April 9, 2006
Murray Waas is Our Woodward Now
"Not only is Woodward not in the hunt, but he is slowly turning into the hunted. Part of what remains to be uncovered is how Woodward was played by the Bush team, and what they thought they were doing by leaking to him, as well as what he did with the dubious information he got."
It should be obvious from the work who the Woodward of Now is. And if it isn’t obvious Greg Sargent can explain it to you over at the American Prospect.
The guy’s name is Murray Waas; he’s an independent journalist who recently went to work as a staff writer for the National Journal and the Atlantic Media Company, which owns the Atlantic Monthly, the Journal, and other titles. Waas has been in the game since he was 18, when he started working for the columnist Jack Anderson.
By Woodward Now I mean the reporter who is actually doing what Woodward has a reputation for doing: finding, tracking, breaking into reportable parts—and then publishing—the biggest story in town. He’s also putting those parts together for us.
The Biggest Story in Town (almost a term of art in political Washington) is the one that would cause the biggest earthquake if the facts sealed inside it started coming out now. Today the biggest story in town is what really went down as the Bush team drove deceptively to war, and later tried to conceal how bad the deception—and decision-making—had been.
We are still “in” that story today, as is the press (deeply in it) and so a lot rides on what comes out.
Not only is Woodward not in the hunt, but he is slowly turning into the hunted. Part of what remains to be uncovered is how Woodward was played by the Bush team, and what they thought they were doing by leaking to him, as well as what he did with the dubious information he got— especially since, as the Washington Post reported on April 9, evidence leaked by Scooter Libby to Woodward on June 27, 2003 “had been disproved months before.”
According to the account by David E. Sanger and David Barstow in the New York Times, same day: when Libby described the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate to Woodward, other senior officials in Bush’s government were thinking about declassifying it through normal means, and did not know that Bush had done it himself so parts could be leaked. Cheney and Libby knew, and they went to Woodward before they went to others on their team— like, say, the national security adviser. Why?
They went to Woodward to leak the portions of an intelligence estimate that tended to exonerate them. The information they were sharing had gone bad. And yet they felt they could do that to Bob Woodward, give him bad information, the credibility of which had collapsed even within their own shop. Why?
You would think Woodward would be in a position to tell us. He was there, so to speak. But that’s just the trouble, isn’t it? Plus he’s already on record predicting (on Fresh Air July 7, 2005) that when “all of the facts come out in this case, it’s going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great.”
Romenesko front-paged David Broder’s statement Friday when he was asked about …it’s going to be laughable: “Subsequent events do not appear to be supporting that forecast.” That happened in a Q & A between Broder and Post readers. Why doesn’t Woodward start doing these things?
There’s an official story about Woodward’s journalism, which now incorporates his nonfiction books. It goes like this. When Bob Woodward, the greatest reporter of his generation and our time, gets on to a story, he dominates it. He gets people to talk who wouldn’t before. (They know he’ll be fair.) He gets the documents others don’t. He remembers the details others miss. And so he gets the stories other reporters try to get but can’t. You can’t beat Woodward. His sourcing is too good, his instincts too sharp. And his track record over time shows that.
That’s my version.
“No reporter has more talent for getting Washington’s inside story and telling it cogently,” wrote
Ted Widmer in a New York Times review of Woodward’s Plan of Attack. That’s his version. By “Washington’s inside story” he means stuff you normally don’t find out about until the Administration is over, unless some spectacularly successful reporter reveals it. And Plan of Attack (2004) had lots of that.
William Powers of the National Journal, who began his career as a researcher for Woodward, explained in a column last year why the man is peerless in a city teeming with aggressive and talented journalists. (See my post, Grokking Woodward.)
Imagine the agony of other hardworking Washington reporters. They’ll toil away for years on a big beat — the Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, the White House, the CIA — and feel they’ve done a bang-up job. After all, they broke some news, scored big interviews, revealed the “inner workings” of government. Then Woodward comes along, spends a year on the same subject, and launches the news equivalent of an atomic bomb: a week’s worth of jaw-dropping headlines that obliterate everything the regulars have done.
And that has happened. It might happen again. Woodward has a book on Bush’s second term due in 2006. A lot rides on it. For these days Woodward is the one being eclipsed by the determination, savvy, and multiple sourcing that Murray Waas has developed in and around the Fitzgerald investigation. Murray’s throats tell him stuff; he goes away, puts it together with other things he knows, then scoops the rest of the press. And it’s factual territory Woodward has been in before, to put it mildly.
Dan Froomkin reads all the coverage (it’s his job) and wrote this on March 31:
Slowly but surely, investigative reporter Murray Waas has been putting together a compelling narrative about how President Bush and his top aides contrived their bogus case for war in Iraq; how they succeeded in keeping charges of deception from becoming a major issue in the 2004 election; and how they continue to keep most of the press off the trail to this day.
Key point: The biggest story in town is partly a story about the ways of the Washington press. On March 31 Waas emerged from his workshop and added a critical piece (“Insulating Bush”) to which other big pieces attach:
Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush’s 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration.
This story said that “Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address — that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon — might not be true.” But then he went ahead anyway.
Froomkin says the rest of the Washington press corps should wake up to what Waas is uncovering. “Waas’s fellow reporters at major news operations should either acknowledge and try to follow up his stories — or debunk them. It’s not okay to just leave them hanging out there. They’re too important.” (See also eriposte at the Left Coaster on Waas putting the pieces together.)
In an appreciation of his mentor, Jack Anderson, who died in December, Waas told us something about his own approach. “The public has pushed back against insider, access journalism— whether practiced by Bob Woodward, Judith Miller, or Robert Novak,” he wrote. “Anderson always understood it was his role to be an outsider, not just in regard to the politicians he covered, but also vis-a-vis the established order of journalism.” And Waas is that outsider, as Woodward was 34 years ago when he began investigating a burglary at the Watergate.
It is worth noting too that the runners-up to Waas in the Woodward of Now competition would be the reporters at the Knight-Ridder Washington bureau, especially Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and Ron Hutcheson. Strobel and Hutcheson wrote last week about “a pattern of selective leaks of secret intelligence to further the administration’s political agenda.” (Pattern recognition being critical to the story.)
“Much of the information that the administration leaked or declassified, however, has proved to be incomplete, exaggerated, incorrect or fabricated,” they added. Notice how they say this on their own authority, stating it as a fact because they have done the reporting that confirms it.
And to close the circle, in Waas’s latest (“Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks”) there is a juicy part about Woodward. It tells how badly Bush wanted his people to talk to the greatest reporter of his generation:
Other former senior government officials said that Bush directed people to assist Woodward in the book’s preparation: “There were people on the Seventh Floor [of the CIA] who were told by Tenet to cooperate because the President wanted it done. There were calls to people to by [White House communication director] Dan Bartlett that the President wanted it done, if you were not co-operating. And sometimes the President himself told people that they should co-operate,” said one former government official.
Why? We don’t know. But we’re going to know from Murray Waas much sooner than from Woodward, who was there but somehow missed it.
After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…
Howard Kurtz in his Media Notes column, April 17:
After a quarter-century in the journalistic shadows, Murray Waas is getting his day in the sun.
The freelance investigative reporter has racked up a series of scoops. He’s been cited by New York Times columnists Frank Rich and Paul Krugman. And New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen calls him the new Bob Woodward.
But Waas — whose blog is called Whatever, Already — doesn’t toot his own horn much and only reluctantly granted an interview. “My theory is, avoid the limelight, do what’s important and leave your mark… . If my journalism has had impact, it has been because I have spent more time in county courthouses than greenrooms,” he says.
In fact, I’ve never seen Waas on television.
Murray Waas strikes again, Cheney Authorized Leak Of CIA Report, Libby Says. (National Journal, April 14.)
Steve Lovelady of CJR Daily in the comments: “He’s like a guy trying to pound a tent peg into very hard ground. The peg doesn’t move much, but he just keeps whaling away with discrete fact after discrete fact until, finally, he sinks the sucker.”
Amy Goodman interviews Waas (April 7, 2006).
