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Why Clarke Annoys

Mark Steyn zeroes in on exactly what it is about Richard Clarke that bugs me.

No, it’s not because he’s criticizing pre-911 anti-terrorism failures. That’s what he’s supposed to do. Obviously there’s plenty of blame to go around. Neither the Bush nor the Clinton Administrations did a particularly bang-up job, although I’m willing to give both of them a pass for mistakes made before that dreadful date for the same reason I don’t blame FDR or Herbert Hoover for Pearl Harbor.

It’s this kind of nonsense that’s makes it hard for me to take the guy seriously.

The media were very taken by this passage from his book, in which he alerts Mr Bush’s incoming National Security Adviser to the terrorist threat: “As I briefed Rice on al-Qa’eda, her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard of the term before, so I added, ‘Most people think of it as Osama bin Laden’s group, but it’s much more than that. It’s a network of affiliated terrorist organisations with cells in over 50 countries, including the US.’ “

Now, when I heard that Clarke had said that, every BS-detector in my head went off. Turns out my instincts were sound.

Mr Clarke would seem to be channelling Leslie Nielsen’s deadpan doctor in Airplane!: “Stewardess, we need to get this passenger to a hospital.”

“A hospital? What is it?”

“It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.”

As it turns out, Clarke’s ability to read “facial expressions” is not as reliable as one might wish in a “counter-terrorism expert”. In October the previous year, Dr Rice gave an interview to WJR Radio in Detroit in which she discoursed authoritatively on al-Qa’eda and bin Laden – and without ever having met Richard Clarke!

Clarke similarly said Bush’s “facial expression” ordered him to connect Iraq with Al Qaeda even if there was no connection.

I’m sure Bush had a serious look on his face when he asked Clarke to figure out if Saddam had anything to do with 911. I suspected Saddam might have had a hand in it, and I know plenty of other people who did, too.

Looks like Saddam was out of the loop. And so what? Changing his regime wasn’t an act of revenge or retaliation any more than smacking down Adolf Hitler was to punish him for Pearl Harbor.

If Clarke has something substantive to say, we ought hear him out. If he would like to propose a different anti-terror strategy, that would be great – at a separate place and time. Not at the commission that wants to know what went wrong before 911. His “facial expression” testiomony isn’t going anywhere and looks a lot like baseless character assasination. (There’s a lot of that going around these days on more side than one.) And using his witness chair to gripe about overthrowing Saddam all but guarantees a polarized reaction to his testimony.

Frist Vs. Clarke

This Richard Clarke scandal is getting serious.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is suggesting that Clarke may have lied to Congress under oath this week. Clarke also testified before the House and Senate intelligence committees two years ago, and Frist says he told two contradictory stories. Both under oath.

If it turns out that Clarke did lie under oath, he’s in some really deep shit. The media and the anti-war brigades who lionized a perjurer as a hero are going to feel pretty darned stupid. And deservedly so.

If it turns out that he didn’t lie under oath, if the GOP gets the records declassified only to find there’s no there there, Bill Frist just shot Republican Party credibility to hell. This would be beyond politics as usual, which is bad enough. Bogus accusations of criminal behavior are not so easily forgiven or forgotten.

(The fact that Clarke made contradictory statements while not under oath is a totally separate question.)

Here’s what I want to know. Does Frist already know what Clarke said in his previous testimony? In other words, is his accusation of criminal behavior a reasonable one? A sitting president was impeached for lying under oath. About sex. This is no idle charge Frist is making.

Or is this just a slimy speculation? If so, Frist is unfit for his job.

Think that’s an overstatement?

Here’s what Scott Spradling said to Howard Dean a few months back.

Governor Dean, you had once stated that you thought it was possible that the president of the United States had been forewarned about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. You later said that you didn’t really know.

A statement like that, don’t you see the possibility of some Democrats being nervous about statements like that leading them to the conclusion that you are not right for being the next commander in chief?

Inded. And the same principle will apply to Frist if it turns out that he’s just mouthing off.

