Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Steve Spurrier has resigned as head coach of the Washington Redskins, leaving $15 million on the table as a result because he quit and was not fired. That means Steve made $5 million each of his two years, probably only a little more than he would have made in both salary and endorsements had he stayed at Florida. So, my question is, was it worth it? I never harbored resentment against Steve for leaving us high and dry until today. Maybe he left for the money, maybe he was ready for a change, maybe he was sick of the good ole boy SEC, maybe he was tired of athletic director Jeremy Foley not watching his back. But I must admit I’m a little pissed today because he quit so soon. 12-20 with the Skins and you quit? Is that all there is? From what I’ve read the Skins were going to give him a third year, and quitting after only two seems like, well, quitting. I thought Steve was made of stronger stuff.

So, Steve will take a year off and then go coach in college again, perhaps at North Carolina, near his family. Hopefully he won’t pull a Rick Pitino and pick a Gator rival, beating the tar out of us. That would be just typical Gator luck.



From discovered files in Iraq the Los Angeles Times has an eye opening expose on how Iraq was able to smuggle illegal arms into the country from a variety of countries including North Korea, Syria and Russia, among many others. Syria featured special prominence; Iraq used a private Syrian company called SES International Corp., which is headed by a cousin of Bashir Assad, the “president” of Syria. The documents also show that senior Syrian officials were involved in the arms ring. Many arms illegally sold to Iraq, by the way, are helping insurgents kill coalition forces.

And the files reviewed by The Times — about 800 pages of signed contracts, shipping manifests, export documents, bank deposits, minutes of meetings and more — offer a rare glimpse into the murky world of international arms smuggling and the ties between countries such as Syria and North Korea, which the administration calls "rogue states," and the ousted Iraqi regime. The documents illustrate the clandestine networks and complex deceptions Iraq used to evade U.N. sanctions and scrutiny by U.S. intelligence. Those include extensive use of front companies, sham contracts, phony export licenses, kickbacks and money laundering schemes.

A three-month investigation by The Times has found:

• A Polish company, Evax, signed four contracts with Iraq and successfully shipped up to 380 surface-to-air Volga/SA-2 missile engines to Baghdad through Syria. The last batch was delivered in December 2002, a month after the U.N. Security Council warned Iraq that it faced "serious consequences" if it continued to violate U.N. resolutions.

• South Korea's Armitel Co. Ltd. shipped $8 million worth of sophisticated telecommunications equipment for what Iraqi documents said was "air defense." The company is now submitting bids to the U.S.-led occupation authority for contracts to improve telephone and Internet service from Baghdad to Basra.

• Russia's Millenium Company Ltd. signed an $8.8-million contract in September 2002 to supply mostly American-made communications and surveillance gear to Iraq's intelligence service. The company's general manager in Moscow later wrote to suggest "the preparation of a sham contract" to deceive U.N. weapons inspectors, documents show.

• Slovenia's STO Ravne company, then a state-owned entity, shipped 20 large battle tank barrels identified as "steel tubes" to SES in February 2002. The next month, Slovenia's Defense Ministry blocked the company from exporting 50 more tank barrels to Syria. Overall, STO Ravne's secret contract called for delivering 175 tank barrels to Iraq.

• Two North Korean officials met the head of Al Bashair at SES offices in Damascus a month before the war to discuss Iraq's payment of $10 million for "major components" for ballistic missiles. U.S. intelligence agencies were unaware of the deal at the time, or of a meeting 10 months earlier in which Iraqi officials authorized a $1.9-million down payment to Pyongyang through SES.

• Massachusetts-based Cambridge Technology Inc. sold four optical scanners, which can be adapted to help divert laser-guided missiles, to a student in Canada. He had the equipment shipped to Amman, Jordan, and told the company he was donating it to a university whose name he now says he cannot remember. Without the U.S. company's knowledge, the real buyer was the Iraqi military.

Iraq's Al Bashair Trading Co. handled all those deals and scores of others. Its English-speaking director-general, Munir A. Awad, fled to Syria during the war and now is living there "under government protection," according to an intelligence report in Washington.

Filling an entire floor of a dingy downtown Baghdad office building, Al Bashair was the largest of 13 known companies, including an Iraqi intelligence operation called M-19, that Hussein's military used to evade the U.N. arms embargo and other sanctions, according to a confidential U.N. report on Iraq's procurement networks.

Al Bashair had special status, however. Hussein personally ordered the company to deal directly with foreign brokers and suppliers, the U.N. report notes. It estimated the value of Al Bashair's sanctions-busting deals at between $30 million and $1 billion a year in the 1990s. Al Bashair also served another key role: It helped launder and hide vast sums of cash for the Iraqi dictator and his closest aides.

That’s about one-fifth of the LA Times article. The arms included anything – and everything – from missile technology to nerve agent antidote to fiber optic communications. It also covers extensive oil smuggling operations between Iraq and Syria. None of these things are really news. It’s just that finally we’ve uncovered documented proof. Most of the vendors refused to talk to the times, but most of them who did are unapologetic, especially the Russians.

To me this finding only further erodes the argument on the Left that a continued process of containment would have been preferable to the war – what former Secretary of State Madeline Albright termed, “keeping Saddam in his box.” Well, apparently to all but clueless Madeline, there were far too many holes in this box for a containment process to ever succeed. Indeed, in order for containment to work mustn’t there actually be some containment?

In the case of Iraq, Saddam Hussein simply had too much money to throw around to undermine any allied containment process. The illicit arms trade occurred throughout the 1990s – and thus even with UN embargos or threats from the Clinton administration – and up until just weeks before this years war in Iraq began. There would have been no end to this. The war was the only way to end it.



I’m just fascinated how 2003 marked a major strategy shift for terrorists in Saudi Arabia. Previously, terrorism in Saudi Arabia was directed toward foreigners only. The NY Times reports that Islamic extremists are now targeting high-level Saudi government officials, including an early December shooting of Maj. Gen. Abdelaziz al-Huweirini, the third-highest ranking official in the Saudi interior ministry. Since about March of 2003 Islamic terrorists have been waging attack after attack against the Kingdom. While Al Qaeda has often claimed responsibility there are other domestic terror groups who no longer view the royal family as a convenient strategic relationship.

The Qaeda militants have carried out a wave of major suicide-bomb attacks in Riyadh, the capital, killing at least 50 people in the last seven months. But they have also been punished by a Saudi security crackdown in which hundreds of militants have been arrested and dozens more killed, and secret caches have been uncovered that contained tons of weapons and explosives.

"The Saudis have done a good job of taking down a lot of their leadership," a senior American official said Monday of Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia. "But they continue to be very dangerous and to go after royal family-related targets."

In the attack on Monday, another security official narrowly escaped when he climbed out of his luxury car just before a bomb exploded, according to news reports from Riyadh. An American official identified the target as a major from the Saudi Interior Ministry, which is known as the Mabahith and is similar to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Saudi royal government has long been the principal target of Osama bin Laden and his followers, but the extent of the Qaeda network inside the kingdom that has become evident in recent months has surprised many Saudi and American officials. American officials say analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency have warned that the crackdown might well provoke Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia to step up their attacks, an assessment that was first reported by Knight Ridder newspapers.

This month, a previously unknown group that identified itself as Al Haramain Brigades, or the Two Mosques Brigades, said in a statement on an Islamist Web site that it had tried to kill a senior official of the Saudi Interior Ministry. The ministry has not acknowledged that the attack took place, but senior American officials confirmed that it had and identified General Huweirini as the target of the assassination attempt. The general's brother was seriously wounded in the shooting, the American officials said.

Chicken-egg? It does make you wonder which came first: Saudi Arabia crackdown on domestic Islamic terrorists or the terrorist attacks sparking the crackdown. Which instigated which? The article implies that the terrorists are retaliating against the Kingdom for antiterror crackdowns, but I’m not so sure that al Qaeda decided to attack before this. The Saudi terror chickens came home to roost in any event. Finally, after royal spending of hundreds of millions of dollars every year for decades promoting the Wahhabi sect of Islam around the world there are some negative consequences inside the Kingdom. The Saudi royals fed the monster too much; it grew too confident, so much so that they no longer think they need the royal family’s money.

I’m also curious for another reason. Regarding terrorist attacks, there are two major philosophies among terrorists. Some believe the best way to dominate is to conquer the Islamic homelands with their preferred version of militant Islam (for example the Taliban did this but did not proceed to spread it to other countries). Others believe that the best way to dominate is to spread the fight outside the borders of the Islamic homelands. It was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second of command of Al Qaeda and former head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, who convinced Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s to adapt the second approach, which ultimately climaxed with September 11.

Since then, of course, these terrorists have seen the US not cower as they had predicted but rather further invade the Muslim world, eliminate al Qaeda bases and scores of operatives, change regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in general increase, not decrease, Western influence in the Muslim world. In other words the al-Zawahiri philosophy caused exactly the opposite of what he intended. Considering this, al Qaeda’s return to attacking the Muslim homelands almost exclusively makes you wonder if Osama bin Laden (assuming still alive) and the al Qaeda leadership have split with the al-Zawahiri philosophy.I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that al-Zawahiri had been demoted for his underestimation of consequences of 9-11.



After a talk with US diplomat James Baker the Japanese government announced that it would forgive the “vast majority” of more than $7 billion that Iraq owes Japan. It is hoped that other nations will follow Japan’s lead.