CJR Daily notes that Josh Gerstein in the New York Sun and Waas in the National Journal were first with the news about Bush authorizing leaks. “Given that the story drew on a publicly available court filing made by Fitzgerald and given the political stakes — now raised even higher — the big guys don’t have much of an excuse for coming in second on this one,” writes Edward B. Colby.
Over at American Thinker, Rick Moran of Rightwing Nuthouse says I am wrong to lionize Murray Waas, and wrong about the biggest story in town. See his Missing the Big Story: The CIA’s War with the White House:
Waas has missed the knife sticking out of the back of the Bush Administration; a knife planted by a group of leakers – organized or not – at the CIA who, unelected though they were, took it upon themselves to first try and prevent the execution of United States policy they were sworn to carry out, and failing that, trying to destroy in the most blatantly partisan manner an Administration with which they had a policy disagreement.
Moran also argues that in 2004 there was “an attempted coup by the very same faction at the CIA who had been fighting the Administration in the lead up to the war,” and that this “missing context” explains a lot. Read his piece. And this rebuttal to it at MetaFilter.
Joe Gandleman comments on this post: “Woodward is no longer perceived as a tireless reporter to be necessarily feared; he is now perceived as a tireless reporter to be cultivated.”
I repeat in wonderment: Cheney and Libby thought they could feed Woodward bum information, claims that were not believed among people they knew Woodward had talked to, or would talk to. Why?
At Tapped, Greg Sargent points out that Waas’s reporting in the The National Journal is finally starting to make its way into the elite papers.
Josh Marshall on what he can add to Waas’s account: Rove thought the 2004 election was at stake if the Iraq-sought-nuclear-materials story collapsed outright.
We saw this and the cover-up it spawned first hand. While I and reporters from CBS were working on this story through 2004 it was clear that folks on the Hill would agree to talk and then suddenly un-agree when they got the call from the White House. The White House worked doggedly at almost every turn to get the story killed or delayed beyond the election, which they of course did.
Here’s what Waas wrote:
The pre-election damage-control effort in response to Wilson’s allegations and the broader issue of whether the Bush administration might have misrepresented intelligence information to make the case for war had three major components, according to government records and interviews with current and former officials:
- blame the CIA for the use of the Niger information in the president’s State of the Union address;
- discredit and undermine Wilson;
- and make sure that the public did not learn that the president had been personally warned that the intelligence assessments he was citing about the aluminum tubes might be wrong.
All three involved the press, implicated the press or required the cooperation of the press.
Dan Froomkin’s Monday column, Some Explaining To Do, is a taught round-up of leaker-in-chief news. I recommend especially his section: McClellan’s Feeble Shield.
All I can sat about this is: wow. That first sentence is a doozy.
Tom Maguire has the same reaction: wow. You can sample the other wows at Memeorandum. Feels like this one is going to make a very loud noise in the blogosphere. Dumb editorial. Make that willfully dumb.
Jane Hamsher has a lot on this. I liked Josh Marshall’s cooly angry post: “Legitimate opinion journalism is constrained by facts, as nearly as we can know them.”
And there’s another angry comment storm at post.blog, overwhelming an unrelated entry on a new search tool at the site.
The more musical among PressThink users might know better, but I say the songwriting team of Strobel and Hutcheson have a feel. Consider their lines: Incomplete, exaggerated, incorrect or fabricated.. Bouncy tune if you say it out loud.
David Corn of The Nation and Bob Woodward have a frank exchange of views. See Corn, Woodward and Reality; and Bob Woodward Replies.
Here’s Fishbowl DC’s list of Jack Anderson alumni who have gone on to great things. It doesn’t mention Waas. Now why do you think that is?
Ron Brynaert at Raw Story has the scoop: “This time around the Washington Post plans to hire two bloggers for its Web site.”
The paper’s ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has informed RAW STORY that Jim Brady, executive editor of washingtonpost.com, is looking for a liberal blogger, along with a conservative one, to replace Ben Domenech who resigned after only three days of blogging, when his earlier writings were discovered by mostly liberal bloggers to be racially insensitive and – in multiple cases – plagiarized.
Ron reveals that Ben Domenech had a history of appearing in the Post and seems to have been… connected. My recommendation was three bloggers: left, right and neither-nor. See PressThink, Red America, RIP… and the Great Blogger Bake Off.
Now here’s a curious lapse in blogosphere etiquette. John Avarosis and Atrios and Matt Stoller all comment on the Washington Post looking for a liberal blogger, and none links to—or even mentions—Brynaert’s story at Raw, which is how they know about it because he broke the news. Weird. Is that informing your readers? His piece has new information about Domenech and the resolution of the debacle he became for the Post. Not to link to the originating report when you easily can is giving poor service, and these blogs normally give good service, so what’s up with that? (UPDATE, April 11: Matt Stoller added a hat tip to Raw Story, which is cool.)
How about this announcement, transparency fans and critics of…?
Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, will answer questions in this space about the newspaper and the news. Questions will be selected from e-mails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, and Mr. Keller will answer as many this week as time permits. Afterward, these discussions will continue with other Times editors.
Posted by Jay Rosen at April 9, 2006 11:17 AM
First they went to Woodward, then they went to Judy. Niether wrote a story. Both stood by and did nothing to inform the public of the truth. In fact, Woodward actively helped the cover-up effort by down-playing the Plame affair as much ado about nothing on national TV. And he conveniently failed to disclose his own involvement in the matter as he scoffed at its significance and downplayed its seriousness.
More significantly, both Miller and Woodward had to have known what was going down. The WH was trying to cover up the fact that it had fabricated the central reasons offered for rushing into war. And they were doing so in order to ensure re-election in the fall.
These reporters were aiding and abetting a criminal conspiracy, one which would likely have the effect of subverting democracy. For as Waas has reported, in Rove's estimation, if the truth came out, Bush's re-election was in grave danger. Yet both kept quiet, until later forced to testify, long after the election was safely won.
They could have written the stories Waas is writing now, and won recognition for that, but they chose not to. Why? Was it because they agreed to accept rules of the game that rendered them tools of the administration in exchange for super-duper-access (necessary for sustaining star power) not granted to others? In practice, the rules meant essentially that they could not write about certain things that were politically harmfult to the WH, even if true, but would get access to write about things that were helpful, which would be published even if they were clearly not true. That's why they went to Woodward and Judy first, they were willing to play by the rules. The rules are a fig leaf, though, covering up personal corruption. Ultimately, these reporters traded their integrity and that of their papers, for access, career advancement and personal gain.
Waas is a hero for doing his job and doing it well. I guess it's a lot harder to do that when subjected to the corrupting influences of being a big shot, or wanting to be a big shot, working at the NYT or the Post.
The NYT dumped miller. Why isn't the Post dumping Woodward? Shouldn't he be spending more time with his mirror?
Let me say first that I've never met Woodward, can't channel him, and just using my experience as a reporter for speculation.
Regarding who put Woodward in play, I don't see the difference between the Woodward press release in the Post and his conversation with King.
There was a buzz about Woodward and Plame just before Libby's indictment that Isikoff heard about a bombshell and even Downie. (Remember the buzz about Fitz investigation the whole kit and kaboodle, prewar intel?) Woodward was working on something, or someone was putting out information that he was. If Woodward's aim was to show Fitz that Woodward was the first to receive the Plame leak, then he could have written a story about that. That story could have been written immediately after Libby's indictment and as soon as his source says he will testify about it to Fitz, and release Woodward to testify but not ID the source. (Here, the source is in control.) I don't think Woodward wanted to get involved or let it known he was the first receiver of Plame. Why wait until after he was subpoenaed? The subpoena forced the disclosure.
Woodward may have wanted to stay out of the picture, partly because reporters don't want to be subpoenaed. Even Cooper almost went to jail before Libby released him to testify. Same with Viveka Novak -- you keep that stuff to yourself, not even telling your boss.
As for your bold points here. Most of that point toward my main theory: People bring their bias to what they read, hence my funky, unclear pseudonym. We can look at the same evidence and arrive at different conclusions. Those points can be used to support my earlier speculation that Woodward was making those points just for show for his sources. Think of an undercover cop committing crimes with the bikers he infiltrated.
