Monday, October 31, 2005

Iraq-Niger-WMD: Oblivious to the Obvious

The inclination of the Bush administration to ignore the obvious is now well known. But, still, as more details come out about the great WMD debate inside the bureaucracy before the war, you have to shake your head. Joe Wilson's letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee last year refuting some of the assertions in the "additional comments" section of the report about his role in the Niger uranium inquiries includes a succinct chronology of the administration's self-deception. I find the following items particularly revealing:

  • On October 6, 2002, the CIA sent a second fax to the White House which said, "more on why we recommend removing the sentence about procuring uranium oxide from Africa: Three points 1) the evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of the French authorities. 2) the procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. And 3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them that the Africa story is overblown and telling them this in one of the two issues where we differed with the British." (Pg 56)

The war party in the administration saw such reservations as pusillanimous, and there is more than a whiff of CYA gas in the tone of that note. But whether such common sense arguments were firm or feeble, the administration just wasn't listening. (See Maureen Dowd's devastating critique of Cheney's clique and "that incestuous, secretive, vindictive, hallucinatory dark hole they've been bunkered in for five years.") Although U.N. inspections of Iraq began again with a vengeance in late 2002, the Bush administration did not hand off the dubious dossier on Niger uranium to the International Atomic Energy Agency until late February 2003. The then-deputy director Jacques Baute determined within a few minutes that the documents were forgeries. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei (now a nobel laureate) reported this to the U.N. Security Council on March 7, 2003. But there was no way the administration would stop its roll toward war at that point. The invasion of Iraq began less than two weeks later.

Iran: Picking Fights on Purpose?

The Associated Press is reporting that Iran's ruling class is split over the wisdom of President Mahmoud Ahmadi'nejad's boilerplate diatribe against Israel. It's "a disgraceful blot" that ought to be "wiped off the map," he said last Wednesday. After a general uproar at the United Nations, including calls that Iran be expelled for advocating the obliteration of a member state, Ahmadi'nejad claimed his line was exactly the same as the Ayatollah Khomeini's -- as if that made it better. Persian blogwatcher Nasrin Alavi sends this impassioned note:

Hello Chris,

Just when I thought it was impossible, Ahmadi’nejad has again outdone his hostile stance with vile comments that Israel “must be wiped out from the map of the world”.

Describing the annual Qods (Jerusalem) rally in Tehran CNN reported that “Thousands of Iranians staged anti-Israel protests across the country Friday and repeated calls by their ultraconservative president demanding the Jewish state's destruction.” The annual Qods rallies have been going on since the beginning of the revolution (1979), when ayatollah Khomeini, declared that the last Friday of the month of Ramadan would be marked as a day in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Ahmadi’nejad and his ilk surely remember those early days when hundreds of thousands (not thousands) of Iranians would willingly join the march. Despite the headlines, the rally this year was a total flop and a pathetic show in the face of the harassment and pressures on state employees, civil servants, members of the armed forces, teachers, factory workers and students to attend.

Ahmadi’nejad beaming fearlessly now tells the outside world that "My word is the same as that of (the) Iranian nation". But in reality he is having difficulty even speaking on behalf of the regime’s inner circle. There are now rumours that a significant number of Iranian ambassadors are to lose their jobs, including key regime figures such as Zarif at UN, Adeli in London, Kharazi in Paris, Kharghani in Germany and Alborzi at the UN, Geneva.

Things aren’t going that great for our bolshie president even in Iran’s’ hardline-dominated parliament. Back in August four of his proposed cabinet ministers were rejected by parliament and months after his election victory, he has yet to fill four vacant ministerial posts.

The former revolutionary guard’s campaign pledge of social justice and distributing oil money to the poor remains increasingly unrealistic and may eventually bring about utter disappointment even from the regime’s core supporters. The new parliament has to date announced plans to reduce subsidies on the sale of imported petrol, bread and cement. Some are already reporting the beginning of the end for Iranian president's honeymoon period’.

The sabre rattling of fanatics as ever is also drowning out Iran’s active pro-democracy voices. Only a few days ago (26 October) at a gathering of over a thousand people (that included the elected heads of Iran’s’ largest nationwide student union Tahkim Vahdat) Mohsen Kadivar in a speech directly addressed ayatollah Khamanei, the leader of Iran and asked, "a symbol of freedom is for your opponents and those that criticise you to be safe in this society otherwise merely talking of social justice is easy... Why are Ganji, Soltani and Zarafshan still in jail? Kadivar added, “I ask the security officers who are at present amongst us to take my words to the leader...”

Amnesty International reported grave concern about the safety of Akbar Ganji Iran’s longest serving imprisoned journalist. According to Massoumeh Shafii, his wife, he had been severely beaten by Iranian security officers who wanted him to apologise in writing for his books and letters, and to undertake not to give interviews if he was to be granted prison leave.

It may be hard to believe but our former revolutionary guard president fears such speeches and the writings of activist like Ganji more than any US threat. He beams triumphantly like never before as he takes questions from the press about Israel and the US. Men like him thrive on war and their whole existence is based on conflict. They know that their power base will be strengthened, because even those Iranians who oppose them will move to their camp in defence against foreign aggression. They also know that they can put down dissenters with more force than ever before.

Writer and journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi, a one-time cellmate of Akbar Ganji, has said the Ganji is “a South Tehran [working class] stubborn lad that will fight any force or harassment.” Ahmadi’nejad became president on the backing of the noble south Tehran poor. He has promised them prosperity and jobs. He is more fearful of a confrontation with the great and good lads of South Tehran than any dirty war with the West.



Saturday, October 29, 2005

Libby: Snow Falling on Aspens

Lewis Libby, the now-former chief of staff and national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, published a novel in 2001, the year he moved into the Old Executive Office Building. Called “The Apprentice,” it has nothing to do with Donald Trump. It’s set in a snowbound inn in 1903 Japan during a smallpox epidemic. An itinerant troupe of performers has just arrived, perhaps bringing the plague with them. The apprentice is a young man who must run the inn when the owners are away and the drama centers on his fascination with a girl among the performers. The style is spare and affects oriental naturalism. (Remember Libby's letter to Judy Miller? "Out West ... the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them." That sort of thing.)

