Abu Aardvark

The battle's done, and we kind of won, so we sound our victory cheer - where do we go from here?

As seen in the Washington Post!
And The Connection!
and the Pioneer Press!

mail the aardvark!

Why shouldn't (America) be exempt from some wacky international treaty on women or aardvarks? - Jonah Goldberg, July 26, 2002

The aardvark appears to be the ancestor of all mammals, including humans. - the BBC

I discovered your blog after you attacked me in it, and I enjoy it. Don't agree with hardly any of it, but it's well-written and witty- Martin Kramer

Aardvarks are solitary, industrious, sarcastic, eat termites, graduated from Duke, and watch Buffy obsessively - Encyclopedia Brittanica

My vacation totally sucked, until I met the cutest aardvark. Man, I wish I knew who that aardvark really was! - Eliza Dushku

Nobody likes a wise-guy aardvark. Why do you have to be such an annoying, objectively pro-statue, aardvark? - anonymous reader who sounds a lot like Dave Sim

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Friday, June 06, 2003
Nice that somebody has the time to do the hard work to confirm what we already know. FAIR goes to the tape and comes up barely breathing. Bottom line, during three weeks of war on six networks, 64% of all sources appearing on-camera were pro-war; only 6% of all non-Iraqi sources and an astonishing 3% of all American sources were anti-war. CBS, amazingly enough, did worse than Fox - 3% of Fox sources were anti-war and only 1% of CBS sourcees (take that, Bernie Goldberg!). Over to you, Eric.

My very brave, as well as sharp-eyed, Reader C has this response to "Advantage: Khamenei":

Aardvark -

I think you are right about the Taliban, Iraq and internal Iranian politics, but not about the Saudis. Much as I dislike them, in their quiet way the Saudis have underlined their strategic importance to the US by keeping the oil price stable during the leadup to war and the war. At the same time, they have allied with Venezuela and Iran within OPEC to keep the oil price from falling too far. Add that to CP Abdallah's "reform" initiatives and support for the Palestinians, to bolster the ruling family's domestic legitimacy, and the Saudis look pretty stable and secure to me. I was also struck by the conclusion of one of Kessler's pieces in the Post from Aqaba: the only Arab leader Dubya respects is CP Abdallah, who told him bluntly what the bottom line is on Palestine (Arab rulers' bottom line, that is, not the Palestinians' or "peace's" bottom line -- the Arab rulers need a peace process, if not an actual peace). Some appearances to the contrary, it seems the Saudis have kept their influence. There's been a Saudi-Iranian entente since Khatami's election (though perhaps the hardliners still hate the Saudis) which has been a key development in OPEC. [PASSAGE DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS] ... the neo-cons' plans for OPEC will not succeed if the Saudi-Iranian entente survives the fallout of the war."

Interesting, interesting stuff. The aardvark has no comment at this point; he wants to think about this over a cup of coffee and one of those great new chocalate covered termite bars down at the local cafe ('cause there's a good chance that an adorable little cub just might walk by with her mom, and who would want to miss that?).

Must see of the day: David Cortright and his estimable collaborators present the publicly available information about WMD which the Bush administration chose to ignore. Go read it.

Also be sure to read Jake Tapper's overview of the WMD lying crisis, if you are willing to sit through that silly Showtime ad. Remember, Bush lies. He lies. Lather, rinse, repeat.

A good piece from David Ignatius at the American University of Beirut. He gets it exactly right, based on my experience hanging out with AUB students like this; if only he had talked to these kids before writing all those pieces arguing the opposite: "But judging by the students' comments, Bush has a long way to go in restoring America's status as a credible peacemaker. These students, to put it bluntly, don't believe that America is serious about its values. Suggest to them, for example, that America really wants to advance democracy and freedom in Iraq, rather than grab the country's oil, and you get smirks and guffaws."

Thursday, June 05, 2003
How to make Michael Ledeen splutter (actually, judging by today's outraged diatribe against William Beeman, this isn't hard, but still):

Who is the big winner of America's post-9/11 activism thus far? One candidate with a pretty strong case is... Iran. Specifically, the hard-line conservatives in the Iranian regime, not the reformists. Why?
(1) The first thing the US did was to take out the Taliban - a movement that Iran was deeply hostile towards. The absence of any strong central government in post-Taliban Afghanistan seems to have allowed Iran to spread its influence through its traditional friends, and overall this seems to have gone well for the Iranians.
(2) The backlash against Saudi Arabia has seriously undermined the power and influence - and even the stability and security of the Saudi regime, which has been one of Iran's most bitter rivals in intra-Islamic politics ever since the revolution.
(3) The invasion of Iraq has removed Saddam Hussein, one of the most hated leaders in Iranian history for his role in the brutal eight year Iran-Iraq war. His fall, and the American failure to establish anything resembling a working administration, has allowed the spread of Iranian influence deep into Iraq.
(4) The Axis of Evil speech and the current anti-Iran mobilization undermines whatever residual power the reformists might have mustered, vindicating the argument of the conservatives that the United States represents an implacable enemy with whom dialogue is impossible.
(5) Global fury over the Iraq war means that any mobilization against Iran will now likely win Iran far more sympathy than it otherwise might have expected.

