« The Truth About The President's Standing | Main | The Next Open Thread »

December 29, 2005


One reason why Ritter's book may not be getting much attention is the legal trouble he found himself in. I can't remember the exact nature of the charges--I remember reading about it in a New Yorker article around 2002-2003--but iirc it was something really bad and salacious, I think concerning downloaded images of child pornography. He vehemently claimed he had been framed, and the charges did seem a little suspect. But at the same time, the New Yorker article presented him as not quite the most stable guy you'd ever meet, and more than a little inconsistent.

Assessing Ritter's claims requires one to also assess his veracity and reliability. I suspect that for many people it's just too complicated, so the result is they don't engage his claims all that seriously so as to avoid being seen as accepting the claims of a potentially dubious (and if the kiddie porn stuff is to be believed, depraved) source.

Yes, I'm aware of the allegations (and I'm looking for the reasonably good refutation I've seen, which means I'm mostly wandering through Stephen Hayes' accusations against Ritter, which doesn't say much for the accusations). To Ritter's credit, he never makes the claim (at least not in the book) that the charges were retaliation for his unwillingness to cooperate with this--the closest he comes is with Duelfer's warning.

That may also be one of the reasons he backs away from describing what was going on in the most direct way. Also, note he footnotes extensively. Most of this is sourced to published UNSCOM papers, as well as interviews with some Iraqis after the fact.

Although its been pretty obvious for quite some time that the US was sabotaging the UNSCOM inspections, I think that "regime change" had little to do with it. The US didn't want the inspections process to succeed (i.e. certify that Iraq was WMD-free) because that would eliminate the rationale for the presence of the US military bases in Saudi Arabia.

9-11 made the continued presence of Saudi bases untenable -- the Saudi Royals' support of the madrasses that were preaching jihad against America was a direct result of the presence of those bases -- the jihadists kept their focus off the Saudi Royals and their complicity with the US because they were "paid off."

Saudi co-operation in the war on terror was only possible if those bases were closed -- the radical clerics whom the Royals had nurtured would have stood for nothing less.

The war in Iraq became "necessary" because of the US "need" for middle-east military bases. It really was all about the oil -- about the US need to ensure its access to middle-east oil reserves with its military presence.

Here's the porn story. Not clear from the article whether it was factual or not.

(Not sure what happened when I posted this a few minutes ago. It seems to have disappeared.)

Ritter was on C-Span last week and he said the charges against him had been dropped. The way the Bushies are known to go after the messenger, I wouldn't put it past them to have planted evidence against him. That said, I would take the allegations against Ritter with a huge grain of salt.

p luk

The inspections Ritter is speaking of is those that took place from 1991 until 1998--under Bush I and Clinton. While I agree that it's not all about regime change (or, might rather be described in terms of maintaining control over key states in the ME, in the case of Iraq by ensuring you've got a friendly dictator), it's definitely not a post-9/11 concern for Saudi bases. (Note, too, that Saudi Arabia is alleged to have supported teh 1996 coup attempt, again, don't know if that's true.)

Here's an interesting PBS interview, from before the war. It's an interesting take on what Ritter believed before he interviewed the Mukhabarat guys and after (and also what he was willing to admit afterwards--he is asked in the Frontline interview about the intercept program, and he doesn't respond).

And here's a William Arkin post slamming Ritter. It's not so much that he finds Ritter disingenuous. It's that he thinks Ritter was responsible (not least for the way he worked outside of normal channels) for the failure of UNSCOM.

But on the central point, Arkin backs up much of what Ritter says:

A bit of full disclosure: In 1998, I was hired by the office of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to look into allegations that UNSCOM was being used to collect information for the United States above and beyond that needed by weapons inspectors to catch the Iraqis in their deceits. UNSCOM was being used, and had set up a variety of surveillance programs designed to support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

The "close in" eavesdropping scheme was able to monitor short-range radio and telephone calls in Baghdad and thus "map" Saddam Hussein's inner circle and guard force. (For targeting purposes, the quality of the intelligence was so good that after UNSCOM left Iraq in December 1998, the Clinton administration just couldn't resist undertaking Operation Desert Fox, the now infamous "wag the dog" attack whose real purpose -- perhaps not so far fetched -- was to kill Saddam Hussein or at least to sow enough confusion and disruption in his guard force to open the way for a coup.)