If commercial loans are included, Iraq owes more than $40 billion to the 19 permanent members of the group, which include the United States, Germany and Russia. Arab countries are owed at least $80 billion.

"Japan would be prepared to eliminate the vast majority of its Iraqi debt if other Paris Club creditors are prepared to do so in the context of a Paris Club agreement," the statement added, saying that precise figures would come out of subsequent negotiations.

China may soon follow by forgiving $1 billion in debt. The Washington Times has a glowing editorial on Japan, comparing their friendship on a level with that of Great Britain. It’s worth a read.


Monday, December 29, 2003

How desperate is Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry? Last week he resorted to a slew of curse words to get voters to take notice of him as Howard Dean continues to leap ahead in primary polling, but earned nothing more than deserved ridicule. So, over the weekend Kerry tried a different approach to prove he’s an average guy and not just a French-looking New England millionaire married to the heiress of the Heinz Ketchup dynasty – he’s dropping G’s, literally.

(Oh, by the way, you know it’s not working when even your hometown Boston paper is making fun).

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- It wasn't a Boston accent, no, but presidential candidate John F. Kerry suddenly began dropping his g's yesterday as he sought to project a common touch during his "Fighting for Working Americans" tour across Iowa.

Visiting union carpenters and painters at a construction site, Kerry declined to put a plastic hard hat on his carefully coiffed hair (a camera crew was taping him for a commercial), but he did drop the perfect elocution he honed at prep school, Yale, and during 19 years in the US Senate. He spoke of "goin' deer huntin"' and "goin' to war as a last resort," while "runnin' down the list" of President Bush's budget mistakes that had led to "cuttin' cops" and "shuttin' firehouses."

"If we're gonna make America fair, we gotta get somebody in there who understands what you folks are doin' every day," Kerry said of next year's presidential election. "We gotta get somebody in there who understands what it means to be a workin' person in America."

For a multimillionaire who recently decided to mortgage his Beacon Hill manse to help fund his struggling campaign, Kerry's lost g's were noteworthy as a symbol of his latest strategy to generate political momentum in Iowa. He is seeking the mantle of the average guy, speaking plainly about his hopes for America, during a 24-hour bus tour and events with voters in their workplaces. His advisers touted the 24 hours as a grueling schedule that would reflect Kerry's own taste for hard work and his commitment to "fight for every vote" to make a strong showing in Iowa's influential Jan. 19 caucuses.

Does Kerry really think that if he drops his G’s he’ll earn that Southern/Midwest vote? Seriously, folks, you can’t make this stuff up!



December 29, 2003 -- WASHINGTON - Startling new Army statistics show that strife-torn Baghdad - considered the most dangerous city in the world - now has a lower murder rate than New York.

The newest numbers, released by the Army's 1st Infantry Division, reveal that over the past three months, murders and other crimes in Baghdad are decreasing dramatically and that in the month of October, there were fewer murders per capita there than the Big Apple, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The Bush administration and outside experts are touting these new figures as a sign that, eight months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, major progress is starting to be made in the oft-criticized effort by the United States and coalition partners to restore order and rebuild Iraq.

"If these numbers are accurate, they show that the systems we put in place four months ago to develop a police force based on the principles of a free and democratic society are starting to work," said former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who traveled to Iraq to oversee the rebuilding of the police force.

"It shows that the enforcement is working. It shows that the coordination between the Iraqi police and the U.S. military is working. It shows that having an Iraqi face out there standing up is working. The more you stand up, the more these crime numbers are going to go down," Kerik said.

The point here is that had the Bush administration and coalition authority really not had an adequate post-war plan then the civilian murder rate (not to be confused or counted with political attacks from ex-Baathists) would have been much higher than it currently stands.

Thus, another post-war Iraq myth bursts. Before the war antiwar proponents said Saddam would launch Scuds into Israel, causing a wider war. They were wrong (thanks to the US Special Ops teams). They promised that Saddam would light the oil wells on fire as he did in 1991. Wrong (again, thanks to the US military). They said there would be a medical crisis. They were wrong. They said there would be a flood of refugees into Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Never happened. They said there would be food shortages. Didn’t happen. They guaranteed uprise of the Arab street. Nope. They promised that civil war would break out between Iraqi Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. Wrong. Then they claimed that inadequate US security led to the pillaging of “170,000” priceless Iraqi artifacts. This became the biggest lie from the Left. It never happened (1,2). Then critics fretted that Hussein had pillaged $1 billion from Iraqi banks days before the war began. Wrong.

Is the progress perfect? Of course not, but that's a utopian fantasy. Yet, as noted last October there are many things that have drastically improved even if the mass media ignores it.



World Net Daily has acquired a Homeland Security memorandum warning that al Qaeda operatives might use airline hijackers disguised as disabled persons. It further warns that Pakistani nationals are the most likely plotters currently and that a major attack is scheduled for April of 2004.

"Pakistani Islamic extremists are allegedly planning to conduct attacks in the U.S. and the United Kingdom in April 2004," according to the report's summary.

From intelligence gathered so far, U.S. intelligence officials believe the Pakistani nationals, all male, plan to obtain U.S. visas in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.

"The operatives will accompany a disabled person and act as the disabled person's assistants when obtaining the visa," the report said, adding that the disabled individual may have prosthetic limbs or be confined to a wheelchair.
The State Department screens foreign applicants for visas. Phone calls to the department were not immediately returned.

The report says that the scheme "fits with current al-Qaida methodology, as al-Qaida has been trying to recruit individuals who would draw less scrutiny from U.S. law enforcement entities."

Al-Qaida is still active in Pakistan, routinely described by the administration as a "key ally" in the war on terror. U.S. intelligence believes the terror network's top leaders, including Osama bin Laden, have taken refuge in the Islamic state's northern tribal belt.

About two-thirds of all designated terrorist groups in the world have a Pakistani connection, according to the U.S.
Treasury Department.

Bowing to pressure from Islamic groups in America, the Justice Department recently discontinued an antiterrorist immigration program to monitor Pakistanis and other foreign nationals from some two dozen Muslim nations visiting the U.S. on visas. They're no longer required to report to immigration inspection offices while staying in the U.S.

There’s a lot of skepticism in this WND report, beginning with a subtle complaint that the Bush administration calls Pakistan a “key ally” in the war on terror. Well, Pakistan is most certainly key, but only as it relates to Pervez Musharraf. As Westerners we tend to think in Western terms, and so the fallacy in this WND report is by assuming that Musharraf has as much control over his country as Westerns, such as Bush, have over theirs. It couldn’t be further from the truth as two assassination attempts against Musharraf in as many weeks have shown. There are many factions within Pakistan, and so while Musharraf might not be as “key” an ally as WND reporters would like the bottom line is that he’s one hell of a lot better, and more cooperative, than the people trying to kill him. As far as the Justice Department’s decision to discontinue profiling Pakistani nations, among others, I think this report has already been disavowed as not true, or at least only technically true. For example, Saudi Arabia was never on the official list but to this day all Saudi males between 18-44 are heavily scrutinized when they enter the country. This was a political nod from Bush to the Saudis so they could tell their masses that Saudi Arabia was not on this stigmatized list, when in effect they really are. Frankly, I don’t care what they call it, just so long as they do it.



French author and newspaper writer Alain Hertoghe was fired from his post at a French-Catholic news daily because he wrote a book critical of the war in Iraq – critical, that is, of Europe’s media coverage of the war. Hertoghe says because of the months of negative coverage, emphasizing every road bump as a major setback, the Europeans are at a loss to explain how the US is winning, if not already won, the war. Examining the conventional war, climaxing with Baghdad’s fall in April to coalition troops, Hertoghe says that Europeans were stunned because they were no more informed of coalition progress up to that point than the Iraqi people receiving information from the Iraqi information minister, aka Baghdad Bob.

Now it’s true that any private business has the right to fire any person based on views they express in public, with exceptions of course. (If you’re a capitalist you believe that employers must have that freedom and right, if you’re not you might not). Regardless, Hertoghe’s firing proves that it’s not the conservative movement that the masses should fear a limitation of expression from, but the liberals. Political correctness limits speech. Secularism to the extreme, such as what Jacques Chirac is doing by banning all religious symbols from public (and maybe even private) sectors limits expression. Diversity promotes certain minorities over others based on sex or race, thus limiting the opportunities to not in the privlidged classes. These are all limitations on equality and speech, backed by Liberals.

Hertoghe's book covers the performance of four national newspapers and France's largest regional daily over a three-week period in March and April. It contends that the coverage was ideological, in line with the French government's position opposing the United States, and that it was desirous of portraying a great catastrophe for the Americans.

Largely ignored in the newspapers that it finds at fault, the book fits into an emerging series of critical analyses in Europe of the European news media's treatment of the war. In Britain, attention has focused on what has been described as the British Broadcasting Company's biased position against British participation.

In Germany, an independent media watchdog group, Medien Tenor, has produced a report, to be released next month, on the performance of television reporting of the conflict in Germany, Britain, the United States and other countries. It focuses notably on Germany's two main state-financed channels, finding that the United States was treated negatively.

A draft of the report, underwritten in part by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, says of the state networks: "After assuming a position of sharp criticism of American military actions, abandoned only after their increasing success, and after fixating on the Iraqis as suffering victims, they created a representation of the war in line with the position" of the German government. It continues, "Critical questions concerning the extent to which the unrelenting German position contributed to the escalation of the conflict were thus kept from public scrutiny."

