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Finally finally the president

Finally, finally, the president has decided to confront <$NoAd$>the root problem in our troubled occupation of Iraq: the spin deficit.

From Robin Wright's front page piece in tomorrow's Post ...

President Bush will launch an ambitious campaign tomorrow night to shift attention from recent setbacks that have eroded domestic and international support for U.S. policy in Iraq, particularly the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the escalating violence, and focus instead on the future of post-occupation Iraq.

The president will open a tightly orchestrated public relations effort in a speech at the Army War College outlining U.S. plans for the critical five weeks before the transfer of political power June 30.


Along related lines, I can't help but wonder whether the spill the president took from his bicycle today won't become iconic in the same way that the state dinner the first President Bush attended in Tokyo on January 8th 1992 in which he collapsed into the arms of, and then vomited on, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa became a symbol of his then-faltering presidency.

Drudge reported the following about John Kerry's alleged response ...

Kerry told reporters in front of cameras, 'Did the training wheels fall off?'... Reporters are debating whether to treat it is as on or off the record... Developing...


Let me translate this: Off the record John Kerry quipped "Did the training wheels fall off?" But the quote was so good that several reporters couldn't resist and passed it on to Drudge.

Bad politics? Maybe.

But I have to admit that it made me laugh and think of these two grafs from a post from Thursday afternoon ...

According to several participants, President Bush told Republicans that the Iraqis are ready to "take the training wheels off" by assuming power.

That's a bit of a condescending thing to say about a country which encompasses what is generally considered to be the cradle of civilization. But the thought that an extra set of training wheels may now be available prompts the question of whether the Iraqis might be willing to hand their pair off to the White House.


On the other hand, giving it more thought, perhaps what he needs is not so much a pair of training wheels as a set of brakes ...

So how about the

So how about the reader survey? We're still slicing and dicing the numbers in different ways. But I wanted to share some of the highlights.

We had a lot of respondents (20,708) and we left the survey open for twenty-four hours on a week day. So I think we got a pretty good sample of our audience and good coverage of different readers who visit at different times of the day.

First, the number that, I have to confess, left me a touch chagrined: 81% of TPM readers are men.

(By the way, on all these numbers, I'm rounding to the closest whole number -- the exact figure was 80.82%).

Now, not only are you mainly male. But you're also, well ... pretty rich.

Here are the income figures ...

$200,000 or more = 7% $150,000 to $199,999 = 7% $100,000 to $149,999 = 20% $75,000 to $99,999 = 18% $50,000 to $74,999 = 19% $25,000 to $49,999 = 16% Under $25,000 = 7% Rather not respond = 6%

Pretty well educated too. 85% of our readers have a college degree. And 46% have an advanced degree.

The age spread seemed pretty unsurprising to me ...

75 and older = 1% 65-74 = 4% 55-64 = 14% 45-54 = 25% 35-44 = 26% 25-34 = 24% 21-24 = 4% 18-21 = 1% 0-18 = 0.17%

Now, the one question that people wrote in and complained about was the one that asked people to characterize themselves politically. And the complaint in almost every case was that they weren't given enough flavors on the leftward side of the spectrum to choose a designation that fit them. The options were Liberal, Moderate, New Democrat, Independant, Libertarian, Conservative, and Neo-Conservative.

Lots of people wrote in saying they wanted to be able to choose "progressive", though in a sign of how complicated this political designation issue is, it was clear that some of those people meant 'progressive' as a designation to the left of 'liberal' and others meant it as a designation to the right of 'liberal'.

Others simply wanted to be able to call themselves Democrats or Republicans, rather than define themselves in terms of ideology. Not a few complained that the menu of options left no choice for those who defined themselves to the left of liberal. And at least one reader wrote in to tell me that since I clearly meant to demean those to the left of liberal he was removing TPM from his 'favorites' list. (Yeah, it's a tough business running a center-left website!)

In any case, there was no great thought, to be candid, that went into choosing these designations. And the point of the exercise was not reader self-expression. What we were trying to find out was the answer to a question people often ask about this and other related sites -- Is the audience just made up of people who, on balance, agree with my views or is it more diverse? Is it just preaching to the choir? We started with Liberal/Moderate/Conservative and then added from there in a pretty arbitrary fashion.

In any case, here were the answers, from the choices given above, 60% chose "Liberal" while another 35% chose "Moderate" (12%), "New Democrat" (12%) or "Independent" (11%).

Responses to the other choices were negligible: "Libertarian" 2%, "Conservative" 1%, "Neo-Conservative" .28%.

Remember, in all but the last instance I'm rounding off.

Those numbers basically make sense to me, since they range across the center-left spectrum. Cross-referencing these numbers with the income numbers, I guess we could say that TPM has a high percentages of readers who aren't "paying their fair share" and know it -- a little Clintonian humor there.

In any case, the responses confirmed to me that the site's readers are measurably, though not markedly, more to the left than I am.

