17 April 2004

Book Alleges Secret Iraq War Plan

President Bush secretly ordered a war plan drawn up against Iraq less than two months after U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan and was so worried the decision would cause a furor he did not tell everyone on his national security team, says a new book on his Iraq policy.

Bush feared that if news got out about the Iraq plan as U.S. forces were fighting another conflict, people would think he was too eager for war, journalist Bob Woodward writes in 'Plan of Attack,' a behind-the-scenes account of the 16 months leading to the Iraq invasion.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the book, which will be available in book stores next week.

'I knew what would happen if people thought we were developing a potential war plan for Iraq,' Bush is quoted as telling Woodward. 'It was such a high-stakes moment and ... it would look like that I was anxious to go to war. And I'm not anxious to go to war.'

Bush and his aides have denied accusations they were preoccupied with Iraq at the cost of paying attention to the al-Qaida terrorist threat before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A commission investigating the attacks just concluded several weeks of extraordinary public testimony from high-ranking government officials. One of them, former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, charged the Bush administration's determination to invade Iraq undermined the war on terror.

No doubt the world will be shocked to learn that Woodward has always been a liar etc etc etc...

This presidency is fast passing beyond any condemnation or satire. They accuse themselves and their own actions convict them.

16 April 2004

U.S. Open to Plan That Supplants Council in Iraq

The Bush administration accepted on Thursday the outlines of a United Nations proposal to dissolve the Iraqi Governing Council installed last year by the United States and replace it with a caretaker government when Iraqi sovereignty is restored on July 1.

Administration officials said that the proposal by Lakhdar Brahimi, the special United Nations envoy in Iraq, to create a new government of prominent Iraqis had many details to be worked out, but that for now it was acceptable to President Bush.

'I don't see anything at this point in what he's proposing that would be of concern to us,' said Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, in an interview, adding that Mr. Brahimi's mission 'thus far has been very successful.'

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also supported the plan, while Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, without explicitly approving it said it was likely to become a reality.

The Brahimi plan would replace the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council with a transition government whose leaders would be appointed by the United Nations, after consultations with the United States, the Governing Council and other Iraqis. It could include members of the current Governing Council, but it is unclear how it would balance religious and regional rivalries within Iraq.

By endorsing the Brahimi plan, the administration seemed to accept diminished American influence over the Iraqi political process as self-rule approaches and after power has passed back to Baghdad. The move was the latest abandonment of an element of the plan the Americans arrived at on Nov. 15, specifying the June 30 transfer.

This is the best news out of Iraq in weeks, although if the interim constitution remains in its present form Brahimi may just be setting up a three-way power struggle between the transitional government, the inherited special agencies controlled by Chalabi, and the US in the form of its giant embassy with control of security and finance.

Golkar to hold convention to choose candidate

However, the race will largely be a fight between former armed forces chief General Wiranto and the party's chairman Akbar Tandjong. The rest of the candidates are expected to end up siding with either Wiranto or Akbar.

The candidates include former President Suharto's son-in-law Prabowo Subianto, media mogul Surya Paloh, businessman Abu Rizal Bakrie and Co-ordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla.

In the preliminaries, Wiranto emerged as the most popular candidate, winning by a wide margin over his rivals and beating Akbar into third place.

But the victory of Golkar in the elections is expected to boost Akbar's chances as he played a major role in steering the party to its current victory. His political future is also much brighter after the Supreme Court quashed his graft conviction in February.

Akbar, 58, was convicted by the lower courts of misusing US$4 million (RM15.2 million) in funds from state food agency Bulog in 1999. The Supreme Court ruled Akbar was merely implementing his duty as a minister as ordered by then President B.J. Habibie.

Analysts and Golkar cadres say Wiranto has a slight lead over Akbar. And in a national context, Wiranto is far more popular than Akbar.

The charismatic general is one of the most popular figures for the presidential elections along with former security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Megawati.