The first pages, available on Amazon, make very strange reading this morning, like some allegory of the events that led to Libby’s indictment for allegedly lying about his interest in the identity of the nonofficially covered Valerie Plame Wilson: “He knew it was foolish to want to know the girl’s name. … But he wished to know the girl’s name.”

I particularly liked some of the "statistically improbable phrases," or SIPs, discovered by Amazon’s search engine. They give a random but revealing skim of weird images and perceptions from the prose of this man who helped shape the fictions that led us to war in Iraq: assistant headman, tiny dancer, man with the pole, mountain trousers, old samurai, lacquer workers, liquid woman, dead hunter, youth hesitated, charcoal maker, youth glanced, yellow fur, man with the club, youth nodded, youth stared, moment the youth, snow wall, young samurai.

One could almost confect a surreal little pseudo-Japanese poem:

Libby, assistant head man.
Libby, tiny dancer.
Libby, man with the pole.
Libby, mountain trousers.
Libby, old samurai.

Judy, lacquer worker.
Judy, liquid woman.
Judy, dead hunter.

Patrick, youth glanced.
Patrick, man with the club.
Patrick, youth nodded.
Patrick, youth stared.

White House, snow wall.
Patrick, young samurai.

- CD

Headline of the Day ...

Libby Lawyer Plans Lack-of-Memory Defense

Correspondents: Tom Masland, 1950-2005

My friend Tom Masland wrote about war, famine, epidemics and, whenever he could, hope. Most of his career, or the best-known part of it, was spent in the combat zones of the Middle East and Africa taking risks and, at least once in Liberia, getting wounded. But what Tom loved about his job wasn’t the adrenaline, it was the experience of mysterious and exotic corners of life hidden away in exotic places. When he was in Cairo, I remember, he used to stay in a house-boat hotel. On the road, which is where we usually were, Tom and I ran into each other in Beirut in the time of kidnapping and Kuwait when its shipping was under siege during the “Tanker War.” Once we met in Brazzaville as Mobutu’s regime was collapsing across the Congo River in Kinshasa. Tom was hanging out with a diamond merchant or smuggler, I wasn’t entirely sure which, and I remember that was the first time I ever heard the term “blue ground,” which is the kind of earth where raw diamonds are found.
Tom’s family was tremendously important to him. We talked often about our fathers and about his wife, Gina, and his three sons, who were always too far away from wherever it was that we were.
And Tom loved his music -- his jazz -- playing it and writing about it with great talent and quiet excitement. When Tom ended his assignment in Africa and moved back to the States last summer, he was looking forward to the time he’d be spending with those other loves and lives. And then, on a rainy night on the Upper West Side earlier this week, Tom was hit by the mirror of a passing SUV. As Tom fell, his head struck the pavement. On Thursday night he died in hospital.
Tom’s funeral is Sunday, and there will probably be a memorial service this summer, a pig roast on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which he would have loved and which will give a lot of us a chance to celebrate his life. One of our friends says his ashes probably will be scattered on the Cheasapeake, which is fitting. But I cannot think of Tom without thinking of blue ground, and imagining him among the rough diamonds that are found there. - CD

Following are links to Newsweek’s tributes to Tom Masland:

Journalist, Jazzman, Gentleman
Thomas Wootton Masland: 1950-2005

By Rod Nordland
Nov. 7, 2005 issue - When our colleague Tom Masland stepped off the curb onto West End Avenue on the rainy night of Oct. 24, he had his funky little black bag over his left shoulder and his sax in a case in his right hand, and his life was about to end. He had just finished a gig at a Manhattan jazz club called Cleopatra's Needle, and was on his way to another performance downtown. In his day job, he had been a foreign correspondent and an editor for NEWSWEEK, occupations he had performed with such devotion and skill that many of us wouldn't know until he died how much else there was to him....

Highlights of Masland's Work:

Q&A: Masland on Life as a Correspondent

Photos: On Assignment in Africa

This is the conclusion of the Q&A after Tom was wounded in Liberia:

You have a wife and three kids; do you worry about going into these kinds of situations?

I do it extremely sparingly; I do the minimum of this kind of thing. And if I am going to do something like this, I get in and out. I don't work like the photographers. They really expose themselves to a lot more danger than I do. Obviously they have to get a clear line of sight for stuff that is happening, but, to me, it is worth it to witness what is actually happening because I see things that I wouldn't otherwise, in terms of the way Charles Taylor's fighters were performing. I got stuff I wouldn't have had by just going to hospitals to see the wounded brought in or taking another tack on covering this offensive. I mean, the effect on civilians is probably the most compelling aspect of the story, because the mortaring of these refugees who are packed into the other side of town was quite awful. But, at the same time, I felt I would gain something from going to and passing by the front there. So I thought it was worth taking a small risk, and I try to be very careful about it. There is a way of doing dangerous things carefully.

Photo by Louise Gubb

Shadowland Mail: Last Miller Missives

From Patty Gann
10/20/2005 3:00
Your article on the lessons learned from the miller story is one of the best articles i have read in a long time. you explained so much that i suspected but couldn't put all the pieces together.
i hope that you are wrong that americans don't want in-depth news. i sure want to be informed and most of my friends do also and we are continually frustrated by the lack of real news reported, especially on television. i'm am afraid of whats in store for our country's future if something doesn't change.
thanks again!
patty gann

From Gus Gonzales
Austin, TX
10/25/2005 12:04
Solid, prize-winning investigative reporting from the ground up. A critical mass of this kind of reporting could have slammed the brakes on the public's support for entering the war in 2002 and 2003. Bush and his legacy certainly will bear the weight of history for his mistakes. But he didn't do it alone. As a nation, America is ultimately responsible for the tragedy of good intentions that has been the Iraq War. We have reaped the bitter fruit of seeds sown years ago by our own insular minded arrogance, ignorance and pride. We stopped caring about the truth, preferring to proclaim it instead though the bombastic pronouncements of our leaders. They gave us what they thought would grant them power, and we went along. The mark of sin is upon all our heads. No one is innocent. And the judgment is meted out daily to those in Iraq who wear the uniform of our rapidly declining republic. They are in the Hell of our own making. For this, we have damned them, and ourselves, to ruin. This republic shall not soon last for the sins of its citizens. It will sleepwalk into its' own suicide. Millions of somnabulistic-minded Americans aid and abet the worst excesses of our political "leaders" when they demand simple answers to the big, complex, scary world out there. The sun has set on the American Dream. The languid moon soon rises over the American Nightmare, the sum of the nothingness in the national character, which once demanded truth to power. We will laugh ourselves into oblivion...