Criticism by Iraqis and Americans of the war "dominated the coverage" of the ZDF state channel's main newscasts, the group said. America's decision to go to war, it said, was juxtaposed by German television, "with the supposedly unanimous opposition of the rest of the world."

But the dismissal of Hertoghe, 44, for making essentially the same characterization of the leading French newspapers, was unique.

A telephone call to the editor of La Croix, Bruno Frappat, requesting a comment on the firing was not returned.

"I was fired because I wrote a book they didn't like," Hertoghe said. "They think I hurt the paper, that I criticized it and hurt it - that's their position."

"I did not want to hurt La Croix's image and I don't think I did. I think La Croix participated in what was a collective slide, but the other papers were much greater disinformers."

Hertoghe's examination includes Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération and Ouest-France as well as his own newspaper.

As an example, he compares headlines involving Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain during the period. He said there were 29 clearly negative ones concerning Saddam, and 135 for Bush and Blair. The coalition leaders were routinely described, he says, as violent, imperialist, fundamentalist and unreasonable. {emphasis mine}

In the book, Hertoghe explains what he considers the press's unanimity not as the result of some kind of explicit understanding but coming from a combination of factors. He regards the single most cohesive element as French anti-Americanism.

The two other central motors, in Hertoghe's view, were France's nostalgia for its lost status as a great power and what he described as "the Arabophilia that reigns among France's deciders and in particular among the journalists specializing in this part of the world."

Hertoghe writes of these French journalists, "As a result of being permanently confronted with dictatorial, or at least authoritarian, states and abusive or even terrorist means, a kind of tolerance develops, which sometimes drifts into open complaisance."

Hertoghe said newspapers ignored reports from journalists traveling with U.S. forces, including those from Agence France-Presse, when they did not indicate insurmountable difficulties.

"The papers wanted disaster, and when the reporting didn't reflect it, they predicted it," he said.

"Le Monde went the furthest," he added. "I wrote that Le Monde became 'Saddam's Gazette.' It gave a picture from Baghdad of Saddam's units perfectly controlling the situation. The difference between Le Monde and Le Figaro was that Le Figaro insisted that American tanks would operate easily on Baghdad's wide streets."

"Then when the Americans made their move, we read how they were massacring the Iraqis. The explanation for the collapse was that Saddam's fedayeen had so much compassion for the population that they stopped fighting."

Despite the book's appearance under the imprimatur of a leading publisher, Hertoghe said he was invited to discuss it on only one radio and one television broadcast.



Former Romanian General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc, writes in the National Review that we’d better not trust Libyan President Muammar Khaddafi just yet. Pacepa would know – he was Khaddafi’s handler for the Soviets, through the communist bloc state of Romania, then led by Nicolae Ceausescu. Pacepa further says in 1972 the Soviets decided to use Libya, Iraq and Syria as part of a Leftist-Arabic bloc against the growing coalition between the US and Israel. Beware of appeasement, says Pacepa:

President Clinton once thought he could appease Yasser Arafat and stroke him into cooperating by inviting him to the White House and treating him like a head of state. The result? Palestinian terror only grew worse. Before him, President Jimmy Carter fawned over my former boss, Nicolae Ceausescu, hailing the Romanian dictator as a "great national and international leader." Ceausescu treated that endorsement as a free ticket. Soon afterwards, he hired Carlos the Jackal to blow up Radio Free Europe headquarters in Munich on February 21, 1981. As the Communist collapse reached Romania, in December of 1989, a once cocky Ceausescu fled into hiding, just like Saddam in March, 2003. Soon, he was caught and executed for genocide. At last, Romania breathed freely, and ten years later, Romania was invited to join NATO.

[In 1978] Khaddafi told me to give Ceausescu a message. He wanted to use the large reserves of uranium discovered around the northern Romanian town of Baia to jointly develop nuclear weapons. The first step would be a "portable radioactive weapon" for terrorist use. Money would be no object, he said.

Now is no time for the West to gloat. We need to keep a close eye on Khaddafi. I knew him as a liar and a master of deceit-as were all the dictators I dealt with. Soon after my defection, Khaddafi announced that he had destroyed Libya's facilities for producing chemical weapons that I had helped him build, and had just compromised to the U.S. In reality, Khaddafi staged a fire at the Rabta chemical complex, creating a cloud of black smoke by burning truckloads of tires and painting scorch marks on the buildings. He then built a second chemical-weapons facility hidden 100-feet underground in the hollowed-out Tarhunah Mountain, south of Tripoli. In 1992, the Central Intelligence Agency estimated that Libya had produced 100 tons of chemical-warfare agents, and that some of those materials were being used to fill aerial bombs.

In early April 1986 I helped the U.S. government pay Khaddafi back for organizing the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin that killed two U.S. soldiers and injured 200 people. On April 15, 1986, American warplanes attacked the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, destroying the tent of Libyan leader Muammar Khaddafi. According to media reports, Khaddafi had left the tent just minutes before the U.S. attack.

After that, a "new" Khaddafi proclaimed that he was done with all terrorist operations against the United States. But two years later, Libya again masterminded the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 passengers on board and 11 people on the ground — the deadliest act of terrorism against the U.S. up to that time.

After Lockerbie yet a "new, new" Khaddafi proclaimed himself to the world. Calling the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. "horrible," he said the United States had every right to go after the perpetrators. "In the old days, they called us a rogue state," Khaddafi said in a speech on national television. "They were right in accusing us of that. In the old days, we had revolutionary behavior." He had put all this behind him, he said, and now opposed Islamic insurgents like al Qaeda.

Behind the scenes, however, Khaddafi seems still to be the same staunch anti-American sponsor of terror. According to the recent revelations, he has continued to the present day to quietly build one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the Middle East, has recently acquired centrifuges to enrich weapons-grade uranium, and has cooperated with North Korea to improve his missile arsenal. Preliminary U.S.-British visits to just ten of his production facilities show Libya's nuclear weapons program to have been far more advanced than Western intelligence suspected.

It is good that Khaddafi has chosen "of his own free will" to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction. Hopefully he will be a role model for other dictators to do the same — and to avoid the fate of Saddam. But we should also keep in mind that Khaddafi will never become an angel.



Far from any al Qaeda terrorists or Baathist loyalist the biggest danger in Iraq is shooting ourselves in the foot. Columnist Robert Novak warns that the Bush administration might be doing just that in this case by hesitating to release $18.6 billion to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) or worse, reversing his decision to bar German, French and Russian companies as primary bidders in Iraqi reconstruction. Novak says that the White House has quietly held the reconstruction funds back because he might allow ‘Old Europe’ to bid for primary contracts in Iraq, and so doesn’t want the money distributed before that decision is made. But the delay is costly, and the decision to backtrack might be for nothing gained.

Actually, the delay was ordered in Washington as a consequence of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's widely criticized order of Dec. 5 that barred Germany, France, Russia and China from reconstruction contracts. As special envoy James Baker negotiated with these countries for forgiveness of Iraqi debt, the expectation in Baghdad was that they eventually will be ordered from Washington to issue their requests with all countries now eligible to bid.

However, officials at the CPA ask privately, will the United States in return get the dispatch of French and German troops to Iraq to share in the fighting and dying? Or, alternatively, might French and German soldiers go to Afghanistan or at least the Balkans to replace Americans, releasing them for service elsewhere? If George W. Bush does not make such a deal and opens up the construction bids in return for just debt forgiveness, one official told me, ''it will appear the president has been snookered.''

There is no disagreement inside the U.S. team that the national interest would be best served the more quickly Iraqi rebuilding begins. This will begin to cut into Iraq's huge unemployed labor pool and invigorate the economy. In addition, it may provide evidence of the U.S. long-term commitment to rebuilding the country.

The terrorists will do their best to disrupt reconstruction projects, but the power of elements waging guerrilla warfare suffers from losing the source of devotion of what CPA officials call the ''Cult of Saddam.'' Since his capture, his followers and other guerrillas have stepped up the pace of their attacks. But U.S. intelligence is cutting into Saddam's support networks, and the military struggle is turning into a genuine police action. What's needed now is the rapid utilization of that $18.6 billion to rebuild Iraq, and that is why the unexplained slowdown is so frustrating.

At the very least we should demand that France and particularly Russia forgive billions of dollars of Iraqi debt built during Hussein’s reign. Iraq owes Russia alone between $8 and $12 billion. Novak’s point about what we can expect from any foreign troops is important – it’s one thing to pledge cooperation, another to actually cooperate. Can we expect these foreign troops to act aggressively and raid militant strongholds? Can we expect them to follow CPA orders? If not it means they’re expecting Kofi Annan to be in charge, and if Bush doesn’t want Baghdad to turn into Srebrinica he should avoid that at all costs.



A rare admission from the NY Times:

The rebuilding of Iraq's oil industry has been characterized in the months since by increasing costs and scant public explanation. An examination of what has grown into a multibillion-dollar contract to restore Iraq's oil infrastructure shows no evidence of profiteering by Halliburton, the Houston-based oil services company, but it does demonstrate a struggle between price controls and the uncertainties of war, with price controls frequently losing.
It’s cold day in hell indeed when the NY Times admits no evidence of a Halliburton scandal (but still implies that there is one, mind you) while at the same time arguing against price controls. What's a liberal to do! There must be a scandal here somewhere!

