The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Saturday, May 10, 2003


Somewhat buried in the muddle of Thomas Friedman's latest column, on Bush and the Israeli-Palestinian prospects for peace, is a very interesting and important point about the similarity between the Likudniks and American conservatives. The similarity is, both groups attempt to equate either their leader or their specific partisan philosophy with their respective nations. Disagree with Bush, you're "anti-American" or "anti-troops" (just ask Natalie Maines). Disagree with the greatest excesses of Sharon/Likud policy in the West Bank and elsewhere, or even showing the slightest sympathy for a single Palestinian, and you're "anti-Israel".

The left, indeed, has some of this problem too. (and by "the left", i mean, "i have long hair, and so do other people in the liberal student population around the country, hehe"). In conversation, if someone told someone equivalent to me "I'm pro-Israel", an expected response could be "get the fuck out!", or "don't call me again!". The reason for this (outside of the occasional people who make on-campus speeches with the word "militant" in them) is that the Christian Right and the hard-line occupation/settlement-apologists have hijacked the literal words "pro-Israel" and applied them to their agenda. (of course, the xians are only in it so they can have Jews running Jerusalem when that Jesus guy comes back, though we've been waiting thousands of years for that). Thus, the words "pro-Israel" evoke, among many on the left, the image of old, surly Ariel Sharon ordering a refugee camp to be bulldozed or bombed.

When I was born, Israel had been in existence for more than three decades, and when I started to grow a political conscience it had been there for over four. As a result, in the eyes of the left, I've evlolved into a sort of pragmatic idealist on the issue of Israel's disputed right to exist. In other words: The apartheid-esque excesses of Israel in the past few decades, including recently, are inexcusable, just as much as any suicide bombing (also abhorrent behavior). They need to ditch the settlements, be willing to compromise (on Jerusalem and elsewhere) and be diplomatic with the new elements of the Palestinian Authority (which is now much more than Arafat, who's been a disaster in the past few years), and overall be willing to set a good example (overall Sharon has done none of those things), rather than just exchanging handjobs with Bush and the Robertson-Falwell set here. After all, compared to the PA they're the more powerful entity, but the moral high-ground cannot be claimed just because you make some in a desperate population do desperate things. All of that being said, Israel's not going to pack up the entire operation and leave, there isn't much of an international precedent for that. My idealism kicks in here as well, though: Israel has the capability to exist, in the region, in a just and peaceful manner, and I hope this happens soon, or in my lifetime. No, they haven't ever fully up to this point, but that's no reason why they can't (though certainly they won't if they keep deferring to what Bush and the neocons have been saying). Anyway, I've babbled on too long...

Relating this back to Friedman, he says:
Reading today's news, I think there should be little doubt that President Bush will go down in history as the most pro-Israel president of all time.

No, no — not this President Bush. I'm talking about his father, George Herbert Walker Bush.

This President Bush — Dubya — if he keeps going in the direction he's been going, will be remembered as the president who got so wrapped around the finger of Ariel Sharon that he indulged Israel into thinking it really could have it all — settlements, prosperity, peace and democracy — and in doing so helped contribute to the slow erosion of the Jewish state.

The first President Bush, by contrast, was ready to tell Israel and the Jewish lobby some very hard truths after the first Gulf war: that expanding settlements would harm Israel's long-term interests, would shrink the prospects for peace and would help undermine America's standing in the Arab world. And it was also the elder Mr. Bush who backed his secretary of state, James Baker, enough for Mr. Baker to twist Arabs' arms to get them to sit down, en masse, for the first time with Israel at the Madrid peace conference.
And in these few paragraphs we find a great unspoken truth, being that "pro-Israel" means "favoring policies that would lead to the long-term existence of a peaceful, just, secure and equitable Israel". Thank you for that, Mr F.

