Sunday, July 17, 2005

Klein v Steyn - Who Spin Sins?

Just read the following two articles, both published today, and pity the poor person who sees not who speaks the truth.

TIME online
Sunday, July 17, 2005

Stop Trying to Spin the Iraq War
The Bush Administration needs to stop fighting its critics and figure out how to fight the war
by Joe Klein

"You're gonna protect me on this, right?" the magic words. When someone in Washington makes that request and a journalist agrees to the deal, a blood oath has been signed, no matter how scurrilous or trivial the information involved. You don't break the oath or even hedge on it. You agree to stand outside the law respectfully, not "above" it, and to suffer the consequences. You go to jail to protect your source, if necessary. If you do not adhere to these tribal rules, other potential sources will surely notice and you will be considered unreliable. It is not an elegant system--and yes, there are exceptions to the rules (on matters of imminent national or individual peril)--but it is a bedrock principle of the freest and fairest press in the world. And so I disagree with the decision of Norman Pearlstine, the editor-in-chief of Time Inc., to hand over our White House correspondent Matt Cooper's electronic notes and e-mails to the special prosecutor investigating who disclosed the identity of an undercover CIA officer.

To be fair, Pearlstine made his decision on this case only, not on the more general principle of journalistic confidentiality--and this was one tough case: an instance of confidentiality twisted to protect nonvital and vindictive information and also, perhaps, to provide cover for a criminal act. It is easy to understand why some people--perhaps even most--would have trouble supporting standard journalistic practice in such a situation.

It was, in fact, a story that had everything to do with politics and not much to do with national security--a story that illuminates a signature disgrace of the Bush presidency: its tendency to treat the war in Iraq as an issue to be spun, rather than a life-and-death struggle to be won. In this case the White House was trying to "knock down" a former ambassador, Joseph Wilson, who had disputed the claim--made by President Bush in his State of the Union address--that Iraq attempted to buy uranium in Niger. The Administration had built its case for war on the probability that Saddam Hussein had "reconstituted," in Vice President Dick Cheney's felicitous and inaccurate phrase, his nuclear-weapons program.

Eventually, the White House was forced to retract the Niger claim. There had been no uranium deal. But there was collateral damage: in the course of trying to "knock down" Wilson's story, White House sources implied that the ambassador had been sent to Niger by his wife, a CIA operative. In fact, Valerie Plame had worked undercover--and it is a crime to knowingly reveal the name of a covert officer.

Karl Rove, who was one of the sources, was running the President's re-election campaign at the time. Clearly, he was trying to deflect attention from a very real political problem--the absence of weapons of mass destruction--to the question of whether Wilson, a supporter of John Kerry's campaign (and a distressingly flamboyant fellow), could be trusted. This is a standard political tactic and, arguably, fair game in matters of electoral politics--but perhaps not in matters of war and peace. No doubt, the battle against Kerry seemed more immediate to Rove, who was immersed in it, than the battle against the insurgency.

The election is long over, but the campaign-style spinning persists. Last week, after Rove's name was divulged, the Republican National Committee engaged in a freestyle vitriol spew, attempting once again to discredit Wilson and suggest that Rove was merely trying to "knock down" a bum story. This was so much smoke and baloney--and all too typical of the persistent fecklessness on the part of the Administration and its allies when it comes to Iraq. Cheney continues to spin dross from the hard currency of military intelligence: he recently said that the insurgency was in its "last throes." The President makes a prime-time television address to the nation about Iraq in late June and merely rehearses campaign platitudes without offering a serious discussion of the problems on the ground and the real sacrifices needed to overcome them. Some liberals--equally feckless--may have complained that Bush didn't announce a timetable for withdrawing the troops, but the speech was far more disappointing to those who see success in Iraq as crucial to the larger war against terrorism.

"There is still a peacetime mentality," a military-intelligence officer told me. "The folks in the White House are sincere but not serious," a Republican military expert agreed. More troops are needed. So is a more active diplomatic effort to ensure Sunni--and secular Shi'ite--participation in Iraq's governing coalition (perhaps even reaching out to former Baathists involved in the insurgency). A more focused intelligence effort is needed to root out the insurgency both within Iraq and among its supporters in neighboring countries--including "allies" like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It is long past time for the White House to stop fighting the press and the Democrats and figure out how to fight the war. There are, after all, oaths more important than those between reporters and sources. One is the oath between the Commander in Chief and his people. I mean, Mr. President, you are going to protect us on this, right?,9565,1083876,00.html


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Plame security breach? It just ain't so, Joe
by Mark Steyn

Karl Rove? Please. I couldn't care less. This week finds me thousands of miles from the Beltway in what I believe the ABC World News Tonight map designates as the Rest Of The Planet, an obscure beat the media can't seem to spare a correspondent for. But even if I was with the rest of the navel-gazers inside the Beltway I wouldn't be interested in who ''leaked'' the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame to the press. As her weirdly self-obsesssed husband Joseph C. Wilson IV conceded on CNN the other day, she wasn't a ''clandestine officer'' and, indeed, hadn't been one for six years. So one can only ''leak'' her name in the sense that one can ''leak'' the name of the checkout clerk at Home Depot.