FWIW, one of Arkin's big complaints with Ritter is the way he cooperated with the Israelis. I agree with the complaint. It's disturbing to me that, under the guise of a UN inspection, Israel was given highly sensitive intelligence on Iraq.

Last link, I promise (maybe).

But here's a 1999 Barton Gellman article, apparently sourced to Kofi Annan, detailing the use of UNSCOM's intercept program.

EW, was just about to post about Gellman's article (actually, it's an investigative series -- see e.g. this).

It's not just a theory, it's established fact that the U.S. and CIA used UNSCOM to spy on Iraq. Since Gellman's series, it's been publicly acknowledged by Richard Butler and Rolf Ekéus, and is the main reason for the termination of UNSCOM and its replacement with UNMOVIC. The UN's Amorim Report, which marked the UNSCOM-UNMOVIC transition, has a backhanded, diplomacy-speak reference to this motivation for the transfer. Iraq's discovery of the spying is an essential part of the background to the pitched confrontations of 1998.

Among other things, the information gleaned was used to track Saddam's whereabouts for the purpose of trying to assassinate him.

Note that even Ekéus has accused the U.S. of having deliberately obstructed inspections.

Thanks KM

Can I just say Barton Gellman rocks? I rag on WaPo with the best of them, but I've developed a very acute sense of appreciation for Gellman and Dafna Linzer this year, in addition to my existing appreciation for Pincus and Priest and Milbank (to say nothing of Froomkin, who, as we all know, is not a White House reporter).

Now if we could only do something about Steno Sue and VandeHei.

emptywheel, I appreciate your support for Milbank. I will chalk the Froomkin snark in his last WaPo online chat up to the scary political reality of having to work under a Kool-Aid chugging editor such as John WATB Harris.

That second one maps very closely to Ritter's book, KM, although Ritter could only be a source for about half of the allegations in the Gellman article.

One thing Gellman didn't include, but Ritter did: that the CIA deliberately gave UNSCOM equipment that would produce useless intercepts.

I'm also curious by the difference/similarity in the portrayal of allegiances. Gellman also portrays Duelfer as the linchpin of this. And, at least when Gellam spoke to him, Butler was playing dumb. Given the way that Richard Clarke and more recently Bolton have forced UN people out of positions, I wonder if we handpicked Butler for the job.

Many, many other comments to make on this post/subject (I'm glad you've raised it, EW). Probably won't get to many of them.

Your title is right. The Clinton Administration deliberately engaged in systematic lying about Iraq and WMD. That's a fact and is not subject to dispute. They played a game with inspections (and "WMDs") just as much as the Iraqis and Saddam did. Furthermore, many of the more systematic misrepresentations (e.g. of UNSCOM and IAEA reports) that the Clinton and Blair admins came habitually to rely on were picked up on, vastly extended, and twisted to new purposes by the fanatics currently in the White House in their obsessive drive for war.

IMHO critics of the Bush Admin and of this deluded and reprehensible war need to come to grips with and acknowledge the sins of the Clinton Admin, and the sense in which its games and lies, created for their own purposes, created a context of public (academic, policy) opinion, and a network of false but extremely widely held "truisms" about Iraq and WMD, which vastly facilitated the current neocon grand project. But this does not mean that there is some kind of equivalence between the two Administrations and what they have done (and sought to do).

