Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Shiitake Mushroom Cloud!
Hundreds of WMDs found in Iraq!

Just checking Drudge before I trundled off to bed, and Wow! what a headline! "Report: Hundreds of WMDs Found in Iraq..."

Turns out the US has found more than 500 artillery shells that contained either mustard gas or sarin gas. This information was released earlier today in a press conference called by Senator Rick Santorum and Representative Peter Hoekstra, both Republicans. Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and Representative John Murtha also received this information from John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence. Figure the odds of the Democrats would call a press conference to announce the discovery of WMDs in Iraq... that would be right after the Democratic press conference to apologize to Bush for calling him a liar.

The document received from Negroponte is basically a one-page summary of a classified intelligence report that goes into great detail on what has been found in terms of WMDs and WMD programs, and only scratches the surface of the contents of the classified report. Even that much would not have been declassified without the strenuous efforts of Santorum and Hoekstra.

From the Santorum/Hoekstra press conference:
HOEKSTRA: Thanks, Senator, and thank you for your help.

You know, as we've been continuing the work and the research on WMD and what existed when, it's been interesting. We spent a lot of time working or people have been coming to the committee, what we call unconventional sources.

The senator has indicated that a few months ago, an unconventional source went to Rick and said, You ought to look for this report. And the senator spent some time looking for it, couldn't get his hands on it and called over and said, Can you help get this report? And we went looking for it, and we found it.

[...]From the Kay report and the Duelfer report, the conclusions that they reached indicated that during that period of time from the Gulf War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, there was evidence of continuing research and development of WMD, an ongoing effort with various kinds of chemicals, research programs and those types of things.

The piece that still remains unanswered, or remained unanswered, was that piece of exactly what, other than the programs, what existed in Iraq in 2003?

The Iraqi Survey Group, or the impression that the Iraqi Survey Group left with the American people was they didn't find anything.

The report that Rick and I reference -- and I'll have to tell you that I'm disappointed in the summary that was provided for us in an unclassified version from the intelligence community because I think you lose some of the context of exactly what Rick and I and others on the committee have seen from that report.

But this says: Weapons have been discovered; more weapons exist. And they state that Iraq was not a WMD-free zone, that there are continuing threats from the materials that are or may still be in Iraq.

And I think what that points out to us -- and remember, the Iraq Survey Group was in Iraq for about 16 months, employing up 1,700 people. They didn't find many chemical weapons.

And since that period of time, we have found hundreds. This assessment says more exist. And I think what that points out is that there's still a lot about Iraq that we don't fully understand.

The Iraq Survey Group suspended field visits five months after they were there. So they stopped field visits in October of 2003. So what we're now finding are our troops stumbling across these as they go into Iraq.

The full-blown effort to discover these caches of chemical weapons stopped a year and a half ago. And this is the kind of stuff that we are still finding.

[...]Some of you may have the question -- and we had the same question -- if this report was completed in April, why couldn't a senator receive it for six weeks and why did it take eight weeks for it to be brought to our attention and finally put into our hands? What other reports exist about either the existence or the nonexistence of chemical weapons in Iraq?

That information is information that we need to have and is information that needs to be brought to the American people.

So we are working on the declassification of the report. We are going to do a thorough search of what additional reports exist in the intelligence community. And we are going to put additional pressure on the Department of Defense and the folks in Iraq to more fully pursue a complete investigation of what existed in Iraq before the war.
What else is interesting about all this: an anonymous Defense Department downplayed the announcement:
"This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991," the official said, adding the munitions "are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war."
Uh... excuse me, Yes they are! One of the primary reasons given for invading Iraq by President Bush in his letter to Congress was that, in a post-9/11 world, we couldn't trust Saddam Hussein to resist the temptation of slipping a WMD or two to an al Quaeda-type to use against us if he thought he'd have plausible deniability. We invaded Iraq not only because of the considerable evidence that Saddam was continuing his WMD research programs (evidence confirmed after the invasion), but that he retained stockpiles of chemical weapons in defiance of UN resolutions and the Gulf War ceasefire agreement. So, the sketchy information released by the evidently unwilling intelligence organ of this country vindicates Bush and the decision to go to war.

All of this begs the question: why did the Bush Administration have to be forced into releasing even this small bit of information... information that cuts off the "Bush Lied!" folks at the knees?

