The Story Behind the Abduction of Britain’s 15 Sailors

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Ayatollah_Ali_Khamenei.jpg
Was Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei behind the abduction of Britain’s 15 sailors — who were taken by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on March 23rd of this year — or not?
Many of the Iran experts I know have told me that it is hard to imagine a scenario that would not depict Khamenei as the key decision-maker who authorized the episode. Some others, however, do not agree — and the question is important because just as there are increasingly clear divisions in the White House, so too might there be very important divisions inside Iran’s ruling clique that would affect our strategy in trying to chart something other than a hot collision between the US and Iran.
To be candid, I have not been following carefully serious after-the-fact journalism following the abduction of the British sailors. I have noted though that there has been some interesting analysis of where to place blame on the British side for the incident, and this piece by RedState.com‘s Jeff Emanuel makes many strong points about the encounter.
But what I have come across — via a senior European intelligence official — is a narrative on what happened that deserves to at least be written up and posted. I have confidence in this official, and am certain that the information shared reflects the collective analysis of his particular country — though I have no idea whether American, Israeli, or other intelligence operations elsewhere share this perspective.
And to be clear, I am in no position to validate one way or another the truthfulness of this narrative.
This is what the intelligence official recounted:

The abduction of the sailors was an operation that was animated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The political fortunes of both have been falling this past year. Ahmadinejad lost key elections in December that not only marked his decline but marked the rise, to some degree, of political forces allied with former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.
The abduction was designed to secure domestic political leverage for Ahmadinejad and the al Quds forces, whose budgets have been stagnant despite the rise of national income from increasing oil prices.
According to my source, Ayatollah Khamenei was furious when informed of the abduction. Iran nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani reportedly threatened to resign his post if the sailors were not released. And Rafsanjani — behind the scenes — “heaped scorn” on Ahmadinejad for the action he and the al Quds force triggered.
Khamenei ordered the sailors to be released and allowed Ahmadinejad to be the deliverer of the news — on his own terms — in a way that would allow him not to appear rebuked and would allow him to save political face.
According to the intelligence official, Rafsanjani’s crowd has become marginally stronger — and Ahmadinejad significantly weaker — which makes the latter even more dangerous and unpredictable.
Qalibaf.jpgI was also told that Ahmadinejad’s chief rival politically right now is the current Mayor of Tehran and former presidential aspirant, Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf.
Ahmadinejad tried to get Qalibaf out of the country by appointing him Iran’s Ambassador to Venezuela, and Qalibaf refused the appointment. The intelligence official speaking to me told me that Khamenei is maneuvering Qalibaf to knock Ahmadinejad out of the presidential seat.

Again, I can’t validate these tidbits shared above. But I do find them potentially important because it provides to those who don’t follow the close details of Iran’s theocratic politics some sense that despite Khamenei’s seeming strong control of the country and its machinery — particularly the Iranian Revolutionary Guard — that there is instability of leadership and episodes of rogue autonomy.
More soon.

— Steve Clemons

Comments

42 comments on “The Story Behind the Abduction of Britain’s 15 Sailors

  1. Dons Blog says:

    Don’t suppose anyone noticed this article on Al Jazeera. Remember that little raid by Americans in the Kurdish section of Iraq, Iranians that had been invited by the Kurds? It couldn’t be that they kidnapped the English to get leverage because the US is acting contrary to the geneva convention and other international treaties.
    Iranian diplomats have been given access to five Iranians for the first time since they were detained by US forces in January.
    The US military says the men are linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and were working with armed groups in Iraq.
    Iran has insisted they are diplomats and are demanding they be freed.
    english.aljazeera.net
    Kind of like the fact that we keep forgetting the the reason for the original hostage taking was to get back the despot called the Shah for trials.
    No, Iranians are just crazy, conniving, and driven only by extremist viewpoints.

    Reply

  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Disappointed in the extreme, and for the first time I can remember here.”
    Ya musta missed the Harman thread.

