Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tracking the Administration's Deceit in Invading Iraq

My husband Tom and I compiled this information from reliable sources, much of it from former members of the Bush Administration, and the Pentagon, on how the Administration mislead the public in making its case for war with Iraq.

Let me say upfront, if you wish to refute this information in your comments, I expect the same sort of reliable information and links to quotes. Conjecture, fantasy, musings from Bill O’Reilly or other gasbags, or tired stories about Clinton getting a BJ (get over it, already), will not be sufficient to convince me otherwise.

The Preoccupation of War with Iraq.
• The neocons wrote about their desire to take out Saddam in the mid-nineties. This was no secret. Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to Bush Sr. said:
"… allied to the core of neocons is that bunch who thought we made a mistake in the first Gulf War, that we should have finished the job. There was another bunch who were traumatized by 9/11, and who thought, 'The world's going to hell and we've got to show we're not going to take this, and we've got to respond, and Afghanistan is O.K., but it's not sufficient."
LINK
• Paul O’Neil, the former Treasury Secretary in Bush’s first term, said that within days of Bush entering the White House after his first election, (And way before 9/11) the Bush Administration began planning to use U.S. troops to invade Iraq.According to former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind, O'Neill and other White House insiders gave him documents showing that in early 2001 the administration was already considering the use of force to oust Saddam, as well as planning for the aftermath.
"There are memos," Suskind said. "One of them marked 'secret' says 'Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq.'" Suskind cited a Pentagon document titled "Foreign Suitors For Iraqi Oilfield Contracts," which, he said, outlines areas of oil exploration. "It talks about contractors around the world from ... 30, 40 countries and which ones have what intentions on oil in Iraq."
LINK
• Richard Clarke has testified under oath before the 9/11 Commission that in the hours after the 9/11 disaster, the president asked him to see if he could link the attacks to Saddam.
• The Downing Street Minutes make it clear that the plan was in place to go to war with Iraq at least a year before the invasion and that the “facts were fixed around the policy”. LINK
• Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff said in a commentary in the LA Times:
"In PRESIDENT BUSH'S first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security — including vital decisions about postwar Iraq — were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

When I first discussed this group in a speech last week at the New America Foundation in Washington, my comments caused a significant stir because I had been chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell between 2002 and 2005.

But it's absolutely true. I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. More often than not, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal.

Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift — not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and "guardians of the turf."

But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions and virtually ensured that the agencies charged with implementing them would not or could not execute them well.

The administration's performance during its first four years would have been even worse without Powell's damage control. At least once a week, it seemed, Powell trooped over to the Oval Office and cleaned all the dog poop off the carpet. He held a youthful, inexperienced president's hand. He told him everything would be all right because he, the secretary of State, would fix it. And he did — everything from a serious crisis with China when a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was struck by a Chinese F-8 fighter jet in April 2001, to the secretary's constant reassurances to European leaders following the bitter breach in relations over the Iraq war. It wasn't enough, of course, but it helped.

Today, we have a president whose approval rating is 38% and a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces. We have a secretary of Defense presiding over the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of our overstretched armed forces (no surprise to ignored dissenters such as former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki or former Army Secretary Thomas White).

It's a disaster. Given the choice, I'd choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time."
LINK
• Retired General, Anthony Zinni, handed up a scathing indictment of the push to go to war in Iraq, saying the generals didn’t want this war, but the administration did.
"In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption.”

Zinni says the Pentagon relied on inflated intelligence information about weapons of mass destruction from Iraqi exiles, like Ahmed Chalabi and others, whose credibility was in doubt. Zinni claims there was no viable plan or strategy in place for governing post-Saddam Iraq. Zinni refers to a group of policymakers within the administration known as "the neo-conservatives" who saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to stabilize American interests in the region and strengthen the position of Israel. They include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; Former Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle; National Security Council member Eliot Abrams; and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Zinni believes they are political ideologues who have hijacked American policy in Iraq.
“I think it's the worst kept secret in Washington. That everybody - everybody I talk to in Washington has known and fully knows what their agenda was and what they were trying to do”
LINK

Deceitful Presentation of Intelligence.
• In his State of the Union Address, President Bush says that Saddam was seeking to buy yellowcake uranium from Africa. Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger the year before dashed this claim. This report was know to the CIA and had been disseminated to various parts of the government including the Office of the Vice President. LINK
• Administration officials say the Saddam has aluminum tubes can only be used for nuclear weapons. Speaking to a group of Wyoming Republicans in September, Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States now had ''irrefutable evidence'' -- thousands of tubes made of high-strength aluminum, tubes that the Bush administration said were destined for clandestine Iraqi uranium centrifuges…. The tubes were ''only really suited for nuclear weapons programs,'' Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, explained on CNN on Sept. 8, 2002. ''We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.'' However:
A NY Times article written in the fall of 2004 puts the lie to this allegation by documenting how one person, a Junior analyst in the CIA floated this idea. When he published his finding, scientists within the Department of Energy shot holes in his argument. The DOE report was given to Ms. Rice’s staff a year before her statements.
LINK

• Mobile Weapon Labs. This was also hyped by administration officials including Colin Powel at the UN. The source of this intel was a person known as “Curveball” and it was widely known that he was of suspect value. Again this was known in the fall of 2002, prior to the “selling of the war”. Analysts in the CIA who voiced concern about Curveball were ''forced to leave'' the unit most responsible for analyzing his claims, …. One analyst, after arguing that Curveball might indeed be a fabricator, recalled being ''read the riot act'' by a supervisor. LINK
On Meet The Press, Tim Russert said to Colin Powell:
“It now appears that an agent called Curveball mislead the CIA by suggesting that Saddam had trucks and trains that would deliver biological chemicals and weapons. How concerned are you that some of the information you shared with the world is now inaccurate and discredited?”

