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October 25, 2005


There's another group of people you'll have to convince, and that's the useful idiots in the press. Richard Cohen. Jim Hoagland. And today Nicholas Kristoff (see Hurricane Fitzgerald)unoriginally channels Cohen with the "I can't believe Fitzpatrick will do perjury and obstruction of justice. it's so pertty and political. After all, i know all about the smears, but that was just hardball'. I love how these assholes know what Fitz is going to do before he does it.

We don't know what evidence has been uncovered by Patrick Fitzgerald, but we should be uneasy that he is said to be mulling indictments that aren't based on his prime mandate, investigation of possible breaches of the 1982 law prohibiting officials from revealing the names of spies.

Instead, Mr. Fitzgerald is rumored to be considering mushier kinds of indictments, for perjury, obstruction of justice or revealing classified information. Sure, flat-out perjury must be punished. But if the evidence is more equivocal, then indictments would mark just the kind of overzealous breach of prosecutorial discretion that was a disgrace when Democrats were targeted.

And it would be just as disgraceful if Republicans are the targets.

There is, of course, plenty of evidence that White House officials behaved abominably in this affair. I'm offended by the idea of a government official secretly using the news media - under the guise of a "former Hill staffer" - to attack former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. That's sleazy and outrageous. But a crime?
One can believe that the neocons are utterly wrong without also assuming that they are evil. And one can yearn for Scooter Libby's exit from the White House - to be, say, ambassador to Nauru - without dreaming of him in chains.

So I find myself repulsed by the glee that some Democrats show at the possibility of Karl Rove and Mr. Libby being dragged off in handcuffs. It was wrong for prosecutors to cook up borderline and technical indictments during the Clinton administration, and it would be just as wrong today. Absent very clear evidence of law-breaking, the White House ideologues should be ousted by voters, not by prosecutors. "

Yeah, like in the fair election of 2000. Don't you get it, Kristoff? These people do not play by the same rules as you and I. None are more blind than those who refuse to see.


There's a joke going around that if/when indictments are issued, Chertoff is going to go on teevee and reveal a possible terrorist plot against the Hoover Dam. lol.

Think about this scenario. Cheney is getting on in years, he's had three or four heart attacks. He knows that he can't be elected President with his winning personality. His paranoia is intensifying, and he feels time is running out on the United States.

He gets himself picked VP to one of the most ignorant (particularly about foreign countries and foreign affairs) men to run for President. They get elected, thanks to the hardball tactics played during the campaign and afterwards, in Florida.

Cheney sees this as his one chance to, really, be President. He teams up with frustrated old pal Rummy, the fanatical old wrestler, and they begin to reshape the defense/foreign policy apparatus and settle old scores. Then 9/11 comes along and they really get going--"sweep it all up--things related and not." Rove comes in as the enforcer and the political guru. They get Bush on board, and then get Condi to explain it all to George and keep him company. They redo intelligence and, in the process, try to neuter the CIA. But they are blinded by hubris and we are where we are today. The oldest story. Thucydides had the blueprint.

What a mess.

From the further revelations about Niger and yellowcake from Josh Marshall and Laura Rozen it looks as if that willing fool Larry Franklin was also in the middle of the forgeries, which raises of course the question of Israel and what role they played in the forgeries. Elements in Israel were big proponents of war with Iraq.

Also he talks about the efforts of State and the CIA to rein in the free-lancing of Franklin and Michael Ledeen in Italy, of which the forgeries were evidently a part. Maybe there was some truth in Seymour Hersh's theory that the Niger forgeries were done by ex-CIA agents, but not to embarass the stovepipers, who were almost sure to take them at face value. Maybe it was an even more complicated plot to get back at the CIA.

The revelations are coming faster than I can track them, let alone sort them out. Rats and sinking ships. Keep at the big picture, Kagro. That is what we need to expose.

Remember this line from "All the President's Men":

If you guys... if you guys could
just get John Mitchell... that would
be beautiful...
Now fill in the Name with something more undated FOR TODAY'S SCANDAL.

Kagro! I think I get it now! They really were trying "to impair or impeded the foreign intelligence activity of the United States" - the legitimate foreign intelligence service of the govt, to promote their own shadow spook operation.

