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Julian Borger has a

Julian Borger has a story in The Guardian that paints the anonymous intelligence professional who penned the forthcoming Imperial Hubris: How the West is Losing the War on Terror as animated in no small measure by "contempt for the Bush White House and its policies." That's a bit wide of the mark. Does the book exhibit contempt for the administration's policies? Certainly. It also takes a dim view of the White House's conception of what motivates al-Qaeda and how to fight it. But in the book and in an interview, Anonymous doesn't traffic in Bush-bashing. He has much harsher words to say about the leadership of the intelligence community, whom he faults for bending too far to the predispositions of the policymakers they serve.

<$NoAd$>ANONYMOUS: The intelligence community, and especially the CIA, serve the president. I think the mistakes that were made [in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terrorism broadly] were probably made by the intelligence community not having the balls to stand up and to say any number of things that were knowable. "Mr. President, the people we're backing in Afghanistan will not be able to form a government and will ensure continued war and instability." "Mr. President, if you attack Iraq you will be giving bin Laden a gift." "Mr. President, we don't have enough [intelligence] officers and people to run two wars at a time." "Mr. President, all of the reporting about Iraqi WMD is coming from opposition politicians, and you have to take it with a massive grain of salt.”

I tend to blame, as I do in the book, a leadership generation in the intelligence community that is more interested in its next promotion and its career prospects than it is in talking about hard issues. Somebody needed to go and say, not just to Mr. Bush, but to Mr. Clinton, "Mr. President, this is a war about Islam. You can say all you want that it's not a war about religion, but it is." And it's much more so now than in 1992, and still no one will say it.

More to come shortly about Anonymous's critique of how the U.S. is waging the war on terrorism.

From national treasure Trent

From national treasure Trent Lott's Q&A in the Sunday Times Magazine:

<$NoAd$>You recently created a stir when you defended the interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib.

Most of the people in Mississippi came up to me and said: ''Thank Goodness. America comes first.'' Interrogation is not a Sunday-school class. You don't get information that will save American lives by withholding pancakes.

But unleashing killer dogs on naked Iraqis is not the same as withholding pancakes.

I was amazed that people reacted like that. Did the dogs bite them? Did the dogs assault them? How are you going to get people to give information that will lead to the saving of lives?

Somewhere in Tashkent, as he's schmearing his morning bagel over the cries of prisoners being submerged in boiling water, Uzbek President Islam Karimov is nodding in approval, relieved to have found a kindred spirit.

For an indication of

For an indication of how rapidly sectarian divisions in Iraq can inflame the country, read this New York Times story. Not long ago I spoke with a prominent Iraqi leader, and he left me with little doubt that the Kurds were deeply unsatisfied with U.S. intransigence over resolving Kurdish displacement in the north--something Saddam engineered preceding and during his genocide of the Kurds in 1987-8--and that Iraqi Arabs would not react to unilateral Kurdish actions passively. Such a situation appears, dangerously, to be coming to pass:

<$NoAd$> Thousands of ethnic Kurds are pushing into lands formerly held by Iraqi Arabs, forcing tens of thousands of them to flee to ramshackle refugee camps and transforming the demographic and political map of northern Iraq.

The Kurds are returning to lands from which they were expelled by the armies of Saddam Hussein and his predecessors in the Baath Party, who ordered thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed and sent waves of Iraqi Arabs north to fill the area with supporters.

The new movement, which began with the fall of Mr. Hussein, appears to have quickened this spring amid confusion about American policy, along with political pressure by Kurdish leaders to resettle the areas formerly held by Arabs. It is happening at a moment when Kurds are threatening to withdraw from the national government if they are not confident of having sufficient autonomy.

In Baghdad, American officials say they are struggling to keep the displaced Kurds on the north side of the Green Line, the boundary of the Kurdish autonomous region. The Americans agree that the Kurds deserve to return to their ancestral lands, but they want an orderly migration to avoid ethnic strife and political instability.

But thousands of Kurds appear to be ignoring the American orders. New Kurdish families show up every day at the camps that mark the landscape here, settling into tents and tumble-down homes as they wait to reclaim their former lands. The Kurdish migration appears to be causing widespread misery, with Arabs complaining of expulsions and even murders at the hands of Kurdish returnees. Many of the Kurdish refugees themselves are gathered in crowded camps.