The original article:

Burning Questions
The Cannibalistic media frenzy over Judy Miller ignores the lessons we should be learning from here case.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mail: Keller, Miller et al

The role of New York Times reporter Judy Miller in the Plame affair continues to generate controversy. Just when you think the flames on her pyre are about to die down, someone – sometimes including Judy – does something to fan them back to life. At the end of the week, Times Editor Bill Keller sent a long e-mail to staffers. (See below.) Judy took umbrage at the word “entanglement,” among other things. I’m told she believes her reputation eventually will be vindicated because she spent 85 days in prison to stop the courts from launching a fishing expedition for her sources. You’ll recall that only Libby was identified. Our readers have some interesting things to say about that:

As you can imagine, I've done a lot of thinking -- and a lot of listening -- on the subject of what I should have done differently in handling our reporter's entanglement in the White House leak investigation. Jill and John and I have talked a great deal among ourselves and with many of you, and while this is a discussion that will continue, we thought it would be worth taking a first cut at the lessons we have learned.
Aside from a number of occasions when I wish I had chosen my words more carefully, we've come up with a few points at which we wish we had made different decisions. These are instances, when viewed with the clarity of hindsight, where the mistakes carry lessons beyond the peculiar circumstances of this case.
I wish we had dealt with the controversy over our coverage of WMD as soon as I became executive editor. At the time, we thought we had compelling reasons for kicking the issue down the road. The paper had just been through a major trauma, the Jayson Blair episode, and needed to regain its equilibrium. It felt somehow unsavory to begin a tenure by attacking our predecessors. I was trying to get my arms around a huge new job, appoint my team, get the paper fully back to normal, and I feared the WMD issue could become a crippling distraction.
So it was a year before we got around to really dealing with the controversy. At that point, we published a long editors' note acknowledging the prewar journalistic lapses, and -- to my mind, at least as important - - we intensified aggressive reporting aimed at exposing the way bad or manipulated intelligence had fed the drive to war. (I'm thinking of our excellent investigation of those infamous aluminum tubes, the report on how the Iraqi National Congress recruited exiles to promote Saddam's WMD threat, our close look at the military's war-planning intelligence, and the dissection, one year later, of Colin Powell's U.N. case for the war, among other examples. The fact is sometimes overlooked that a lot of the best reporting on how this intel fiasco came about appeared in the NYT.)
By waiting a year to own up to our mistakes, we allowed the anger inside and outside the paper to fester. Worse, we fear, we fostered an impression that The Times put a higher premium on protecting its reporters than on coming clean with its readers. If we had lanced the WMD boil earlier, we might have damped any suspicion that THIS time, the paper was putting the defense of a reporter above the duty to its readers.
I wish that when I learned Judy Miller had been subpoenaed as a witness in the leak investigation, I had sat her down for a thorough debriefing, and followed up with some reporting of my own. It is a natural and proper instinct to defend reporters when the government seeks to interfere in our work. And under other circumstances it might have been fine to entrust the details -- the substance of the confidential interviews, the notes -- to lawyers who would be handling the case. But in this case I missed what should have been significant alarm bells. Until Fitzgerald came after her, I didn't know that Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end of the anti-Wilson whisper campaign. I should have wondered why I was learning this from the special counsel, a year after the fact. (In November of 2003 Phil Taubman tried to ascertain whether any of our correspondents had been offered similar leaks. As we reported last Sunday, Judy seems to have misled Phil Taubman about the extent of her involvement.) This alone should have been enough to make me probe deeper.
In the end, I'm pretty sure I would have concluded that we had to fight this case in court. For one thing, we were facing an insidious new menace in these blanket waivers, ostensibly voluntary, that Administration officials had been compelled to sign. But if I had known the details of Judy's entanglement with Libby, I'd have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and perhaps more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at exploring compromises.
Dick Stevenson has expressed the larger lesson here in an e-mail that strikes me as just right: "I think there is, or should be, a contract between the paper and its reporters. The contract holds that the paper will go to the mat to back them up institutionally -- but only to the degree that the reporter has lived up to his or her end of the bargain, specifically to have conducted him or herself in a way consistent with our legal, ethical and journalistic standards, to have been open and candid with the paper about sources, mistakes, conflicts and the like, and generally to deserve having the reputations of all of us put behind him or her. In that way, everybody knows going into a battle exactly what the situation is, what we're fighting for, the degree to which the facts might counsel compromise or not, and the degree to which our collective credibility should be put on the line."
I've heard similar sentiments from a number of reporters in the aftermath of this case.
There is another important issue surfaced by this case: how we deal with the inherent conflict of writing about ourselves. This paper (and, indeed, this business) has had way too much experience of that over the past few years. Almost everyone we've heard from on the staff appreciates that once we had agreed as an institution to defend Judy's source, it would have been wrong to expose her source in the paper. Even if our reporters had learned that information through their own enterprise, our publication of it would have been seen by many readers as authoritative -- as outing Judy's source in a backhanded way. Yet it is excruciating to withhold information of value to our readers, especially when rival publications are unconstrained. I don't yet see a clear-cut answer to this dilemma, but we've received some thoughtful suggestions from the staff, and it's one of the problems that we'll be wrestling with in the coming weeks.
Best, Bill

Some mail from readers:

From Kathy McMorrow
Santa Rosa CA
10/18/2005 6:55
My common sense tells me that Judith Miller is not a very good reporter, that she promised confidentiality to a source who didn't merit it and that the Administration manipulated her because they could and it served their ends. Protecting the confidentiality of a whistle-blower who speaks the truth to power is honorable; protecting the confidentiality of those in power who are abusing it to kill dissent is just plain dumb. Judith Miller and the NY Times were used as an instrument to keep the American public from knowing the truth. Nothing the paper or Miller has said since her contempt order was lifted makes me believe that they won't be duped again. PS. When I was in J-school, we got 50 points off for misspelling a name. Valerie Flame indeed!