So, the US gets global isolation, reinvigorated al-Qaeda, an Iraq that it can't handle which produces little more than a steady drumbeat of dead soldiers and political setbacks... while Iran gets the removal or weakening of three of its main rivals, global support, and the consolidation of a shaky regime. Advantage: Khamenei.

Mr. Ledeen (or anyone else) - comments?

Remember when the aardvark said that the weird thing about the neocons is that they seem to think that events have vindicated them? Well, exhibit A: Entering the weird, turned around world of the neocons, Max Boot smugly says: " Opponents of the war in Iraq must be chagrined to see pretty much all of their arguments discredited by events." Huh? Which ones exactly? Hugs and puppies? The threat of Saddam's WMD? Destroying al-Qaeda? Boot's argument, such as it is, is that critics attacking Bush and Blair for lying must think that Bush and Blair were "pretty stupid and venal." Yes. Not Blair, necessarily - he got railroaded by Bush's obsession. Bush stupid and venal? Got no problem with that.

This is a scandal, the new section of the Washington Post makes clear: "Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying Iraq's weapons programs and alleged links to al Qaeda, creating an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration's policy objectives, according to senior intelligence officials."

Too bad the editorial page can't keep up.

Hey Bob Woodward! Remember when you used to work for the Washington Post, and you found out about this President who lied and stole and covered his asterisk and stuff? Wouldn't it be neat if you wrote an investigative series, or even a book, about the Iraq war and all the lies and deception and foul play? Wouldn't that be something worthy of you, Bob Watergate? Aw, heck, I guess you already gave us "Bush at War," and a darn fine present that was, too. Just curious, though, Bob - how did you manage to, um, miss the whole story?

Once again, Josh Marshall rules, even if he's a bit nuts on that whole "we need a Cold War liberalism" thing. Marshall does a little legwork and finds out that the Pentagon's transcript of the Vanity Fair Wolfowitz interview appears to have been scrubbed, um, ahem, lightly edited. The missing piece? The VF reporter clearly remembers Wolfowitz enthusiastically endorsing Laurie Mylroie's nutty "Saddam did everything from the 1993 WTC to Oklahoma City" theory. The Pentagon transcript omits that segment. What else got scrubbed?

Of all the dishonest things Bush has said, this one stands out: "A more just political system will develop when people have food in their stomachs, and their lights work, and they can turn on a faucet and they can find some clean water — things that Saddam Hussein did not do for them," Bush said." Not to defend Saddam, but Bush's claim here is perverse to the point where it can only be a direct slap at the anti-sanctions campaign As Thomas Nagy has tirelessly demonstrated, the US targeted Iraqi water treatment facilities in the first Gulf war, and then used the sanctions committee to interfere with the reconstruction of water purification plants. Before the Gulf war, Iraq had some of the highest rates of access to clean water in the entire Middle East. Of all Saddam's many sins, why make up one that is the direct opposite of the truth? Oh yeah... Bush. Enough said.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Breaking self-imposed silence for a moment's reflection on either (a) the sheer stupidity of the American people or (b) the glorious success of the conservative media. I'm opting for (b) since I actually have considerable faith in the eventual good sense of the American people were the truth exposed. The reason for this reflection? A USA Today poll which finds that , among other things, 67% do not think that Bush deliberately misled the American people about the reasons for war with Iraq, 70% think that things are going pretty well for the US in Iraq, and 56% think that Bush has a clear plan for reconstructing Iraq. Now, reasonable people could disagree about whether Bush *deliberately* misled on the WMD (okay, not really, but benefit of the doubt here), but no reasonable and informed person could say that things are going well for the US in Iraq, and not even the Bush administration claims to have a clear plan for postwar Iraq at this point. What's going on? Media bias, absolutely. But I also think there is a hefty dose of cognitive shortcuts going on here - translated, people paid a lot of attention to Iraq during the war, then we toppled the statue and they decided that we won, and then they pretty much assumed things were okay and they stopped paying attention. A steady drumbeat of bad news from a very complex Iraqi environment probably makes little impression, and the WMD scandal is at this point still largely an elite concern. But man... those numbers are just embarrassing. For the country, for the American people, for the Democratic Party, and for anyone who cares about the quality of public discourse in this country.

Dang it, I wasn't going to blog today because I'm really busy and really tired, but this is just ridiculous. Paul Wolfowitz, who seems to be on career suicide mission (or perhaps has been replaced by an al-Qaeda "man-bot"?), explains that the war on Iraq was, in fact, about oil: "Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."