No thank you, however for
[President George W Bush] helped create the conditions to bring Mr. Abbas to power, both by refusing to deal with Mr. Arafat and by deposing Saddam Hussein
And Mr. Bush's speech on Friday laying out a vision for a new Middle East, based on free trade, was excellent.
and who can forget
With the U.S. having eliminated the most powerful threat to Israel — the regime of Saddam Hussein
(Oy vey. The most powerful threat to Israel still holds power, has short white hair and big jowls and a low voice)

Remember, beyond even the Cheney connection, this is who we have on the front lines of our relative cultural righteousness with Saddam.
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Oil services giant Halliburton, already under fire over accusations that its White house ties helped win a major Iraqi oil contract, has admitted that a subsidiary paid a multi-million dollar bribe to a Nigerian tax official.

Halliburton, once run by Vice President Richard Cheney, revealed the illicit payments, worth 2.4 million dollars, in a filing Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

"The payments were made to obtain favorable tax treatment and clearly violated our code of business conduct and our internal control procedures," Halliburton said.

Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), which paid the bribe, has been in the political spotlight since it was awarded a no-bid US government oil contract in Iraq in March.
And just last week, we made a big deal about the 1 million that Uday took from the Iraqi national bank right before the war. Small potatoes, hehe.

Get over yourself.

Friday, May 09, 2003


DeLong (linking to Jack Balkin), in a sentiment I've voiced on this very blog, chimes in with this cute joke couplet:
American to Frenchman: "Do you speak German?"
Frenchman: "No."
American: "You're welcome."

Frenchman to American: "Are you a subject of Her Majesty Elizabeth II?
American: "No."
Frenchman: "You're welcome."

The LA Times gets somewhat goofy will William "Dice" Bennett and the $8 million he's lost over the years gambling. They suggest some alternate ways to spend that money:
Wagered on Funny Cide in the Kentucky Derby and won $110,400,000.

Bought 2.3 million boxes of Thin Mints cookies from the Girl Scouts.

Picked up the tab for Bill and Hillary Clinton's remaining legal fees (just to show there are no hard feelings) and still had $6.25 million to cover therapy for Chelsea.

Bought tickets to Disneyland for 216,000 children ages 3-9.

Sponsored 25,640 impoverished children for a year (providing clean water, schooling, food and health care) through World Vision.

Erased the L.A. Archdiocese's $4.3-million budget shortfall and the Diocese of Orange's $2 million in cutbacks and still had $1.7 million in pocket change.

Paid the Bicycle Casino's tax bill to the city of Bell Gardens for one year.

Paid Dodger pitcher Andy Ashby's salary for the 2003 season (probably not a wise investment).

Distributed 266,667 free copies of "The Book of Virtues" at full retail value (or 380,952 copies at's discount price)
Of course, other things come to mind...

He could furnish his entire organization with eight hundred thousand Pope John Paul II plates.

He could pay for eight George W Bush photo-op trips to the USS Lincoln!

The possibilities are endless...

I know I know, it's sooooo september 10th of him, geez, but South Knox Bubba reminds us about a lot of the not-so-hot stuff that went down in Florida back in 2000.

If anything, our conduct in the Middle East these last few months has done nothing but show what substantial amounts of respect we have for them, their culture and their history. We gave them all the weapons of mass destruction they could possibly ever hope for (yes, including cluster bombs, chuck). We bravely enabled the looting of libraries, hospitals and museums in Baghdad (not to mention nuclear materials elsewhere, but that's another story) all while protecting our their precious oil ministry.

And now, in a lasting gesture of friendship that shows how much the Bushies respect the Middle East and its uniqueness in the world, we're giving them a beautiful, pristine gift: Free trade!!! That's right, as if we haven't done enough good things for the Arab world, Adam Smith's invisible hand is coming to lodge itself firmly, and perhaps permanently, in the region's collective rectum.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush Friday will unveil a broad plan to set up a free-trade area across the Middle East, two senior administration officials said.