A senior Golkar official admitted Golkar would have a much better chance of winning the presidential elections on July 5 if Wiranto were their candidate.

'The best chance we have of challenging Susilo and Megawati would be Wiranto,' Golkar's cochairman Marzuki Darusman told the New Straits Times in a phone interview.

'Apart from Wiranto, we have gotten the message from our rank and file that they want a military person, someone who can straighten things out and Wiranto fit the criteria expressed by the people,' said Marzuki who added that he personally would prefer Akbar.

Wiranto is essentially an appeal to the Sindrom Aku Rindu Soeharto (I miss Suharto syndrome) vote. If you take Tutut's PKPD vote as a SARS proxy it stands at 2.13%. The parties which had spectacular improvements in their vote in the DPR elections were moderate Islamic parties opposed to korupsi. That suggests Wiranto may not be Golkar's best hope.

Choosing Wiranto would mean Golkar and PDIP would have to runs separate tickets and would make the PD's Yudhoyono the lead candidate. Most Indonesians are unaware that Wiranto is wanted for crimes against humanity in East Timor as generally they are unaware of the genocide in East Timor.

Minister trying to 'discredit' Collins

Despite releasing one report into the Collins affair, the Howard Government is refusing to publish a differing legal review into the case, which backs claims the nation's spy agencies are prone to serving up politically tainted advice.

Opposition parties stepped up calls yesterday for the top-secret Brown review to be released, as John Howard again rejected calls for a royal commission.

According to defence sources, the Brown review provides some support for the Toohey report, which backed Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins's claims that an intelligence analysis on East Timor to the Defence Intelligence Organisation in 1998 was essentially ignored because of a 'pro-Jakarta lobby' within the defence community.

Captain Toohey also found Lieutenant-Colonel Collins had been 'disgracefully' treated, and recommended an inquiry be held into broader claims that agencies provides only the intelligence the Government wants to hear.

But the findings were debunked on Wednesday by Defence Minister Robert Hill, when he released a review by Colonel Richard Tracey QC suggesting the Toohey report was flawed. Defence sources confirmed yesterday the Brown review was favourable to Toohey's report and Lieutenant-Colonel Collins's claims - though with reservations.

All that's happening is that the Man of Steel is repeating his usual pattern of cherry-picking reports to make himself and his policies look good. This will not make the continuing intelligence failures into successes or make the allegation about a Jakarta lobby and politicised intelligence go away.

15 April 2004

Counting Indonesia II

On a count of 87,784,200:

  • Golkar 20.94%
  • PDIP 19.74%
  • PKB 12.12%
  • PPP 8.27%
  • PD 7.51%
  • PKS 7.13%
  • PAN 6.47%

And the presidenciables are:

  • PDIP President Megawati
  • Golkar DPR Speaker Akbar Tanjung, Ex Defence Minister Wiranto, Suharto Son-in-law Prabowo
  • PS Susilo Yudhoyono
  • PKB Ex President Gus Dur
  • PPP Vice-president Hamzah
  • PAN MPR Speaker Amien Rais

The DPR election has eliminated Tutut, Suharto's daughter and probably Prabowo and Wiranto as well. Amien Rais insists he's running but I cannot see what hopes he has. The back-to Suharto vote appears to be minimal.

Two parties can combine to run a joint ticket for president and vice-president. The possible combinations are Megawati/Tanjung and Megawati/Hamzah. It's hard to see any ticket that includes any two of Megawati, Gus Dur and Amien Rais.

The first round of the presidential election is in June. If no-one gets an absolute majority the two top candidates face a runoff in August. In presidential polls Yudhoyono is standing at over 35%. My guess is a PD/PKB/PKS coaltion against a PDIP/Golkar coalition. PDIP/Golkar would need to massively improve their standing between now and June to win that election. The parties have only a few days to name their candidates and Golkar must choose between Tanjung, Wiranto and Prabowo.