Draw your own conclusions. Skeptical aardvarks aren't convinced. It was about the statues, dammit, the statues. Statues everywhere, which must be toppled. Look - there's a statue in Tehran - no time for your questions about our lies about Iraq, or the economy, now! Not during a time of national statue emergency!

Tuesday, June 03, 2003
The Right counterattacks! Aware of the growing awareness that Bush lies about everything, all the time, and that it matters, Byron York has a long piece in NRO arguing that the "Left's" attack is misfiring because the American people "know what's going on." He tries to defend Bush on WMD and a range of other accusations. He tries. He swings, he misses, he flails a bit, and then... he invokes Clinton to say that, well, Bush isn't as big a liar as Clinton. So there! Keep at it, critics - methinks that when the Right advises you to drop a line of attack, that is as good a reason as any to keep at it. Plus, it's true - something that Bush and his defenders have a real problem recognizings, seeing as how they are, you know, liars.

Hey, how about that. Apparently the American Enterprise Institute reads the aardvark and got a bit spooked at his fearless expose of their abandonment of the Iraq issue on April 22. So, forthwith, today, June 3, AEI hosts "Iraq: Lessons Learned." And what lessons has AEI learned? I quote: "The Iraq campaign is over. Saddam’s statues have fallen. But the march to Baghdad toppled more than a noxious regime. Gone, too, is a half-century of U.S. military doctrine, its long-standing institutions and assumptions buried amidst the rubble of the Ba’athist state. What insights does Operation Iraqi Freedom offer for the future of the American military? What strategic lessons can be gleaned from the lightning assault on Saddam’s regime?" So, as the aardvark had gleaned, the statue really was the number one priority, and the lessons learned primarily concern statue-toppling. Good thing, too. That's much more important than, say, figuring out why you were so wrong about Iraq's WMD, why you were so wrong about the INC, why you were so wrong about the Iraqi people's response to American occupation, why you were so wrong about the politics of Iraq's Shia population, why you were so wrong about the Arab reaction to the war, why you were so wrong about how to reconstruct Iraq..,.. Naw. Those topics are totally uninteresting. Let's get back to the war on statues!

The FT reports on the latest Hans Blix suggestion that just maybe, perhaps, the United States was a tad off base in its claims on WMD. The story doesn't quite back up the nice headline, but the aardvark should be able to provide a link to the report itself after this short commercial break (crying cub alert! possible diaper change much more important than missing WMD!!)

The Post quotes the Daily Telegraph: "It is about the gravest accusation that can be made in politics. Tony Blair stands charged, in effect, with committing British troops on the basis of a lie. . . . Mr. Blair had good reasons to be worried about the menace posed by Saddam; but his obsession with presentation has gravely damaged that case. Even if our forces were now to unearth evidence of a major chemical or biological weapons programme in Iraq, many people in this country -- let alone in the Arab world -- would assume it had been planted. Such are the wages of spin." Earlier in his term, the Telegraph continued, Blair might have shrugged off such accusations with ease. "But the past six years," it said, "have seen Mr. Blair squander that most priceless of political assets, the benefit of the doubt."

Blair responds: "Secret evidence, I tell you. Weren't you reading the aardvark yesterday? I have secret evidence, but if I show it to you then it wouldn't be secret anymore. If you don't trust me, surely you trust George W Bush, right? Guys? Are you... snorting?"

Once again, the New York Times, and the French, omitted this part of the interview. Draw your own conclusions.


"It's long past time for this administration to be held accountable. Over the last two years we've become accustomed to the pattern. Each time the administration comes up with another whopper, partisan supporters — a group that includes a large segment of the news media — obediently insist that black is white and up is down. Meanwhile the "liberal" media report only that some people say that black is black and up is up. And some Democratic politicians offer the administration invaluable cover by making excuses and playing down the extent of the lies. If this same lack of accountability extends to matters of war and peace, we're in very deep trouble. ... It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility. But here's the thought that should make those commentators really uncomfortable. Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can fight what Mr. Hastings calls a "khaki election" next year. In that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably, corrupted."

The worst scandal in American history. The aardvark agrees. Yo Dems - you want to fight Bush? He lies. Bush lies. Every time he opens his mouth, every thing he says, call him on it. Every single time. Loudly. Vociferously. This administration can not stand on the truth. It is incapable of telling the truth. That's how you beat it. The truth is out there, as one Mr. Fox Mulder used to say - make it work for you.

Monday, June 02, 2003
US News reports that Colin Powell, presented with a first draft of his February UN speech by Scooter Libby, blew his stack over the fast and loose approach taken by the Pentagon to intelligence: "According to the report, the draft contained such questionable material that Powell lost his temper, throwing several pages in the air and declaring, "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit." "

All well and good. But Colin Powell did read the "bullshit." Perhaps the final speech was slightly less "bullshit" than the first draft, but not by much. Powell did read "bullshit" and his "bullshit reading" was probably the single most important step in the path to war. He spent his credibility on that speech, and now it's gone.