And Powell replied:
“ I’m very concerned when I made that presentation in February 2003, it was based on the best information the essential intelligence agency made available to me. We studied it carefully, we looked at the sourcing, the case of the mobile trucks and trains, there was multiple sourcing for that. Unfortunately that multiple sourcing over time has turned out to be not accurate. And so I’m deeply disappointed. But I’m also comfortable that at the time I made the presentation, it reflected the collective judgment the sound judgment of the intelligence community. But it turned out that the sourcing, was inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading.”
LINK
• What's more, according to a lengthy US News & World Report Article:
"The policy decisions weren't matching the reports we were reading every day," says an intelligence official. In September 2002, U.S. News has learned, the Defense Intelligence Agency issued a classified assessment of Iraq's chemical weapons. It concluded: "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons . . . ." At about the same time, Rumsfeld told Congress that Saddam's "regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas." Rumsfeld's critics say that the secretary tended to assert things as fact even when intelligence was murky. "What we have here is advocacy, not intelligence work," says Patrick Lang, a former top DIA and CIA analyst on Iraq. "I don't think [administration officials] were lying; I just think they did a poor job. It's not the intelligence community. It's these guys in the Office of the Secretary of Defense who were playing the intelligence community."
LINK
• Saddam al Qaeda connection. The president stated in his Cincinnati speech in October of 2002 that al Qaeda was training in Iraq. The NY Times, in a November 6th article, stated that the source, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was highly suspect. This was known since February of 2002, yet the Bush Administration used it as one of the justifications for the imminent threat Iraq posed. LINK

• And finally, The writings of Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski shed a unique spotlight on the deceitfulness of the whole operation. She was in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans and chronicles the cherry-picked intelligence used for the justification of the war.
“From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. This seizure of the reins of U.S. Middle East policy was directly visible to many of us working in the Near East South Asia policy office, and yet there seemed to be little any of us could do about it.
I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies.
I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.
While this commandeering of a narrow segment of both intelligence production and American foreign policy matched closely with the well-published desires of the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of us in the Pentagon, conservatives and liberals alike, felt that this agenda, whatever its flaws or merits, had never been openly presented to the American people. Instead, the public story line was a fear-peddling and confusing set of messages, designed to take Congress and the country into a war of executive choice, a war based on false pretenses, and a war one year later Americans do not really understand. That is why I have gone public with my account.”
LINK

According to Newsweek this morning, 68% of the American people are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. LINK

8 Comments:

Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Tremendous. Thank you for putting together such a marvelous, well-researched post.

I'm sure there will be an obtuse few who will never admit that this president is not only corrupt, but pathetic. They are no doubt part of what Charles Pierce calls, in one of the best things I've ever read, "Idiot America."

It's behind a firewall at the esquire site, but aric over at templepolemic has put the whole article on this blog.

It's so good, and I'm so grateful that Esquire published it, that I'm going to go out and purchase the magazine as a way of making up for the online subscription avoidance.

Yeharr

2:34 PM, November 12, 2005  
Blogger boni said...

Thanks BP. I'll check out the Esquire article.
Most of what we listed, has been in the mainstream media for a long time. But, when you see it all massed together like this, it's pretty damning.
And it's just the tip of the iceberg...
How's your son? Hope he's well...

4:36 PM, November 12, 2005  
Anonymous a friend said...

The ‘Ding Dong, The Bush Is Dead’ fever rages on, disappointments notwithstanding. Hurricane Katrina was, at best, a wash. The more looters and welfare deadbeats who went on TV to whine that Bush wasn’t doing enough, the more most Americans remembered that New Orleans is a nice place to have a margarita with a topless transsexual but they wouldn’t want to live there and they don’t see why they should pay a gazillion dollars to those who do.

But in the wake of Katrina came a string of Category One or Two storms which the Democratic base and the media figure they can huff and puff into Category Four and total the White House. Tom DeLay has been indicted in Texas! Bill Frist is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission! Scooter Libby is up before the most zealous Federal prosecutor in the country! Can the impeachment of the President be far behind?

Look, you’re a well-informed Spectator reader: have you heard of any of these guys? Well, nor have most Americans. What’s that? You’ve heard of Scooter? No, you’re mistaken, you’re thinking of Skeeter — Skeeter Davis, the late country and western singer who had a top three hit in 1963 with ‘Don’t the-ey know it’s The End Of The World/ It ended when you said goodbye’, which is apparently what George W. Bush will be singing as Karl Rove’s led out of the Oval Office in handcuffs.

Just for the record, Tom DeLay is the House Majority Leader, Bill Frist is the Senate Majority Leader, and Scooter Libby is the highest-ranking Scooter in the administration, chief of staff to Vice-President Cheney. By the time you read this, Scooter may have been indicted. For a week now, I’ve woken up to emails beginning ‘Happy Fitzmas, asshole!’ — a seasonal greeting from prematurely ejaculating lefty gloaters. ‘Fitzmas’ is the Left’s designation for that happy day when federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald hands down indictments against Libby, Rove, and maybe Cheney, and — boy oh boy, who knows? — maybe Chimpy Bushitlerburton himself. Pat Fitzgerald has been making his list, checking it twice, found out who’s naughty or nice, and he’s ready to go on a Slay Ride leaving Bush the Little Drummed-Out Boy and the Dems having a blue blue blue blue blue-state Christmas in November 2006, if not before.

