Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shall we outlaw waterboarding?

Fox News reports that in connection with passage of the 2006 Military Commissions Act, Sen. Ted Kennedy proposed an amendment that would have expressly defined "waterboarding" (among other indignities) as a grave breach of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The Amendment lost, 46-53.
That is, the same senate that wants Mukasey to say waterboarding is unambiguously illegal in all circumstances declined to make it unambiguously illegal in all circumstances. I realize that the senate was in Republican hands then and it is in Democratic hands now; I realize if the vote were retaken today, the Amendment would have a better chance of passing. But the stubborn fact remains: it didn't pass – it lost.

Of course, you may have to waterboard Senators to get them to admit it.

More on torture

What does the Democrat front-runner say about torture?

The "ticking bomb scenario" represents a narrow exception to what should otherwise be our categorical prohibition against torture. After all, "in the event we were ever confronted with having to interrogate a detainee with knowledge of an imminent threat to millions of Americans," it might be necessary for a president to make "the decision to depart from standard international practices[.]" The president, of course, "must be held accountable" for such a decision; but the president would have to be prepared to make it in such dire circumstances.

Who says so? Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, that's who. The Democrats' coronee-in-waiting made the comments in an interview by the New York Daily News last October.

What Congress should do if it really believes "waterboarding" is illegal:

If Democrats, and Republicans led by John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are determined to criminalize waterboarding, they should do it the way law is made in a democracy. That would mean proposing clear legislation and arguing that it is better to risk the death of thousands of Americans in a terrorist attack than it is for Khalid Sheik Mohammed to be subjected to non-lethal, simulated drowning that causes neither great pain nor lasting injury.


How the Bush Administration should be handling the issue:

Here is how the administration can extricate itself and fight back on this crucial issue: First, remind people of the legal niceties and creature comforts enjoyed by detainees at Guantanamo. Contrast these humane, relatively luxurious conditions with the genuine torture that al Qaeda unleashes on its victims.

Then, outline the priceless intelligence America has gleaned and the plots we have unraveled, thanks to intense interrogation of the Islamofascist killers who our brave soldiers and spies have captured.

Finally, for both psychological and tactical reasons, the Bush Administration should announce that America will reinstate waterboarding as an interrogation technique, effective immediately.


Irish Bulls

I note this article:

It's a harmless enough hobby. I collect flights of rhetoric that suddenly crash. They exert the same fascination for me that toy train wrecks do for little boys.


My old friend Father John O’Donnell has sent me a batch of similar sentences, all collected in one article by a connoisseur of the art, Francis Griffith. The genre turns out to have a name: Irish bulls. This herd arrived in time for last Saint Patrick's Day, and I've been laughing ever since.

An Irish bull, I learned, is not a branch of the Hereford family. It is "a verbal blunder which seems to make sense but after a moment's reflection is seen to be wildly illogical."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Torture on NRO

A couple of articles about torture at NRO:

Clifford D. May writes:

On one extreme of the debate over interrogating terrorists are the Jack Bauers, those who – like the lead character in Fox's hit series 24 – think you do whatever it takes to get the information you need from someone plotting mass murder. At the other extreme is the antiwar Left: They wouldn't harm a hair on 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's head to save Disneyland at Christmas.

Those of us who hold views somewhere between these poles ought to be having a serious discussion about what methods should be permissible and under what circumstances. But that's become close to impossible. A case in point: I was on The Abrams Report on MSNBC last week to discuss whether Judge Michael Mukasey, during congressional hearings, should have said whether "waterboarding" "simulated drowning" constitutes torture and therefore must be prohibited.


Andrew J. McCarthy writes:

Jonathan Turley has penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times claiming that Michael Mukasey, President Bush's nominee to become the next attorney general, should be disqualified for failing to condemn waterboarding as torture. According to Turley, Judge Mukasey's confirmation-hearing testimony was evasive, and the nominee flatly lied to the committee when he said he did not to know what was involved in the technique called "waterboarding." The accusation about lying is noxious and what passes for legal reasoning in Turley's piece is especially shameful for a George Washington University law professor.

To begin with, interrogation tactics used in top-secret Central Intelligence Agency programs are classified. The fact that Professor Turley, Judge Mukasey, I, or anyone else may know, as a general matter, what waterboarding is does not mean we know how it has been practiced (assuming it has been practiced) by the CIA. Just a brief perusal of the available literature on the Internet demonstrates that there are variations – and those are just the ones we know about.