The use by people like Ritter of neocon neologisms like "regime change" to describe the motivations of the Clinton Admin vis-a-vis Iraq is unfortunate, not so much because it's wrong, but because it too tends to encourage this notion of equivalence of purpose, and of means, between the two Admins. "Regime change" might fit the Bush I and Clinton Admins but it does a damn poor job of covering the full-fledged neocon agenda, and the many reasons for the unprovoked and thoroughly fabricated war against Iraq in 2003. And nothing the Clinton Admin ever did or said can touch the most massive, systematic, ruthless and brazen campaign of deception orchestrated by the Bush II Admin in pimping their trumped-up "crisis" and subsequent invasion.

EW -- two quick comments.

Colum Lynch of the Boston Globe broke the story before Gellman, I believe. The Globe and Post series ran at roughly the same time and brought public attention to the spying.

Butler of course denied the spying vociferously at the time, but has since acknowledged it (e.g. in his memoirs).

The reason i don't really buy the "regime change" explanation for US actions under Clinton is the same reason "regime change" made no sense as an excuse for the war in Iraq.

Namely--getting rid of Saddam represented a unknown---but potentially disasterous---risk, and Clinton was too smart to take that kind of risk.

If we actually wanted to get rid of Saddam, we'd have been nicer to him...and knock him off when he let his guard down.

Having the right enemies is far more useful than having the right friends. Saddam was the perfect enemy, and Clinton exploited that perfection to the hilt.


The primary difference, it seems to me, is in the way regime change fit numerous objectives in the Bush II era, but just one (enforcing discipline among our client states) in the two earlier administrations. With 43, you've got the Oedipus factor, the reelection factor, the personal enrichment factor, a very different status for the dollar and for the Saudi relationship.

And I think the caution about the term regime change (although Ritter seems to get it from the 1991 Finding) is accurate. What 41 and Clinton aspired to do was replace Saddam with a better behaved strongman. What 43 claimed to want to do was get rid of the Baathists altogether.

p luk

I'm not sure I understand. Do you believe the 1996 coup attempt was just a front? Just something to put Saddam further on the defensive? And for that we'd be willing to lose 800 assets in Iraq?

Another excellent post -- must commend again the way the mind of EW works.

Lest we forget, the Neocon apparatus was fairly functional during the Clinton regime. The whole bogus load of intelligence made the rounds well before Bush II took over, as part of the overall anti-Saddam propaganda campaign, which began when Bush I infuriated Neocons by NOT colonizing Iraq back in 1991. (They turned hard against Bush I during the 1992 elections.)

Wurmser & Perle's 1996 "Clean Break" paper was the public tip of the Neocon propaganda iceberg, nicely summarizing the overall strategy.

In the present debates on Iraq, we now see the beauty of the Neocon Iraq project -- Bush II can dig up plentiful quotes from Democrats who've bashed the Saddam-Menace over the past 14 years. They all swallowed the same Neocon propaganda. And the "hypocrisy" and "rewriting history" charges are effective, unfortunately.

As president, Clinton bought the whole load as well, of course, but he wasn't whole-hog committed to taking out Saddam. He lacked the fever. His tendency towards half-measures served him well, on this one -- though it should be said he was lacking in suitable pretext.

The events of 9/11 provided the pretext, at long last, and also ended doubts as to which way America would go after the end of the Cold War, regarding its policy in the Middle East, where Oil and Israel have often been in conflict.

The Education of Scott Ritter -- he went straight from hero to goat as he began to realize what was afoot. He was naieve, and just idealistic enough to get himself in trouble. The above EW link shows how his former friends play ball.

Too many Americans shared Ritter's naievete back around 2003 -- but since then have learned quite a bit more about that iceberg. I wonder if it will be enough to keep us out of Iran & Syria, et al...

I'm not sure I understand. Do you believe the 1996 coup attempt was just a front? Just something to put Saddam further on the defensive? And for that we'd be willing to lose 800 assets in Iraq?

I'd say that it was more like the Iraqi version of the Bay of Pigs. I don't think that the Clinton administration engineered the coup attempt, but merely bought into the assurances of expatriots like Allawi that there was all this support for a coup inside Iraq within the Iraqi military.

