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Michael Ubaldi, July 17, 2003.
Glenn Reynolds wonders aloud how Ohioans feel about the New York Times. We Midwesterners know how we're valued by the East and the City, and Ohio is a just-right-of-center state - so you can imagine the amount of daylight in between.
Anecdotally, regarding the Times story, I have yet to hear a single person in work or passing mention it once - a conversation about Cuba and North Korea the other day, not necessarily between cut-and-dried conservatives, didn't even come close to uranium.
Ah, but we wouldn't be Ohio without my metropolitan home of Cleveland where the main newspaper, the Plain Dealer, is happily performing the duty of toeing the left's line. Its foreign affairs correspondent is obviously intelligent and, from a radio interview I overheard once, sounds pleasant enough. But she's worked her way up to one hell of an up-high, flimsy limb with this one.
They represent, I represent. I responded in what is now an open letter:
Since the judgment of Saddam began to go against the way the left would have liked, your columns have become looser with reasoned arguments and thicker with rhetoric and supposition. Today's column is rife with fallacies.
Michael Ubaldi, July 15, 2003.
Great thoughts from Megan McArdle on the miscarriage of the left's Mordred to Bush's Arthur, the would-be "Uraniumgate." She quotes a Michael Kinsley column that fixedly works to wrangle scandal, duplicity and conspiracy to defraud from a questionable intelligence item, itself of subordinate importance to Bush and Blair's casus belli. Says Megan:
When the president's critics are reduced to quibbling over grammar, the battle is lost. This scandal may hurt the president, as the clever arguments about the meaning of the word "is" hurt Clinton. But I think it has far greater potential to damage the opposition, who, by engaging in such arguments, make themselves look like pettyfogging quibblers out to injure the president by any means necessary.
At last look, the accusation operates on the premise that the United States went to war not because Saddam Hussein had flagrantly defied United Nations disarmament verification, was in possession of a wide variety of illegal weapons and remained a menace to international security, but because British intelligence reported that the Iraqi dictator had sought purchase of uranium from Africa.
Is that too stringent? At the very least, demands to hold Bush accountable clearly imply that the failed uranium deal was a major moral and legal impetus up to, during and after military action. If errors in judgment on minor points made prior to the engagement were impeachable, they'd be holding trial in the Senate today because Operation Iraqi Freedom cost less than planned.
And if, unamused by the comic irony just previous, we insist that No, this isn't a "minor point" to attribute to the obscurity of intelligence and fog of war? It's not advisable: the charge of war on the condition of deception just doesn't stand up. The specific reference to uranium became understood as questionable (or at least less blitheringly obvious as the rest of Saddam's infractions) some time before the final warning from Bush and the beginning of hostilities. Are memories so short? The revelation certainly wasn't a talking point for those against Saddam's deposition: we were instead warned of the Arab street, international opinion, incredible casualties, mass refugees, and global war. As for Bush and Blair, nuclear weapons were far down the legal list, well below biological and chemical programs and stockpiles. Fears for combat centered squarely on Saddam's documented chemical and biological possessions. In the midst of the fighting, it's not as if every crawler scuttling on cable news read:
CENTRAL COMMAND EXPECTS 'ONLY DAYS LEFT BEFORE WE WIN AND SCOOP UP THAT URANIUM OVER WHICH WE WENT TO WAR, YOU BETCHA'
Which brings us to a simpler explanation for this foundering attack on a yet-imperviously trustworthy president: the uranium blowup is simply Plan C, and didn't pop up until after the first and second hamstring jobs on Bush failed to take.
For those who, when faced with weapons and programs that have not materialized, suspect not pathological mischief from Saddam but instead duplicity from Bush: Megan's right. Only stories with truth to them have legs; as soon as the Bush administration can recover from the shock of realizing how unscrupulous and politically empty their opposition is, the shelf date for this one will be nigh.
UPDATE: Robert Kuttner writes in the Boston Globe that he's quite happy to see the press "finally making an issue of President Bush's knowing use of a faked intelligence report on Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons program." Mr. Kuttner, the press couldn't concentrate on ginning up scandal from the uranium statement because they were too busy pinning other grievous crimes on the president, such as imperialist warmongering, mass murder, lobbing handouts to fat cats, losing on the road to Baghdad and watching a museum be stripped. Read this article - you can hear the man seething from behind his keyboard.
Michael Ubaldi, July 14, 2003.