And we are back, aren't we, to the image of pre-teen boys trying to play chess while drinking their parents' beer.

That's what I'm saying.

It's supposed to be beyond question who's conducting "the foreign intelligence activities of the United States." And it's not supposed to be an ad hoc group like the OSP or WHIG.

When they dabble in it with the explicit intent of undermining and overruling it, that "impairs or impedes."

Why did Kristof wait to attack Fitzgerald until today? And why is his reasoning so off-base? It's as if someone told him within the past day or so the general outline of what he was to write but he was left to embellish and did an extremely unconvincing job of it.

It's just to bad we have to whisper the word. This really should be shouted from the highest mountains.

True, yam. But it's an invitation to a backlash that takes the American people right back into their comfort zone, where they can forget about it and leave the worrying to others.

This is a big thing (and a big think) we're asking them for.

Discussing these guys, I keep thinking of the aphorism "For every problem that is complex, there is a solution that is simple, easy, and wrong."

The defining characteristic of the neocons, from before they took power, is that they're always sure they're right, and they can't be bothered with convicing the peons and "experts," but if they just get it done, everyone will see they were right all along. That's why they constantly press forward with implementing their harebrained schemes as quickly as possible by whatever deceptive, underhanded, or even criminal means come to hand -- it's not because they're afraid they'll be out of power, it's because the sooner it happens, the sooner everyone will see (and then all that stuff will be forgiven anyway, as the glorious results are welcomed with flowers.)

Since this belief was always based in hubris and not evidence, reality can't dissuade them, no matter how hard reality smacks them down. And so we all suffer for it.

Which is also why they never seemed to care that Bolton was violating the explicit policy of the US wrt N Korea. Read that testimony some time (or maybe I'll finally return to my blogging on the Bolton testimony, to celebrate his incarceration). It's stunning how far outside of stated policy he went. Yet...they did nothing.

Because Mimikatz brought it up here:

"Also he talks about the efforts of State and the CIA to rein in the free-lancing of Franklin and Michael Ledeen in Italy, of which the forgeries were evidently a part. Maybe there was some truth in Seymour Hersh's theory that the Niger forgeries were done by ex-CIA agents, but not to embarass the stovepipers, who were almost sure to take them at face value. Maybe it was an even more complicated plot to get back at the CIA."

, this is as good a place as any to ask a question that's been on my mind this last week.

Why were the Niger-SISMI-Ledeen forgeries so crude? Who were they meant to fool? Were they really meant to fool anyone?

If Ledeen was involved we can't assume that they were intended by CIA to sting/embarrass the neo-cons, in the same way the TANG forgeries may well have been intended to sting/embarrass CBS and close that subject for debate.

Of course, I hadn't known that Hersh had written on this subject until Mimikatz mentioned it, so I guess I'll just go Google that. I've been wanting to drop this question into a $.05 open thread for a week though, and I kept missing them.

Comments or pointers to articles accepted, otherwise please return to your regularly scheduled programming.

texas dem

My theory is that they weren't ever supposed to get sent to the US. They were supposed to be credible (hah!) intelligence that never left SISMI.

Then they thought they could just pump up Hadley's claim they were right (September 2002). And he came back and kept insisting he KNEW they were right.

So they tried to "release" the forgeries in such a way as to not release them. They released them to Bolton, whose job was to intercept them and make sure at CIA, as had happened at SISMI, they never got debunked. Unfortunately for Bolton, an INR analyst got them, and he debunked them right away. He prepared a debunkery to release with the memos (just like Christian Westermann had done with Bolton's Cuba speech), but Bolton convinced the INR analyst's supervisor to not only not let him send out his debunking with the memo, but also to prohibit him from attending the meeting where the forgeries were released.

Voila, again, forgeries that exist on paper, but cannot be debunked. Happily ensconced with some WINPAC analysts who buried them and pretended they had never seen them, other CIA analysts who were vetting them about as quickly as Roberts seems to be investigating this.

Until IAEA somehow finagled them out of BushCO (the explanation of how they did so is redacted in SSCI). And Voila--shitty memos are all of a sudden a HUGE embarrassment, rather than a convenient prop.

But consider another question. Why aren't the fake Zawahiri letters more convincing? They've given us plenty of forgeries, not just the Niger ones, and none of them have been good.