Straying the course

Overviews of 9/11 World
JIM LEHRER: You are not suggesting that we pull out, are you?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: No, I'm not. I'm suggesting that we ought to have a different strategy. I know your next segment is going to be on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. I think that issue is now conflated with Iraq. I think we will not be able to disengage unless we have progress on that issue and unless the U.N. and our allies are engaged in both issues, and they're not going to be engaged unless they have a share in the decision make. Look at the difference in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan we have allies who are as numerous as we. We have Afghanis on our side who are really on our side because we helped them 20 years ago so and they feel grateful and committed. So we have Afghan allies, and we have a principal American there who is conciliatory and knows how to work with others. None of these three conditions apply to Iraq.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree that it is possible to separate Iraq from the Middle East?

BRENT SCOWCROFT: I think it is; I think it is impossible. I probably don't think they're as closely conflated as Zbig does. The Arab attitude -- and in the end we need Arab help for Iraq -- there's no question about that -- the Arab attitude toward United States, toward what we are doing and so on is deeply influenced by the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And they see it every night on Al-Jazeera and other television. So their attitude to what we're doing in Iraq, and what our goals are, are inevitably influenced by the course of the peace process.

Brzezinski was Jimmy Carter's NSA. Scowcroft was Bush the Elder's.

Envoy proposes caretaker government through 2005

The United Nations envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, laid out a blueprint for Iraq's transition to sovereignty yesterday, proposing a caretaker government to shepherd the country to free elections by the end of January 2005.

Under the proposal, the US-appointed Governing Council would be dissolved when the United States hands over power June 30, rather than expanded to form an assembly as called for in an earlier proposal US administrators promoted. Brahimi said the caretaker government would include ''respected" Iraqis who would serve as prime minister, president, and two vice presidents to run the country in the short term.

''With the security situation that . . . has been prevailing for the last few days, I don't think you will find anybody who would tell you that elections can be held in such an atmosphere," Brahimi said at a news conference, warning that security forces must establish order for a peaceful transition of power.

The US has a simple choice. They did not establish security in the weeks after the defeat of Saddam's regime because they provided inadequate forces. That option (even if the US had troops to enforce it) is now gone. That means negotiations to establish a legitimate transitional government are the only option. I seriously doubt that Bremer is competent or capable of participating in such negotiations.

A February 2003 study by the US Army War College, Reconstructing Iraq makes interesting reading. The Pentagon was warned on the security issue.

A mass uprising against occupation forces is unlikely in the early stages of any U.S. occupation of Iraq, probably up to at least the first year.

The Pentagon was warned about the Iraqi economy.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, maintaining a force of between 75,000 and 200,000 peacekeeping troops in Iraq would cost between $17 billion and $46 billion per year.

The Pentagon was warned that oil revenues should be used.

None of these occupation costs should be funded by Iraqi oil revenues, which are expected to be diverted entirely to reconstruction efforts. Any effort to divert these funds to occupation costs would be viewed as an effort to plunder Iraq�s economic resources.

When these issues were raised, even by then army chief of staff General Shineski, the response was dismissal of the warning and of Shinseki. The occupation has been a bungled mishmash from inception and there is no sign that Bush has learnt anything or forgotten anything. The only person who benefits by the closue of al-Sadr's paper is Ahmed Chalabi. At some stage the Pentagon ahs to let go fo Chalabi or face civil war.

Evidently Brahimi knows this. That would explain his emphasis on the honesty of ITG members and Chalabi's virulent opposition to Brahimi's presence. There is no reason to think the US administration knows this or anything else about Iraq.

Refusing to think is an unthinkable strategy

From the Bush press conference:

A desperate enemy is also a dangerous enemy, and our work may become more difficult before it is finished. No one can predict all the hazards that lie ahead, or the costs they will bring. Yet, in this conflict, there is no safe alternative to resolute action. The consequences of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable. Every friend of America and Iraq would be betrayed to prison and murder as a new tyranny arose. Every enemy of America and the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence, and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers.