Mukasey on Water boarding

...At the Wall Street Journal

This Year's Fires

Predictions about this year's fire season in Southern California can be found here:

Quis custodiet?

OK, the FISA court decides when surveillance is OK, but what oversight is there? How much oversight should there be?

For one who recently returned from Europe, where a colleague and I interviewed an array of domestic security officials in key European democracies, it is a bit of an out-of-body experience to examine the various bills now pending on Capitol Hill that aim to govern how the U.S. government conducts foreign electronic surveillance. While the exact mechanisms for intercepts and wiretaps vary from nation to nation, the overwhelming standard for such collection in Europe is simple: Does it make sense to target someone for surveillance, and is it, on its face, reasonable to do? Overwhelmingly, the judgment about whether it is reasonable is left in the hands of either the executive or an investigating magistrate. Any oversight is minimal.

A discussion of the amendments to FISA.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A review of Gould "Mismeasure of Man"

(Hat tip: Dissecting Leftism)

After carefully reading the book, I charge Gould with several counts of scholarly malfeasance. First, he omits mention of remarkable new discoveries made from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which show that brain-size and IQ correlate about 0.40. These results are as replicable as one will find in the social and behavioral sciences and utterly destroy many of Gould's arguments. Second, despite published refutations, Gould repeats verbatim his defamations of character against long deceased individuals. Third, Gould fails to respond to the numerous empirical studies that show a consistent pattern of race differences in IQ, brain size, crime, and other factors that have appeared since his first edition went to press.

Dr Watson, continued

James Watson continues to write on genes and intelligence.

...genetics can be cruel. My own son may be one of its victims. Warm and perceptive at the age of 37, Rufus cannot lead an independent life because of schizophrenia, lacking the ability to engage in day-to-day activities. For all too long, my wife Ruth and I hoped that what Rufus needed was an appropriate challenge on which to focus. But as he passed into adolescence, I feared the origin of his diminished life lay in his genes. It was this realisation that led me to help to bring the human genome project into existence.

In doing so, I knew that many new moral dilemmas would arise as a consequence and would early on establish the ethical, legal and societal components of the genome project. Since 1978, when a pail of water was dumped over my Harvard friend E O Wilson for saying that genes influence human behaviour, the assault against human behavioural genetics by wishful thinking has remained vigorous.

We do not yet adequately understand the way in which the different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity to do different things. The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity. It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science.

To question this is not to give in to racism. This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers. It is very likely that at least some 10 to 15 years will pass before we get an adequate understanding for the relative importance of nature versus nurture in the achievement of important human objectives. Until then, we as scientists, wherever we wish to place ourselves in this great debate, should take care in claiming what are unarguable truths without the support of evidence.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The logic of torture

Gabriel Schoenfeld looks at what torture is, what it isn't, and the gray areas between.

The Population Bomb

One of the 50 worst books in history?

Even worse than The Eye of Argon?

(I suppose so. No one takes Eye seriously.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Giuliani on torture

A moderately hysterical NY Times piece, with a collection of shrilly hysterical comments.


IQ differences are real, but do they matter?

The evidence is that IQ, as conventionally measured, does differ between racial groups. Many studies have shown differences of about 15 points between the mean scores of white and black groups, and some have shown that Chinese and Japanese groups score higher still.

A second argument - that IQ doesn't matter anyway -is easier to dismiss. A large body of evidence shows that IQ is linked to success in life, both educational and economic. This is why the gap narrows when corrections are made for socio-economic status, because in a mobile society success is largely determined by intelligence.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Watson, up the crick?

Fury at DNA pioneer's theory: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners

Celebrated scientist attacked for race comments: "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really"

By Cahal Milmo

Published: 17 October 2007

One of the world's most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that "equal powers of reason" were shared across racial groups was a delusion.

James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America's leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made ahead of his arrival in Britain today for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London.


Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

His views are also reflected in a book published next week, in which he writes: "There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."

Mukasey and Torture

Jonathan Turley opines in today's L.A. Times:

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote in favor of Michael Mukasey to be the new U.S. attorney general, sending his nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. What is most surprising is the wave of support from the committee's Democrats, who seem determined to ignore what they clearly view as a minor flaw in the nominee: his refusal to denounce the deplorable practice of "water-boarding" and his apparent willingness to lie to duck the issue.

