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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

More and more is being made of the story of how Sudan offered to turn over Osama bin Laden to the United States in 1996. There's been much foolish Monday-morning quarterbacking questioning various errors the Clinton administration allegedly made in counter-terrorism policy. And as a Clinton loyalist I'd be more than happy to point out how this Sudan story is just another example of that. But I can't. Because it's not. This really was a missed opportunity of immense proportions.

But it's easy to draw the wrong lesson from what happened.

The prevailing idea seems to be that the Clinton administration got things wrong because they were too indulgent toward so-called 'rogue states.' If you look close at what happened in 1996, though, it's really more that they were, in a sense, too rough with them. The real story about what happened with Sudan in 1996 is that the folks at NSC were so keen to 'isolate' the Sudan (and generally slap them around) that the they were blinded to the fact that this quasi-bad-actor state was willing to do us a very good turn. In a sense, they fell for their own spin.

In our current situation that's a lesson well worth considering.

Next up, the Richard Clarke angle.

Okay, I suppose you've probably seen this evidence of the connection between Osama bin Laden and notorious Sesame Street sourpuss Bert.

But I just couldn't help pointing it out to you in case you missed it. In case you're wondering, except for the highlight circle, this is not a doctored photo. And this article describes the very 21st century, globalization -drenched way the seemingly mild-mannered Bert ended up on bin Laden posters in Bangladesh.

But first a warning: the editor of Talking Points literally almost died of laughter when he read the story. So be warned. I mean, I hadn't heard anything so funny since I read about how Kermit the Frog had hooked up with Imad Mugniyah in the Bekaa Valley!

The Talking Points crusade (can we still say 'crusade'?) against Richard Perle is catching on. And across the ideological spectrum too.

Jude Wanniski -- pied piper of supply-side economics -- gets into the act. He actually calls on Don Rumsfeld to fire his deputy Paul Wolfowitz (a topic we've touched on here before, though I don't think Wolfowitz is in the Perle category by any means). But Perle gets his mention too.

Here's what he says:

Do you realize that Wolfowitz, and his pal Richard Perle who chairs your Defense Policy Board, have been calling all their friends in the press corps, urging them to beat the drums for war with Iraq? Perle actually signed the “famous” letter of 41 drafted by Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, who is Perle’s mouthpiece in Washington ... It is incomprehensible to me that you would allow Perle to remain at that post, where he is permitted to read all the most sensitive secret traffic flowing through the Pentagon. Not that he wouldn’t see it anyway, courtesy of Wolfowitz, but how brazen can he be and get away with it.
Now, I disagree with a number of points Wanniski makes in his piece. But the inappropriateness of Perle's behavior should be clear to everyone.

Also, let's roll out the first edition of the Richard Perle Media Hall of Shame (RPMHS): the list of media outlets which have featured Perle without noting his position in this administration. So far CNN, The Washington Post, and the London Daily Telegraph have all joined. No doubt others are soon to take the plunge.

Another Richard Perle update.

Why the continuing subterfuge and irresponsibility? In today's Washington Post article on expanding the war beyond Afghanistan, Perle is identified as "a Pentagon official in the Reagan administration who is close to many members of the Bush administration."

As we've noted repeatedly in recent posts, Perle is a member of this administration. I know this is a matter of definition. But for my money when the Sec Def appoints someone chairman of a key policy oversight committee, which comes with an E-Ring office and salary, that's being in the administration, period.

When will this man realize the rules apply to him too? And when will someone (anyone!) call him on it?

Neo-cons may not like Colin Powell but don't they like loyalty and the chain of command? And just when I was going to praise Bill Kristol's excellent piece in the Weekly Standard Online!

You may have thought this was the government of Uzkekistan's first effort to curry favor with American presidents. But far from it. Back in 1997 the Embassy of Uzbekistan paid the PBN Company (which specializes in work in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics) $7,500 to a) put together a “briefing book of Hillary Clinton speeches” and b) get approval from the White House and the publishers to translate It Takes a Village into Uzbeke!

All so dignitaries back home could drop a few good lines on Hillary when she visited the country that year.

P.S. This from secretly obtained confidential documents? Alas, no. Publicly obtained at the Foreign Agents Registration Act office several months ago while researching an unrelated story.

In case you missed this crushing passage ...

"Each addict's story here in the Pakistan city of Quetta is sadder than the next. Mooruddin Aki's arms were chopped off by the Taliban after authorities caught him smoking opium in an Afghan school. At 18, he begs on the streets and people who take pity on him place bills in his mouth."

New York Times, Oct. 7th, 2001

As I noted Friday evening, Richard Perle (a member of this administration, which I explained in the earlier post) went on Crossfire and accused Colin Powell of working against President Bush's policies. Let's follow up on a few fronts.