Politics may be ethically corrupting to many, if not most, people who practice it. I can accept that. But there ought to be a higher standard for the Senate Majority Leader and the top counter-terrorism adviser. Their job is to protect my office tower from being hit with a truck bomb, not to slime their opponents for cheap political career points.

The Clarke “Scandal”

I’m behind the curve on this one, but I suppose I should weigh in on the Richard Clarke “scandal.”

Clarke’s ability to undermine his own self with his own words is astonishing.

I’m sure he’s telling the truth in there somewhere. I don’t know when he is and when he isn’t. At this point, none of his blatantly contradictory statements are even worth quoting. This has been covered nearly to death elsewhere. Those interested in the details can follow the link.

Matthew Yglesias doesn’t think Clark has a credibility problem.

The “serious allegations” would turn on Clarke’s credibility if and only if administration figures would explain in a clear manner which of the allegations are not true and what is untrue about them. They have not done so.

He has a point. Administration officials do need to counter any claims by Clarke that aren’t true. Maybe they have and I missed it. Honestly, I don’t really know, partly because this story bores me, and partly because I have neither the time nor the energy to parse a series of “he said” and “she said” counter allegations by bickering politicians.

Even so, Matt is only half right. Clarke is perfectly capable of creating a credibility problem all by himself. That is independent of the fact that the Bush Administration may also have its own credibility problems.

I could be wrong, obviously, but I have feeling this guy is as ephemeral as a moth. He’ll be a footnote in two weeks and his book will be consigned to the remainder bins.

I’m sorry if this is a flip and lazy response. It is. I know it is. But the man hasn’t demonstrated he’s worth my time. He seems to me an arrogant self-aggrandizing phony. He isn’t even up to speed enough to know that his previous statements are all over the Internet, that those who are interested can compare and contrast what he’s saying now with what he has said in the past.

If you’re interested in some truly devastating criticism of pre-911 government failure, read what Bob Kerrey, the former Democratic senator from Nebraska, had to say. He’s a man worth taking seriously. If I were Bush I would be very afraid of facing an opponent like him. He is relentless, and he is right.

Breaking the Cycle

Israelis appease terrorists every time they agree to a prisoner swap.

It goes like this.

Israel captures terrorists. Terrorists kidnap Israelis. Terrorists demand the release of their captured comrades. Israel capitulates. Terrorists declare victory and repeat as needed. And so on and so on. Forever.

Once this cycle of appeasement starts, it’s a bitch to get off. Israel hasn’t managed it yet. They released yet more prisoners — 436 of them — not two months ago.

But they are learning to stop a different cycle of appeasement before it becomes too much of a pattern.

In the year 2000 when Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon under fire from Hezbollah, they withdrew behind the border recognized by the United Nations. There, they said. We’ve done what you wanted. Now, stop shooting at us.

But the shooting didn’t stop. Hezbollah celebrated the Israeli withdrawal as a tremendous victory for itself. Look at the Jew, they said. Weak and afraid. We are winning. So Hezbollah demanded Israel retreat even farther, deeper inside Israel’s own territory, so that Hezbollah can pull an old-fashioned land-grab and seize Israeli territory for itself.

Hezbollah now fires artillery not at occupation soldiers, but at civilians on the other side of the border.

Israel has learned from that mistake.

Ariel Sharon announced a withdrawal of forces from the Gaza Strip. Hamas, as expected, declared victory. What a propaganda coup, even if it’s bogus. Nothing Israel does encourages more terrorist recruits than convincing the average Palestinian that terror gets results.

So Israel zeroed in on the Hamas founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and blew him to pieces in broad daylight.

Israel followed up that bold strike with an announcement. The entire Hamas leadership is now targetted for annihilation. That threat is credible and puts Hamas’s claim of victory in serious doubt. It changes the entire calculus of the Israeli withdrawal. Israelis are leaving Gaza because they feel like it, not because they are weak, scared, bullied, bloodied, or losing.

Fish in a Barrel

Noam Chomsky has a blog now. And it has a comments section. Go say hi. And be nice. I don’t want to send him any trolls.