From Guy Linn
Reston, Va.
10/19/2005 2:02

Thru almost five years of Bush, the press has been cowered into not asking the tough questions and in many cases are mere shills for the adminstration line. Judy Miller is unfortunatly the rule rather than the exception which does not inspire confidence in what we read now. This does not bode well for democracy.

From Ken Widaman
La Verne, CA

10/20/2005 11:50
The revelation (and resultant furor) of Robert Novak's original article on this subject led me to the conclusion that, "He's either a dupe or a shill." Dickey's article leads me to believe that Miller is both. Thank you for the insight into how very difficult it must be to maintain journalistic integrity when such minor intellects (dare I say "Media Whores"?) are rewarded in the marketplace.

From Anne Ward
Libertyville, IL
10/21/2005 2:44
That Judy Miller is the figure in the spotlight is a joke. Yes, she did a terrible job "reporting" the WMD story. She's got to live with the damage done to her reputation. However, the journalists who want to throw Miller on the pyre should instead focus on the real story - what did the administration know and when did they know it? Why on earth did we go to war in Iraq? The administration knew before Bush's 2003 State
of the Union address that Saddam's nuclear ambitions in Africa were naught. Yet those "16 words" still made it in, invoking a terrifying image of a madman with a nuclear arsenal. How can our intelligence community fail so hugely? What is being done to fix the intelligence problems that got us into this mess? Did the administration manipulate
evidence to make the case for war in Iraq? Why Iraq? Those questions are the ones that the media should be investigating relentlessly. Whether or not Judy is breaking a sweat over any of this is irrelevant.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Iraq: Cashing In

Thanks to A.E. for forwarding this devastating critique of corruption in occupied Iraq as published by The American Conservative Magazine. The author is a former CIA officer, but the research appears mainly to be from clippings. Never mind. Newsweek did an award-winning cover on "The $87 Billion-Dollar Money Pit" in December 2003, but it was overwhelmed in the news cycle a few days later when Saddam Hussein was pulled out of a hole by American forces. Remember when capturing Saddam was supposed to solve everything? As Giraldi points out, the enduring legacy of this occupation is corruption.

Money for Nothing: Billions of dollars have disappeared, gone to bribe Iraqis and line contractors’ pockets, by Philip Giraldi

The United States invaded Iraq with a high-minded mission: destroy dangerous weapons, bring democracy, and trigger a wave of reform across the Middle East. None of these have happened. When the final page is written on America’s catastrophic imperial venture, one word will dominate the explanation of U.S. failure—corruption. Large-scale and pervasive corruption meant that available resources could not be used to stabilize and secure Iraq in the early days of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), when it was still possible to do so. Continuing corruption meant that the reconstruction of infrastructure never got underway, giving the Iraqi people little incentive to co-operate with the occupation. Ongoing corruption in arms procurement and defense spending means that Baghdad will never control a viable army while the Shi’ite and Kurdish militias will grow stronger and produce a divided Iraq in which constitutional guarantees will be irrelevant. ...

For more background, this is from July 2003:

$1 Billion a Week
And that’s on the low side. So much for a ‘self-sustaining’ reconstruction. Parsing the real cost for U.S. taxpayers

By Christopher Dickey
July 21, 2003.
ONE AFTERNOON HE was headed out on the highway to the Baghdad airport in a heavily protected convoy. Sen. Richard Lugar already had been warned that, on that road, “people get shot, there are fire fights.” Then the general with him suddenly ordered a machine gunner on top of a Humvee to get down. The reason: Iraqi killers are good at blindsiding American troops. “From time to time,” Lugar was told, “there are enemy, whoever they are, who sort of loop wires down from the bridges that might pluck somebody off at the neck as they go down the road.”
By the time Lugar’s trip to Iraq was over, the Indiana Republican worried the American people were being blindsided, too, by the true costs in blood and treasure of a war that has yet to end.
“This idea that we will be in [Iraq] ‘just as long as we need to and not a day more’,” he said, paraphrasing the administration line, “is rubbish! We’re going to be there a long time.” Lugar said he kept demanding answers about the cost to American taxpayers and was not quite getting them. “Where does the money come from?” he asked. “How is it to be disbursed, and by whom?”
Last week, at last, some of the answers started coming in, and they were grim. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a hearing that the “burn rate” for American money to fund the military presence in Iraq was now $3.9 billion a month—almost $1 billion a week. “This is tough stuff,” said a cranky Rumsfeld, lecturing the Senate committee. “This is hard work. This takes time. We need to have some patience.” ...

Lebanon: The Usual Suspects

In the current edition of Newsweek, Kevin Peraino and I report that the strongest evidence in the Rafik Hariri murder case is to be found in the phone records analyzed by the United Nations commission investigating the bombing. What is not new is the thinly sourced accusation naming top Syrian officials. As the headlines on this February 19, 2005 issue of Al-Seyassah clearly demonstrate, within a week of the Valentine's Day bombing direct accusations were leveled against Asef Shawkat, Syrian intelligence chief and brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad, Gen. Bahjat Suleiman, who was head of internal security forces in the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate at the time; and Lebanon's Gen. Jamil Sayyed, who was Director of General Security in Beirut. (Thanks to my friend M.S. in Lebanon for passing along the scan of the front page.) Of course, there are other sensational names in the U.N. report, including and especially the Syrian president's brother, Maher al-Assad. But there's also a potential trap here, as UN-appointed investigator Detlev Mehlis apparently understands. The top Syrian figures in the report are implicated by only one anonymous witness, and Mehlis tried to get those names taken out of the copy released to the press. This has been depicted as an effort to protect the presumption of innocence. Perhaps. But it would also be protect Mehlis and the credibility of his report. If the testimony of that one witness cannot be substantiated and investigators have to dial back, then the whole inquiry could be discredited even though the documentary evidence makes the case against the Syrian intelligence services, as such, very clear indeed. - CD

Newsweek: They Dialed M For Murder, 23 Oct 2005
Phone records suggest assassins linked to Syria
By Christopher Dickey and Kevin Peraino, with Mark Hosenball and John Barry

Friday, October 21, 2005

Powell's Chief of Staff Speaks Out

Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff at the State Department from 2002 to 2005, recently gave a critique of the Bush administration's administration that was as blunt as it could be. One brief excerpt:

When you cut the bureaucracy out of your decisions and then foist your decisions, more or less out of the blue, on that bureaucracy, you can’t expect that bureaucracy to carry your decision out very well. And furthermore, if you’re not prepared to stop the feuding elements in that bureaucracy as they carry out your decision, you’re courting disaster. And I would say that we have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran. Generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita – and I could go on back – we haven’t done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence. … Read in there what they say about the necessity of the people to throw off tyranny or to throw off ineptitude or to throw off that which is not doing what the people want it to do. And you’re talking about the potential for, I think, real dangerous times if we don’t get our act together.