Declaring "water-boarding" a "clear and unambiguous act of torture under international and U.S. law", Turley calls for the Senate to reject Mukasey's nomination.  What does he object to in Mukasey's responses?

At first, he repeatedly stated that he does not support torture, which violates the U.S. Constitution. This is precisely the answer given so often by President Bush like a mantra. The problem is that Bush defines torture to exclude things like water-boarding. It is like saying you do not rob banks, but then defining bank robbery in such a way that it does not include walking in with a gun and demanding money from the cashier.

Well, if you must use this analogy, walking in to a bank with a gun and demanding money from the "cashier" is only robbery if the "cashier" actually hands over money. Otherwise, it's assault. (And Turley's a law professor? Come on!)

The senators pushed Mukasey to go beyond the Bush administration mantra. He refused and then said something that made many of us who were listening gasp: "I don't know what is involved in the technique," he said.

Actually, that's still a valid answer, despite the publicity water-boarding has received.

Terry Karney, who has screamed and wailed that "the Administration condones torture" has equated water-boarding with "mock executions", which are explicitly banned under the Geneva Conventions. So the question becomes, is water-boarding administered in such a way that the subject believes he's not going to survive? Not too long ago, a news reporter was water-boarded on TV. I think we can assume he had every expectation that he would survive the process, nevertheless it was still no picnic. Are terrorists who are being water-boarded told they're going to die, or that they'll survive the process? That could make a critical difference to a judge reviewing the legality of the technique.

If the administration is unable to find a nominee who will denounce torture, then it should be left with an acting attorney general who will lead the department without the consent of the Senate. After all, there are worse things than being denied confirmation. You could be water-boarded, for example.

The thing is, there are worse things than being water-boarded. The Al Qaeda manual that was captured some months ago displayed a number of them. Although a reporter was willing to be water-boarded on TV, I've yet to see one volunteer to have his skin burned with a hot clothes iron, or have holes drilled in him with an electric drill.

There's a line between what constitutes torture, and what does not. Some things will lie very close to the line, and reasonable people may differ over what technique belongs on which side of the line. To declare that people who disagree with your placement of that line "refuse to denounce torture" is more of a hysterical fit than a reasoned argument.

Progress in Iraq

The death tolls are dropping.

Phony Outrage about Rush Limbaugh

David Limbaugh has a piece looking at the phony outrage about his brother's "phony soldier" comments.

Jena Six timeline

Look for it at the link above.

Twelve Myths about the Jena Six

Gee, that's two myths per Jena thug!

Myths looked at are:

Myth 1: The Whites-Only Tree.

Myth 2: Nooses a Signal to Black Students.

Myth 3: Nooses Were a Hate Crime.

Myth 4: DA's Threat to Black Students.

Myth 5: The Fair Barn Party Incident.

Myth 6: The "Gotta-Go" Grocery Incident.

Myth 7: The Schoolyard Fight.

Myth 8: The Attack Is Linked to the Nooses.

Myth 9: Mychal Bell's All-White Jury.

Myth 10: Jena 6 as Model Youth.

Myth 11: Jena Is One of the Most Racist Towns in America.

Myth 12: Two Levels of Justice.

These are just 12 of many myths that are portrayed as fact in the media concerning the Jena cases. (A more thorough review of all events can be found at – click on Chronological Order of Events.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Five myths about rendition

These myths are:

1. Rendition is something the Bush administration cooked up.

2. People who are "rendered" inevitably end up in a foreign slammer -- or worse.

3. Step one of a rendition involves kidnapping the suspect.

4. Rendition is just a euphemism for outsourcing torture.

5. Pretty much anyone -- including U.S. citizens and green card holders -- can be rendered these days.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dark Networks

This post from Belmont Club opens with an unsettling tale:

A Ferrari engine makes a deep, distinctive sound. When the children at Portugal's most famous orphanage heard the sports car roaring down the driveway, fear swept through the dormitories.

The noise could mean only one thing: the man known as The Doctor was coming to call. Yet this medical practitioner had no intention of adhering to the ancient Hippocratic Oath.

Instead, arriving at Casa Pia (House of the Pious), a 17th century Lisbon orphanage where more than 4,000 children are cared for each year behind high stone walls, the doctor would summon selected boys and girls from their beds for examinations one night each week.