American officials say as many as 100,000 Arabs have fled their homes in north-central Iraq and are now scattered in squalid camps across the center of the country. With the anti-American insurgency raging across much of the same area, the Arab refugees appear to be receiving neither food nor shelter from the Iraqi government, relief organizations or American forces.

"The Kurds, they laughed at us, they threw tomatoes at us," said Karim Qadam, a 45-year-old father of three, now living amid the rubble of a blown-up building in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. "They told us to get out of our homes. They told us they would kill us. They told us, `You don't own anything here anymore.' " …

The biggest potential flash point is Kirkuk, a city contested by Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. Kurdish leaders want to make the city, with its vast oil deposits, the Kurdish regional capital and resettle it with Kurds who were driven out in the 1980's.

To make the point, some 10,000 Kurds have gathered in a sprawling camp outside Kirkuk, where they are pressing the American authorities to let them enter the city. American military officers who control Kirkuk say they are blocking attempts to expel more Arabs from the town, for fear of igniting ethnic unrest.

"The Kurds are pushing, pushing," said Pascal Ishu Warda, the minister for displaced persons and migration. "We have to set up a system to deal with these people who have been thrown out of their homes."

Arabs will not react passively if they perceive the Kurds expelling Arabs from the north. Already, in heavily-armed Falluja, anti-Kurdish sentiment pervades. The Washington Post recently quoted one Iraqi who blamed the U.S. and the Kurds--participants in the April attack by the U.S. on the city--for the death of his daughter. "I will send my brothers north to kill the Kurds," he said . The displacement of Arabs from the (oil-drenched) north might be all the spark that the (resource-light) Sunni areas require to lead to an all-out civil war.

And in that situation, what will the U.S. do? The Kurds are our allies in every significant sense: One of the most betrayed people in the history of the world, they fought with us to overthrow Saddam. We may well find ourselves having to deploy forces to separate Iraq's different ethnicities, a very dangerous situation for our troops. How this will play out in practice in a place like Kirkuk--multiethnic, resource-rich and claimed by Arabs and Kurds alike--is incredibly difficult to determine. And it puts the U.S. in something close to a worst-case scenario.

The Washington Post which

The Washington Post, which has provided consistently excellent coverage of the Iraq occupation, now provides what might be termed a requiem for the war. I say "war," and not "postwar" because there's no such thing as the "postwar": the strategic objective of the invasion of Iraq was to midwife a stable Middle Eastern democracy, not simply overthrow Saddam Hussein. Maybe that will happen several years from now. My optimistic friends remind me that, after all, it's only been fifteen months since the invasion. Fair enough, but I see no positive trends taking root. The Post points out several reasons why, both in its requiem and in its collection of essays in the Outlook section.

Infrastructure is in total disrepair, and only getting worse with this month's spate of attacks on oil pipelines, bridges and other economic arteries. There is no security in the country--not just for American and foreigners but for Iraqis simply seeking to live their lives, who are the ones we desperately need to buy in to a brighter future. Violent crime has skyrocketed and gangs and militias have proliferated. Sectarian fissures in the country are severe: Grand Ayatollah Sistani's rejection of the interim constitution has inflamed Kurdistan, and even if the Kurds decide against secession (still a dangerously open question at this point), future peaceful compromise in Iraqi politics will be significantly more elusive as a result. Falluja, a symbol of resistance to the U.S. occupation, is both armed to the teeth and feels threatened by both the Kurds (who participated in the April siege of the city) and Shia aspirations of ruling the country. One of the scariest questions in Iraq is what revanchist Sunnis will do now that they have the city as a base of operations. They're not as well armed as the Kurds, nor are they as numerous as the Shia, but one lesson of the last year is that just one armed fanatic can inflict massive bloodshed. Against this background, it's difficult to see civil society--a constituency for the rule of law and the nonviolent adjudication of legitimate disputes--taking hold. Typically in such cases, democracy is a Potemkin affair.

