Blogs > Cliopatria > Some Recommendations ...

Jun 2, 2004 10:36 pm

Some Recommendations ...

Suddenly, our two favorite denizens of the nation's capital have something in common. Scott McLemee writes an article with no verbs about a novel with no verbs and gets a call from NPR that leads to no action. Jessica Cutler or Washingtonienne gets fired for"inappropriate use of Senate office equipment" or using explicit verbs about too much action. They both need a book contract. I'll bet Cutler gets hers first. Is there something wrong with this country's values or what?

Here at History News Network, two of its newer blogs are setting a fine pace. Rebunk's Derek Catsam visits the World War II memorial and reflects on its place and the time it recalls. Over at Askari Street, Hala Fattah introduces us to Iraq's new President and the historian who is its new Minister of Higher Education.

Despite the refusal of Iranian historian Hashem Aghajari to appeal his death sentence for telling Iranians that they should not"blindly follow" their clerics, Iran's Supreme Court has interceded and set aside his death sentence for a second time (Subscribers only).

Elsewhere at HNN, my colleague, Jonathan Dresner, has a fine essay, "Attempting Analogy: Japanese Manchuria and Occupied Iraq".

You can follow Brian Ulrich's travels in Morocco at his Study Breaks.

Over at Altercation, Eric Rauch has a tribute to conscientious Republicans who pulled the plug on Richard Nixon in the Watergate affair. It seemed to make the Harding administration's Teapot Dome scandals pale by comparison. (See: Matt Yglesias's"A Mole in Our Midst" at Tapped.) Sometimes, Watergate seems to pale by comparison with the Bush administration's conduct of national affairs. Where are the conscientious Republicans?

And, speaking of Altercation, the question really is"Why does Judith Miller still have a job at the New York Times?" I could cite you all kinds of sources all over the net about why that is the question. Alterman just happens to be the most recent and convenient. But, really, why is Judith Miller still employed?

You don't have to be a cancer survivor, like me, to appreciate Nike's latest commercial featuring Lance Armstrong. It's a beauty. Be sure to turn up the sound. Thanks to Ogged at Unfogged for the tip.

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Ralph E. Luker - 6/6/2004

If your facts are correct in re Ritter in _this_ comment, they are to the point. Your prior comments about Ritter's sex charges were not germane.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/5/2004

The "thinnest fabrication" was sufficient for a federal judge. Now I grant it is not overwhelming evidence, but such are the way things are in such cases.

You say there is no evidence "an Iraqi" was acting as an agent of Saddam Hussein. I'm not sure which claim you are attempting to refute there. There are three possibilities from my post above. One such agent was Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, Iraqi Consul in Prague, and identfied by the Czechs as an agent handler. On May 30, 2000, Atta travelled to Prague by plane from Germany, and was denied entry as he had no visa. He returned to Germany, secured a visa (listing himself as a "Hamburg student"), and on June 2 he travelled by bus to Prague. He then travelled to the States.

On April 4th, 2001, Atta checked out of The Diplomat Inn in Virginia Beach, withdrew $8,000 from a SunTrust bank account, and was not seen again in the US until April 11.

On April 8, he was spotted and subsequently identified meeting with al-Ani in Prague by Czech counterintelligence. This has been confirmed by the head of domestic security, the foreign minister, and Vaclav Havel. Czech authorities asked al-Ani the purpose of his meeting, he refused to answer, and was declared persona non grata and expelled. After the fall of Iraq, Czech authorities entered the Iraqi Consular Office in Prague, and discovered al-Ani's meeting calendar, featuring a meeting with a "Hamburg student" on April 8th. Now, is it your contention that al-Ani was not an Iraqi agent?

In January 2000, Ahmed Hikmat Shikar, who appears on three rosters of Fedayeen officers as a Lt. Colonel, convened an al Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur (sorry, not Thailand), attended by 9/11 hijackers. Incidentally, the training ground at Salman Pak (which Iraq said was for counter-hijacking training) was run by the Fedayeen. Is it your contention that Shikar was not an Iraqi agent?

As for Miller, I simply suggest that your proposed personnel action, if applied to all at the Times, would empty the place. If Chalabi gulled Miller, I contend that there is hardly a reporter in that building who hasn't been similarly gulled. Raines seems to understand the distinction between Miller and Jayson Blair -- he authorized an expose of Blair and had him fired, and has protested the mea culpa concerning Miller.