Well, I enjoy the politics of personal destruction as much as the next chap, and one appreciates that it’s been a long time since the heady days when Dems managed to collect the scalps of both Newt Gingrich and his short-lived successor within a few short weeks. But, as I’ve said before, one reason that the Democratic party is such a bunch of losers is because they’re all tactics and no strategy. Let’s suppose they succeed in destroying DeLay, Frist, Libby and a bunch of other names the majority of Americans aren’t familiar with. Then what? Several analysts are suggesting that the 2006 elections are shaping up like 1994, when Newt’s revolution swept the Democratic old guard from power. It’s a bit early for my reckless election predictions, but I’d bet on the Republicans holding both the House and Senate. Though the electorate was disgusted by the sheer arrogance of Democrat corruption, 1994 wasn’t just a throw-the-bums-out spasm — despite ABC’s Peter Jennings’s sniffing that ‘the voters had a temper tantrum’. Au contraire, it was also a throw-the-bums-in election. Voters liked the alternative — a coherent conservative agenda. It’s quite possible that the electorate will have a throw-the-bums-out attitude to the Republicans in 12 months’ time, but I’d say it’s almost completely unfeasible that they’ll be in a mood to throw the Dems in. There are not a lot of competitive Congressional districts and those that are are mostly in Democrat blue states that, if not yet red, are turning distinctly purple. The Dems’ big immovable obstacle remains their inability to articulate a set of ideas that connects with the electorate. James Carville and Stanley Greenberg are said to be working on a Democrat version of Newt’s Contract with America, but Greenberg’s a pollster and Carville’s an attack dog. Whatever their charms, these aren’t the ideas guys.

The difficulty for the Left is that if the problem is Iraq, Katrina or pretty much anything else, the solution is not obviously the Democratic party. The future of Iraq is mostly a matter for Iraqis now and it’s not going badly, as you can sort of tell if you decode the headlines — ‘Bitterly Divided Iraqis Take Time Out From Trembling On Brink Of Civil War To Overwhelmingly Ratify New Constitution’, ‘Three Sunnis And Their Pet Camel Boycott Poll In Sign Iraq May Be Becoming Ungovernable’, etc. In fact, it’s Syria that’s bitterly divided and becoming ungovernable and, as noted here three weeks ago, Baby Assad’s fall will not be long now. Meanwhile, Brent Scowcroft, one of the foreign policy ‘realists’ from Bush’s daddy’s day, recalled a conversation with his protégée Condi Rice two years ago. ‘She says we’re going to democratise Iraq, and I said, “Condi, you’re not going to democratise Iraq,” and she said, “You know, you’re just stuck in the old days,” and she comes back to this thing that we’ve tolerated an autocratic Middle East for 50 years and so on and so forth.... But we’ve had 50 years of peace.’

Well, yes, if you don’t include the Iranian hostages, Lebanon, Lockerbie and a lot else on the long road to 9/11. Nonetheless, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, also chipped in. As the Financial Times reported, ‘Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government’s foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.’

What does he mean by ‘hijacked’? Is Wilkerson saying that Cheney and Rumsfeld have imposed their foreign policy on the United States against the wishes of the President? I think not. If you read any Bush speech or talk to him for five minutes, it’s clear that he’s no supporter of the disastrously complacent State Department realpolitik herd mentality reflected by both Scowcroft and Wilkerson. Every word he utters on the subject suggests he inclines to the Cheney-Rumsfeld view of the world — or, rather, that they incline to his. The President sets foreign policy. He’s the pilot; he can’t ‘hijack’ his own plane. Wilkerson is a whining stewardess in a snit because she doesn’t want to learn a new spiel. ‘Do you want the chicken or the beef?’ She’s been serving up State Department chicken in Cairo and Amman and Damascus for decades, and she’s not comfortable with the new Texas beef. But the only hijack that’s going on is the State Department’s bland assumption that it has the right to block the President’s foreign policy.

I can’t claim to know George W. Bush, but as the years go by it strikes me that the caricature — the idiot sock-puppet manipulated by Cheney and Rove to do their bidding — is exactly backwards. The President is his own man — to such a degree that he seems not to notice that very few others are and, when he does, his response is to hunker down among a tight circle of loyalists. So, while he has a certain amount of stellar talent around him, most of his administration is either in the hands of active obstructionists like Wilkerson or trusted mediocrities like Harriet Miers. When I say Miss Miers is a mediocrity, that in itself is not a reason not to appoint her to the Supreme Court. For the first two centuries of the Republic, mediocre cronies were the rule rather than the exception. One thinks of Roscoe Conkling, appointed by Chester Arthur — or, rather, one doesn’t. It’s only in the revisionist interpretation of the Supreme Court as the ultimate nine-man omniscient parliament in which resides all true power to legislate the affairs of the nation that mediocrity would seem to be a disqualification. A decision of the court, according to Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ House leader, is ‘almost as if God has spoken’. Even in a robe, it’s hard to see Harriet Miers like that. But, on the other hand, one could argue that restoring the tradition of appointing hacks, creeps and time-servers to the court is a profoundly conservative act.