So far this year, Halliburton's profits from Iraq have been minimal. The company's latest report to the Securities and Exchange Commission shows $1.3 billion in revenues from work in Iraq and $46 million in pretax profits for the first nine months of 2003. But its profit may grow once the Pentagon completes a formal evaluation of the work. If the government is satisfied, Halliburton is entitled to a performance fee of up to 5 percent of the contract's entire value, which could mean additional payments of $100 million or more.
Those are two key paragraphs in this article which is dedicated to implying wrongdoing by Halliburton and the Bush administration. But at the end of the day all they have for fact are those two paragraphs.



According to Boston’s Christian Science Monitor military commanders in Iraq are convinced that they’ve finally gotten a handle on the Iraqi insurgency. Attacks in Tikrit have fallen over the past month thanks in large part to aggressive tactics, on and off, over the last 6 months. Violence persists, and will for some time. But with Hussein captured the military hopes to reduce attacks even more.

"We're making steady, [unstoppable] progress,'' says Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who commands the 1st Battalion of the 22nd Infantry.

And though attacks on coalition forces have fallen across the country, to about 15 a day from more than 30 a day in early November, Iraqis are still wary of violence. "We feel like we're in a ring of fire,'' says Abu Junaidi, a security guard at an apartment building that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade last week. "We're no closer to peace."

To be sure, the methods used in Tikrit may yield fruit in other parts of the country. In Tikrit, US forces have been able to hopscotch from one captured insurgent to the next as Hussein loyalists have cracked under interrogation, a painstaking process that led to key Hussein aides and less well-known financiers who were using local businesses around Tikrit as fronts for attacks on US forces.

Troops say Hussein's capture deprived local insurgents of their motivation. "Their sails may have been full, but with Saddam captured, the wind dropped,'' says Russell.

Of the 55 officials and Hussein aides on the original "deck of cards" most-wanted list, only 13 are still at large. On Saturday, the US announced $1 million rewards for information leading to the arrest of 12 of the remaining fugitives.

The most senior official still at large, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, has a $10 million price on his head. Mr. Duri has been described by some US officials as a key figure in the insurgency, though most Iraqis find this hard to believe. Even under Hussein, when jokes about the president were dangerous, his No. 2 was a frequent figure of fun to Iraqis. Most people here saw him as a bumbling sycophant.

But one man whose importance to the insurgency is beyond doubt was No. 4 on the list, Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti, a Hussein cousin who ran the Special Security Organization, the top-tier in Hussein's sprawling security apparatus dedicated both to protecting to Baath leaders and to spying on them.

Mr. Tikriti's arrest last June was, in hindsight, the beginning of the end for the network of insurgents in and around Tikrit, says Russell. "When we captured No. 4 it gave us some key documents and information,'' he says.

Over time, information from that arrest led not only to a key bodyguard for Hussein who was "the big break" on the trail to the dictator's capture, says Russell, but to many lesser figures, particularly the mid-level moneymen and go-betweens that earlier kept the attacks humming.

Russell says over $10 million in cash has been seized in recent months, even as the asking price for an attack on coalition forces has surged, according to locals. He says the relatively large pool of men willing to attack US forces in the area a few months ago has dwindled as tough tactics have killed many, with few losses on his side. Russell's battalion has lost five men since the invasion.

Local cooperation also is rising, with some tribal leaders giving Russell and others insights on the clan ties that have been key to local insurgency.

Not a surprise unless you’re one of those rabid extreme left-wing peaceniks or named Howard Dean. Progress is all that matters in Iraq, and for every roadside bombing there are dozens of good things occurring on a daily basis, including intangible but critical things such as a growing confidence for coalition forces amongst the Iraqi population. Those who sit back and criticized every little thing in Iraq as another sign of chaos are going to have a lot of egg on their faces in 1, 5, 10, and 20 years. It’s dangerous, yes. We’ve got a long way to go, yes. But it’s progressing.

There's another thing to emphasize about this article. As covered on this web page more than Entertainment Tonight covers Jacko, the only way to beat the insurgents is to become an insurgency to the insurgents. Part of that means being heavy-handed even when there might be a small percentage of people who are alienated by the military raids. After heightened summer raids the military allowed political correctness to run amok. The result was fewer raids... and more insurgent attacks. In November the military decided to restart aggressive raiding and look at what has been accomplished since then – success bred success breeds more success.



Howard Dean once again shows us that he’s a phony in angered Liberal clothing:

WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean, who has criticized the Bush administration for refusing to release the deliberations of its energy policy task force, as governor of Vermont convened a similar panel that met in secret and angered state lawmakers.

Dean's group held one public hearing and after the fact volunteered the names of industry executives and liberal advocates it consulted in private, but Dean refused to open the task force's private deliberations.
In 1999, he offered the same argument the administration uses today for keeping deliberations of a policy task force secret.

"The governor needs to receive advice from time to time in closed session. As every person in government knows, sometimes you get more open discussion when it's not public," Dean was quoted as saying.

His own dispute over the secrecy of the task force that devised a policy for restructuring Vermont's nearly bankrupt electric utilities has escaped national attention, even as he has attacked a similar arrangement used by President Bush.

In 1999 Howard Dean was absolutely right – an executive for the government needs to be able to solicit private advice, not only to benefit his own deliberations but to ensure that those advising are able to trust the process. There’s not much chance of any politician getting frank advice from someone if they know in advance that anything they say might make the papers and television. But just four short years later Dean is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

Damage control time for Dean. But the Associated Press, typical, lends a helping hand, but not much.

[Spokesman Jay Carson said,] "Dick Cheney put together a group of his corporate cronies and partisan political contributors, and they gave themselves billions and disguised it as a national energy policy."
Right, and Howard Dean also gets together with corporate cronies and partisan political contributors, in this case the lucrative environmental and law fields. But that’s not all. Keep reading.

The Bush-Cheney campaign and Republican Party received millions in donations from energy interests in the election before its task force was created.

Dean's Vermont re-election campaign received only small contributions from energy executives, but a political action committee created as he prepared to run for president collected $19,000, or nearly a fifth of its first $110,000, from donors tied to Vermont's electric utilities.

Don’t be fooled by the Associated Press’ attempt to throw water on the fire by comparing dollar amounts. That’s insignificant. We’re talking proportions here – it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to run for governor than for president, but getting one-fifth of all contributions from any one industry is a telling sign. Therefore, Dean is accusing Dick Cheney of doing the same thing that he did: inviting energy special interests, and in this case one-fifth of his contributors, to advise him during key energy policy legislative drafting. Included donors were Robert Young, chief executive at Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and chairman of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp.

In the above case Howard Dean is having his cake and eating it too. Fooling his fellow liberals, Howard Dean, on top of energy executives backing him, is the number one recipient for environmental special interests. (18 of the top 20 recipients for environmental contributions are Democrats, and all Democrats receive 92% of all environmental money; Statistics for legal special interests, which run hand in hand with environmental groups, are not much different – 17 of the top 20 recipients of legal money are Democrats.)


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

CHICAGO, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- For the first time since tracking began 20 years ago, U.S. women outnumber men in higher paying, white collar managerial and professional occupations.

The gap will continue because of a self-perpetuating cycle of workplace gains for women, according to international outplacment firm Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates that, as of Nov. 30, women represent 50.6 percent of the 48 million employees in management, professional and related occupations.

"At the computer, women are just as productive as men," said Challenger. "This fact alone has opened up a world of opportunity for women and is bringing an end to outdated concepts like the glass ceiling."

Researchers added that the only things that women are still abysmally behind men in is parallel parking and the notion that the left lane is for passing.

Oh, come on! It was funny!



The debate over the health status of Osama bin Laden aside this holiday’s Orange alert is based on what US intelligence officials believe was a personally prepared attack by both bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Furthermore, NBC News reported last night that not only do intelligence officials believe that al Qaeda is focusing on facilities, plants, dams or oil production, but intelligence officials may already have specific flight numbers involved.

According to the report, U.S. officials have gathered detailed information about a plan to hijack foreign airliners and crash them into targets in the United States.

NBC News reported the intelligence is so detailed it includes specific flight numbers. Security forces have those airlines under scrutiny, and one airport being watched closely is New Jersey's Newark International Airport, the network said. U.S. air marshals, who normally only ride on domestic flights, are now flying on some international flights, it added.

U.S. officials say terrorists would like to hit Las Vegas, the No. 2 tourist attraction in the United States, NBC News reported. Al Qaeda also seems interested in the tiny town of Tappahannock, Va., population about 2,000, which has no major military base or major infrastructure, the report said. The intent might be to generate widespread fear, showing that even in a rural town no one is safe, officials told the network.

NBC News also reported that officials say it is impossible to tell which of the information they are picking up is real.
Some of the intelligence "chatter" that led U.S. President George W. Bush to put the United States on high "orange" alert for a terrorist strike dealt with threats against remote facilities, law enforcement and intelligence officials said yesterday.

One specific threat was against oil facilities in Valdez, Alaska, where tankers load Prudhoe Bay oil destined for the continental United States. Other threats are more general, mentioning nuclear plants in rural areas and other electric facilities, major dams, bridges or chemical plants, the officials said.

One official cautioned that most of the reports were uncorroborated — some were from only a single informant or communications intercept — and may be unconnected to a larger Al Qaeda plot. But local officials boosted security at many such facilities, including the Port of Valdez.

