Blogs > Cliopatria > Noted Here and There ...

Jun 16, 2004 1:35 pm

Noted Here and There ...

Nicholas Von Hoffmann awards the"anti-Pulitzer" to the New York Times's Judith Miller, the"worst correspondent working for a major newspaper".

So, you've never heard of Florin Krasniki? Stacy Sullivan thinks you should have and tells you why in her book about the American roots of the Kosovo War.

Nicholas Xenos makes an important contribution to the continuing warfare over Leo Strauss's legacy to American political thought. Undoubtedly, it's not the last word, but Xenos ups the ante considerably.

Do Thy Research has an interesting post up about the relationship between blogs and education at all levels.

It's Bloomsday, of course, and nowhere better to begin your celebration than at Arts and Letters Daily's feast of offerings.

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Richard Henry Morgan - 6/18/2004


Another stray thought. The chronology from Epstein strikes me as interesting. It seems obvious that one or more anonymous US sources wanted to kill the Atta/Prague story. Reviewing the chronology provided by the 9/11 Commission staff statements, it is reported that by late 1999 to say very early 2000 (January?), the 9/11 attacks were approved, planning was taking place, and Atta was put in charge of the group.

Now why, given that, would Atta go to Prague in mid-2000, and meet al Ani in April 2001 to plan a bombing of Radio Free Europe? It just doesn't make sense that he would run the risk of such a meeting with an Iraqi intel officer to plan a piddling bombing of something tangential to the 9/11 mission. My suspicion is that Atta, as the leader, was the only one entrusted with knowledge of an Iraqi logistical support role, and charged with such liaison. That would explain why the 9/11 Commission, which relies almost exclusively on Binalshib's account has no mention of Prague -- Binalshib was out of the loop, for operational security reasons. Just a guess. Anyway, here's the link:

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

A stray thought or two.

The IED sarin shell may be have been a bit of a dud. It was detonated in a non-optimal manner -- at ground level, rather than an air burst -- so the degree to which it was a dud may be exaggerated.

But assuming it was a bit of a dud, that would have produced less than spectacular sarin proportions even in optimal conditions. Given that it took so long for the US to optimize its binary weapons, wouldn't the relative "dudness" point to other than US manufacture?

Secondly, there's an interesting bit in the intro to Gwynn Jones' book The Vikings. He relates how a Viking, I believe buried in Iceland circa 1000 CE, had an Amerindian arrow point stuck in his chest. Nuclear magnetic resonance determined that it had a signature combination of trace metals in the stone identical to, if I remember correctly, stone from the Newfoundland area. It may be possible to detect a signature of trace metals in the shell fragments, and from that develop an idea of its origin. Then again, it may have been born a bastard from scrap ...

As David Kay has pointed out, the evidence so far suggests Iraqi origin from the 80's, perhaps one of a handful of prototypes, or part of a larger stockpile. Time might tell which.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

Check Edward Jay Epstein's site, where he reports on a meeting he had with Czech intel.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

That is a good point about the late ID of Atta. From what I gather, al Ani was questioned as to the identity of the young male Arab he met with on April 8, and the purpose of the meeting. He refused to answer and was deported as persona non grata.

Here's an interesting bit from Edward Jay Epstein. At his website he also goes into the bit about the meeting calendar.

It certainly isn't dispositive, but the treatment in the staff statements are interesting. They bring up the April 8 meeting, only to shoot it down. Okay, it's not in cement. But they don't even bring up the 2000 meetings -- not even to shoot them down. One might suspect that admitting that he travelled, apparently unmotivated, to Prague twice in 2000, might lend credence to the problematic April 8 meeting.

Similarly, the staff reports have Muhdar (one of the 9/11) meeting with JI and al Qaeda types in Kuala Lumpur. It says Muhdar met with JI "among others", and doesn't mention the presence at the meeting of one Lt. Colonel Shakir, of the Fedayeen Saddam. Seems they later tried to flip Shakir, and turn him into a US source. Interesting the gaps in the staff statements.

John E. St. Lawrence - 6/17/2004

And now you've used that phrase in another context and changed the meeting. It's been accepted in a court? Stop the presses!