    Reply

  3. Thom says:

    Steve, “strong points” in that article? Could you tell us which ones? They surely weren’t the ones armchair-quarterbacking of those sailors, who actions may have very well prevented an extreme rise in tensions in the region. Why does the fact that that explosive situation ended peacefully seem to be missed – or just outright dismay – so many people? Is it simply the stink of misplaced machoism? Is it an outright a desire for more war?Hard to figure out why the pro-war screamers are so fast to go after those who serve. They seem incapable of understanding that, sometimes, surrendering without a fight is the most courageous thing to do.
    And the RWers love the story about the Aussies, using it, once again, in an attempt to portray the Brit sailors as cowards (no amount of service is enough for these goons) when the situations were nothing alike, their positions on the ships being the most obvious.
    Disappointed in the extreme, and for the first time I can remember here.

    Reply

  4. Carroll says:

    Posted by Cloned Poster at July 5, 2007 04:47 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>
    You should hang around just for the info and to see what people think and how they react if nothing else….seems like sometimes we are observing a game of marbles or chess and sometimes it is like 56 pick up sticks…

    Reply

  5. Cloned Poster says:

    I had to come back and see if there was a reaction to my sign-off above. I may have been snarky (admit I was) and I applaud SC for accepting the sign-off.
    Best of Luck SC. Good luck to Carrol and POA for calling what it really is.

    Reply

  6. MP says:

    OT, sort of…this from James Fallows blog. The Hart here is Gary Hart, who is an expert on national security:
    “”Her name was Lynne Cheney,” Hart said. “I am convinced that if it had not been for 9/11, we would be in a military showdown with China today.” Not because of what China was doing, threatening, or intending, he made clear, but because of the assumptions the Administration brought with it when taking office. (My impression is that Chinese leaders know this too, which is why there are relatively few complaints from China about the Iraq war. They know that it got the U.S. off China’s back!).”

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  7. Sandy says:

    Excellent….and important-to-remember….points, Dan Kervick.
    So many things…at so many levels…can go wrong. All the time.
    And do.
    It’s really a wonder we are still here if you think about it.

    Reply

  8. Sandy says:

    Posted by PissedOffAmerican at July 5, 2007 02:18 PM>>>>>>> Related to that:
    “Israel is reaping economic as well as political rewards from its lock-down apartheid state.  In the ‘gated community’ market it has begun to sell systems and techniques that allow the nation to cope with terrorism. 
    Israel, in 2006, exported $3.4 BILLION in defense products—well over a billion dollars more than it received in American military aid.  Israel has grown into THE FOURTH LARGEST ARMS DEALER in the world.  Most of this growth has come in the so-called homeland security sector.
    ‘The key products and services,’ as Naomi Klein wrote in The Nation, ‘are hi-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems—precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories. 
    And that is why the chaos in Gaza and the rest of the region doesn’t threaten the bottom line in Tel Aviv, and may actually boost it.  Israel has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset, pitching its uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the ‘global war on terror.’ ”
    http://tinyurl.com/2v5oln