Other intelligence points to possible attacks in cities such as New York, Washington or Los Angeles, which have been targeted by terrorists before. Officials say there also seems to be interest in targeting holiday events that draw large crowds, such as college and professional football games and New Year's celebrations and parades.


I’m starting to wonder about the timing of things in Pakistan. Two weeks after the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, survives an assassination attempt his government first admits that some of its scientists, including the Pakistani national hero and father of their atomic bomb Abdul Qadeer Khan, aided North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs and second the Pakistani army seizes full control of their nuclear arsenal. This, by the way, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like Turkey, Pakistan’s military is much more secular than some of the Islamic extremists in politics.

Pakistan Army has assigned two Lieutenant-Generals to separately command the strategic force as well as the military units that exclusively handle the nuclear weapons, while a separate strategic planning and development cell coordinated and controlled the experts and scientists community attached with the research and development of the country’s strategic arsenal, The News daily said.

Currently, Pakistan's Strategic Force Command is led by Lt-Gen Ghulam Mustafa Khan, while Lt-Gen Khalid Kidwai headed the Strategic Planning and Division Cell.

Both organisations have devised exclusive intelligence, financial and administrative controls considered better than those enforced in Pakistan Army, the newspaper quoted officials as saying.

Both Generals report directly to the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) that works under President and the Chief of Army Staff Gen Pervez Musharraf.

The overhaul of nuclear command and control structure is headed by Musharraf himself who recently said decisions would be made in consultations with Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali. Musharraf had also invited Jamali to the meetings of the NCA in the recent past.

Reports of revamping of Pakistan nuclear command came amid allegations from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) following revelations by Iran and Libya of Islamabad's collaboration in the nuclear programmes in both the countries.

It sounds like Musharraf is in the midst of preventing a coup, of course that’s probably every day of his life, especially since he aligned himself with the US after September 11. He’s got a ton of internal enemies, and it sounds like the assassination attempt pushed him further to the West. That's good of course.


The Jordanian government has officially asked two daughters of Saddam Hussein to shut the hell up. Raghd and Rana Hussein have been in Jordan since August and making statements supportive of the old Hussein regime in Arab media since then. The government told them that they are free to continue talking to the media but that they should talk only of humanitarian, and not political, issues. In other words, shut up or we’ll deport you back to Iraq where Shiites and Kurds can tear you hos to pieces with their bare hands.

"We are not asking them to abstain from meeting the press, but we hope their future statements are of a humanitarian nature and not politically inclined," [Jordanian spokesperson] Khader said.

Saddam's daughters have made several comments to the press from Amman, where they live in a palace belonging to Jordan's King Abdullah, who granted them asylum.

The former Iraqi strongman's eldest daughter Raghd recently told Dubai-based Al Arabiya television that the sisters wanted an international court to try their father.

She said the Iraqi Governing Council should not be allowed to try Saddam because it was appointed by U.S. occupiers.
Khader said the government had not made any formal demands on the sisters but conveyed the message through the press.

"They should respect the stances and commitments of their host country," she said, adding that the sisters were free to leave the country whenever they wanted.

Raghd and Rana fled Iraq to Jordan shortly after U.S.-led forces occupied Baghdad. Their husbands were killed in 1996 when they returned to Iraq after briefly defecting to Jordan.

Saddam is believed to have ordered the killing of both sons-in-law upon their return to Iraq, after accusing them of giving information on the country's weapons to the West.

Now, some may be appalled that the Jordanian government is subtly threatening them with deportation unless they curb their speech. But to me it’s beautiful sweet ironic revenge – it’s probably the first time in their protected, sheltered, spoiled lives that anyone has threatened them... well, besides dear old dad doing it.



For quite some time the most obvious hole in our homeland security has been our cargo system, whether by air or sea. Regarding the former, the federal government is focusing on the possibility that terrorists would use air carriers for suicide hijacking attacks instead of more secure commercial airliners – indeed, an air cargo carrier would have no Todd Beamers, et. al., to prevent terrorists from reaching their objective. The Pentagon has increased air patrols; more law enforcement is guarding cargo carriers; and surface to air missiles have been deployed to several metropolitan areas.

Security experts and cargo pilots said the industry's surveillance of airports, planes and freight - and of warehouse employees who pack boxes - remains dangerously inadequate, particularly among small- and mid-sized companies.

They also noted that the U.S. government has even less control over cargo and passenger planes originating in other countries.

Several experts said cargo planes are needlessly vulnerable to takeover by someone who sneaks aboard because few are equipped with reinforced cockpit doors. Likewise, there are no flight attendants or passengers who might help defend against an attack.

"An air cargo aircraft remains just as good a weapon - no, even better - than a passenger aircraft," said Rafi Ron, president of New Age Security Solutions and the former security director for the Israeli Airport Authority.

Congress recently passed a bill allowing cargo pilots to carry guns, but that has not alleviated pilots' concerns.
James Shilling, a full-time pilot for a major cargo carrier and consultant to the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association, said he would like to see the TSA screen and conduct background checks on every person with direct access to cargo planes.

He also advocates screening all cargo - with the caveat that technology must first be developed to make it affordable and efficient. Shilling and others say stricter government standards likely would force smaller carriers out of business.

Air cargo consultants say new security mandates might slow down the shipping business, if not bring an end to the next-day delivery business, a critical component of the economy.

Yeah, well not having buildings collapse and 3,000 people dying at a time is an even greater critical component of the economy. This article highlights a glaring gap in our security procedures, as many have already pointed out. What if the terrorist is the pilot? If the terrorist is a cargo pilot not only will he/she have a reinforced door for protection but will be armed as well. That’s a frightening though, especially considering the latest news that intelligence is concerned that al Qaeda may already have pilots working for overseas air carriers. While harder, it’s not inconceivable that an al Qaeda operative could get a job at Fed Ex.



For the third time since last year a joint US-Russo military and scientific team suddenly and secrets thrust into an old Soviet bloc era nuclear facility and secured nuclear material in order to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, specifically terrorists. This time, with cooperation from the Bulgarian government, 37 pounds of enriched uranium were seized.

U.S. authorities have begun stepping up such joint operations with the Russians. In August 2002, a team from the two countries retrieved 100 pounds of weapons-grade uranium from an aging reactor in Yugoslavia. The second seizure of uranium took place three months ago, when 30 pounds was removed from a facility in Romania.

"We hope that you'll be seeing this more frequently," Paul M. Longsworth, the Energy Department's deputy administrator for nuclear nonproliferation, said Tuesday. In conjunction with the Russians and the International Atomic Energy Agency, U.S. officials have developed a schedule to recover all Soviet-originated highly enriched uranium and return it to Russia by the end of 2005 for safekeeping and conversion, Longsworth said.

After last year's mission in Yugoslavia, the State Department compiled a list of 24 other foreign reactors that use weapons-grade nuclear fuel, some in old and poorly guarded facilities.

"We're certainly going in the right direction, although one might prefer speedier development," said Alexander Pikayev, a nuclear nonproliferation scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, a research institute here. "But it takes time. . . . Such problems cannot be solved overnight."

An IAEA team, accompanied by U.S. and Russian nuclear engineers, removed seals from storage containers and verified the contents before the material was loaded into four special canisters provided by the Russian government. The U. S. government paid the $400,000 bill for the mission. The operation took 48 hours, and special units of the Bulgarian domestic police took responsibility for securing the facility and transporting the uranium to the airport at Gorna Oryahovitsa, about 100 miles northeast of Sofia.

The uranium taken from the Sofia facility was 36 percent enriched, which scientists consider usable in nuclear weapons but not the most potent form called weapons-grade, which refers to uranium enriched 90 percent or more. Still, because it has not been irradiated, officials said, the Bulgarian material would be particularly attractive to outlaw elements.


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

"I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid."
Libyan leader Moammar Qadaffi to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on why he finally decided to disarm.

Silvio Berlusconi further told Spectator Magazine that the United Nations should fight, by force when it comes to it, for human rights throughout the world by disposing of illiberal human-rights violating regimes.

"I said, given the enormous and paradoxical success of fundamentalism, why don't we reform the UN? Let us say to Mr X or Y in this or that dictatorship, you must recognise human rights in your country and we give you six to 12 months to do so, or else we intervene.

"We can do this now because there is no countervailing power," he said referring to the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union.

"We are able, with Russia and America, to look at the states of the world and assess the dignity of the people and we give them democracy and liberty. Yes! By force if necessary, because that is the only way to show it is not a joke. We said to Saddam, do it or we come. And we came and we did it."

The funny thing is if you read the UN’s charter they’re already supposed to be doing that. They just choose not to. Just last year they had Syria, Zimbabwe and Libya on their Human Rights Commission. This year? Pakistan, Sudan, the Congo and Saudia Arabia, among other notably illiberal regimes. Oh, and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is still on it.



So many critics of the war in Iraq think that their position has been vindicated, but they couldn’t be more wrong. These critics miss every positive consequence that the war has produced, probably because they’ve never accepted the connection between the war in Iraq to the larger war against terrorism. The end of the Hussein regime and his subsequent capture last week were stunning and overt victories for America. But what many Americans don’t see, and sometimes fail to connect when they do see them, are all the subtle victories that have occurred since the war in Iraq began. For example, over the weekend the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi announced that his country would give up all WMD. It was further reported that Qadaffi made that decision about the time the US decided to invade Iraq (imagine that!). You’d have to be really stupid to think that’s a coincidence (but I suppose those idiots exist). Other examples include the Saudi Arabian government announcing both first ever elections and heightening regulating its Islamic schools after the war in Iraq began. Likewise, Pakistan also began regulating its Massadras after the war began. These regimes know it’s put up or shut up time.