Shadowland Audio: The Miller Affair

The latest Shadowland column, "Burning Questions," is now available as an audio presentation or a podcast.

Iraq: An Avian Flu Factor?

Just came across this interesting post from Laurie Garrett at The Council on Foreign Relations:

...The Department of Defense is working on at least two pandemic flu plans, but we are not aware of any that posit a domestic role for military personnel. On September 16 the Defense Intelligence Agency issued a pandemic flu assessment that finds the most likely scenario for H5N1 to be that “the virus continues to be transmitted among bird species with sporadic cases among humans,” offering no serious problems for the American people or military. DoD has no published plans for dealing with virulent influenza among active duty personnel, or for conducting wars on two fronts when a significant percentage of combat personnel are ailing. We find this particularly troubling in light of the fact that insurgents battling U.S. personnel both in Iraq and Afghanistan often include suicidal players for whom the threat of lethal influenza would not likely be a deterrent to their military operations. In effect, if 30% of U.S. frontline troops were down with virulent flu while the epidemic had no impact on insurgent activities, the virus could prove a decisive strategic factor. ...

Al-Qaeda: Pen Pals

Several analysts have called into question the authenticity of a supposed letter by Al Qaeda ideologue Ayman Zawahiri to Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi, suggesting that it is a Shiite forgery passed on to the Americans or a wholesale fabrication by one or another government agency in northern Virginia. The way President Bush tried to exploit it in his recent speech, and the fact that the text was posted by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, certainly raises suspicions among conspiracy theorists. Here in Paris, scholar Gilles Kepel concedes, half joking, that it could be the work of any of his brighter graduate students, but he thinks that on the whole it seems genuine. (Gilles is the author, most recently, of "Al-Qaida dans le texte," a detailed study of radical Islamist ideology as written by Zawahiri and others, which is a perfect companion to Gilles's earlier books on fundamentalism and jihad that are available in English.) Whatever the provenance of the DNI version, The New Republic has presented its own text, which follows closely, but not quite precisely, the language of the original:

Postcard from the Edge
by T. A. Frank
Another letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi.

In the name of God, praise be to God, and praise and blessings be upon the Messenger of God, his family, his co-workers, and his broker.

Dear Brother,
God only knows how much I would enjoy visiting you in Iraq. The only thing keeping me from packing my bags, donning a burqa, and slipping into a carrier sack on a westbound mule right now is that I'm tied up with promoting my latest book, Man Behind the Mosque: Faith, Community and Discourse in Post-Bunker-Buster Waziristan (334 pp., Madrassa Press, $28.95 Canadian). Did you happen to see me on "Charlie Rose"? I had you in mind when I sent in my threatening audiotape. ...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Shadowland Mail: The Miller Case

Some of the mail about the Shadowland column "Burning Questions" about the controversy surrounding Judy Miller's reporting on Iraq before, during and after the invasion:

From Norman Ravitch
Savannah, GA
10/18/2005 6:34
If Ms. Miller is as nutty as you suggest why don't you just say so,

without concealment?

From Paula Stout
10/18/2005 10:08 PM
Excellent job holding the magnifying glass up to the fourth estate and
reminding us all that humans are human---they make mistakes and are sometimes victims of their own sloppiness.... but, even more important than that...thank you for doing your part to combat the essence of the problem encased in RFK, JR. quote... we are the least-informed people...but, with reporters like you, perhaps, one day, we'll remember that we also have the opportunity to become the best-informed people. thanks again. paula.

From Rick Reeder
Boca Raton, Florida
10/18/2005 8:24

Dear Mr. Dickey,
I read with great interest your piece on Judy Miller and understand much more about the personality she is. I don't know if she is star struck by the folks she is suppose to view with a critical eye, or just hurried and careless. But your insight on her is most valuable.
In spite of what has to be genuine frustration within the journalistic world over the short attention spans of most Americans, please know that the work you do is critically important to all of us. We can all disagree about how we as a country are to proceed in a political and policy based world, but the failure to extract the honest truth about what we are being told and what we are not being told goes to the root of our existence.
We truly need to work that you do in spite of our differences and
indifference. Kind Regards, Rick Reeder

From Vince Treacy

10/18/2005 6:11

The short answer is that Miller is not a reporter.
Miller learned from Libby about Wilson's trip to Niger, but no one has asked why she didn't go to Wilson and get his side of the story.
I thought that any good reporter sought to check facts at the source.
We have seen a million stories with the note that phone calls, emails, requests for interviews with X were not returned or refused.
Is there a difference between a reporter and a conduit?
Vince Treacy

From Nat Irvin
Winston-Salem, NC
10/19/2005 10:20

..Very insightful, poetic even.
You remain a favorite writer in a sea of hot air..

Nat Irvin, II

From Clarice L. Kesler
North Dakota
10/19/2005 9:37

I really enjoyed your article. Unfortunately "a lack of standards" not only exists among several jourmalists in your profession, but seems to permeate society these days. And we accept it. More articles like this one may, and the unstable nature of what is going on in this country today, may make all of us do a little soul searching to start demanding not only more from our government and our media, but from ourselves.

Name Chris Bradley
Upton, MA
10/19/2005 10:48

Give this man a raise and more prominence. These sentences are the best thing I've heard on this whole sordid affair, "Burning Judy won't light the way to better journalistic standards and ethics in a media marketplace that long ago concluded having access to power is more important than speaking truth to it. Worst of all, there's very little public demand from the public for solid, prize-winning, and oh-so-expensive investigative reporting from the ground up."

From John Pilon

Neenah, WI
10/18/2005 10:41
Judy Miller may have started as a legit reporter but she slipped on the banana peel of careerism and became a shill for the Bush Administration...for that she has our undying disdain.