But it turned out that a whole lot of the people "involved" in the abortive coup plot were agent provacateurs working for Saddam's intelligence services --- which is why on the date that the coup was supposed to happen, all of the people who were involved in the coup were suddenly gone.

BTW, where did you get the "800 assets" number from? Is that the number of people purged/killed by Saddam in 1996 when the whole plot was discovered?

p luk

Bay of Pigs is an analogy many use for the coup, both Neocons and Iraqis. So it might make sense.

Yes, 800 assets is one of the numbers I've seen. Ritter describes it as one battalion of the Special Republican Guard, plus some. Which is not exactly 800 assets, but it's a big group of people.

There is some evidence, btw, that these people were killed or purged rather than just agents provacateurs. Saddam got a hold of one of the satellite phones they were using for communication, so he was listening in on all the plans. But he had to have gotten the phone from someone...

There is some evidence, btw, that these people were killed or purged rather than just agents provacateurs.

of course --- I'd say most of the people who disappeared were part of the coup. My point was that the coup plot was thoroughly infiltrated by Saddam's spies, who used the coup plot as a means of weeding out anyone who was potentially disloyal. Saddam knew about the plans well before the date the coup was supposed to take place -- but he waited until the very last minute to act against the plotters.

p luk

But that still doesn't make sense wrt to decapitation (a word that probably makes more sense than regime change). The CIA was doing a lot of work to make this coup successful--and exposing people both within and outside of CIA. Are you suggesting that work was all a front? That Clinton didn't want to get rid of Saddam?

What smokestack said. Remember that James Woolsey was a signatory to the Project for a New American Century and that the PNAC'ers riddled the policy establishment from Bush 1 through the Clinton years.

But that still doesn't make sense wrt to decapitation (a word that probably makes more sense than regime change). The CIA was doing a lot of work to make this coup successful--and exposing people both within and outside of CIA. Are you suggesting that work was all a front? That Clinton didn't want to get rid of Saddam?

I challenge the assertion that the CIA did a lot of work to make the coup successful -- the CIA was doing a lot of "work", but was it really directed toward ensuring the success of the coup, or was it just the usual kind of intelligence stuff the CIA is always doing? (i.e. you seem to be implying that the reason the CIA put so much effort into spying on Iraq was to facilitate the coup....I seriously doubt that was the motivation.)

As for Clinton's role in the coup -- one of the elements that is missing is evidence that the US military was poised to help the coup. The US did try to trigger a "crisis" in the inspections that would justify "decapitation", but did so in a manner that precluded co-ordination with the coup plotters (i.e. the "crisis" was that UN inspectors were sitting in a parking lot being denied access to a site it wanted to inspect. The US couldn't bomb Iraq with those inspectors as potential hostages --- in other words, the "crisis" that was created was incompatible with the planning for the coup, which supposedly involved the US killing Saddam and destroying key Republican Guard units through bombing, clearing the way for the coup plotters to take over.)

Basically, I think Clinton was not opposed to a coup, but wasn't willing to take the considerable risks involved in actively supporting it. There was certainly support within the CIA for the coup, but the enthusiasm of these CIA operatives for a coup was not shared throughout the administration.

The bottom line is that if Clinton wanted Saddam dead, he had ample opportunities (or excuses) to "decapitate" the regime -- and didn't do so.

(One aspect of my "paranoid theory" that I should mention is that I personally don't buy the "we didn't have any sources in Iraq" meme -- what we didn't have were sources who had the details on Saddam's WMD programs and where he was hiding everything, which was the only kind of source we considered valuable because we didn't want the truth, we only wanted information that conformed to our need to "contain" Iraq. We probably had plenty of sources in Iraq with the "wrong" information -- that they had no knowledge of WMDs. But these would not have been considered "good" sources.)

this is a highly infromative post.