As a testament to his political ability and the perseverance of not only the Bush administration but the Allied troops, as well, Paul Bremer has managed a stunning success: a twenty-five member ruling council representing Iraqis of all stripes, particularly majority Shiites.
Before and immediately after the engagement, doubt hung leaden on the necks of skeptics as to the future of post-Saddam Iraq. From conservative war supporter Stanley Kurtz to vitriolic, anti-American Ted Rall, the prospect of committing American money, energy and lives to ensuring self-governance and a free market to the erstwhile military epicenter of the Near East seemed unlikely at best and imprudent at worst.
The prudence of the American ambition to overwhelm authoritarian governance and anarchic culture in the region through democracy can still be debated (albeit from a pessimistic, utterly cornered position) - but the likelihood of that wave beginning in Baghdad cannot:
Images of the inauguration were broadcast live by Western and Arab satellite television, received in about 40 percent of homes in Baghdad. Council members -- some dressed in traditional Arab robes, some in Islamic cleric garb, others in business suits -- sat in a semicircle of chairs on a stage before an audience of dignitaries.
Another boon to this first stage of consensual government is the slow, steady rejection of extremism - after all, why choose hatred, death and destruction when you have the opportunity to achieve a healthy livelihood and the right to petition for grievance? The bellwethers in this group will help underscore the choices available to the Iraqi people:
Many of the Governing Council members were pro-American in comments made during a news conference after the inauguration, and several criticized Arabic television channels and the British Broadcasting Corp. for coverage they saw as pro-Saddam.
Michael Ubaldi, July 14, 2003.
Masquerading as news on the other side of the world, this rather embarrassing, desperate labor came up easily at a Google-provided string of newspaper articles on Iraq. Half of it is a slaughter of straw men, the other half a dubious attempt to slide in rhetoric and simple conjecture as incontrovertible, contrary evidence.
Any question of Iraq's complicity in the September 11th attacks was not addressed by the administration, let alone offered as justification for Saddam's deposition.
And those covered trucks exactly matching Colin Powell's description of mobile weapons labs? Out comes the meme that they were merely clandestine units for creating hydrogen, just like Grandma used to make, for weather or artillery balloons; this, despite the fact that hydrogen is best known for its transportability, or that the machinery - the machinery hidden inside trailers - is decidedly unsuited for creating hydrogen (a fact general undisputed but, as in the questioned article, simply sneered at - after all, why distrust Saddam Hussein?).
More egregious is an attempt to use the famous misquote. Three months after the fact, there is no excuse but disingenuousness, although malice might be a more fitting motive, as the paper has gone one step further with an out-and-out "This wasn't the enemy we wargamed against."
The blue ribbon for the most humorous transmogrifications of distorted opinion into fact goes to the conclusion that since the Allied occupation is overseeing a reengagement of Iraq's oil wells in addition to the administration of revenues thereof, including a possible universal trust fund, the resource isn't truly in the hands of Iraqis - as if some bank teller would be exchanging crude barrels for dinar by the hour. On the subject of chemical weapons used or exposed during military action, no anti-war sources who used the possibility as a reason against action are cited.
Good for a laugh and an exercise in reminding oneself of the facts but also a hard look at what continues to animate the left, in absolute irrecognition of what has transpired and what is being accomplished. "A scene unimaginable," indeed.
Michael Ubaldi, July 12, 2003.
No, I didn't take the doom-and-gloom reports seriously ("Piling up Disasters/Marking the Footage 'Raw'"), either. An incredibly balanced report from the Weekly Standard's Reuel Marc Gerecht:
With rare exceptions, Western newspapers, magazines, TV news, and radio uniformly tell the story of increasingly effective guerrilla movements, random violence, theft, rape, rising religious extremism, Shiite clerical dissatisfaction, Sunni Arab bitterness, antidemocratic tribalism and nationalism, angry and despairing U.S. soldiers, and even more distressed congressmen and anonymous U.S. officials. Poor American administration of the country, per this reporting--as always, most trenchantly expressed by the BBC--is producing an ill-tempered, ever more anti-American Iraqi population whose thankfulness for the destruction of Saddam Hussein's rule is probably ending.
Michael Ubaldi, July 10, 2003.
I'm fed up. Henceforth, the topic of desperate, apoplectic attacks on the president will be referred to as the "Idiocy Bulletin." And that will be only to document the inevitable crumbling of this perfidious, horrifyingly irresponsible invention of crime and history.
I'll adapt a comment I made on Pejmanesque:
I'm still floored as to why the left contorts itself to believe that the Bush administration spent enormous amounts of energy towards falsifying evidence before military action but didn't give a single thought as to falsifying evidence when in Iraq.