I've been to Prague too, you know, and as I say, 'so what?'

Tracking down your reference's to al-Ani's calendar has proved quite amusing. I find such items as this:

And I'd forgotten all about how France gave the bad guys passports. Would you like some documents I bought in Italy? They've got the wrong African government's seal and everything!

John E. St. Lawrence - 6/17/2004

I apologize for my awful typing

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

As for evidentiary standards, the claims for Atta's trips to Prague in 2000 were accepted by a federal court in New York, in the person of Judge Harold Baer. You can, as they say, look it up.

John E. St. Lawrence - 6/17/2004

Atta wasn't 'identified' as being in Prague until after 9/11/01, after his picture had been all over Czech TV.

By way of comparison, in 2002 the single largest concentration of reported bin Laden sightings was in Utah.

John E. St. Lawrence - 6/17/2004

No, that wouldn't make sense at all. The RG units (who monopolized chemical weapons) preferred their 155mm for chemical weapons simply bc of their longer range.

John E. St. Lawrence - 6/17/2004

not claiming to prove a negative, nor claiming any special source (although I note I have maintained an evidentiary standard consistant with that of this thread). But neither am I going to entertain an argumentum ad ignorantiam on Atta's supposed alliances.

I am not interested in anonymous sources when so many have been employed by the INC. I am equally unimpressed with 'arguments' based on them.

The identification of Atta was confirmed by the Czech Minister for Internal Security, the Czech Foreign Minister, and the Czech President, Vaclav Havel.

Recently? That's an impressive list. Perhaps I could list the witnesses on the Donation of Constantine?

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

Rather vague, I'd say, on the subject of Prague. Tenet testified that he couldn't "confirm" the supposed April 8, 2001 meeting in Prague -- as oppose to disconfirm. The only refuting evidence is the use, in Florida, of Atta's cellphone between the 4th and the 11th (between which he wasn't spotted in the US).

Certainly there is a lack of CONFIRMING data on the April 8th meeting -- it relies solely on surveillance identification by Czech counterintelligence, and the meeting calendar of al Ani, which revealed an April 8 meeting with a "Hamburg student" -- exactly as Atta identified himself on his visa application. The chronology is interesting. The identification of Atta was confirmed by the Czech Minister for Internal Security, the Czech Foreign Minister, and the Czech President, Vaclav Havel. The claim was subsequently shot down by an anonymous source reported in the Washington Post, and still later, an anonymous source in the Czech Republic.

Your assertion about the "Prague story" seems to run together two distinct things -- the trips to the Czech Republic in late May and early June 2000 by Atta, and the disputed April 8, 2001 meeting in Prague. As the 9/11 Commission staff statements make clear, Atta arrived in the US June 3 -- interesting that they don't say from where he came. There is no mention of the purportedly documented (by immigration documents) trips to Prague in 2000 -- the last, a mere day before leaving for the US (Atta arrived in Prague on June 2, the second time). Just why he would travel from Hamburg to Prague, when Frankfurt is both closer to Hamburg, and the air transport hub of Europe, isn't exactly clear. What propelled him to return all the way to Hamburg from Prague, and back again to Prague, rather than straight to Frankfurt from Prague, or straight to Frankfurt from Hamburg, isn't exactly clear either. If you have info that Atta never made the 2000 trips, please share it and your source.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/17/2004

As you say, there was no reference to the modern binary shells such as was used in the IED, though we knew they were working on them in the '80's. The shell didn't have US markings. It was a 155. Not surprising, though, since Iraq had a significant number of 155's, which they had acquired in the '80's (when they were working on true binary shells). In fact, they had 300 155's, based on the modern design by one Gerald Bull, the guy who designed a supergun for delivering chemical and bio weapons to Israel by airmail, no return receipt requested. 200 of these cutting edge 155's were manufactured in Austria, the other 100 in South Africa. Doesn't make sense to me that the Iraqis would design a 152mm sarin shell around the more antiquated 152 Soviet piece, when they had state of the art 155's.

John E. St. Lawrence - 6/17/2004

they airbrushed from history Atta's May and June 2000 trips to Prague ... And they pooh-pooh the April 8, 2001 meeting, based solely on the fact that Atta's cellphone was in use between April 4 and April 11...