Or perhaps you mean the go-between in the Ritter case, when you refer to the Iraqi agent. Ritter took about $400,000 (sorry, not 300 grand) from Shakir al-Kafaji, an Iraqi-born businessman identified by the Financial Times of London and the Italian daily business daily Il Sole 24 Ore as a recipient of Saddam's oil allocations, which were flipped for profit -- his way of paying off al-Kafaji, George Galloway, and others, and funneling money to Ritter's film. What motivated Ritter's otherwise inexplicable change of heart from his New Republic article? Blackmail? Bribery? Or some combination thereof? That's the relevance of Ritter's flaw.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/5/2004

Richard, Ordinarily you are above the felt necessity of repeating scandal about people with whom you disagree and you are above it because it isn't relevant to the issue at hand. Scott Ritter is a flawed human being. I suspect both of us are and our flaws are relevant only if they have an impact on the issue at hand. Judith Miller's mainlining of reports from someone who may have been an alien agent doesn't seem to disturb you. But it is, at least, a relevant flaw. Now, what is your ax? Some abstract quest for truth? Mine, too. Your evidence for an Iraqi connection to al Qaeda is the thinnest fabrication imagineable as justification for our invasion of Iraq. There simply is no evidence that "an Iraqi" was acting as an agent of Saddam Hussein! It makes all the difference in the world, Richard.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/4/2004

The NY Times is the newspaper of record? That's so quaint. The editor is gone now because a major fabricator, identified by his immediate superior as someone who needed to be fired post haste, was promoted to the national desk and given the sniper story as an assignment. They also published Miller.

There is no WMD. I admire your confidence in that statement. Before Scott Ritter was twice arrested for soliciting, over the internet, underage girls to watch him play with himself, and before he accepted over 300 grand from a Saddam go-between to produce a peo-Saddam film, Ritter wrote in the New Republic that, given the amount of time that inspectors had been out of the country, UNMOVIC would never find the WMD. Now I'm moved to ask, if UNMOVIC could never find it, what makes a little over a year the stopping point for us?

As for the question of why fire Miller now, the answer is obvious. You've concluded there is no WMD. Fine. The NY Times' conclusion that there was WMD was based on Chalabi informants. Fine. Is that the sum total of the intelligence? We don't know. What I we do know is that Blair, shortly after going into Iraq, addressed the Euro Parliament, and asserted that the intelligence services of each member of the EU had similarly concluded that there were WMD, pre-invasion. He challenged anyone there to contradict him, and none did.

Your claim for no WMD, and for the firing of Miller, is based on two points. None have been found yet, and Chalabi is now viewed as unreliable. Yet, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has gone on the record to state that Chalabi provided intel that resulted in saving many US lives. Reliability is determined on the basis of the totality of info provided. So Chalabi stands damned by the lack of WMD yet, other such failures, and not the totality of his intel, but including his recent trashing by ... you guessed it ... unidentified sources that have yet to be proved out (as unidentified and as unproved as Miller's sources -- talk about a thin reed).

So, okay, let's ex post facto make Miller responsible for purportedly being gulled. I have yet to hear you call for her editors (the gatekeepers) to suffer a similar fate. Nor have you extended this type of personnel action, in similar instances, to other reporters. Interesting. One might think you have an axe to grind.

Now let's look at the Iraqi connection. The Czechs stand by an ID of Atta meeting with an Iraqi agent in Prague on April 8th (they can't account for his whereabouts from the 4th to the 11th, after taking out $8,000 from a Virginia bank. Neither the FBI, nor the CIA can refute this. Similarly, an Iraqi agent, identified in three Iraqi documents as a Lt. Colonel in the Fedayeen, met with 9/11 hijackers in Thailand.

Add to that the fact that two hijackers were treated for skin infections that exactly duplicate symptoms of skin anthrax, and the fact that the anthrax was milled to the exact specifications necessary to pulmonary infection (a sophisticated feat) and treated with surface materials as yet not understood by US analysts (again a sign of sophistication) that prevents electrostatic buildup and clumping to non-optimal sizes. Take a guess who had the most sophisticated bio warfare program in the world at the time of 9/11? The answer is simple.

A federal judge has found for plaintiffs in a civil suit against Iraq brought by the estates of 9/11 victims, based on this type of evidence, some of it provided by former CIA chief James Woolsey.