Here’s another example, taken from today’s headlines: After years of trying to get them to admit wrongdoing and investigate their scientific community the Pakistani government has acknowledged and identified three nuclear scientists who they believe independently provided nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea. Pakistani Information Minister Rashid Ahmed claimed on of those in custody is Abdul Qadeer Khan, a national hero and father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb.

It has been widely reported, both here and abroad, that Pakistan this month detained three top nuclear scientists for questioning. Until Monday, however, Pakistani officials had refrained from publicly discussing the reason for the detentions. They broke their silence following Sunday's report in the Post and an account in Monday's New York Times that also described suspicions that Pakistanis had shared technology with North Korea and possibly other countries.

The disclosures have embarrassed the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president and a strong ally of the United States in the war on terrorism who has vowed to purge his country of radical Muslim groups with longstanding ties to the country's military and security apparatus.

In an interview Monday evening, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said Pakistan launched its investigation of the scientists about six weeks ago on the basis of information supplied by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog. "We have been fully cooperative with the IAEA," said Khan, the spokesman. "The government of Pakistan has never authorized or initiated any transfers of sensitive nuclear technology."

He said that two of the detained scientists -- Mohammed Farooq and Sayeed Ahmad -- were still "undergoing debriefing sessions" while a third, Yasin Chohan, had been allowed to return home.

So, how is it that such an embarrassing revelation would finally bite the Pakistanis in the butt when the UN has been trying for years to get the Pakistanis to come clean? It’s the war. The UN wouldn’t get squat out of Pakistan unless the Bush administration was pushing them behind the scenes. Both the actual invasion of Iraq and its slow but sure progression are forcing dictators from South America to the Far East to take a second look at how they do business.



Still don’t believe that the war in Iraq is causing subtle but massive ripples throughout the world? How often is it that the terrorist group Hamas delivers truce offerings to the United States? According to Haaretz Daily Hamas gestured through Qatari officials that they will halt suicide bombings in return for Israel ceasing assassinations against Hamas leaders. The lesson of force is further exemplified considering that the deal was offered just days after Israel tried to kill Hamas’ religious headpiece Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

In addition to delivering messages to the Americans via channels in Qatar, a Hamas operative in Lebanon, Ossama Hamdan, met in Beirut with what Palestinian sources describe as "retired American officials." Hamdan delivered a similar proposal for a cessation of suicide attacks in Israel and of assassination attempts on Hamas targets in Gaza.

Some time after the delivery of these messages via Lebanon and Qatar, Yassin himself issued a statement hinting about Hamas' readiness to "remove civilians on both sides from the cycle of violence."

Israel's targeted strikes gave Hamas the sense that its Gaza Strip leadership was rapidly becoming paralyzed, the source indicated.

Now, any truce is meaningless so long as Hamas as an organization believes that Israel has no right to exist. There’s nothing to be gained from Israel ending their attacks on Hamas if Hamas would just use the truce to rearm and recruit for future attacks. Still, it would appear that Hamas is looking for a way out. The small note that Hamas wants to remove civilians from the equation is vindication for Ariel Sharon, who has not been so apologetic about collateral damage as before. Of course, most rational people understand there is a big difference between Hamas purposely killing Israeli civilians and Israelis killing Palestinian civilians unintentionally while targeting Hamas leaders. Even so, it says that the Palestinian people are perhaps seeing Hamas as a liability and understand that Israel is going to use force. It is only natural that Palestinian civilians tend to not like being human shields so much once they realize that Israel is more willing to fire into a crowd to hit the Hamas leaders.


French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin did his best to spin positively the news that the UK and US had kept France uninformed about the Libyan deal. They found out the same way as the rest of us – on television.

Dominique de Villepin, the foreign minister, took his hat off to London and Washington's "exemplary" diplomatic efforts over the past few months that led to the Libyan leader Col Gaddafi's surprise announcement on Friday, calling it a victory for "the entire international community".

But he was forced to admit in Le Figaro that France knew nothing of the nine months of secret negotiations.

"We were not kept informed," M de Villepin said. His disclosure underlined the continuing mistrust in relations between the English-speaking powers and France, which made much of its opposition to war in Iraq.

His words contradicted those of Michele Alliot-Marie, defence minister, who claimed on Sunday that France was "perfectly informed of the negotiations" several months ago.

Bizarrely, Mme Alliot-Marie denied there was any discrepancy between the two accounts, suggesting the foreign ministry was not as involved as her department.

Even the normally pro-government Le Figaro described the Libyan deal as a "semi-failure" for France, which has been against tough action against rogue states.

Annick Lepetit, the Socialist party spokesman, said it signified "the isolation of France and French diplomacy in an area where it is traditionally influential".

In a further sign that France is still paying the price of its anti-war stance in Iraq, one of President Chirac's closest aides yesterday accused certain members of the American administration of seeking to "isolate" Paris on the international scene.

France is acutely sensitive to hints that it is being punished for its stance on Iraq. The latest target is the French aim to host an international experimental thermo-nuclear reactor in Cadarache.

Negotiations ended without agreement after America, along with South Korea, threw its weight behind Japan's bid to host the reactor. Russia and China voted for France.

Commentators also agreed that the deal has weakened France's hand in compensation talks over the 1989 bombing of a French passenger plane that killed 170.

Reap what you sow, Frenchie. There is a new Western block among the nations helping in Iraq and forming an alliance against North Korean missile technology. The US, much of Eastern Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, etc.), the UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Italy are the major players. France is stuck with China and Russia. Yeah, good luck making alliances with two illiberal regimes. Moreover, the US has enough pull with Russia on important matters that France will be stymied on many issues with them. China, of course and as always, does what China wants; so that French influence is even more limited than with Russia.

In related news the IAEA has a lot of egg on their face with the breaking news that an advance UK/US team in Libya has discovered nuclear centrifuges for uranium enrichment. So much for diplomacy without even the threat of force. The best part about this is that Bush and Blair beat the UN at its own game, and circumvented them in doing so.


UK Prime Minister Tony Blair isn’t planning on resting on his laurels in the wake of Hussein’s capture and news of Libya’s intended disarmament. He’s quickly shooting for Syria. That’s a tough egg to crack. Blair plans on unifying France and Germany, the EU big three, into pressuring Syria to stop WMD proliferation and support of terrorism. The latter would be huge because it would then isolate Iran as the primary sponsor of Middle Eastern terrorism.

The plan is for a joint initiative by Britain, France and Germany and is modelled on a similar tripartite effort which persuaded Iran to accept nuclear inspections. London and Berlin have already demanded that Damascus make stronger commitments to abide by international laws on illegal weapons as the price for a closer relationship with the EU.

Britain and Germany have warned the European Commission, which negotiates with third countries, that they want stronger language on WMD in the EU agreement with Syria, which was completed at the technical level this month but still needs approval from national governments.

Mr Blair also wants European help in persuading President Bashar al-Assad, one of the staunchest opponents of the US-led invasion of Iraq, to do more to stop Arab militants crossing the border into Iraq to attack US troops.

France, still bristling over the war in Iraq and anxious not to be seen to be doing Washington's bidding, is likely to have the strongest reservations about pressuring Syria.

The US has kept Syria on its blacklist of alleged state sponsors of terrorism and has accused it of developing WMD. Last month the US Senate passed a bill to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on it for backing anti-Israeli groups like Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and for maintaining a military presence in Lebanon.

Whether Iraq, Zimbabwe or Syria, among others, look how France on every issue is on the wrong side. Part of this is just brilliant ‘strategery’ by Bush and Blair, and part due to typical French reactionary stubbornness and inflated ego. Jacques Chirac is simply more concerned with his own influence than doing what is best for the world, even if it means coddling the Robert Mugabes and Bashir Assads of the world. When Chirac does try to do something tough against terror or dictatorial values he ends up attacking the wrong symptom, such as trying to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves.



Now that Saddam Hussein is out of the way the biggest threat to coalition forces comes from General and former Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. But we’re getting closer. On Monday US forces captured eight insurgents including four associates of al-Douri.

On Tuesday, a U.S. task force in Baqouba arrested five Iraqis, including one suspected of recruiting guerrillas, Maj. Josselyn Aberle of the 4th Infantry Division told the AP. Two other military sources said the other four were believed to be associates of al-Douri, No. 6 on the U.S. list of 55 most wanted Iraqis. Thirteen fugitives from that list remain at large, with al-Douri at the top.

In an overnight raid in Baqouba, 30 miles northwest of Baghdad, U.S. troops also detained a former Iraqi army colonel suspected of recruiting ex-Iraqi soldiers to fight the U.S. military. Aberle said the ex-colonel was believed to be connected to a local businessman helping to finance the insurgency.

The colonel "is a mid-level in the national scheme, but quite important in the area," the major said.
Another task force in the area arrested two Iraqis discovered digging up a cache of 100 82mm mortar rounds and 20 rockets, Aberle said.

Recent arrests in several towns are partly the result of information gleaned from the arrest of a Saddam on Dec. 13, according to the U.S. military.