I suspect that there was a sample bias on the rightward side of the spectrum since self-identified Conservatives probably have an antagonistic feeling towards the site. And thus, I think, they were probably less inclined to give us time to help the site by completing the survey. But that's just a surmise. You have the hard data in front of you and can make your own judgment.

92% of readers live in the United States. And of those, the responses were fairly evenly spread out over the country. I haven't looked too closely at these numbers yet -- and we did it by zip code so we'll eventually be able to look down very specifically into urban/suburban/rural divisions, etc. -- but a brief look shows some clear red state/blue state division, but not a stark one. So for instance, 17% of our American readers are from California, 10% from New York, 6% from Texas.

83% of our readers have "donated money to a political campaign, party committee or non-profit organization." 81% have bought a book online in the last six months; 70% have made travel arrangements online over that same time period, etc.

Finally, the five top professional categories were ...

Computer / IT = 16% Education (includes students) = 15% Other = 11% Lawyer = 8% Media / Publishing / Entertainment = 7%

2.5%, 509 respondents, classified themselves as "journalists".

We'll eventually put all this together in a more systematic fashion. But, as I said, those are some of the highlights.

An important new development.

An important new development.

According to an article in the New York Post, of all places, the Bush administration's dramatic turn against Ahmed Chalabi and the INC was precipitated by a dossier which King Abdullah of Jordan brought with him on his recent visit to the White House.

The dossier, writes Niles Lathem, included details of INC "Mafia-style extortion rackets and secret information on U.S. military operations being passed to Iran."

This provides a key piece of background information on the reports from last night that the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that Chalabi's INC 'intelligence operation' was in fact a front for Iranian intelligence, filtering the US WMD disinformation prior to the war and sending highly classified American military intelligence to the Iranians since the beginning of the occupation. The charges center on Aras Karim, Chalabi's intelligence chief.

As we noted last night, the CIA has apparently believed Aras Karim was an Iranian agent since the middle 1990s. It was, says the Post, this Jordanian dossier which confirmed already existing suspicions of Chalabi in the US intelligence community and led to the termination of his monthly American subsidy of $340,000 use to spy on us, it would seem, for the Iranians.

The enmity between the Jordanians and Chalabi is both primal and mortal. And as I've told you a few times recently, late last year, Abdullah brought the US reputedly incontravertible proof that Chalabi had had advance warning about the bombing of Jordan's embassy in Baghdad at the end of last year.

(The Chalabis are an old family; the Hashemites, much, much older.)

Also, see this post from last night for an important note of caution about all this new stuff we're hearing.

On the new charges

On the new charges that Ahmed Chalabi's 'intelligence chief' Aras Karim is in fact an Iranian spy, Knut Royce's piece in Newsday contains the biggest bombshells. This is a follow-up on his piece from yesterday.

The Post meanwhile has a lengthier, though less clear-cut account, which includes important new details and an interview with Chalabi's long-time Washington handler Francis Brooke.

(ed. note: Most of the articles discussing this issue refer to the man in question as Aras Karim Habib, though he is sometimes referred to as Aras Habib, Aras Karim, or Aras Habib Karim.)

Now, you probably remember all that has been said about the $340,000 a month stipend that the US was paying until just a few days ago for Chalabi's 'Information Collection Program' (ICP), basically the INC's intelligence operation, which was until recently supposed to become the nucleus of the new Iraqi intelligence service.

(According to a June 2001 letter which the INC sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the information collected was sent directly to the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President.)

Now, who was in charge of the ICP?

Right, Aras Karim.

A few more details.

We've been discussing for some time that Chalabi's connections to the Iranians and his flow of money from the Iranians has been known about among Chalabi's Washington supporters for years. But suspicions that Aras Karim was an Iranian agent are not new either.

Take this October 13th, 1998 New York Times article, which says that "An F.B.I. report said Mr. Karim's cousin Aras Habib Muhamad Al-Ufayli, who had been the intelligence chief for the Iraqi National Congress, had a 'well-documented connection to Iranian intelligence.'"

That article in the Times was about the on-going INS detention of a group of Iraqis who had worked with the INC in northern Iraq and were later held in detention by the INS because of alleged national security concerns. They were represented by former CIA Director James Woolsey, who was also a lobbyist for the INC.

(At the time, the case garnered a great deal of attention, and for good reason, because of the use of so-called 'secret evidence' in the detentions.)

Two years later, Dr. Ali Yasin Mohammed Karim, of the six original detainees, was finally released from INS custody. And the following passage appeared in an August 19th, 2000 article in the LA Times (emphasis added)...

Attorneys for the INS have contended that there is a reasonable belief Karim is a danger to national security. They have argued that one of the doctor's cousins is a suspected Iranian intelligence agent, the doctor's travel patterns were suspicious, and he might have misled federal agents about how his brother Mohammed made it into the United States.

Defense lawyers say the declassified material amounted to little more than rumor.

They said the espionage allegations were largely based on uncorroborated reports culled by FBI agents from Iraqi refugees, who were interviewed in Guam by the FBI after being evacuated from Iraq.

