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We are winning the War in Iraq.

President Bush says so. Vice President Cheney agrees. And GOP Presidential nominee John McCain, who just got back from Baghdad, says we’re on the verge of victory.

Indeed, violence is down significantly in most parts of the country. The Iraqi parliament is moving slowly toward passing important legislation that would help reconcile the factions. A recent poll on Iraq found the people more hopeful about the future.

But the fact is, despite this upbeat news, Iraq is still an ungodly mess – barely a country at all with neighborhoods in Baghdad separated by huge concrete walls and barriers, the presence of armed police and militia on every street corner, frequent and intrusive checkpoints. All this to keep the country from exploding into violence.

The surge has worked – for the present. Now what?

What is it exactly that we are “winning” in Iraq? The peace? Amity in the national polity? Not hardly. A 70% drop in violence from the horrific levels of last year is heartening but is far from bringing peace and security to the country. And Shia resistance to Sunni participation in Iraqi public life is as entrenched as ever. Passing laws will not change the hearts and minds of those who suffered so long under the brutal Sunni dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

A realistic look at Iraq shows two sides, sullenly and without much enthusiasm for working together, eyeing each other suspiciously across a great divide patrolled by Americans and poorly paid and trained Iraqis, buttressed by the forced separation of the sects into ghettos while all the progress made over the last year balances on a knife’s edge.

And the helluva it is, we are entirely dependent on others for continued success.

Keeping the 80,000 strong Sunni militias happy is absolutely vital to continued peace. So would someone please explain to me why in God’s name we’re not paying them? If they were to quit in disgust and take up arms once again against the Americans, it would be a setback from which there would be no recovery.

Consider also our dependence on the forbearance and good will of Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia. His Iranian supplied fighters could make Baghdad into a nightmare again – concrete barriers or no concrete barriers.

What of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki? His inability to drag his government toward meaningful reconciliation and his eagerness to establish close ties with Iran are extremely problematic for our efforts to unite the country.

And how do you deal with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the SCIRI) – the largest political party in Iraq – and their insistence that any power sharing agreement include an autonomous Shia state in the south where they have set up a government based largely on Sharia law and regularly thumbs their noses at Maliki’s government in Baghdad?

To be so dependent on others for our success or failure in Iraq highlights the fact that despite progress, for real peace to have a chance all the tumblers will have to click into place at the same time and the independent forces threatening to tear the country apart somehow be kept together.

Otherwise, everything goes south again and we’re back to square one.

The military and Bush recognize this and will keep troop levels at the same level they are now through the end of the year:

Troop levels in Iraq would remain nearly the same through 2008 as at any time during five years of war, under plans presented to President Bush on Monday by the senior American commander and the top American diplomat in Iraq, senior administration and military officials said.

Mr. Bush announced no final decision on future troop levels after the video briefing by the commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and the diplomat, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. The briefing took place on the day when the 4,000th American military death of the war was reported and just after the invasion’s fifth anniversary.

But it now appears likely that any decision on major reductions in American troops from Iraq will be left to the next president. That ensures that the question over what comes next will remain in the center of the presidential campaign through Election Day.

Perhaps they know something that we don’t?

On Sunday, a barrage of at least 17 rockets hit the heavily fortified Green Zone and surrounding neighborhoods, where both the U.S. and Iraqi government headquarters are housed, according to police. Most of them were launched from the outskirts of Sadr City and Bayaa, both Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhoods.

On Monday, the Sadrists all but shut down the neighborhoods they control on the west bank of Baghdad. Gunmen went to stores and ordered them to close as militiamen stood in the streets. Mosques used their loudspeakers to urge people to come forward and join the protest.

Fliers were distributed with the Sadrists’ three demands of the Iraqi government: to release detainees, stop targeting Sadrist members and apologize to the families and the tribal sheiks of the men.

The Iraqi security forces issued a statement promising to deal with those who terrorized shopkeepers and students.

“It’s an open sit-in until the government responds to our demands. If the government doesn’t respond, we will have our own procedures,” said Hamdallah al Rikabi, the head of the Sadr offices in Karkh, in western Baghdad.

The death toll from attacks that occurred all over Iraq on Sunday-Monday was at least 59 with 4 Americans killed in separate incidents. That brought the number of US dead over the previous two weeks to 25 – a disturbing spike that could be either a short term uptick in casualties or a sign that the enemy is growing stronger and that despite all our good work in rooting al-Qaeda from their strongholds and driving them away, it may not be enough.

I have lamented the fact before that we are well and truly trapped in Iraq and that the next president be it a Democrat or Republican will have precious few options. Grandiose statements of a quick withdrawal coming from the Obama and Clinton camps are meaningless. Some symbolic drawdown to appease the base would probably be undertaken but until the Iraqi army and police can prove themselves capable of preventing the country from falling from a barely manageable chaos into hellish dissolution and slaughter, American combat troops in large numbers will continue to be needed.

In the end, it comes down to a Hobson’s Choice between continuing an occupation in Iraq that has harmed our relations with our friends in the region, cost the nation a trillion dollars and counting, caused the sacrifice of 4,000 brave Americans, and currently has no end in sight or withdrawing from Iraq, leaving its uncertain fate to benighted thugs like al-Sadr and salivating foreigners like Iran and Syria while praying that there isn’t a bloodbath of biblical proportions.


Bob Owens looked into the Guardian story on the Sunni militias not being paid and found it to be “a load of bull:”

Multi-National Force-Iraq commanding General David Petraeus has little use for recent claims in the British press that the Surge is on the verge of collapse in parts of Iraq. In an e-mail to Pajamas Media, Petraeus wrote that the story, as reported in the Guardian were ”based on dated info.”

In addition, he said that reports that the Iraqi government is refusing to employ Sunnis are incorrect. ”The National Reconciliation Committee just approved a list of over 3,500 names of Diyala Sons of Iraq for the Iraqi Police,” wrote General Petraeus in his e-mail, a sign that more jobs integrating the Sunnis within the government’s security forces were forthcoming.

Petraeus also responded to a GuardianFilms video report for Britain’s Channel 4 on March 20 charged that Sunni militias in Iraq were not being paid by U.S. forces and were on the verge of staging a national strike because they were not getting jobs within the Iraq government. A Guardian print article also made that claim followed on March 21.
Petraeus said in his correspondence that a threatened strike in Diyala was “resolved a week or two ago” when Sunni militiamen called “Sons of Iraq” (SoI) were told that if they didn’t work, they wouldn’t get paid.

This is good news indeed. However, what was not addressed in Bob’s article was the belief by at least some of the militiamen that Americans were slighting their contributions to the effort to stamp out al-Qaeda and that our soldiers were letting the Sunnis do most of the hard fighting while sitting back and getting credit for their success.

I have no way of knowing whether this is true of a majority of Sunni militiamen. But I know that there has been quite a bit of triumphalism in some media quarters about our success and that this could very easily be misinterpreted by those who are already suspicious of us.

No matter. The fact that they are on the job, getting paid, and as Bob points out in his excellent article, being slowly integrated into the Iraqi police force is all that counts.

By: Rick Moran at 8:26 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

CATEGORY: War on Terror

In my 54 years of life on earth, I have come to see war in rather stark and uncompromising terms:

1. War is waste.

2. There is nothing moral about any war except working to end it in victory as soon as possible.

Spare me your attempts to praise or condemn the decision to go to war based on some moral framework. Standing on the mountaintop preaching to the rest of us about how “immoral” it was to go into Iraq or how “Just War” doctrine applies is supercilious at best and ultimately irrelevant. History will have her way with us, judging whether the decision to invade Iraq was correct or incorrect. In that respect, morality plays little or no role. And those who pretend to know how the future will unfold as a result of our actions can easily be dismissed as charlatans – and that includes everyone from internet pundits to so-called experts who endlessly expound on the dire future in the region because of our invasion.

