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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Amazing quote of the day. This from Frank Gaffney on CNN last evening (emphasis added) ...

This is a danger that I'm afraid, in the preoccupation that came about as a result of going down, I think, this unfortunately dead end of the United Nations, because the only thing we were allowed to talk about at the United Nations was weapons of mass destruction. We were not allowed to talk about repression of the people of Iraq, about which we have seen so much evidence. We were not allowed to talk about Saddam Hussein's conventional threat to his neighbors. He went to war twice against them.

We were not allowed to talk about this connection to terror. We were only really allowed to try to engage the United Nations on the grounds that he had weapons of mass destruction. I'm confident we'll demonstrate that he did, not just the remnants of old programs, but ongoing programs. And I believe today we know absolutely, without a doubt, the Iraqi people are better off, because, despite the U.N. saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, we're not persuaded," the conventional threat is diminished, if not completely eliminated. The terrorist links are ruptured. And I'm confident that our other concerns about the repression of the people of Iraq is now going to be at an end.

It's the UN's fault that we had to focus on WMD? Shouldn't there be a penalty box for this kind of ridiculousness?

Saddama bin Laden? The London-based Arabic language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi says it will be publishing a signed letter it received from Saddam Hussein in which the ex-despot calls on Iraqis to rise up and toss out the Americans. According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi's tease, the big news is Saddam's discussion of "betrayals" that led to his leaving office earlier this month before his current term as Iraq's dictator expires in 2009.

Oh the indignity! When the Americans want to humiliate a member of the former Iraqi regime, they really know how to make it hurt. Over the course of the day, news surfaced that Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraq's former Information Minister, was trying to negotiate his surrender to US troops. But they hadn't accepted his terms.

It turns out that slightly overstated the matter. One of his terms was that he be arrested. And that was one demand the Americans were simply not willing to accept.

He's not in the deck and they don't want him. 'You're too lame to arrest' is the message coming from the US Army.

Ouch ...

It wasn't much better last week, when al-Sahaf apparently tried, unsuccessfully, to turn himself in to a Portuguese journalist.

One group that does want him is the Dubai-based satellite channel al-Arabiya which wants to hire him as an Iraq analyst. "We want to benefit from the experience of Mr Sahaf and his analysis of the current situation and the future of Iraq," Ali al-Hadethi, an al-Arabiya spokesman told Reuters today.

They want him. But he doesn't seem to want them. So al-Sahaf is now reduced to ... God, it's almost too brutal to say it ... He's been reduced to having to try to turn himself in to the INC.

Nabil al Musawi, an INC spokesman, tells Al Bawaba that, deck of cards or no deck of cards, al-Sahaf "is wanted by the Iraqis."

Let's discuss something, just you and me. Am I the only one who thinks Nancy Grace comes from another planet? Or do you think so too? Nancy Grace, of course, is the Court TV anchor and semi-permanent guest on Larry King Live whose job it is, on Larry's show at least, to be the voice of militant sentimentalism. Tonight Larry was doing his 950th segment on the Laci Peterson murder and Nancy was in classic form as what you might call the hanging dingbat. In the standard engagement, some defense lawyer will be there making a point about how the defense might make its case and Nancy butts in: BUT THE BABY! DO YOU KNOW LACI WAS ONLY 5'1?!?!? But Nancy, we're just trying to talk through how the case might be argued ... BUT THE BABY! But Nancy ... HOW CAN YOU DEFEND THAT MAN AFTER WHAT HE DID TO HIS HAIR? ... But, Nancy, we're not ... TYPICAL DEFENSE LAWYER!!! But ... Well, you get the idea.

Man! Not only is Newt Gringrich no Jack Kennedy, he's not even a Richard Perle. As regular readers well know, I've been a pretty tough critic of Mr. Perle, especially his long-running effort to serve as the Pentagon's proxy in its war with Colin Powell. But one can denounce underhanded scheming and still be able to respect it when it's ably done.

As you'll remember, last week the former Speaker of the House used an AEI panel discussion to launch a broadside against the State Department, Colin Powell and even a few elementary points of basic logic. But his attack was so overblown and cartoonish that even those inclined to support his basic position immediately cut him loose, leaving the former Speaker terribly exposed when nearly every Republican in town spent the rest of last week saying he was at best out of line and quite possibly even slightly off his rocker.

It was the week of the great Newt Gingrich smackdown. Jack Kemp called his old friend's argument ludicrous and compared him to "a bull who carries his own china shop around with him." Bill Buckley, famed lover of Foggy Bottom, said Newt had "overdone it." And pretty much every other Republican in town, pretty clearly at White House direction, trashed him.

Newt was like that one doofus you have in every high school clique who's always trying to get into the act after the moment has passed.