Miller doesn't have to be right to get my defense. She simply has to be treated as anyone else in similar circumstances to avoid my defense.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/4/2004

Richard, You are being tedious. There aren't any WMD. Everybody except you seems to know that. It is no secret. The NYT is the newspaper of record. Miller made herself a tool of highly interested sources and passed them off as reliable in the newspaper of record. She's responsible for what was published under her name.
Why are you so relentless in defense of Miller and so certain that the NYT buried the MLK story. Fact is, Richard, you're wrong.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/4/2004

There is that asymmetry -- an asymmetry that Alterman must certainly be aware of, yet he has dumped on Miller on the basis of siilarly unidentified sources, published in a paper he trashes for publishing Miller. Yet you haven't answered the question as to the stopping point, and how you determined it. Why fire Miller now, rather three months ago, or six months from now? Nor do you extend that personnel action to other journalists purportedly duped by unidentified sources. Nor to Miller's editors. Why exactly is that?

Ralph E. Luker - 6/4/2004

Richard, You misinterpret me entirely. My point is that, under your rhuberics, there is a possible finding on Alterman, but no finding on Miller -- because you are willing to extend the search for WMD ad infinitum. It's time to fire Miller now.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/4/2004

I'm going to go out on a limb here, Ralph, and guess that you were in favor of the UNMOVIC getting more time -- more time after a decade of being lied to, and discovering those lies, and still not being able to account for tons of chemical and biological weapons materials. And yet, after little more than a year, in a country the size of California, we have yet to find materials that could be carried in a half-dozen trucks. Now I turn around the stopping-point question, and ask it of you. What exactly makes a decade insufficient for UNMOVIC, and a year more than sufficient for us? How and where was your stopping point in either case? Two decades for UNMOVIC and six months for us?

Additionally, what information did you have establishing prospectively the inherent unreliability of Miller's reports, that was not available to Miller's editors? I wasn't aware that Miller published her own paper. Why do they get off if culpability is an issue? And do you extend this personnel policy to all Times reporters and others who get hoodwinked (if that is the case) by unidentified sources? If so, I suggest Sy Hersh, whose reporting on Afghanistan was so hilariously faulty, I was reduced to tears. Sixteen AC-130's devoted to a raid on Mullah Omar's redoubt, when there are only 21 in the entire inventory? Do you know what kind of aerial refueling capacity that would require, not to say FAC capability? And Hersh has Delta organized in companies, when it is organized into squadrons and troops. I could write an encyclopedia on the fatuous errors of Hersh, but what would that do for Cliopatriarchs who need to cite him when they want to attribute prisoner abuse all the way up the chain to Rumsfeld? I couldn't do that to you guys.

BTW, I didn't suggest firing Miller or Alterman, so your argument falls a little short on that score. You are the one suggesting a post hoc accounting -- I merely asked whether that same post hoc accounting shouldn't also be applied to Alterman. I give you this much credit. You finally said yes.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/4/2004

At what point would you hold a journalist responsible for her reports that WMD were in the hands of a given tyrrant? After the tyrrant has been captured? Or after her anonymous sources are revealed? Or after they are discredited? Or do we continue the search for SH's WMD ad infinitum, all the while continuing to employ her? If you follow Richard's logic, there is a potential accounting point for Alterman, but not for Miller. I'd like to have Miller's job security under Richard's logic; or that of George Bush's administrators under Richard's logic, for that matter.

Jonathan Dresner - 6/4/2004

Sorry, general news absorbption, not research. NPR, probably something on the presidential campaign or the stop-loss orders.

E. Simon - 6/4/2004

Same sequence of events as occured over the development of the Dreyfus Affair. I accordingly prefer Richard's reasoning; not to be hasty if one can't be fair in rewarding or punishing those favored by mere circumstance.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/4/2004

Ralph, I recommend you for a position in management -- Miller gets fired, and the editors that okayed her stuff stay on. You'd fit in fine in contemporary corporate culture.

Jon, here's what I found on current order of battle in Iraq (US ground forces only):

I don't see 9 combat-ready divisions listed. Maybe you have a different source. I'd like to see it.

Jonathan Dresner - 6/3/2004

As of yesterday, nine of our ten combat-ready divisions were committed to Iraq. Thus, 90%.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/3/2004

Richard, I recommend that you continue breathing until the WMD are found in Iraq. In the meantime, I recommend that Alterman's employers continue paying him and that the NYT fire Miller. Their roles can be reversed when and if WMD are _ever_ found which can be traced back to Iraq prior to our invasion.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/3/2004

I'd love a source for your 90% claim.

The entire view that Miller is wrong is based on the fact that WMD haven't showed up yet. As the NY Times itself said, they were taken in by Chalabi -- one guy funneling a handful of defectors. Interesting that Miller didn't cite US technical sources or assets on the ground. I wonder why? Could it be that they weren't going to show the crown jewels? Now I ask for the third time: if WMD show up, of Iraqi origin, will and should Alterman resign? That question seems to have induced a case of constipation in you.