He will announce what he calls "the U.S./Middle East free-trade agreement" in a commencement speech at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

"It is another way to bring reform and prosperity to the Middle East which is a powerful tool for peace" one senior administration official said.
(what do Nike and Coke factory workers in southeast Asia think about trade and capitalism bringing peace to their lives?

Bush administration officials say the proposal he will talk about Friday envisions setting up a free trade zone with Middle Eastern countries within 10 years.

It would include opening trade opportunities for nations engaged in fighting terrorism and corruption, and committed to political and economic reform.

The United States would lobby for some countries seeking to become members of the World Trade Organization, and also negotiate bilateral treaties, according to a second senior administration official.
Such an idea would have to be approved by congress. Of course, that wasn't much of a problem for Dubya last fall. According to the article, though, one official was quoted as being skeptical about that happening anytime soon.

Click now! Sigh, I have to wait a week and a half to read the rest...

Thursday, May 08, 2003


Via TBogg, and I can't believe I read this:
OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian parliamentarian nominated President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday, praising them for winning the war in Iraq.

'Sometimes it's necessary to use a small and effective war to prevent a much more dangerous war in the future,' Jan Simonsen, a right-wing independent in Norway's parliament, told Reuters.
Surely this one will be laughed out of the first meeting. The way Iraq folded like a tent, and the lack of WMD's found in Iraq leads many of us to question Simonsen's choice of the word "necessary".

Looking at the list of past Peace Prize winners, I fail to see any of them who won for starting a pre-emptive war. It would be the equivalent of nominating Moussolini for his invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930's.

On the plus side, maybe this means Hitchens will go after Bush from time to time.


Wednesday, May 07, 2003


...David Reeves alerts us to a propaganda campaign currently being uleashed on a number of California university populations by Israeli activists. Here's their site, good luck finding anything about the settlements in there.
After an investigation that lasted nearly four months, police in London cleared Pete Townshend yesterday on charges that he downloaded child porn from the Internet. Computer equipment seized by officials from Scotland Yard at the time the Who guitarist's arrest in January failed to turn up any illicit downloads, police said. Investigators did confirm that Townshend had accessed a site containing such images in 1999; as a result, he was listed on a national register of sex offenders.

"From the very beginning," Townshend said in a statement, "I acknowledged that I did access this site and that I had given the police full access to my computers. As I made clear at the outset, I accessed the site because of my concerns at the shocking material available on the Internet to children as well as adults, and as part of my research toward the campaign I had been putting together since 1995 to counter damage done by all kinds of pornography on the Internet, but especially any involving child abuse." (full story)
This was my sense the whole time, slighly born out of hopeful thinking (if not wishful), but also that Pete just doesn't seem like the kiddie-porn type. Anyway, this is good news for us rock musicians and fans.

Part 3 of Salon's excerpts from Sid Blumenthal's upcoming White House memoir. I notice myself becoming visibly angry as I read these. Anyway...
Via the Horse, from Letterman, here are the Top Ten Excuses for Not Finding Weapons of Mass Destruction:
10. "We've only looked through 99% of the country"

9. "We spent entire budget making those playing cards"

8. "Containers are labeled in some crazy language"

7. "They must have been stolen by some of them evil X-Men mutants"

6. "Did I say Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? I meant they have goats"

5. "How are we supposed to find weapons of mass destruction when we can't even find Cheney?"

4. "Still screwed up because of Daylight Savings Time"

3. "When you're trying to find something, it's always in the last place you look, am I right, people?"

2. "Let's face it -- I ain't exactly a genius"

1. "Geraldo took them"

Tuesday, May 06, 2003


I'm obliged to link to today's Kristof, which once again reminds us that hey, we've been lied to.
Let's fervently hope that tomorrow we find an Iraqi superdome filled with 500 tons of mustard gas and nerve gas, 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 29,984 prohibited munitions capable of delivering chemical agents, several dozen Scud missiles, gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, 18 mobile biological warfare factories, long-range unmanned aerial vehicles to dispense anthrax, and proof of close ties with Al Qaeda. Those are the things that President Bush or his aides suggested Iraq might have, and I don't want to believe that top administration officials tried to win support for the war with a campaign of wholesale deceit.