    Reply

  9. Dan Kervick says:

    I can’t say whether Steve’s source is right or wrong, sincere or insincere.
    But I do think there is a dangerous general tendency when analyzing the behavior of other countries to posit highly oversimplified and truncated chains of command, and assume that every important action is ordered from somewhere up at the top. These hypotheses often look to identify which high official most benefited, and then speculate that that official directly ordered the action.
    For example, I imagine that in Iran and other countries some analysts look at decisions by US district courts for evidence of who is up or who down in the White House or the Justice department, and assume that every significant judicial decision is decided somewhere in Washington. But we know it doesn’t actually work that way. Similarly, not every significant incident in the history of the Iraq War was ordered directly from Dick Cheney’s office.
    Although the seizure of the British soldiers turned into a major international incident, it would be a leap to infer that that means some individual at the top of the Iranian government was therefore seeking to create an international incident. Sometimes international incidents just happen as a result of local decisions.
    Perhaps the British ship was in Iranian territorial waters, or had been moving in and out of Iranian territorial waters, or at least the Iranians *thought* the Brits were in Iranian territorial waters, and some local eager beaver commander took a bit of initiative and decided to do what border patrols do from time to time: seize the ship and take its crew into custody.
    Another possibility: It is often reported that one of the Revolutionary Guards’ chief occupations is smuggling. The ship the British were boarding was suspected by them of smuggling. Maybe it was engaged in smuggling after all, and some RG confederates of the smugglers in the area decided to grab the Brits so that the ship could get through.
    One might argue that if the decision was made locally, it would have been disavowed by Tehran as soon as the incident blew up, and the soldiers would have been returned right away. But that is rarely how these things play out. Even after accidental incidents, both sides often wrangle for a while about whose fault it was, and seek to extract some foreign and domestic propaganda value from the affair. It is perfectly possible that Ahmadinejad’s role in all this was that of a political opportunist latching on to some opportunity that had presented itself.
    The US never apologized, after all, for the Vincennes shoot-down of that Iranian passenger jet. Now of course there could have been some dark US conspiracy behind that affair. And I’m sure Middle Easterners had a field day speculating about who in the White House gave the order to shoot the plane down. But more likely, the Vincennes just screwed up. And then the US failed to apologize because these things become embroiled in domestic politics, and jingoistic rhetoric, and government always have a hard time apologizing for their misdeeds.
    I’m just speculating here. I don’t know what really went down in this incident. But I’m a bit skeptical that it was a carefully orchestrated even with an order given from on high.

    Reply

  10. Sandy says:

    Posted by Carroll at July 5, 2007 04:53 AM>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Ah, yes, Michael Ledeen. A fine example…of the rot:
    http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/1261
    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/01/15/ledeen/print.html
    Iranian regime change: “Faster, please!”
    Neocon Michael Ledeen, long a proponent of “democratic revolution” in Iran, weighs the odds of military action by the U.S.
    By Alex Koppelman
    Jan. 15, 2007 | Even among his fellow neoconservatives, Michael Ledeen stands out as a politically divisive figure. He’s loved — and consulted at the highest levels — by his fellow travelers for his hard-line positions on the Middle East. His catchphrase, “Faster, please!” refers to the speed with which he’d like the United States to compel regime change in Iran. He’s hated with equal passion by liberals for those same stances, as well as for his connection, real or imagined, to two scandals.
    During Iran-Contra, Ledeen acted as an intermediary between the Reagan White House and Israel. It’s even been suggested by more than one blogger that he may have played a role in either creating or couriering the infamous forged documents that said Saddam Hussein was attempting to obtain uranium in Niger.
    On Friday, as rumors swirled about a possible secret executive order against Iran and Syria, and the shock waves from the president’s speech and the raid on an Iranian consulate continued to reverberate, Ledeen spoke with Salon about what military action he thinks the administration might be contemplating and what he’d like to see happen in the region. He also discussed some of the more recent controversies in which he’s been involved: his apparently mistaken report that the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, has died, and his denial, late last year, that he had ever supported the war in Iraq….”
    So….when we nuke Iran — and you can be sure Michael Ledeen is out in front cheerleading it on — to the ruin of this country and the Middle East — just remember….
    Michael Ladeen ALREADY has the blood of American soldiers on his hands.
    And, like a vampire — like all the war-hungry neo-cons — he wants more…..and more….
    and more.

    Reply

  11. Carroll says:

    While we are waiting to see if the no war or more war side wins out I am just going to collect quotes from our political class so you will know they think you are imbeciles and besides that the little China girl of the Labor Dept, whose culture eats cats and dogs, thinks Americans are dirty and should be wearing coolie uniforms. Tony Snow just thinks we are stupid.
    Parade Magazine: Elaine Chao, our Secretary of Labor, said:
    “American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene.”
    Tony Snow:
    [Bush] believes pardons and commutations should reflect a genuine determination to strengthen the rule of law and increase public faith in government.