On July 1, the CPA will cease to exist, but it is extremely unlikely that Iraqis will consider themselves no longer under occupation. The presence of 138,000 Americans--visible enough to provide a symbol of hated foreign domination, too few to stop the chaos that plagues Iraqis--who are hated by about 90 percent of the country probably ensures this. As one Baghdad policeman told Reuters last month, "Bush is a scorpion. He is a liar. He is sneaky, making all kinds of promises when he just wants to control Iraq." As a result of this distrust, Iraqis are unlikely to shed what administration officials exasperatedly term the "Man On The Moon" syndrome: The expectation of American omnipotence to solve their problems, since a superpower mighty enough to put a man on the moon can surely provide electricity in Baghdad for more than nine hours a day. After all, the U.S. Embassy will still reside in the Republican Palace in the middle of Baghdad, garrisoned in the Green Zone. We're still going to be blamed for everything that goes wrong, and a lot looks primed to continue going wrong.

The U.S. will leave behind foundations for liberalization, but they come entwined with foreign domination. A good example is the legal structure that the CPA is bequeathing to Iraq: It provides significant openness and political space for Iraqi civil society, both from L. Paul Bremer's proclamations and the interim constitution. But as Nathan J. Brown of George Washington University observes,

[Iraqis'] nationalist sensibilities will be offended when they turn their attention to specific provisions. When Iraqi political and legal officials discover that multinational troops still are effectively granted extraterritorial status; that their vehicles must be given priority in traffic; that the official name of the country in some documents has been changed (from the "Iraqi Republic" to the "State of Iraq"); and that international agreements may—even absent an explicit provision—override requirements for open and competitive bidding in procurement, they will probably conclude that the CPA orders, while often liberal, are inconsistent with full sovereignty.

A consequence of all this is something that undercuts an implicit premise of the Post’s excellent coverage: That the occupation is in a significant sense ending. What appears more likely to happen is abdication. The U.S. will be declaring that it's not responsible for the deteriorating course of the country while Iraqis suspect (with significant foundation, as Brown points out) that the U.S. is the real power broker in Iraq. As retired State Department official Richard Murphy writes in his Post article, "Washington has oversold the significance of the June 30 handover." All this makes the actual fulfillment of our strategic objectives increasingly remote. Which is a euphemism for failure.

About an hour after

About an hour after news of the despicable murder of Paul Johnson went over the wires yesterday, I spoke with a veteran intelligence official who's tracked terrorism and radical Islamism going back to the Afghan jihad in the 1980s. Next month, as "Anonymous," he'll publish a book titled Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror. There's a lot in the book to consider, disagree with and debate, and I'll be writing more about it shortly. First, here's some excerpts from our conversation about what the Johnson murder tells us about al-Qaeda strategy and Saudi counterterrorism efforts.

<$NoAd$>ANONYMOUS: I don't know if it tells us a lot about their worldwide strategy. It reinforces a lot about what we know about al-Qaeda. al-Qaeda is in many ways a reflection of Saudi society. Osama bin Laden is not an aberrant or deviant product of the Saudi educational system. He is its poster boy. He is the product of an educational system that has existed for more than half a century and turns out people who are of a mindset quite similar to bin Laden and his al-Qaeda people, though probably not as talented.

We saw al-Qaeda execute the operation of killing one American, kidnapping another, within two days. It reinforces the idea of nearly simultaneous attacks. They posted the information about Mr. Johnson, said what they wanted, said what they were going to do, and did it. Which perhaps is the most important trademark for al-Qaeda: they tell you what they’re going to do and then they do it.

In terms of their goals in Saudi Arabia, which are not entirely reflective of their overall strategy, it's to demonstrate the inability of the al-Saud government to provide security for expatriates--and to rally their supporters within the kingdom, which are numerous. So I think the unfortunate, tragic murder of Mr. Johnson is just another step in their attempt to unravel Saudi control over the kingdom.

TPM: Over the last couple days, a lot of the commentary about the kidnapping has been that it's al-Qaeda’s intent to spare Saudi society and instead inflict pain on foreigners who work on the oil sector. It sounds, though, that you’re saying a more important aspiration of al-Qaeda is to provide a demonstration effect of what the power of its ideology and the steadfastness of its operatives can do for people inside Saudi Arabia.

