Fulcrum Ruminations

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Catching Up With Recent News

I've been remiss in my blogging. I've got some things I want to touch upon, so I'll just blow thru them, okay?

The Iraq War and WMDs

Here's a little perspective on the Iraq war and the justification for it. This is from the Washington Post, tho, so you have to be registered to see the whole article.

It Wasn't Just Miller's Story by Robert Kagan. I'll quote the first paragraph or so to get you rolling:

The Judith Miller-Valerie Plame-Scooter Libby imbroglio is being reduced to a simple narrative about the origins of the Iraq war. Miller, the story goes, was an anti-Saddam Hussein, weapons-of-mass-destruction-hunting zealot and was either an eager participant or an unwitting dupe in a campaign by Bush administration officials and Iraqi exiles to justify the invasion. The New York Times now characterizes the affair as "just one skirmish in the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq." Miller may be "best known for her role in a series of Times articles in 2002 and 2003 that strongly suggested Saddam Hussein already had or was acquiring an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction." According to the Times's critique, she credulously reported information passed on by "a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on 'regime change' in Iraq," which was then "eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq." Many critics outside the Times suggest that Miller's eagerness to publish the Bush administration's line was the primary reason Americans went to war. The Times itself is edging closer to this version of events.

There is a big problem with this simple narrative. It is that the Times, along with The Post and other news organizations, ran many alarming stories about Iraq's weapons programs before the election of George W. Bush.
(Emphasis mine)

Here's another snippet, also pertinent:

Many such stories appeared before and after the Clinton administration bombed Iraq for four days in late 1998 in what it insisted was an effort to degrade Iraqi weapons programs. Philip Shenon reported official concerns that Iraq would be "capable within months -- and possibly just weeks or days -- of threatening its neighbors with an arsenal of chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons." He reported that Iraq was thought to be "still hiding tons of nerve gas" and was "seeking to obtain uranium from a rogue nation or terrorist groups to complete as many as four nuclear warheads.

This, remember, is before George Bush was elected. Oh my. You mean people had Evil Thoughts About Iraq before the Boogeyman In Chief came along? The hell you say.

Here's one more, just to keep the pot stirring:

On Jan. 29, 2001, The Post editorialized that "of all the booby traps left behind by the Clinton administration, none is more dangerous -- or more urgent -- than the situation in Iraq. Over the last year, Mr. Clinton and his team quietly avoided dealing with, or calling attention to, the almost complete unraveling of a decade's efforts to isolate the regime of Saddam Hussein and prevent it from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction. That leaves President Bush to confront a dismaying panorama in the Persian Gulf," including "intelligence photos that show the reconstruction of factories long suspected of producing chemical and biological weapons."

Wow. I think what they're trying to get at is that Bush and his Evil Neocon Cabal aren't the only people who thought that maybe Saddam was up to no good.

You see, gentle reader, why this whole WMD fiasco troubles me so. It isn't that our current President lied or dissembled our way into the Iraq war. It's that there were long-term and systemic problems with the intelligence being fed to the President - several Presidents, in fact - that grossly inflated the threat. This sorta bears out the old saying that you should never ascribe to evil intent what can be more readily explained by plain stupidity. Simply put, the majority of the world's intelligence services (and press) thought that Iraq had WMDs. Saddam actually encouraged this idea, for whatever reasons. He wrote the fate of his regime with his own twisted pen.

The full story of the Iraq war will probably not be known until Dubya is long gone from office, but this version of events which declares it a horrible disaster that we were hoodwinked into by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld is almost certainly not going to survive long-term scrutiny.

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More on Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans Levees

Once again from the Post, this time an article by Joby Warrick and Michael Grunwald that points out something else that might not be as easily blamed on Bush as some would prefer.

Investigators Link Levee Failures to Design Flaws
Three Teams of Engineers Find Weakened Soil, Navigation Canal Contributed to La. Collapses
By Joby Warrick and Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 24, 2005; Page A01


The nuggets buried in this story are as follows (pardon my selections - you can go read the whole thing if you like):

In 1965, the Corps completed the 76-mile-long, 36-foot-deep Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a larger dirt-moving project than the Panama Canal. The outlet -- known locally as MRGO, or "Mr. Go" -- created a navigation shortcut to the Port of New Orleans, although a little-used one that averages fewer than one ship a day. But the outlet also amounted to a funnel that would accelerate and enlarge any storm surges headed for the city's levees.

Mashriqui also found that in the areas where the outlet had wiped out marshes and other wetlands, levees and floodwalls were much more likely to fail. In areas where the natural buffers remained, the manmade defenses held, even when they were overtopped.

"Without MRGO, the flooding would have been much less," he said. "The levees might have overtopped, but they wouldn't have been washed away."