Everyone will ask Bob Woodward his opinion on the Plame investigation. Or why he's not working on the story. He has to say something, or not appear at all with the Teletubbies (cable talk shows). You can't take cable talk as gospel, and those conversations are immaterial to Fitz's investigation. They're for public opinion. We saw that with OJ and Whitewater -- interesting but mostly noise. I'm sure Woodward was similar deceptive on questions about Deep Throat. (Keeping that secret for 33 years is still amazing.)
Now with blogs, we can riff on cable talk instantly. I can't recall a single major news broken by Teletubbies, but people hang on to every word, even misspoken ones. We say Bush when we meant Clinton. Or Kerry for Gore. We do it everyday. Yet people were apoplectic until the misspeak was confirmed.
As far as the CIA's formal damage assessment: the CIA knows the extent of the damage or lack there of. Plame was a former NOC, 4 years remove. I doubt the agency will reveal the extent of the damage. This is pay back, you can’t out our NOCs, even if the damage maybe minor. Remember this started as a battle between the agency and WH, which seemed to demand favorable Iraq intel, then blames the CIA when no WMDs were found. This is the same CIA that operated secret prisons in Europe. I suspect the Woodward has good CIA sources who may have told him about the extent of the Plame damage.
If Armitage turns out to be Woodward's source, then it lends to Woodward's offhand disclosure and Novak's no partisan gun slinger. I've heard or read that Armitage referred to Pentagon Neocons as "those people" but never on the record. Wilkerson later because Powell's mouth, a bit late.
We still don’t know everything about the Plame case, other evidence that Fitz has. Who would think Libby's defense would be Bush says to leak? I don’t see Woodward’s withholding his knowledge of Plame a big deal. Time mag, the Post and other papers were writing about the War of Wilson.
I still don’t get all the anger directed toward Woodward and Miller. Her prewar stories were indefensible. But Congress authorized the war with that pre mid-term 2002 vote. Bush was suppose to go back to the UN, but he was given the thumbs up with that vote. You can’t parse it, it didn’t work for Kerry. The media did fail us. But Woodward, Miller and other media punching bags our last line of defense? Not Congress or the voters who put Bush back in the WH for 4 more years. In away that is justice. This is Dubya’s War, and no other Prez can be blamed.
I agree with Kristen that there is nothing specifically journalistic about the skill mentioned. In fact, when journalists begin to believe that they have some special insight into people's motivations they have taken a step into a fatal delusion.
Kristen: my answer to your objections lies in a view I have developed over my years of watching George Bush and his team operate. Although not everything they do is different, they are best described as radicals in the sense of going further than others, being bolder, and re-writing the rules by arguing that we're in a different world and then (using the powers of the state) making it so.
They have a program. Just as Tom Delay had a program for corporate Washington, and put radical changes in place that could also be seen as "rationalizing" the system under Republican rule. If you see the Bush Team as radicals who know how to act when they seize the controls, then you are not surprised when they succeed at bending the bureaucracy and bending....and breaking through into something new.
I see something new being born, and the stream of PressThink commentary on the presidency and the press is intended to record my observations, which is mostly a record of my astonishment, cooled. Rollback. De-certification. "You don't represent the public." There is no fourth estate. From meet the press to be the press.
Bush and company are "press radicals." Their ideas for pushing the press back and grinding it down, intersecting with the culure war, supersede where journalism is in its thinking, and overwhelm its capacity to respond, bringing about a new situation.
Consider the build-up to the war, with the same fraudulent sources peddling phony intel to the Bush team, the intelligence community, and journalists. Then the gamers sit back and watch them confirm each other. And the people doing this were friends of the White House (exile groups.)
I tried to summarize it as: Bush changed the game on the press. And there are plenty of Bush supporters who agree: he did, and it needed changing, they say.
If you really want to know what I think on the "something new" part, read Hannah Arendt's On Revolution.
Finally, I think there's all sorts of pressures to describe the Bush Forces as less radical than they really are. Suppose you think you elected a conservative president. It's going to take a long time to admit that he isn't what you bought.
Bush counts on that interval. It's built into the way he deceived you about being a conservative. Radicals have always operated that way, in the gap between their intentions and the world as it is.
Presidents vary in how willing they are to push things, Kristen, just as people differ in how much risk they are willing to live with. I don't know why some have a hard time grasping this: cadres prepared to do more than their opponents have time and again won big victories despite being small in number, or daft.
Bush and Cheney pushed harder, played rougher, and simply brutalized more people, ran through more barriers, talked over more speakers until they got the point. (DeLay: The Hammer.) You just tell the treasure secretary what he's going to say in the meeting. Boss wants it scripted. People get the message quickly. They hate what you are making them do, but they have their jobs to worry about.
Law of Langley: Presidents, if they push hard enough, tend to get their way. I think any student of the intelligence game would tell you that. But it's a dangerous game because you could push so hard that your own intention just became your information, and when asked about your intentions you can only say: hey, I relied on my information! All presidents have the power to do that. Bush used his.
This is where the President is today. The world does not coincide with his descriptions of it.
“Hannah Arendt's On Revolution.” I will check that out but I have to admit after reading her bio and seeing book titles like The Origins of Totalitarianism that I can guess where you’re going with that. But I’m game.
Jay, I appreciate your detailed response and I agree with parts of it (for example, Bush is a lot more willing to push the envelope—he’s as deaf as they make them-- and he could accurately be described as a radical since this is a relative term). But, as I believe you do sometimes, you make these leaps that I believe are inaccurate and base the rest of your argument on that. And that’s where you lose me. And that’s where this whole Big Story idea has lost me. And where much of the media choices for Big Stories lose me.
For instance, you’re personalizing some of your statements to reflect how you think I think, or others like me think, but the reality is it’s incorrect. Bush didn’t “deceive” me. He struck me as someone who was willing (perhaps able is more apt b/c I think it’s unconscious) to implement some world changes I felt were needed and I was willing to put up with some negatives, and some unknowns, to get him vs. more of the same.
How many times have we all heard platitudes like “You have to get to the root of the problem” to solve issues like poverty or race? And yet, the same people who believe in that for “safer” issues, and put up with mediocre or no results, lose that perspective when confronted with enormous geopolitical problems. It’s easier and safer to stay put than to move forward. Unfortunately, in some cases, staying put means eventual demise.
I don’t know if I’m correct. It seems to me here that everyone is just so Sure. How do you get that way? I think all the time about these very serious issues and worry a lot, but I also try to be open-minded and I take bits and pieces from lots of sources to think about my decisions. The reason I often mistrust conclusions drawn by reporters is that I know I’m not seeing the whole, uncut version. There’s always a bunch of stuff left on the cutting room floor.
I’m in agreement with you about the whole press rollback philosophy. I think it will work itself out eventually. The press was getting too powerful with little accountability and now that there’s pressure from this kind of president and from alternative sources, adjustments will happen more quickly. That’s a selfish summary that I can say because I’m not immersed in it as my career and feeling the change pain.
And, thank you, Richard, for accurately tagging my use of Clinton in the previous post. I actually like much of what Clinton did as a President, although I admit to questioning his overall character.
A couple of things:
1.) Its not journos with an "agenda" that are a problem. I'm inclined to agree with Lovelady that most of them don't have a conscious agenda they deliberately apply to their newswriting and editorial decisions. No, it isn't an agenda that's the problem; it's the unconscious assumptions.
This little community's a good case in point: The aching desire to see Joe Wilson's roundly discredited story borne out is palpable. But there aren't too many people, Democrat or Republican, who have been branded as a serial liar by the unanimous opinion of a bipartisan Senate committee.
But, you know, if you have a newsroom community that is sufficiently ideologically inbred, then the "Joe Wilson as Victim" meme isn't going to get debunked around the editorial conference table, as it should be. It sees print, again and again and again, and is roundly debunked, again and again and again.
It is to the WaPo's credit that they saw through this two-bit charlatan, as did the Senate. Rosen, et. al., seem too emotionally vested in the Joe Wilson as Victim meme to see things for what they are:
Joe Wilson lied, and continues to lie.
It's Ironic that here we are in a discussion lamenting the inability of reporters to assess the credibility of their sources. But who has less credibility than Joe Wilson? I mean, a unanimous bipartisan branding as a liar takes some doing. Either Bush or Clinton, at least, could come close to breaking even!