ANONYMOUS: I think that’s right. I think clearly al-Qaeda does not want to kill Muslims unnecessarily. They’re willing for Muslims to die in an attack on the United States or some other target, when the deaths are part and parcel of an act of war. But within Saudi Arabia I think they're kind of the society's Robin Hood. It's an oppressed society, the Saudi government is a tyranny, and I think they have a tremendous audience in Saudi Arabia. I remember reading in The National Interest in 2002 that a poll taken by the Saudi government showed 95 percent of Saudis between 18 and 40 supported Osama bin Laden. Domestic support is not an issue for bin Laden. He's always wanted to protect the oil industry in the sense of its infrastructure, its natural production of oil. He's found a way through this type of murder to affect the American economy, probably, without destroying the future potential of the energy industry in Saudi Arabia. It makes sense for all of those things he wants to do to follow this sort of practice.

TPM: … What should we be asking the Saudis to do after the Johnson murder? How do you assess Saudi anti-terrorism efforts inside the country--have the bombings last May, as many have commented, proven to be a wake up call? How do you rate what the Saudis are doing, both in terms of discrete anti-terrorism efforts, in terms of cooperation with the United States, and in terms of combating terrorism [at] its root?

ANONYMOUS: I think the attacks in May brought the message home to the Saudis that they have a domestic problem. In the course of the last decade, it's clear that the Saudis paid lip service to anti-terrorism, but as long as it didn't happen in the kingdom, that was all they did. The Saudis walk a very fine line on this issue. What we identify as terrorism is identified as jihad, as a religious responsibility within the Salafist or the Wahhabi doctrine that dominates Saudi educational facilities and has forever since the founding of the Saudi state in the '30s. Their efforts to suppress al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-like people angers as many as it pleases. So their efforts are not and cannot be to eradicate the problem, because it will just aggravate a huge number of people in a very young populace that is very religious. There's a certain point at which they can't trust anti-terrorism efforts without risking a much wider anti-al Saud response.

TPM: Is this just a fatal and unavoidable contradiction of Saudi Arabia?

ANONYMOUS: It's a very difficult issue. It's hard for me, and there's other people far more expert on the kingdom, but I cannot see it reconciled in the near term. The Saudis had a breathing space in the '80s because they exported so much of their young men who were bin Laden-like to Afghanistan. For a decade they kept their unhappy young militants focused on fighting the Soviets. Now they have a problem, because those folks are home--although I would suspect that the Saudis and the Egyptians and the Tunisians and the Algerians and the rest of them are exporting some of their militants to Iraq, with the same idea that they can fight the jihad there and hopefully they won’t come back alive. But to answer your question, there’s a fundamental danger to the existence of the Saudi regime if they press too hard on counterterrorism.

TPM: So what has that led to in terms of cooperation with the United States?

ANONYMOUS: From what I can tell, including what I see in the media, it's much better than it used to be, but I'm not sure what that means in terms of progress because we're faced by a community that is by and large sympathetic and familiar with the arguments bin Laden makes about the responsibilities of religion. I would say there has been improvement but I think the Saudis really are in a Catch-22 situation, and that will have a limiting effect on their cooperation not only with us but with any other country.

TPM: What should we be asking them to do?

ANONYMOUS: I think we're focused on what we want them to do. We want to control al-Qaeda within the kingdom. We want them to continue to produce oil. We want them to do any number of police-type, and intelligence-type cooperation, and I'm sure they'll be willing to do that. But what we [really] want them to do, as I wrote in the book, I don't think is going to happen: people argue that we should force them or pressure them to change their curriculum and their education system, and that is very unlikely to happen. The al-Sauds, when they came to power, made a deal with the Islamic establishment: the al-Sauds would take care of the economy and foreign policy, and the religious establishment would take care of education. I'm not sure they're terribly eager to adopt a curriculum of Islamic education as it’s proposed by the United States. …

It's a system that's not prone to reform at a pace that would satisfy us. A pace that would satisfy us would completely destabilize the country. We're going to watch them do as much as they can, and they'll do as much as they can that's consistent with the survival of the state.

Or, in terms of cooperation with the U.S., perhaps less. As The Washington Post reports today, the intransigent interior minister, Prince Nayef, greeted the dispatch of 20 FBI officials to the kingdom by deriding U.S. counterterrorism proficiency to Le Figaro.

More to come soon from our conversation on the future of al-Qaeda, U.S. counterterrorism, and Imperial Hubris.