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Pondering the carnage around the world, one has to ask, what is currently killing the most people, WMDs, or small arms?
    I wonder, where were these weapons eventually bound, and whose blood wasn’t spilled because of this discovery? Were these guns going to be off-loaded in Nicaragua, or were they intended to jump ship in the US?
    One thing is for sure, we have heard the last of this story.
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3421317,00.html
    Spain intercepts arms shipment from Israel to Nicaragua
    Spanish customs confiscate container with 1,085 guns and pistols found on vessel headed for Central America
    AFP Published: 07.04.07, 19:39 / Israel News
    The Spanish customs service found 1,085 guns and pistols on a ship making its way from Israel to Nicaragua during a routine inspection of the ship while it was docking in Algeciras in southern Spain.
    The container was confiscated by the Spanish authorities, and the ship was later permitted to set sail.
    The ship’s bill of customs noted that the ship was carrying air rifles.
    The weapons container was found on the vessel Maersk Detroit, which set out from Haifa and was headed for the Managua Port in Nicaragua, via the US.
    Local security personnel confirmed the report, but failed to indicate the number of weapons found.
    Following the September 11 terror attack, the US issued an instruction requiring all cargo ships headed for the US to stop at the Spanish port and undergo an inspection before continuing on their journey.

    Reply

  13. patriot says:

    “clear divisions in the White House.”
    Not at the top there isn’t, and that is all that really matters as I certainly hope you are beginning to realize finally. Even you Mr. Clemens cannot spin events any more to depict Cheney as the bad guy and Bush as the dupe. Bush specifically authorized Cheney to declassify documents, Cheney then gave Libby Plame’s identity to leak, and now BUSH has commuted Libby in order to keep him quiet. The apple is rotten to the core and you need to admit it and get on board to attempt to save our country from the criminals who are showing us that they have utter contempt for our laws, our legal system, and the Constitution they swore to uphold.”clear divisions in the White House.”
    Mr. Clemons, you have been quick to toot your own horn when you have been proven right. Now, be a man and admit you were dead wrong and that it isn’t just Cheney responsible for the criminal behavior in the Executive Branch.

    Reply

  14. patriot says:

    “clear divisions in the White House.”
    Not at the top there isn’t, and that is all that really matters as I certainly hope you are beginning to realize finally. Even you Mr. Clemens cannot spin events any more to depict Cheney as the bad guy and Bush as the dupe. Bush specifically authorized Cheney to declassify documents, Cheney then gave Libby Plame’s identity to leak, and now BUSH has commuted Libby in order to keep him quiet. The apple is rotten to the core and you need to admit it and get on board to attempt to save our country from the criminals who are showing us that they have utter contempt for our laws, our legal system, and the Constitution they swore to uphold.”clear divisions in the White House.”
    Mr. Clemons, you have been quick to toot your own horn when you have been proven right. Now, be a man and admit you were dead wrong and that it isn’t just Cheney responsible for the criminal behavior in the Executive Branch.

    Reply

  15. patriot says:

    “clear divisions in the White House.”
    Not at the top there isn’t, and that is all that really matters as I certainly hope you are beginning to realize finally. Even you Mr. Clemens cannot spin events any more to depict Cheney as the bad guy and Bush as the dupe. Bush specifically authorized Cheney to declassify documents, Cheney then gave Libby Plame’s identity to leak, and now BUSH has commuted Libby in order to keep him quiet. The apple is rotten to the core and you need to admit it and get on board to attempt to save our country from the criminals who are showing us that they have utter contempt for our laws, our legal system, and the Constitution they swore to uphold.”clear divisions in the White House.”
    Mr. Clemons, you have been quick to toot your own horn when you have been proven right. Now, be a man and admit you were dead wrong and that it isn’t just Cheney responsible for the criminal behavior in the Executive Branch.

    Reply

  16. dan says:

    Just out of interest – is there any chance that you could corroborate the information that Ahmadinejad offered Qalibaf the ambassadorship to Venezuela?