UPDATE: Chomsky’s comments section is a nightmarish place swarming with freaks and trolls. It’s worse than I expected. A lot worse. This is not going to be a pleasant experience for him unless he shuts down the comments.

And that’s too bad. My own comments section is invaluable, and I’m more careful about what I say now that I’ve switched to Movable Type (which has comments built in) and you all can yell at me and tell me I’m full of it.

Good feedback and debate might have made Chomsky smarter and more reasonable. But no. It will never happen. He has too many passionate enemies. He has no choice but to continue to wall himself off from reality.

UPDATE: Chomsky’s comments have been disabled. That became inevitable almost instantly.

Pas Comme Les Autres

I don’t have time to write much tonight. But I would like to point you to a guest piece by Gabriel Gonzalez at Winds of Change.

Gabriel is a frequent contributer to my comments section, so some of you will recognize his name. He lives in Paris and has a great deal to say about what’s up with French foreign policy. Those who think France is an American ally, albeit a highly critical one, might want to take a fresh look from the inside.

(P.S. If you would like to comment, please read the linked piece first.)

Before the Second Storm

That was the original title to my new Tech Central Station column: Are the Jacksonians Sated?

Name-Brand Socialism

Socialism is dead.

Really.

Oh, sure, its rotting corpse hasn’t fallen over yet in Cuba. ¡Socialismo o muerte! is still Fidel Castro’s bumper sticker after all these years. It’s as old as the cars in Havana. Someone should tell Fidel: Socialismo es muerte.

Spaniards just elected a socialist prime minister. Except they didn’t. So sayeth Chris Suellentrop in Slate.

[I]t says something about the state of small-”s” socialism—in addition to the state of the world—that conservatives are attacking Zapatero for his response to terrorism, not his attitude toward capitalism.

Granted, the war in Iraq and the war against al-Qaida are the whole reason the world has been watching Spain so closely for the past week. But there’s another reason for the conservative silence about Zapatero’s economics: The socialist debate over what to do about capitalism—and the proletariat, and the theory of surplus value, and the ownership of the means of production—is largely over in Europe. If the old libel against American liberals is that they’re socialists, the new European libel against socialists is that they’re liberals—classical ones. Here are some of the economic promises on which Zapatero’s Socialist Workers Party campaigned: lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 30 percent, cutting income taxes, and reducing the value-added tax. Oh, and they’re going to balance the budget and control inflation. The man expected to be the Socialist finance minister, Miguel Sebastian, is a U.S.-educated economist with a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He’s promising to put his faith in the Invisible Hand. “There will be a strict separation between politics and business,” he told the Financial Times. “We will be a market-friendly government.” These are socialists?

Nope. They aren’t socialists. They just kept the brand name.

More Trouble for Spain?

Spaniards may think they won a reprieve from terrorism, but Lee Smith argues in Slate that there may be more trouble ahead.

If the Spanish electorate believed that committing 1,300 troops to Iraq had needlessly exposed it to the jihadists’ ire, it ought to reconsider the 6,000 Spanish forces stationed in Ceuta and Melilla. The Spanish, whose new prime minister is fond of the word “occupation,” say there’s nothing unusual about having so many troops in Spanish cities. But these cities are not in Spain. Already some Islamist ideologues are beginning to group Ceuta and Melilla together with Palestine and Kashmir as Muslim lands to be liberated.

Ceuta and Melilla are considered by Spain to be a part of Spain. Where they aren’t is in Europe. Those cities are in Africa. They are holdovers from Spanish colonialism and are surrounded by the Mediterranean and by Morocco.

Lee Smith doesn’t say which Islamist ideologues are demanding the cities back. But since Osama bin Laden has already demanded the southern Spanish region of Andalucia, which is in Europe, it would be strange indeed if Ceuta and Melilla never become targets.

Condolences to Scott Elliot

Blogger Scott Elliot, aka The Blogging Caesar, has been linked on this blog and has frequently contributed to my comments section.

Both of his parents were killed in Iraq two days ago. I am so sorry.