Where possible, he chose deaf-mutes.

They were being used as sex slaves and for kiddie porn.


Also cited is the case of Marc Dutroux, a convicted pedophile.

Wretchard mentions the crime of child sexual abuse almost in passing, turning his attention to the networks that support it.

How do these networks of scum form? My intuition is they form in a way not very different from any Small World Network, of which terrorist cells are a familiar example: that there are hubs, to which a new arrival on the scene can easily form an attachment. As with all Small World Networks, there are probably only a small number of "hops" which separate a footsoldier like Marc Dutroux from the evil Mr. Bigs. The existence of hubs will guarantee that.

One piece of academic research which might help us understand the structure of pedophile rings is The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution, a monograph by Microsoft which examines how illegally downloaded music or video is shared across a Darknet -- a private network of distribution. It's usefulness lies in that the abstract characteristics of illegal file sharing systems it describes are probably shared to some degree by the pedophile networks. By examining the architecture and vulnerabilities of one, we better understand the organization and weaknesses of the other.

Early attempts to shut down large scale illicit content distribution focused on closing down servers from which the material was downloaded. This would be the equivalent of closing down the Casa Pia orphanage described in opening paragraph. But just as the architects of content distribution sharing systems responded by creating a peer to peer structure where the "goods" were passed from one anonymous system to another, so will the pedophiles have adapted. It was suggested that if Madeleine were indeed abducted, she was "abducted to order". You don't download a child from the server any more, just from another peer node. But even this switch from a client-server model to a peer to peer system did not remove the vulnerabilities entirely. The Small World Property reasserted itself in video and music file sharing networks and created super-peers which were themselves like the old content servers. And these too can be targeted. This means that even in a pedophile network without wholesale warehouses like the Casa Pia orphanage, there are "hubs" of users which occupy important positions in the system. Taking down those hubs will degrade the system seriously.

In effect, networks are networks, and are constrained by the same laws whether they deal in music (and video) downloads, child abuse, or terrorism. The tools that work on one are very likely to work on others.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rush on dot org

Just a link

The mugging that wasn't

An Air America host was reported to have been mugged. One of the other hosts on the station speculated that it was a hate crime – some right-wingers had beaten her up.

This was all over the blogosphere before the truth came in: She had tripped and fallen. No attack squad in sight.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is Waterboarding Torture?

The new Attorney General doesn't seem to have an answer.

The post, at Patterico's blog, is not very interesting, but the comments are.

In particular, we have a pointer to this piece at Blackfive. It in turn links to a post at National Review Online's "Corner" blog here.

...As a former Army Counterintelligence Agent, I conducted battlefield interrogations of enemy prisoners of war as well as strategic debriefings of higher value targets, and I've served in bad places where bad things will happen if you don't get the information.

On more than one occasion, I had discussions with some of our operators regarding the obtaining of information in the ticking bomb scenario. Our discussion ran along the lines of "It's against the law. It's against the UCMJ. We'd go to jail. But if we knew the bomb was ticking, and this guy had the information that could save dozens or hundreds or more people, or if the team (the operators and the unit) were going to be wiped out if we didn't get it, I'd whip out a hatchet and an entrenching tool and go to work on him."

We were comfortable with this fairly horrible ambiguity and the bad consequences that would accompany it only because the military ethos was to sacrifice ourselves for others, and the notion of incurring legal jeopardy to save others struck us as a righteous cause, but it had to be predicated on the necessity of the ticking bomb....

Nuclear Al-Qaeda?

Mowatt-Larssen has been gathering this evidence since a few weeks after Sept. 11, when then-CIA Director George Tenet asked him to create a new branch on weapons of mass destruction in the agency's counterterrorism center. He helped Tenet prepare the chapter on al-Qaeda's nuclear efforts that appears in Tenet's memoir, " At the Center of the Storm." Now that the uproar over Tenet's mistaken "slam dunk" assessment of the Iraqi threat has died down, it's worth rereading this account. It provides a chilling, public record of al-Qaeda's nuclear ambitions.

Mowatt-Larssen argues that for nearly a decade before Sept. 11, al-Qaeda was seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction. As early as 1993, Osama bin Laden offered $1.5 million to buy uranium for a nuclear device, according to testimony presented in federal court in February 2001. When the al-Qaeda leader was asked in 1998 if he had nuclear or chemical weapons, he responded: "Acquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so."