    Reply

  17. dan says:

    Steve – you’re being duped by all of this.
    I don’t know where your contact gets his “info” from, but it smacks of the standard boilerplate misconceptions regarding the Iranian political system, which seeks to explain everything according to the “Iran exception” rule.
    Iran. Big country. 70 million population. Complex society. Parliamentary, presidential, local and other elections. Complicated array of parties, institutions and political factions. Checks and balance constitutional arrangements along with a distribution of power. If we neglected to apply the “Iran exception” rule then we’d start analysing its politics just as we would analyse any other “comparable” country’s politics, and not jump to the conclusion that every action is the result of some numinous internal power struggle that we can’t actually describe in anything other than kindergarten terms.
    For starters, Iranian security forces have very well defined rules of engagement/operating procedures, have a well-defined chain of command and are well-disciplined. If there was a decision to grab some hostages then in all likelihood it was a consensus position worked out by Khamenei and Larijani with a specific goal in mind – the release of hostages being held by the US in Iraq; that’s assuming that the sailors were actually in Iraqi waters – and judging by the info ops that went into play within hours of the incident, I’d say that there is considerable ambiguity about this.
    Funny how that simply doesn’t surface in your contact’s narrative. Nor does your contact actually explain in any way how his narrative “works” in the Iranian domestic context ( probably because he has little understanding of that ).
    Ahmadinejad has problems? All Iranian presidents have problems – it ain’t nothing new, exceptional, or an indicator of the kind of systemic instability that your contact assumes.
    Currently the US has no Iran strategy beyond continuing to avoid formally renouncing the regime change policy which everything defaults to in the present vacuum. Whilst I doubt that the situation is going to devolve into a hot conflict any time soon, the single biggest impediment to improving the situation is the persistent unwillingness of the Bush administration to do any direct diplomacy at a senior level.

    Reply

  18. Cyrus Mossaddegh says:

    For the past six years I have been back in Iran and the outline you have provided is correct. There is a very serious power struggle going on in Iran and if Cheney Inc. will back off there will be positive changes but if pressure is applied Ahmadinejad and the Rev. Guard will complete there coup.

    Reply

  19. Dirk says:

    Steve,
    I’d say the question you pose is only of marginal interest. Consider that when the previous president Khatami was making encouraging forays in diplomacy with the West, he was roundly ignored or denounced by conservatives and neocons as powerless and irrelevant. Suddenly when Ahmadinejad is elected he is all powerful and vehicle to incite the American people to bomb the country.
    A thought to entertain with your question: why are we criticizing them for enforcing their borders there while criticizing them for being to lax in doing them the same.
    The more important campaign going on is the current blaming of the murder of five troops in Karbala on the Iranians when all indications lead to the conclusion that it was Sunnis.

    Reply

  20. Carroll says:

    Ah..a bit of good news…anytime Leeden is upset I am happy…Brown of Britian has announced he will outlaw the term “War on Terror”…and Leeden just can’t hardly stand it….
    The Brits and The Others
    Michael Ledeen]
    Like Mark and Victor, I too have a very bad feeling about Gordon Brown. Those Orwellian language changes spooked me, as did the appointment of M.M. Brown. The obvious intent is to reduce the whole unpleasantness to a policing problem, which is what they did with the I.R.A., and Mark is entirely right to stress the enormous differences. I too admire the British security forces, but I don’t think they are the best counterterrorist force in the world, that medal goes to the Israelis, surely. And Israel, not Britain, is the lab experiment for what we will face: enemies within and without, a big border to control, and real battles to fight, lest the enemy truly threaten our survival as a free nation.
    Maybe the Gordon Brown government will come to be seen as a test case for the multiculti Left’s approach to “the war (shhh),” and if it fails quickly enough, it might help us sort out the real choices for November ’08. After all, British failures have often been inspirational for America, sigh.
    >>>>>>>>>>
    Don’t you luv the way Israelis like Leeden refer to America as “our” survival of our country? Who do they think they are kidding…nothing remotely American about his kind. You know if Leeden wants the US to be like Israel he should just move to Israel…that’s where he will have to ‘flee’ to anyway when once the revolution starts…hehehehhe

    Reply

  21. Carroll says:

    Posted by PissedOffAmerican at July 4, 2007 02:09 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    The revolution is about 3 to 4 years off…unless we do attack Iran, then it will be a lot sooner. I estimate that 2008 will be the last election of dem or repubs that Americans will fall for. There might be some relief among the public at first depending on who is elected, but then the underlying rot of speical interest will still be coming out and people will realize the current political system our politicans have created has to die.