The fact is no one knows what the Middle East will look like 10 years or 5 years or even 2 years from now. Other forces are at work that may make our efforts in Iraq a positive contribution to stability in the region or the catalyst for cataclysm. I have too much respect for history to hazard much of a guess on where we’ll be in Iraq in 5 years or what the region will look like. Who would have guessed that the end of the Viet Nam war would lead to a peace and stability in east Asia – the first in more than a hundred years – that would allow economic powerhouses like South Korea and Hong Kong to prosper as never before while creating conditions for huge growth in places like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Viet Nam itself.

That peace was purchased with the blood of 58,000 Americans and rests to this day on the opening to China by Nixon – an event that almost certainly would never have taken place if we were not in Viet Nam. By beginning to remove the basis for conflict between China and America, we eventually brought peace and growing prosperity to billions.

Who could have foreseen the emergence of the Asian economic dynamo? Certainly not the protesters in the street. And few if any hawks were in favor of Nixon’s historic trip to China. The future is always a puzzle and those who claim prescience must deal with the hard reality that they are more often extraordinarily wrong than right.

Seen in that context, was the Viet Nam war a moral or immoral conflict? Truth has many fathers at times and to ignore the effect of the war on the region in order to claim some imagined moral high ground is intellectually dishonest. We fought the war for the right reasons (according to our lights) but failed to take into account those other historical forces at work 40 years ago, including one even more powerful than Communism – anti-colonialism.

In our ignorance, we failed to see that rather than liberators, we were seen by most Vietnamese in both the north and the south the same way the French were viewed – colonial occupiers. This made any government we supported illegitimate in the eyes of almost everyone. In the end, we went from fighting Communism to bolstering a cruel dictatorship. Yes, we killed a lot of Communists (and civilians), winning every major engagement but were forced to leave when it became obvious that there would be no end to it. The South Vietnamese government was in control at the point of our bayonets and there was absolutely no prospect for them to ever claim legitimacy with the South Vietnamese people.

We are still in danger of making the same mistake in Iraq. Five years gone and the Iraqi central government is still a mess although there are recent signs that some understanding of what needs to be done is finally taking hold. The Iraqis are learning about compromise – something foreign to them since they have absolutely no experience in working with other sects, other tribes. To say they have no sense of nationhood would not be entirely accurate. They appear to love their country but place its well being farther down on their list of loyalties – well after what mosque they worship in and who their tribal benefactors might be.

The American army meanwhile is killing a lot of terrorists but we’re also bolstering a regime to which some Iraqis only give conditional support and obeisance. I asked Iraqi embed Bill Ardolino (whose “Inside Iraqi Politics” series is a must read) about the effective control of the central government over the rest of the country. He thought that they were doing a better job lately but that there were still pockets of resistance to their authority in the south and some Sunni provinces. That matches pretty much what other embeds have been reporting.

Is the Iraqi government a failure? Not yet but it’s balanced on a knife’s edge. At this point, as with the rest of Iraq, things could go either way.

But here we are again. Our bayonets are guaranteeing a regime that is not very popular and would dissolve into incoherence and confusion – or worse, be overthrown – if we weren’t there. Hence, 5 years later we are well and truly trapped in a brier patch of our own making. The rank incompetence commented on by both hawks and doves in today’s New York Times “Reflections on the Invasion of Iraq” is instructive only because it reveals an almost universal belief that the period from the time the statue fell until the new counterinsurgency strategy developed by General Petreaus was implemented turned out to be wasted due to incompetent leadership and poor planning.

There’s no other way to say it except Bush blew it. And his incomprehensible decision not to change strategy sooner while sticking with a secretary of defense whose lies about how well things were going in Iraq echoed the worst of what the government was telling the American people during the Viet Nam war was a monumental error in judgement.

The President’s mistakes will be paid for by the next Chief Executive. I have no doubt both Clinton and Obama are sincere about wanting to leave Iraq. But I would say to my liberal friends if you believe they will be able to just walk us out in the six months promised by both, you are radically mistaken. If you have listened to them, both have said as much – that all depends on what the military says and conditions on the ground. Given those caveats, I have no doubt we will have a sizable contingent of combat troops in Iraq until the Iraqi army is big enough and trained well enough that they can take over completely. That will almost certainly take longer than 6 months and may be years in the making.

The only certainty about the outcome of the war we have today is that it will end eventually. And years from now, when the veil of history is uncovered and we glimpse what effect the Iraq War had on us, on the region, and on the rest of the world, I suspect there will be some surprises. Clio is a mischievous mistress and works very hard to make those who try and predict her verdicts look like fools.

By: Rick Moran at 9:57 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (16)


Terrorism and the threat of an attack has been a Republican strong point with the voter since 9/11. I’m not sure why. The Bush Administration has dropped the ball in so many areas of Homeland Security that if the Democrats had any brains, they would attack Bush not for making terrorism a political issue but for the spectacular failures of his administration on issues such as border and port security, airport screening procedures, and improving the security around soft targets like chemical and electric plants. (Talking about the fact that the Department of Homeland Security itself is a bureaucratic mess and a disaster could take up a whole other article.)

But they cannot bring these issues up because they don’t believe there is a War on Terror – or at least not in the sense that we have anything really to worry about. The great conundrum for Democrats when dealing with the terror issue is that since the 2004 campaign they have been screaming bloody murder every time the issue of terrorism has been raised by a Republican candidate. They call it “playing the politics of fear” and denounce any effort to talk about the threats facing us.

But people want to know what Obama and Clinton are going to do to keep us safe. Hence the conundrum; Democrats must talk about the threats facing us but leave themselves wide open to charges that they too are playing the politics of fear when doing so.

It is a problem of their own making made obvious by the latest ad from Hillary Clinton that shows kids in bed asleep at 3:00 AM and a telephone ringing. A voice over asks who they want answering that phone in the White House – presumably when some crisis is confronting the country. The last scene showing Hillary picking up a phone in a darkened room is quite effective. (Ed Morrissey has the video.)

Clinton is really hearing it from the Obama camp and the blogs:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., pushed back hard against the new ad, which ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos described as “the nuclear option” on Friday’s “Good Morning America”.

Addressing a group of veterans at an American Legion post in Houston, Obama said: “We’ve seen these ads before. They’re the kind that play on peoples’ fears to scare up votes.”

The tone of the ad—which echoes the infamous Daisy Ad from the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater presidential race and the red phone ad former Vice President Walter Mondale ran against Gary Hart in their ‘84 race for the Democratic nomination—indicates that the Clinton campaign is pulling out the all the stops leading into the Ohio and Texas primaries.

Is it inevitable now that any candidate – Republican or Democrat – who wants to speak frankly to the American people about the real threats we face will be tarred with the charge that they are trying to scare people to get votes?

I see nothing inherently wrong with Hillary trying to highlight the exceptional inexperience of her opponent on national security matters. I hope McCain goes after Obama in a similar manner early and often. But the question remains; are we ever going to be able to talk about terrorism?

Not as long as an advantage accrues to one side or the other when running for office. The idea that a candidate will use the politics of fear in order to win has a long, dishonorable tradition in American politics. The Democrats have successfully demagogued social security for 50 years, scaring senior citizens into thinking that Republicans want to throw them out on the streets and make them eat dog food. Republicans have spent much of the last 30 years successfully portraying the Democrats as weak sisters on national security matters, scaring voters into believing they would surrender first to the Soviets and now to al-Qaeda.

The politics of fear is a powerful ally for any campaign. The temptation to use the tactic is overwhelming because, depending on the issue, it works extremely well. The threat of terrorism is real and immediate. And using it the way that Hillary Clinton does in her ad – as a way to place doubts in voter’s minds about Obama – should not penalize her for bringing up a legitimate issue with which the next president is going to have to deal.

This is the conundrum largely created by the Democrats to answer the GOP’s huge advantage on the issue of terrorism. Apparently, it has now come back and bit them in the ass.

By: Rick Moran at 5:16 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

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Kevin Drum watching the Democrats debate in Hollywood the other night:

Another thing the debate brought home to me is something Matt Yglesias complains about frequently. Both candidates claimed that Democrats understand national security and terrorism issues better than Republicans (“Democrats have a much better grasp of the reality of the situation,” as Hillary put it), and both agreed that a successful Democratic candidate would need to be able to make that case to the public. Obama thought he could make that case better because he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, while Clinton thought she could make the case better because she’s better prepared. But neither of them actually made that case. Both Obama and Clinton had a national stage where they had more time than usual to explain the liberal position on how to combat terrorism and make the world safer, and neither of them did it. They just said they needed to do it.