Consider the now-disproved claims by President Bush and Colin Powell that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger so it could build nuclear weapons. As Seymour Hersh noted in The New Yorker, the claims were based on documents that had been forged so amateurishly that they should never have been taken seriously.

I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible. The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted — except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.

"It's disingenuous for the State Department people to say they were bamboozled because they knew about this for a year," one insider said.
And that's just the Niger example, he goes on to talk about other, to put it lightly, "manipulations of intelligence" at best, lies at worst.

Jack Johnson is too calm and relaxed to be taken seriously.

Jack Johnson is a passionate political voice.

Make up your minds!

(btw, much props to Johnson for drawing attention to those oil drills off the SB coastline)

Just one small point, it didn't occur to me at first but now it makes much sense. Presidential hopeful Howard Dean was being interviewed by the "hot" girl from CNBC (Maria something), and he was asked about his gun stance, and the fond treatment he received from the NRA while governor of Vermont. His answer was simple: Vermont didn't need substantial gun control, often the annual homocide numbers there would be in single digits. This doesn't necessarily have bearing on Dean's potential nationwide gun stance, he expressed support for maintaining the assault weapons ban and other aspects of the Brady bill.

The other Democratic hopefuls, particularly Kerry, see Dean as a possible threat. That's why Kerry's spokesman, Chris Lehane (who worked for Gore in 2000, and whom I don't particularly like) went after Dean for his "we won't always have the strongest military" comment (which was a complete non-issue).

So far, the broad dialog on Dean has been one of pigeonholing him on issues: He's the antiwar candidate, he's against gun control, etc. Then again, let's all calm down, Clinton was at 1% at this point heading up to the 1992 election. Hmm, if only we could get that amendment repealed, sigh. (it would set the stage for Clinton vs Reagan in 04 or 08, hehe, I like our chances!)

These last several weekdays, I just can't turn on CSPAN without seeing a graphic at the bottom of the screen saying something to the effect of "Roll Call Vote: confirmation of such-and-such judge to such-and-such circuit court".

My point is, judges are being confirmed. This is not the rabid obstructionism of the GOP congress against Clinton's nominees. Democrats, myself included, oppose the nominations of Owen, Estrada, and Pickering, because they are fascist ideologues. Note, though, that everyone else, including Prada a couple of days ago, is getting confirmed expeditiously. Remember that anytime you see Bush on TV or in the paper saying something to the effect that Senate Democrats are creating some sort of judicial crisis. Puh-leeze.
TBOGG and Bartcop each point to this exchange on Crossfire:
Paul Begala: "Congressman Hayworth, you've now shifted the rational to removing a murderous thug as the purpose of the war. But that's not what our president said. And if the reason was we have to go to war because Saddam is evil, wasn't he evil when Dick Cheney was selling him oil field equipment...Wasn't he evil then, Congressman?"

J.D. Hayworth: "My friend, what is past is prologue. These are the facts, my friends. We are standing up. At long last, for the American people, we are standing up for liberation."
TBogg: "That looks pretty much like an admission of guilt"

Bartcop, not a subtle dude, but hey, I dig: "Notice how Hayworth didn't answer the question - because he can't. Bush lied so he could steal that oil, everybody knows it, but the GOP never has to answer the questions when put to them."

If you just can't wait any longer, and have to stuff your brain with Matrix-related stuff for the next nine days before MR-day, you can always go here (link via blogger's "blogs of note").

From there, I see that both Reloaded and Revolutions will be remastered for IMAX. Wow.

Reader Jonathan emails with an interesting tidbit. See, he uses some anti-spam software for his email account, but as a result, when stuff does slip through, he finds some, let's say, unusual non-html text.

