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September 22, 2004, 9:45 P.M.

Mike Isikoff and Mark Hosenball wrote an article in Newsweek about the fact that CBS News killed a 60 Minutes piece on the investigation into the Niger forgeries in favor of the story that actually did run and which was also based on forged documents. The 60 Minutes piece touches on the fact that the FBI still hasn't managed to interview Martino.

Obviously no one in the White House wants the WMD intelligence failure to be anything more than a bureaucratic issue, not a political one that can be tied back to the neo-cons, the Pentagon or the intelligence chop shop run by Donald Feith.

Josh Marshall has been beating this drum, quite reasonably so, since the Plame story, and the attendant forgery story, first broke. In his post today, Josh asks a great question:

“The White House is now saying that it's imperative to get to the bottom of who's behind the CBS Memo forgeries. And they're right. But the US government has never made any serious effort to find out who is behind the Niger uranium forgeries."

Why not?”

The answer of course lies in the fact that the Niger/Plame story hurts the administration badly and cuts deeply into the top brass in the administration and Rove's office. Better to continue to deflect the attention of the media toward inane political stories and keep the pressure off of the real damning stuff -- at least until after the election when Rove has the bet won. Another intriguing aspect of this story is the fact that Robert Novak, the jerk who outed Plame, is still doing the administration's bidding. Last night he was interviewed on CNN relative to his recent “leak” of discussions inside the government about plans to pull out of Iraq completely after the elections. In other words, declare victory and move on.

September 22, 2004, 3:20 P.M.

Although the Bush administration continues to go to great lengths to avoid comparisons between Iraq and Viet Nam, those comparisons are obvious and inevitable. We have made comparisons and observations about the similarities between the Viet Nam War and the war in Iraq on this site in several posts. As the U.S. gets more entrenched and as the government spends more money in Iraq, the similarities grow.

The Viet Nam War was costly in terms of lives and money. The cost of the war, and attendant political support for the South Vietnamese government routinely exceeded budget estimates. The Pentagon is currently tapping “contingency” or “reserve” funds initally earmarked for expenditures in 2005. They are shifting money from reconstruction to security and estimates for ensuring “fair” and “safe” elections have already been exceeded. Good money is pouring into Iraq with no long range plan, and with no articulable goal, other than “democratization.”

Fighting terrorists has begun to look a lot like fighting communists. The rhetoric here in th is country is also starting to sound the same. “Better to fight terrorists in Baghdad than in Bangor.” “Fighting for democracy.” “My country, right or wrong.” These are all phrases used to justify the continued loss of life and treasure in Viet Nam, and they are being recycled now.

The problem, of course, is that the current enemy is represented by a vast army, well-trained, well-supplied, and fanatically committed to its cause. But fighting in Baghdad does nothing to ensure that we won’t also be fighting in Bangor, Boston or Biloxi. In fact, the likelihood increases every day. Perhaps the one major difference between fighting in Viet Nam and fighting in Iraq lies in the lack of borders and national identity that are the hallmarks of modern terrorism. Otherwise, it’s all the same, only more dangerous.

September 22, 2004, 3:20 P.M.

It appears that federal indictments have begun to flow from an investigation into illegal campaign contributions to candidates for state offices in Texas. It seems that several Tom Delay aides are among those indicted. Curiously, however, among the indicted are major national and multinational corporations. Why they were so interested in packing the Texas legislature with Republicans, or why they were so eager to support Delay are questions sure to be asked as this latest scandal plays out. Lest we forget, however, this is the very root of the Bush power base in Texas.

September 21, 2004, 7:20 A.M.

Read E.J. Dionne's column in today's Washington Post: What is Bush Hiding? He asks the same questions that we do with regard to Bush's response to the CBS story and questions about his guard service.

September 20, 2004, 9:15 P.M.

It is clear that the documents which were “revealed” in the now infamous CBS news program about Bush’s National Guard service were fake. It is also now clear that the source of the documents was Bill Burkett. According to Josh Marshall, who has been all over this situation, Burkett does not admit the documents are forgeries but he "admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents' origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source."