And they’re right. They do need to do that. So why didn’t they start last night?

Democrats “understand” national security issues better than Republicans but the cat’s got their tongue when trying to explain why?

Let’s buy into that dubious formulation and try to ease Kevin’s perplexity. First of all, both Clinton and Obama are hamstrung by one, overriding, overarching reality; they can’t support any policy, strategy, or proposal that has been implemented, offered by, or hinted at by the Bush Administration.

This is the baseline for any policy formulated by the candidates. The deranged nature of their base when it comes to anything Bush precludes the advocacy of some Administration policies that actually may have merit while other Bush policies regarding the use of pre-emptive force and the struggle against Islamic extremism have become an anathema to the entire Democratic party.

That leaves each candidate trying to show how much more accommodating they would be to the cutthroats of the world than Bush – a prospect that no doubt has the Iranians, Syrians, Hamas, and others wishing devoutly for a Democratic triumph at the polls next November but that may leave large segments of the American electorate cold.

Hence, the attempts by both candidates to obscure the truth by mouthing platitudes and offering generalities in lieu of specific ways to deal with the threats that we will face over the next decade. I think both candidate’s emphasis on nuclear non-proliferation is spot on and is something they should probably highlight even more. And I think that Clinton, at least, has a grasp of the nature of the terrorism threat and could be counted on to be creative in confronting it.

But we hear precious little about revitalizing NATO so that Afghanistan can be saved. Nor do we hear anything about regional security regarding our Gulf allies who truly see an existential threat coming from Tehran. Lest anyone doubt that fact, the recent flurry of diplomatic activity by both the United States and France in the region that included Bush’s tour of the region, the sale of sophisticated weaponry to the Saudis, and Sarkozy’s nuclear diplomacy with other Gulf states proves the point.

In the end, the real debate is over the use of force; when, against who, and if ever. Both candidates say they would respond forcefully to a terrorist attack against the United States. Bully for them. If they didn’t, they would be impeached by their own party.

What the American people want to know is would they strike to prevent an attack and what they would do about a regime that planned and/or executed another 9/11? What would be done about an attack that was something far less than another 9/11? Would there be a “proportional response” to such an attack – stopping short of regime change while lobbing a few cruise missiles on to some vital economic or military targets?

And what about regime change? Is there any criteria where it would be justified? Both candidates have roundly criticized – with some justification – Administration policies in Iraq. Would our experience there keep them from taking down a tyrant or regime that threatened America directly?

I suppose it somewhat unfair to ask Democrats to answer these questions when Republican candidates haven’t been very clear themselves although both Romney and McCain have come out in support of pre-emptive war to some extent. But for the Democratic front runners, being obtuse is a survival tactic. If they sound too tough in the primaries, they lose the base. If they sound too weak, the GOP makes hay during the general election campaign.

Hillary Clinton seems to have found the answer to that dilemma simply by speaking out of both sides of her mouth at the same time. She can sound as tough as any Republican when she talks about the War on Terror while offering soothing platitudes regarding negotiations and scathing criticism of Bush at other times. This has the dual effect of keeping the Democratic base at bay while not offering an opening for Republicans if she wins the nomination.

So both candidates end up promoting a “Wonder Bread” national security policy; very soft and full of air but tastes good going down. It is enough to satisfy their base but will it work on the voters in the general election campaign? I think that depends on how important national security will be as an issue next fall. If the economy is in the tank, I doubt if people will give much weight to GOP criticisms of the Democrat’s obscurant policy positions. But all bets are off if the United States is attacked again or if the economy isn’t quite as important as it is today. Then the Democratic candidate will be forced to be a little more specific about what they intend to do to protect the US from the threat of international terrorism.

By: Rick Moran at 9:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

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Counting civilian deaths in Iraq is a ghoulish business. Given the chaos in the country for much of the last 4 years and the breakdown of government record keeping, the job has devolved into a statistical morass where competing methodologies give entirely different totals.

At the center of the controversy have been two separate studies that were published in the respected British medical journal, The Lancet. The results from both studies were wildly at odds with other estimates and resulted in questions being raised about the methodology used to determine the findings.

What was always most controversial for me was the timing of these studies. In 2004, the first study was published on Friday, October 29 – a scant 4 days before the presidential election. The fact that the regular date for publication of The Lancet was the following week showed a monumental bias on the part of the Lancet and an eagerness to try and affect the election of an American president by dumping the results of this questionable study on the internet so close to election day. Whatever confidence people might place in the study’s conclusions was undermined by the obvious political agenda at work in using the numbers as a hammer to slam the administration of candidate George Bush.

Also, the raw data for that study was never made public as would normally be the case. Because of that, any peer review of the author’s methods and conclusions was out of the question – a curious way for a “scientist” to have their work vetted and affirmed.

The second study by the same research group was almost as bad. It was published on October 11 – less than a month before the midterms. If anything, its conclusions were even more controversial in that they purported to show upwards of 650,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Once again, the methodology was called into question. Once again bloggers with knowledge of statistical analysis tore into the findings and revealed them to be wild exaggerations at best. And just recently, the New England Journal of Medicine debunked the study’s findings once and for all by publishing a study showing that 151,000 Iraqis had perished from 2003-2006. Still a heartbreaking number but one that any fair minded person would agree is a damn sight less egregious than the 650,000 fantasy figure in the Lancet study.

Now we have evidence that there may indeed have been political motivations in doing the study and in reaching its controversial conclusions.

Half of the funding for the study came from the George Soros group the Open Society Institute:

A STUDY that claimed 650,000 people were killed as a result of the invasion of Iraq was partly funded by the antiwar billionaire George Soros.

Soros, 77, provided almost half the £50,000 cost of the research, which appeared in The Lancet, the medical journal. Its claim was 10 times higher than consensus estimates of the number of war dead.

The study, published in 2006, was hailed by antiwar campaigners as evidence of the scale of the disaster caused by the invasion, but Downing Street and President George Bush challenged its methodology.

New research published by The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 151,000 people – less than a quarter of The Lancet estimate – have died since the invasion in 2003.

“The authors should have disclosed the [Soros] donation and for many people that would have been a disqualifying factor in terms of publishing the research,” said Michael Spagat, economics professor at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The Lancet study was commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and led by Les Roberts, an associate professor and epidemiologist at Columbia University. He reportedly opposed the war from the outset.

His team surveyed 1,849 homes at 47 sites across Iraq, asking people about births, deaths and migration in their households.

Professor John Tirman of MIT said this weekend that $46,000 (£23,000) of the approximate £50,000 cost of the study had come from Soros’s Open Society Institute.

Roberts said this weekend: “In retrospect, it was probably unwise to have taken money that could have looked like it would result in a political slant. I am adamant this could not have affected the outcome of the research.”

My observation would be that the real figures are bad enough so why inflate them by using a methodology guaranteed to be closely scrutinized and found wanting? What the Soros study wanted to achieve was a political home run – a grand slam against the war that he hoped would cause such revulsion in the United States that it would sweep the Democrats to victory.

Soros may be a billionaire but he is a political dunce. (One need only look at the total failure of ACT and other Soros funded political ventures like who have done more harm than good to the anti-war cause.) Congressional Democratic candidates mostly ran on a war plank that referred vaguely to “changing course” in Iraq without much in the way of detail. And the only people who dared use the discredited Lancet numbers in debate were those on the far left.

The Democratic victory in 2006 was due to a wide variety of factors, not the least of which were caused by the Republicans themselves. Corruption, arrogance, profligate spending, and a sense that the GOP was a party of hypocrites when talking about “family values” what with a parade of Republicans caught in sex scandals were as much or more contributive to the Democratic landslide than the war in Iraq.

Essentially, Soros wasted his money.

Both sides of the political divide have moneymen with enormous influence. Richard Mellon Scaife, the Hunts, and a few others on the right probably give as much or more money to politicians and political groups as Soros and his crew.

