Is this “new Baghdad crackdown” part of the new Baghdad security initiative, or is it an even newer plan that supersedes the old new plan Bush and Maliki announced just after the New Year?
On Sunday, anonymous administration officials presented evidence purportedly showing that weapons have been smuggled into Iraq with “the approval of senior Iranian officials.” Yesterday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace seemed to contradict this claim, saying that he has not seen evidence that the Iranian government “clearly knows or is complicit” in the weapons smuggling.
Today on CNN, CentCom Commander William Fallon, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, was asked about the administration’s claim. Fallon said, “I have no idea who may be actually with hands-on in this stuff.”
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday he could not explain the apparent contradiction and referred questions to Pace’s office and to American forces in Baghdad.
A military official on Pace’s staff said the general stands by his comments. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
John Hutson, a retired former Navy judge advocate general and dean of the Franklin Pierce Law School, said of the intel debate, “I think we have to take away from it a huge dose of caution.”
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At today’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Tony Snow faced intense questioning over administration claims that Iranians have smuggled weapons into Iraq with “the approval of senior Iranian officials.” Yesterday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace seemed to contradict this claim, saying that he has not seen evidence that the Iranian government “clearly knows or is complicit” in the weapons smuggling.
CNN’s Ed Henry pressed Snow: “When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff seems to be saying something different than the White House, does that raise questions about how solid this evidence is?” But Snow insisted that the White House and Pace were “not on separate pages.”
Later, Henry accused Snow of repeatedly “changing what my question is.” Snow said, “No, no, I’m trying to clarify your question,” but Henry interrupted. “I don’t need it clarified. I’m trying to tell you — I know what my question is, and basically, [Pace is] saying that he doesn’t see evidence that the Iranian government is clearly behind it. That’s my — I’ve asked that three or four times, you haven’t answered that.”
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One thing to consider about the Glenn Reynolds / Hugh Hewitt assassination strategy for coping with the Iranian nuclear program (“we should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and Iranian atomic scientists”) beyond the obvious is how we once again see conservatives (or in Reynolds’ case “libertarians”) displaying an almost childlike faith in the competence, honesty, and efficacy of the federal bureacracy insofar as that bureacracy is tasked with dishing out lethal force that they would never in a million years ascribe to, say, the people in charge of the Endangered Species Act.
I mean, how is this going to work? We’re talking, presumably, about the clandestine branches of the same intelligence agencies who can’t decide what the state of the Iranian nuclear program is, don’t know where Iran’s nuclear facilities are, and are unsure who, if anyone, in the Iranian government is responsible for Iranian weapons winding up in Iraq. Nevertheless, Reynolds believes they have an off-the-shelf plan for placing assasins in close proximity to key Iranian nuclear scientists. But not only for doing this, but for doing it quietly! American agents are infiltrating Iran killing Iranian scientists and religious leaders and none of them get caught. How? Are there really dozens of Farsi-speaking ninjas working for the CIA? I was going to compare this to a fun-but-stupid movie like The Bourne Identity but the point of that movie (and its sequal) is actually that if you somehow did build a hyper-competent utterly secret government agency it would likely become a cesspool of corruption and abuses of power.
Good news, I would say. Of course the fly in the ointment is that we could have gotten a better version of this deal years and years ago had Bush and Cheney not stomped on it. The tragedy of it is that not only could we have gotten this deal years ago, but the personnel who were ready to get it have been there inside the administration all along, being overruled by the blinkered ideogues they work for.
I was joking earlier today that we should just send Christopher Hill to Teheran to try and work something out. It turns out, though, that Hill’s opposite number as Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs David Welch is another career foreign servive officer with a long record. Odds are he could do a fine job, too, were it not for the fact that, like the rest of the Cossacks, he works for a crazy Czar.
The United States Military Academy at West Point yesterday confirmed that Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan recently travelled to California to meet producers of the show, broadcast on the Fox channel. He told them that promoting illegal behaviour in the series – apparently hugely popular among the US military – was having a damaging effect on young troops.
The New York Times noted, “Very little public scrutiny – much less protest – of violent interrogation is depicted” on the show. Numerous conservative pundits have cited 24 as a sanction for harsh interrogation practices. For example, radio host Laura Ingraham has said:
The average American out there loves the show 24. OK? They love Jack Bauer. They love 24. In my mind that’s close to a national referendum that it’s OK to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we’re going to get.
In a recent interview, actor Keifer Sutherland — who plays the lead character Jack Bauer on the show — noted, “You torture someone and they’ll basically tell you exactly what you want to hear, whether it’s true or not, if you put someone in enough pain,” he said. U.S. intelligence officials have said that torture is extremely ineffective. Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence has said, “I am absolutely convinced…no good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tell us that.”
David Danzig, the head of Human Rights First — an anti-torture non-profit group — argued, “The image of the U.S. and its military [being involved in torture] is being affirmed” by the torture practices employed in the show. Undoubtedly, the Vice President’s sanction of tactics such as waterboarding also contributes to that image.
UPDATE: Tapped has more.
Mortar rounds and rockets slammed into Somalia’s capital early Monday in a series of attacks that killed a six-year-old boy and his father as they slept and wounded at least seven people, witnesses said.
Gee, who could have predicted that. The strategic folly is that now that the US and Ethiopia have intervened so heavily against the Somali Islamists, it probably will become the case that a formerly local conflict takes on more of the aspects of a bin Laden-style global jihad; at least some of the young men who cut their teeth in the Somali insurgency will probably end up moving on elsewhere. Already, destabilization is prompting large, deadly refugee flows. The United States, in our way, has come up with the useful solution that the Transitional Federal Institutions should talk to Sheikh Sharif Ahmed who’s believed to be the leader of the more moderate faction of the Islamic Courts Union. Perhaps bringing him on board could generate national reconciliation?
But the TFI Prime Minister wants none of it, counting on the fact that, at the end of the day, the U.S. is going to keep backing him as long as he can describe his adversaries as linked to al-Qaeda.