The Real Ugly American (ht: Ed Morrissey) says:
General Tom Mcinerney is reporting on Fox Hannity and Colmes right now that that the administration has been keeping this low profile to avoid exposing 3 of the 5 members of the UN Security council; Russia, China, and France. McInerney says these weapons will be traced to these countries, and asserts it is well known that Russia helped Saddam move most of his WMD stockpiles out of Iraq before the war.
Here's what I can't figure out: why does the Bush Administration give a flying fig about exposing Russia, China, and France as violators of the very UN resolutions they helped pass? It's not as if these are America's three great allies. To the contrary, they are the biggest pains-in-the-youknowwhats we have to deal with in the Security Council, and they've certainly been no help dealing with Iran, North Korea, or Iraq. I can't believe Bush and Company are so stupid as to have risked the 2004 election or the ability to govern in the second term to spare these countries a well-deserved public humiliation.

I think the answer lies elsewhere... in the executive branch. Specifically, I think it lies at the feet of unelected bureaucrats who do not support the President or his policies (both foreign and domestic) and who are willing to manipulate information in order to harm the Administration. Maybe it's the same people who have been responsible for all of the anti-Bush Administration leaks... yet who can keep a secret that exonerates the Bush Administration from even the Senate and House Intelligence committees.

Isn't it interesting? Or, rather, unsettling? Would it be paranoid to think that perhaps there has been a concerted effort by unelected officials to sway public opinion by releasing or withholding information, in a manner that threatens to destroy the political effectiveness of the elected chief executive?

The truth needs to come out. It's obvious that the Iraq Survey Group, rather than answering whether or not WMDs existed in Iraq, refused to do the work that would reach a definitive yea-or-nay conclusion and instead issued a report buttressing an anti-Administration view... a report that turns out to be made up.

Negroponte needs to declassify the entire report covering post-ISG WMD finds in Iraq. And then, there needs to be some housecleaning in the executive branch.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

What The Hell Is Natalie Maines Upset About?

"Taking the Long Way," the new Dixie Chicks album, premiered at #1, making them the first female group to have three albums debut at the top. (Premiering at #1 means that retail stores have ordered large quantities of their album in anticipation of strong sales; it does not mean that there is strong customer demand for the album.) However, there is still a lot of anger over Natalie Maines' anti-Bush comments in front of concert audiences in London, England and other venues during the Chicks' last tour. Many country music stations are refusing to play the first two singles released from the new album.

I was never a Chicks fan; my apathy towards country music generally combined with my disgust at Maine's public immaturity extinguished any fleeting desire in me to listen to their work. However, a fellow blogger commented on the new album and piqued my interest. A blurb on AOL Sessions piqued it further, and what the hell, I didn't have to give them any money to listen....

"Not Ready to Make Nice" is a excellent song, and Natalie Maine's performance is powerful. There's no doubt that she feels she has been wronged, and that the reaction of her fans both angered and dismayed the group. In a vacuum, the song and the group's rendition of it is extremely compelling from an artistic viewpoint. But watching Maine's answer to the question of what the 'Bush comment' and its repercussions meant to the group, makes it clear that the woman, brilliant singer and songwriter that she clearly is, just doesn't get it. Not only is she clueless about current events, she just doesn't understand why her fans were alienated. Her fellow Chicks seemingly suffer from the same shortsightedness, chortling at the coincidence of their album release occurring at the same time Bush's poll ratings are at a low. (Not that I care about poll ratings or anything, but the overt schadenfreude is symptomatic of the immaturity that got the Chicks into their mess.)

Ms. Maines evidently doesn't understand that words have consequences. Instead, "Not Ready to Make Nice" is an in-your-face to all of her fans; how dare they stop buying Dixie Chicks albums and concert tickets! The fans' reaction "...turned my whole world around... and I kinda liked [my life the way it was]" sings Ms. Maines. Well, then, at the risk of saying the obvious, perhaps you should have kept your kept your political observations to yourself.

"Forget... I'm not sure I could." That's Natalie Maines' view, but it also is a view shared by many of her former fans. The latest news reports indicate that the Dixe Chicks are cancelling several concerts on their current tour due to poor ticket sales.

"Not Ready to Make Nice" finishes with Ms. Maines' hubris. She sings, "They say... time heals everything... but I'm still waiting," implying that her fans who abandoned her owe her an apology.

Based upon lackluster ticket sales, the dismal Billboard performance of the two singles released to date, and the continued boycott of their songs by a large number of country and western radio stations, the fans evidently are, in the words of Ms. Maines, "...not ready to back down, still mad as hell" and believe Ms. Maines and the Dixie Chicks are the ones who need to apologize.

The Dixie Chicks need to realize that they need their fans more than the fans need them, and that people don't buy their CD or go to their concerts to hear their political opinions. If they're waiting for an apology from the fans, they'll be waiting a while longer yet.