But what makes Soros different is that he is trying to affect an extraordinarily radical change in this country that would lead to a loss of sovereignty and the realization of his dream of a one world government. To that end, he has proved himself as ruthless and conniving as any international criminal who threatens the security of the United States.

His network of activist groups, funding sources, think tanks, and do-gooder organizations are all working with this one purpose in mind. And he hasn’t been shy about stating his goals:

And since 2003, tearing down what he views as the “fascist” tyranny of the United States, as he has put it, is “the central focus of my life.”

Through networks of nongovernmental organizations, Soros intends to ruin the presidency of George W. Bush “by any legal means necessary” and knock America off its global pedestal. “His view of America is so negative,” says Sen. Joe Lieberman, who, like Gen. David Petraeus, has been a target of Soros’ electoral “philanthropy.” “The places he’s put his money are . . . so destructive that it unsettles me.” Soros’ aim seems to be to make the U.S. just another client state easily controlled by the United Nations and other one-world groups where he has lots of friends.

Best known among these groups is, a previously small fringe-left group to which Soros has given $5 million since 2004. Bulked up by cash, the group now uses professional public relations tactics to undercut the Iraq War effort, with its latest a full-page New York Times ad that branded Gen. Petraeus “General Betray Us.”

It ran Sept. 10 in the New York Times, the same day Petraeus delivered his progress report on the surge in Iraq. previously put out ads depicting Bush as a Nazi, something that certainly echoes Soros’ sentiment.

“We have to go through a certain de-Nazification process,” he told this year’s Davos conference in Switzerland.

We can look upon his funding of the pre-election Lancet hit piece in 2006 as just more of the same. But the question of how to fight him is an entirely different matter.

The only way to legitimately go after Soros is by exposing his connections to groups and organizations that work against American interests and go so far as to advocate a loss of US sovereignty. It’s no accident that Soros groups fund illegal immigrant rallies and push for legislation that would destroy our borders. Nor is it surprising that Soros would fund politicians who seek to emasculate the American military and seek to tailor our foreign policy not to promote and protect American interests but rather to kowtow to the United Nations.

Thankfully, his is still a minority viewpoint and all the money in the world is not going to bring his loony ideas of a one world government any closer to reality. But he is still a very dangerous, unprincipled, ruthless man who is determined to succeed. The only question is what won’t he do to make his agenda a reality.

UPDATE: John Tirman comments

John Tirman, the executive director and a principle research scientist at MIT’s Center for International Studies and the individual who commissioned the Lancet study denies any involvement by George Soros in the project:

I am reluctant to reply to this Soros Derangement Syndrome, but I will do so once for the benefit of the entire right-wing blogosphere. Yours is the first one I happened upon. Soros did not fund the Lancet 2 survey. MIT did. I commissioned the study. We did it with internal funds in October 05, with the hope of getting the results out by spring. Iraq being what it is, that proved impossibly dangerous, so there was a delay. The results were released when ready.

The Open Society Institute had no role whatsoever in the origination, conduct, or findings of the survey.

The new survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Health shows 400,000 excess deaths, 150,000 by violence, since the U.S. invasion. Their numbers are probably low for violence, but the larger point remains—-all surveys (Lancet 1 and 2, Iraq Health Ministry, and Opinion Business Research) show hundreds of thousands dead. The 4.5 million displaced, the 500,000 new widows, etc., underscore this catastrophe. We are trying to measure and understand it.

From the TimesOnline article quoted in the body of the post:

Professor John Tirman of MIT said this weekend that $46,000 (£23,000) of the approximate £50,000 cost of the study had come from Soros’s Open Society Institute.

How do you square his quote in the article with “The Open Society Institute had no role whatsoever in the origination, conduct, or findings of the survey…?” Yeah, but what about funding?

The good professor is saying that the OSI may have funded the survey but had no input into its findings. Why he couldn’t admit that in the comment is beyond me. Instead, he obfuscates the point by throwing up the strawman argument that OSI didn’t have any role in the findings – neglecting to mention that he told TOL that in fact, Soros partially funded the project (we must assume through MIT or perhaps a grant to the CIS - again Mr. Tirman is mute on the subject).

The problems with the Lancet 2 study were examined and found wanting by The National Journal - no bastion of right wing thinking by any means and one of the most respected political and government publications in the United States.

In fact, the Journal doesn’t just debunk the study. The Journal articile is an indictment – of Tirman, of Roberts, of the entire crew who tried to foist this propaganda on the American people.

The linked Journal article is long and extremely detailed. Not only are there problems with methodology that have been widely disseminated but I find it extraordinarily telling that, as with the first Lancet study, none of the underlying evidence has been released – as is customary and proper in order to allow peers to examine the evidence themselves and test whether the author’s conclusions can be duplicated:

Still, the authors have declined to provide the surveyors’ reports and forms that might bolster confidence in their findings. Customary scientific practice holds that an experiment must be transparent—and repeatable—to win credence. Submitting to that scientific method, the authors would make the unvarnished data available for inspection by other researchers. Because they did not do this, citing concerns about the security of the questioners and respondents, critics have raised the most basic question about this research: Was it verifiably undertaken as described in the two Lancet articles?

Tirman should not be wasting his time responding to me and my little blog. He should be responding to the National Journal. I would say that if what the Journal is writing is true (even half of it) Tirman is either a prevaricator of monstrous proportions or a self deluded ideologue who can’t recognize his own biases have clouded his academic and scientific judgement.

Given the deliberate obscurance of his comment, either is possible.


Bill Arnold points out in the comments that it is impossible to use the New England Journal of Medicine Study to “debunk” Lancet because the two studies cover totally different ground. Lancet deals with “excess” deaths while the NEJM study only deals with violence related deaths.

Mr. Arnold is correct and I have stricken that observation from the post.

By: Rick Moran at 7:53 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)


There is nothing surprising in the fact that the CIA informed Members of Congress about what they were doing to get information from high value al-Qaeda prisoners. Nor is it surprising that Democrats who were briefed would have kept that information from their colleagues as they were bound to do by law.

Some Republicans are trying to explore the hypocrisy angle by trying to point out that Democrats are hardly in a position to come down on Republicans for torture when their own leadership was privy to the “severe interrogation techniques” being used. I have yet to see any quotes from those who we know were briefed that they then objected to the torture later and used it in a political context to bash their opponents.

In the absence of proof that Pelosi, Reid, Rockefeller, Harman, et al criticized the Administration for their torture policies, it is hard to make the hypocrisy charge stick.

However, they can be and should be excoriated for meekly going along with these policies and not registering their objections in the strongest possible terms. Alone among the Democrats, former ranking minority member of the House Intel Committee Jane Harman says she sent a letter of protest to the CIA questioning their methods to extract information. The letter fell on deaf ears.

Some of the netnuts are twisting themselves into knots to posit the notion that the whole purpose of the briefings was to embarrass the Democrats:

It’s pretty clear that either one of the Republican members of Congress at the meeting, or the CIA, decided to leak what happened at a super-classified post-9/11 briefing in order to embarrass Pelosi and the Democrats. And I don’t doubt for a minute that Bush approved the leak, as he always does.

It’s also clear that had Pelosi raised any private objections during the meeting – remember, it took place in the first year after September 11 – Bush and the Republicans would have leaked that fact to the public (like they just did) and destroyed her career and marked her publicly as a traitor. No member of Congress, no American, could have spoken up about anything in the months after September 11 and survived. It’s patently unfair to suggest that somehow because Pelosi didn’t object then that she doesn’t have the right to object now.

One final point. I hope this teaches Pelosi and Reid and all the Democrats that no matter what you do, this administration will mark you as a traitor and try to do destroy you. You might as well fight back and try to win, because if you don’t, you’ll sit back and lose.

Note that not only did some nefarious Republican leak from a “super classified” briefing – as if Avarosis ever gave a crap about leaking from other classified briefings as long as they reflected badly on Republicans – in order to make Pelosi look bad today, they would have leaked back in 2002 if Pelosi had objected to make her look bad today.