Even as al-Qaeda was preparing to fly its airplane bombs into buildings, the group was also trying to acquire nuclear and biological capabilities. In August 2001, bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, met around a campfire with Pakistani scientists from a group called Umma Tameer-E-Nau to discuss how al-Qaeda could build a nuclear device. Al-Qaeda also had an aggressive anthrax program that was discovered in December 2001 after bin Laden was driven from his haven in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

General Sanchez on Iraq

[Retired Lt.] General Sanchez covered a lot of ground in his recent talk to military affairs reporters, from media-military relations, the political climate in the US and what that means to the fight in Iraq and what the US has to do moving forward. But it's clear the MSM have decided to emphasize only one aspect of the General's speech – his harsh critique of the Administration's planning and execution of the war in Iraq. I know, it's shocking that that's what they have chosen to emphasize.

Gray vs. Gore

(Dennis Prager interviewed this professor this morning.)

Dr William Gray, a pioneer in the science of seasonal hurricane forecasts, told a packed lecture hall at the University of North Carolina that humans were not responsible for the warming of the earth.

His comments came on the same day that the Nobel committee honoured Mr Gore for his work in support of the link between humans and global warming.

"We're brainwashing our children," said Dr Gray, 78, a long-time professor at Colorado State University. "They're going to the Gore movie [An Inconvenient Truth] and being fed all this. It's ridiculous."

Dr Gray, whose annual forecasts of the number of tropical storms and hurricanes are widely publicised, said a natural cycle of ocean water temperatures - related to the amount of salt in ocean water - was responsible for the global warming that he acknowledges has taken place.

However, he said, that same cycle meant a period of cooling would begin soon and last for several years.

"We'll look back on all of this in 10 or 15 years and realise how foolish it was," Dr Gray said.

He said his beliefs had made him an outsider in popular science.

"It bothers me that my fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong," he said. "But they also know that they'd never get any grants if they spoke out. I don't care about grants."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Genocide resolution

From the Worldwide Standard blog.

So passage of the resolution is likely to constitute a serious blow to the war effort. Was this foreseen by House leaders? Was it the motivation?

Good questions.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Worldwide Standard on torture

And for what? The Times indicts the Bush administration for exposing terrorists captured abroad to "head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures." Boo hoo. And why does the Times consider this such a dangerous policy? The reporters end the story with this quote, from former Navy lawyer John Hutson, which they must believe to be compelling:

"The problem is, once you've got a legal opinion that says such a technique is O.K., what happens when one of our people is captured and they do it to him? How do we protest then?" he asked.

As Jules Crittenden notes in response:

[The] article neglects to mention we are fighting an enemy that considers powerdrills into kneecaps and videotaped beheading of captives business as usual. That in fact, we have yet to face an enemy in the modern era that observes anything approaching the standards we do. Germany, Japan, North Korea, North Vietnam, Iran, Iraq. Disorientation, isolation, beatings, starvation, summary executions, torture … of the bone-breaking, organ-smashing, electrocuting, bloody-drawing variety.

That is, real torture. And it trivializes the seriousness of it to apply the word to "head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures." It also trivializes the seriousness of real war crimes for someone to throw around the charge so promiscuously.

S-CHIP recipient

You may remember the Democrats' S-chip poster child, Graeme Frost, the 12-year-old boy from Baltimore, MD, whose parents relied on Maryland's S-chip program to pay for his health care following a severe car accident. Graeme recounted his sob story to Congress in an effort to show the mean Republicans that poor kids need health insurance, too. Baltimore Sun reporter Matthew Hay Brown profiled the "poor" Frost family, but failed to ask some important questions. As it turns out, little Graeme isn't so poor, and bloggers are on the story.

  • The Frost kids attend a private school, with a $20,000 per child price tag.
  • Halsey Frost, the father, owns the company he works for. He chooses not to give himself insurance.
  • Halsey Frost owns the $160,000 building that houses his business.
  • The Frost family home is valued at $485,000.

Apparently, a significant number of S-CHIP recipients under the recently-vetoed plan would also be required to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax. Maybe it covers a number of people who aren't all that "poor".

Another leak -- another outcry?

Here's another story about a secret being leaked by someone, somewhere in the Administration.

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

I'll be curious to see if this leak provokes anywhere near the reaction the leak of Valerie Plame's identity provoked.