From Jim Picard
Madison, WI
0/19/2005 9:52
Mr. Dickey: Thanks so much for your column on the Judy Miller matter. As we endure double speak and deception from most of our elected officials, raised to an art form by the current Administration's mastery of misinformation, it has been distressing to see so little true investigative journalism -- down-and-dirty digging up of facts. With very few exceptions, investigative journalists seem to have disappeared and been replaced by 'reporters' flocking to state the obvious, ... "this City is flooded".
My favorite law professor lectured on the public's constitutional "right to know" what our government was up to. This right is a central component in our democracy, and effective investigative journalism a critical element in protecting that right.
Blogs and letters to opinion pages by average 'civilians' like me seem to suggest many share my question: where are our investigative journalists when we need them most? Jim Picard

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Foresight: Breaking up Iraq ... and More

Note the date:

The Mideast After Saddam
Fault lines: In pondering his next step, Bush must weigh the idea that war would be good for the Middle East
By Christopher Dickey
Newsweek International
Updated: 10:42 a.m. ET Dec. 5, 2002
Issues 2003 - As George W. Bush looks at the Middle East, powerful voices in and around his administration tell him the status quo is unsalvageable. They say Arabs are just waiting for a visionary American president to clear away the corruption and dictatorship that curse the region, starting with Saddam Hussein. Apocalyptic optimists like Joshua Muravchik at the American Enterprise Institute suggest the invasion of Iraq will “unleash a tsunami across the Islamic world,” a tidal wave of democracy and modernization.
BUT THE REAL CHOICE Bush faces—and he certainly knows this—is not between Saddam and democracy; it is between the risks of trying to sustain a shaky status quo and the risks of provoking disorder that might be impossible to control. “Ultimately, he will have to decide,” says Rachel Bronson of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Is chaos good or bad for the region?”
Theoretical social engineering is dangerous. Disarming Saddam is a necessary—and limited—goal that might be achieved in many different ways. Not so the propagation of popular democracy through military occupation. There’s just no good precedent for that in the Arab and Islamic realms, or anywhere in the developing world. The models cited by some advocates of invasion are occupied Germany and Japan after World War II. But as the Carnegie Foundation recently pointed out, the problematic experiences of Haiti, Afghanistan and the Balkans are more recent and more relevant.
The Haitian invasion of 1994 and subsequent reconstruction have given us “political chaos, renewed repression and dismal U.S.-Haiti relations,” Carnegie says. In the Afghan case, “the [Bush] administration’s failure to back up its promises” for reconstruction bodes ill for its commitment to Iraq. In Bosnia, there’s “only a tenuous political equilibrium that even six years later would collapse if international forces pulled out.” The voices of caution in the administration, mostly in the State Department and the CIA, warn that the Middle East, like the Balkans, is a mass of fault lines, and tremors of chaos spread much faster than any new sort of order.
In a worst-case, but not least likely, scenario, it’s easy to imagine Iraq’s coming apart during and after the invasion. The whole Middle East becomes massively unstable, its regimes morphing, its frontiers drawn and redrawn. Turkey and Iran, which have restive Kurdish populations of their own, would feel pressure to impose order on swaths of Kurdish northern Iraq just to preserve their internal stability. Patchwork efforts to establish order would result in compromise countries: junk states that meet some of the demands of national identity but not all the requirements of sovereignty, like Kosovo in the Balkans, the present Kurdish entity in northern Iraq and the Palestinian Authority in the occupied territories.
Traditional divisions may prove an unreliable guide to the fracturing Middle East. Urbanization over the last 50 years throws the calculations off. As we learned during the siege of Sarajevo, immigration to cities can create multiethnic urban centers that greatly complicate the process of breaking up. Today, Lebanon, Iraq—yes, Iraq—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait all have more than 80 percent of their population living in urban centers, and in most of the rest of the Arab world the ratio is above 50 percent.
Still, the basic fault lines of the Middle East are well known. In Iraq, the breakup likely would trace the three governorates that existed under the Ottoman Empire before World War I: Mosul, which is largely Kurdish; Baghdad, which is largely Sunni Arab, and Basra, which is largely Shiite Arab...

Shadowland: The Miller Affair

Burning Questions
The Cannibalistic media frenzy over Judy Miller ignores the lessons we should be learning from here case
By Christopher Dickey
Judith Miller takes good notes, but she doesn’t always know where they come from. That was one of the first lessons I learned about her when we were both based in Cairo 20 years ago, she for The New York Times and I for The Washington Post. As often happens in the field, we were competitors who spent a lot of time working with and against each other, in a friendly sort of way. And so it was that in August 1985 we wound up on the same trip to visit the front lines of a half-forgotten war in the Western Sahara. (Late summer in an African desert where the sun burns the rocks black: I remember Judy proudly volunteering the personal detail, “I don’t sweat. I never sweat.”) ...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Iraq: Hollywood on the Tiber

This from the BBC:

Spider-Man star Kirsten Dunst is to play US aid worker Marla Ruzicka, who died in a suicide bombing in Baghdad, in a new Hollywood movie about the Iraq war.
It will be made for Paramount Pictures after it acquired the rights last year, says industry newspaper Daily Variety.
Ruzicka, 28, worked in Afghanistan and Iraq trying to document the number of civilians killed or hurt by US forces.
The movie follows a glut of Hollywood films depicting the war in Iraq due to open over the coming months.
Films set for the big screen include No True Glory: The Battle for Fallujah, starring Harrison Ford, and Jarhead, starring Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal. ...

For more on Marla as she was before Hollywood got a hold of her, see:

Shadowland: Angel of Mercy, 19 April 2005
Marla Ruzicka was one of a kind. The Baghdad death of the unorthodox young aid worker has devastated those who knew her.

and this from October 2003:

Shadowland: War by the Numbers. The United States may spend a billion dollars to find phantom weapons. What about laying to rest the ghosts of Iraqi civilians?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Immigrants: Knocking on Heaven's Door

Newsweek Int'l: Immigration: At The Gates, 16 Oct 2005
As the European Union expands, it's come face to face with a new world.