it does implicitly illustrate a problem with commenting on whistleblowing that bothers me a lot:

i am bothered by the repetition of personal charges made against a bearer of bad news about or criticism of large organizations, in ritter's case, charges involving sexual perversity in the form of child pornography.

it seems to me that reporters feel obliged to mention these charges, or in the case of some individuals, actual activites. it also seems to me that mentioning them is a kind of cover-your-ass for reporters, an effort to avoid the criticism that a portion of the person's "relevant" personal history was ignored by the reporter.

i understand that in this case the matter is more one of attempting to evalutate what effect these charges may have had on the reception ritter's book received or his willingness to be more direct in his writing.

nonetheless, mentioning them keeps the charges alive.

martin luther king jr used to say that the fbi would get you on communism, money, or sex, and that they had got him on sex.

this tactic is extremely common in the corporate, university, and political world. in fact, it's really just human nature to want to taint or discredit an opponent.

the question i have is what could this disclosure possibly add to (or subtract from) the comments in his book.

ritter may be right; he may be inaccurate; he may be deluded. having read only this review, but knowing decades of context of u.s. foreign policy shenanigans, i'm willing to state and believe provisionally that ritter is substantially right.

put differently, what has ritter's alleged (or actual) sexual deviancy got to do with whether or not he accurately described the cia's efforts to undermine unscom's activities.

please understand DHinMI and EW that this is most emphatically not dintended as a scold but as an opportunistic effort to discuss a matter that bedevils any discussion of people who criticize the actions of large institutions.

the institutions have the money, the manpower, and the motive to visit personal embarasssment on any critic they choose.

what would seem more relevant and more helpful would be public, offical statements that demonstrate that ritter's facts or his argument or wrong in one aspect or another.

p luk

There are two moments to consider. One is the coup attempt in 1996. Another is the military bombing from 1998.

The CIA clearly invested a lot of money (one of the real inspections cost $12 million, then there's the cost of supporting the people who are primarily working for CIA, then there's the cost and the exposure of supplying a bunch of secure sat phones that can be and were traced back to the CIA). Yes, you're right. This might just be money to support general intelligence. Except that it increased leading up to a certain event, the coup. And the manipulations of UNSCOM also lead up to that same event. If, as you say, they're interested solely in gathering data, then you don't peak at that event, and you don't manipulate UNSCOM around it either. You avoid any peak to ensure your surveillance system stays in place.

Now, the military wasn't poised to help the coup. But it was poised to respond to the 1998 "crisis" with a bombing campaign (Ritter uses the term "war," but I don't quite buy that). Ritter describes the 5th Fleet, aircraft carriers, commando teams IN Iraq all being on alert when he did the Defense Ministry investigation. We won't know what would have happened if Iraq had refused that inspection. Probably what happened a few months later--cruise missile strikes. But even Arkin, in a critical piece that admits only what you admit (UNSCOM was used for intelligence) is clear that Clinton and the program intended to bring about the overthrow of Saddam.


I don't put much stock in the porn accusations. As I suggested, there's plenty there (Duelfer's warning, Stephen Hayes' role peddling the porn story) that suggests it was retalitory. And one of the reason I put up the Gellman and Arkin posts is that they confirm Ritter's main point, that the US used UNSCOM to carry out their own spying program. Ritter's point then becomes details, primarily about sabotage, but details that are again borne out by corrborating evidence.

But I think it worthwhile to admit the charges are out there. Not because I believe them (or necessarily think they affect Ritter's credibility). But because they're an important element of the spin around this larger event.

thank you.

it is important to acknowledge personally damaging info once that info has been introduced into the public discussion. it's just that it bothers me (in my native dialect "aggervates" me) a great deal that institutions can choose with impunity to employ this mode of attack on an individual critic.

the names and the activities in this story give a context and history to the iraq embroglio that i have not seen before.

one thing i cannot quite comprehend is why the cia would go to such lengths to disrupt unscom and british "work" in iraq.

were they actually ordered to do these things?