In related news South Korea announced it would be sending 3000 troops to Iraq next spring for a nine-month rotation.



PEMBROKE, N.H., Dec. 22 — Howard Dean came under criticism from an Iowa newspaper last weekend for an answer to a questionnaire in which he implied that his brother was serving in the military when he disappeared in Laos 29 years ago. His brother had been traveling in Southeast Asia as a tourist.

Asked by The Quad-City Times, which is based in Davenport, Iowa, to complete the sentence "My closest living relative in the armed services is," Dr. Dean wrote in August, "My brother is a POW/MIA in Laos, but is almost certainly dead."
The brother, 23-year-old Charles Dean, whose apparent remains were recovered by a military search team last month in Laos, was classified as missing in action, along with other civilians captured or killed in the area during the Vietnam War. But Charles Dean never wore a uniform, and while some family members at times suspected that he was working as a spy, Dr. Dean said he never believed that.

His answer to the newspaper's question, published on Dec. 14 as part of a regular feature on The Quad-City Times's editorial page in which the Democratic presidential candidates respond to questions intended to probe their persona, drew complaints from readers and a rebuke from the newspaper's editorial board on Sunday. The editorial was circulated to a handful of reporters on Monday by a rival campaign.

This is the latest in a string of incidents in which Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, who has drawn support with his blunt remarks, has attracted controversy with imprecise statements. His rivals have frequently turned his own words against him to argue that he has switched positions on critical issues like Medicare or trade, and to question whether he is ready for the presidency. Earlier this month, he offered "an interesting theory" about whether President Bush had warning of the Sept. 11 attacks, something he later said he never believed. And he apologized last month for the way he phrased his desire to reach out to Southern white voters who have deserted the Democratic Party. He had said he wanted to be the candidate for "guys with Confederate flag decals on their pickup trucks."



According to NBC News some members of al Qaeda may be fully trained commercial aircraft pilots who actually work for foreign airlines. NBC quotes anonymous officials so there is no way of knowing if this speculation or if some evidence has led the intelligence community to come to this conclusion. One would hope that Western intelligence agencies run background checks on all foreign pilots, although that’s probably a difficult thing to accomplish if the foreign state is not cooperative. Furthermore, in the Post-September 11 you’d think it would be more difficult for an actual al Qaeda operative to find employment in the aviation community because foreign countries would have a hard time explaining how one of their nationals ended up as a terrorist employed by such a heavily regulated industry. Then again, many suspect that the pilot of Egypt Air FLT 990 purposely forced that plane in a nose dive in 1999. The pilot of that crash recited a Muslim prayer “I rely on Allah” 11 times before the auto-pilot was turned off and both engines manually shut down and the plane began its descent. Aboard were 33 Egyptian military officers. While the pilot may have not been an official member of any Islamic terror group (although he may have been) it sure sounds like Islamic fundamentalism killing two birds with one stone - taking revenge on Egypt’s secular regime and 100 Americans at the same time. So I guess the lesson here is to fly Western carriers and try to avoid Air Pakistan or Turkey-air if you can.

Going back to NBC, government officials are also worried in particular about two locations and the possibility of a dirty bomb plot against them.

New intelligence indicates that al-Qaida remains intent on attacking large gatherings of people with chemical or biological weapons, official said. They said law enforcement agencies were looking closely at two rural locations — one in the East and the other in the Southwest — that were believed to be high on the terrorist target list.

Most troubling, the officials said, were indications that al-Qaida may already possess a radiological weapon, or so-called “dirty bomb.” They did not elaborate.

Experts said a potent dirty bomb could spread radioactive material for a half-mile in all directions. People in the fallout zone would be bombarded with radiation levels that they would not otherwise be exposed to from natural sources for a full year.

While it may not particularly deadly, the psychological impact of a dirty bomb could be devastating, experts said.

Maybe I’m overconfident but the possibility of another airline attack seems much more remote to me than a suicide truck-bombing. It would only require a few persons, a la Ramzi Yousef (1993 WTC) or Tim McVeigh (OKC 1995) to detonate a truck bomb at a building or New Year’s event or football game. The latter is easier to pull off, a big bang for the buck and is more likely to go undetected. After 2 years of losses – at least against Western interests – I think al Qaeda is just looking for a score any way they can get it. Again, that’s just my layman speculation, though.


Monday, December 22, 2003

Once again the BBC shows their egregious anti-Israel slant. Muslims physically attacked the Egyptian foreign minister as he was worshipping at the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, but according to the BBC it’s all Israel’s fault.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher was taken to hospital after an incident at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque.

Mr Maher became unwell after being jostled by angry Muslims as he came to pray at the holy site on Monday.

Bodyguards surrounded the minister and whisked him out of the compound to an Israeli hospital.

Mr Maher was in Israel for talks with Israeli leaders about resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, his first visit to the country for two years.

Correspondents say his assailants are likely to have been angered by the talks between the minister of an Arab Muslim nation and Israel, which they regard as an illegitimate state on Arab land.

But the BBC's Jill McGivering, in Jerusalem, says the incident is sure to cause some embarrassment for the Israelis.

For the Israelis! The NERVE!! Palestinians attack the Egyptian minister because he’s trying to broker peace and BBC wants to blame Israel when he's mugged by Palestinians!? Should Israelis likewise be embarrassed for existing "on Arab land"? (and they're not talking about the West Bank, they're talking about Israel proper). Well, at least the Beeb admits that many Muslims don’t believe Israel has a right to exist, but if anyone should be embarrassed for this incident, besides the Palestinians, it’s the BBC.



The big news over the weekend was in Libya, not Iraq, where dictator Col. Muammar Qaddafi admitted for the first time ever that his country possesses weapons of mass destruction and that he was ready to disarm through an international process. Libya’s economy has hurt from 20-years of sanctions but the timing of Qaddafi’s announcement acknowledges that the colonel realizes how much the world has changed in two years, unlike so many clueless Westerners. With the war in Iraq progressing Qaddafi undoubtedly is looking to the future and decided that he wishes to be off the State Department’s list of countries that harbor WMD and terrorism. What is an egregious lie, therefore, is any liberal spin that their model of diplomacy at all costs was the deciding factor of that they should be patting themselves on the back. Read this delusional analysis below:

Libya's bid to rejoin the world community is sure to rekindle international debate over whether force or diplomacy is more effective in addressing the world's rogue states and their promotion of terrorism or pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

The answer may be that the two together garner the best results.

"Everybody will want to credit their own polices in these polarized times, Bush will want to claim it was the threat to use force that made this happen, while Europe will claim that smart sanctions coupled with meaningful economic incentives brought this about," says Michael O'Hanlon, a defense policy specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "The truth is that both the carrot and the stick are useful, especially when you put them together."

O’Hanlon is right, but is missing the forest for the trees. While carrots and sticks together undoubtedly caused an attitude change in Libya it was the United States, and not Europe, that applied both. The US used harsh sanctions, matching the UN’s and Europe’s, and under Reagan used force as well. Since then, only the US, UK and a handful of others – certainly not France or Germany – have been willing to even threaten force. All Europe does is offer carrots. They never even hint that they’d ever, under any circumstances, use force.

At the same time, the juxtaposition of clear progress in reversing the weapons programs of two countries - Libya and Iran - through diplomatic means, and the costly situation the US finds itself in in Iraq after militarily removing that regime, may mean that the use of force ends up the anomaly rather than the rule.

"The Europeans must be feeling very satisfied at this point that the approach they've advocated has rung up two successes at almost no cost: no billions spent, no lives lost, no blackmail," says Joseph Cirincione, director of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

This is, without a doubt, the most delusional analysis I’ve read in months (and I’ve read a lot of liberal delusions). Maybe Mr. Cirincione isn’t up to speed on current events but the last time that I checked the news Israel, a nuclear power, was publicly and loudly threatening to bomb the crap out of Iranian nuclear facilities if the Europeans didn’t step up to the plate and force action on the issue. While the Bush administration took a less threatening stance it was nonetheless aggressive in forcing the Europeans to revise their first draft of disarmament agreements with Iran, which the Bush administration saw as too weak to be effective. These are two threats of force – one clear, the other implied – that pushed the Iranians into agreeing to compliance. Cirincione simply waves his hand and ignores this, preferring to stick his head back into the sand. Furthermore, before Cirincione starts counting his chickens of “no billions spent, no lives lost, no blackmail” before they’re hatched he might want to remember that at this point in time Iran has only agreed to disarm, and has not yet actually disarmed. I’ll believe it when I see it. The liberal analysis ignores that the problem with dictatorial regimes possessing WMD isn’t the WMD; it’s rather the very nature of the regime.

In any event the Christian Science Monitor wasn’t allowing Cirincione to declare victory from his shoddy interpretation of events:

That doesn't mean reliance on international inspections programs has been vindicated. The existence of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs in Libya suggests Qaddafi was able to deceive the international community for over a decade.
That’s right, but if we left it up to peacenik liberals like Cirincione all we’d ever have are empty agreements with dictators who have no intentions of actually complying with disarmament because they’d know the liberals would denounce socialism before they ever even pretended like they’d use force to change behavior.