    Reply

  22. Carroll says:

    The question that I would have on this story is is it a plant?
    To lay the reason, groundwork, background for a regime change/revolution story in Iran?
    He might be one of Steve’s trusted sources but who is his source’s source?
    You have to look at everything you see or hear these days in the light of who wants you to know/think ssomething and why, and does the timing of the info have any meaning.
    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar but you never know. Once burned, twice shy is the mood of the public right now.

    Reply

  23. sdemetri says:

    globalsecurity.org has an interesting piece that might provide some background for the rift between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad:
    “On 24 June 2005 Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad was elected as Iran’s president. Ahmadinejad swept to the presidential post with a stunning 17,046,441 votes out of a total of 27,536,069 votes cast in the runoff election. His rival and Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gained only 9,841,346. A few days before the vote, Rafsanjani said that the race was “very close” but he believed he was “slightly ahead” of Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad will be Iran’s first non-cleric president in 24 years when he takes office in August 2005.
    The Tehran mayor’s backers had portrayed Rafsanjani as the Iranian equivalent of a political hack. The commonly heard sentiment about the Tehran mayor was that he is a simple man – a backhanded slap at Rafsanjani, who has amassed great personal wealth. Ahmadinejad’s populist platform, which included providing a monthly stipend to citizens, won votes from people concerned about economic issues such as unemployment. Ahmadinejad’s main campaign advertisement was a film that showed him praying and addressing war veterans in military fatigues.
    Ahmadinejad came from relative political obscurity to go head-to-head with a prominent national figure, former president Rafsanjani. In style and substance, the two men could not be more different. At 70, Rafsanjani was an Islamic cleric, a political veteran, and what might be termed moderately progressive [on the Iranian political spectrum]. Ahmadinejad, who was 31-years younger, is a former Revolutionary Guard, a novice on the national stage, and a hardline conservative much feared by the reformist movement.
    Some outside observers had great difficult understanding Ahmadinejad’s apparent popularity across the country. They were not able to comprehend his ability to out-poll better-known figures, such as former speaker of parliament Mehdi Karrubi or former national police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. The other candidates had been nationally visible for years, and had campaigned throughout the country. Although Ahmadinejad only became nationally visible after he became Tehran mayor. He did not campaign as extensively as his rivals. Some speculated that electoral interference by the Basij and the Guardians Council was the only explaination of this otherwise inexplicable rise to power.
    The Basiijs, or Mobilization Resistance Force – a volunteer paramilitary militia under the Revolutionary Guards – was called upon to vote for Ahmadinejad and get others to do so. There was evidence of vote rigging by Ayatollah Khamenei and his supporters. Reformists charged the Basij, a paramilitary arm of the Revolutionary Guard, with violating prohibitions against military involvement in politics by mobilizing votes for the Tehran mayor. Although the military is supposed to steer clear of politics, it has always had some role, but it has never been as prominent as this.
    President Bush said presidential elections in Iran are designed to keep power in the hands of rulers who suppress liberty at home and spread terror abroad. According to a US State Department official, the Iranian election fell very, very short of minimum democratic standards.”
    The article goes on and is worth a read.
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iran/ahmadinejad.htm

    Reply

  24. PissedOffAmerican says:

    BTW, did anyone else notice Khan just skated, free from house arrest?
    Its remarkable, isn’t it? In this “global war on terrorism”, a country that has abetted the proliferation of nuclear arms technology to so called “Axis Of Evil” nations is declared “a most valuable ally in the war against terrorism”.
    Pakistan, a nuclear power. A military dictatorship. A nation harboring and nurturing Islamic radicalism.
    Yet here we are, demonizing Iran, while the last recipient of the Bush/Cheney demonization program, Iraq, descends further into chaos.
    Meanwhile, the situation in Afghanistan spirals further out of control, as the Taliban reestablishes itself, and the opium fields enjoy record bumper crops.
    Why in God’s name would we trust the very architects of these disasters to further meddle in the Middle East? Why in God’s name does this intellectual ejaculate, spewing forth on a daily basis from these elitist think tanks and Washington insiders still garner respect, or deserve credibility?
    “God told me to strike at al-Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.”
    George W. Bush

    Reply

  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…..
    That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends,it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
    –Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, July, 1176
    When can we get started?