At the risk of

At the risk of shameless self-promotion, let me recommend a very special issue of The New Republic. As you can see on the left-hand side of the page, TNR has put together a series of reflections by (mostly) liberal hawks about their support for the Iraq war. It's not just an attempt to answer the question "Were We Wrong?" though the pieces certainly grapple with it. It's an attempt to understand what the Iraq war and postwar mean for the idea that U.S. national security is tethered to the promotion of American values, particularly after 9/11--the idea that gives the phrase "liberal hawk" a meaning beyond merely denoting a liberal who happens to favor a particular intervention. There's a lot contained in the issue's 12 essays, and even when certain pieces come to similar conclusions, they often do so for different reasons, so there's a lot I think you'll find worth considering--no matter where you stood on the war, and why. I hope you'll check it out.

What did the 911

What did the 9/11 Commission actually say about Iraq-al Qaeda connections? And what did the Bush administration actually say about them? An e-mail sent out from the White House Office of Public Liaison titled, "TALKING POINTS: 9-11 Commission Staff Report Confirmes Administration's Views of al-Qaeda/Iraq Ties" claims:

<$NoAd$>A 9-11 Commission staff report supports the Bush Administration's longstanding conclusion that there was no evidence of "collaboration" between al-Qaeda on the 9-11 attacks against the United States. The Administration has never suggested that Iraq "collaborated" or "cooperated" with al-Qaeda to carry out the 9-11 attacks.

And indeed, as the, uh, talking points memo notes, President Bush stated that "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with ... September 11th." Of course, what the memo quickly adds is that he said that on September 17, 2003. And what it leaves out entirely is why he said that on September 17, 2003. It was in response to this:

MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn’t have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we’ve learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.

We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.

Despite not having a shred of evidence, Dick Cheney not only floated the prospect of Saddam sponsoring 9/11, but Saddam being behind the 1993 World Trade Center attacks--which Paul Wolfowitz also referenced on Good Morning America for the second anniversary of 9/11. (Hey Dick: Let's see the evidence on that one, too.) The ensuing media outrage at this blatant dishonesty was what prompted Bush to set the record straight(er).

Let's not stop there. The White House memo continues:

The Administration has said, however, that it was worried about a number of contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda, including contacts between senior Iraqi intelligence officers and senior members of al-Qaeda.

This is what the 9/11 Commission actually said:

A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Laden in 1994. Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between Al Qaeda and Iraq. [Emphasis added]

So for the White House memo to be conveying truthful information, the Bush administration would need to have followed up any references to "contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda" with reminders that the intelligence community saw no indication that those contacts were fruitful--and that in some cases entreaties were apparently rebuffed. Did they say that?

On October 7, 2002, in a televised, primetime speech on the threat from Iraq, President Bush said:

We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.

Two weeks earlier, in a press conference with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe he said:

The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.

Any given day. You can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam. (For more administration assertions of the dubious link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, check out the IRAQ'D mixtape sweepstakes.) If the American people mistakenly think Saddam is tied to 9/11, it's not surprising. On that count, I think I agree with Dick Cheney.

Lets connect a few

Let's connect a few dots in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Don't miss this blockbuster story in USA Today. The paper obtained sworn testimony from Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, the prison's top officer overseeing interrogations. As you'd expect, much of it is self-serving--Jordan directly observed no abuse, his superiors and the CIA are the ones responsible for the torture, etc. As the paper notes, Major General Antonio Taguba heard Jordan's assertions of ignorance and considered him a liar, as the testimony of others, in the words of Captain Donald Reese, pegs Jordan as "very involved with the interrogation process and the day-to-day activities that occurred."

Jordan testified that he felt "pressure" from the White House and the Pentagon to "pull the intelligence out" of Abu Ghraib. White House staffers in September, he testified, implored him to get more information about the Iraqi insurgency. That plea was followed up by a November visit from Frances Fragos Townsend, the former NSC counterterrorism chief. (As my TNR colleague Ryan Lizza has noted, the post formerly held by Richard Clarke has become to the Bush administration what the drum throne was to Spinal Tap.) She confirmed the trip to USA Today, but stated, in the paper's words, that "she did not discuss interrogation techniques or the need to obtain more information from detainees, and neither witnessed or heard about abuse of detainees." And she called the idea that her Mesopotamian excursion pressured anyone at Abu Ghraib to get more information "ridiculous."