X is unthinkable is not an especially new strategy in politics or in war-making.

In Strange Victory Ernest R May writes:

Confidence that France had superiority and Germany recognised this superiority made it difficult for French and British leaders to put themselves in the place of German planners, whom Hitler had commanded to to prepare an offensive no matter what their opinions of about its wisdom or feasibility might have been. Imagination was not paralysed, far from it. Witness the the enthusiasm for opening fronts in Scandinavia or the Balkans. But the possibility that the Germans might use ingenuity to shape a surprise version of a frontal offensive seemed too fanciful for consideration.

There are about a million other examples. Let's pick one. In 1942 Singapore was impregnable. Until the Japanese did the unthinkable.

In the event, Australians discovered too late that the fundamentals of the policy upon which reliance had been placed were unsound. Britain had promised to provide a fleet for the base, whenever needed to deter Japanese aggression, initially within six weeks although this was extended to three months in 1939. When that situation finally arose in November 1941, a matter of weeks before Japan struck at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere around the Asia-Pacific region, Britain was already heavily committed in Europe and had few ships to spare. What arrived early in December was not a great fleet but a small squadron based around just two capital ships, Prince of Wales and Repulse (one very new, the other quite old). Both big ships were quickly disposed of a few days later by the Japanese in the opening hours of their invasion of Malaya.

Singapore thus remained without the fleet that was its primary rationale. Worse than this, planning for the base had called for roughly between 350 and 550 aircraft to defend it from the air. But this requirement had never been met, either in the number of aircraft provided or effective types. Despite the best efforts of Malaya's aerial defenders, including three squadrons from the Royal Australian Air Force, Singapore found itself at the mercy of an enemy that was vastly superior in air power.

Singapore is a cogent example. The fortress was built in 1921 to hold out for 70 days until the British fleet could arrive to save the day. In 1939 that was raised to 180 days, not because of anything happening in Singapore but because the British fleet was no longer available.

Continuing a bad war can be as wrong as starting bad war. The new line emerging from Bush's defenders, as quoted at Troppo Armadillo, would have us believe that although the original justification may have been bad we're there now and we have to win.

Iraq has more of the characteristics of a failed state now than it did before the invasion. The rosewater did not flow. The violence has not stopped. The economy has not significantly improved. Iraq is nowe a prime cause of terrorism. The WMDs are unfound and the prewar claims of their existence would seem unfounded. All we are left with is the war for the owrd fo the US.

Wars are not won by proclamations of resolve. that strategy failed for the US in Vietnam as it failed for the USSR in Afghanistan. At best mere talk of staying the course is magical thinking. At worst you end up with John Kerry's famous question:

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

The war party's predictions in Iraq have all failed thus far. What makes a prediction of staying the course any different?

Stuffing up intelligence

This week's Bulletin reports

Collins then proceeded to chronicle a list of Australian intelligence failures in recent years (formatting mine):

  • 'Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
  • delay in the (Willie) Brigitte case, warning of the Bali bombing
  • breakdown of order in the Solomons
  • the independence of East Timor
  • death of an intelligence officer in Washington
  • resumption of Indian nuclear testing
  • fall of Suharto
  • the media-reported Indonesian capture of an ASIS officer
  • the Sandline affair
  • the testing of sarin nerve agent on an Australian farm by a Japanese religious sect.

That is a stunning list, more so because it extends over many years and governments of both parties. More so because most of these spectacular failures have occurred in our region where we claim special expertise. What it proves is not special expertise but systemic failure.

It is hard to recall an event in the Asia-pacific they have not missed. Why then are calls for reform and investigation being ignored? Apparently vigorous prosecution of the War on Terror is not thought to require good intelligence.

Amnesty International | Iraq: Civilian hostages must be released immediately

Amnesty International is concerned about the fate of several foreign nationals held hostage in Iraq. The organization appeals to armed groups in Iraq to end the practice of hostage taking and immediately release all hostages.