    Reply

  26. Steve Clemons says:

    Cloned Poster — good luck on your quest for views that validate your own. Best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  27. easy e says:

    Olbermann’s message to Bush/Cheney: RESIGN!
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19588942/
    TWN message: ?

    Reply

  28. easy e says:

    I too find it very scary that TWN may think these people really DO want diplomacy. Is there something ulterior going on here?
    People just haven’t gotten it that this country has evolved into a scary state.
    Wouldn’t it be great for TWN to support Olbermann’s message…http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19588942/… rather than waiting until the ’08 elections to resolve the problem.

    Reply

  29. Cloned Poster says:

    Who are you carrying water for this time Mr. Clemons?
    Stick to wienernars or whatever they are. Your reaction to Libby and your “walter mitty” personality that things can get better in the beltway is truly tragic.
    Last Visit Here.

    Reply

  30. Sandy says:

    Steve — You said:
    “Was Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei behind the abduction of Britain’s 15 sailors — who were taken by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on March 23rd of this year — or not?
    Many of the Iran experts I know have told me that it is hard to imagine a scenario that would not depict Khamenei as the key decision-maker who authorized the episode. Some others, however, do not agree
    — and the question is important because just as there are increasingly clear divisions in the White House,
    so too might there be very important divisions inside Iran’s ruling clique that would affect
    our strategy in trying to chart something other than a hot collision between the US and Iran….”
    If by “increasingly clear divisions in the White House…” you mean Condi Rice and those who report to her….
    do you, Steve, really BELIEVE that George W. Bush….and Richard B. Cheney really ARE interested in diplomacy first? What is the evidence for that? That they are SAYING so?
    SO WHAT?
    They have had YEARS now to PROVE that — to SHOW that….and NOW they are making feeble efforts to MAKE IT LOOK LIKE they are interested in diplomacy?
    Here’s a good example:
    http://tinyurl.com/279ese
    “Saddam chose to deny inspectors”
    Bush repeated this bald-faced lie recently. The cowering press still lets him get away with it, but the public is no longer fooled.
    By Joe Conason
    March 31, 2006 | Slowly but inexorably, as more and more information emerges, the conventional wisdom about the events leading to war in Iraq is shifting. The American public has joined the rest of the civilized world in questioning the arguments and motives of the war makers. Commentators who have habitually fashioned excuses for the White House seem to find that task increasingly burdensome and humiliating. The old lies no longer have much traction.
    Yet even now, President Bush persists in blatantly falsifying the war’s origins — perhaps because, even now, he still gets away with it.
    At his most recent press conference, that strange impulse to utter a ridiculous lie seemed to seize the president. It happened when he called on Hearst columnist Helen Thomas.
    “I’d like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime,” said the venerable correspondent in her confrontational style. “Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true.
    My question is, why did you really want to go to war?”
    Bush responded by denying that he wanted war, a pro forma assertion that nobody believes. He blathered on for a while about Sept. 11, the Taliban, al-Qaida and protecting America from terrorism.
    And when Thomas reminded him that she had asked about Iraq, he said, “I also saw a threat in Iraq.
    I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically.
    That’s why I went to the [United Nations] Security Council; that’s why it was important to pass [Resolution] 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences — and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world.
    And WHEN HE CHOSE TO DENY THE INSPECTORS, when he chose not to disclose [emphasis added], then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.”
    The official transcript notes “laughter” at that moment.
    What was so funny? Were her colleagues laughing at Thomas, whose monopoly on testicular fortitude has shamed them all for so long? In the days that followed, the bully boys of the right-wing media enthusiastically abused Thomas, which was predictable enough. But have the rest of the reporters in the press room become so accustomed to presidential prevarication that they literally cannot hear a stunning falsehood that is repeated over and over again?
    For THE THIRD TIME since the war began three years ago, Bush had falsely claimed that Saddam refused the U.N. weapons inspections mandated by the Security Council.
    For the third time, he had denied A REALITY WITNESSED BY THE ENTIRE WORLD during the four months when those inspectors, under the direction of Hans Blix, traveled Iraq searching fruitlessly for weapons of mass destruction that, as we now know for certain, were not there.
    But forget about whether the weapons were there for a moment. The inspectors definitely went to Iraq. They left only because the United States warned them to get out before the bombs started to fall on March 19, 2003.
    But for some reason the president of the United States keeps saying — in public and on the record — that the inspectors weren’t there.
    Keeping the facts segregated from the myriad falsehoods isn’t easy with this regime,….”
    I find it very scary that you may think these people really DO want diplomacy!