There's an answer to this: they believe Bush is stupid when he needs to be stupid, and fiendishly clever when their conspiracy rubbish calls for guile. Nothing to do with logic, principle or reality. This is ridiculous. It's about time to pull the plug and throw people out of civil discourse on account of being partisan hacks.
Hear me out: this conflagration has nothing to do with Bush. It speaks volumes, instead, about his self-anointed enemies.
UPDATE II (IDIOCY BULLETIN): Condoleezza Rice, a woman of powerful integrity in her own right but moreso an implicitly trustworthy administration figure for the otherwised prejudiced mainstream media, delivers a killing blow to this out-of-control, CIA-backroom fantasy. Here's the king:
If CIA Director George Tenet had had any doubts about the truthfulness of that sentence, "he did not make them known" to the White House, Rice told reporters aboard Air Force One during Bush's current African trip.
That's a direct refutation, on personal authority, of the CBS-CHB-etcetera story which directly states that CIA director George Tenet was not a part of the appraisal of the Nigern link. Not that he missed a meeting or lost the Niger memo. He wasn't in on it:
The top CIA official, Director George Tenet, was not involved in those discussions and apparently never warned the President he was on thin ice.
UPDATE III: I moved a portion of comments I made in response to the Pejman topic to another entry. See below.
UPDATE IV (IDIOCY BULLETIN): CNN anchor Aaron Brown didn't flinch in the slightest from jumping on the CHB wagon (From Instapundit). CBS, for their part, has not exactly been forgoing quantity of negative reporting for quality. E. Volokh noticed a retraction of a perjorative heading in the half-explosive non-story. This is messy stuff, and messy stuff smacks of a desire for control of the matter, not the truth thereof. And since when can the media hide behind reasonable doubt when it prohibits the president to enjoy such luxuries?
UPDATE VI (IDIOCY BULLETIN): No, the uranium case is not serious. It is a straw man, it's the best the left can do, and it will only further damage their credibility with Iraq's liberation. Alex Knapp takes it away. From IP.
UPDATE VII: Bill, can you sing "You Give Blogging a Bad Name" like Bon Jovi, all to hot-lixx guitar? Then I'd appreciate the "comment."
UPDATE VIII: Niger and Nigeria are two different countries, typos notwithstanding.
Michael Ubaldi, July 10, 2003.
On Pejmanesque, another poster named Tom was innocently floating theories he'd heard [from above, moved here to reduce the entry's growing clutter]:
Look, Tom, I understand that you're trying to make heads or tails of this, but the "loss of face" arguments rest on groundless assumptions that dance upon Ockham's Razor.
The world's largest army needed 150,000 troops, thousands of precision-guided air sorties and several weeks of unprecedented technologically inclined warfare to topple Hussein. What Near East country could have possibly taken military advantage of a disarmed Hussein, even if the world would let it? What about diplomacy? Saddam was already shunned and distrusted.
As far as sanctions - again, illogical. Control is one thing, productivity and economic power is another. 95%, say, of nothing doesn't beat 75% of a bountiful economy.
Finally: Saddam was a psychopath, not an idiot. Lose his country to "defy" the United States? No narcissistic killer throughout history has ever compromised his domain or self-preservation for values like honor or integrity.
Michael Ubaldi, July 10, 2003.
Steve Malynn dropped a line on Tacitus.org, directing us to a Little Green Footballs gem. It's apparently an open letter from a solider in the Fourth Infantry Division. Exactly what we'd expect from an American soldier, it's mindfully optimistic and intolerant of distorted reports streaming from Iraq that work to paint the situation as a bloodstained boondoggle.
The letter aside, I've been drawing contrasts between the Ba'ath Party, the Nazis and Japanese militarists over the weeks: evil and worthless all, but the Ba'athists' refusal to formally surrender and overall unwillingness to capitulate - enhanced by the fact that much of Hussein's extended regime now seems to have been a jumble of thugs from all stripes of the ugly life that make the SA look like a homeowners' association - underscores the continuing violence as less a reason to consider withdrawal, second-guessing or defeat, and instead a greater motivation to step back for the broad picture and understand why these horrifyingly shameless infestations must be excised from the civilized world.
Michael Ubaldi, July 9, 2003.