But people are still clinging desperately to his discredited testimony.
2.) The "Bob Woodward as Boogeyman" meme is pathetic. Woodward moved the football quite a bit with "Plan of Attack." Ok, it wasn't perfect. But if only perfect pieces would be published, no one here would ever have seen print. But you didn't like the way it broke, and now Woodward is a villain.
It's like a pack of jackals.
3.) The report that the WMD trailers were almost certainly not actually intended for WMD production was not actually transmitted to Washington - to the bowels of the Pentagon, actually, until two days before the President made his "we found the weapons of mass destruction" statement. Meanwhile, the CIA and DIA (remember, DIA = Pentagon) had just the day before published their finding that the trailers probably were WMD facilities.
In order to argue that the President deliberately decieved the public with that statement, you have to simultaneously hold the view that
a.) A bureaucratic report on a technical detail takes just two days to move from Iraq to the Pentagon to the Deputy Undersecretary to the Undersecretary to the Secretary to the White House staffer to the Chief of Staff to the President.
That's about six separate bureaucratic steps in the stovepipe. It is not going to happen.
b.) You would also have to argue that the President would be prudent to dismiss the joint findings, published just one day prior, of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
January 30, 1973
Former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord Jr. are convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident. Five other men plead guilty, but mysteries remain.
April 30, 1973
Nixon's top White House staffers, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resign over the scandal. White House counsel John Dean is fired.
May 18, 1973
The Senate Watergate Committee begins its nationally televised hearings. Attorney General-designate Elliot Richardson taps former solicitor general Archibald Cox as the Justice Department's special prosecutor for Watergate.
June 3, 1973
John Dean has told Watergate investigators that he discussed the Watergate cover-up with President Nixon at least 35 times, The Post reports. Post Story
July 23, 1973
Nixon refuses to turn over the presidential tape recordings to the Senate Watergate Committee or the special prosecutor.
October 20, 1973
Saturday Night Massacre: Nixon fires Archibald Cox and abolishes the office of the special prosecutor. Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus resign. Pressure for impeachment mounts in Congress.
November 17, 1973
Nixon declares, "I'm not a crook," maintaining his innocence in the Watergate case.
December 7, 1973
The White House can't explain an 18 ½-minute gap in one of the subpoenaed tapes. Chief of Staff Alexander Haig says one theory is that "some sinister force" erased the segment.
July 27, 1974
House Judiciary Committee passes the first of three articles of impeachment, charging obstruction of justice.
August 8, 1974
Richard Nixon becomes the first U.S. president to resign.
Watergate Time Line
Jay: Sorry for the delay in responding to you - limited connectivity.
One complication for your projection, er, theory, Jason: I didn't write about Joe Wilson or his wife. Nor am I one of his lionizers.
Au contrair, Jay, I never said that you lionized Wilson. Furthermore, you DID write about Wilson, in this very thread, about whom you wrote:
To me Wilson is a bit player with a gigantic ego who's said some dumb things as well as a lot of true things, and what happened to him has triggered a huge story, but he's not the story.
Well, the problem is that Wilson was not a "bit player," but became very much a central figure in making the "ChimpyMcBushitler lied" case. The problem was that he was a lousy central figure, and should have remained a bit figure.
My central point still stands - you appear to have a lot invested emotionally with the Wilson-as-victim meme. So much so, in fact, that you go to extraordinary lengths to avoid recognizing something that has been pretty well established as fact: Wilson lied. Funny, you never mention that. You write he said some dumb things and "a lot of true things."
Well, ok. When he introduces himself as "I'm Joe Wilson and my wife is Valerie Plame," I suppose we'll have to grant him the benefit of the doubt. But it's been established that Wilson lied about who sent him to Niger, what his sources told him, and what he told the CIA in his initial briefback. Indeed, Wilson lied about just about every matter material to this investigation.
And not only did he lie, but he lied so clumsily, transparently, and brazenly that that was apparent even to a bipartisan committee of professional liars themselves, called politicians! Indeed, in establishing himself as a liar to a standard that warrants a unanimous -UNANIMOUS - conclusion of a bipartisan committee, Wilson demonstrates a standard of distortion and falsity that rises to the level of pathological.
I would be very surprised if you could, in good conscience, advise your own Syracuse J-students that such a witness can be relied on for ANYTHING. Nevertheless, you continue to gloss over Wilson's lies in a professional forum.
No, you are not one of Wilson's lionizers. But you are certainly acting as one of his enablers.
I am lionizing Waas, who is a lion.
Well, silly me. All this time I was thinking that Waas was a reporter!
But then, if Waas was a reporter, he would have done some reporter things. For instance, he might have understood the timeline of the events he was writing about in this article.
Unfortunately, Waas's breathless scoop relies for its impact on the failure of the reader to realize that the full spectrum of opinion surrounding the relevancy of the aluminum tubes to any Iraqi WMD program had already been released in 2002. Indeed, Waas missed the fact that several members of Congress had already been on the record, and members of both parties had already reached the conclusion that the tubes were related to a WMD program. To wit:
October 7, 2002 – Senator Nelson (D-NE): “Moreover, we know that Saddam recently attempted to purchase aluminum rods used to refine uranium. These rods could be used to develop materials for nuclear weapons.”
October 10, 2002 – Senator Graham (D-FL): “But the briefings I have received suggest our efforts, for instance, to block him from obtaining necessary nuclear materials have been largely successful, as evidenced by the recent intercept of centrifuge tubes, and that he is years away from having nuclear capability.”
October 10, 2002 – Senator Lieberman (D-CT): ”Since 1998, we know that Saddam has sought or attempted to buy... 60,000 or more specialized aluminum tubes, which are subject to strict controls due to their potential use in the construction of gas centrifuges.”
Oops. Those were all Democrats.
But it was because Bush concealed the fact that there was dissenting opinion, right? They never would have said these things - and NEVER would have voted to authorize war, if they had any inkling that the aluminum tubes were anything less than a smoking gun, right?
Let's hear from another member of Congress:
October 9, 2002 – Congresswoman Kaptur (D-OH): ”The President claimed Iraq had acquired smooth aluminum tubes for its secret nuclear weapons program. But analysts at the Energy and State Departments concluded that the Iraqis probably wanted the tubes to make conventional artillery pieces.”
Oh, well, shucks - I guess old "Scoop" Waas's "scoop" isn't much of a scoop at all. It was made public on the floor of Congress back in October of 2002 - and was itself part of the debate during the runup to war.
Well, because the bit of information that Waas would have us believe that Rove & co. suppressed from the American people was actually declassified months prior to the war.
(Nope, Waas doesn't quote from the NIE, nor does he seem to have noticed that these pols had been on the record from the very start, arguing that the tubes were part of the pool of evidence, and acknowledging that there was, indeed, a recognized difference of opinion.)
Now, this is a heck of a way to run a coverup. Now, it might be relevant if the case that Saddam was in "material breach" of the UN resolutions was wholly reliant on the aluminum tubes. But, you know, when coalition inspectors are still discovering that Iraq had retained illegal "seed stocks" for biological weapon development even after the fall of Saddam's government, and digging up 12 122mm rockets suitable for mustard gas deployment as late as January, 2003, the aluminum tubes just become one more item in a long list of circumstantial evidence.
Furthermore, for Waas's story to retain its impact, it demands that we ignore the big, honking centrifuge we found buried in an Iraqi weapons scientist's rose garden.
And in order to buy the "tubes were just for conventional missiles" story, you also have to accept the notion that Iraq builds its rockets to a much higher standard of manufacturing than does the United States - something that old Scoop Waas fails to grasp, apparently.
Now, if old Scoop were a better reader, he might have come across this passage from the declassified bits of the NIE:
All agencies agree that about 25,000 centrifuges based on tubes the size Iraq is trying to acquire would be capable of producing approximately two weapons’ worth of highly enriched uranium per year.
Got that? All agencies. That includes the Department of Energy and the Department of State.
Scoop Waas missed that one, too.
