Just Above Sunset
October 31, 2004 - The Week of Quite Odd Events in Review

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As mentioned, the offices of Just Above Sunset were dark this week as cable service went out mid-day Monday.  No television and no internet.  These were to be restored Saturday evening.  But the cable repair folks arrived and couldn’t fix anything.  So another week or two without resources.  The Boston Red Sox may have won their first World Series in eighty-six years, on the night of a full moon and a rare lunar eclipse, but no one here saw it.  The editorial staff caught up on email and commentary at a nearby internet café on Sunset Boulevard – an expensive alternative and a bother in the storms all week (Los Angeles just broke a record for the most rainfall in any October) – but by Thursday evening we established dial-up connection via telephone landline after many a call to the technical fellows of the back-up ISP.  It’s slow, but it works.  It’s too slow for streaming radio, and TSF jazz from Paris would have been nice, but the basic functions work.


What did we miss?


Disregarding the voter stuff – the tens of thousands absentee ballots that went missing in Florida, in a Democratic district, the Ohio challenges - and the fellow in Georgia who brought suit to have every single registered voter with a Spanish sounding surname go though an individual hearing to prove he or she was really a citizen who had a right to vote (his challenge idea was tossed out), and all the rest including this graphic from Milwaukee, and a few stories, still, here and there about Bush being wired in the debates, and this new “American Terrorist” tape ABC refused to show in spite White House and Drudge pressure – then did show, twenty minutes after Fox News aired it - we didn’t miss that much.  This American Taliban fellow on that tape said we were all going to die.  That story died instead.  It seems to be just a rant from an insignificant oddball.


Ah, there was also the doctored Bush television advertisement the Bush folks had to apologize for.  Yawn.


The munitions story had legs and my friends discussed it in an email dialog – see October 31, 2004 - October surprises as seen from Paris, Atlanta, and... – but that seems to be settling down.


See this on the current state of that story -

The KSTP video seems to have the smoking munitions.  Munitions found in April have the IAEA seal about as solid a proof possible that they had not been removed before the war. O n Aaron Brown last night [28 October], David Kay confirmed it, calling it "Game, set and match".  Money quote from ABC:  

Experts who have studied the images say the barrels on the tape contain the high explosive HMX, and the universal markings on the barrels are clear that these are highly dangerous explosives. "I talked to a former inspector who's a colleague of mine, and he confirmed that, indeed, these pictures look just like what he remembers seeing inside those bunkers," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.


The barrels were found inside sealed bunkers, which American soldiers are seen on the videotape cutting through. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency sealed the bunkers where the explosives were kept just before the war began.


"The seal's critical," Albright said. "The fact that there's a photo of what looks like an IAEA seal means that what's behind those doors is HMX. They only sealed bunkers that had HMX in them."


After the bunkers were opened, the 101st was not ordered to secure the facility. A senior officer told ABC News the division would not have had nearly enough soldiers to do so.


What we're seeing is the slow exposure of the reality of the Iraq war.  No: not the incompetence of the soldiers.  The incompetence of the president.  He's responsible.  And this time, he cannot duck it.


Game - set  - match?  Maybe.


We will see how that all plays out.


Also one finds these comments this week - "I just think that if you're responsible for this kind of a big policy failure, you ought to be held accountable for it." - Francis Fukuyama, on why he's not voting for Bush.  And "I think one thing you have to face up to is the fact there are roughly 70 million people in America who do not believe in evolution - and those are Bush supporters," - Seymour Hersh, at the University of Michigan.


The commentators out there just refine their phrasing.  Fukuyama is saying less and less these days about the end of history.


One does find a secondary munitions story here


Check out this piece by Peter Galbraith, a supporter of the war who was appalled by what he saw in the invasion's aftermath. He reported back to Paul Wolfowitz:

I also described two particularly disturbing incidents - one I had witnessed and the other I had heard about. On April 16, 2003, a mob attacked and looted the Iraqi equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control, taking live HIV and black fever virus among other potentially lethal materials. US troops were stationed across the street but did not intervene because they didn't know the building was important.


When he found out, the young American lieutenant was devastated. He shook his head and said, "I hope I am not responsible for Armageddon." About the same time, looters entered the warehouses at Iraq's sprawling nuclear facilities at Tuwaitha on Baghdad's outskirts. They took barrels of yellowcake (raw uranium), apparently dumping the uranium and using the barrels to hold water. US troops were at Tuwaitha but did not interfere... It appears that troops did not receive relevant intelligence about Iraq's WMD facilities, nor was there any plan to secure them. Even after my briefing, the Pentagon leaders did nothing to safeguard Iraq's nuclear sites. 