You seem quite confident that there are no WMD, that Chalabi was the sole US source, and that Chalabi was wrong. Fine. There is one fact that resides at the foundation of your epistemology: no WMD have been found. From that you infer that Miller was wrong. Fine. Now why won't you go out further on that limb?

My claims are from public sources no more intrinsically reliable than the NY Times, and they published Miller. You've achieved, in your view, the ground of truth. So spit it out. But wait, Alterman is relying on similarly unsourced material from US sources, published in the same [faulty?] NY Times. What a quandary!! Now I see why that question finds no answer from you. If Alterman thinks, on the basis of unsourced material in the Times damning Chalabi and the lack of WMD, that Miller is wrong and should be fired, shouldn't he be fired for repeating unsourced allegations from the Times if they turn out wrong (if WMD do show up?). Fair is only fair, right?

Ralph E. Luker - 6/3/2004

I take it that your question remains, whether WMD are found in North Korea, The Sudan, Syria, Iraq, or Iran. Chances are that they might be found in one or more of those places. Since we've committed 90% of our troop strength to Iraq, it seems highly unlikely that we'll be able to occupy all the rest of them at once and still maintain the commitments we've made elsewhere. Looks like you're calling for World War III to me, Richard. Where's your call for re-instating the draft? Where's your call for revoking the Bush tax cuts so we are not overwhelmed with debt?

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/3/2004

I get the picture that Howell Raines did not edit Miller. In fact, Raines is pissed off that the NY Times has done a massive mea culpa on WMD. I also get the picture that Chalabi was steered to Miller by US sources precisely because his info is just the tip of the iceberg, and doesn't involve technical means, nor does it involve human assets on the ground in Iraq. I also get the picture that satellite data, and Syrian sources, and the Mossad, have identified the transshipment of WMD across Syria and into burial in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. The picture includes the fact that the bulk of Iraqi WMD human capital is now in Syria, and that Saddam's two boys were originally there too, but were kicked out of Syria and served up to the US on a platter -- presto, Syria now has a world class WMD program. I also get the picture that three weeks ago the Sudanese government ordered Syria to remove missiles and WMD from warehouses in the Sudan. Similarly, I get the picture that Assad two weeks ago, in an Egyptian newspaper, started the CYA operation by complaining that Iraqis have smuggled weapons into Syria. I also get the picture that the foiled attempt of a chemical attack on Jordan originated from Syria. And I also get the picture that Japanese intelligence says that the large explosion in North Korea was actually rocket fuel, acquired by the Syrians, and that it took with it a dozen Syrian rocket technicians.

I wouldn't be surprised to soon see a lightning raid into the Bekaa. Similarly, I wouldn't be surprised to find out if the entire Chalabi thing is a smokescreen. The entire Chalabi story is that he told them we could read their mail, and that we then intercepted a message (using codes the Iranians were supposedly told we could read) from the Iranian intel chief in Baghdad, informing Teheran that we could read their mail, and that Chalabi had told him. Now, does that make sense to you? I note that, again, the sources for the Chalabi story are not identified -- just as the sources for denying that Atta was in Prague on April 8th were not identified -- and Vaclav Havel stands by the identification of Atta at the April 8th meeting. I could tell you all kinds of stories about planted misinformation for intel purposes, and the stories always involve unsourced material. It is naive to believe that we are getting the entire picture (and I include my own assertions of fact stated above, and gleaned from news reports). I did notice that during the 9/11 Commission hearings, Lehman let it be known that, at the time, we had intercepted telephone conversations from the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, ordering those who blew up the Marine Barracks to carry out their mission (and Armitage agreed). Now, you never heard that before, did you? What makes you think you are getting a clear picture from the wilderness of mirrors? I repeat my question. If WMD turn up, will Alterman resign?

Ralph E. Luker - 6/3/2004

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong, Richard. You don't register the facts that: a) Howell Raines is gone -- not for this reason, but he is gone; b) Judith Miller was mainlining Chalabi's reports of WMD and that we would be welcomed with open arms; and c) Chalabi was apparently passing secret U. S. intelligence to the Iranians. What facts do you need to get the picture?

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/3/2004

I wonder why Judith Miller is singled out for this treatment? Oh, that's right, she was reporting from unattributed sources that backed up Bush, as opposed to those that take issue with his claims. Better the question, why are Miller's editors still working? We know that answer too. The NY Times thrives on unattributed sources, and has the most miserly corrections page in the business when they are [frequently] found wrong. Of course, if WMD are found tomorrow in Iraq, does that mean that Alterman will resign? I think we know the answer to that too.