Stephen Hayes commentary regarding the Clinton administrations view that Saddam Hussein was cooperating with Osama bin Laden is hardly news, but yet most people don’t know it and many others, especially those on the Left including former Clinton officials, choose to ignore it. This is typical of the Democratic Party today. The CIA was alerting Clinton in the late 1990s that North Korea was cheating the Agreed Framework, but now every liberal spins that they didn’t begin doing so until after President Bush labeled North Korea as a member of the Axis of Evil, thus implying a cause-effect relationship with Bush the cause. Likewise, Clinton officials both cited Iraqi WMD as reasons for Operation Desert Fox in 1998 and stated that Iraq still had them even as Clinton was leaving office (and after too), but today many of them hem and haw and claim nobody really knew for sure.

Hayes comments that Clinton officials cited a connection between al Qaeda, which was at that time based in Sudan, and Saddam Hussein. The Sudanese president was at that time very close with Hussein, and was the only country from which Hussein allowed commercial flights into Iraq. The Clinton government believed that Sudan’s al Shifa pharmaceutical plant was connected to VX gas production, based on CIA soil samples. The samples contained EMPTA, a compound produced exclusive to VX.

The senior intelligence officials who briefed reporters laid out the collaboration. "We knew there were fuzzy ties between [bin Laden] and the plant but strong ties between him and Sudan and strong ties between the plant and Sudan and strong ties between the plant and Iraq." Although this official was careful not to oversell bin Laden's ties to the plant, other Clinton officials told reporters that the plant's general manager lived in a villa owned by bin Laden.

Several Clinton administration national security officials told THE WEEKLY STANDARD last week that they stand by the intelligence. "The bottom line for me is that the targeting was justified and appropriate," said Daniel Benjamin, director of counterterrorism on Clinton's National Security Council, in an emailed response to questions. "I would be surprised if any president--with the evidence of al Qaeda's intentions evident in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and the intelligence on [chemical weapons] that was at hand from Sudan--would have made a different decision about bombing the plant."
Wouldn't the bombing of a plant with well-documented connections to Iraq's chemical weapons program, undertaken in an effort to strike back at Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, seem to suggest the

Wouldn't the bombing of a plant with well-documented connections to Iraq's chemical weapons program, undertaken in an effort to strike back at Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, seem to suggest the Clinton administration national security officials believed Iraq was working with al Qaeda? Benjamin, who has been one of the leading skeptics of claims that Iraq was working with al Qaeda, doesn't want to connect those dots.

Instead, he describes al Qaeda and Iraq as unwitting collaborators. "The Iraqi connection with al Shifa, given what we know about it, does not yet meet the test as proof of a substantive relationship because it isn't clear that one side knew the other side's involvement. That is, it is not clear that the Iraqis knew about bin Laden's well-concealed investment in the Sudanese Military Industrial Corporation. The Sudanese very likely had their own interest in VX development, and they would also have had good reasons to keep al Qaeda's involvement from the Iraqis. After all, Saddam was exactly the kind of secularist autocrat that al Qaeda despised. In the most extreme case, if the Iraqis suspected al Qaeda involvement, they might have had assurances from the Sudanese that bin Laden's people would never get the weapons. That may sound less than satisfying, but the Sudanese did show a talent for fleecing bin Laden. It is all somewhat speculative, and it would be helpful to know more."

It does sound less than satisfying to one Bush administration official. "So, when the Clinton administration wants to justify its strike on al Shifa," this official tells me, "it's okay to use an Iraq-al Qaeda connection. But now that the Bush administration and George Tenet talk about links, it's suddenly not believable?"

The Clinton administration heavily emphasized the Iraq link to justify its 1998 strikes against al Qaeda. Just four days before the embassy bombings, Saddam Hussein had once again stepped up his defiance of U.N. weapons inspectors, causing what Senator Richard Lugar called another Iraqi "crisis." Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, one of those in the small circle of Clinton advisers involved in planning the strikes, briefed foreign reporters on August 25, 1998. He was asked about the connection directly and answered carefully.

Q: Ambassador Pickering, do you know of any connection between the so-called pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum and the Iraqi government in regard to production of precursors of VX?

PICKERING: Yeah, I would like to consult my notes just to be sure that what I have to say is stated clearly and correctly. We see evidence that we think is quite clear on contacts between Sudan and Iraq. In fact, al Shifa officials, early in the company's history, we believe were in touch with Iraqi individuals associated with Iraq's VX program.

Ambassador Bill Richardson, at the time U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, echoed those sentiments in an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," on August 30, 1998. He called the targeting "one of the finest hours of our intelligence people."

"We know for a fact, physical evidence, soil samples of VX precursor--chemical precursor at the site," said Richardson. "Secondly, Wolf, direct evidence of ties between Osama bin Laden and the Military Industrial Corporation--the al Shifa factory was part of that. This is an operation--a collection of buildings that does a lot of this dirty munitions stuff. And, thirdly, there is no evidence that this precursor has a commercial application. So, you combine that with Sudan support for terrorism, their connections with Iraq on VX, and you combine that, also, with the chemical precursor issue, and Sudan's leadership support for Osama bin Laden, and you've got a pretty clear cut case."

If the case appeared "clear cut" to top Clinton administration officials, it was not as open-and-shut to the news media. Press reports brimmed with speculation about bad intelligence or even the misuse of intelligence. In an October 27, 1999, article, New York Times reporter James Risen went back and reexamined the intelligence. He wrote: "At the pivotal meeting reviewing the targets, the Director of Central Intelligence, George J. Tenet, was said to have cautioned Mr. Clinton's top advisers that while he believed that the evidence connecting Mr. Bin Laden to the factory was strong, it was less than ironclad." Risen also reported that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had shut down an investigation into the targeting after questions were raised by the department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (the same intelligence team that raised questions about prewar intelligence relating to the war in Iraq).

Other questions persisted as well. Clinton administration officials initially scoffed at the notion that al Shifa produced any pharmaceutical products. But reporters searching through the rubble found empty aspirin bottles, as well as other indications that the plant was not used exclusively to produce chemical weapons. The strikes came in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, leaving some analysts to wonder whether President Clinton was following the conspiratorial news-management scenario laid out in "Wag the Dog," then a hit movie.

But the media failed to understand the case, according to Daniel Benjamin, who was a reporter himself before joining the Clinton National Security Council. "Intelligence is always incomplete, typically composed of pieces that refuse to fit neatly together and are subject to competing interpretations," writes Benjamin with coauthor Steven Simon in the 2002 book "The Age of Sacred Terror." "By disclosing the intelligence, the administration was asking journalists to connect the dots--assemble bits of evidence and construct a picture that would account for all the disparate information. In response, reporters cast doubt on the validity of each piece of the information provided and thus on the case for attacking al Shifa."

Now, however, there's a new wrinkle. Bush administration officials largely agree with their predecessors. "There's pretty good intelligence linking al Shifa to Iraq and also good information linking al Shifa to al Qaeda," says one administration official familiar with the intelligence. "I don't think there's much dispute that [Sudan's Military Industrial Corporation] was al Qaeda supported. The link from al Shifa to Iraq is what there is more dispute about."

According to this official, U.S. intelligence has obtained Iraqi documents showing that the head of al Shifa had been granted permission by the Iraqi government to travel to Baghdad to meet with Emad al-Ani, often described as "the father of Iraq's chemical weapons program." Said the official: "The reports can confirm that the trip was authorized, but the travel part hasn't been confirmed yet."

So why hasn't the Bush administration mentioned the al Shifa connection in its public case for war in Iraq? Even if one accepts Benjamin's proposition that Iraq may not have known that it was arming al Qaeda and that al Qaeda may not have known its chemicals came from Iraq, doesn't al Shifa demonstrate convincingly the dangers of attempting to "contain" a maniacal leader with WMD?

According to Bush officials, two factors contributed to their reluctance to discuss the Iraq-al Qaeda connection suggested by al Shifa. First, the level of proof never rose above the threshold of "highly suggestive circumstantial evidence"--indicating that on this question, Bush administration policymakers were somewhat more cautious about the public use of intelligence on the Iraq-al Qaeda connection than were their counterparts in the Clinton administration. Second, according to one Bush administration source, "there is a massive sensitivity at the Agency to bringing up this issue again because of the controversy in 1998."

But there is bound to be more discussion of al Shifa and Iraq-al Qaeda connections in the coming weeks. The Senate Intelligence Committee is nearing completion of its review of prewar intelligence. And although there is still no CIA team assigned to look at the links between Iraq and al Qaeda, investigators looking at documents from the fallen regime continue to uncover new information about those connections on a regular basis.

Democrats who before the war discounted the possibility of any connection between Iraq and al Qaeda have largely fallen silent. And in recent days, two prowar Democrats have spoken openly about the relationship. Evan Bayh, a Democrat from Indiana who sits on the Intelligence Committee, told THE WEEKLY STANDARD, "the relationship seemed to have its roots in mutual exploitation. Saddam Hussein used terrorism for his own ends, and Osama bin Laden used a nation-state for the things that only a nation-state can provide."

And Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat and presidential candidate, discussed the connections in an appearance last week on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews." Said Lieberman: "I want to be real clear about the connection with terrorists. I've seen a lot of evidence on this. There are extensive contacts between Saddam Hussein's government and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. I never could reach the conclusion that [Saddam] was part of September 11. Don't get me wrong about that. But there was so much smoke there that it made me worry. And you know, some people say with a great facility, al Qaeda and Saddam could never get together. He is secular and they're theological. But there's something that tied them together. It's their hatred of us."
Good for Joe. Great piece linking both past and future events. We’ll see what happens as this gets reopened.

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