Of course, Johnny has no evidence whatsoever that a Republican leaked the story to the Post nor does he have a scintilla of evidence that Bush was behind it. He’s just throwing crap against a wall to see what sticks – a pastime he enjoys immensely when outing gay Republicans who would choose otherwise.

One other major meme that is emerging from the netroots is that since Bush had this meeting hanging over their heads, the Democratic leadership refused to begin impeachment hearings. With that kind of logic, we can expect an immediate effort by Pelosi to start the impeachment bandwagon moving next week now that everything is out in the open.

Fortunately for the republic, Pelosi is a little smarter than the rabid, frothing at the mouth bloggers who would push the Democratic party over the impeachment abyss.

Finally, just for levity’s sake, we now have to 9/11 truthers hot on the trail of the destroyed DVD’s that opened this whole can of worms in the first place. Here’s a comment left on my post on the subject:

The tapes destroyed primarily not because torture but because of what the tapes reveal. Possibly revealing the conspiracies behind 9/11 attack. This is another set of evidence revealing that the 9/11 was an inside job. The secret societies are directly responsible for this. Especially Bush family’s Skull & Bones. 2006 movie “the good shepherd”, directed by Robert De Nero, shows how the CIA was formed and the Skull & Bones influence over the intelligence community plus CIA’s torture…

I am not one who believes the republic has been permanently destroyed as a result of the torture authorized by the Administration. Good grief what a shallow and ignorant view of history one must have to believe that nonsense. We survived four score and seven plus years of allowing slavery in this country – even to the point that the government was in cahoots with slave owners in that they went after escaped slaves in the north and depended on revenue gleaned from cotton exports to survive.

There are plenty of sins committed by the United States government – some of which make torturing murderous jihadis look like a walk in the park. The innocents who have been victims of the government down through the years are a much blacker stain than the “severe interrogation techniques” used by the CIA and Army on, by all reports, was an extremely limited number of murderous, cold eyed killers.

Torture is wrong in all cases at all times. But to get hysterical about its implications for the republic, as most on the left seem determined to do, is absurd. Those nations overseas who are saying “American has lost its moral standing” didn’t recognize that standing in the first place. And even if some actually feel that way, I can guarantee that the next time we selflessly give of ourselves to save the victims of some natural disaster or pull some tiny country’s chestnuts out of the fire when it is being bullied by a larger neighbor, talk about America losing “the moral high ground” will disappear fairly quickly.

Let us treat this with the seriousness it deserves without either exaggerating its impact on our history or using it as a political club in a cynical attempt to demonize your political opponents. Torture has been used to our great shame and calumny. But it hardly merits the “end of the republic” rhetoric being bandied about so cavalierly by those whose outrage is nurtured and husbanded against their own government rather than directed equally toward an enemy that seeks to kill us all.

By: Rick Moran at 10:42 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

CATEGORY: Iran, War on Terror

According to the Washington Post, a footnote in the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran which reports a halt in Iranian nuclear bomb building in 2003, shows that the main conclusions in the document came about as a result of two crucial pieces of intelligence; the now famous design for a bomb casing found in an Iranian document dump to the International Atomic Energy Agency back in 2004 and SIGINT from last summer involving conversations between high ranking Iranian generals that clearly indicated the program had been halted:

Senior officials said the latest conclusions grew out of a stream of information, beginning with a set of Iranian drawings obtained in 2004 and ending with the intercepted calls between Iranian military commanders, that steadily chipped away at the earlier assessment.

In one intercept, a senior Iranian military official was specifically overheard complaining that the nuclear program had been shuttered years earlier, according to a source familiar with the intelligence. The intercept was one of more than 1,000 pieces of information cited in footnotes to the 150-page classified version of the document, an official said.

Several of those involved in preparing the new assessment said that when intelligence officials began briefing senior members of the Bush administration on the intercepts, beginning in July, the policymakers expressed skepticism. Several of the president’s top advisers suggested the intercepts were part of a clever Iranian deception campaign, the officials said.

The fact that the Administration looked in askance at this new information was prudent, wise, and exactly the right thing to do. After all, it represented a 180 degree turnabout in what we thought we knew about the Iranian nuclear program. The intel folks then vetted the information in a unique manner:

Intelligence officers then spent months examining whether the new information was part of a well-orchestrated ruse. Their effort included “Red Team” exercises in which groups of intelligence officers tried to punch holes in the new evidence, substantially delaying publication of the NIE.

I was mistaken (as was half the liberal blogosphere) when I took the Administration to task for “sitting on the report” for a year. In fact, it appears that the White House had the final report for less than a week before they themselves released it:

Last year, Congress required that key judgments from the NIE be declassified. McConnell said in November that he had no plans to issue an unclassified version, but officials said the dramatic shift in the assessment convinced him otherwise. “Since our understanding of Iran’s nuclear capabilities has changed, we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available,” Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of national intelligence, said in a statement.

This puts the kibosh on some of my conservative friends who were speculating that this was a leak from the anti-Administration cabal at CIA/Defense/State. It was released by the Administration itself – probably to pre-empt the bureaucrats who would have leaked it anyway.

But no matter how it got out in the open, there is great unhappiness on the right. Michael Ledeen:

At this point, one really has to wonder why anyone takes these documents seriously. How can anyone in his (there was no female name on the document, nor was any woman from the IC present at the press briefing yesterday) right mind believe that the mullahs are rational? Has no one told the IC about the cult of the 12th Imam, on which this regime bases its domestic and foreign policies? Does not the constant chant of “Death to America” mean anything? I suppose not, at least not to the deep thinkers who wrote this policy document.

And as for Iran’s delicate sensitivity to international pressure, just a few days ago, the European ‘foreign minister’ Javier Solana was on the verge of tears when he admitted he had been totally unable to get the Iranians to come clean on their uranium enrichment program, even though he had told them that more sanctions were in the works. Yet, according to the IC, this program–neatly described in a footnote to the “Estimate” as “Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment—really doesn’t have anything to do with nuclear weapons. But if that is so, why are the Iranians so doggedly hiding it from UN inspectors?

Ledeen is a smart guy but he’s either being incredibly disingenuous here or deliberately obtuse. The “12th Imam” clique surrounding Ahmadinejad has been losing influence for a year. Ledeen knows full well that there are other factions in the Iranian hierarchy that are more pragmatic (if not less radical in their hatred of Israel and America) than Ahmadinejad’s true believers who have been stifling his domestic reforms and trying to rein him in on foreign policy.

But Ledeen asks a good question about why the intransigence by the Iranians with IAEA? The reason – and I base this on my reading from a variety of learned sources not any independent thinking of my own – is that Ahmadinejad has made the uranium enrichment issue a national sovereignty issue, thus garnering a tremendous amount of domestic support for continuing the enrichment program. The Iranian president seeks, above all, respect from the international community for Iran’s “achievement” in enriching the tiny amounts of uranium they have been able to process. This is where all his talk about “double standards” on the nuclear issue comes into play. He resists the IAEA because he feels their inspections intrude on what he sees as Iran’s sovereign right to develop what he calls a “peaceful” nuclear program.

Of course, the funny thing about a “peaceful” nuclear program is that the process that enriches uranium to reactor grade level is exactly the same process that enriches the uranium to weapons grade level. As I mentioned yesterday, our intelligence people believe that Iran has suspended work on weapons design, warhead and delivery systems, and other aspects of the nuclear program that could be identified as “single use.” It wouldn’t take much time or effort to get those programs out of mothballs and start them moving again.

It troubles me that both sides in the debate over this document are cherry picking information to buttress their cases. Seen in its totality, I believe this NIE is cautious (perhaps overly so), prudent – in that it takes into consideration what we might not be able to see, – and careful in drawing conclusions. It’s main point – that Iran halted its dual use program in 2003 – appears solid as does its warning that we don’t know if that is still true today. In retrospect, I was too harsh on the Administration yesterday (thanks to my new Watchers Council colleague GW of Wolfs Howling for pointing this out) when I took them to task for their rhetoric. The fact that the White House is still warning the world about possible Iranian nukes is a sound policy that this NIE does nothing to undermine.