The authenticity of the documents was first questioned by some sharp eyed bloggers who noticed that the format looked suspiciously like the standard font in Microsoft word and not like the typeset of a 1970’s vintage typewriter. Oops, I guess all those “investigative reporter’ types missed that little detail. CBS now says it regrets running the Memo story.

What intrigues me most however is the fact that the Bush Administration has made no attempt to discredit the Memos for their content. Hummm.

September 20, 2004, 3:30 P.M.

3600 Degrees and Cloudy Whether you call it a tar baby, quagmire, or some other catchy name, the situation in the Middle East is bad, getting worse by the day, and is about to go nuclear. While the U.S. continues to lose ground to religious clerics in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iran continues to develop sophisticated nuclear weapons and the means to deploy them. It seems that a nuclear attack-capable Iran is no longer a possibility, but a certainty.

The thought of Iran possessing weapons capable of mass destruction throughout the Middle East has the U.S. and Israel talking about possible military intervention. Sure, why not? It’s worked great in Iraq so far. Comparisons to Iraq aside, the concept of another pre-emptive strike, this time against a more cohesive, organized and capable enemy, is chilling. What’s worse, there is actually talk of regime change floating around the Pentagon, according to a recent Newsweek article.

Israel cannot deal militarily with the Iranian nuclear threat on its own. It needs U.S. assistance. According to Geoffrey Kemp, a mideast analyst interviewed for the Newsweek article, the U.S. has the capability of destroying Iranian nuclear facilities. The problem, of course, is that intervention of this type would escalate the already untenable situation of the U.S. in the Middle East, and in other Muslim countries worldwide. With North Korea and a potentially politically unstable Pakistan in the mix, the "War on Terror" starts to look more like a finger in the dike of nuclear proliferation than a proactive strategy to make the world safe from terrorists.

Osama bin Laden has never made any bones about the fact that he wants to get his hands on nuclear weapons and that he wants to use them against the U.S. With each country that comes on board in the nuclear game, his chances improve. The destabilizing effect of our Iraq policy only serves to fuel the fire and inflame the passions of those who are truly committed to stopping what they see as U.S. aggression against the Muslim world.

Right now, Pakistan is a nuclear power and the country stands, despite unrelenting internal pressure, with the U.S. in its intervention in Afghanistan. The problem, of course, is the virtually unrestricted flow of arms and trained fighters across the Afghan border. This problem has two faces. First, it makes rounding up trained and committed Taliban and al Qaeda fighters akin to herding cats, and thus mitigates against the establishment of a stable, pro-U.S. government that can stand up to the pressures imposed by the Islamist movement. Second, and perhaps more significant, is the pressure that a radical and powerful Muslim army can put on the current political system in Pakistan, which serves as the only bulwark against the Pakistani arsenal falling into the hands of -- you guessed it -- bin Laden.

Al Qaeda has other options for obtaining weapons, however. Throughout the former Soviet Union, there are weapons that have fallen into the hands of less stable governments. This presents a huge problem for Russia as it deals with the Chechen independence movement. The presence of al Qaeda and other mercenary forces in the region only suggests that bin Laden and his allies are sophisticated enough to curry favor wherever they can in order to broaden "the base" and to gain access to resources that can ultimately be used in the struggle against the U.S.

Meanwhile, North Korea unashamedly cooks along on a daily basis and there are signs that Brazil, which never signed the nuclear proliferation treaty, is close to developing its own program. Broad proliferation of weapons, which are expensive to keep and difficult to maintain, tends to make those weapons more of a commodity and thus more available to organizations like al Qaeda that function outside the borders of traditional states.

This problem of nuclear proliferation has existed since the first bombs were used to end World War II. It escalated with the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is not helped by the fact that as many as ten devices have been "lost" or "misplaced" by the American military over the years. Nothing, however, has done more to hasten the process in recent years than U.S. actions in the Middle East, which have resulted in an intensive effort by our enemies to create or acquire weapons that they are necessary to cause harm to the U.S. or to hold us at bay. The policies and practices of the U.S. have drawn us into the briar patch, and unless we are able to consider and change those policies, and to become more of a world player, we are destined to feel the heat and witness the blinding light of our enemies’ hatred. Right now the forecast is 3600 degrees and cloudy.

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