So the top NSC counterterrorism official makes a visit to Iraq in November--which, you'll recall, was the bloodiest month thus far for the U.S. occupation, so much so that it prompted the administration to shift its political strategy and schedule a transfer of sovereignty by June 30. She spent, by her reckoning, two hours at the Abu Ghraib prison, which the previous September the U.S. military had made "a central collection and interrogation point for anyone involved in attacks on coalition soldiers or Iraqi security forces," in the words of the Wall Street Journal. She was shepherded around by the prison's senior interrogation official, whom she recalls was "exceptionally polite." And she says she spent 15 minutes in the actual "detention areas" of Abu Ghraib. Remember: She's a White House terrorism official deep in the bowels of a military intelligence operation halfway around the world. And she didn't discuss "the need to obtain more information from detainees"? Is there any other plausible explanation for her visit?

Now here come the dots. Abu Ghraib, by all accounts, was a pressure cooker for information, as that Journal piece referenced above clarifies. "The whole ball game over there is numbers," a senior interrogator, Sergeant First Class Roger Brokaw, told the paper. "How many raids did you do last week? How many prisoners were arrested? How many interrogations were conducted? How many [intelligence] reports were written? It was incredibly frustrating." Prisoners were spewing into the system at a pace of over 60 a day. Colonel Thomas Pappas, Jordan's boss and commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, instituted a quota system for his interrogation teams. And there's a serious reason why the pace is so hectic: Military commanders and their civilian superiors at the Pentagon were speaking, in the Journal's words, "pointedly about the need for more and better intelligence to crush the insurgency." On November 19, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez placed Abu Ghraib under the "tactical control" of Pappas--even though his chief interrogation officer, Jordan, "lacked anything beyond a 'passing familiarity' with the rules and laws governing prisoner treatment," as USA Today reports.

In late August, the commander of Guantanamo Bay, Major General Geoffrey Miller, made his famous trip to Abu Ghraib, "with my encouragement," testified Pentagon intelligence czar Stephen A. Cambone, "to determine if the flow of information to [Sanchez's command] and back to the subordinate commands could be improved." The previous March, Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II had prepared a 100-page report explaining why Guantanamo interrogators were permitted to torture detainees "in order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign." After receiving Miller's briefing, the gloves apparently came off.

And Pappas wanted to make sure that his superiors knew that the operation was yielding results. He prepared documents about the prison based on what Miller had told him: one was titled, "Draft Update for the Secretary of Defense." Now we know that the White House was flying senior NSC officials to Abu Ghraib for--well, they won't say what for, but, to put it gently, there's an interpretation that jumps out at me. Townsend arrived at Abu Ghraib at a moment of severe military challenge and subsequent political panic. It's 100 percent understandable that the administration has an overwhelming need for actionable intelligence for use against the insurgents. Indeed, as Rumsfeld put it yesterday, "Certainly, that's a fairly typical thing in a conflict." What isn't typical is that Rumsfeld and Townsend's colleagues in the legal offices of the Bush administration had been arguing for nearly two years that under certain circumstances--circumstances they consider much like those in Iraq--torture is legal. What might she have been trying to find out at Abu Ghraib? What did she communicate back? And, Ms. Townsend, shouldn't you answer these questions with your hand on a Bible?

The paranoid spokesman sees

"The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms--he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millenialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse."

That's Richard Hofstadter in 1964. Forty years later, here's Donald Rumsfeld:

This much is certain: coalition forces cannot be defeated on the battlefield. The only way this effort could fail is if people were to be persuaded that the cause is lost or that it's not worth the pain, or if those who seem to measure progress in Iraq against a more perfect world convince others to throw in the towel. I'm confident that that will not happen.