By Christopher Dickey, with Eric Pape and Tracy McNicoll in Paris, Jenny Barchfield in Madrid, Jacopo Barigazzi in Milan, and Stefan Theil in Berlin

Oct. 24, 2005 issue - The Africans had walked for days from the vast Sahara to reach those high fences topped with razor wire that are all that separates their world from two tiny outposts of Europe on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. They came from Senegal, from Mali, from Mauritania—from countries they wouldn't name, whose papers they had destroyed—and hid deep in Morocco's coastal forest, waiting.
When the moment came, they used cell phones to coordinate their assaults on the fences, rushing forward like human avalanches, hundreds of men at a time, some carrying ladders, some with gloves and loose clothes, cascading against the barriers erected around the Spanish enclaves called Ceuta and Melilla. Starting in late September, as Spanish authorities set about methodically raising the fence from three meters to six, wave upon wave of would-be immigrants made desperate attempts to clamber over. Spanish security forces, greatly outnumbered, haven't been able to hold all of them back. Moroccan security forces, first diffident, then excessive, have twice opened fire. At least 14 of the climbers have been killed. But if these tragedies have inspired pity and fear all over the European Union, it's not just because of the drama of the moment; it's because they are omens of greater troubles to come...

Syria: The Kanaan Conundrum

From our Newsweek article: Buried With Secrets, 16 Oct 2005
Ghazi Kanaan shot himself in the mouth -- or not.

Did he kill himself or was he killed? Had he blown the whistle on massive corruption, or did he just get too greedy? Could he have been the man behind the sensational murder of a former Lebanese prime minister, or was he going to rat out the real killer? Damascus is an Orwellian wonderland of rewritten histories and untrue facts, so when the regime there announced last week that Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan had taken his own life, there were very few points on which intelligence analysts, diplomats and politicians could agree. Except one: Kanaan knew too much. ...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Saudi View: Time-Out, America

My friend the Saudi essayist is still in California, still thinking about where the Middle East and the United States are headed, and although he doesn't say it here, I believe between the lines he's pondering Washington's plans for Syria when he suggests it's time for the USA to take a time out:

It has not been plain sailing for America these past years, whether internationally or domestically. America’s foreign engagements and her relations with the rest of the world could certainly be doing better. Domestically, polls, economic figures and the course of political battles could also be more positive. With all these roadblocks America has not had the time to reconsider its positions or to take a step back from it all. It is time for America to take a real time-out for a little introspection.

Of late, America has taken on too many battles, too many commitments, too many challenges. The many engagements of the war on terrorism, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the loss of international trust and support, and the imperial concept of pre-emption have sapped America’s strength abroad and at home. Rushing into huge tax cuts, the reform of Medicare and Social Security, “No Child Left Behind,” and the appointment of controversial figures and Supreme Court judges has compounded this problem at home, creating both confusion and disappointment.

It is sad to see a country with so much potential, such great people and such great previous achievements in such a state of suspense and bewilderment. But I have tremendous faith in the ability of Americans to get to work and confidently set out to resolve the problems that they have themselves created as well as those which were caused by nature or by the bad intentions of others.

As America looks inward, they will have the time to look at their own failures or mistakes as well as those of others. The political process and the principles to which Americans adhere are strong enough to get to the bottom of this and to remedy it; they have certainly done so in the past. This time-out has become absolutely essential, as rapidly succeeding setbacks and challenges are slipping out of America’s hands. Losing more time or accumulating more commitments could yet have far more damaging effects.

The fact that America still seems to be split down the middle between Republicans and Democrats is not a healthy or an encouraging sign. But I believe that the weight of the problems to be faced will bring Americans together to look for solutions and compromises. It will do America good to take this time to resolve within themselves the issues which have been created not by bad intentions, but by poor information, insufficient planning and analysis, and by certain officials choosing to play the part of ideologues rather than being realistic policy-makers.

Like hurricanes, facing these various storms may be painful, destructive and require a lot of courage, but once the storms have been overcome a new life can start, fields can grow afresh, and a stronger consciousness, more aware of its abilities and its limitations will emerge. America has shown that it can weather its storms, now it is time for a new life, a new policy, a new direction. We are all waiting confidently to see it happen.

Patriotism: George Washington's View

Thanks to my friend David Goldenberg for posting George Washington's level-headed view of patriotism while in winter quarters at Valley Forge:

George Washington to John Banister, April 21, 1778

I do not mean to exclude altogether the idea of patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest. But I will venture to assert, that a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward.

Bush: The Play's the Thing

Bush Teleconference with Soldiers Staged
By Deb Riechmann, Associated Press Writer

... Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, denounced the event as "a carefully scripted publicity stunt." Five of the 10 U.S. troops involved were officers, he said.
"If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can't do it in a nationally televised teleconference," Rieckhoff said. "He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that's not a bunch of captains."

Surely no one can be surprised that Bush's globally broadcast chat with soldiers was rehearsed. (By the way, remember when he used to go to Iraq himself for these staged events?) But I like the conclusion of Riechmann's article, excerpted above, because it fits so well with what John Dunne wrote about.

There's also this, from a young friend who's an officer in the U.S. Navy:

Chris, I have jetlag to thank for allowing me to wake up extra-early to watch the President address the troops in Tikrit via teleconference.
It might have been the most cringe-worthy, staged media event I have ever seen. Even more offensive than party conventions, since they suckered troops into it.
Did you catch this exchange? (There was an Iraqi master sergeant sitting among the Americans).
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Sergeant Akeel, thanks for joining us. I appreciate -- appreciate your service. You've got something to say, Akeel?
SERGEANT AKEEL: Good morning, Mr. President. Thank you for everything. Thank very much for everything.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, you're welcome.
SERGEANT AKEEL: I like you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that.

Shadowland: The Podcast

The latest Shadowland column, "Wars of Hate," is now available as an MP3 audio file and Podcast .