'Solely'? The Prague story has source and credibility problems that have been public knowledge for over a year. It's grade-A Feith material (and even Feith had to edit out the rebuffs and rejections in their fruitless correspondence ... in his second version!).

You don't have to airbrush out what you can't substantiate in the first place.

John E. St. Lawrence - 6/17/2004

Actually, there are references to binary shells, but not those of the type of the dud recently found. Iraqi 'binaries' were one-chambered, to be filled by hand at the last moment with their second ingrediet by a very, very unlucky person. Iraqis were said to be working on a true binary in the late 80s, but recall that this took the US 20 years to develop, and was only deployed by the late 80s.

The shell found, as described by US military sources, resembles a US made M687. It lacked the markings, and was of the wrong calibre, to be Soviet. Whether it was a US made M687 or simply patterned after one makes little difference as to the questions one asks next.

So, as you say, 'hmmm...'

Jonathan Dresner - 6/17/2004

OK, later in that paragraph, Xenos makes that point, too, sort of.

I like the way Xenos slyly refers to "those who call Straussians cult-like" over and over without providing any reason to think otherwise. I'm inclined to agree with him, but the rhetorical strategy is interesting.

Jonathan Dresner - 6/17/2004

I was struck by this line in Xenos: "Strauss held that the great books were written by authors who had complete and total control of their texts. Thus there are no errors, no false starts, everything is very tightly, beautifully constructed so that the initiated can pick up on little mistakes, little openings in the text and find their way in."

This is almost identical to the Rabbinic approach to the Torah and Talmud. While it may be an appopriate approach to texts for which divinity is assumed, it seems a tenuous, almost silly, position to take for human authors.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/16/2004


I just read the 9/11 statements via Instapundit. Seems they are mainlining Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Binalshib. Are they more trustworthy than Chalabi? Just wondering. Interestingly, they airbrushed from history Atta's May and June 2000 trips to Prague -- they appear nowhere in the report which otherwise describes the movements of the hijackers in some detail, despite the fact that there are immigration records he entered Prague on both occasions. They merely fastforward to Atta travelling (without mentioning him as an individual, but as a group) to the US in June 2000. And they pooh-pooh the April 8, 2001 meeting, based solely on the fact that Atta's cellphone was in use between April 4 and April 11 -- April 11 being the first day since the 4th when they can positively identify him in the US after the 4th.

And the Kuala Lumpur meeting? He met with JI people "and others" -- interesting construction there. A skeptical analyst would have a field day with this stuff being put out by the Commission.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/16/2004


I'd note that the verdict is still out on whether the bad guys in Iraq knew the sarin shell they exploded was sarin or not. Newsweek reports that, unlike their previous IED's, they didn't drill into the shell before setting it in position, as they had in their others to facilitate detonation of the explosive warhead. Hmm. And there's no record in the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC reports of binary sarin shells. Hmm.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/16/2004

Well, you've upped the ante, Ralph. Now you assert that she lied (I guess she'd have to have lied, or you would have to call for the editors' heads, too), not that she was taken in by Chalabi, as was DOD. You are a very understanding person, when you choose to be. King's dissertation advisor didn't recognize the plagiarism, though it plagiarized a dissertation he himself had supervised only three years previously, for a host of reasons you cite. Neither I nor Higham quite see it that way. But Miller isn't merely wrong, she lied. I get it. I'd say the evidence for lying by Bellesiles was greater than for Miller, at a time when you were still calling for due process for Bellesiles. You're human after all, Ralph.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/16/2004

Must I say it? Judith lied; people died.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/16/2004

No, I understand the distinction, I just don't think it counts toward an indictment for malfeasance against Miller. Malfeasance on the part of Blair, I assume, is beyond debate.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/16/2004

Richard, You continue to ignore the import of the fairly large difference in terms of social impact between Judith Miller's reporting and Jayson Balir's reporting.

Richard Henry Morgan - 6/16/2004

I guess Jayson Blair is spared by the carefully crafted "currently" qualification. At least Nicholas realizes something -- blame that accrues to Miller must be shared by her superiors.