Why "all agencies," despite the disconnect? Well, the President understood something Waas doesn't: That Saddam deliberately pushed to acquire dual use technologies to maintain the illusion of plausible deniability in order to acquire nuclear technologies - and that "poorly suited" does not mean "unsuited."
The aluminum tubes, according to ALL the agencies were suboptimal. But they were still suitable.
It is not necessary for Bush to demonstrate that Saddam INTENDED to use the tubes to build a nuclear program. The burden of proof was on Saddam to show his good faith and compliance. In order to show a material breach of the UN resolutions, it is only necessary that the US show that they were suitable. And this was the uniform conclusion of all polled agencies across the board, according to the NIE.
Further, the NIE states that "most agencies judge" the tubes to be related to a nuclear weapons program. In other words, the DOE and State opinions were not the majority opinions at that time, but were, in fact, outliers. Now, the intel business is a game of probability, not certainty - and analysts seldom agree on anything. Scoop Waas doesn't seem to comprehend this, though.
Apparently, in Scoop's world, the US has to wait for unanimous opinion among ALL government agencies before reaching a decision on an issue - a state of affairs which would paralyze government.
But wait - All agencies WERE unanimous on one point: That 2000 centrifuges could be used with these tubes to produce a bomb.
Funny. Scoop leaves that inconvenient little fact out.
Here's another breathless revelation from Scoop and the National Journal:
Bush's knowledge of the State and Energy departments' dissent over the tubes was disclosed in a March 4, 2006, National Journal story -- more than three years after the intelligence assessment was provided to the president, and some 16 months after the 2004 presidential election.
It takes the National Journal to reveal that information that the Administration itself declassified in 2002, and read into the record on the House floor by Democratic politicians was provided to the President?
Man, is this Waas guy ever gullible. If he were a rooster, he'd take credit for the sunrise, too.
Sorry, but this "lion" ought to spend less time trying to be a lion, and more time trying to understand the subject he's covering.
(Thanks to Seixon for digging up the congresscritter quotes, and who has lots more on Waas.)
No, Waas is not the Woodward of today. Woodstein were a lot more careful about their timeline, and understood their story a lot better than Waas.
Furthermore, Woodward got a source on the record every once in a while. I don't think that that's too much to ask, in the post-Judy Miller world.
Doesn't seem to hang Waas up, much, though.
But I guess if you want a Watergate scenario bad enough, why let the facts get in your way, eh, Jay?
Maybe some people think that it's not all that important for the stated reasons to go to war (Saddam has WMD, Saddam is in bed with al-Qaeda) and the clinching reason ("we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud") to be the actual reasons, or even to be true at all.
If it doesn't matter because the war is just and necessary, then I could see how all this furor over the rationale for going to war seems absurd and highly unfair. (A variant on this theory: it doesn't matter because Bush went to war with wink, and most Americans saw the wink. They understood that he had many excellent reasons and picked the one that would shut the U.N. up, or sound the best to potential allies, and quiet the press, etc.)
That part I can grasp. I don't agree with it; but I can grasp it.
What I can't grasp is why, if you hold this view, you then fight tooth and claw against the growing pile of evidence that the books were cooked and the intelligence slanted and the nuclear threat turbo-hyped and the decision to go to war was a foregone conclusion from 2002 on.
In the realpolitik world where it doesn't matter what the stated reasons were because the cause is just and the deed necessary, it is precisely Bush's willingness to do such things (and take the heat) that would mark him as a leader fit for the times, tough enough for an era of global terrorism. Here's a man who does what it takes. He finds a way. He doesn't let the cumbersome formalities of reason-giving, of building a case before the eyes of the world, become an obstacle to doing what's right, what's necessary, and what's in American interests.
This should be a point of pride among Bush supporters. Instead (as this thread shows) they are being driven crazy by every piece of evidence that comes out showing that, as expected, the stated reasons were not the actual reasons, the intel was slanted to fit a pre-determined conclusion, the facts were fixed around the policy, and the decision was made to go to war regardless of all the formalities.
Why do they refuse pride and pick hand-to-hand combat over every fact emerging? I don't know the answer, but my suspicion is that the ultimate reasons are not political but psychological, or let's say they lie within the realm of political psychology. (And here I speak not of individuals but tendencies in the 35-40 percent of the body politic still with the President.)
In their view, Bush is "guilty" only of doing what's necessary for the country, even if that means breaking the rules and customs of our democracy, cooking the books, and bullshitting the world. But while his supporters admire him, a true leader, for taking on that guilt, (which they don't see as real guilt) they accept none of it for themselves. Their innocence has to remain undisturbed. Perfect, in fact.
This, of course, is impossible.
Geez...No wonder the press corps is incompetent reporting on Iraq - they can take their cue from some of the leading thinkers in the industry, in Mr. Rosen and Lovelady.
Sorry it has to fall to me to factcheck the myths that are perpetuated here - but the fact that these myths are perpetuated simply illustrates my point: It's unfounded assumptions which guide the news, and newspeople are hobbled by the baggage of their ignorant assumptions.
Myth #1: The generals were screaming for more troops in Iraq and Bushfeld & Co. wouldn't provide them.
False. In fact, they took a look at troop levels during the summer and fall of 2003, and Franks and the Secretary consulted with General Abizaid, who was slated to be Franks' successor, to see if Abizaid felt he could use more troops. Abizaid declined on two occasions, stating once, "it would just mean that many more people walking around with rifles who don't understand the culture," and on a second occasion, stating that he can use some more international troops, particularly Muslims, but he didn't want any more American troops, except in a response to a specific security threat or an election.
Tommy Franks, the CENTCOM commander prior to Abizaid and the commander of the planning of the Iraq invasion, has stated publicly many times that Rumsfeld provided him with all he needed. His deputy commander, Lt. Gen. DeLong, seconds that account. All are retired now, and are free to state otherwise if they feel that's the case.
CENTCOM does not report to the Chief of Staff. CENTCOM reports to the SecDef and the President, directly. The CENTCOM commander is the only commander with standing to request an increase in troop strength in Iraq or anywhere else in theater. No other General - not the CoS of the Army, and not the CJCS, has responsibility to determine troop strength on the ground.
And yet the unanimous opinion of all Generals concerned, at the four-star level, is that the US troop levels, in their view at the time, were adequate to the task.
General Casey further confirms that all division commanders, "to a man," told him that they had what they needed to get the job done.
You can find supporting quotations on my blog here.
Myth #2: Bush I could have invaded Iraq and occupied Baghdad in 1991, and chose not to.
False. Any such effort would have had to have been supported out of Kuwait, and would have exposed the US flank or rear to Saudi meddling. Further, the force structure of the US Army at the time - mech heavy, with only two light divisions in the whole theater, was wholly unsuited to urban operations. At any rate, the Kuwait City port was trashed by Iraqi looting, and was simply incapable of the kind of throughput a 500,000 soldier, multi-corps mechanized Army would require. Even if it was, the available road networks from Kuwait/Basra up into the interior of the country would have been hard pressed to simultaneously support all those corps. Much of that road network isn't even paved. And this is to say nothing of the legality of any such occupation, nor the political effect, given that a coalition that included Syria and Saudi Arabia never bought into Saddam removal. What the unthinking minions who insist that removing Saddam was even a possibility in 91 totally ignore is that the whole effort was supported out of KKMC in Saudi Arabia, and we relied on Saudi cooperation for everything we did.
Myth #3: Zinni commanded CENTCOM in Iraq.
Ummm, Steve - let me break this to you gently - CENTCOM is in Tampa, not Iraq. And Zinni retired well before 9/11, and had nothing to do with any of this. But this is illustrative of my larger point - a press corps which cannot discern basic facts such as this is in no position to add value, analysis, or perspective to news events.
If you're going to dismiss my posts as "indefensible" without a single substantive criticism, Steve, you'd do well do demonstrate some basic grasp of factual matters.
Second, Newbold was J-3 over at the Pentagon. He's in Plans. But it was Franks, not Newbold, who was responsible for planning. Newbold was a staffie, not a commander, at that time - and not in CENTCOM.
Myth #4: Bush lost momentum in Afghanistan when he invaded Iraq.
