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This article doesnt seem

This article doesn't seem to have been picked up much of anywhere. But it provides a very interesting view into the struggles taking place behind the scenes in the US government over Iraq.

In this case, one of the important hawks at the Pentagon, F. Michael Maloof, has apparently had his security clearances lifted because of his contacts or connections with a Lebanese-American businessman whom the US is investigating for running guns to Liberia. (Small world, ain't it?) Maloof was a key player in the Pentagon's effort to develop its own intelligence to support a al Qaida-Iraq link.

This sort of story about security clearances, secret intelligence, and administrative decisions which are themselves supposed to be classified are very hard to nail down. And the article inevitably leaves all sorts of questions unanswered.

Maloof's defenders (the usual suspects among the hawks) say he's being punished for dissenting from and finding evidence to challenge the State Department-CIA view of the Middle East. Whatever the case, this is clearly part of a deeper tug-of-war over the control of intelligence, most details of which remain outside the public view.

This article from the

This article from the Associated Press fleshes out the theory that Saddam had actually shuttered his WMD programs but intentionally kept the world guessing to produce the deterrent effect of having people believe he still had them.

He may even have put out disinformation to get people to believe the programs were still underway. Actually, it's more than a theory. The story is based on the testimony of a close aide who says this is what happened.

According to the aide, by the mid-1990s "it was common knowledge among the leadership" that Iraq had destroyed its chemical stocks and discontinued development of biological and nuclear weapons.
Who knows if this true? But I will say that it jibes with a lot of chatter I've heard back from Iraq in the last couple months. And it explains some key questions -- in particular, some supposed evidence of WMD from just before the war which it's been clear for some time was disinformation from the Iraqis. Frankly, it accounts for more potential questions than almost any other theory I've heard.

Frankly, it shows that, if nothing else, Ken Pollack was right about one thing: Saddam could be a pretty big idiot. Remember, one of Pollack's main arguments was that Saddam had a propensity to miscalculate. So I think you can say that Pollack had that one pretty much right -- only perhaps with slightly different consequences than expected.

Apparently Saddam was the only person in the universe last Spring who didn't know the fix was in on regime change.

And, I've gotta ask. Those uranium document forgeries? Could they have come from ...? No, couldn't be.

An official who has

"[A]n official who has read the [9/11] report tells The New Republic that the support described in the report goes well beyond [support for charities]: It involves connections between the hijacking plot and the very top levels of the Saudi royal family. 'There's a lot more in the 28 pages than money. Everyone's chasing the charities,' says this official. 'They should be chasing direct links to high levels of the Saudi government. We're not talking about rogue elements. We're talking about a coordinated network that reaches right from the hijackers to multiple places in the Saudi government.'"

That's the key passage in a new piece up at the TNR website by John B. Judis & Spencer Ackerman. Take a look.

Meanwhile, we're working on a very interesting piece of news about the WMD search in Iraq.

Let's hope TPM can nail it down before the bigs get to it.

Were happy to announce

We're happy to announce our new numbers for July, as well as our continued growth. During the month of July 2002, TPM had 53,000 individual readers ("unique visitors"). This last month, July 2003, the number was 235,000.

A special thanks to all the TPM regulars who've helped spread the word.

Republicans constantly complain that

Republicans constantly complain that Democrats play the "race card" whenever blacks or other minorities are involved in some political question or nomination or the like. And certainly the charge is sometimes valid.

The striking contrast, however, is with Republicans who now do this in virtually every case, even in the most preposterous instances, without a hint of shame, and usually without garnering much of any criticism at all from the capital's self-styled arbiters of political sportsmanship.

So far Senate Democrats have stalled three of the president's appeals court nominees: Miguel A. Estrada , Priscilla R. Owen, and today William H. Pryor, Jr.

Of those three, Republicans accused Democrats of opposing two on the basis of religious and/or racial prejudice.

That's a pretty high percentage, don't you think?

Democrats supposedly opposed Estrada because of anti-Hispanic bias and now they're purportedly opposing Pryor because of anti-Catholic bias.

According to a July 7th article in Roll Call, the group that spearheaded the claim that opposition to Pryor was based on anti-Catholic bigotry plans to do the same thing with the next controversial nominee who's coming down the pike, Carolyn Kuhl. She happens to be Catholic too. So, what the hell. Run it up the flagpole and see what happens.

No one with a shred of intellectual honesty thinks that this is really the case in any of these cases. It's understood by everyone that this is merely another political cudgel thrown into the mix to raise the heat on Democrats. In fact, it's done precisely because Democrats have large constituencies of Hispanic and Catholic voters.

It's entirely cynical, entirely obvious, everyone knows what the score is, and yet these hacks manage to get pretty much a complete pass.

One more house-keeping note.