or were they given some broad directive ("will no one disrupt this meddlesome activity") which they then interpreted as they choose with knowledge that there would be no detailed oversight?

or were they just playing spook for the hell of it? do the bosses at cia just keep their guys in motion all the time so they earn their pay and don't get rusty. (i,m thinking of a range of activities from castro's exploding cigar to snatching an egyptiona cleric of of a street in milan.)

these guys are dangerous alright. but who to?

or was this another turf war - cia team vs un team? that's pretty juvenile!

what would the u.s. gain by the failure of unscom?

the opportunity for "regime change"?

protecting excuses for a bombing campaign?

i suppose.

i suppose but this seems to be going to a whole lot of trouble, and even risk, when all that would be necessary would be to lie about it to the congress or the public.

i know its naieve to ask, but do secretaries of state and national security advisors get to use the cia in this way if they choose?


I'm not sure--and I'm sure some (p luk?) would give you a totally diffrent take on this. So don't take this as definitive.

But first of all, at least according to Ritter, the CIA had a Finding (the Presidential orders that make CIA action legal, even if it uses illegal means) from 1991 that said take out Saddam. So the CIA was just doing what it was instructed to do.

I'm going to post on WHY in a few days. But I think it fits into US notions of hegemony in the ME.

We went to war against Saddam because he had been a client (meaning we believed he wouldn't make a move without our say so) and he violated the rules of client states. So we not only needed a short term fix (get him out of other people's oil fields, prevent the consolidation of 30% of the world's oil under one dictator), but we needed to punish him, to serve as a lesson for our other clients. The war accomplished the first part--but we couldn't accomplish the second part with international backing. So 41 set about creating the conditions to get rid of Saddam without alerting the rest of the world to our rationale, that we were punishing a client. UNSCOM was the excuse to get people into Iraq and destabilize Saddam. The CIA plot under UNSCOM's cover was a more direct attempt, at a time when it had become clear the Iraqis weren't going to do it on their own and when Oil for Food was improving conditions in Iraq making it even less likely the Iraqis would do it on their own. We had to prolong the guilt of Saddam's invasion of Kuwait suffiently long to make sure we didn't lose that geography (and oil) as a client of some sort.


I guess my problem is that I have a hard time believing that Clinton was a lot dumber that Bush I, who realized that "regime change" in Iraq wasn't a very good idea, and didn't march to Baghdad when he had the opportunity to do so in 1991.

I much prefer to think that the gross stupidity of the Bush administration is an anomoly.

p luk

I agree with you--I don't think 41 or Clinton are as stupid as 43. And one detail you haven't raised, but I've been wondering about--if Bush I supported regime change, then why not support the Shiite uprising?

But if there's a Finding, it's a Bush I finding.

Some reasons why I think 41 might pull back in 1991 and yet still aim for decapitation--but NOT regime change--is because he did want a Sunni dictator, not a Shiite dictator (think of our relations with Iran at the time). And he knew he couldn't get his allies--particularly not some of the Arab states--to go after Saddam. In other words, he wanted to get one of Saddam's lieutenants--someone who could be as brutal as Saddam, but who would for the short term be reliable, in to replace Saddam.

In other words, decapitation allows you to solve the problem the Iraq war was designed to solve, but without the problems we're currently experiencing. No breakaway Kurdistan, and no Shiite Islamic Republic.

good god!

i'm getting one hell of an education from all this.

but it really makes my stomach turn to think of this degree of (what seems to me to be)pointless machination from the cia in iraq in the '90's.

the cia should be a national resource. it recruits (or did recruit) extremely competent subject-matter individuals.

but its management syle, like that of many large organizations (wapo, NyTi), destroys the "capital" of its workers.

over many years i come to distrust the cia deeply, specifically for their blind enthusiasm for trivially incompetent activities.

the question i keep asking myeslf is: is this the only way to conduct the details of foreign policy?

my personal view of the"terrorism" problem is that the cia should be just the organization to turn to to help protect the u.s. from muslim fanatics. but the cia's previous and current track record in pointless, goofy activities suggests to me that that oraganizazation is as incompetent as the fbi in doing what we have every reson to expect they would be able to do.

