4 years ago
Informed Comment: Some kind readers have requested that I say something about the report of UN-appointed German diplomat Detlev Mehlis concerning the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon. Mehlis is a careful and determined investigator and his findings, which fingered persons in the direct circle of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad, are explosive for the area....
Personally, I have been convinced by the series of bombings in Lebanon against anti-Syrian personalities (most recently May Shidyaq, the LBC journalist and interviewer), that high-level Syrian secret police officials are on a rampage. Whereas when Hariri was killed, his was only the second high-profile such assassination, and I found an al-Qaeda hit on him plausible (given his long association with the Saudi royal family), the subsequent string of such killings made that theory less and less likely. Mehlis's report seems to me highly credible. The only question left is whether al-Asad himself is implicated, or whether the Baathist Old Guard (which checked his reformist tendencies) has been operating behind his back. That his brother is implicated, as Mark LeVine says, is pretty damning, though.
The Bush administration wishes to take advantage of the scandal to push the Baath Party out of power. The likely successor in Syria, however, is the Muslim Brotherhood. If you had an MB state in Syria, it would certainly menace the stability of Jordan and very possibly of Saudi Arabia. You'd have a possible Fundamentalist Muslim Axis, stretching from Tehran to Basra to Damascus, then down to Amman and Maan, and over to Gaza. It would have problems of cohesion because of the Sunni-Shiite divide, but on issues like Israel the two can generally agree. Al-Sharaq al-Awsat had a piece not so long ago about how the Israelis had decided that having a weak Bashar al-Asad in power in Syria might be preferable to most likely alternatives. But Bush doesn't have the common sense of the Israeli officer corps, and is better at breaking things than gluing them together.
Let Justice Be Done- by Justin Raimondo: Everyone assumes Libby and his co-conspirators were really after Wilson, but this now seems unwarranted, especially in light of Fitzgerald's reported focus on the Niger uranium forgeries. If this question of the forgeries is now within Fitzgerald's purview, it opens up the possibility that the conspirators really were after Plame on her own account. If Plame and her associates were hot on the trail of whoever forged the Niger uranium documents, by neutralizing Brewster Jennings & Associates the Libby cabal closed one possible route to uncovering their schemes – and opened up another one.OK, so I'm a little late to the party... Others have already identified long before now that there must be something other than mere revenge motivating the Bushites in this matter, something so toxic that they would rather issue mea culpas for insertng the fale uranium claim into Bush's 2003 state of the nation address rather than have things be investigated more thoroughly. And, as Swopa notes below, that is about the only time the Bushites have ever expressed any contrition (unless you count the grudging statements about Katrina, which were still hedged by grumbles about how 'unprecedented' a hurricane in the Gulf was). What could have been so toxic as to have led the Bushites to scream 'Uncle' just in order to change the topic? Perhaps deliberately forging 'evidence' (later referred to as being in the 'British report') intended to mislead the nation into war, a crime that is not only punishable but also treasonous?
This drama is playing out in two theaters, one domestic and the other overseas. In Washington, the heavens are falling even before Fitzgerald issues so much as a single indictment, but they're also threatening to take a tumble in the Middle East. The U.S. is ratcheting up its campaign against Syria, even as the principal proponents of confronting Damascus – Libby, Hadley, Hannah, Wurmser, et al. – find themselves in Fitzgerald's sights. In effect, the prosecutor is running a race with the War Party: can they provoke a war with Syria before he brings charges?
As other observers have long since noted, what turned the Niger uranium story into a feeding frenzy in July 2003 wasn't that Joseph Wilson accused Dubya of saying something that wasn't true in his State of the Union speech -- it was that the Orwell Bush administration admitted it, something they had never done before and promptly decided never to do again.
So what prompted that isolated (and promptly orphaned) lapse of apparent honesty?...
Giving in to Wilson's criticism started a media firestorm about how the sentence got into the speech in the first place -- but apparently the Bushites preferred that to having people take a closer look at the "British report."
During each election cycle, we ponder the question of whether character matters. Of course it does. Does anyone doubt that the continued prosecution of this war has to do with the personality of the commander in chief, a man who is stubborn and calls it strength, who wears blinders and calls it vision? When he vowed to invade Iraq, the advisers he heeded were those who, like him, had never seen combat. The one who had was marginalized and is now gone. The investigation of who leaked what to whom, of what the reporter knew and how she knew it, may be about national security and journalistic ethics, but at its base it is about something more important: the Nixonian lengths to which these people will go to shore up a bankrupt policy and destroy those who cross them on it.
The most unattractive trait of the American empire is American arrogance, which the president embodies and which this war elevated.
For Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush to get what they wanted most, slam-dunk midterm election victories, and for Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney to get what they wanted most, a war in Iraq for reasons predating 9/11, their real whys for going to war had to be replaced by fictional, more salable ones. We wouldn't be invading Iraq to further Rovian domestic politics or neocon ideology; we'd be doing so instead because there was a direct connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda and because Saddam was on the verge of attacking America with nuclear weapons. The facts and intelligence had to be fixed to create these whys; any contradictory evidence had to be dismissed or suppressed.
Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney were in the boiler room of the disinformation factory. The vice president's repetitive hyping of Saddam's nuclear ambitions in the summer and fall of 2002 as well as his persistence in advertising bogus Saddam-Qaeda ties were fed by the rogue intelligence operation set up in his own office. As we know from many journalistic accounts, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby built their "case" by often making an end run around the C.I.A., State Department intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Their ally in cherry-picking intelligence was a similar cadre of neocon zealots led by Douglas Feith at the Pentagon.
This is what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's wartime chief of staff, was talking about last week when he publicly chastised the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" for sowing potential disaster in Iraq, North Korea and Iran.