Why did Kristof wait to attack Fitzgerald until today? And why is his reasoning so off-base? It's as if someone told him within the past day or so the general outline of what he was to write but he was left to embellish and did an extremely unconvincing job of it.

I haven't followed Kristof much (at all). This crap has made it 99.99% likely that I will continue to ignore him into the indefinite future. That said, what was Kristof's past writing like concerning WMD, the Iraq Debacle, AIPAC, Bush vs Kerry, etc? Does he have a personal horse in the race to drive his idiotic spoutings? Is he compromised in some way similar to the way Miller is compromised?

So, are you sort of saying (sorry to make it oversimplified, but my brain is old) that they just needed something (the shitty document) to refer to as evidence, in speeches and such to justify whatever they wanted to do, but control the actual seeing of the document? Sort of like Joe McCarthy's "I have in my hand the names of spies" paper to wave around, but secretly within the intel community? What hubris! I would have thought republicans were so smart, so careful, so good at planning they would have created a nearly perfect document, then had the forger conveniently silenced. They were so arrogant they didn't even think they had to be thorough anymore.

This is what I thought the neocons were like: When Reagan took over, within 15 minutes of his inauguration, on the military installation where Mr. dks worked, every photo of Jimmy Carter in every building was removed, and replaced with Reagan's. This was not the Pentagon, this was a backwater training installation. And it was the same at every American military installation. Their attention to detail was so complete and so relentless, that I was scared to death. Then I saw that Niger forgery, and I thought, "Shit! They're slippin'!"

[re: emptywheel and Niger forgeries]

I see. That tracks with what Josh Marshall pointed to (again?) just today: that all the original mentions of Niger refer to transcriptions of the forgeries made available by SISMI, and only under duress did complete copies (not transcriptions) of the forgeries ever appear in the States. That works well with your account, which suggests that "they" never expected anyone to, you know, actually physically verify their claims.

That's pretty, um, confident of them. If that really was the plan, I have to admit I'm surprised. Is it normally that easy to take a country to war? Crude forgeries that the CIA (and Security Council / IAEA) never even get to look at?

Hersh wrote about the forgeries in the New Yorker. He repeated speculation that they were done by ex-CIA officers who knew they would get back to Cheney et al. and would be taken seriously. He (or his source) seems to have been only half right.

Here is what Justin Raimondo said about the forgers:

"'Previous versions of the [Italian Parliamentary] report were redacted and had all the names removed, though it was possible to guess who was involved. This version names Michael Ledeen as the conduit for the report and indicates that former CIA officers Duane Clarridge and Alan Wolf were the principal forgers. All three had business interests with Chalabi.'

"Alan Wolf died about a year and a half ago of cancer. He served as chief of the CIA's Near East Division as well as the European Division, and was also CIA chief of station in Rome after Clarridge. According to my source, 'he and Clarridge and Ledeen were all very close and also close to Chalabi.' The former CIA officer says Wolf 'was Clarridge's Agency godfather. Significantly, both Clarridge and Wolf also spent considerable time in the Africa division, so they both had the Africa and Rome connection and both were close to Ledeen, closing the loop.'"

These guys had been out of the CIA for awhile. I think Emptywheel is right that they never intended for the actual forged documents to be made public. But there is another twist here. Yellowcake isn't a big deal. Iraq already had a huge amount of yellowcake. Remember, it was in an unsecured ammo dump in Iraq that was looted after the US invasion. It was found after the first Gulf War and was under seals that the UN inspectors inspected every year. What is needed to build a bomb is enriched, weapons grade uranium. (There was a Kos Diary on this earlier today.)

The implication is that anyone who really understood this stuff realized that yellowcake was just a scare tactic and not a big deal.

Steve Clemons says indictments tomorrow, press conference Thursday, and the targets already know. Which explains a lot of the recent leaking.

Suspend your incredulity.
What's gone wrong is the Iraqi resistance.
It's thirty months since they took Iraq. They've stonewalled pretty well for twenty-nine months. It's only this last month that things have really fallen apart.
Had Iraq been "pacified" a year ago none of this would have happened.
The whole world is in the debt of those Iraqis.

