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Putting out the fire

Putting out the fire with gasoline<$NoAd$>.

From the AP ...

The people of Fallujah carried their dead to the city's soccer stadium and buried them under the field on Friday, unable to get to cemeteries because of a U.S. siege of the city.

As the struggle for Fallujah entered a fifth day, hundreds of women, children and the elderly streamed out of the city. Marines ordered Iraqi men of ''military age'' to stay behind, sometimes turning back entire families if they refused to be separated.

''A lot of the women were crying,'' said Lance Cpl. Robert Harriot, 22, of Eldred, N.Y. ''There was one car with two women and a man. I told them that he couldn't leave. They tried to plead with me. But I told them no, so they turned around.''

What does this sound more like to you? Southern Lebanon in the early 1980s or the West Bank in 2002?

Nice choice, isn't it?

Our troops have been placed in an impossible situation by a blundering leadership that laughed off the warning signs and friendly advice for a year until the situation blew up in their face.

Awful. Unforgivable.

Contemporary history This from

Contemporary history? This from the Associated <$NoAd$>Press ...

President Bush's August 2001 briefing on terrorism threats, described largely as a historical document, included information from three months earlier that al-Qaida was trying to send operatives into the United States for an explosives attack, according to several people who have seen the memo.

The so-called presidential daily briefing, or PDB, delivered to Bush on Aug. 6, 2001 -- a month before the Sept. 11 attacks -- said there were various reports that Osama bin Laden had wanted to strike inside the United States as early as 1997 and continuing into the spring of 2001, the sources told The Associated Press.

The Post says top White House aides said "they hoped they could soon declassify and publicly release at least some portion of the written briefing."

Department of troubling juxtapositions

Department of troubling juxtapositions <$NoAd$>...

At the center of a storm brewing for more than two weeks, Rice on Thursday consistently stressed before the packed hearing room on Capitol Hill that the Bush White House was fully engaged against al-Qaida.

She also repeatedly suggested the administration was hampered because it had been in office for only 233 days before the attacks.

April 9, 2004
Chicago Tribune

U.S. soldiers in Baghdad evacuated police stations and the town hall in Baghdad's Shiite Muslim district of Sadr City after five days of fighting with supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Agence France-Presse reported.

April 9, 2004
Bloomberg News

On Saturday, Bush and his father were to go fishing at the ranch's bass pond with a crew from the Outdoor Life Network's "Fishing with Roland Martin."

The White House approached the network about coming to film Bush, who is eager to cultivate an image as a sportsman with the millions of voters who hunt and fish. The crew was to bring its own boat for the shoot on the small pond.

April 9, 2004
Associated Press

What will we tell the children?

There are all manner

There are all manner of disputes and atmospherics surrounding Condi Rice's testimony yesterday. The key, however, is the dispute over the FBI tasking and related questions raised by Ben-Veniste, Kerrey and Roemer.

From a Friday Washington

From a Friday Washington Post story on the degenerating situation <$NoAd$>in Iraq ...

This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.

and this ...

Bush spent the morning watching national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's televised testimony to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then toured his ranch with Wayne LaPierre Jr., chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and other leaders of hunting groups and gave an interview to Ladies' Home Journal. He is not scheduled to appear in public until Sunday, when he will visit nearby Fort Hood, the home base for seven soldiers recently killed in Baghdad.

Vacation gibes are usually unfair. But with the situation in Iraq so critical, shouldn't the president be at the White House? It's a full-time job, comes with a decent salary.

A quick note on

A quick note on Condi ...

I watched a good bit, but not all of the testimony this morning.

My reactions were mixed; and I feel in some respects ill-equipped to judge her performance because a) I go into it with a dim view of her and b) I knew many of her statements to be falsehoods or thorough distortions of what happened.

It seemed a good idea on Rice's and the White House's part to tone down the criticisms of Richard Clarke -- but that leaves some question as to how they became so generous to someone whom a week or more ago they were all but accusing of being a criminal.

On the level of atmospherics, she struck me as surprisingly tense and anxious during her opening statement. And she tried to skate through on many points by resorting to repeated instances of semantic mumbojumbo like the fraudulent distinction between "rolling back" al Qaida and "eliminating" al Qaida, or her equal frail distinction between tactics and strategy.

Department of Faint Hearts

Department of Faint Hearts and Narrow Escapes. Commentary is such an inherently assertive form of communication that it's a good thing to find ways to have fun at your own expense when possible.

As many of you know, I spend a good bit of time working at a Starbucks near my home in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. And this morning I was in one of my normal seats, talking on the phone to a colleague, when I noticed a group of police surrounding the building with that yellow 'emergency' tape they use to cordon of areas or for crime scenes or whatever.

So I watched this out of the corner of my eye for a bit. And as they started to seem more intent about it, I got off the phone and went over to the front door where a few employees had congregated and were looking out seeing what was going on.

I asked what was up and was told, in a fairly nonchalant way: "Suspicious package outside, no one can come in or leave."

I didn't like the sound of that. And when I looked over and saw the package about three feet from the side of the building I liked it even less. Cover the war on terror? Yes, but not that close. And in any case I thought to myself, I've seen this miniseries before. And I'd really prefer to leave now in my accustomed unitary form.

So after a few moments of haggling with the Starbuckians (I've got a meeting! I simply must go!), they unlocked the door and I skedaddled out past the yellow tape perimeter and then scrambled home.

A short time later, with a bit, but not all, of my manhood recovered, I ventured back with my camera to see what was going on. It seemed the cops having coffee and donuts handed out among them probably meant that things weren't too far gone.

A bomb expert did various tests on the box and, a short time later, the package-formerly-known-as-suspcious was whisked away never to be heard from again.

In case you havent

In case you haven't seen it, take a look at Peter Bergen's list of nine questions that should be asked of Condi Rice when she appears before the 9/11 Commission. It ran on the Times OpEd page on Sunday.

Think of it as a sort of aspirational playbill for tomorrow's show.

I don't have time to write at length on this as I've got an editor (justifiably) breathing down my neck over a late article draft. But when considering tomorrow's testimony, bear in mind that few people across the ideological spectrum believe that Rice has been an effective National Security Advisor.

People on the (relative) left like Powell's team at State; those on the right prefer Rumsfeld and the neocons at DOD. The Strangelovians go for Cheney at OVP. But across the board people fault her managerial competence.

Every administration has its interagency antagonisms, often between the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. But this one's in a class by itself on pure disorganization and factionalism.

Think how many problems this administration has had which deal with one hand not knowing what the other is doing, contending factions pursuing contrary policies simultaneously. That's what the National Security Advisor is there to ride herd over.

Sometimes if no one is completely happy it means you must be doing something right. Other times, it just means everyone can see you're not doing your job.