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Shadowland Mail: Wars of Hate

Some of the responses to the most recent Shadowland column about war, patriotism and John Gregory Dunne:

From Dennis Stenftenagel
Ferdinand, Indiana
10/12/2005 8:48 I will never forget seeing lyndon johnson visiting the troops in '67. We were urged to turn out [read ordered] for his visit. What hit home for me that he was unable to make eye contact with any of us in the sea of green and kaki and the fact few of us wanted to be there. I am seeing the same thing from our leader today but the military types and the public are not where [yet] they were back in '67 but that too is changing. We are again in the wrong war for the wrong reasons.
10/13/2005 11:49 .......I took pictures of the event and I have one of Johnson taken from 10 feet away from his limo and he actually has his hand positioned next to his face like he was trying to hide from the crowd of those who turned out to see him. I wish I knew what was going through his mind at the time.......As to George the second; he is so shielded from reality by himself and others that reality will never eat away at him like it did for Johnson in my humble opinion.........BE WELL.........dennis

From Doug Parkinson
Arcata, CA
10/12/2005 12:41
There have been exceptions to the rule. I cannot be to vocal about my resistance to this choreographed war on terror to parents whose children (teenagers with automatic weapons)are "over there". I recognize the concern for their children by the unspoken fear in their eyes as we talk. Also unspoken, " why are not your military aged children not there? Doug Parkinson LRRP/Rangers 1st Cav Division Vietnam, 67-68

From Meg Greene
10/12/2005 8:42 AM
Well said... on behalf of your friend John Gregory Dunne. Thank you. I bet he would thank you, too. Meg Greene

From John Kirk
10/11/2005 8:02 PM
Mr. Dickey, You article on patriotism and Mr. Dunne was very important and the reason I am writing to you. Like John Dunne, my father "fought the Korean War in Germany." He was a Harvard Educated lawyer in the JAG on the defense side and threw up from nerves before each trial - but he won them all. I wonder what he would have thought of Abu Graib and Gitmo. He died of Alzheimer's so we will never know. I have a bumper sticker on my car which reads "If You Support The War in Iraq Volunteer To Fight In IT". People like your son need help. The reaction from Bush supporters when they see it is fascinating. We are a patriotic family. Irish Americans. Fighters in our way. Through our ethnic and historical prism we know something of what an occupation can do to both sides. I think you will like the song "The Earnest Soldier" and you will appreciate "Extraordinary Rendition." "Heaven Help Me" - maybe you can tell me what its about. Its just a conversation between a father and son in music as far as we are concerned. But I think it may have some relevance to Mr. Dunne and you and your son and my father and my son and how we communicate our ideas and ideals to each other in this country. John

From Dan Brekke
Berkeley, CA
10/12/2005 2:24
Chris, this can only be the beginning of the discussion. I think Dunne's sense of this issue, and yours, is spot on as far as it goes. Sacrifices must be shared. We must not fight wars to which we're not fully committed (though bear in mind that that standard kept us out of World War I for nearly three years and, absent Pearl Harbor, probably would have kept us out of World War II indefinitely). But what do we do with that knowledge? Do we get behind people like John Conyers and Charles Rangel and demand the draft be reinstated?. There's an attractive school of thought that a universal draft -- if one were started, I'd hope that women would be conscripted, too -- would give everyone a personal stake in the war in Iraq and make the civilians who launched this thing more accountable. I'm not sure I buy that -- more than half the Americans who died in Vietnam were killed *after* the Tet offensive, when the anti-war movement was already rolling along. Yet, a fair draft, perhaps with a national service alternative, *could* democratize the war and perhaps counter a tendency, which Bush encourages with no shame or sense of irony, to lionize the warriors, cozen up to them, and cast those who don't support his military adventure as fifth columnists. But here's the thing: I have two draft-age sons. I don't know how I'd sleep if they and their friends were under arms now and their commanders were as casually deceitful and incompetent as the crew we have in charge now. For me, the principle of the thing -- that it's unfair and undemocratic to impose the war sacrifice on a small slice of society, even if they volunteered for service -- is at war with my personal horror at the further ruin of young lives to so little apparent purpose. I also wonder about the equity of codgers like me (my draft number was supposed to come up in 1972, but it was never called) sending the young ones off to kill and be killed. If there's going to be a national sacrifice, all the non-retired generations should be made to play a part beyond our penchant for uttering fine phrases.

From George Kamburoff
Pleasant Hill, CA
10/12/2005 12:22 AM
All the males in my family were WWII veterans, and I was raised with the belief that the price of living in a free society is the active defense of it. When the war of my generation came, I was ready. Already in the Air Force, I volunteered for the war and went over in November, 1967. Being an electronics tech on McNamara's Electronic Battlefield, I was sufficiently close to the war to see its effects on everything we touched, but far enough from the destruction to avoid the irresistible need to justify personal violence. It didn't take long to have my suppositions challenged, my view of who we were, what we were doing threatened by the knowledge of a terrible reality. But admitting it to myself was a long and agonizing experience. Although it started a few months after my arrival in Southeast Asia, it took years to admit and to accept. At last, I had to question the morality of lionizing the military and the pride we have for those willing to serve. I don't wish to degrade the righteousness of those who serve, but to question the morality of a society that would use them for terrible purpose. One day, counting the names of the recent dead, I finally penned a note, as much to myself as the newspaper to which it was sent, where it went unprinted: They talk about "honor" a lot. Their TV ads show young men slaying mythical dragons, climbing walls of fantasy, standing tall in multicolored uniforms. But is that what our country demands of our servicemen? Few decisions are as important as those regarding life and death. Yet we seem to idealize those who cede that decision to others, who perform draconian tasks without reflection. Ultimately we must ask ourselves: Where is the pride in abdicating life's most important decisions to someone else? Where is the honor in killing on command? There will be an enormous price to pay for our self-righteous violence, far worse than letting our sons and daughters be used for hellish purposes, far more than the tens of thousands of physically, emotionally, and morally wounded troops who come home in and out of boxes, more than the billions of dollars wasted. We are losing our humanity, and any soul we might have had.

From Lola
Seattle, WA Sent:
Just found this commentary! I'm sure glad you found John Gregory Dunne's floppy disk. It allowed me a connection with a man I never knew but after reading this felt a deep sense of loss for all the unwritten words. He had so much more to give. This was a wonderful commentary on a friend. You did good!!

From Chris Quimby
Kihei, HI
Sent: 10/13/2005 12:43 AM
Aloha Chris, To say that I am appalled and enraged by our nation's perpetual warmongering is to say the least of how I feel about it. Regards, Chris

From Mark Cannona
Tucson, Arizona
10/12/2005 1:10 AM
I think discussing patriotism right now is absurd. I don't see patriotism being expressed anywhere. Why should Iraq or the war on terror stimulate such a discussion? Let's talk about it when all the countries we have wronged start dropping paratroopers on Dallas or Dayton. Then we can talk about patriotism.