It's well-established that journalists, leftist intellectuals and soldiers who should have instead gotten their self-described "sorry asses" into Stateside civilian work are beside themselves with the lawlessness in Iraq - as if civil disarray in a decentralized, war-torn, impoverished nation were never to be anticipated. Part Ba'athist, part Islamist terrorist and part base criminal, the unrest is the first major challenge posed to Allied occupation forces.
Roaming crooks and party fanatics, taking advantage of the Allies' concentration on reconstruction tasks, are the final curse of the dead or missing dictator. Other instability is a consequence of the malevolent culture exported by Iraq's neighbors; Saddam Hussein has been deposed but as long as the majority of nearby nations toil under the same maddening worship of hatred and Iraqis are unable to physically and philosophically defend themselves and their borders, danger to Allies and Iraqis remains constant.
Add to the precedents of looting, chaos and lawlessness that occurred in the two most successful national reconstitutions, Germany and Japan, a semblence of uncompleted battle, as regional Islamists are far from exhaustion.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reminded us a month ago about the logically slow process of stabilizing a nation when under fire:
Do I think it's going to disappear in the next month or two or three? No. Will it disappear when some two or three divisions of coalition forces arrive in the country? No.
With American costs and casualties mounting in Iraq, the Bush administration is showing new interest in putting NATO in charge of the military occupation as a way of scaling back the U.S. troop commitment, U.S. and NATO officials say.
And let's be honest: we've seen evidence of heated disagreement between State and Defense on the methodology to be applied to Iraq's democratization, an early battle culminating in the early administrative musical chairs that instructed the departure of retired general Jay Garner and former US ambassador Barbara Bodine. This from within a single administration whose purposes, stated by the president, are clear. Imagine the policy contortions that would arise from the American-European rift alone:
Some analysts doubt NATO is up to the military challenge.
This is not an indictment: no White House officials have publicly stated any intent to politically withdraw from Iraq - indeed, this could simply be backbencher fantasies with a fancy headline - and, contrary to many dread-filled reports of troop strength, the Allies enjoy a force number over two times that of Japan, a country that for two years seemed on the verge of collapse after the end of the Second World War.
So let this be a poignant cautionary notice instead. In the meantime: chin up.
UPDATE: Rumsfeld, in his Congressional testimony yesterday, indicated a desire to delegate military responsibilities - so the White House's intentions do seem somewhat analogous to this report. The key, however, is political control; such a concession does not seem to be a part of the Bush administration's plans. Asking for volunteers to work under your jurisdiction is far removed from splitting leadership.
Michael Ubaldi, July 5, 2003.
The continuing senseless attacks on Iraqis and Iraqi interests as well as Allied targets have been ascribed qualities that one would a popular uprising. Unfortunately, the indiscretion of targets - from Allies' humvees to the Iraqis' oil pipelines, no preference - seems to indicate that the objective of Iraq's antagonists is simply to batter the country's population into reclaiming the same submissive fear they called their own while under the thumbscrews of Saddam Hussein.
An audio tape with a voice claiming to be the dead or missing dictator has appealed to the nation, demanding their support in a subversion of the occupation. From the start, such posturing will have limited results. As long as George W. Bush is in office, Americans will not leave the country. Accepting that, will weekly scenes like this endear the nation to the purveyors of random violence?
Seven Iraqi police recruits died today as explosives packed into a utility pole near a police station went off during the graduation ceremony for the first American-trained class for a new police force.
Still, many of the victims blamed America for the attack.
And, in fact, the continuing attempts to grind down the will of Americans - to liberate - and Iraqis - to right and govern themselves civilly - may tell us more about the people of Iraq than the mood or persistence of Allied democratization. Will they realize that it is their very future that is being threatened in its infancy by many of their own people? Will they take the leap of faith and accept that their occupiers could easily have annihilated the whole of their arid, backwards, ghoulish, Ba'athist, terrorist stockade - but never dreamt of it, instead taking great pains to allow the Iraqis the reins to a fruitful destiny wreathed in moral responsibility? Would the Iraqis truly cheer on the destruction of their budding country, turn about and traipse straight back into hell?
Many in the intellectual classes are sitting on sidelines with wide-angle lenses, pushing and shoving for the split-second capture of the moment when the Allies crack. They've got it all wrong: the Allies, mindful of a possible future viewed through the spoilt mirror of September 11th, will never give up. History tells it more completely, with every vanquished, would-be conquerer given a hand back up onto its feet.
It's the Iraqis who are on trial - but amidst the worry from the middle and the cackling from the left, we would be wise to put good money on and wholehearted faith in the people of Iraq.