I'm betting it won't. Those who act as gatekeepers for media outrage consider the war on terrorism optional, but the war on George Bush is mandatory.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Clarence Thomas Corner

At The NRO Corner blog, links to interviews with Justice Clarence Thomas.

RCP "torture talk"

For the moment.

Saddam and Al Qaeda

Another post on the question of Saddam Hussein's involvement with Al Qaeda. 

Is there a more confused issue in the public discourse than the matter of Iraq's ties to al Qaeda prior to the March 2003 invasion? I doubt it. At an ABC News blog, Jake Tapper claims that Senator Barack Obama was right to call out (in a speech he gave yesterday) Senator Hillary Clinton for saying the following back in October 2002:

"[Saddam] has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001."

Tapper writes:

As Don van Natta and Jeff Gerth have written in their book about Clinton and the New York Times, Clinton's linkage of Saddam and al Qaeda was unique among Democrats and "was unsupported by the conclusions of the N.I.E. and other secret intelligence reports that were available to senators before the vote." [Note: The vote mentioned here is, of course, the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq]

The problem is that Sen. Clinton's statement was supported by the intelligence available, contrary to what Tapper and apparently what Don van Natta and Jeff Gerth argue. George Tenet writes in his book At the Center of the Storm, there was "more than enough evidence" of a relationship between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda, including intelligence demonstrating that more than a dozen al Qaeda agents "had found a comfortable and secure environment" in Baghdad. According to Tenet, these al Qaeda agents used their safe haven in Baghdad to move supplies to other al Qaeda agents in northeastern Iraq. Tenet cites a variety of other pieces of evidence that were contained in the CIA's reporting on this issue from the summer of 2002 through January of 2003 as well. Safe haven, discussions of collaboration, sharing VX nerve gas technology ... it's all there.

The 9/11 Commission found evidence of a relationship as well. The one sentence in the final 9/11 Commission report that says there was "no evidence" that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda developed into a "collaborative operational relationship"--that is, that there was no evidence the two collaborated on attacks against Americans--has been widely trumpeted. But the Commission also found (see p. 61) that there were "indications" that Saddam's regime had assisted al Qaeda in northern Iraq, which was outside of Saddam's centralized control, but where Iraqi Intelligence still had a heavy footprint. The Commission also provided citations showing that President Clinton's administration had uncovered evidence of Iraq’s cooperation with al Qaeda on chemical weapons development projects in Sudan (p. 128). Admittedly, that issue has now become greatly clouded as well. But suffice it to say that the Clinton administration had found significant evidence of a relationship before some former Clinton administration officials decided there wasn't any evidence.

Regardless, the Commission clearly did find that there was a relationship. Here is what Thomas Kean, co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission said about the matter: "There was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

Goldfarb on "torture"

George Bush is being accused of "war crimes" for allowing the "torture" of detainees.

As Jules Crittenden notes in response:

[The] article neglects to mention we are fighting an enemy that considers powerdrills into kneecaps and videotaped beheading of captives business as usual. That in fact, we have yet to face an enemy in the modern era that observes anything approaching the standards we do. Germany, Japan, North Korea, North Vietnam, Iran, Iraq. Disorientation, isolation, beatings, starvation, summary executions, torture – of the bone-breaking, organ-smashing, electrocuting, bloody-drawing variety.

That is, real torture. And it trivializes the seriousness of it to apply the word to "head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures." It also trivializes the seriousness of real war crimes for someone to throw around the charge so promiscuously. A quick search of Sullivan's blog for "war criminal" turns up 34 hits, all of them referring to members of the Bush administration. No doubt hit number 35 will be Andrew's attack on the war criminals of the Worldwide Standard.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More phony soldiers

Betsy Newmark has a post on the whole "phony soldiers" kerfuffle.

All this outrage being ginned up by the Democrats and Media Matters over a badly edited report that Rush Limbaugh referred to soldiers who criticize the war as phony soldiers is just funny. When the full context of Limbaugh's comments are played, it's clear that he was talking about people such as those exposed in an ABC news report who claim to have served in the military, yet really didn't. He wasn't criticizing real soldiers who have criticisms of the war.
As Instapundit reminds us, Tom Harkin campaigned in the 1990s as a former combat air pilot from the Vietnam War. But it turned out, as James Taranto reported a few years ago, that his service was limited to flying ferry flights in Japan during the war.
Hat tips to Michelle Malkinand Instapundit. If you want a clear summary of what Limbaugh said and didn't say and how Media Matters was able to pull the strings of the congressional Democrats, go read Byron York's report on the matter. And you'll see the role of the George Soros-funded Media Matters to supply a fake outrageous story for the Democrats to run with in order to try and distract from the ad on General Petraeus.