This is especially true because the Administration was giving those warnings in the context of trying to get the UN to initiate another round of sanctions. Let’s not forget why these sanctions are in place. The Security Council voted to force Iran to stop enriching uranium until the IAEA could determine the nature of their program. The Iranians refused and sanctions were ordered. And since the Iranians have made no effort to stop since then, more sanctions were applied.

Now the Administration is going for a third round of sanctions. The reason is exactly the same regardless of whether the Iranians have an active weapons program or not; they continue to defy the UN by expanding their enrichment program. Until Iran cooperates fully and the IAEA gives them a clean bill of health (while ensuring compliance through inspections and monitoring), sanctions should continue and be expanded the longer the Iranians refuse. The conclusions drawn by the NIE do not change this situation one iota. It is the enrichment program that poses a danger to the world and must be shut down until there are adequate safeguards in place that the Iranians will not use their knowledge to build a weapon.

One aspect of the NIE wasn’t changed from the 2004 document; the fact that prior to 2003, the Iranians were on track to build a nuclear bomb. Perhaps before the left begins to accuse the Administration of overselling the danger to the world of Iranian nukes, they remember that fact. We can’t read our adversaries minds so what the future aspirations of the Iranians might be with regard to acquiring a nuclear weapon remains hidden. Therefore, prudence dictates we continue our current course (without bombing) until pressure from the Security Council and the rest of the world brings the mullahs to heel and forces them to fully cooperate with the international community in revealing their entire nuclear program and make it available for long term monitoring.

By: Rick Moran at 7:48 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

Neocon News linked with Collecting thoughts on the NIE...
CATEGORY: Iran, War on Terror

Even if you don’t trust the Iranians farther than you can throw them, the National Intelligence Estimate on their nuclear program should enable you to breathe a sigh of relief. They will not have a bomb anytime soon – 2013 at the earliest according to the NIE - and their program is still plagued with technical problems.

But it is important to look at that program and realize what the NIE is actually saying.

  • Iran no longer has an active bomb program. This does not mean they have abandoned the idea of building a nuclear weapon – far from it, I’d say. What it means is that the parts of their nuclear program dealing with bomb making – weapons design, warhead development, delivery vehicle modifications, and probably the bulk of their experimental work – has been shut down or severely curtailed. It is also important to remember that much of what remains still has dual use capabilities, that while they are enriching uranium to reactor grade levels, they are certainly learning how to enrich it further in order to have weapons grade uranium.
  • The sanctions are working. It is clear that at least part of the reason the Iranians shut down those parts of their nuclear program dealing exclusively with bomb making is because they feared further sanctions.
  • The date of 2013 is probably too pessimistic but is a consensus date that everyone would sign off on. In 2 years, Iran will have several thousand more centrifuges up and running at Nantanz. At that point, assuming they wanted to restart their bomb program, it would probably be a matter of months – a year at most – before they built a bomb. A date closer to 2011 is probably more realistic but was left off in deference to those (and there is apparently a faction in our intel community who believe this) who think Iran is too technologically backward to have a bomb much before 2015.
  • The threat of an Iranian bomb will remain as long as Iran is enriching its own uranium.

Jeffrey Lewis chalks up the change to a bureaucratic shuffle initiated by former President Khatami that sought to forestall the matter of Iranian nukes from being taken before the UNSC:

I made this argument in a July 2005 blog post, pointing to a speech about Iranian decision-making by Hassan Rowhani that I called “wonkporn” and suggesting that the bureaucratic reorganization undertaken by Khatami might later been seen as the “beginning [of] a process of negotiations that constrained his more hardline successor.”

Another nuke expert, Paul Kerr, lays out the changes made:

Iran was publicly defiant and resisted cooperating with the IAEA investigation. Yet internally, there were signs that the government was anxious to avoid a potential confrontation with the United Nations. In an apparent attempt to facilitate cooperation with the IAEA, Iran consolidated decision-making authority over its nuclear program around October 2003. Hassan Rowhani, who was the head of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC)—Iran’s top decision-making body on security-related issues—was put in charge of nuclear diplomacy. Previously, oversight of the issue had been divided between Iran’s Foreign Ministry and its Atomic Energy Organization.

For those disposed to disbelieve or reject this NIE, it would be well to remember that if a consensus about something this vital to our security was found among such a fractious, quarrelling, multi-agenda driven group of spooks, you can bet the information it’s based on is pretty solid.

Now we come to the distasteful question of what in God’s name the Bush Administration has been doing sitting on this damn thing for year? And beyond that, is there any Bush supporter out there who believes anything this president says about national security anymore?

We have been treated to the most bombastic rhetoric emanating from this White House for the last year especially – all the while they were sitting on this NIE and its conclusions about the Iranian bomb program. How do you square Bush’s “World War III” comment with what’s in the NIE? Or any other dire warning we’ve heard coming from the White House?

I understand the need for regime change in Iran. I am not naive enough to believe that the Iranian government doesn’t represent a threat to our friends, allies, and interests in the region – nukes or no nukes. But this Administration has made a nasty habit for 7 years now of employing rhetoric on national security matters that doesn’t match what the situation actually is.

Kevin Drum asks why release the NIE now?

Democratic members of the various intelligence committees saw the NIE (or a summary or a verbal report or something) and went ballistic. Footnotes and dissents are one thing, but withholding a report whose primary conclusion is 180 degrees contrary to years of administration innuendo produced a rebellion. Somebody who got briefed must has threatened something pretty serious if the NIE didn’t see the light of day.

Like I said, just a guess. But who else has the clout to force Bush, Cheney, and McConnell to change course?

I don’t necessarily see a change in course since it’s pretty obvious the Administration had been on the diplomatic track for months now. What the NIE does is knock the chocks from underneath the neo-cons and set them adrift. They’ve got nowhere to go now – unless they want to argue that the NIE is wrong.

For different reasons, that’s exactly the argument being made by AJ Strata:

The NIE is quite clear. We know they stopped, we have no intel on whether they are still stopped or not. The reporting that Iran has stopped as of now is not accurate. Here is the scary part – Iran is still processing fuel! They don’t NEED to process fuel for Nuclear Energy. Russia has offered to SELL THEM fuel if they return the spent fuel so it cannot be used to make weapons

While AJ is right, that Russian offer was conditional on the Iranians halting their enrichment program – something that Ahmadinejad has now made (for largely domestic reasons) a national sovereignty issue and therefore, non negotiable.

Is bombing still a viable option? Unless you believe that the mullahs will not be dissuaded from eventually restarting the bomb making parts of their nuclear program then taking out the infrastructure is still on the table.

I still think bombing would be a bad idea – at least until we can say for sure that they have restarted that part of their program. The fact is, there is no reason for military action against Iran at the moment and every reason to continue applying pressure via sanctions to try and get them to stop enriching uranium. It also gives us time to develop and encourage those elements in Iran who could work to moderate or replace the regime – the latter being much more likely than the former.

The point is that time is once again our friend. Let’s use it wisely.

By: Rick Moran at 6:02 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (13)


This is a media story that should be getting a lot more coverage than it has.

An NRO reporter/blogger, W.Thomas Smith, Jr., reported from Lebanon last fall and several of his stories contained gross inaccuracies and what many Lebanese observers and reporters believe to be fabricated vignette’s regarding Hizbullah activities in Beirut as well as his own exploits in getting his stories.

I read most of Smith’s dispatches from Lebanon at the time and thought it odd that this American was able to get around so easily and had apparently fantastic sources who were feeding him colorful little nuggets of information. Compared to Michael Totten, David Kenner, (who also pointed out Smith’s fables among other outrages) and others who have written of their experiences there and how difficult it was to report what was happening in that confusing muddle of politics, religion, and geo-political conflict, Smith’s job seemed effortless by comparison.

I don’t believe I ever linked to any of his dispatches there if only because he really wasn’t giving any new information and I was disinterested in his personal observations in that they seemed rather self-indulgent. I remember at the time thinking “This guy is going to get killed or kidnapped if he’s not careful.” As it turns out, I needn’t have worried.