Back when Woodrow Wilson was running for president, he had a campaign song called ''Wilson, That's All.'' If only. With Joe Wilson, it's never all. He keeps coming back like a song. But in the real world there's only one scandal in this whole wretched business -- that the CIA, as part of its institutional obstruction of the administration, set up a pathetic ''fact-finding mission'' that would be considered a joke by any serious intelligence agency and compounded it by sending, at the behest of his wife, a shrill politically motivated poseur who, for the sake of 15 minutes' celebrity on the cable gabfest circuit, misled the nation about what he found.

This controversy began, you'll recall, because Wilson objected to a line in the president's State of the Union speech that British intelligence had discovered that Iraq had been trying to acquire ''yellowcake'' -- i.e., weaponized uranium -- from Africa. This assertion made Bush, in Wilson's incisive analysis, a ''liar'' and Cheney a ''lying sonofabitch.''

In fact, the only lying sonafabitch turned out to be Yellowcake Joe. Just about everybody on the face of the earth except Wilson, the White House press corps and the crowd accepts that Saddam was indeed trying to acquire uranium from Africa. Don't take my word for it; it's the conclusion of the Senate intelligence report, Lord Butler's report in the United Kingdom, MI6, French intelligence, other European services -- and, come to that, the original CIA report based on Joe Wilson's own briefing to them. Why Yellowcake Joe then wrote an article for the New York Times misrepresenting what he'd been told by senior figures from Major Wanke's regime in Niger is known only to him.

As I wrote in this space a year ago, an ambassador, in Sir Henry Wootton's famous dictum, is a good man sent abroad to lie for his country; this ambassador came home to lie to his. What we have here is, in effect, the old standby plot of lame Hollywood conspiracy thrillers: rogue elements within the CIA attempting to destabilize the elected government. If the left's view of the world is now so insanely upside-down that that's the side they want to be on, good for them. But ''leaking'' the name of Wilson's wife and promoter within the CIA didn't ''endanger her life'' or ''compromise her mission.'' Au contraire, exposing the nature of this fraudulent, compromised mission might conceivably prevent the American people having their lives endangered.

Here's the thing: They're still pulling body parts from London's Tube tunnels. Too far away for you? No local angle? OK, how about this? Magdy el-Nashar. He's a 33-year old Egyptian arrested Friday morning in Cairo, and thought to be what they call a ''little emir'' -- i.e., the head honcho in the local terrorist cell, the one who fires up the suicide bombers. Until his timely disappearance, he was a biochemist studying at Leeds University and it's in his apartment the London bombs were made. Previously he was at North Carolina State University.

So this time round he blew up London rather than Washington. Next time, who knows? Who cares? Here's another fellow you don't read much about in America: Kamel Bourgass. He had a plan to unleash ricin in London. Fortunately, the cops got wind of that one and three months ago he was convicted and jailed. Just suppose, instead of the British police raiding Bourgass' apartment but missing el-Nashar's, it had been the other way around, and ricin had been released in aerosol form on the Tube.

Kamel Bourgass and Magdy el-Nashar are real people, not phantoms conjured by those lyin' sonsofbitches Bush and Cheney. And to those who say, "but that's why Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror," sorry, it doesn't work like that. It's not either/or; it's a string of connections: unlimited Saudi money, Westernized Islamist fanatics, supportive terrorist states, proliferating nuclear technology. One day it all comes together and there goes the neighborhood. Here's another story you may have missed this week:

''Iran will resume uranium enrichment if the European Union does not recognize its right to do so, two Iranian nuclear negotiators said in an interview published Tuesday.''

Got that? If you don't let us go nuclear, we'll go nuclear. Negotiate that, John Kerry. As with Bourgass and el-Nashar, Hossein Moussavian and Cyrus Nasseri are real Iranian negotiators, not merely the deranged war fantasies of Bush and Cheney.

The British suicide bombers and the Iranian nuke demands are genuine crises. The Valerie Plame game is a pseudo-crisis. If you want to talk about Niger or CIA reform, fine. But if you seriously think the only important aspect of a politically motivated narcissist kook's drive-thru intelligence mission to a critical part of the world is the precise sequence of events by which some White House guy came to mention the kook's wife to some reporter, then you've departed the real world and you're frolicking on the wilder shores of Planet Zongo.

What's this really about? It's not difficult. A big chunk of the American elites have decided there is no war; it's all a racket got up by Bush and Cheney. And, even if there is a war somewhere or other, wherever it is, it's not where Bush says it is. Iraq is a ''distraction'' from Afghanistan -- and, if there were no Iraq, Afghanistan would be a distraction from Niger, and Niger's a distraction from Valerie Plame's next photo shoot for Vanity Fair.

The police have found the suicide bomber's head in the rubble of the London bus, and Iran is enriching uranium. The only distraction here is the pitiful parochialism of our political culture.