My turn!

Regarding the discussion of the careful maintenance of client states: is this where Bush's "commitment to democracy worldwide" actually represents the significant departure from the FP consensus that the pundits treat it as? More clearly stated, is Bush 43's team (his old team at least) really prepared to create uncontrollable "democracies" every now and then and just assume that in the end American interests will do alright?

It looks like 41 and 42 did not want to create open-ended situations like a Shiite or Kurdish rebellion, or escalating civil unrest, or any of that. They wanted a clean and controlled transition that would turn Iraq into another Egypt -- a corrupt practitioner of torture and political repression, but a player for our team. I can't really blame them. Now Wolfowitz and co surely thought they could maintain control of the "democratic" evolution of Chalabi-stan; the self-assuredness with which the CPA made economic policy seems to indicate they weren't planning on creating a conventional open and populace-driven republic. But they seem to have an unusual fallback position: "even if we create a massively chaotic situation, "liberty"/chaos/"democracy" will evolve in positive directions/our favor and everything/American interests will be fine." They seem much less chaos-averse than a Scowcroft or a Berger. They are supremely confident that they can buy off and otherwise control democratic or power-distributed systems -- after all, it works here in America -- but they seem to also not fear failure much. I don't know where they get that or if this analysis is even any good, but it seems different. I do know that columnists always talk as if this Administration's commitment to democracy is unusually strong, and I'm thinking what they mean is that this Administration is willing to roll the dice and try to get "democracy" on a wing and a prayer, whereas Clinton, who probably likes democracy more, would have also feared instability much more.


Another possibility is that these folks don't seriously entertain the possibility of failure. That same supreme confidence means that they only give failure scenarios lip service, even in private. So what looks like a fallback position that displays unusual faith in the magic of "democracy", really is just the absence of a fallback position. If you try to take them seriously, you think their faith in "liberty" is bizarrely strong. Only when you remember their real character do you realize that they probably just didn't think they could be wrong or fail in any way.

The last paragraph of the WaPo Abramoff article seems generally appropriate these days:

"This is at a scale that is really shocking," said [former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards (Okla.), usually a defender of lobbying and Congress]. "There is a certain kind of arrogance that in the past you might not have had. They were so supremely confident that there didn't seem to be any kind of moral compass here."

Differences in degree and scale more than in kind. Differences between regular piles of bullshit and the Augean stables.

texas dem

Phenomenal quote. Yes, I agree.

I think Clinton and 43 regard democracy differently (and 41, doesn't consider it much at all). Clinton was the real thing. He could light up a crowd of people AND delivery policy that responded to that group. Bush has the same ability to light up a crowd. But he doesn't have any intention of backing up his promises with policy. See, for example, the prescription drug benefit, which is really a big boondoggle for the drug companies.

Which means Bush is conscious that democracy is not only populist posturing, but also wholescale deception, the concealment of real policy behind a facade of nice words. That's as true here as it is in Iraq (or any other countries he claims to be spreading democracy in). So I honestly think it's not so much tolerance for chaos (although I do believe they'd rather have chaos than the French and Russians get the contracts). It's a mistaken belief that they'll be able to bamboozle Iraqis as easily as Americans, even in the face of really dire reality.

Personally, I'm inclined to count Bush as among the deceived rather than among the deceivers. Does he have any idea what is in that prescription drug plan? If that anecdote from The Price of Loyalty is right (Bush: "shouldn't we be giving the middle class a cut this time around?" Handlers: awkward silence, spin, reassure, move on), then Bush has barely any concept of anything his adminstration does.

Of course, not every use of "Bush" in your (or any) writing necessarily indicates the man himself. In this case, your first paragraph looks like it is referring to the man himself, the second paragraph maybe not as much.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Where We Met

Blog powered by Typepad