Plausible, but not demonstrated. Indeed, General Franks, who as CENTCOM commander was responsible for Afghanistan AND Iraq, felt we could do both, and one fight may complement the other. The CENTCOM commander is on record with that opinion. Much is made of a shortage of Arabic translators, and a divided intelligence effort. But they don't speak Arabic in Afghanistan.
So you can try to make that argument - but you'd have to make it past the actual military commander responsible for both fights.
In my view, the removal of Saddam is part and parcel of the effort to defang Al Qaeda, and employing a logistic strategy - cutting Al Qaeda off from possible sources of WMD know how and materiel - is vital to that effort.
To those who ask why the retired generals now eviscerating Rumsfeld didn't speak up while still in uniform -- which seems a particular obsession of Jason -- the answer is, it's against the law.
Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice calls for a court martial for any commissioned officer who "uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice president, Congress, the secretary of defense" and/or other federal or state officials.
The prohibition on voiced contempt does not apply to retirees.
Thus, as Christopher Gelpi puts it, "They've been careful not to violate the core tenet of civilian control -- none of them has said these things publically while on active duty."
Which might explain why Lt General Newbold wrote in Time magazine that he was writing "with the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership." They can't say it, so they delegated him.
Indeed, as I read Article 88, anyone in the military even daring to speak up right here at Press Think in sympathy with Newbold, Zinni, Swannick et al. is also breaking the law. (No exemptions for Press Think contributors in Article 88 -- not even for Jason.)
Which in turn might explain why you read here what you read here. By law, Jason has only two options: To say nothing at all, or to twist himself into a pretzel defending Rumsfeld. I extend my sympathies. That's a terrible position to be in.
Meantime, I see from channeling Jonah Goldberg on CNN that the argument on the biolabs has devolved into, "Was he lying through his teeth, or was he just given bad intelligence ?"
So it has come to this: "He was misled, again and again and again," once a worst-case scenario, has become the default (i.e., best-case) scenario.
That can't be fun.
Sorry, Dave, but trying to argue that Al Qaeda and Osama are not global is simply moronic.
Actually, the argument [that the war in Iraq was a distraction from the fight against terrorism - edited for clarification] fails because it totally ignores the desireability of isolating Al Qaeda from outside support.
Now, I am even more confused, Jason. You assert that Al-Qaeda is global, and also in the same breath claim that the Iraq war is desirable because it isolates Al-Qaeda from outside support. Now tell me how that makes any sense, unless you are using Iraq interchangeably with "the United States, (and others in) Indonesia, Bali, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, The Philippines, Israel, Spain, Morocco, France, Somalia, Tanzania, Sudan, Pakistan".
Now, that is a lot of countries to invade, occupy, defang, democratize, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., .... (27 etc.s).
Also, let us know if, pretty soon, all these generals that are being critical of the war (effort) will qualify for the moniker "drooling morons" along with the pentagon press corps?
Afternote: It is a relief to see that the wheels are finally coming off the 'military can do no wrong' and 'criticizing the troops is unpatriotic', but the 'politicians and press are morons' meme.
Reg Jones: In reply to your question, what do I mean by the books were cooked? I offer you excerpts from How Bush Got It Wrong by Thomas Powers in the New York Review of Books (Sep. 2004.)
It's a review of the Report on the US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. (Unfortunately, the essay is subscribers only, so I offer here substantial sections of it.)
His thesis is: there's only one way the CIA and the NIE could have been so wrong; they were responsive to what the Bush White House wanted. I agree with this judgment. Here are some passages. Powers is well aware that no one said they were "pressured." That's not the way it works, he says.
...The basic sin came in many varieties—ignoring evidence, misrepresenting evidence, exaggerating evidence, overstating the evidence, going beyond the evidence, interpreting some evidence as strong when it was weak, sometimes even reaching conclusions without any real evidence at all. The report reaches 117 separate conclusions about the October 2002 NIE and other matters relating to prewar intelligence about Iraq, and it is fair to say that almost every one contains a more or less stinging rebuke of the CIA. The report does not say, but unmistakably implies with persuasive detail, that the exaggerations, overstatements, and misreadings of the CIA's estimate writers all fail in one direction—describing Iraq as more dangerous than it really was...
But was there outright pressure to change an assessment? No one claimed anything quite like that, despite a platoon of witnesses asked to identify anything—anything—that smacked of White House pressure...
Asking CIA analysts if they have been cooking the books while their bosses sit in the room reminds me of those well-meaning Western lefties who paid visits in the 1930s to prisoners in the Soviet gulag and returned with assurances that the prisoners all agreed the food was great and they were getting plenty of outdoor exercise. Understanding how the CIA came up with its "high confidence" NIE requires the Senate to connect the dots, but it shouldn't be hard. There are only two—the White House and the CIA. Which way does the committee think the influence runs? But the Senate Intelligence Committee has declined to hazard a guess on this point, and its careful wording amounts at best to a Scotch verdict—not proven. But the rest of the report, with its numerous examples and close analysis of evidence used to build a case for war, raises troubling questions about the CIA's ability to dig in its heels when a president insists that a grab bag of ambiguous information is all he needs to prove a "gathering threat" or a "growing danger."...
...The heart of the agency's case was built around four factual claims—that Iraq was trying to buy a kind of uranium ore called yellowcake in Niger; that Iraq was trying to buy thousands of aluminum tubes that could be used as rotors in a centrifuge to separate fissionable material; that magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools on the Iraqi shopping list were intended for its bomb program; and that Saddam himself was taking a personal interest in the program and in the community of scientists who were running it. In every case the Senate committee found that the evidence for these claims was thin or nonexistent, and it strongly suggested that the CIA's analysts and estimate writers consistently ignored or dismissed evidence that undermined or contradicted their central claims....
The committee's report faults the CIA in every one of its twenty conclusions about analysis of Iraq's nuclear program. It builds an argument for finding that the agency's crafting and shaping of the NIE can only be described as an attempt to manufacture a case justifying war...
Americans are quick to criticize presidents for everything they don't like, or want but don't have, and at times they are willing to harass them so unmercifully on irrelevant personal grounds that presidents may be forgiven for regretting they were ever elected in the first place. But when it comes to the really big mistakes and disasters in public life, Americans can be strangely reluctant to hold presidents responsible. This reluctance can be seen plainly in discussion of the two recent intelligence failures—"catastrophic" in the words of a New York Times editorial on August 11—that are cited as the reason for fixing a badly broken system, the "failure" to predict and prevent the terrorist attacks of Sep-tember 11, 2001, and the "failure" in predicting discovery of Iraqi weapons programs that turned out to be imaginary...
The Senate Intelligence Committee will not deliver until next year its final verdict on the CIA's National Intelligence Estimate used to justify war. It has stated in its July report that the estimate writers went beyond the intelligence they had to work with, and it will probably say as much about the President and other high officials who went further still in banging the drum—citing "gathering threats" and "growing dangers" that not even the most liberal of readings could find in the NIE. But taking the final step— stating plainly what is obvious to anyone who cares to see—may be more than the Senate Intelligence Committee, or any other group of official Americans, can bring itself to do...
If things had been otherwise, if the CIA had pressed and bullied the White House instead of the other way around, then the President would have lashed out angrily when the inspectors found nothing, and it became apparent that he had taken the nation to war without cause. But nothing of the kind happened. President Bush was serene. For a year he said those weapons might yet turn up, and Tenet loyally said the same. When others suggested something had gone badly wrong, the President expressed confidence in his director of central intelligence, just as he had following the attacks on September 11, and for the same reason. The country didn't know it then, and the White House did what it could to keep the country from ever knowing, but for seven months George Tenet's CIA had been hand-delivering warnings to the President about al-Qaeda at a rate of nearly two a week. Tenet might have volunteered one or two additional pieces of information —for example, the report he received on August 23 that FBI field agents in Minneapolis wanted to investigate an "Islamic extremist" arrested while learning to fly 747 airliners. Tenet says he told the White House nothing about that. It sounds odd, but that is what Tenet says. With that exception, Tenet's performance as DCI was everything this president could ask for, and every word from Bush on the subject so far suggests that he agrees...