Robin Cook channels the aardvark (sorry, links are so bloggered I'm not even going to try, but trust me, I said this almost word for word a few weeks ago):
Q: Isn’t it possible that Saddam Hussein ordered their destruction, as U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has suggested?
Cook: No. I don’t think it’s even remotely possible. I just cannot follow the Rumsfeld logic; that watching CNN and seeing the American build-up Saddam said to his generals, “It’s obvious that the U.S. is going to invade; we had better destroy our biggest weapons, so that when I am toppled there might be some very difficult questions for Donald Rumsfeld to answer.”

Other parts of the interview are also great:
Q: Are you saying that the Blair government itself never believed in the existence of these weapons of mass destruction?
Cook: I never saw any [cabinet] briefing or other evidence that suggested that there was an urgent or compelling threat from Saddam Hussein. I am not going to comment on the motivation or sincerity of others, but I am rather puzzled that people who went to the same briefings as me and saw the same material could come to such radically different conclusions. To be fair to the United States administration, it never made any bones about the reasons why it went to war. It wanted to carry out a change of regime in Iraq. And many of the proponents of were lobbying for it long before September 11.

Q: And that’s also why the British government went to war?
Cook: No, but they were madly keen to prove that they were reliable allies of President Bush—and there were those around President Bush who were determined to have a war.

Don't miss this quite good Newsweek story about the WMD fiasco. When did Newsweek get so good? The picture which is emerging of the process by which Team Bush formed its approach to Iraq is becoming increasingly clear. And you know what? In virtually every particular, the anti-war critics have been proven right in their criticisms - about Iraq's WMD program not being a major threat, about the non-existence of significant ties to al-Qaeda, about Bush's overselling of the threat to win support of the war. Does this matter? Yes it does. We can't take the Iraq war back, but we can fight like heckarooni to make sure that the same damn thing doesn't happen in Iran, or Syria, or anywhere else that the neocons want to apply the same formula. We can try to push for an investigation to make some heads roll. We can try to force the media to hold Bush accountable for his lies. And we can try to make sure that the US actually rebuilds Iraq to the benefit of the Iraqi people, no matter what the current American regime intends.

Tony Blair has "secret proof" of WMD in Iraq! "Stung by claims that the Government exaggerated the threat from Saddam, Blair said he was waiting to publish a 'complete picture' of both intelligence gained before the war and 'what we've actually found'. Asked if he knew things he could not yet reveal, he said: 'I certainly do know some of the stuff that has been already accumulated as a result of interviews and others... which is not yet public, but what we are going to do is assemble that evidence and present it properly.'"

What the story leaves out: later in the interview, someone challenged Blair to show them the secret evidence. Blair stuck out his tongue and said, "well if I showed it to you, it wouldn't be secret anymore, would it?" The reporter, awed by this powerful retort, did as any good New York Times (or French) reporter would do, and cravenly struck that part of the interview from the story to make Blair look bad. Or I'll bet that's what happened, anyway.

Hey, maybe he's storing that evidence in the file alongside Richard Nixon's secret plan to get the US out of Vietnam, the secret of Area 51, and the secret of David Duchovny's enormously successful post-X Files film career?

The aardvark is also a scholar who blogs. Harumph. I guess the Chronicle wasn't interested in the thoughts of *anonymous* scholars who blog, or the reasons they might choose to do so. Still, fun article.

More old news, except for those of us who play with our cubs on weekends. The ex-intelligence officers who call themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have been harshly critical of Bush's manipulation of intelligence. Their latest memo, which sparked this response by George Tenet, says this: "deep concern over the growing mistrust and cynicism with which many, including veteran intelligence professionals inside and outside our movement, regard the intelligence cited by you and your chief advisers to justify the war against Iraq." It can be found here.

"But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them." Thus Spake Supreme Leader Bush. Two mobile labs, which might or might have been intended to manufacture biological weapons (intelligence sources disagree), which might or might not have ever been used, which might or might not have been usable, vindicate the WMD excuse for war.

Ha ha ha ha ha snort ha. (aardvarks often snort when they are laughing uncontrollably and can't quite gather themselves to offer a witty comeback.) If only aardvarks posted on the weekend, everyone else wouldn't already have all the good lines. Snort.

While I don't usually pay attention (okay, not much attention) to such things, let me just express my delight at making it on to the very last updated blogroll at Jeanne D'Arc's Body and Soul. Just a great site, full of thoughtful, incisive, and deeply human analysis, and one of my original inspirations to start blogging in the first place. It's wonderful to get on there. Thanks, Jeanne!