In their different ways, Miss Miers and Patrick Fitzgerald’s supposedly imminent indictments sum up the Bush administration, caught between the Scylla of third-rate cronies and the Charybdis of fourth-rate obstructionists. The Fitzgerald investigation arises from the ‘leak’ to the media of the name of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame. Miss Plame is the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, who in 2002 was dispatched by the Agency to Africa to investigate reports that Saddam was attempting to procure uranium from Niger. Ambassador Wilson spent a week ‘sipping sweet mint tea’ with old contacts from Major Wanke’s regime. (I suggested to the New York Times the scandal should be called Wankegate, but they seem reluctant to take me up on the offer.) If this rings a vague bell with you, it’s because I wrote about it in these pages back in the summer of 2003 and concluded:

‘If sending Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger for a week is the best the world’s only hyperpower can do, that’s a serious problem. If the Company knew it was a joke all along, that’s a worse problem. It means Mr Bush is in the same position with the CIA as General Musharraf is with Pakistan’s ISI: when he makes a routine request, he has to figure out whether they’re going to use it to try and set him up.’

That’s still the real scandal, and the only thing wrong with that judgment is that since then Musharraf and the ISI have reached a rough’n’ready modus vivendi that the Bush administration can only envy vis à vis the CIA. Otherwise, everything that’s come out only confirms my original view. In his laughably misnamed book The Politics Of Truth: Inside The Lies That Led To War And Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, Wilson strenuously denies that ‘my wife had somehow influenced a decision to send me to the middle of the Sahara Desert.... Valerie had had nothing to do with the matter.’

Really? How about the memo she wrote to the deputy director of the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division suggesting hubby was the ideal man for the job? (‘My husband has good relations with the PM and the former Minister of Mines,’ etc.) Or the meeting convened by Mrs Wilson at CIA headquarters on 19 February 2002 to introduce her husband to the relevant intelligence officials.

But Wilson’s curiously faulty memory of his wife’s role in getting him the assignment is as nothing compared with his recollection of what he ‘found out’ in Niger. The 2004 Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report on pre-war intelligence has 48 pages on Wilson that exposes everything he’s said publicly about his mission as a lot of baloney. Not only did the Senate report and the Butler report in London and British Intelligence and French Intelligence think Saddam was trying to acquire uranium from Niger, but so did a former Prime Minister of Major Wanke’s, who said so to Wilson, who said so to the CIA. The scandal here is not that ‘BUSH LIED!!!’ about Saddam’s nuclear ambitions, nor even that Wilson lied about Bush lying, but that the world’s most lavishly funded intelligence agency can do no better on a priority security matter than flying in a vain unqualified buffoon for a week of pseudo-spook tourism.

When Wankegate first erupted, the alleged ‘crime’ was that of leaking the name of a covert agent. Miss Plame was not in the least bit ‘covert’ and Victoria Toensing, who helped draft the relevant law, says no crime was committed. Wankegate may yet take down Libby and Rove, but so far all it’s done is drive the New York Times nuts. Judith Miller, a Times reporter and a peripheral figure in the Wilson farrago, went to jail for three months for the usual noble reasons, and the paper proudly stood by her. She got sprung from the big house just the other day, since when her colleagues have been trashing her name in daily 32-page pull-out supplements. Maureen Dowd, the paper’s elderly schoolgirl columnist, went for the jugular, and I haven’t seen a catfight like that since lesbian mud-wrestling night at Bud’s Roadhouse out on Route 123. If the Left were nimbler, they’d have figured that the whole thing is just a Karl Rove front operation to provoke the Times into tearing itself apart.

The Democrats are going to be mighty disappointed by the time this is all over, and still confronting their own identity crisis. Enjoy Fitzmas while you can, guys. You need a gift that keeps on giving, and this one won’t.

7:32 PM, November 12, 2005  
Anonymous oops said...

This article will appear in the December issue of Commentary but has been released in advance at the magazine's website, www.commentarymagazine.com]

Among the many distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral and/or unnecessary war in Iraq by telling a series of lies that have now been definitively exposed.

What makes this charge so special is the amazing success it has enjoyed in getting itself established as a self-evident truth even though it has been refuted and discredited over and over again by evidence and argument alike. In this it resembles nothing so much as those animated cartoon characters who, after being flattened, blown up, or pushed over a cliff, always spring back to life with their bodies perfectly intact. Perhaps, like those cartoon characters, this allegation simply cannot be killed off, no matter what.

Nevertheless, I want to take one more shot at exposing it for the lie that it itself really is. Although doing so will require going over ground that I and many others have covered before, I hope that revisiting this well-trodden terrain may also serve to refresh memories that have grown dim, to clarify thoughts that have grown confused, and to revive outrage that has grown commensurately dulled.

The main “lie” that George W. Bush is accused of telling us is that Saddam Hussein possessed an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, or WMD as they have invariably come to be called. From this followed the subsidiary “lie” that Iraq under Saddam’s regime posed a two-edged mortal threat. On the one hand, we were informed, there was a distinct (or even “imminent”) possibility that Saddam himself would use these weapons against us and/or our allies; and on the other hand, there was the still more dangerous possibility that he would supply them to terrorists like those who had already attacked us on 9/11 and to whom he was linked.

This entire scenario of purported deceit has been given a new lease on life by the indictment in late October of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, then chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby stands accused of making false statements to the FBI and of committing perjury in testifying before a grand jury that had been convened to find out who in the Bush administration had “outed” Valerie Plame, a CIA agent married to the retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, IV. The supposed purpose of leaking this classified information to the press was to retaliate against Wilson for having “debunked” (in his words) “the lies that led to war.”