Yeah, Larry. (I'm gonna call you Larry, now. I feel closer to you.) You'd choose frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.

You, me, and the Framers, too. In fact, I'm pretty sure they did just that. Wrote it down, too.

As some may know, I've been in DC for about a month. I'm staying a few blocks from Fort McNair, home of the National War College. When I get on the metro, there's often a soldier or two, sometimes in the uniform of another nation. This morning it was a very young looking major, carrying a zippered binder. When we got on the train, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, palm-sized copy of the Contitution, and read it until he exited a few stops up the line. As I snuck glances at this Army officer reading our Constitution, I realized this wasn't just some guy doing remedial work, reading the Constitution for the first time. He's a major, and as a student at the War College, he's obviously on the fast track. He probably went to West Point, but if not, he certainly graduated from college, and would have been required to take classes on US government. But whether for a class at the War College, or out of a sense of duty, he was reading the Constitution.

And it dawned on me: when's the last time George W. Bush, Dick Cheney or the rest of their cabal read the Constitution?


I'd like to think that it's not Zarqawi we owe Fitzmas to, but rather the fact that every coin has a flipside, every strength has an attendant weakness, every tactic a blindspot. And thus, that the same set of circumstances that enabled them to get this far contained the seeds of their downfall. Yes, by ignoring established and legitimate intel they were able to rush us into a war of choice, but that same choice resulted in their complete unpreparedness and incompetence when they got to Iraq, such that Bremer didn't even know who Sistani was when he landed in Baghdad. ("Can't we get another mullah?" he said after Sistani's first fatwa.) That way, I can think cheaters like Cheney are destined to screw up and get their just desserts, and I don't have to be thankful for a very ugly civil war.

Now in fact, the way these guys usually pull things off is in backroom deals with other powerful people, so I am a little surprised that they couldn't broker a peace with the Sunnis that would work well for the Sunni ruling class and essentially buy off the insurgency. Because you're right, had things gone well in Iraq little of this would have caught up to them (the NOC leak possibly excepted).

For that matter, maybe they're wondering why they couldn't buy their way to a peace between leading Sunnis and Shiites (and Kurds). Because Chalabi swindled them into disbanding the Army, and because the windows for this kind of thing tend to be narrow? I don't know. Because they honestly thought they'd manage an occupation well, and the Sunnis would have to come crawling back to the bargaining table rather than marching up to it with all the cards? I don't know again.

To finish the thought, that's how I avoid your conclusion antiaristo. I think that bit of brainy dodgery proves that I can't be trusted.

Why aren't the fake Zawahiri letters more convincing? They've given us plenty of forgeries, not just the Niger ones, and none of them have been good.

The most obvious answer: Cheney's necessarily small ad hoc intelligence apparatus doesn't include anyone with expertise in key areas that would make forged documents look and sound authentic. At least with the Niger forgeries they seemed aware that the docs wouldn't stand up to close scrutiny. The Zawahiri letters were just bizarre, like they were written for propaganda purposes by someone without close knowledge of his/her subjects.

Interesting observation, DH. But in combination with my own crazy theories about just how dangerous extra-legal government can be, plus the possible lack of appropriate civilian methods of redress, seeing Army officers on their way to the War College brushing up on the Constitution is freaking me out.

I was thinking about "theories of governance," and one of Wilkerson's lines jumped out at me:

But a second and far more important reason is that the nature of both governance and crisis has changed in the modern age.

This very idea, that the world was changing and we needed a strong and agile government, was one of Bush's selling points after 9/11 and in the 2004 election. The irony is that Bush et al's response--forming a cabal to short-circuit the bureaucracy--was so disastrously wrong. The cabal mounted an effective insurgency against the CIA and State, and they got their Iraq war. But any insurgent strategy is limited, in that it can only destabilize. It has no real competency of its own--hence the failure to rebuild Iraq. So now the same idea, that the world is changing and we need a government that can handle it, is coming back to hurt Bush.

Very true, YK. That was the selling point for Bush. That, and his disdain for "bureaucracy" that stood in the way of "strong, decisive leadership."

But he was also the MBA president. The guy who could marshall the troops and run the big show. Now we know he couldn't do either, and in addition was a miserable failure even at running his own kitchen cabinet.

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