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Monday, February 26, 2007

LIHOP, MIHOP -- will it matter when it happens again?
Posted by Jill | 6:40 AM
I think it's possible that our unwanted basement tenant, which we have pretty much decided is a squirrel, may be deceased. This of course brings an entirely new set of problems, and I have a call into an animal control guy (as opposed to an exterminator) to evaluate the extent of the other rodent problem.

But since so far the cats are alive, there are no mice on the main living level, and there's nothing much I can do at this point, let's go back to the real world and Frank Rich's bloodcurdling column in yesterday's New York Times.


The ratings rise of “24” has stalled as audiences defect from the downer of terrorists to the supernatural uplift of “Heroes.” Cable surfers have tuned out Iraq for a war with laughs: the battle over Anna Nicole’s decomposing corpse. Set this cultural backdrop against last week’s terrifying but little-heeded front-page Times account of American “intelligence and counterterrorism officials” leaking urgent warnings about Al Qaeda’s comeback, and ask yourself: Haven’t we been here before?

If so, that would be the summer of 2001, when America pigged out on a 24/7 buffet of Gary Condit and shark attacks. The intelligence and counterterrorism officials back then were privately sounding urgent warnings like those in last week’s Times, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The system “was blinking red,” as the C.I.A. chief George Tenet would later tell the 9/11 commission. But no one, from the White House on down, wanted to hear it.

The White House doesn’t want to hear it now, either. That’s why terrorism experts are trying to get its attention by going public, and not just through The Times. Michael Scheuer, the former head of the C.I.A. bin Laden unit, told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last week that the Taliban and Al Qaeda, having regrouped in Afghanistan and Pakistan, “are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States” (the real United States, that is, not the fictional stand-in where this same scenario can be found on “24”). Al Qaeda is “on the march” rather than on the run, the Georgetown University and West Point terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman told Congress.


The surge supporters who accuse the Iraq war’s critics of emboldening the enemy are trying to deflect attention from their own complicity in losing a bigger battle: the one against the enemy that actually did attack us on 9/11. Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more damning question, Who is losing the war on terrorism?

The record so far suggests that this White House has done so twice. The first defeat, of course, began in early December 2001, when we lost Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. The public would not learn about that failure until April 2002 (when it was uncovered by The Washington Post), but it’s revealing that the administration started its bait-and-switch trick to relocate the enemy in Iraq just as bin Laden slipped away. It was on Dec. 9, 2001, that Dick Cheney first floated the idea on “Meet the Press” that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. It was “pretty well confirmed,” he said (though it was not), that bin Laden’s operative Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague months before Atta flew a hijacked plane into the World Trade Center.

In the Scooter Libby trial, Mr. Cheney’s former communications aide, Catherine Martin, said that delivering a message on “Meet the Press” was “a tactic we often used.” No kidding. That mention of the nonexistent Prague meeting was the first of five times that the vice president would imply an Iraq-Qaeda collaboration on that NBC show before the war began in March 2003. This bogus innuendo was an essential tool for selling the war precisely because we had lost bin Laden in Afghanistan.


It is precisely by pouring still more of our finite military and intelligence resources down the drain in Iraq that we are tragically ignoring the lessons of 9/11. Instead of showing resolve, as Mr. Bush supposes, his botch of the Iraq war has revealed American weakness. Our catastrophic occupation spawned terrorists in a country where they didn’t used to be, and to pretend that Iraq is now their central front only adds to the disaster. As Mr. Scheuer, the former C.I.A. official, reiterated last week: “Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you want to address the threat to America, that’s where it is.” It’s typical of Mr. Bush’s self-righteousness, however, that he would rather punt on that threat than own up to a mistake.


Yet Mr. Bush still denies reality. Ten days ago he told the American Enterprise Institute that “the Taliban have been driven from power” and proposed that America help stabilize the Pakistan border by setting up “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” (remember that “Gulf Opportunity Zone” he promised after Katrina?) to “give residents the chance to export locally made products to the United States, duty-free.” In other words, let’s fight terrorism not by shifting America’s focus from Iraq to the central front, but by shopping for Taliban souvenirs!

Five years after 9/11, the terrorists would seem to have us just where they want us — asleep — even as the system is blinking red once again.

I disagree with Rich on just one point -- that Americans are asleep or obsessing about Anna Nicole Smith's corpse. I think that Americans have begun to despair that anything can be done to end the relentless march to ruin on which this Administration has embarked. We had an election last November that seemed to promise change, and yet all we've seen is a House that passes legislation which in turn gets bogged down in the Senate. The Senate, deadlocked between ineffectual and cowardly Democrats, Republicans who put their own careers and party loyalty ahead of the good of the country, and Joe Lieberman, who will gladly fuck whichever party gives him the most bling.

And now, as we look ahead to a presidential election, what do we see? The presumed Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, whining because a Hollywood mogul is giving money to someone else.

This is leadership?

The Democrats have been unable and unwilling to take on this Administration in the forceful way that's required because to do so requires that one admit what no one wants to admit: that the terrorism threat which met this Administration at its inception; the threat it "ignored", the threat that continues because this so-called "tough on terror" administration has instead fertilized and watered and cultivated terror not to end the threat, but to make it worse. And why would they do this? Is it sheer ineptitude? Well, that's the kindest interpretation. But when you look at Bush Administration policy in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and you ask "Who benefitted from the attacks?", there is only one answer that you can come up with, and that is administration complicity in some form with an attack on the United States. It doesn't have to mean that the attacks were some sort of psyops exercise, and that the people supposedly killed are living under assumed names in Argentina. What it does mean is that a cost/benefit analysis indicating potential gains for an administration already in trouble in the summer of 2001, with the added benefit of huge financial gains for the Vice President and the duo's campaign contributors and cronies, resulted in the attacks playing out.

I don't believe that the Bush Junta banked on the World Trade Center collapsing, but I don't think they shed a whole lot of tears for it either. But if you look at who gained from the attacks, you have:

George W. Bush -- his presidency saved, his re-election in 2004, and for a long time, skyrocketing approval ratings at the same time as he gutted environmental and consumer protection laws and gave huge tax cuts to those who needed them least.

Dick Cheney -- huge financial rewards from his continued investment in Halliburton.

The oil industry -- skyrocketing fuel prices, and now the biggest prize of all -- 75% of the profits from Iraqi oil.

PNAC -- Its empire agenda proceeding according to plan

The defense industry -- huge contracts from a war in Iraq with little to no accountability for costs or quality.

Add to the equation a frightened population willing to give all of its Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms to this bunch in return for the delusion of safety, and you can't deny that whether it was ineptitude or deliberately turning the other way and allowing the attacks to play out, it certainly worked for the Administration.

And now, once again, we have an administration on the ropes and a Republican party in disarray, poised to lose power for a generation unless something drastic is done. Yesterday, Frank Rich outlined just how eerily similar this winter is to the summer of 2001. Those in the intelligence community who are free to speak are appearing on those talk shows that will have them, with their proverbial hair on fire. And the Bush Administration continues to tell us that we're winning the Iraq war, that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are on the run, and worst of all, that Osama bin Laden just isn't that important.

Only now the situation is worse, because we no longer have allies. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, even the French said "We are all Americans." No longer. The next time the U.S. is attacked, you can count on all the allies we snubbed, all the allies that this president brushed off as if they were pesky flies, will stand by and watch. And it will be no less than this president deserves.

The problem is that he's taking the rest of us along with him.

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