Now, as it happens, Libby was not charged with having outed Plame but only with having lied about when and from whom he first learned that she worked for the CIA. Moreover, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who brought the indictment against him, made a point of emphasizing that

[t]his indictment is not about the war. This indictment is not about the propriety of the war. And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel.

This is simply an indictment that says, in a national-security investigation about the compromise of a CIA officer’s identity that may have taken place in the context of a very heated debate over the war, whether some person—a person, Mr. Libby—lied or not.

No matter. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, spoke for a host of other opponents of the war in insisting that

[t]his case is bigger than the leak of classified information. It is about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the President.

Yet even stipulating—which I do only for the sake of argument—that no weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq in the period leading up to the invasion, it defies all reason to think that Bush was lying when he asserted that they did. To lie means to say something one knows to be false. But it is as close to certainty as we can get that Bush believed in the truth of what he was saying about WMD in Iraq.

How indeed could it have been otherwise? George Tenet, his own CIA director, assured him that the case was “a slam dunk.” This phrase would later become notorious, but in using it, Tenet had the backing of all fifteen agencies involved in gathering intelligence for the United States. In the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2002, where their collective views were summarized, one of the conclusions offered with “high confidence” was that

Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.

The intelligence agencies of Britain, Germany, Russia, China, Israel, and—yes—France all agreed with this judgment. And even Hans Blix—who headed the UN team of inspectors trying to determine whether Saddam had complied with the demands of the Security Council that he get rid of the weapons of mass destruction he was known to have had in the past—lent further credibility to the case in a report he issued only a few months before the invasion:

The discovery of a number of 122-mm chemical rocket warheads in a bunker at a storage depot 170 km southwest of Baghdad was much publicized. This was a relatively new bunker, and therefore the rockets must have been moved there in the past few years, at a time when Iraq should not have had such munitions. . . . They could also be the tip of a submerged iceberg. The discovery of a few rockets does not resolve but rather points to the issue of several thousands of chemical rockets that are unaccounted for.

Blix now claims that he was only being “cautious” here, but if, as he now also adds, the Bush administration “misled itself” in interpreting the evidence before it, he at the very least lent it a helping hand.

So, once again, did the British, the French, and the Germans, all of whom signed on in advance to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s reading of the satellite photos he presented to the UN in the period leading up to the invasion. Powell himself and his chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, now feel that this speech was the low point of his tenure as Secretary of State. But Wilkerson (in the process of a vicious attack on the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense for getting us into Iraq) is forced to acknowledge that the Bush administration did not lack for company in interpreting the available evidence as it did:

I can’t tell you why the French, the Germans, the Brits, and us thought that most of the material, if not all of it, that we presented at the UN on 5 February 2003 was the truth. I can’t. I’ve wrestled with it. [But] when you see a satellite photograph of all the signs of the chemical-weapons ASP—Ammunition Supply Point—with chemical weapons, and you match all those signs with your matrix on what should show a chemical ASP, and they’re there, you have to conclude that it’s a chemical ASP, especially when you see the next satellite photograph which shows the UN inspectors wheeling in their white vehicles with black markings on them to that same ASP, and everything is changed, everything is clean. . . . But George [Tenet] was convinced, John McLaughlin [Tenet’s deputy] was convinced, that what we were presented [for Powell’s UN speech] was accurate.

Going on to shoot down a widespread impression, Wilkerson informs us that even the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) was convinced:

People say, well, INR dissented. That’s a bunch of bull. INR dissented that the nuclear program was up and running. That’s all INR dissented on. They were right there with the chems and the bios.

In explaining its dissent on Iraq’s nuclear program, the INR had, as stated in the NIE of 2002, expressed doubt about

Iraq’s efforts to acquire aluminum tubes [which are] central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program. . . . INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors . . . in Iraq’s nuclear-weapons program.

But, according to Wilkerson,

The French came in in the middle of my deliberations at the CIA and said, we have just spun aluminum tubes, and by God, we did it to this RPM, et cetera, et cetera, and it was all, you know, proof positive that the aluminum tubes were not for mortar casings or artillery casings, they were for centrifuges. Otherwise, why would you have such exquisite instruments?

In short, and whether or not it included the secret heart of Hans Blix, “the consensus of the intelligence community,” as Wilkerson puts it, “was overwhelming” in the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq that Saddam definitely had an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and that he was also in all probability well on the way to rebuilding the nuclear capability that the Israelis had damaged by bombing the Osirak reactor in 1981.

Additional confirmation of this latter point comes from Kenneth Pollack, who served in the National Security Council under Clinton. “In the late spring of 2002,” Pollack has written,

I participated in a Washington meeting about Iraqi WMD. Those present included nearly twenty former inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the force established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of WMD in Iraq. One of the senior people put a question to the group: did anyone in the room doubt that Iraq was currently operating a secret centrifuge plant? No one did. Three people added that they believed Iraq was also operating a secret calutron plant (a facility for separating uranium isotopes).

No wonder, then, that another conclusion the NIE of 2002 reached with “high confidence” was that

Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.1

But the consensus on which Bush relied was not born in his own administration. In fact, it was first fully formed in the Clinton administration. Here is Clinton himself, speaking in 1998:

If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction program.

Here is his Secretary of State Madeline Albright, also speaking in 1998:

Iraq is a long way from [the USA], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.