This is where things grow difficult for committees, commissioners, and ordinary citizens alike. It is not sympathy for President Bush as a person that makes them hesitate, but the power of the office of the presidency itself. A president is not only the leader of the country, but the leader of his party as well, and a serious attack on a president concerning a substantial matter is an invitation to conflict of a kind that resembles civil war. So the reason for the velvet gloves with which he is treated is not hard to understand. But the failure to act before September 11 and the unnecessary war with Iraq cannot fairly be blamed on intelligence organizations or anyone else. The White House is the problem, not for the first time. Iraq is President Bush's war. He insisted on it, and nothing can save us from the same again until we find the will to hold the President responsible.
Armored corps do not do manhunts.
Right, Jason. Instead, you send them to Iraq and track down Saddam. Which is what the 4th ID (Mech) did. And more power to them.
Or you send armor to run patrols. As well as MPs and water purification specialists. Every cook and baker a warrior, eh?
We took a perfectly fine, well-trained and lethal military and turned them into traffic cops and trainers. Which may be why six retired generals are a bit pissed.
Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Army's First Infantry Division in Iraq, a lifelong Republican, said his criticism of Rumsfeld is not about politics. It's about protecting the troops on the ground and about winning the war.
As for hunting down Osama bin Laden - we didn't make that up as a cause for war in Afghanistan, Jason. George Bush did. We went there to destabilize the Taliban, he said, deprive al Qaeda of a power base and hunt you-know-who.
Now, you say, he's not that important (though earlier he was, to you, the emblem of global terrorism). It's hard to keep up with where you move the goal posts.
In October 2004, The Atlantic carried an article on the hunt for bin Laden. Peter Bergin made these points:
Finding bin Laden remains of utmost importance for three reasons. First, there is the matter of justice for the 3,000 people who died in the 9/11 attacks, and for the hundreds of other victims of al-Qaeda attacks around the world. Second, every day that bin Laden remains at liberty is a propaganda victory for al-Qaeda. Third, although bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri don't exert day-to-day control over al-Qaeda, according to Roger Cressey, a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official, they do continue to supply "broad strategic guidance" for the group's actions, and for those of its affiliates.
Now you may wish bin Laden was marginalized. It would be good if it was true and it would certainly help explain why the White House pulled troops and money spent on tracking down bin Laden to fight a brilliantly conducted war and a miserable peace in Iraq.
But facts are stubborn things.
Jason, so UBL is not the center of gravity? and UBL is not a critical vulnerability?
Nope. Not by a long shot. But it seems you aren't even familiar with what I'm talking about.
This isn't the time nor place to run a tutorial on maneuver warfare theory or the indirect approach. I'd refer you instead to B.H. Liddell-Hart and Robert Leonhart, and John R. Boyd.
Bin Ladin is by no means a "critical vulnerability." He's a nice-to-have. But it is much easier to render him irrelevant - or even turn him into a liability, as Al Qaeda must commit its top leadership and much local political capital and goodwill to protecting him.
One of the worries of planners back in 2001/early 2002 was that we would capture Bin Ladin too soon - and the American public would then be lured into a false sense of complacency, when Bin Ladin's capture would do nothing to reduce Al Qaeda's capability or potential.
Bin Ladin is a tempting decoy.
The White Paper I linked to asserts that a terrorist organization's critical vulnerability is the ability to move freely. My own belief is that their critical vulnerability is communications, rather than movement itself - which is why the New York Times' irresponsible airing of domestic surveillance efforts was so immensly damaging.
I don't think there's a serious military thinker in the country who considers capturing Bin Ladin to be the decisive point, nor does one consider Bin Ladin to be Al Qaeda's critical vulnerability.
Now, when I use these terms, they're terms of art, and have specific meanings in the context of maneuver warfare theory. I know journalists are still working on getting the difference straight between a soldier and a Marine, so understanding this stuff might be a lot to ask.
Just one more reason why news organizations should make more of an effort to recruit veterans, though.
Well, I'd imagine that you are. I certainly would be. The minutes must be just ticking by.
But perhaps, Jason -- just perhaps -- no one feels a defense is required ? One would mount a defense of Waas only if one felt Waas was in need of one.
I think the crickets are telling you something, laddie
Yep. They tell me quite a bit. Just not about Waas.
Out here in the reality-based community, we have facts, and we have reporters who try to nail down facts, and do a bit of background.
It's not that Waas wasn't the first to get the scoop - it's that his entire story is wrong. His entire story - his ENTIRE STORY - is based on a false premise: That the Bush Administration was trying to conceal something - the dissent over the nature of the aluminum tubes - that it had actually declassified and made public back in 2002, and which had already been discounted by Congress during the debate over the authorization of the use of force.
Honestly, it's a matter of rank incompetence - at least on this story. Now, it's an easy thing to miss, and lots of reporters would not have found the background quotations on the subject that Seixon found from the House and Senate floors (though someone who made a couple of phone calls to check his assumptions might get a clue about where to look).
But in this case, Waas failed to build a timeline of events - which is, you know, kind of important. It's one of those things reporters do. Good ones, anyway.
Of course, when you come out of the Village Voice, everyone in your rolodex is going to answer the phone on the same side of the aisle if you're not careful.
Waas wasn't careful.
You folks are confusing the validation of your assumptions with good reporting. Waas is writing a lot of things you are dearly longing to hear. But this article is lousy reporting - and fatally flawed.
Of course, you can't see that, because of those unconscious assumptions. But the chronology of events wounds the article fatally.
Taken together, Jay's quotes from Thomas Powers, and villages’ earlier statements present a conundrum that I’d love for someone to solve for me.
Thomas Powers said,
“...The basic sin came in many varieties—ignoring evidence, misrepresenting evidence, ... sometimes even reaching conclusions without any real evidence at all.”
“But was there outright pressure to change an assessment? No one claimed anything quite like that,...”
(Paraphrase) “There are only two dots….the White House and the CIA.”
“But the failure to act before September 11 and the unnecessary war with Iraq cannot fairly be blamed on intelligence organizations or anyone else. The White House is the problem, not for the first time."
And Village said...
“The myriad intelligence agencies that operate with taxpayer money produce thousands of pages of information every day; some of it good, but most of it useless. That politicians use that information selectively to manipulate public opinion is nothing new. What is different now is that the administration, with its actions on the Iraq war, crossed the rubicon that was never meant to be crossed... It is not that the public expects politicians not to play games, but in a perverse manner, they feel that the unwritten rules, which are meant to prevent real damage to America, were broken by the Bush administration.”
Ok. Let me restate these thoughts to make sure that I, as a citizen relying on “those who just know,” understand….
Our intelligence agencies produce lots of information, much of it inaccurate, mostly unusable, often “slanted” towards a pre-determined end by the man at the top, whoever that might be at a particular time, except that remember they’ll categorically deny that they can be influenced by anyone, anytime. Everyone knows that politicians manipulate that inaccurate information and it’s ok to play the game, wink, wink, as long as there’s no bad result later on after the decisions get made. Sometimes this system works out, because hindsight shows us that what we didn’t know didn’t hurt us, like with India and Pakistan (see previous link). But sometimes this system doesn’t work because you get a president who just doesn’t see that “invisible line that shouldn’t be crossed.” And sometimes events happen, like Sept 11th, that raise the stakes just a bit. Oh… and don’t try to fix this system, because it works fine as long as the person in the White House is God.
I agree with this thought of Mr.Thomas’s: “Americans are quick to criticize presidents for everything they don't like, or want but don't have, and at times they are willing to harass them so unmercifully on irrelevant personal grounds that presidents may be forgiven for regretting they were ever elected in the first place. But when it comes to the really big mistakes and disasters in public life, Americans can be strangely reluctant to hold presidents responsible.”
Americans, I think, are pretty simple people. They see that one man is responsible for his own behavior, personal or otherwise, which is why they “went after Clinton” (I assume that’s Thomas was referring to in his “harass so unmercifully on irrelevant personal grounds”). But they have a harder time grasping that one man, Bush, is responsible for what, in effect, is “thousands” (!) of people not effectively doing what they were hired or voted into office by us to do.