In one case, an email encouraging him to "Become Debt-Free!!!" revealed a lengthy discussion of racial electoral politics and George HW Bush:
The method that the southern Republicans devised to breach this solid front was the one theorized years later by Lee Atwater, the manager of Bush's 1988
Presidential campaign. This was the technique of the "wedge issues," so called precisely because they were chosen to split up the old New Deal
coalition using the chisels of ideology. The wedge issues are also known as the "hot-button social issues," and the most explosive among them has always
tended to be race. The Republicans could win in the south by portraying the Democratic Party has pro-black. Atwater had learned to be a cunning and
vicious practitioner of the "wedge issue" method in the school of Strom Thurmond of South Carolina after the latter had switched over to the
Republicans in the sixties. Racial invective, anti-union demagogy, jingoistic chauvinism, the smearing of opponents for their alleged fealty to
"special interests"-- none of this began in the Baker-Atwater effort of 1968. These were the stock in trade of the southern strategy, and these were
all Leitmotivs of Bush's 1964 effort against Yarborough.

From the vantage point of the police state conditions of the early 1990's, we can discern a further implication of the southern Republican project of
which Bush was in several moments of the 1960's a leading operative. As the southern GOP emerged out of the play of gang and counter-gang between
McGovernite left liberal investment bankers and Nixon-Reagan right liberal investment bankers (and Bush has been both), it made possible that Southern
Strategy which elected Nixon in 1968 and which has given the Republicans a virtual lock on the electoral college ever since. The Watergate-Carter
anomaly of 1976 confirms rather than alters this overall picture.

The Southern Strategy that Bush turns out to have been serving in the sixties was not called to the attention of the public until somewhat after
the 1964 election in which Goldwater had garnered electoral votes exclusively in the south. As William Rusher wrote in the National Review:
"The Democrats had for years begun each race with an assured batch of delegates from the South." "The Republican Party strategy," argued Rusher,
needs refiguring, given a chance to break into this bloc once denied them...." His conclusion was that ""Republicans can put themselves in the
position of having the Southern bloc as a starting handicap; after that, they can compete for the rest of the country, needing only that 50 per cent
minus (say) 111 [of the electoral college votes]." Doing all this, Rusher contended, would allow Republican Presidential candidates to ignore the "
traditional centers of urban liberalism," especially in the northeast. [fn 4] These ideas were further refined in Richard Nixon's brain trust, presided
over by Wall Street bond lawyer John Mitchell at 445 Park Avenue, and received their definitive elaboration from Kevin Phillips, who in those years advanced the thesis that the "whole secret of politics" is in "knowing who hates who," which is of course another way of speaking of wedge issues.

The result of the successful application of the Southern Strategy in 1968 and in the following years has been a a period of more than two decades of
one-party Republican control over the Executive Branch, of which George Bush personally has been the leading beneficiary, first through his multiple
appointments, then through the vice-presidency, and now through the possession of the White House itself. This has had the decisive structural
consequence of making possible the kind of continuous, entrenched bureaucratic power that we see in the Bush regime and its leading
functionaries. As we will see, such administrators of the corporate state as James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, for whom the exercise of executive power
has long since become a way of life, appear to themsleves and to others as immune to the popular reckoning. The democratic republic requires the moment
of catharsis, of throwing the bums out, if the arrogance of the powerful is ever to be chastened. If there is no prospect for the White House changing
hands, this amounts to a one- party state. The southern Republican Party, including two-party Texas, has provided the Republican lock on the White
House which has proven a mighty stimulus to those tendencies towards authoritarian and even totalitarian rule which have culminated in the
Administrative Fascism of the current Bush regime.