Here is Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, who chimed in at the same time with this flat-out assertion about Saddam:

He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.

Finally, Clinton’s Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, was so sure Saddam had stockpiles of WMD that he remained “absolutely convinced” of it even after our failure to find them in the wake of the invasion in March 2003.

Nor did leading Democrats in Congress entertain any doubts on this score. A few months after Clinton and his people made the statements I have just quoted, a group of Democratic Senators, including such liberals as Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, and John Kerry, urged the President

to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.

Nancy Pelosi, the future leader of the Democrats in the House, and then a member of the House Intelligence Committee, added her voice to the chorus:

Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons-of-mass-destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.

This Democratic drumbeat continued and even intensified when Bush succeeded Clinton in 2001, and it featured many who would later pretend to have been deceived by the Bush White House. In a letter to the new President, a number of Senators led by Bob Graham declared:

There is no doubt that . . . Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical, and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf war status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.

Senator Carl Levin also reaffirmed for Bush’s benefit what he had told Clinton some years earlier:

Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations, and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton agreed, speaking in October 2002:

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical- and biological-weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaeda members.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agreed as well:

There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. . . . We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.

Even more striking were the sentiments of Bush’s opponents in his two campaigns for the presidency. Thus Al Gore in September 2002:

We know that [Saddam] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.

And here is Gore again, in that same year:

Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.

Now to John Kerry, also speaking in 2002:

I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force—if necessary—to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.

Perhaps most startling of all, given the rhetoric that they would later employ against Bush after the invasion of Iraq, are statements made by Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, also in 2002:

Kennedy: We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.

Byrd: The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical- and biological-warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons.2

Liberal politicians like these were seconded by the mainstream media, in whose columns a very different tune would later be sung. For example, throughout the last two years of the Clinton administration, editorials in the New York Times repeatedly insisted that

without further outside intervention, Iraq should be able to rebuild weapons and missile plants within a year [and] future military attacks may be required to diminish the arsenal again.

The Times was also skeptical of negotiations, pointing out that it was

hard to negotiate with a tyrant who has no intention of honoring his commitments and who sees nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons as his country’s salvation.

So, too, the Washington Post, which greeted the inauguration of George W. Bush in January 2001 with the admonition that

[o]f all the booby traps left behind by the Clinton administration, none is more dangerous—or more urgent—than the situation in Iraq. Over the last year, Mr. Clinton and his team quietly avoided dealing with, or calling attention to, the almost complete unraveling of a decade’s efforts to isolate the regime of Saddam Hussein and prevent it from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction. That leaves President Bush to confront a dismaying panorama in the Persian Gulf [where] intelligence photos . . . show the reconstruction of factories long suspected of producing chemical and biological weapons.3

All this should surely suffice to prove far beyond any even unreasonable doubt that Bush was telling what he believed to be the truth about Saddam’s stockpile of WMD. It also disposes of the fallback charge that Bush lied by exaggerating or hyping the intelligence presented to him. Why on earth would he have done so when the intelligence itself was so compelling that it convinced everyone who had direct access to it, and when hardly anyone in the world believed that Saddam had, as he claimed, complied with the sixteen resolutions of the Security Council demanding that he get rid of his weapons of mass destruction?

Another fallback charge is that Bush, operating mainly through Cheney, somehow forced the CIA into telling him what he wanted to hear. Yet in its report of 2004, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, while criticizing the CIA for relying on what in hindsight looked like weak or faulty intelligence, stated that it

did not find any evidence that administration officials attempted to coerce, influence, or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities.

The March 2005 report of the equally bipartisan Robb-Silberman commission, which investigated intelligence failures on Iraq, reached the same conclusion, finding

no evidence of political pressure to influence the intelligence community’s pre-war assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs. . . . [A]nalysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments.

Still, even many who believed that Saddam did possess WMD, and was ruthless enough to use them, accused Bush of telling a different sort of lie by characterizing the risk as “imminent.” But this, too, is false: Bush consistently rejected imminence as a justification for war.4 Thus, in the State of the Union address he delivered only three months after 9/11, Bush declared that he would “not wait on events while dangers gather” and that he would “not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer.” Then, in a speech at West Point six months later, he reiterated the same point: “If we wait for threats to materialize, we will have waited too long.” And as if that were not clear enough, he went out of his way in his State of the Union address in 2003 (that is, three months before the invasion), to bring up the word “imminent” itself precisely in order to repudiate it:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

What of the related charge that it was still another “lie” to suggest, as Bush and his people did, that a connection could be traced between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorists who had attacked us on 9/11? This charge was also rejected by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Contrary to how its findings were summarized in the mainstream media, the committee’s report explicitly concluded that al Qaeda did in fact have a cooperative, if informal, relationship with Iraqi agents working under Saddam. The report of the bipartisan 9/11 commission came to the same conclusion, as did a comparably independent British investigation conducted by Lord Butler, which pointed to “meetings . . . between senior Iraqi representatives and senior al-Qaeda operatives.”5

Which brings us to Joseph C. Wilson, IV and what to my mind wins the palm for the most disgraceful instance of all.

