Just Above Sunset
October 23, 2005 - The Autumn of Reaching the Limit of What You Can Put Up With

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The Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, testified last Wednesday (19 October) to the senate, for three hours, and said we were in Iraq for the long haul - Rice: US May Still Be in Iraq in 10 Years - and that we still could invade some other countries if we had a mind to - Rice Won't Rule Out Force on Syria, Iran. But she did say we'd rebuild Iraq using, as a model, how we rebuilt Afghanistan. No one asked her if Iraq had enough tillable land available for massive fields of opium poppies. She said it would be "a generational struggle" to reach the goals of transforming the Middle East, as we have started to do by bringing secular democracy and full human rights and free-market capitalism to Iraq.

What about the reaction? As noted by Tom Curry of MSNC here, Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat-California, got angry and told Rice that the American people "don't want the job of rebuilding the Middle East on the backs of our brave men and women and the taxpayers of the United States."

The committee chairman, Richard Lugar, Republican-Indiana, who voted for funding the Iraq operation again and again: "Let's say that the Iraqis, after all is said and done, really don't want to have a united country…. Some Americans would say, 'why are we there, if these folks not only don't appreciate us, but they're hashing the whole thing up, they literally don't want to have the sort of Iraq that was envisioned by the British and French years ago?'"

Lugar and Barack Obama, the new senator from Chicago, wonder about what Rice and Bush are trying to achieve - a unitary, multi-ethnic, democratic Iraq - may simply not be "feasible."

Obama: "Are we committed to holding Iraq together in perpetuity, even if the parties involved, the Iraqi people, determine they don't want to form the sort of visionary Iraqi nation that you and the president envision?" And she shot back the senators were "overplaying the importance" of sectarian divides in Iraq. They'll all get along?

Note also:


Rice also weathered a mocking rebuke from a liberal republican senator, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

Referring to the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Chafee said, "It was all a joke and the laugh was on us."

When Rice told Chafee that Iraq "seems to be much further along" the road to women rights than almost any other state in the region, Chafee gruffly replied, "We'll see."


Note that fellow's re-election campaign is being backed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He's a Democratic "friend of Bush?"

Russ Feingold, Democrat-Wisconsin, after the hearing - "It's just not working. They keep using the same old mantras…. People don't believe this idea that somehow this is the logical step in the fight against terrorism. They've lost all those arguments. This continued attempt to defraud the American people by suggesting this was good move in the fight against terrorism is simply failing."

Of course, as mentioned in End of the Week Political Notes that same day Lawrence Wilkerson, addressed the New America Foundation. He had been chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005 and to some seemed the fellow who said out loud what Powell might have been thinking in his lonely position trying to talk sense into the administration. The joint was run by Cheney and Rumsfeld, and as one fellow puts it, Powell and Wilkerson were convinced "Rumsfeld is quite literally mad, and Cheney a dangerous, vindictive monomaniac."

Kevin Drum notes here that the word is out that that the New Yorker will be running an article on Monday by Jeffrey Goldberg in which Powell's longtime mentor, Brent Scowcroft, levels a 'powerful new attack' on the Bush administration. Yes, Scowcroft worked for Bush's father, but publicly opposed the war, then gave in and said something like "whatever." Drum has the links, and thinks the guy expected the younger Bush's administration to "revitalize the Middle East peace process and start engaging seriously with Iran, two things that pretty clearly haven't happened." The thought is he's had enough now. And it seems this that Goldberg article will contain some "incredibly juicy commentary from President George H.W. Bush on the performance of his son's national security team." Oh goody.

There's something in the air - even at the New York Times.

Bill Keller, executive editor, posted a mea culpa on Jim Romenesko's website at Poynter Online. It was a memo to his staff about the whole Judy Miller that he made very public:

- "I wish we had dealt with the controversy over our coverage of WMD as soon as I became executive editor... [but] it felt somewhat unsavory to begin a tenure by attacking our predecessors."

- "By waiting a year to own up to our mistakes, we allowed the anger inside and outside the paper to fester. Worse ... we fostered an impression that The Times put a higher premium on protecting its reporters than on coming clean with its readers."

- "I wish that, when I learned Judy Miller had been subpoenaed ... I had sat her down for a thorough debriefing, and followed up with some reporting of my own. ... I missed what should have been significant alarm bells."

- "... if I had known the details of Judy's entanglement with [Scooter] Libby, I'd have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and perhaps more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at exploring compromises."

- "The contract holds that the paper will go to the mat to back up [reporters] institutionally - but only to the degree that the reporter has lived up to his or her end of the bargain ... to have been open and candid with the paper about sources, mistakes, conflicts and the like..."

Then, in her weekend column, the Times' star columnist Maureen Dowd unloads


I've always liked Judy Miller. I have often wondered what Waugh or Thackeray would have made of the Fourth Estate's Becky Sharp.

The traits she has that drive many reporters at The Times crazy - her tropism toward powerful men, her frantic intensity and her peculiar mixture of hard work and hauteur - never bothered me. I enjoy operatic types.


However –


She never knew when to quit. That was her talent and her flaw. Sorely in need of a tight editorial leash, she was kept on no leash at all, and that has hurt this paper and its trust with readers. She more than earned her sobriquet "Miss Run Amok."

Judy's stories about WMD fit too perfectly with the White House's case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the dangerous echo chamber that former Senator Bob Graham dubbed "incestuous amplification." Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Mr. Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous journalists.

Even last April, when I wrote a column critical of Mr. Chalabi, she fired off e-mail to me defending him.

When Bill Keller became executive editor in the summer of 2003, he barred Judy from covering Iraq and W.M.D issues. But he admitted in The Times' Sunday story about Judy's role in the Plame leak case that she had kept "drifting" back. Why did nobody stop this drift?

Judy admitted in the story that she "got it totally wrong" about WMD "If your sources are wrong," she said, "you are wrong." But investigative reporting is not stenography.




An Associated Press story yesterday reported that Judy had coughed up the details of an earlier meeting with Mr. Libby only after prosecutors confronted her with a visitor log showing that she had met with him on June 23, 2003. This cagey confusion is what makes people wonder whether her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a career rehabilitation project.

Judy is refusing to answer a lot of questions put to her by Times reporters, or show the notes that she shared with the grand jury. I admire Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller for aggressively backing reporters in the cross hairs of a prosecutor. But before turning Judy's case into a First Amendment battle, they should have nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her escapade.

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover "the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country." If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.


Everybody is unloading.

Wimpy senators are finally unloading - on Rice and the whole idea we're making things better. A former State Department bigwig says we have a shadow government run by a cabal of madmen. Bush's father's guy and maybe his own father have had enough and will say so, and there's this dust-up at the Times where the editor and most of the reporters want to dump the woman who's been shilling for the administration and only the publisher supports her.

Is this the autumn everyone just ran out of patience?


Maybe this is the "self-correction" that is supposed to occur in a free-speech democracy.


It's an awful lot of fun.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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Paris readers add nine hours....