Only the media, says the most powerful secretary of defense in history, can lose the war in Iraq. By that logic, a year's worth of mistakes--an insufficient number of troops to provide basic security; an inability or unwillingness to demobilize militias; a preference for wishing deeply-rooted conflicts in Iraqi ethnic and religious politics away instead of providing a civil forum for their arbitration; the installation of pliant Iraqis onto a council subsequently made powerless; torture--are simply wished away. And there are more mistakes to come: Since November 15, the Bush administration has loudly promised Iraqis that they'll be in control of their country after June 30. Behind the scenes, the Coalition Provisional Authority has been ensuring that the U.S. will retain significant control over Iraq's political development. More overtly, of course, Iraqis will still see American armored vehicles rolling down their streets. And at that point, Iraqis will see us breaking a promise--granting sovereignty--that we will loudly be proclaiming we've kept. Given that 90 percent of Iraqis distrust us according to CPA's own polls, the already significant danger to our 138,000 brave men and women in uniform is compounding. And the secretary of defense would prefer to point fingers at the media:

You know, let me say one thing to follow on Pete's comment. I've been kind of following the headlines and the bullets in the television -- the big, powerful hits on torture and this type of thing that we've seen. Needless to say, I can't read all the articles, and so I'm no expert on what every person says, and I know headline writers and people dramatize things.

But in thinking about it all, and I have to be a little careful -- we know that there's still more investigations going on, and we're going to learn more information, so no one can speak with finality or definitively or conclusively at this stage. But -- and second, I have to be a little careful about what I say because of the risk of command influence. But let me just say this: I have read this -- editorials, "torture" -- and one after another. Washington Post the other day -- I forget when it was -- just a great, bold "torture."

The implication -- think of the people who read that around the world. First of all, our forces read it. And the implication is that the United States government has, in one way or another, ordered, authorized, permitted, tolerated torture. Not true. And our forces read that, and they've got to wonder, do we? And as General Pace said, we don't. The President said people will be treated humanely, and that is what the orders are. That's what the requirements are. Now, we know that people have done some things they shouldn't do. Anyone who looks at those photographs know that. But that's quite a different thing. And that is not the implication that's out there. The implication that's out there is the United States government is engaging in torture as a matter of policy, and that's not true. Think of the second group of people who see it. All those people in the region and in Iraq and in Afghanistan, that we need their cooperation, we need their help, the people in those countries, the people in the neighboring countries, and think how unhelpful that is for them to gain the inaccurate impression that that is what's taking place.

Third, think of the people who, for whatever -- whenever -- today, tomorrow, next year -- capture an American civilian or American military personnel and will use all those headlines about torture and the impact in the world that people think that's what's taking place, and use that as an excuse to torture our people. So this is a very serious business that this country's engaged in. Now, we're in a war, and I can understand that someone who doesn't think they're in a war or aren't in a war, sitting in an air-conditioned room someplace can decide they want to be critical of this or critical of that, or misstate that or misrepresent something else, or be fast and loose with the facts. But there's an effect to that, and I think we have to be careful. I think people ought to be accountable for that, just as we're accountable.
To the enduring shame of the U.S., lawyers at the White House, Justice Department and Pentagon have authored memoranda interpreting torture as somehow consistent with the Constitution and our treaty obligations. (Please, point me to the references in the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions sanctioning the use of unmuzzled dogs.) And yet it's the media that's undermining the war effort by reporting that vile fact.

And about accountability: If you're never held to account, are you really accountable? Here’s President Bush today:

I'm never disappointed in my secretary of defense. He's doing a fabulous job and America's lucky to have him in the position he's in.

UPDATE: This post has been corrected. Thanks to reader J. for pointing out that, contrary to what I wrote earlier, only forty years have elapsed between 1964 and 2004.

Just remember George Costanza

<$NoAd$>"Just remember," George Costanza once advised Jerry Seinfeld, "it's not a lie if you believe it."

QUESTION: Mr. President, why does the administration continue to insist that Saddam had a relationship with al Qaeda, when even you have denied any connection between Saddam and September 11th, and now the September 11th commission says that there was no collaborative relationship at all?

BUSH: The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.

This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two.

I always said that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He was a threat because he was a sworn enemy to the United States of America, just like al Qaeda. He was a threat because he had terrorist connections, not only al Qaeda connections, but other connections to terrorist organizations; Abu Nidal was one. He was a threat because he provided safe haven for a terrorist like Zarqawi who is still killing innocents inside of Iraq.

From Staff Statement No. 15 of the 9/11 Commission:

Bin Laden also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein's secular regime. Bin Laden had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Laden to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Laden in 1994. Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between Al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.

There's also not a shred of evidence that Saddam Hussein "provided safe haven" for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, either.