In the 1980s, the Corps began constructing concrete floodwalls on top of older earthen levees to give the city's northern neighborhoods better protection from storm surges from Lake Pontchartrain. Soil tests in the 1980s detected trouble 20 feet below the surface: a thick layer of spongy, organic soil called peat. Soft and highly compressible when dry, peat becomes even weaker when saturated with water.

A 1988 document reveals that Corps officials took careful measurements of the peat layer and tested the soil in a laboratory to calculate its relative strength, according to Robert Bea, a professor of engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the NSF investigating team. Based on those calculations, the Corps designed a concrete-and-steel floodwall anchored to the earth by steel pilings driven to a depth of 20 feet.

In 1994, the now-defunct Pittman Construction Co., a New Orleans firm involved in levee construction, claimed in court documents that floodwall sections were failing to line up properly because of unstable soils. An administrative law judge dismissed the complaint on technical grounds in 1998, without specifically addressing the allegations about weak soils.


So the story of the New Orleans disaster goes all the way back to 1965. Hmm. Kind of hard to pin that one on Bush, huh? As usual, the rush to point fingers points them at the wrong target . . . or at least, those pointing fingers skip over a whole bunch of worthy targets depending on your preconceived ideology.

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More on the Situation in Iraq

Since we've got a whole lot of people here in the major media who take apparent delight in the things going wrong in Iraq, it falls to others to illustrate that things aren't as bad as we're being led to believe.

San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Robert Caldwell tells us of More Good News from Iraq. A quote -

Ten million Iraqis, defying terrorist threats and calls for a boycott, trooped to the polls Oct. 15 to vote in a national referendum on the new constitution drafted by Iraq's transitional government. Unofficial returns show this commendably democratic charter passing by huge margins in the Shiite and Kurdish areas that together encompass 80 percent of Iraq's population. Most – but, significantly, not all – minority Sunnis voted no. Yet, their participation in the election signifies at least tacit acceptance of the democratic process that is empowering Iraqis to govern themselves after decades of dictatorship.

And more -

Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon consultant and harsh critic of U.S. military mistakes in Iraq, nonetheless offered a heartening review last week of the progress made in training and fielding capable Iraqi security forces.

By Cordesman's careful tabulation, 116 Iraqi military and special police battalions (of about 750 men each) are now operational. That's an increase of 22 battalions in just the last three months. Cordesman calculates that 28 Iraqi battalions are fully capable of combat operations, more than double the number of six months ago. In all, 192,000 Iraqi soldiers and police have been trained and equipped and are steadily taking over security missions from U.S. and other coalition forces.


So the job is getting done, slowly but surely. The Iraqis are taking advantage of the opportunity to vote and make themselves heard. They're participating . . . in fits and starts, awkwardly, and with a healthy measure of cynicism, but they are participating.

Along these same lines, San Francisco Chronicle writer Debra J. Saunders brings us the tale of The Major's Disappointment. It seems that ARMY MAJOR Steven Warren, 39, is not happy, because he believes the media are painting an inaccurate picture of what's happening in Iraq. The long and the short of it is that the guys who are actually in-country dealing with the situation are a bit more upbeat about the future than the talking heads back here in the States.

There's more stories like this out there, but you have to look hard.

In the story Stryker Brigade Finds Huge Weapons Caches, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner writer Margaret Friedenauer tells us of an Army unit that's making good progress against the insurgency.

As always, the lesson is not to believe the first reports or the "instant analysis." Wait for the details to come out.

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Speaking of details coming out, it's looking worse and worse for Vice President Cheney, his chief of staff "Scooter" Libby, and Karl Rove. The leaking of the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame seems to have originated in Cheney's office. As I sit here writing this, anyway. Like I have said before, wherever this trail leads, those responsible need to be held to account. You simply do not compromise a clandestine agent. Period. End of story. If it began with Cheney, then Bush needs to live up to his promise to "deal with the leak" and ask for the VP's resignation. Bush would probably pardon Cheney for any wrongdoing to keep him out of jail, and that's certainly within his perogatives, but it wouldn't be a good idea. Outing Plame is the sort of half-assed politically motivated bullshit move that needs to be prevented from happening again. We should expect better discretion from our leadership.

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That's how I see things on 25 October 2005.

2 Comments:

Blogger danno49 said...

I knew you were blogging! It just took me awhile to find you, I'm embarrased to say. It was nice to see you capping, albeit just one on the Capper blog. You still got it, Lanz. :)

Just wanted to let you know I'll give you a read and a comment every now and then. It looks as though most of your readers tend to lean left. Interesting. But I'll bet you've been called a liar by better, huh? ;)

Keep up the good work, brother!!

Arch

9:53 AM  
Blogger Lanz said...

Thanks, brother. I need to put a link to the Capper blog in here . . .

10:59 AM  

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