One more house-keeping note. A few readers have written in fearing that I'm about to turn TPM into some whacked-out imitation of the MTV website or something else with long-downloading graphics or annoying pop-up ads or perhaps other similar terribleness.

Not to worry. The redesigned site should look very much like the current one and to outward appearances should look more or less unchanged. The changes that I do plan on having made are things like making it easier to print out individual posts, an RSS feed, the ability to adjust the size of the text. That's for all of you archeo-TPMers out who've written in to tell me of the perils of reading your daily TPM with that not-what-it-used-to-be eyesight.

Other changes won't be visible to readers but will make it easy and less time-consuming for me to update and maintain the site, which I'll appreciate a great deal. Up until now I've designed and run TPM from the ground up, doing all the coding by hand, which is something like writing an article with a decently sharpened piece of charcoal.

I've always been a fan of web design minimalism. And that feature of the site won't change.

Okay one more round.

Okay, one more round. If you've read the previous few posts you know that TPM reader Bryan M. wrote in to tell me that if I want the president to fire the "senior administration officials" who blew the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame then I am obligated to first ascertain who these as-yet-anonymous officials are. I published the letter because this struck me as a ridiculous argument.

Now some readers thought I was saying it was a sound criticism -- a misunderstanding I don't understand.

But a few other hawk-eyed readers pointed out that the grammar I used in my column was actually imprecise and clumsy.

Jon G. wrote in to say ...

When I originally read it, I thought it was some grammar joke. Your statement:

"the president should find out who they are, reprimand them or, preferably, fire them."

could be read as the president should find out who they are OR reprimand them OR fire them. I.e., finding them out is one option, but firing (or reprimanding) them without finding out who they are is another.

I think what you meant is, "the president should find out who they are and then reprimand them or, preferably, fire them."

OK, it's kind of a weak joke, but maybe that's where Bryan M. was coming from.

Ouch. I think he's got me. And there's nothing worse than being hoisted on your own mockery, believe me.

Here I was thinking Bryan M. was making a boneheaded criticism, when actually the jokes on me because he was knocking me for my dopey grammar. Now I'm feeling better though because Bryan M. has written back in to confirm that it actually was the boneheaded criticism he was making, not the grammatical point ...

I see I have become a subject of your current post. Evidently, we have both been too subtle for our respective reader(s). As you must know, my comment was directed to the fact that it may not be very easy for Mr. Bush to "pick up the phone" and "get to the bottom" of these anonymous statements. It seems to me that before you criticize the President for failing to fire these unknown employees you ought to be sure that he is able to tell who he should fire. Do you know which "senior Administration officials" he should fire for this transgression? Do you know that the President has not already attempted to discover the identities of these persons?

Since you decided publish my original comments aren't you obligated to provide your readers with my explanation as well?

As it happens, I don't think this is true. In Washington reporterese, "senior administration official" can only refer to a fairly small group of people. So I don't suspect it would be that hard, if he was determined to get to the bottom of it.

In any case, I know this is probably getting a touch tedious for regular readers. So, I promise, no more.

Okay I need to

Okay, I need to be more clear. Last night I printed a letter from a reader (Bryan M.) calling me to task. He said that if I wanted the president to fire the two anonymous "senior administration officials" who blew Valerie Plame's cover at the CIA, it was incumbent on me to identify them first. As he said ...

If you think the President should fire someone aren't you obligated to tell him who it is he should fire? Or does it matter to you? If he fired two people at random would that be ok?
A slew of readers wrote in asking why I had agreed with the reader's criticism when his point seemed so ridiculous. After all, if the idea is that the president should dispense with the need for an investigation by getting to the bottom of the mess himself and disciplining the culprits, how am I supposed to be either able to or obligated to identify them for him in advance.

As I said, sometimes mockery can be too understated: Bryan's criticism seemed ridiculous to me too.

As it happens, a few readers have written in to say that firing a couple aides at random might marginally improve the situation as well. But I'm not yet willing to go that far.

Oh thats classic. Remember

Oh that's classic. Remember Mahdi Obeidi? The nuclear scientist who dug up the centrifuge parts from his backyard and turned them over to the CIA?

Great guy, did the right thing, came clean, straight-shooter, never liked Saddam, didn't want the hardware to fall into the wrong hands.

A real mensch, as my people would say.

Only one problem: he says the aluminum tubes were for artillery rockets, not centrifuges.

Oops.

This from Thursday's Post ...

The sources said Obeidi also disputed evidence cited by the administration -- namely Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes that various officials said were for a new centrifuge program to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs. Obeidi said the tubes were for rockets, as Iraq had said before the war.

CIA analysts do not believe he has told the whole truth, said one Bush administration official. Obeidi has left Iraq under CIA auspices after being arrested briefly by U.S. Army troops.

I think I'd like to hear directly from the analysts on this one.

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