gathered after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government last year. The Defense Intelligence Agency paid the Iraqi National Congress for documents and other information until recently, when the group and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, fell out of favor in Washington.

Some of the intelligence provided by the group is now wholly discredited, although officials have called some of the documents it helped to obtain useful."

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At 10:58 AM, Blogger Granite said...

Indeed, $120 billion is a significant amount of money. To be exact though, not all of that money is going towards funding operations in Iraq - some of it is going towards funding operations in Afghanistan, and if I take your comments correctly that kind of expenditure is something you approve of because it is being used in aspects of the War on Terror that are to your liking. Furthermore, some of that $120 billion isn't even going to War on Terror activities as such, but also general military funding requirements that are being included as pertinent to War on Terror. So the $120 figure you state as all going to Iraq is not entirely accurate.

Plus, you neglect to take into consideration that billions had been spent merely containing Saddam as had been the previous policy. Maintaining the northern no-fly and southern no-fly zones required yearly expenditure (these had been set up since 1991). Troop stationing in Turkey and Saudi Arabia and other regional bases cost significant dollars each year and were all costs associated with containing Saddam. So while it is right to debate the fact that we are spending significant dollars with regards to our activities in Iraq as part of Operation Iraq Freedom, please keep in mind that we were spending significant dollars merely containing Saddam as per the previous policy. This is why it is important to keep in mind the changed calculus that resulted after 9/11. The cost/benefit relationship of containing Saddam changed in the aftermath of 9/11. Considering what our intelligence did and did not know about Saddam and his intentions, coupled with the evident (and acted upon) intentions of Al-Queda, it is reasonable to suggest that the costs of containment (monetarily as well as sense of security) rose sharply and the benefits of containment dropped. Because the relationship changed, a new policy (one of Saddam's removal) rose in consideration. Why? Because it is considered to deliver a better return of benefit to cost regarding our nation's security in the changed environment post-9/11.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So now we have 170,000 boots on the ground in Iraq (and subsequent minimilization of National Guardsmen if there WAS a natural or man-made disaster domestically). The Congress appropriation for war is $166 billion (including costs of military/reconstruction in Afghanistan); For an analysis of spending - see here. This does not include the cost of reconstruction in Iraq, and is also does not include upcoming war funding in the federal budget... and - given the state Iraq's in, I'd expect us to maintain 100,000+ troop deployment there for many years to come. Draft anyone?

For an article on upcoming estimates of costs (Washington Post) see here.

Now to be fair, I did read a UChicago study that puts the actual cost of containment (pre 9/11) at $13 billion a year; extrapolates that to $19 billion a year if added containment/homeland security costs increased the original $13 bill by 1.5 x; and - extrapolating out all worst case scenarios (more terror attacks), comes up with a worst-case figure of $600 billion (I think over a 20 year span) and that includes costs included in added "homeland security"). I think the costs of war and reconstruction in Iraq/Afghanistan, not to mention our ongoing commitment to "homeland security" with the heightened risk of terror (oohhh ... I feel so much safer now that Saddam's out of the picture) will surpass that worst-case figure in five years pretty easily.

And - containment was a miserable failure anyway - what's a few hundred thousand dead and dying innocent civilians? In all Bush's fantasies - Saddam still managed to be the most dangerous man on earth - despite him being contained. If he was so deadly, we could have just gone back and kicked his ass again - Gulf War I style... Containment was NOT a necessity by any means. And - add to that - that we helped put Saddam in power as well supported the Mujahideen (Bin Laden) in Afghanistan - well, we pretty much made the bed we're sleeping in today.

You think - given Buscho's seeming ambivalence over dirty deeds - that they could have just hired a decent hitman for a few million to whack Saddam, Uday and Co on the sly (instead of in these great media events).

Ah well ... I for one am doing my best to encourage Bush's defeat in the upcoming election.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Granite said...

I think it is important that I let it be known I did not vote for Bush in the 2000 election - I wrote in Sen. John McCain as my choice.

Why I feel it important to reveal this is because its assumed that my interest is to defend Bush. That is not the case. I defend Bush's policy regarding War on Terror because I believe it to be the appropriate course. Is it a difficult course? Absolutely. Is it costly in terms of tax dollars and human lives? Undoubtedly.

Far too much of the arguments of the present reflect an outrageous obsession with the psychology of Bush and his players (or to use the popular terms: junta, cabal, regime, neoconservatives, Bushco, et. al). Center all arguments from the premise that Bush is nefarious, Bush is sinister, Bush is all-seeing, all-controlling, all-manipulating, then add a dash of conspiracy and voila! - everything can be explained.