Bush's opponent in that Goldwater year of 1964 was Senator Ralph Webster Yarborough. Yarborough had been born in Chandler, Texas in 1903 as the
seventh of eleven children. He attended public schools in Chandler and Tyler, worked on a farm, and went on to attend Sam Houston State Teachers
College and, for one year, the US Military Academy at West Point. He was a member of the 36th division of the Texas National Guard, in which he
advanced from private to sergeant. After World War I he worked a passage to Europe on board a freighter, and found a job in Germany working in the offices of the American Chamber of Commerce in Berlin. He also pursued studies in Stendahl, Germany. He returned to the United States to earn a law degree at the University of Texas in 1927, and worked as a lawyer in El Paso. At one point he found a job as a harvest hand in the Oklahoma dust bowl of the late 1920's, and also served a stint as a roughneck in the oil fields. Yarborough entered public service as an Assistant Attorney General of Texas from 1931 to 1934. After that, he was a founding director of the Lower Colorado River Authority, a major water project in central Texas, and was then elected as a district judge in Austin.

Yarborough served in the US Army ground forces during World War II, and was a member of the only division which took part in the postwar occupation of Germany as well as in MacArthur's administration of Japan. When he left the military in 1946 he had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. It clear from an overview of Yarborough's career that his victories and defeats were essentially his own, that for him there was no Prescott Bush to secure lines of credit or to procure important posts by telephone calls to bigwigs in freemasonic networks.
Fascinating. I mean, I knew I wanted to become debt-free, but wow. Who knew it was so informative to get out of debt.

UPDATE: Jonathan has one more piece of text, though this one is more vague:
A third conclusion is also warranted, viz. that it is easy to overrate the value of precise and rigid classification. We need not deny that a good and natural grouping (i.e. a grouping in accordance with the real affinities of the objects dealt with) is very helpful both for exposition and investigation. By its aid, features of resemblance and of contrast are most easily perceived, and new and hitherto neglected relations are often suggested; but notwithstanding these undeniable advantages, the most essential matter after all is to give adequate and proper treatment to the material of study, and even with a somewhat faulty arrangement this end can be attained. And not only so; the merits of any particular classification depend partly on the end in view
I hope you took notes!

The 2nd excerpt from Sidney Blumenthal's memoir is now available at Salon.

Monday, May 05, 2003

That there Paul Krugman seems to hate America a whole lot.
George Bush's "Top Gun" act aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln — c'mon, guys, it wasn't about honoring the troops, it was about showing the president in a flight suit — was as scary as it was funny.

Mind you, it was funny. At first the White House claimed the dramatic tail-hook landing was necessary because the carrier was too far out to use a helicopter. In fact, the ship was so close to shore that, according to The Associated Press, administration officials "acknowledged positioning the massive ship to provide the best TV angle for Bush's speech, with the sea as his background instead of the San Diego coastline."

A U.S.-based British journalist told me that he and his colleagues had laughed through the whole scene. If Tony Blair had tried such a stunt, he said, the press would have demanded to know how many hospital beds could have been provided for the cost of the jet fuel.

But U.S. television coverage ranged from respectful to gushing. Nobody pointed out that Mr. Bush was breaking an important tradition. And nobody seemed bothered that Mr. Bush, who appears to have skipped more than a year of the National Guard service that kept him out of Vietnam, is now emphasizing his flying experience.
Read the whole thing.
(actually Posted at 9:49 PM by Laurie)

Laurie's internet is sluggish right now, but this certainly caught her attention.
Scientists are investigating a horrific new venereal disease which is affecting baboons in Tanzania.

The disease first appeared about a month ago and has infected an estimated 200 animals, reports the New Scientist magazine.

Male baboons are particularly badly hit by the new disease, says Elibariki Mtui from the African Wildlife Foundation in Arusha.

"The genitals kind of rot away, then they just drop off," he said.

Some of the infected males have died.
So people of earth, whatever lifestyle changes this news may convince you to undertake, I'd suggest you get to them immediately!

We at TFM shall wait patiently for Senator Rick Santorum (R-Big Brother) to speak out on "man-on-baboon" action. Can't wait till the AP interviewer hears that one.

Also, the baboons on Brendan's desk have been checked from head to toe . . . on the other hand, as far as both of us can tell, they came without any genitalia at all! Hmm...

