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March 23, 2004

Sharing the Load

Among the most significant benefits of the Internet, generally, and the blogosphere, specifically, is the broad distribution of interests, knowledge, abilities, and (importantly) schedules. The whole Richard Clarke thing brings that home. Simply put, I don't have the energy to jump into this one — he says one thing, somebody else contradicts him, the media picks his version, et cetera. Not the least, my reaction results from a strong suspicion that Clarke will fade away with neither side of the fight having gained or lost any believers — the only people who will remember Clarke come November. When Clarke's faded to chat-room status, the Democrats and the media will find another someone or something through which to cloud the waters once again.

But fear not. If it is for Clarke info that you lack, you needn't look hard to find it, so there's no need to catalogue sources here. However, there are a few items worth checking out for outside-the-mainstream information. First, Dan Darling notes a disappearing Saddam–al Qaeda connection:

... Clarke played a key role in the Clinton administration's decision to launch a cruise missile attack on the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. That article, if true, puts Clarke's comments about a war in Iraq detracting from the larger war against al-Qaeda in an entirely different context.

As any number of media reports indicate from the time period in question, those US officials who ordered the cruise missile attack on the al-Shifa plant did so because they believed that bin Laden was producing precursors for VX there with Iraqi assistance. It is worth noting that the basis for this conclusion even found its way into the November 4, 1998 US indictment of both bin Laden and his military commander Mohammed Atef, stating that bin Laden had formed a non-aggression pact with Iraq and had agreed to work with the Iraqi government with regard to weapons development.

For his part, Scott of Demosophia parses Clarke's political tale to form a picture of the forces that might have really been at play:

In other words he was given the task of challenging his own prejudgments, and what he apparently did in lieu of fulfilling that assignment was to go out and compile what he considered evidence that there was no link, a rather petulant response to an administration that was seeking to comprehend (or perhaps even catch up to) a rather inscrutible enemy. In other words he refused to do what was asked of him, not to "manufacture evidence" but to look for evidence he didn't think was there. This borders on insubordination. He clearly thought he ought to have been employed creating a "grand strategy," not doing this lowly gumshoe work. His methodological ineptitude prevented him from seeing that this is a standard way to test an hypothesis, and is really rather straightforward scientific method.

Meanwhile, John Cole spots something in the 60 Minutes transcript that illustrates how dishonest spin shifts the administration's reasonable behavior into some weird fictionesque obsession with Saddam Hussein:

A failure to attempt to identify any role played by Iraq in the 9/11 attacks by Bush and his administration would have been foolish and irresponsible. Once again, the fierce partisans, ideological blinders on and focussed directly ahead at the 2004 elections, are attacking the administration for doingexactly the right thing- investigating all options.

Before you get confused and start to think that perhaps they were trying to rush to war with Iraq post 9/11, as the hucksters would like for you to believe, remember the timeframe. When this memo was written, 18 September 2001, the one in which Clarke has been caught in an out and out lie, it was already pretty well decided that Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan were the target. We know that the choice of action was already decided from the numerous write-ups, most easily accessible of which is this excerpt from the Sept. 18th 2001 portion of the lengthy Washington Post Series titled 10 Days in September.

I'm a relatively new watcher of the political game, so I can only ask: has it always been like this? Have political operatives always been brazenly willing to reformulate recent history?

Some physicists suggest that, in the Many Worlds Interpretation, there are realities in which history really is inconsistent, in which monuments fade into existence, for example, so that the present has a record of a past that never was. That's the feeling with which the political wrangling of the past three years has left me.

Posted by Justin Katz at March 23, 2004 10:29 PM