It's very bizarre that the psychology of Bush and his players has become the central explanation for much of the criticism. The thinking falls into a fallacy for it requires that Bush is the prime mover of all events. That everything the goes on is because he made it happen. Bush is a moron, but he is all powerful as well! He is omniscient and omnipotent! He created Bin Ladin! He was responsible for 9/11! He knew that Saddam had no WMD! He knew he could manipulate an entire governmental apparatus - staffed by tens of thousands of employees from different walks of life and political persuasions - for the purpose of enriching his shady oilmen friends!!!! Bush Lied! Bush Lied! Bush Lied!

The easiest way to show how shallow this thinking is is to simply ask can it predict what will happen tomorrow? Sure, say the critics. Whatever happens tomorrow is because of Bush. Think of that for a minute. So many things of chance could happen tomorrow. Could Bush be entirely responsible for everything that could, can, and will take place tomorrow? Without a doubt of course not. There will be things that happen tomorrow that will have nothing to do with Bush at all. And whatever Bush does or doesn't do will have no bearing on the birth or outcome of these events.

Therefore, if chance exists tomorrow, why is it impossible to accept that chance happened yesterday, or the day before that? Why is it impossible to accept that there were things that happened that happened in their own right and on their own accord and Bush's existence and actions had absolutely no bearing on them? For many of the Bush critics, they have to suspend this existence of chance, of uncertainty, of doubt, of the existence of imperfect information. These things only erode their neatly packaged and wrapped up explanations. That's the unfair advantage of criticism though because critics only discuss and nitpick that which is known - they own the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Whereas Bush, as executive of a policy, works in a realm replete with varying degrees of certainty and uncertainty. He will not know 100% what will take place tomorrow. Yet as President and Commander in Chief must make decisions that produce actions that have a presumed outcome but not always a guaranteed outcome. The Bush Presidency, like all presidencies, like all human endeavor must always deal with the problems of imperfect knowledge and imperfect foresight, not to mention the complete unknown quantity simply known as chance.

This is important to always keep in mind. Every single moment in the present straddles that razor thin edge where time is separated by what is known and what is unknown. Was it known on September 10, 2001 what would happen the next day? Was it known on September 11th, 2001 what additional horrors may be in the works the next day after that, or the next day after that? That's the environment that the President works in. What is going to happen the next day and the next day? Do we have enough perfect, verifiable information to make a reasonable and informed guess as to what will happen the next day and the next day? All human enterprise grapples with this problem. And yet it does not make us immobile. It does not shut down our will to go ahead with decisions. We do the best we can, and we go forward. Every day we learn something new, but something that we do not know always exists in the future. We recognize that and it does not deter us.

The minutiae you bring up in your arguments has merit as argument. However, everything you do bring up as being 100% known, viable, unassailable was at one point not known, not viable, and murky. If you still insist on arguing from a perspective that Bush is omniscient and omnipotent - that everything that has taken place was because he willed it so - you do so because you are willfully ignoring the physics of time and the imperfections/limitations that mark the human species.

Every day brings with it a constant stream of identification, analysis, appraisal, reappraisal, decision, and execution regarding our assessment of what is required to do under the War on Terror. With it is the constant battle with that demarcation that marks what is known and what is unknown. Bush, nor his advisors know what will happen 2 weeks from now. But 2 weeks from now his critics will surely know what has happened in that time frame - and they of course will use that information when they craft their arguments - careful to never acknowledge the forces of chance or uncertainty that had produced and guided some of the events of that time period.

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So ... war on Terror = Taliban, Al Qaida, Afghanistan. Net progress ... zero.

War on Iraq ... in hindsight, very much manufactured. DESPITE your very articulate argument that Bush has to make these crucial decisions in real-time as it were ("is there any way we can pin this on Iraq?). Yes - in hindsight there's a lot of information coming out that indicates that there was a lot of internal dissent about the war. I would prefer to vote in a leadership that DOESN'T go off half-cocked, and listen to a bunch of self-interested Iraqi exiles rather than their own intelligence sources, or ongoing weapons inspections that can't find any WMD, or ignore overtures of peace from Saddam in the weeks before the war. Nope - too late, got to pull the goddamned trigger now...

And - tell me where that got us really? Can you articulately argue that Bush's "War on Terror" policy has a viable chance of succeeding, given how badly they've fucked up the occupation of Iraq. Please...
As much as you'd like to excuse Bush, can't you just come out and say - you know, we're better off without him?