That’s because Smith embellished his “reporting” with at least two glaring factual inaccuracies or lies if you prefer. On September 25, Smith wrote that Beirut was occupied by “some 200-plus heavily armed Hezbollah militiamen” at a “sprawling tent city.” Then on the 29th, Smith reported that his sources had told him that 4,0000-5,000 Hizbullah militiamen had “”deployed to the Christian areas of Beirut in an unsettling ‘show of force.’”

Using the word “unsettling” is a rather large understatement. Such a move by the Shia militia into Christian Beirut would have almost certainly initiated a violent reaction. And while there is indeed a tent city that virtually surrounds the Grand Serail – a symbolic show by Hizbullah who has occupied the square since last December to protest what they see as the illegitimacy of the Lebanese government – the thought that there are “200-plus heavily armed” Hizbullah militiamen would probably come as a shock to the Lebanese army who are currently carefully stationed between Hizbullah and the government building. One journalist described activity at the tent city this way:

“This guy is hilarious. Armed Hezbollah at the Serail? He must be mistaking the Lebanese army at the gates – those 200 in the tents are some middle class Hezbollees – who now come once a week to have a smoke with their friends and get away from their wives.”

According to most of the Lebanese media sources I’ve read, there are rarely more than 500 people camped out there. And while the tent city has severely curtailed economic activity in downtown Beirut, the government is much more concerned about Syrian assassins than they are an armed Hezbullah thrust at the Serail. (Note: For the Glenn Greenwalds of the world, such was not the case last December when only entreaties from Saudi King Abdullah kept several dozen armed Hizbullah gunmen who had blockaded entrances to the building, from storming the Serail and toppling the government.) This is not to say that Hizbullah and their guns present no serious threat to the government’s existence. But there is certainly no immediate threat beyond the normal unease the government feels about 20,000 or so of its citizens in possession of guns and heavy weapons that could easily be turned on them.

There were other questionable tales told by Smith regarding his travels around Lebanon detailed in an email to Huffpo’s Thomas Edsall from Middle East correspondent Michael Prothero:

“In his [Smith’s] wildly entertaining postings, he describes kidnap attempts, an armed incursion into Christian East Beirut by 5,000 armed Hezbollah fighters that was missed by every journalist in town, he also notes the presence of 200 armed Hezbollah fighters in downtown Beirut ‘laying siege’ to the prime ministers office, recounts high-speed car chases and ‘armed recon operations’ where he drives around south Beirut taking pictures of Hezbollah installations, while carrying weapons. In a word, this is all insane.”

Clearly, Scott Beauchamp has nothing on Smith when it comes to just making stuff up.

Indeed, according to Edsall, Smith heavily criticized Beauchamp last fall while his Lebanon fables were were fresh on people’s minds. Edsall (and Glen Greenwald) try and make the curious point that this somehow calls into question NRO’s criticisms of Beauchamp or perhaps lessens their impact. I see the hypocrisy but facts are facts, my friends. Beauchamp lied, smearing the military in the process. What difference does it make with regard to the Beauchamp story if Smith got that one correct? Call him out for his hypocrisy but don’t try and use it to somehow defend Beauchamp.

Smith issued his partial mea culpa on Friday, trying to weasel his way out of apologizing and retracting what even he says are stories he simply made up:

In the case of the 4000-5000 Hezbollah troops, Smith wrote:

“I have not been able to independently verify that ‘thousands’ of armed Hezbollah fighters deployed to the Christian areas of Beirut in late September, but my sources continue to insist that it happened….

“In retrospect, however, this is a case where I should have caveated the reporting by saying that I only witnessed a fraction of what happened (from a moving car), with broader details of what I saw ultimately told to me by what I considered then—and still consider to be—reliable sources within the Cedar Revolution movement, as well as insiders within the Lebanese national security apparatus. As we were driving through that part of town, I saw men I identified as Hezbollah deployed at road intersections with radios. I was later told that these were Hezbollah militants deploying to Christian areas of Beirut, and there were four or five thousand of them.”

In the case of the 200 armed Hezbollah militia, Smith wrote:

“The Hezbollah camp in late September—and up until the time I left in mid-October—was huge (‘sprawling’). And though the tents were very large and many of them closed, I saw at least two AK-47s there with my own eyes. And this from a moving vehicle on the highway above the camp. And in my way of thinking, if a guy’s got an AK-47, he’s ‘heavily armed.’

“Did I physically see and count 200 men carrying weapons? No. If I mistakenly conveyed that impression to my readers, I apologize. I saw lots of men, lots of them carrying walkie-talkie radios, and a tent city that could have easily housed many more than 200. I also saw weapons, as did others in the vehicle with me. And I was informed by very reliable sources that Hezbollah does indeed store arms inside the tents. And they’ve certainly got the parliamentarians and other government officials spooked and surrounded by layers of security.”

This is a non-retraction retraction. He didn’t see 200 men carrying arms but he apologizes for mistakenly conveying that impression? It wasn’t an “impression.” He reported it as fact – a huge difference. But as I said, weasel words instead of a clear apology and retraction.

NRO Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez also issued an apology which was a not very forthcoming and praised Smith’s other reporting to boot:

Bottom line: NRO strives to bring you reliable analysis and reporting — whether in presenting articles, essays, or blog posts. Smith did commendable work in Lebanon earlier this year, as he does from S.C. where he is based, as he has done from Iraq, where he has been twice. But rereading some of the posts (see “The Tank” for more detail) and after doing a thorough investigation of some of the points made in some of those posts, I’ve come to the conclusion that NRO should have provided readers with more context and caveats in some posts from Lebanon this fall. And so I apologize to you, our readers.

“Context and caveats?” What good are those when your reporter is making stuff up? This is not quite Franklin Foer territory but it’s hardly the kind of reaction we should be seeing from responsible journalists. This is especially true since the reporter himself has disavowed the accuracy of the stories in question. Save the praise for another time and come clean about his mistakes. While you’re at it, Ms. Lopez, you should probably have taken the opportunity to announce that Mr. Smith was no longer employed at the National Review. A self-admitted fabulist has no business working for a magazine with as much integrity and honesty as NR has shown over the last 50+ years.

The excellent critiques of Smith’s made up Lebanon stories by Edsall and conservative blogger Michelle Malkin have done a great service to online reporting by holding our own to as high or higher standards than the mainstream media holds themselves. But this hysterical and dishonest screed written by Glenn Greenwald – where the confirmed sock puppetteer believes that Smith’s fables were more serious a transgression than Beauchamp smearing the military – prove that not only is Greenwald extraordinarily uninformed about Lebanon, but his screaming paranoia about the reasons for Smith’s fables could only be written by someone who has abandoned reason and logic in favor of partisan hackery.

As with all Greenwaldian diatribes, it is impossible to deal with due to the fact that there are so many distortions, false assumptions, straw men, and deceitful conclusions that any complete destruction of his cockeyed stupidities would necessarily be book length. However, allow me the luxury of picking and choosing from Mr. Greenwald’s idiocies to at least try and set the record straight on a few matters.

Greenwald pooh-pooh’s Hizbullah’s threat to the elected majority by writing of “Hezbollah’s alleged armed threat to the Lebanese Government.” There is nothing “alleged” about this threat in the slightest. It drips from every pronouncement made by the opposition regarding their year long seige of the government building in Beirut. There may be only a couple of hundred Hizbullah members camped out at any one time. But as Nasrallah has proved time and time again, he can have 500,000 screaming maniacs in the square facing the Grand Serail in 24 hours.

Some examples of “alleged” threats to the government by the only armed militia in Lebanon:

Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Kassem:

“This government will not take Lebanon to the abyss. We have several steps if this government does not respond but I tell them you will not be able to rule Lebanon with an American administration.”

FPM Leader and Hizbullah ally Michel Aoun:

He said the Saniora government “does not deserve to stay in power for one hour more … in a few days we will declare our rejection of this government and we will ask for the formation of a transitional government to organize new elections.”

He threatened that the “barbed wire doest not protect government offices. In the coming days the protest will expand.”

Aoun noted that protesters in Ukraine had stormed parliament building to push for regime change “and no one said that was an illegal move.”

