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Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Tightening Circle Around Iraq Intelligence Deception..and a program note 

I must digress for a moment before discussing a recent Juan Cole article to make a policy statement for the Big Diamond. Until now, I’ve refrained from linking to paid subscriber sources, hoping that this would help readers get information on the web from free sources. I’m afraid that this policy has become pretty hard to stick to, given the economics of the web. In the future, I’ll try to quote enough of the gist of any paid subscriber links to keep readers from getting lost without them, but I think I’d be leaving out too much of the web world if I don’t link to any pay-to-read sources.

The announcement that the New York Times will be going to a paid subscriber model soon was the kicker for me. I’ve subscribed to Salon.com and to the Wall Street Journal site for a while now and they’re both great, but I could live without them. Salon in particular has been fascinating and the Journal kept me up on business perspectives I might otherwise ignore at my peril. I haven’t linked to stories on these sites from the Big Diamond, however, because readers need a break from the paid media in the blogosphere. But how can a New Yorker (or anyone who reads good journalism) leave the Times out of blog posts about the city and the country? I suppose it’s only a matter of time before the Washington Post and others follow suit; it’s unfortunate to see how much of our information has become ‘pay-to-read.’

Alas, while I spend all my available cash on news, I’ll have to bow to reality and include some links to these sources; readers can decide on whether to click on them. I’ll try not to make them the main staples here. Nonetheless, everyone who writes or photographs or shoots video for a living has had the experience of realizing that the dead tree and location-specific versions of our work are becoming scarcer. If writers are to make a living, most have to include a web model as well. I guess the Times is looking at the same picture in a corporate way and realizing that they’ve got to make the web pay, since the printed version isn’t growing anymore.

So, with apologies, let’s move on to Juan Cole…

***
Professor Cole's excellent Salon article on the Downing Street Memo ties together several threads that have been part of the Bush Administration’s Iraq scheming, clear to many of us, but apparently still murky to the mainstream US press, even now. The coincidental happenings around the Newsweek story about the Koran seem to have drowned it out, along with some important questions surrounding one bug-eyed girl’s cold feet on her wedding eve.

The Downing Street memo, as we’ve mentioned here, is the latest smoking gun to show how the Bushies planned for war even before 9/11. The Brits, the memo shows, realized this and planned for it, as early as July of 2002. Cole points out that probably Blair had been painfully aware even in the direct aftermath of September 11 that Saddam was above Bin Laden on the hit list. Remembering the September 11-15, 2001 accounts of insiders Paul O’Neill and Richard Clarke, Cole postulates that Blair had to convince Bush to focus on Afghanistan and Al Queda first, in return for his later support for a war on Saddam. With London no doubt on Bin Laden’s short list of targets, the Brits felt they needed to convince Bush to focus on the real threat first, even if it came at the expense of hyping Saddam later.

Cole recounts stories from other sources like Arab-American journalist Osama Siblani, who cite Bush’s explicit promises early in the 2000 primary campaign to Arab-American Republicans that his Administration would take out Saddam. This, Cole notes, occurred well before Bush was privy to any intelligence briefings. On the televised hustings, this promise was never repeated to the mainstream American press, since Bush was cast as the humble candidate who wouldn’t follow in Clinton’s interventionist ways.

Later, during the Afghan military campaign following September 11, Bush was already savoring the Oedipal next step he’d been awaiting since his father’s Administration:

“On Nov. 27 Howard Fineman of Newsweek reported a conversation with Bush aboard Air Force One in the wake of the successful Afghanistan campaign. "He wants to avoid the more profound mistakes his dad made.... his failure, at the end of the Gulf War, to stop -- once and for all -- Saddam Hussein in Iraq from threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction."

While none of this is particularly new, the proof of the deception begins to become undeniable with the Downing Street Memo. As should be clear from tightening the various loose ends around the intelligence, it’s time for some serious, hard questions to be asked and answered. They center on when Bush planned the war, why the intelligence was ‘fixed,’ and what information was kept from the American public in an effort to sell the war to the press and the people.

Despite his unwillingness to engage, Scott McClellan should be asked to take his time, read the Downing Street Memo, speak with his superiors at the White House, and start providing detailed answers to honest questions.

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