Intellectual arguments are very good at ignoring human costs - putting them in abstract terms. Well, god forbid - if B Jr of 4KMaD got drafted and killed in some god-forsaken alley in Fallouja, do you really think you could go up to B Sr and say "it was for a good cause"? I know I sure as hell couldn't.


At 12:41 AM, Blogger YouWho said...

As long as we're considering hypotheticals like B Jr becoming a casualty, how would you feel if one of your loved ones and say 100,000 other people were one day annihilated in downtown Manhattan by a suitcase nuke manufactured in Iraq with Pakistani technology and delivered by an al-Qaida operative? Given everything that Bush *thought* he knew prior to Iraq (even though some of it has since turned out to be wrong) would you blame him for not acting? Many seem anxious to blame him and Clinton for not being prescient enough about 9/11, and yet no one would have supported a pre-emptive strike against Afghanistan.

The reality of 9/11 significantly raised the stakes that a president must consider when contemplating action. Clinton and Bush did not act on Afghanistan despite warnings (although hazy and obtuse) from the intelligence community and 3,000 people died, and yet that is a drop in the bucket compared to the potential death toll from an Iraqi nuke -- something the CIA director told Bush was a "slam dunk case." Yeah, I know, we didn't find the nukes. Could we afford to not find out for sure?

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well - we can sit and play hypotheticals for ever. I don't think I'm going to alter your basic stance, or you're going to alter mine - however, as I've stated earlier:

1) The Iraqi war exponentially increased our chances of someone with a suitcase nuke trying to find his way to Allah. Your hypothetical scenario is alarmingly possible - moreso than ever. We've done a great deal to destabilize the region, and I'm sure that someone's gonig to knock off Musharraf pretty soon.

I don't see how you can logically argue that aggressive intervention by Bush made the situation any more secure. Yes - it's unfortunate that Bush was bombarded with conflicting information; however, there were just as many informed voices saying the Iraqs had NO nuclear/bio-weapon capability. I think that given the consequences we now face, he obviously acted in too hasty a fashion. WE COULD have afforded not to invade Iraq - because that would ultimately have proven to be the best path. At the very least - we SHOULD have made sure before pursuing the path we did.

2) Once he followed the path he did, Bush et al have done just about EVERYTHING possible to inflame the Mid East (and European opinion). Given how precarious the situation is, as I've said - I'd prefer a leadership that was, on balance, more reasoned in their approach to everything, and managed to consult people who actually KNEW something about the country they were invading.

3) I still hold that the money spent in waging war would have been far more prudently spent in securing our shores. All those billions could have gone a long way to providing true homeland security.

4) If he was so concerned about Al Qaida, he should have spent more time aggressively gunning for them, rather than Iraq. Apparently 1,018 days since Bush said he'd capture Bin Laden dead or alive. Right now, all he's done is succeed in them taking advantage of dissent in the ME.

5) No - I don't fancy 10,000 US civilians dead (hypothetically). But I really didn't want thousands of Iraqi civilians or US military dead either, especially when our future is no more secure. Yes, 9/11 was a 10 on the Richter scale of terrorism - but the rest of the world has somehow managed to live with minor tremors for many years. We always knew the US would end up being stung one day; it just isn't too smart to shake the stick about in the nest, and that's just what we've done.

6) Mostly I'm offended by the corruption of the office of president, and of being deliberately misled and lied to. Apparently this doesn't bother you (who) as much as it bothers me - although I seem to remember you writing a blog entry about being thankful the bill of rights wasn't totally subverted. Slippery slopes indeed.


At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh - and You Who; from YOUR blog a year ago in January/February (and these are so different from my opinion HOW?):

I am not a hawk and I do not think we should be rushing headlong into war, however statements like this just seem reckless. I believe we need to look very serious about war.

I was hoping for a satellite photo or something. I really want to believe that this is not all about Bush's personal grudge or distracting us from the economy, and that there is really some scary piece of intelligence the White House has but can not share.

"What they propose sounds great, but I have serious doubts that we will ultimately follow through and setup a viable democracy in Iraq. It just requires too much of a long-term financial and manpower investment."

"I think this all comes back to arrogance in foreign policy."

"Mr. Rashid made a good point on Fresh Air, in that he thought the US's new policy of "pre-emption" made us extremely unpredictable and was very destabilizing to world order. I think he had a point that such a policy makes us susceptible to pre-pre-emptive attacks."

At 3:52 PM, Blogger YouWho said...

Actually Geo, I think we are probably only a hairsbreadth away from having the same opinions on many things, we've just come to very different conclusions about a couple really big issues. Most of what you've quoted from my blog was taken out of context. I think reading each of the full entries paints a different picture than what you have pasted together here, and show's a very logical progression to my current position.


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