That information shows, for example, that one FBI agent thought Karim might be a spy for Iran, while another agent thought he was a mole for Iraq; the two countries are enemies.

In addition, the summary states that Karim's cousin, Aras, is suspected of being an Iranian intelligence agent, but it offers no specifics.


I suspect we'll be hearing more specifics.

The Ryan campaign it

The Ryan campaign, it seems, has decided to cut its losses.

As we reported early Friday, Jason Miller, campaign manager for Illinois Republican senate candidate Jack Ryan, defended the actions of the videographer/stalker his campaign sicced on opponent Barack Obama in quotes given to the Chicago Sun-Times.

(For the details of what was involved, see this earlier post.)

But the campaign has now decided to apologize, according to this late report, and call off the dogs, or rather the dog.

"I have no reason to doubt [Obama's] word and I offer an apology on behalf of the campaign," said Communications Director Bill Pascoe, according to late reports.

Ive asked you the

I've asked you, the TPM readership, for many things -- to give contributions, to take surveys, and certainly other things I can't remember. But this is the greatest request. Someone ... someone out there, I have to imagine, and probably it will be someone with connections in the New York theater world, where I'm told the site has a few fans, can secure me prime seats at the premier of the Iraq regime change opera, which I assume will debut sometime toward the end of this decade, probably in New York but perhaps on the continent.

At an earlier point, we might have imagined it would be Wagnerian. But I'm thinking more Verdi or actually Mozart, some sort of Opera Buffa, though perhaps the better question is whether Paul Sorvino is cast as Ahmed Chalabi or Richard Perle.

Who could miss the duet between Chalabi and Ali Khamenei in which the dark secret is revealed or Richard Perle's haunting, despairing aria at the beginning of the final act, in which this hawk of hawks, friend of Israel, swordsman against terror, and deacon in the high church of moral clarity confronts the shattering truth that he's played the cat's paw for what the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to this just-released article from Newsday, has determined was (horribile dictu!) actually a front for Iranian intelligence.

(Yes, the DIA, says Newsday, has concluded that the INC's 'Information Collection Program' was an Iranian front.)

Even now, I can almost feel myself raising a tissue to my eye for his moment of bleak sorrow. La Donna e Mobile, indeed!

From a trickle to

From a trickle to a torrent ...

On Friday, Stahl reported that senior intelligence officials stress the information Ahmad Chalibi is alleged to have passed on to Iran is of such a seriously sensitive nature, the result of full disclosure could be highly damaging to U.S. security. The information involves secrets that were held by only a handful of very senior U.S. officials, says Stahl.

Meanwhile, Stahl reports that "grave concerns" about the true nature of Chalabi's relationship with Iran started after the U.S. obtained "undeniable intelligence" that Chalabi met with a senior Iranian intelligence, a "nefarious figure from the dark side of the regime - an individual with a direct hand in covert operations directed against the United States."

Chalabi never reported this meeting to his friends and sponsors in the U.S. government, says Stahl.


In truth, and not to defend Chalabi, but I think we need to wait and watch these reports closely. Much <$Ad$> of the charges we're seeing here have been out there for some time, though not with quite the specifics or with such gravity. Chalabi's ties with Iran have been known (and winked at) for years; claims that he was sharing sensitive US info with them have been out there for at least a few months.

It's not that the claims are false. In fact, I quite suspect the opposite. But what we're seeing here is less the result of new revelations than the outward signs of deep tectonic shifts within the US government -- the discrediting of some factions and agencies, the attempts of others to reposition themselves in a moment of acute crisis and get ahead of the storm, and the freeing up of others to assert themselves for the first time in years.

It's probably too dramatic to compare this to the bubbles, choppy water and occasional scraps churned up by a Piranha feeding. But the struggles that are giving rise to all these leaks and tergiversations of the state are the real story -- one that it is difficult to see directly, but possible to glimpse in what we can infer from its effects and repercussions.

From regime change to

From regime change to seat change.

Here's <$NoAd$> a clip from the Washington Post's Inside the Loop column from January 23rd, providing some backdrop to that Chalabi at the State of the Union picture ...

Meanwhile, the buzz is that enemies of Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon's favorite, appeared to have misplaced his seating reservations. Council chief (they rotate) Adnan Pachachi was set to be on Laura Bush's left and the council's rep here, Rend Rahim Francke, given a seat on her right.

Chalabi and his folks are said to have mounted a fierce campaign to correct this obvious oversight. The effort rivaled in intensity one undertaken at the end of the Iraq invasion which, as reported in The Washington Post, the Pentagon flew Chalabi and several hundred heavily armed men into Baghdad. Vice President Cheney approved that move, which some people thought might have been an effort to have Chalabi take over and avoid all this messy transition business.


And so it goes ...

Another article to read

Another article to read: the San Francisco Chronicle's Robert Collier on the Chalabi, the dense web of power he's put together by installing (with our backing) relatives and cronies at the key government ministries in Baghdad, and how much mischief there still is for him to make.

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