Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I've been getting tons of emails over the transom this evening about the arrest of Abdurahman M. Alamoudi on various charges of illegal financial transactions tied to terrorist organizations and his ties to Grover Norquist.

Norquist, of course, is the capo di tutti capi of Republican insiders, and a close friend and advisor to the president and Karl Rove.

I don't have any unique insight into this particular relationship.

But if you want to know more, a good place to start is the excellent piece Frank Foer wrote on the subject back in November 2001: "Grover Norquist's Strange Alliance with Radical Islam."

Unfortunately, I think the piece is on the TNR site for subscribers only. But it may be worth paying a few bucks to read.

Now, I do know a bit about the "Free Markets and Democracy" conference that Norquist put on in Doha, Qatar back in the spring of 2001.

Norquist brought a dozen congressmen over and at least one of them had a sit down with the then-Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Taliban grandee Ahmad Muttawakil. When I talked to him in August of last year, Norquist told me that he himself didn't meet with Muttawakil. The congressman who did meet with him was Dana Rohrabacher.

My sense has always been that Norquist got into the Islam business back in the late 1990s when it looked like a growth industry for the Republican coalition.

He had a lot of ideas about Muslims being natural cultural conservatives and free marketeers, and so forth. This three-cheers for Muslim capitalism! conference in Doha is a prime example.

His 'Islamic Institute' is run out the offices of his main operation, 'Americans for Tax Reform.' (I just checked the website and apparently it's now 'The Islamic Free Market Institute.' So, you know, Mohamed von Hayek.)

In any case, after 9/11 came along he probably realized that he might have gotten tied up with at least a few questionable characters. But he was too proud to admit he'd been naive and then just dug himself deeper.

That's always been my sense. But when people start getting arrested, maybe it's time to give the whole thing a closer look.

What's wrong with this <$NoAd$>picture?

Here's the Washington Post's headline about the Madrid Donors' Conference ...

Iraq Donations Fall Short: Many Pledges in the Form of Loans, Debt Relief, Not Grants

Here's the headline in Reuters ...

Donors Promise Iraq $33 Billion, Smashing Expectations

And, yes, in case you're wondering, they're talking about the same conference.

It's pretty hard to figure out from the articles just what was pledged whether in loans or grants or anything else. But one key sign seems to be that the biggest donors turn out to be the IMF and the World Bank.

The Washington Post says most of the aid pledges coming out of the Madrid Conference are in the form of loans rather than grants. Other pledges appear to be debt forgiveness for past loans which were likely uncollectable.

Meanwhile, most of the $1.5 billion pledge from Kuwait seems actually to be money the Kuwaitis say they've already given to the Iraqis.

I think we're going to have to wait at least a few days to figure out just what was put on the table and what was not.

My God, this is such a joke.

We’re really in Moscow show trial territory here.

You’ve probably seen these stories which report that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is set to issue a blistering report on the CIA’s (and the broader intelligence community’s) pre-war Iraq intelligence. It was hastily prepared, the report will say. Much of the evidence was thin and circumstantial. And even much of that was single-sourced, and often to unreliable sources.

“The executive was ill-served by the intelligence community,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan), the lockstep Committee Chairman told the Washington Post.

(Roberts is one of the White House’s greatest assets in this whole mess, since he will literally do or say anything to keep the White House in the clear.)

Now, by and large, the bill of particulars above is a fair characterization of the National Intelligence Estimate which was assembled in the fall of 2002. And George Tenet deserves all sorts of criticism for his role in all this.

But this isn’t the criticism he should be getting.

What he’s guilty of isn’t ill-serving the White House but allowing the White House to stack the intel deck in favor of alarmist reports about Iraq.

As I say, we’ll be saying much more about the details of this. But let’s start with the essential observation. Why was the NIE so rushed?

An NIE is a systematic evaluation of all the Intelligence Community knows about a given subject. And it’s put together to help the government frame a policy to address a given problem or challenge.

But as the articles in the Washington Post today note (if rather obliquely), that’s not what happened here.

This NIE was done after the White House had already chosen its policy. And it wasn’t even the White House that called for it, but rather Senate Democrats who were miffed that the administration had never requested an NIE.

In fact, the White House specifically resisted requesting an NIE because it didn’t want the findings getting in the way of its policy.

So Roberts' claim that the White House was “ill-served” fails on chronology and simple logic. The NIE could not have failed the White House, because the White House didn’t use it. Simple as that.

(The point of this NIE was not to frame policy but to sway votes in the Senate. And on that count, if one wanted to be cheeky, one would say the administration was served rather well.)

And why was the NIE so rushed? Because it was a double-quick affair rushed into print at the last minute to get Senate Democrats to vote for the Iraq resolution.

The NIE was done after the White House was already on the record with a policy. So the White House’s views on what it wanted the NIE to say were, shall we say, rather clear. And this whole project came after 18 months in which the administration was mau-mauing the CIA to come up with more alarmist reports about Iraq.

George Tenet deserves censure for allowing himself to become complicit in the politicization and manipulation of intelligence on an almost unprecedented scale. Other top officials at the Agency do as well. (And there are certainly many other issues on which the Agency itself deserves to be taken to task.)

But this fish is rotting from the head down. And the head’s not George Tenet. It’s a many-headed monster. And they’re all at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the OSD.

This is up-is-downism of the worst and most transparent sort.

Who will say so? Who will go along with it? Who will say, 'Enough. No more!'

Some good news out of the donors' conference in Madrid.

The BBC says the conference is finishing up with pledges of between $18 and $20 billion. A good bit of that seems to be in form of low-interest loans. And I'm not certain just how that fits into the equation.