The story begins with the notorious sixteen words inserted—after, be it noted, much vetting by the CIA and the State Department—into Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

This is the “lie” Wilson bragged of having “debunked” after being sent by the CIA to Niger in 2002 to check out the intelligence it had received to that effect. Wilson would later angrily deny that his wife had recommended him for this mission, and would do his best to spread the impression that choosing him had been the Vice President’s idea. But Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, through whom Wilson first planted this impression, was eventually forced to admit that “Cheney apparently didn’t know that Wilson had been dispatched.” (By the time Kristof grudgingly issued this retraction, Wilson himself, in characteristically shameless fashion, was denying that he had ever “said the Vice President sent me or ordered me sent.”) And as for his wife’s supposed non-role in his mission, here is what Valerie Plame Wilson wrote in a memo to her boss at the CIA:

My husband has good relations with the PM [the prime minister of Niger] and the former minister of mines . . . , both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.

More than a year after his return, with the help of Kristof, and also Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, and then through an op-ed piece in the Times under his own name, Wilson succeeded, probably beyond his wildest dreams, in setting off a political firestorm.

In response, the White House, no doubt hoping to prevent his allegation about the sixteen words from becoming a proxy for the charge that (in Wilson’s latest iteration of it) “lies and disinformation [were] used to justify the invasion of Iraq,” eventually acknowledged that the President’s statement “did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address.” As might have been expected, however, this panicky response served to make things worse rather than better. And yet it was totally unnecessary—for the maddeningly simple reason that every single one of the sixteen words at issue was true.

That is, British intelligence had assured the CIA that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy enriched uranium from the African country of Niger. Furthermore—and notwithstanding the endlessly repeated assertion that this assurance has now been discredited—Britain’s independent Butler commission concluded that it was “well-founded.” The relevant passage is worth quoting at length:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.

c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium, and the British government did not claim this.

As if that were not enough to settle the matter, Wilson himself, far from challenging the British report when he was “debriefed” on his return from Niger (although challenging it is what he now never stops doing6), actually strengthened the CIA’s belief in its accuracy. From the Senate Intelligence Committee report:

He [the CIA reports officer] said he judged that the most important fact in the report [by Wilson] was that Niger officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Niger prime minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium.

And again:

The report on [Wilson’s] trip to Niger . . . did not change any analysts’ assessments of the Iraq-Niger uranium deal. For most analysts, the information in the report lent more credibility to the original CIA reports on the uranium deal.

This passage goes on to note that the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research—which (as we have already seen) did not believe that Saddam Hussein was trying to develop nuclear weapons—found support in Wilson’s report for its “assessment that Niger was unlikely to be willing or able to sell uranium to Iraq.” But if so, this, as the Butler report quoted above points out, would not mean that Iraq had not tried to buy it—which was the only claim made by British intelligence and then by Bush in the famous sixteen words.

The liar here, then, was not Bush but Wilson. And Wilson also lied when he told the Washington Post that he had unmasked as forgeries certain documents given to American intelligence (by whom it is not yet clear) that supposedly contained additional evidence of Saddam’s efforts to buy uranium from Niger. The documents did indeed turn out to be forgeries; but, according to the Butler report,

[t]he forged documents were not available to the British government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine [that assessment].7

More damning yet to Wilson, the Senate Intelligence Committee discovered that he had never laid eyes on the documents in question:

[Wilson] also told committee staff that he was the source of a Washington Post article . . . which said, “among the envoy’s conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because ‘the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.’” Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the “dates were wrong and the names were wrong” when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports.

To top all this off, just as Cheney had nothing to do with the choice of Wilson for the mission to Niger, neither was it true that, as Wilson “confirmed” for a credulous New Republic reporter, “the CIA circulated [his] report to the Vice President’s office,” thereby supposedly proving that Cheney and his staff “knew the Niger story was a flatout lie.” Yet—the mind reels—if Cheney had actually been briefed on Wilson’s oral report to the CIA (which he was not), he would, like the CIA itself, have been more inclined to believe that Saddam had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger.

So much for the author of the best-selling and much acclaimed book whose title alone—The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity—has set a new record for chutzpah.

But there is worse. In his press conference on the indictment against Libby, Patrick Fitzgerald insisted that lying to federal investigators is a serious crime both because it is itself against the law and because, by sending them on endless wild-goose chases, it constitutes the even more serious crime of obstruction of justice. By those standards, Wilson—who has repeatedly made false statements about every aspect of his mission to Niger, including whose idea it was to send him and what he told the CIA upon his return; who was then shown up by the Senate Intelligence Committee as having lied about the forged documents; and whose mendacity has sent the whole country into a wild-goose chase after allegations that, the more they are refuted, the more they keep being repeated—is himself an excellent candidate for criminal prosecution.

And so long as we are hunting for liars in this area, let me suggest that we begin with the Democrats now proclaiming that they were duped, and that we then broaden out to all those who in their desperation to delegitimize the larger policy being tested in Iraq—the policy of making the Middle East safe for America by making it safe for democracy—have consistently used distortion, misrepresentation, and selective perception to vilify as immoral a bold and noble enterprise and to brand as an ignominious defeat what is proving itself more and more every day to be a victory of American arms and a vindication of American ideals.

—November 7, 2005


NORMAN PODHORETZ is the editor-at-large of COMMENTARY and the author of ten books. The most recent, The Norman Podhoretz Reader, edited by Thomas L. Jeffers, appeared in 2004. His essays on the Bush Doctrine and Iraq, including “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win” (September 2004) and “The War Against World War IV” (February 2005), can be found by clicking here.

ENDNOTES:

1 Hard as it is to believe, let alone to reconcile with his general position, Joseph C. Wilson, IV, in a speech he delivered three months after the invasion at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, offhandedly made the following remark: “I remain of the view that we will find biological and chemical weapons and we may well find something that indicates that Saddam’s regime maintained an interest in nuclear weapons.”