Yes, as Hitchens has put it, this is near-impeachable negligence.  We are less safe as a result.  How can anyone say that Bush is our best bet in the war on terrorism when his own conduct has put this country at grave danger from the very weapons he was supposed to defend us from?  And when his campaign then comes out and says that this kind of criticism is smearing the troops,  they have told us all we need to know. They have no real answers.  So they smear their critics.


Oh yeah, Halliburton keeps coming up, as in this from the Associated Press -


The FBI has begun investigating whether the Pentagon improperly awarded no-bid contracts to Halliburton Co., seeking an interview with a top Army contracting officer and collecting documents from several government offices.


The line of inquiry expands an earlier FBI investigation into whether Halliburton overcharged taxpayers for fuel in Iraq, and it elevates to a criminal matter the election-year question of whether the Bush administration showed favoritism to Vice President Dick Cheney's former company.


FBI agents this week sought permission to interview Bunnatine Greenhouse, the Army Corps of Engineers' chief contracting officer who went public last weekend with allegations that her agency unfairly awarded a Halliburton subsidiary no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars in Iraq, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.”


The FBI hates America too?  That story goes on and on.  It has legs.


Kevin Drum here provide a good overview of the week  -


The Bush team has a — what's the right word? — truly Orwellian talent for saying and doing ghastly things and then turning right around and claiming that it's really John Kerry who's guilty of saying and doing those same ghastly things. A few examples:


Run the biggest deficit in modern history and then complain that Kerry has a "tax gap."


Have Dick Cheney do everything but tell voters that they'll be forcibly converted to Islam unless they vote for Bush, and then castigate Kerry for "scare mongering."


Get your surrogates to explain on national TV that the al-Qaqaa fiasco was actually the fault of troops on the ground, not the president, and then get out on the stump and claim that Kerry is the one "denigrating the action of our troops in the field."


Gain fame even among your own supporters for relentlessly putting ideology and partisanship ahead of facts on the ground, and then give a speech charging that Kerry puts "politics ahead of facts."


You almost have to admire the chutzpah behind this campaign strategy, don't you?  Almost.


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, says this –


Gain fame even among your own supporters for relentlessly putting ideology and partisanship ahead of facts on the ground, and then give a speech charging that Kerry puts "politics ahead of facts?


This is incredibly insidious but a brilliant tactic, especially for a "faith-based" as opposed to a "fact-based" president. First, you figure out what underhanded tact you will take, then you go ahead and take it, then accuse your opponent of doing just the sort of thing you just did, so when your opponent counters that it is indeed you who are doing that, he will be accused of just playing a game of tit-for-tat. And you can get away with it, especially since most people, weary of all the bickering, see everything done by both sides as just political gamesmanship, with the president just being better at it. (Sigh.)


By the way, Atlanta-based radio guy Neal Boortz, who in most elections is heard pushing whoever the Libertarian candidate happens to be, this year is strongly backing Bush. (In fact, the Libertarians are furious at him for backing the Iraq war.) Anyway, Boortz has been predicting a Kerry victory on Tuesday, and just now, he quoted Zogby, the pollster, as agreeing with him.


So take heart, all you reality-based people, things may not be as dark as they seem.


Yeah, but they are dark.  With my nephew in the Army – a Major, West Point 1990 – about to ship out for a long tour in Iraq, this just makes me angry -


George Bush is trying to suggest that John Kerry's criticism of the policies that led to the Al-qaqaa explosives debacle is actually a veiled denigration of the American troops in Iraq. Via email from the Kerry campaign, here's what General Merrill McPeak, former chief of staff of the Air Force, has to say about this:


The President seems to think Senator Kerry could not possibly be criticizing him since the President thinks he has never made a mistake. Let’s be perfectly clear: it is the President who dropped the ball. Senator Kerry is being critical of George Bush, not the troops. By embarking on the line of attack, George Bush is deflecting blame from him over to the military. This is beneath contempt.


He's right. It's the Bush campaign pushing the line that criticism of the president's policies is criticism of the troops. It really is beneath contempt.


Beneath contempt?  Isn’t it all?  My nephew and I disagree on a few things, but I am proud of him, even if George Bush isn’t.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....