First, it turns out Donald Rumsfeld agrees with me! Or at least he used to. When I saw Perle mouthing off on CNN, I thought I remembered something from Rumsfeld's Rules (what's that?) about this. And it turns out I'm right. "Avoid public spats," RR says on page 9, "When a Department argues with other government agencies in the press, it reduces the President's options." All the more so during wartime, one must imagine.

Second, it turns out this isn't the only freelancing Perle was doing on Friday. On the 5th, in the London Daily Telegraph, Perle penned a derisive attack on British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, for his recent visit to Tehran.

And in case you haven't noticed, the Brits have been rather supportive of our efforts of late. (Perle just doesn't seem to like Foreign Offices, whether in the UK or the US.)

As I explained in the earlier post, Richard Perle is a member of this administration, though he seldom identifies himself as such in these contexts. This isn't about his views, but rather his behavior, which lacks honor, judgment and discretion. By his actions he has shown that he believes the normal rules do not apply to him.

According to Newsweek, Dick Cheney told Paul Wolfowitz to knock off the public statements about attacking Iraq, after publicly butting heads with Powell. Isn't it time for Rumsfeld or someone to do the same with Perle?

The rules apply to Reaganites and neo-con intellectuals too, ya know. No special pleading. No excuses.

There've been many articles describing what good has been able to come from the tragedies of September 11th: the outpouring of charitable giving, the surge of national unity and patriotism, the willingness of states around the globe to provide the cooperation necessary to hunt down and root out terrorist organizations. Of course, few developments have been more salutary than the banishment of Mitch Daniels from public life.

Have you seen Daniels recently? A quick Nexis search revealed 19 references to Daniels' name in the last week; and 124 for Glenn Hubbard, the head of the Council of Economic Advisors, who's recently been put forward as Daniels de facto public replacement.

The real question now is whether it's just Daniels -- a dissembler and a hack -- who is going to stay banished or whether his hackish ways are out too. Paul Krugman thinks the chances of that are starting to look pretty poor indeed.

This is a dirty, dirty business. If you watched CNN's Crossfire tonight you saw Richard Perle, an Assistant Secretary of Defense from the Reagan administration, talking about strategy in the United States' war against terrorism. In particular he was distinguishing between President Bush's strategy and that emanating from the State Department, i.e., from Colin Powell. I don't have the transcript in front of me. But to put it bluntly he was saying that Powell was pursuing a foolish policy of coalition building and undermining or ignoring the stated wishes of the president.

Tough words. But not so unexpected from someone with Perle's politics and temperament.

Only that's not the whole story. Because Perle's not really a former Assistant Secretary of Defense. Or at least that's not all he is. He's also the Chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. He's got an office in the E-ring of the Pentagon, a floor away from Rumsfeld's office.

In other words, he's a part of this administration. CNN was either dishonest or asleep at the switch in how they chose to identify him.

(As a side note, my understanding is that part of the reason Perle was given this job is that administration hawks really wanted to bring him in but knew there was no way to give him a position that requires Senate confirmation. And this position doesn't require it.)

Different appointees of an administration will sometimes criticize each other, certainly. But junior appointees at the Defense Department do not go on TV and explicitly accuse the Secretary of State of ignoring the president's wishes or undermining his policies.

So what's going on here? Can this really be allowed to continue? Can the Secretary of State or the President's dignity abide this? And where's Rumsfeld on all this? Can we, i.e., the American people, really put up with this kind of crap at what we are told, rightly, is a time of national crisis and mobilization?

This is a big deal. And it's not a laughing matter.

Oh what a tangled web we weave ...

They say lies beget more lies. But, more importantly, boneheaded statements tend to beget more boneheaded statements. Especially when you can't bring yourself to take one back and move on.

Ever since Andrew Sullivan let fly that hot-headed and instantly pummeled remark about a lefty "fifth column" on the deracinated East Coast he's been hunting around for some way to get out of the egregious over-statement penalty box. And now he's done it! He's found the fifth column! It's called United Peoples. And they're so big and well organized they even have a web site!

Of the ten American "organizers" included on the site most are identified as affiliated with another website called Friendly Favors, which that site chillingly identifies as "A tool to find Friendly people, connect with them and acknowledge their Favors."

I, for one, already feel more secure that Andrew has unearthed this gaggle of risible oafs. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit seems to have the right idea when he says: "if this is the fifth column, we can focus most of our attention on the first four. They're no threat, except to their own credibility."

I was thinking they might be a bigger threat to Andrew's.

P.S. Yes, yes, yes. I know I'm writing too much about Sullivan. And I'm trying to kick the habit. But on this one I couldn't help it.

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