Right-Wing Bigotry Alive and Kicking

I don’t want anyone telling me this isn’t bigotry:

DAYTON, Tenn. — Rhea County commissioners unanimously voted to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee’s criminal code so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

“We need to keep them out of here,” said Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the motion.

County Attorney Gary Fritts also was asked by Fugate to find the best way to enact a local law banning homosexuals from living in Rhea County.

This is so blantantly unconstitutional it has almost no chance of ever taking effect. It’s indicative of a certain kind of mind-set, even so.

How, exactly, do these people expect to implement this law should it ever come to pass? Would there be a central database somewhere that keeps track of all the gay names? Would property be confiscated?

What, I might ask, would conservatives think if Berkeley tried to pull a stunt like this to keep Christians out?

This is worse, actually, than mere bigotry. This is the sort of religious control freakery I expect to see in Iran.

The Price of Appeasement

Lee Harris suggests a thought experiment in Tech Central Station.

Suppose that last week’s attack had not been the work of terrorists, but the work of the United States. Suppose American jets had flown over Madrid on Thursday morning and dropped a scattering of bombs on the commuter trains, killing and maiming the exact same people who were killed and maimed in the terrorist’s attack. Suppose, further, that President Bush had subsequently announced that Spain would be subjected to further attacks if the Spanish voters did not vote as he wished them to vote.

Had the Spanish people docilely obeyed such a brutal command, and voted as the United States bid them vote, the world would be left in no doubt who really ruled Spain. The election would have clearly been understood as an act of collective capitulation and an abject abandonment of all claims to national sovereignty. Henceforth Spain, with good reason, would have been looked upon as a puppet state of the USA — in the exact same way that Soviet tanks in the streets of Prague in 1967 proved to the world who really ruled the Democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia.

This is imperfect, of course. Al Qaeda did not issue a demand that Spain vote a certain way. Perhaps they didn’t think they needed to.

MADRID, Spain (CNN) — A document published months before national elections reveals al Qaeda planned to separate Spain from its allies by carrying out terror attacks.

A December posting on an Internet message board used by al Qaeda and its sympathizers and obtained by CNN, spells out a plan to topple the pro-U.S. government.

“We think the Spanish government will not stand more than two blows, or three at the most, before it will be forced to withdraw because of the public pressure on it,” the al Qaeda document says.

“If its forces remain after these blows, the victory of the Socialist Party will be almost guaranteed — and the withdrawal of Spanish forces will be on its campaign manifesto.”

That prediction came to fruition in elections Sunday, with the Socialists unseating the Popular Party three days after near-simultaneous bombings of four trains killed 200 and shocked the nation.

(I’d like to add, as a post-script, that I do not agree with the conclusions drawn in Lee Harris’s article. The man is often brilliant, but he’s far too gloomy for me today. I still think the excerpted paragraphs are worth thinking about, however.)

Revolution Calling

You won’t see, read, or hear much about the violence sweeping through the streets of Iran in the mainstream media, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

The Corner and Project: Free Iran have the latest.

From The Corner:

I am listening to KRSI (Radio Sedaye Iran) right now. There are many Iranians calling (from Tehran, and Gorgan, etc.).

All reports indicate that almost every neighborhood in Tehran is on fire. People are throwing home-made bombs, Molotov cocktails, etc. into the homes of mullahs, and burning pictures of Khamenei in complete defiance of his recent edict to mourn during the month of Muharram.

From Project: Free Iran:

The Islamic republic regime’s anti-riot units and plainclothes men have opened the charge, at this time 21:35 local time, against the demonstrators in southern Tehran, Esfahan’s Tchahr Bagh and the city of Mashad by using knives, clubs and chains. Unconfirmed reports are stating about the use of plastic bullets in Esfahan and the Sadeghieh square of Tehran.

Several have been badly wounded during the attacks but fierce resistance is being made by thousands of young Iranians, male and female, who are opposing the attacks by the use of all available tools and especially Molotov cocktails which were made for such eventuality.

I don’t expect the Iranian regime will fall tomorrow, though for two reasons I hope that it does.