2 Fuller versions of these and similar statements can be found at http://www.theconversationcafe.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-3134.htmland. Another source is http://www.rightwingnews.com/quotes/demsonwmds.php.

3 These and numerous other such quotations were assembled by Robert Kagan in a piece published in the Washington Post on October 25, 2005.

4 Whereas both John Edwards, later to become John Kerry’s running mate in 2004, and Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, actually did use the word in describing the threat posed by Saddam.

5 In early November, the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who last year gave their unanimous assent to its report, were suddenly mounting a last-ditch effort to take it back on this issue (and others). But to judge from the material they had already begun leaking by November 7, when this article was going to press, the newest “Bush lied” case is as empty and dishonest as the one they themselves previously rejected.

6 Here is how he put it in a piece in the Los Angeles Times written in late October of this year to celebrate the indictment of Libby: “I knew that the statement in Bush’s speech . . . was not true. I knew it was false from my own investigative trip to Africa. . . . And I knew that the White House knew it.”

7 More extensive citations of the relevant passages from the Butler report can be found in postings by Daniel McKivergan at www.worldwidestandard.com. I have also drawn throughout on materials cited by the invaluable Stephen F. Hayes in the Weekly Standard.

7:38 PM, November 12, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

" The ‘Ding Dong, The Bush Is Dead’ fever rages on, disappointments notwithstanding. Hurricane Katrina was, at best, a wash."

Bush popularity 38% - he's heading down towards Nixon, currently the record holder at 29%. 53% interested in impeachment (zogby poll - http://www.zogby.com/search/ReadClips.dbm?ID=12185).

Katrina: 10,000 dead, worst national crisis since 1911 when the Mississippi flooded four states, currently hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes, worst mismanagement aid by a government. You forget that mismanagement of hurricaine andrew aid was another thing that sunk Bush 1 and Clinton pledged to fix FEMA and made it a cabinet level position and a top successful crisis response bureau - oh, wait, you'll tell me Reagan did that.

"Just for the record, Tom DeLay is the House Majority Leader, Bill Frist is the Senate Majority Leader, and Scooter Libby is the highest-ranking Scooter in the administration" Yes, all under indictment, Scooter being the highest ranking White House official indicted in 130 years. Nice values, nice core ethics. That's what they rode in on. A "better alternative" Except, they're the opposite. So - your point? No one knows who they are?

usa today: "Only 37% of Americans gave Congress a high approval rating, down from 45% last month" http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-03-14-congress-poll_x.htm

Sure, keep believing that.

Paraphrasing: Republicans came in in 1994 because it just wasn't a throw the bums out, but throw the bums in, because GOP have a clear conservative message for America.

2005 Nov. 8th vote. Virgian Gov. Democratic win (a Bush state, he wont it by 8% in 2004). New Jersey Gov. Democratic win. CA - all of GOP Ahnold's propositions lose. The Dems are coming in.

Keep the blinders on. Easier for us.

"The President sets foreign policy. He’s the pilot; he can’t ‘hijack’ his own plane. " I agree. It's why I think he should be impeached. He wanted to attack Iraq when he got in office from before 9/11. So all the intel blather and who said what to who is moot. The guy thinks our military is his own personal train set, he thinks our country's treasury is his own piggy bank that he can break with a hammer. he's not interested in putting anything into the piggybank for the rest of us, just taking it out. (http://www.sundayherald.com/27735)

"If this rings a vague bell with you, it’s because I wrote about it in these pages back in the summer of 2003 and concluded:"

Want to tell us where you're cut and pasting all this from? We might as well go to the original sites and save time. (yawn. what a give away).

10:17 PM, November 12, 2005  
Blogger boni said...

Clean up on aisle 3. There's a big Podhoretz spill and I wouldn't want anyone to slip in it.

Well, since A Friend and Oops (I'm sorry. Did you have an accident?) didn't really address my points, and instead regurgitated John Podhoretz ad nauseum.
Here's a little background on Podhoretz courtesy of
New York Magazine:

He’s the son of the prominent, pugnacious neoconservatives Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, two people who have almost never put anything mildly. In fact, the two were largely responsible for creating the image, persistent even during the Reagan era, of the right-winger as victim. (They got that right!)

For five years on and off, Podhoretz wrote a column for the conservative Moonie-owned newspaper the Washington Times, in which he lived out the banal life of a twentysomething on the page -- one of America’s first bathetic, solipsistic Gen-Xers (around the Washington Times offices, the column was often read out loud in Podhoretz’s absence, for comic value, in a ritual famously called Podenfreude).

No subject was too trivial to share with readers. Topics included his trip to an amusement park; his hatred of household pets; his love of Jell-O; conversations with his imaginary friend. He recounted events in mind-numbing detail: “I missed the 2:30 shuttle, so I had to wait for the 3:30 shuttle . . . I arrived in Washington at 5:15.” He’d also do things like type “SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX sex sex sex sex sex,” apropos of nothing (“I can see your eyes drifting”). One column ended with “Podhoretz . . . this is without question the dumbest column you’ve ever written. Stop it now!”

11:24 PM, November 12, 2005  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

A massive post leads to massive comments.

But not I.

7:40 AM, November 13, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

bless you daniel. but original thoughts alwys welcome, plagarists can pass.

2:44 PM, November 13, 2005  

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