And Aoun again:

Despite some of his allies’ refusal to storm the Grand Serail, the former army general said that “the natural tide can carry the demonstrators to the Grand Serail, which is why they increased the metal barriers.”

“Siniora should not take this as a threat but rather a warning, to him and to all those who support him, that the people will not wait much longer for him to step down. They don’t even need encouragement from the leaders.”

What is the government supposed to think when the opposition has its very own heavily armed, highly trained militia dedicated to achieving power? What is there “alleged” about this threat? Only an apologist for Hizbullah could make such an idiotic statement.

The other point about Greenwald’s writing about this affair is his deceitful references to Smith’s motives for his fabrications; that they are “war-fueling” and, in quoting approvingly from John Cole (the blind leading the ignorant when it comes to Lebanon), spreads the notion that Smith is agitating to get the US involved in a Lebanese civil war:

As Cole notes, while Beauchamp’s stories did nothing other than highlight the bruatlity (sic) of war, Smith “radically overstate[d] a military threat to a key ally, perhaps to agitate for American military involvement.”

Only a paranoid believes the US has any desire or interest in getting militarily involved in a civil war involving Hizbullah. There is not one shred of evidence that it has been contemplated or even discussed beyond a contingency. It simply is not going to happen. To believe it is possible or that Smith was beating the war drums to fight Hizbullah is not evident in either Smith’s writings or any pronouncement from any American official anywhere on earth. It is a totally decietful and gratuitous notion advanced by Greenwald with no basis in fact or reality.

And by the way, it is very difficult to “overstate” the military threat of Hizbullah to the government. While the idea that 4,000 Hizbullah militiamen entering Christian Beirut may be fanciful, the actual threat is extraordinarily serious and is taken that way by not only the Lebanese government but every actor in the region.

Greenwald should stick to his paranoid Bush bashing or perhaps write something else that makes Joe Klein look silly. His hysterical rants about Smith and right wing bloggers with their “war-fueling” items makes him look even more foolish than usual.


Ed Morrissey is considerably more charitable toward Lopez and NRO in his analysis:

Notice that she did not blame the critics for pointing out the error or assume that the criticism was motivated by some sort of conspiracy. She didn’t, in essence, blame the customer for a faulty product. She took quick action to investigate, found obvious shortcomings, and issued an apology and a detailed accounting of the problem.

This is indeed laudatory. However, given that Lopez felt the problem with the stories could have been solved if NRO had supplied caveats and context, Ed’s analysis doesn’t zero in on NRO’s true failings; that Smith exaggerated or made things up and Lopez didn’t acknowledge that fact.

By: Rick Moran at 3:22 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

CATEGORY: War on Terror

After months of two stepping their way around the issue of Scott Beauchamp’s integrity and the accuracy of his reporting, The New Republic’s editor Franklin Foer issued a 10 page statement in their online edition basically saying that they no longer stand by the what Beauchamp wrote about the US military:

When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.

Part of TNR’s “admission of error” is that they didn’t realize it was an ethical lapse to have to wife of the author fact check his stories:

But there was one avoidable problem with our Beauchamp fact-check. His wife, Reeve, was assigned a large role in checking his third piece. While we believe she acted with good faith and integrity–not just in this instance, but throughout this whole ordeal–there was a clear conflict of interest. At the time, our logic–in hindsight, obviously flawed–was that corresponding with a soldier in Iraq is logistically difficult and Reeve was already routinely speaking with him. It was a mistake–and we’ve imposed new rules to prevent future fact-checking conflicts of interest.

TNR’s “New Rule” to prevent “future fact checking conflicts of interests:”

“If you’re going to fact check your spouses stories, make sure you don’t leave a trail that reveals your relationship that can be followed on the internet.”

There is an element of self-pitying in Foer’s writing. He seems almost dazed by the onslaught that was hurled against him and he is genuinely at a loss as to how things worked out the way they did. He blames bloggers. He blames Beauchamp to some extent. He blames his staff. He blames the war. He blames the military.

But to me, he appears incapable of the kind of introspection that would lay the finger of blame directly and solely where it belongs; on his own, perplexed and bewildered head.

Some may recall my seminal post on the subject which was widely praised from one end of the blogosphere to another for its incredible insight, superior writing, and towering intellectual achievement. your memories aren’t that short. Suffice it to say that the work done by Owens, Ace and Riehl as well as the milbloggers and others to first confront and then debunk Beauchamp’s fables was the “real story” and I was wrong to try and downplay its significance – if only in the context that it mattered little to the war effort at the time.

Meanwhile, what’s to become of Foer? Of The New Republic? I asked that question of Jim Geraghty of NRO a couple of weeks back when I was co-hosting Ed Morrissey’s radio show and he said that a magazine like TNR would live as long as it was underwritten by people who agreed with its politics. Indeed, magazines like National Review (which has been on the financial knife’s edge more than once) and TNR survive because despite the Stephen Glass’s and Scott Beauchamps, the publications enjoy a great deal of respect among the political class.

Clearly, some of that respect has been tarnished as a result of this affair. And if the powers that be at TNR wish to regain some of that respect, they have no choice but to fire Franklin Foer without delay. Every day he is employed by TNR from here on out is a tacit acknowledgment that the magazine doesn’t care if what is published on its pages is true or not. Foer has got to go and the sooner the better.

Michelle Malkin points to this extraordinary email exchange between Foer and Beuachamp where the TNR editor is trying to pin down his writer on exactly where the incident of razzing the wounded, disfigured woman occurred:

tnr: where did you see the crypt keeper? (disfigured woman)

Beauchamp: are you there?

tnr: yes

Beauchamp: the last thing i got was “where did you see the crypt keeper”

tnr: yes

Beauchamp: the dfac on falcon or chow hall, as it IS commonly called

tnr: what about kuwait?

Beauchamp: brb [be right back]

Nine minutes of silence

tnr: you there?

Ten minutes of silence

Beauchamp: ok just did a sworn


tnr: about?

Beauchamp: saying that i wrote the


tnr: ok

Beauchamp: theyre taking away my


tnr: fuck is this it for communication?

Beauchamp: yeah and im fucked

tnr: they said that?

Beauchamp: because you’re right the crypt keep WAS in Kuwait


The agony of admission by Beauchamp is wrenching. Since this exchange took place back in August, it once again begs the question of what took Foer and TNR so long to come clean. I don’t think you can dismiss the idea that Foer was hoping the whole thing would blow over and be forgotten. Their excuse that an FOIA request by TNR to get the paperwork on the case from the military was strange because most of what they were asking for, they already had. The entire episode appears to have been one of damage control rather than truth seeking all along.

Bob Owens has his thoughts up at PJ Media:

As editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer allowed Scott Thomas Beauchamp to publish three stories that were not competently fact-checked. At least one of those that was assigned to his wife to fact-check even though that was a clear conflict of interest. All three of those stories—not just”ShockTroops”— had significant “red flags” in them. These red flags range from the changing of a tire of a vehicle equipped with run-flat tires in “War Bonds,” to several obvious and easily verifiable untrue statements, including the claim of a discovery of a kind of ammunition that do not exist, and absurd evidence for allegations of murder “Dead of Night” that could have been (and were) debunked in less than 30 seconds with a simple Google search.

The bottom line is that the Scott Beauchamp debacle was a test of editorial character for The New Republic under Franklin Foer’s leadership. For over four months, the magazine has answered that challenge by hiding behind anonymous sources, making personal attacks against critics, asserting a a massive conspiracy against them, while covering up conflicting testimony and refusing to answer the hard questions.

And many of those questions were asked by Owens himself who bulldogged this story from the beginning. Also keeping the story alive in those 4 months where Foer was dawdling were Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard Blog whose military sources fed him a stream of leaks from the investigation into Beauchamp and his allegations and several milbloggers who fought to right a wrong – a wrong that besmirched the military and everyone who serves.

Patterico doesn’t think we’ve seen the end of this story. Judging by what Bob Owens had to say, there are plenty of questions both Foer and eventually Beauchamp are going to have to answer. Until those answers are forthcoming, TNR is on the clock as far as the fate of Franklin Foer is concerned.

By: Rick Moran at 8:54 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)