A bit short on time this evening, but just a quick note on North Korea. One of the most defining characteristics of the long-simmering Korea-quasi-crisis has been the way the major dailies, the Times and Post especially, and the cable nets have gotten spun every which way in their initial reporting on developments out of North Korea. The Kelly meeting last week in Beijing looks like it's turning into another example. The LA Times provided the first public clues about this a few days ago. But basically it wasn't at all as first reported. The North Koreans combined a lot of bluster and threats with a rather desperate plea for what is often, in diplomatic circles, called the "buy-out" option. Basically, a security guarantee and aid in exchange for the North Koreans getting out of the nuclear business and allowing comprehensive monitoring. There are all sorts of stories to tell as the folks at DOD cry bloody murder that they've been outmaneuvered by the people at the State Department. But the real question is this: it seems likely to a lot of people now that Colin Powell, Armitage and Kelly could give President Bush a very big diplomatic victory in Northeast Asia over the next year or so. The price, however, would be going back to the basic model that was pursued by the previous administration. Tougher, more comprehensive, to be sure. But the same basic idea: aid and security guarentees in exchange for getting out of the nuclear biz. Can the White House swallow its pride? And will the AEI Fedayeen ever sit still for it?

A couple months ago, PBS's Newshour interviewed me for a segment on blogs. I think it was put on hold because of the wall-to-wall coverage of the war. But I just found out it's running on this evening's edition of the show. So if you're interested in blogs or blogging or just TPM, you might be interested in watching.

The US occupation force's arrest of Muhammad Mohsen Zobeidi, the self-proclaimed "Mayor of Baghdad" is a very positive development. The most troubling thing in the last two weeks has not been the Shi'a demonstrations in the south but the palpable sense of drift in US efforts to create even some sort of de facto occupation government. Given our priorities in Iraq we don't want to be feared exactly. But we must be respected. And Zobeidi's unimpeded effort to set himself up as the political authority in Baghdad was threatening to accomplish the one thing we cannot allow: making our authority an object of ridicule. Zobeidi was providing almost as much comic relief as the much-missed Iraqi Information Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf. Only this clown was on our dime, not Saddam's.

Wrong, George Will. Wrong. On the This Week roundtable this morning, the subject of the Santorum comments came up. And after well-stated comments by Michel Martin and Fareed Zakaria, Will piped up and said that what Santorum was saying was "by what standard" (going from recollection here, not a transcript) can you distinguish, can the state distinguish between homosexual acts and adultery or incest or other forms of illicit sex. Yet, as we noted earlier, this is precisely not what Santorum said. Not at all. If you read the actual interview which ginned up this whole controversy, you see that Santorum makes the positive argument that these forms of non-heterosexual or outside-of-marriage sex are in fact equal since they are all "antithetical to strong, healthy families."

Will was calm and dispassionate in stating something that is demonstrably false. He seems either not to have read the actual conversation or he's overly eager to help Santorum out of his jam.

A few days ago Christopher Hitchens wrote an article in Slate defending Ahmed Chalabi against various press criticism. One of Hitchens' points is the following ...

In news stories as well as in opinion columns, it is repeatedly stated that Chalabi hasn't been in the country for many years—or since 1958. This contradicts my own memory and that of several other better-qualified witnesses. They recall him in northern Iraq many times and for long periods in the 1990s, helping to organize opposition conferences and to broker an agreement between the opposing Kurdish factions.
The implication is that Chalabi is being slandered and falsely accused, that there is evidence he was in northern Iraq but that it is being covered up.

This statement is at best quite misleading.

You don't need to rely on anybody's recollection or witnesses. Everyone who has ever reported on or written about Chalabi -- friend or foe -- knows he ran an INC operation out of northern Iraq in the early-mid-1990s. When Chalabi was still supported by the CIA, he was running his operation from the part of Iraqi Kurdistan enjoying de facto autonomy under the protection of US-backed no-fly-zones. There's no mystery about this. EVERYONE KNOWS THIS.

People who are critical of Chalabi often say that he hasn't lived in Iraq since his adolescence. Often they'll add something like 'with the exception of a short period in northern Iraq protected by the US no-fly-zone', etc. Sometimes they don't add this.

But when they say this, the point they are trying to make is that he has never lived in Iraq as an adult -- with the exception of a short period as a would-be insurrectionist in Iraqi Kurdistan -- and thus that he enjoys none of the connections or familiarity with the country that one expects of an exiled opposition leader. This may or may not be a mark against him as a credible candidate for future political leadership or influence in Iraq. But it's certainly not an unreasonable point to raise. And the points it's meant to address are not nullified by a relatively brief period spent operating out of safehouses in northern Iraq.

Chalabi's period in northern Iraq is very good evidence of his willingness to put skin in the game, to put his own life in some danger in an effort to overthrow Saddam -- an important point in his favor. But it's not particularly relevant to the issue of when he went into exile from the country.

Hitchens is creating a false impression of mystery, cover-up and bias, when the facts on this point are clear to pretty much everyone.

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