'By holding civilians hostage under threat of death, armed groups in Iraq are violating a fundamental rule of international humanitarian law,' said Amnesty International.

Yet another case of the evil fellow travellers at Amnesty International always protecting the terrorists.

14 April 2004

Balkinization | This Does Not Inspire Confidence

BUSH: I hope -- I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

My goodness, the man is clueless. From these remarks it appears that he has absolutely no sense that he has screwed up about anything. Indeed, he says only what he has been carefully prepared to say by his advisors, and when someone asks him a question that requires even the slightest degree of intelligent self-reflection, he freezes up, blames the questioner for ambushing him, and then incoherently babbles on about how everything he did was perfectly correct, and how we are still going to find those weapons of mass destruction.

This is the most embarassing combination of stupidity, stubborness, and self-delusion I have seen from a President of the United States in my lifetime.

And perhaps what is most chilling, this man is in charge of our armed forces. He holds the lives of millions, and the fate of our country, in his hands.

May God have mercy on our souls.


FBI and 9/11: The picture fills in

But on Tuesday Louis Freeh, FBI director from 1993 to 2001, rejected this implicit criticism of his tenure and the agency he once led. He said that the FBI did all it could to counter terrorism, despite constraints on resources and the fact that the terror threat was simply not a national issue at the time.

It's easy to forget today that terrorism as an issue was virtually absent from the 2000 presidential campaign, said Mr. Freeh, even though Al Qaeda operatives had attacked the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000.

'We need to keep in perspective what the reality was before 9/11,' Freeh told the 9/11 commission in his public testimony.

Ahem. The reality before 9/11 was that al-Qa'ida was preparing a massive and deadly attack. The failure of various agencies and bureaucrats to detect al-Qa'ida's preparations does not alter that reality.

2001 FBI Memo Warned Of Bin Laden Aviation Cadre

APRIL 12--Two months before the September 11 attacks, FBI agent Kenneth Williams sent the below memo to bureau brass in Washington and New York warning that a cadre of Osama bin Laden disciples might be training at U.S. flight schools in preparation for future 'terror activity against civil aviation targets.' Williams suggested a nationwide FBI review to determine whether such a 'coordinated effort' could be seen in other localities. The Williams memo was roundly ignored, of course, until after the World Trade Center was leveled. (8 pages)

All this does not amount to a conspiracy. I do not even think that the FBI was told to leave the Saudi dynastic allies of the Bush family alone. I do think there's a pattern of ignoring uncomfortable facts and until 11 September 2001 terrorism was an uncomfortable fact that interfered with the drive on issues like missile defence and Iraq.

We were told the PDB contained only historical information. We now know that is untrue. We were told no-one could imagine the use of weaponised planes. We now know that is untrue. We are told no-one could connect the dots to fire the silver bullet. It is fast becoming obvious that is also untrue. Certainly the Busheviks could not connect the dots, but that is a different porposition.

It would also be interesting to know what is in the rest of the 6 August PDB. The page numbers have been blacked out and Die Zeit reported the PDb as being 11 and half pages on 1 October 2001. What we have is damning enough, and it's clear that the Buh administration frequently uses the classification system to cover it's arse. What a pity they rarely use it to cover anyone else's arse, like the people who died on 11 September.

Tip via DailyKOS

13 April 2004

When puppets pull the strings

A small event on Sunday, April 4, the very day after the move against al-Sadr prompted the revolt, provides the missing piece to the puzzle. For that was when the CPA announced the name of Iraq's putative new defense minister for the post-June 30 government. His name is Ali Allawi and he is a loyal, close associate of Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress. More, he is Chalabi's nephew.