That makes "getting Bush" less of a priority for some people who see that that result is not, in reality, going to fix the real problems at hand. I blame Bush for some things, and will hold him accountable for those. But he’s not the nexus of our problems and continuing down that road takes us farther from the solutions.
Simple problems don’t get solved unless they’re correctly identified and brought to light. This is something the press is good at. Complicated problems often never get solved because people like to keep things simple and journalists as a group seem to focus more on "swatting flies." My comments earlier to Bush’s Jaw about his “no scandals since Watergate” remark are related to these thoughts. Kind of like “if a tree falls in the forest, does it still make a sound if no one is there to hear it?”
"Bush lied" is your formulation, Jason, not mine. You like it because it is crude, as your defense is crude. I don't think Bush knows the difference between truth and falsehood in his public pronouncements. He says what he says, and makes sure there's no one around to challenge him on it. Therefore "Bush lied" doesn't make much sense to me, just as "Bush: conservative" doesn't. It's quite possible he talked himself into certitude about it.
What I have said is that Bush and his White House were the leaders, pattern-setters, enablers, and eager customers for what happened as his Adminstration drove deceptively to war in Iraq-- "ignoring evidence, misrepresenting evidence, exaggerating evidence, overstating the evidence, going beyond the evidence, interpreting some evidence as strong when it was weak," and so on.
That is what they wanted done; and they let everyone know it. That is what they did themselves. (You said you never bought Atta in Prague; aren't you curious why Cheney did?)
I don't know why Clinton and others thought Saddam has WMD and the like. Possibly because at the time, he did. But when you order a full scale invasion of another country, propose to spend billions of dollars, put thousands of Anerican lives at risk, and seek to persuade the world of the rightness of your cause you need to be rather more certain of the reasons and the evidence. You have to make the case from the ground up. "Everyone knows Saddam has WMD," or "the previous Administration thought so" isn't good enough.
The Bush White House knew this. (Jason and Sisyphus know this too.) That is why the White House went backed and ordered a new national assessment and a marshalling of the evidence, and that is the assessment they distorted.
Cheney recently said "Epecially in the day and age we live in … the president of the United States needs to have his Constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national-security policy."
When are you going to realize that by "unimpaired," they mean unconstrained by reality itself, by all notions of evidence, by the whole tradition of empiricism that, while never holding complete sweigh over our politics, has at least influenced and constrained it.
Bush, Cheny and company want to do away with those constraints. They are radicals on the expansion of executive power. And they are doing something no one has ever tried to do before. To the statement, "no one is entitled to his own facts," their reply is: Oh yeah? Watch us.
I don't think I've said 'Bush lied.' It's more that Bush saw what he wanted to see. And weeded out the arguments to the contrary. He's certainly not alone in that.
Take the 'what about the French' argument that Saddam's WMD must have been real because everyone thought so. Maybe not, according to Scott Ritter - remember him?
The intelligence services of everyone else were not proclaiming Iraq to be in possession of WMD. Rather, the intelligence services of France, Russia, Germany, Great Britain and Israel were noting that Iraq had failed to properly account for the totality of its past proscribed weapons programs, and in doing so left open the possibility that Iraq might retain an undetermined amount of WMD. There is a huge difference in substance and nuance between such assessments and the hyped-up assertions by the Bush administration concerning active programs dedicated to the reconstitution of WMD, as well as the existence of massive stockpiles of forbidden weaponry.
In their book Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, the authors point to five errors in the five 'grievous errors' of the Bush war plan in Iraq.
The Bush team underestimated the enemy and failed to comprehend the complexities of Iraqi politics.
(1.) The Bush team underestimated the enemy and never understood the complexity of Iraqi politics.
(2.) They relied too much on technology and Rumsfeld's theory of 'military transformation,' thus starting a war with too few troops.
(3.) As the situation deteriorated, the Bush team failed to adapt to new circumstances and adhered to the pre-war plan. The author cite Rumsfeld's cancelling the deployment of the 1st Cav at a time when more troops were needed to deal with a looming insurgency.
(4.) They discouraged alternative political and military perspectives.
(5.)The Bush team delayed nation-building efforts, assuming in their plans that reconstruction would come from the defeated Iraqis. In doing so, it set back post-combat stability.
This war and its increasingly divisive effect on this country can't be neatly capsulized in bumper-sticker comments.
We are not well served by the ideological blinders and arguments designed to show how 'right' our side was that are so frequently expressed here. The sooner we acknowledge terrible and deadly mistakes were made and honestly face the war and how we got there, the better for the country.
Ah, a couple of drive bys. Then I have some fiddle to play, and I'll get back to it later -
1. I'm with Ann in that Limbaugh's an entertainer and commenter, and Waas is a reporter. Waas's counterpart on the left isn't Limbaugh, it's Stephen Hayes, the author of "The Connection."
Hayes is a much, much better reporter, in my opinion, who is almost singlehandedly responsible for the declassification of thousands of docs we haven't even gotten to the bottom of yet.
2. Ann is also right to point out that Zinni was consistent in cautioning against invading Iraq. But as someone else mentioned, Zinni represented one point on the risk - reward scale. Wolfowitz represented a different point. It's like a financial advisor sketching out two portfolios on the efficient frontier. The advisor's job isn't to pick one - it's to execute the investment guidance of the customer. In this case, the customer is the President, within his congressional and constitutional authority.
The "we have found no WMD" canard is simply false. Baathist forces have detonated at least two chemical IED (both in the spring of 2004.) The Poles uncovered dozens of chemical munitions - each one a violation of the terms of the cease fire. 12 chemical-variant 122mm rockets were uncovered in January 2003, according to the London Telegraph. And again - no one has attempted to refute this: the CIA found that Saddam had maintained biowar "seed stocks" right through the war.
Are they the vast stockpiles we thought we'd find? No (although one recently translated document from the Iraqi Army's Deputy C of S directs the movement of a quantity of "special munitions," specifically designating 122 and 155mm ammunition (both common chemical artillery rounds) and mentions "special vehicles" to transport them. And one former Iraqi General has written a book saying he was detailed to transport WMD to Syria.)
And do I wonder why Cheney buys the Atta in Prague story? Not really, because the case for war doesn't rely on Atta in Prague in any way. And as long as the Czech government stands by their analysis, adopting it is at least plausible. But the evidence, even if true, is not in and of itself dispositive: It would indicate that Saddam's government and Al Qaeda were talking to each other, but we already knew that. But it would not by itself demonstrate that Hussein knew about 9/11. So unless more comes out, I think Atta in Prague is a minor event.
Ayman al Zawahiri's presence in Baghdad, at the personal invitation of Ibrahim Izzat al-Duri, is a much, much more significant discovery, which has not gotten anywhere near the press, and which is, I think, almost unknown except those of us who subscribe to "All Iraq, All the Time" channels.
My Name Is URL wrote, "My point about Limbaugh [and] Waas is this: Both Limbaugh and Waas speak/write for a specific audience. Or more crudely, if Waas was writing pro-Bush articles, would we be having all the Murray The Lion shouting of loud hosannahs about Waas here? If I'm wrong about this, please correct me."
I'll be happy to correct you, Mniurl, because the distinction that escapes you is crucial to the issue at hand.
Limbaugh preaches to the choir -- millions of wanna-be Limbaughs who tune in for the comfort of having their preconceptions reinforced. Waas, by contrast, writes for the National Journal, which has got to be the only publication on the planet that charges close to $1,800 for a one-year subscription, and which has a circulation of a mere 20,000.
And who are the 20,000 ? Pretty much everyone in Washington who has any kind of job that influences policy -- lobbyists, congressmen, congressional aides, medium-to-high-level bureaucrats in every government agency, White House flunkies, et. al. (And, yes, you can bet your laptop that your tax dollars are paying for most of those $1,800 subscriptions.)
In short, Waas is not preaching to the choir. To the contrary, with Republicans controlling the White House, both houses of congress, the Supreme Court and most statehouses in America, I think it's safe to say that his audience and his readership consists overwhelmingly of right-wing policy wonks.
And I doubt if he loses much sleep wondering if people perceive him as "anti-Bush" or "pro-Bush." That's not his obsession. His obsession, as with every investigative reporter worth is salt, is getting it right.