Most reports note that this remains well short of the $36 billion the US was looking for. But I don't think anybody thought that was even remotely possible.

I remain curious about the spread of loans and grants.

This is the passage <$NoAd$>that caught my eye in the analysis of the new Democracy Corps poll. It's from Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Bob Shrum, though I hear Greenberg's voice the most ...

The country still wants to continue the Bush direction on the war on terrorism. (64 to the 32 percent who want significant change). While the country is looking for change and increasingly, new leadership, it is not seeking an anti-war President. Large majorities of the country think it was right to remove Saddam Hussein. The war on terrorism continues and the Democratic Presidential candidates will surely advocate carrying it forward in effective and credible ways.

But the public is in a very different mood with respect to Iraq and with respect to our relations with our allies and countries around the world. Just 48 percent believe the war was worth the cost, while 46 percent now say it was not. Support for the war has dropped in every poll, including this one, since May. While 49 percent say they want to continue Bush’s direction on Iraq, 47 percent say they want to go in a significantly different direction.

On foreign policy, more voters now say they want to go in a significantly different direction than continue with Bush (47 to 45 percent). People understand the instability and the cost of a unilateralist foreign policy, borne in the front line by the troops and paid here at home with reduced funding for essential programs. Bush continues to lose people’s confidence in this critical area.

When it comes to the 87 billion dollars, voters are conflicted because they do not want to leave the troops exposed. In this survey, 47 percent support the money and 49 percent oppose, though there are many more strong opponents. But when it comes to the vote in Congress, a majority opts for "yes," largely because of the argument to support the troops. The biggest bloc of voters agrees with a member .who votes yes to support the troops but expresses many doubts about the open-ended reconstruction aid.

There's a lot for the current crop of Democratic contenders to ponder there.

More on the disclosure of Valerie Plame's employment at the CIA.

The Post today runs a story, basically similar to the one which ran yesterday afternoon in the Associated Press. There's not too much there beyond word that a dozen-member FBI team has now interviewed more than three dozen administration officials.

They're also poring over phone logs and memos and the like. And the investigation remains centered on the White House.

The sizzle to the story is that Karl Rove and Scott McClellan, the president's press secretary, have both been interviewed.

Here's what catches my eye though. These are, as the Post notes, voluntary interviews. And I doubt that either of these men is the actual culprit (I suspect Rove pushed the story after the fact, but was likely not the original leaker, though he may have known about it.)

I'd be much more interested to learn whether the investigators have interviewed anybody in the Office of the Vice President, or the NSC, for that matter. These are voluntary interviews. So have the investigators asked but been rebuffed? Just not gotten to it yet?

That's the story I'd read with great interest.

One other point: The Post piece says "McClellan has specifically denied that any of three prominent White House officials -- Rove, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby and National Security Council official Elliott Abrams -- had leaked the information or authorized leaks."

As we've noted here before, that's not precisely what he's said. He's hung his statements on a very precise -- and to my mind -- highly technical and obfuscatory statement that none of them has "leaked classified information."

He's never made any blanket statements about things they may have told reporters about Plame.

A number of readers have written in to say that the book I recommended about the conquest of Mexico came down too quickly, and can I repost the title?

Absolutely. It's The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz del Castillo. Click here to see the mini-review I wrote of it on October 13th.

I will say this: TPMers turn out to be voracious readers. When I posted the recommendation of Mike Lind's Up From Conservatism on Wednesday, it's Amazon ranking was down around 100,000. (Honestly, I don't remember the exact number. But I glanced at it briefly and saw a lot of digits. And it was in that ballpark.) By yesterday afternoon it had gotten up to 131, though now it's fallen off a bit again.

I'm willing to believe that China is a peaceful and even a benign force in East Asia.

But is it "work[ing] to secure the freedom of its own people"?

So says President Bush.

From his remarks to the Australian parliament ...

We are encouraged by China's cooperation in the war against terror. We are working with China to ensure the Korean peninsula is free of nuclear weapons. We see a China that is stable and prosperous, a nation that respects the peace of its neighbors and works to secure the freedom of its own people.

Isn't that laying it on a bit thick?

Alas, a TPM contest.

Certain conservative mumbojumbocrats have been trying to rewrite history by claiming that the White House never argued that Iraq posed any sort of imminent threat to the United States.

For my money, one of the most revealing quotes is the passage in the National Security Strategy the White House released in 2002, which essentially argues that the concept of ‘imminent threat’ must be reinterpreted to apply to countries like Iraq.

But back to our contest. Because this debate wasn’t hashed out in NSC documents, but in public statements on the hustings.

Our wingerly friends have made a lot of the rarity of occurences in which the phrase ‘imminent threat’ was used. But they rather ignore all the instances in which administration officials told the public we had to depose Saddam right now before he could use his nuclear weapons and smallpox on us. Any quotation which conveys the imminent threat message is acceptable even it doesn't contain the phrase 'imminent threat.'

(One example, though certainly not the best one, might be President Bush’s statement on March 7th of this year that he would no longer “leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons.”)

So now it’s up to you. Send us your best Bush administration ‘imminent threat’ quote.

The Rules: Only one submission per reader. It has to be sent to contest@talkingpointsmemo.com. It must include a citation to some published account in which the quotation appeared. And it must be received by October 27th.

Entries will be judged on imminence, relevance, provenance, bouquet and other such qualities.

To the winner goes a brand-new TPM T-Shirt (fresh from the Paris runways) in addition the resultant fame, glory and honor.