(Brendan: At least it's not SARS! AAAAHHHH!!!! Though it would be interesting to ponder what the major news weeklies would do if the baboon VD story made the cover)

All week, is releasing excerpts from Sidney Blumenthal's highly-anticipated (and high-selling, i might add) memoir of his time with the Clinton Administration. Here is part one.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

The way the music business works is, the largest proportion of an artist's or group's profits comes from concert revenues. Even for artists on major labels with huge record deals, this still generally holds true. Thus, when the Dixie Chicks sell out most, nearly all of their shows this tour, that means that no wingnut boycott of records can hurt them that much financially. Sorry.

From the Sunday Herald:
The Bush administration has admitted that Saddam Hussein probably had no weapons of mass destruction.

Senior officials in the Bush administration have admitted that they would be 'amazed' if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were found in Iraq.

According to administration sources, Saddam shut down and destroyed large parts of his WMD programmes before the invasion of Iraq.

Ironically, the claims came as US President George Bush yesterday repeatedly justified the war as necessary to remove Iraq's chemical and biological arms which posed a direct threat to America.

Bush claimed: 'Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We will find them.'
. . . can we get this into a campaign ad somehow? . . .

The senior US official added that America never expected to find a huge arsenal, arguing that the administration was more concerned about the ability of Saddam's scientists -- which he labelled the 'nuclear mujahidin' -- to develop WMDs when the crisis passed.

This represents a clearly dramatic shift in the definition of the Bush doctrine's central tenet -- the pre-emptive strike. Previously, according to Washington, a pre-emptive war could be waged against a hostile country with WMDs in order to protect American security.
Here comes my favorite line, the closer:
Now, however, according to the US official, pre-emptive action is justified against a nation which simply has the ability to develop unconventional weapons.
In other words, "everybody". Would the "sticky bombs" from Saving Private Ryan be considered "unconventional weapons"? Even that cinematic example notwithstanding, in that definition I'm sure there are many means by which we have suddenly justified pre-emptive strikes on our soil and interests. Goog going, US official! From the sound of it, looks like ol' Richard Perle has a job again, congrats sir!

The Bushies knew going into this that they probably wouldn't find WMD's, so presumably they knew the political consequences (not to mention the huge international credibility consequences) of falsely using the issue to justify a pre-emptive war. Thus, we've had a string of vaudeville acts over the past few weeks from our fearless leader and his administration. We've talked trash with Syria. We've had Captain Awol's little flight show on the 30-miles-offshore aircraft carrier. We've even witnessed the timely and brief resurrection of Newt Gingrich. All of this flashes before our eyes in the hope that the "WMD's were never really the issue" claim doesn't seem as preposterous as it really is.

Yglesias, DeLong and Atrios all point to this:
NEAR KUT, Iraq, May 3 -- A specially trained Defense Department team, dispatched after a month of official indecision to survey a major Iraqi radioactive waste repository, today found the site heavily looted and said it was impossible to tell whether nuclear materials were missing.

The discovery at the Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility was the second since the end of the war in which a known nuclear cache was plundered extensively enough that authorities could not rule out the possibility that deadly materials had been stolen. The survey, conducted by a U.S. Special Forces detachment and eight nuclear experts from a Pentagon office called the Direct Support Team, appeared to offer fresh evidence that the war has dispersed the country's most dangerous technologies beyond anyone's knowledge or control.

In all, seven sites associated with Iraq's nuclear program have been visited by the Pentagon's "special nuclear programs" teams since the war ended last month. None was found to be intact, though it remains unclear what materials -- if any -- had been removed.
That's right: We went to Iraq under the pretext that we were going after Saddam's WMD's, but once we take over the country we let nuclear materials -- perfect for, say, a dirty bomb, as Yglesias points out -- possibly be looted!?!?

Anyway, on this occasion, DeLong (a berkeley economics prof) sees this as an occasion to realize that, whaddyaknow, occasional Republican leadership ain't that much of a good thing. ("We need them out, and some adults in")