Limbaugh and "phony soldiers"

On Monday evening, September 24, Rush Limbaugh was struck by a story that appeared on ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson. “A closer look tonight at phony heroes,” Gibson said in his introduction to the report, which was about men who claim to be veterans but are not. In the story, reporter Brian Ross discussed two men who claimed to have served in wartime, possibly to receive free veterans’ hospital and other benefits.

And then this: “Authorities say the most disturbing case involves this man, 23 year-old Jesse Macbeth,” Ross continued. “In a YouTube video seen around the world, Macbeth became a rallying point for anti-war groups, as he talked of the Purple Heart he received in Iraq and described how he and other U.S. Army Rangers killed innocent civilians at a Baghdad mosque.” Ross played video of Macbeth saying, “Women and men, you know — while in their prayer, we started slaughtering them.”

As it turns out, none of that happened. Macbeth was in the Army for just six weeks, was discharged before completing basic training, and was never in Iraq. “Last week in federal court in Seattle,” Ross concluded, “Macbeth offered an apology for defaming the real American heroes as he admitted to lying about his service record and his supposed atrocities.” Ross’ story was headlined “Phony War Vets” on the ABC News website.

During his program the next day, Wednesday, September 26, Limbaugh spoke to a somewhat emotional caller who claimed to be a Republican fed up with the war in Iraq. After a long and sometimes testy exchange, Limbaugh cut to another caller, a man named Mike in Olympia, Washington who said he had served two tours in Iraq. Discussing war critics on the left, the caller said, “What’s really funny is they never talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue — “

“The phony soldiers,” Limbaugh said.

“The phony soldiers,” the caller repeated. “If you talk to any real soldier and they’re proud to serve, they want to be over in Iraq, they understand their sacrifice and they’re willing to sacrifice for the country.”

“I was thinking of Macbeth when I said ‘phony soldiers,’“ Limbaugh told me. As the caller talked, Limbaugh told a staff member to print out the previous day’s commentary on the ABC “Phony Heroes” story. After “vamping” a bit while the commentary printed out, Limbaugh moved on.

“I want to thank you, Mike, for calling. I appreciate it very much. I gotta — here is a morning update that we did recently, talking about fake soldiers. This is a story of who the left props up as heroes. And they have their celebrities. One of them was Army Ranger Jesse Macbeth…” Limbaugh read the entire commentary from the day before and wrapped up that segment of the program. From there, he moved on to a discussion of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Where the controversy goes now is not clear. Democrats, and particularly their supporters in the left-wing blogosphere, are pressing for payback over the affair. But Limbaugh’s explanation will likely make it harder to make the clear-cut case against him that Republicans, and some Democrats, made against MoveOn. The fact that Limbaugh, on the original September 26 program, brought up the ABC report, unbidden, to explain the “phony soldiers” remark suggests that that indeed was what he had in mind at the time he said it. That’s also supported by the fact that he had recorded a commentary on the story the day before, and that he printed out and re-read that commentary on September 26 as he explained “phony soldiers.” It was clearly on his mind.

And even though there are political arguments on all sides of this controversy, independent-minded critics who look at Media Matters might conclude that its political motivations are simply too strong to merit serious consideration. In addition to its ties to major Democratic donors and to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Media Matters is a deeply politicized organization down to its lowest levels. In the past few days, it has posted eleven stories on the Limbaugh matter. Those postings were written by, among others, Julie Millican, a veteran of the Kerry campaign,, and the Democratic turnout organization America Coming Together; Sarah Pavlus, formerly of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; Andrew Ironside, who worked for the Howard Dean campaign; Adam Shah, a lawyer who worked for the Alliance for Justice, the organization best known for opposing President Bush’s judicial nominees; Jeremy Schulman, a former spokesman for Colorado Democratic congressional candidate Dave Thomas; and Matthew Gertz, former deputy campaign manager for Connecticut Democratic congressional candidate Diane Farrell, as well as intern for New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer.