Saturday, June 25, 2005

Somerby's lastest Daily Howler and what's up for today

For Cedric, the plan for today. (We can be more casual on the weekend.) I've got errands and then in a few hours will be devoting time to assisting The Third Estate Sunday Review with their latest edition which will be the summer edition. Be sure to check that out Sunday. Rebecca, Kat and Betty are confirmed as also assisting. Michael is in the midst of a family reunion but would like to help if he's able to pull away. It's a "summer" issue and a number of you are attempting to figure out what that means. I'm sworn to secrecy so you'll just have to check it out tomorrow. (If Rebecca does an entry tonight, she'll probably provide a sneak preview.)

Beth's latest interview is completed. She's going through it as of her e-mail a half hour ago. She intends to have it edited by this evening. (There's no rush, Beth.) If she does and it's in the inbox during one of the breaks (while assisting The Third Estate Sunday Review) it will go up here. Again, that's if it's completed tonight and there's no rush on that. She's dealing with three hours of discussion that she wants to cut down to what she feels are the most important parts.

We'll note the Saturday Daily Howler now before it gets lost and we have to play catch up on Monday. Thanks to Dallas for selecting the excerpt and being on top of this. From Bob Somerby's The Daily Howler:

Plan of Attack is a fascinating book--more so today than when it appeared in April 2004. And yes, it does show the Bush Admin "fixing the intel," from shortly after the Downing Street memo right through Colin Powell’s famous appearance before the UN. Uh-oh! Although he is deferential to Powell, Woodward shows the good general, again and again, deciding to put weak, inferential, "iffy" intelligence into his famous presentation. How was your country persuaded to march off to war? Here’s one passage as Powell and his chief aide, Richard Armitage, are putting his presentation together:
WOODWARD (page 299): What was the best they had? Powell and Armitage reviewed an intercepted conversation between two senior officers of the Republican Guard...The intercept, from the day before inspections began in November, showed a colonel telling a brigadier general that he had a modified vehicle from the al-Kindi company, which in the past had been involved with WMD. The colonel then contradicted himself, saying, "We evacuated everything. We don't have anything left." It was suggestive, and potentially incriminating, but what he was talking about was not clear. No one could tell from this intercept or any other intelligence. An alternative explanation was that the colonel and the general just wanted to make sure they had complied. Powell decided to use it because it involved senior officials and the "evacuated" quote seemed strong.

Over and over during this four-day episode, Plan of Attack shows Powell "deciding to use it" anyway--deciding to use weak, shaky, inferential intelligence, intel which persuaded the nation but turned out, in the end, to be fake, bogus, wrong. (As we now know, much of Powell's UN presentation was based on bogus intel from "Curveball.") Here, for example, is the way he decided to pimp some iffy scuds:
WOODWARD (page 309): It had been four very, very difficult days for Powell as he sorted through the intelligence reports. So much was inferential, he thought. The intelligence people kept repeating that Saddam had a few dozen Scud missiles. "The Scuds are not anything anyone has seen," he said. As he read, he saw that previous U.N. inspectors had accounted for something like 817 of the 819 Scuds. But there was other information suggesting that some still remained, so he agreed to refer vaguely to "up to a few dozen Scud-variant" missiles.

"So he agreed." According to Woodward, Powell "agreed to refer vaguely" to a claim that seemed semi-bogus. But so it goes throughout the pages where Powell assembles his crucial presentation. This was fascinating material when Plan of Attack first appeared, but it’s even more so today, when sixteen months of turmoil have provided more reason to rue the process by which we were marched off to war.
So yes--Woodward’s book does show the Bush Admin "fixing the facts and the intelligence." And yes, it does show them starting to do this shortly after the Downing Street memo appeared. But when this fascinating book first appeared, it wasn’t used by the Washington press to batter the Bush Admin on this score. Quite the contrary--the book was used to praise Wise Leader Bush for the great depth of his honesty! How did this odd transaction occur? Let’s go back to the front-page report with which the Post introduced this new book--a front-page report which took us straight to the book’s most ballyhooed passage.

The Howler's worth reading (always). I'll note that he also takes on 'The Tale of Tenet' (that's "the book's most ballyhooed passage"). He addresses the fall guy aspect of the "slam dunk" and questions the validity of the most "pimped" (that's Somerby's term) passage. I've noted before that Woody's Tale of Tenent makes little sense (I think it makes none) and Somerby's worth reading on this. The only thing it proves is that the sources for Woody didn't include Tenet but did include people who wanted to come off well. (No surprise since the book was done with the administration's blessing. And, in fact, after it came out it was promoted by some GOP sites.) Some disagreed with my take on it (and I could be wrong) but if you did disagree, please read today's Howler because I'm sure where I lost you on a tangent, Somerby can steer you straight through.

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