First and most obviously, the regime deserves to be violently overthrown. It has no right to exist. And the people of Iran, like all humans everywhere, have the right to live in freedom and with dignity. The Middle East, and the world as a whole, will be far better off when the religious fascists are marginalized, exiled, caged, or dead.

The second reason I hope it falls tomorrow is that it would really show up the media. Holy shit! The Iranian government was overthrown? How the heck did that happen?

The fools are asleep at the wheel. They either have no idea what is happening in the world, or they don’t care. Or maybe they don’t think we care.

Yet we do.

Home Again

I just got back from spending four days in the lovely city of Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s after midnight and I’m too tired and out of the news loop to write anything. Blogging will resume shortly.

I couldn’t help but notice this, however. Maybe I’m woefully behind the news curve, but are people aware that the bombings in Madrid happened 911 days after September 11?

Yes, It Was Appeasement

It looks like terrorism works, at least in Spain.

MADRID, Spain (AP) — The leader of Spain’s victorious Socialists said Monday he will withdraw his nation’s support for the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, restating a campaign promise a day after his party won elections overshadowed by terrorist bombings.

The fact that the Socialist party won Spain’s election isn’t appeasement per se. And it certainly wasn’t a vote for Al Qaeda, as some have alleged in my comments section. The Socialists are not a pro-Osama party.

Besides, the fact that a peaceful transfer of power followed an election in a country that was recently ruled by General Franco’s fascists is itself a rebuke to the totalitarian ideology of the killers.

What counts as appeasement is that the new Spanish prime minister vows to retreat from Iraq just days after the worst terror attack in Spain’s history. The general consensus in Spain seems to be that by joining the coalition to oust Saddam Hussein they were drawn into a fight that wasn’t theirs, that they made themselves a target when they should have stayed neutral. The bombs dropped in Iraq explode in Madrid sums up the thinking rather nicely.

Some people aren’t happy with the “appeasement” charge. Here is Randy Paul:

it is a special type of odious arrogance that will accuse an entire nation of being cowards simply from the comfort of your keyboard in San Diego because they decide to exercise their rights as citizens in a democracy, the same rights that you claim that we are fighting for in Iraq.

Spaniards aren’t being called “cowards” for exercising their democratic rights, Randy. No one I’m aware of has said Spain can’t vote for a left-wing party or that it doesn’t have the right to pull its troops out of Iraq.

The voters of Spain have every right to do both. But that doesn’t change the fact that what Spain has done is appeasement.

Let’s look up appeasement in the dictionary so we’re all on the same page.

ap·pease·ment

n. The policy of granting concessions to potential enemies to maintain peace.

Appeasement is not the same thing as treason or surrender. An appeaser recognizes that he has an enemy, or at least a potential enemy. In this case, Spain properly recognizes Al Qaeda as the enemy. The concession granted is the troop pullout from Iraq. The voters of Spain think this will take them off Al Qaeda’s enemies list and that Spain will then be at peace.

Some have called this a surrender. It is not. For Spain to actually surrender to Al Qaeda they would have to evacuate Andalucia and give it back to the House of Islam.

The problem with appeasement is that, from the point of view of the enemy, it’s not good enough. Al Qaeda won’t leave Spain alone unless Spain does surrender. Throwing the enemy a bone won’t cut it. Spain might get bumped down a notch on the target priority list, but that will not solve the problem.

Winston Churchill described the futility of appeasement best.

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

The implication, of course, is that the appeaser still gets eaten.

For those who think pulling out of Iraq immediatly after a huge terror attack isn’t appeasement, I’ll have to ask them what they think would qualify as appeasement (as opposed to surrender). If this doesn’t qualify as a textbook case, what does?

UPDATE: Let me just add that I think calling Spain a nation of cowards is obnoxious. (I do agree with Randy Paul about that.) Appeasement is a mistake, and it’s a mistake motivated by fear. It’s also a mistake that the US made repeatedly in the 1990s. (See Somalia.) And we weren’t a nation of cowards then.

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