Chalabi, longtime exile leader, has never had a power base within Iraq. He is a smooth operator, convicted of embezzling millions from the Petra Bank of Jordan -- sentenced in absentia to 22 years of hard labor -- but championed by the neoconservatives of Washington. They had lined up Chalabi to be their man in Baghdad years before the conquest of Iraq. Although he is a Shiia, the 60-year-old Chalabi had not lived there since age 12, and when he returned he surrounded himself with a U.S.-paid personal militia but had no political following. Without his U.S. sponsors, he would not last five minutes as a force. He is widely suspected of profiting enormously from U.S. contracts in the country. After the war, Chalabi proudly boasted of providing misleading intelligence to the U.S. government that was indispensable in spurring the invasion. He remains on the Pentagon's payroll -- $340,000 a month -- not counting the $40 million that he's received at the insistence of the Republican-dominated Congress over the past decade. He is a focal point of mistrust on all sides within Iraq.

Just as Bremer will not make the slightest move without the approval of his Pentagon bosses, the Defense Department policymakers continue to rely on Chalabi alone for their political assessments on Iraq. In private conversation, as in public, they remain amazingly enthusiastic about Chalabi's supposed political skills, and even genius, and proclaim repeatedly that he is the only man with the brilliance to hold Iraq together and make it work. Give Chalabi a free hand after June 30 and give him all the U.S. firepower he wants to crush his foes -- this is their master plan; there is no other.

This is the same Chalabi who controls most of the 'special agencies' the allegedly sovereign Iraqi transitional government will inherit from Paul Bremer. Bremer also granted the new defence minister a 5-year term (arguably a violation of the transitional Administrative Law, but then so was closing down al-Sadr's paper).

Perhaps I shouldn't have slept with Rupert. For Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to leap under the covers with him, Ahmed must have something going for him.

MTV Awards: Gollum Acceptance Video!

Well, watching this was a lot more fun than my recent encounter with Rupert, although, now that I think of it Rupert and Gollum are not completely unalike.

Tip via Fables of the Reconstruction


There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that the light blogging is due to a passionate affair with David Beckham. I did sleep with Rupert Murdoch recently, but for some reason none of Murdoch's papers will write me a huge cheque for revealing the salacious details. So there.

11 April 2004

Still not here

Okay, I'm still away. Really. Truly. Something weird had got into my post about light blogging so I had to delete it.

Blogging is not addictive. And no-one could have imagined that the terrorists would use planes as weapons. Except the FBI, the CIA, the government of France, anyone who had ever seen a World War II movie involving kamikaze attacks, anyone who'd read Tom Clancy...

It's all true, I tell you.

White House shows its brief

The White House PDB has now been released, The title is indeed: 'Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US'.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Ladin's first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that Bin Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own US attack.

Ressam says Bin Ladin was aware of the Los Angeles operation.

Ressam, an Algerian, was arrested in Port Angeles, near Seattle, on 14 December 2000. He has since been convicted, remains in US custody and has cooperated with US intelligence in providing information about al-Qa'ida.

The Seattle Times in depth report on the Millennium plot says:

Humphries was eager to question Ressam about what he might know about the attacks on New York and Washington. But it took the agent five days to make it home to Seattle.

When Humphries was able to show Ressam a photograph of Moussaoui, Ressam said he recognized the French national as having been with him at the Khalden camp in 1998.

Given the opportunity, might Ressam have identified Moussaoui earlier, spurring the FBI in Washington to pursue the Moussaoui search warrant?

Might that warrant have yielded information that could have helped the bureau disrupt the Sept. 11 plot?

Humphries was haunted by the possibilities.

One wonders what FBI Agent Humphries thinks now.

According to MSNBC:

At the time of his [Moussaoui's] arrest FBI agents found flight manuals for the Boeing 747-400, a flight-simulator computer program, binoculars, two knives, fighting shields and a laptop computer.

Moussaoui was arrested on 16 August 2001. A government on battle stations, as Rice claims, had only to connect the Ressam dot and the Moussaoui dot and they had a straight line to al-Qa'ida, planes and a major attack inside the US.

That is really not a lot of dots to connect. It's not even 6 dots of separation.