    Reply

  31. Winnipeger says:

    very interesting post, steve. thanks for sharing.
    but, the real question is what is the resulting policy that your source’s country is pursuing in light of this hypothesis?
    …and happy independence day, everyone! in light of the myriad number of internal problems that our country continues to face, the united states of america is STILL the grandest and most successful experiment in freedom that this world has ever seen!!
    amid our warranted histrionics about this current administration, let’s not forget that liars and their resulting abuse of power is nothing new. our country has endured the political “process” for over 200 years and G-d willing, we will continue to do so for many years to come.

    Reply

  32. Sandy says:

    http://www.takimag.com/blogs/article/israel_a_free_country_ha/
    Israel—A “Free” Country? Ha!
    Posted by Justin Raimondo on July 03, 2007
    We’re told that Israel, unlike the Arab states that surround it, is a “free” country, a “democracy” just like us: indeed, the Israelis are trying to push their way into NATO partly on this basis. But the reality, as is often the case when it comes to the Israelis, is quite different, as the case of Mordechai Vanunu makes all too clear.
    Convicted of “treason” when he revealed to the London Times what everybody already knew—THAT ISRAEL HAD NUKES—Vanunu, a technician at the Dimonoa nuclear facility, was kidnapped by the Mossad and brought to Israel, where he served 18 years in prison, most of it in solitary confinement.
    Finally released, in 2004, he continued to speak out against Israel’s weapons of mass destruction—which the Israelis, to this day, refuse to acknowledge—and he has now been jailed again, this time for the “crime” of speaking to “foreigners” and speaking his mind.
    Israel a ‘free’ country? Yeah, and Paris Hilton is a virgin ….”

    Reply

  33. Sandy says:

    http://www.carolmoore.net/nuclearwar/israelithreats.html
    ISRAEL NUCLEAR TIMELINE…
    “….1999: US Department of Energy document ranks Israel sixth among countries with nuclear weapons.
    2000: Knesset debates Israel’s nuclear weapons program for first time.  Germany sells Israel three state-of-the-art 800-class Dolphin submarines and Israel tests first submarine-launched missile in the area of the Indian Ocean.  Ariel Sharon is elected Prime Minister of Israel, still intending to use nuclear weapons to bully other nations and remake the Middle East for the benefit of Israel.  George Bush is elected in the United States and his neoconservative allies fully intend that the United States help Sharon fulfill that mission.  Right wing Israelis begin freely talking about attacking other nations, including with nuclear weapons.
    2001: Bush inflames Arabs by clearly taking sides with Israel’s expansionist aims, part of the reason for the September 11 attacks against the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.  He obsesses about attacking Iraq, not defending America against known Al Queda terrorists.  Starts planning war against Iraq after September 11 attacks, including option of using nuclear weapons.
    2002:  George Bush gives Israel the go-ahead to use nuclear weapons against Iraq if Saddam attacks Israel before the American invasion of Iraq. Pentagon Office of Special Plans uses information from Iraqi dissidents and Israel’s Mossad to convince Americans that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction that are an imminent threat against America.  Israel launches Ofek-5 satellite with a powerful new inter-continental missile.
    2003:  Israel repeatedly demands sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program and threatens to bomb Iran’s operating nuclear power plant, despite Iran’s threats to retaliate hard against Israel.  Russia may have sold Iran additional advanced missiles capable of shooting down Israeli bomber and fighter jets. Russian President Putin proposes Security Council formally call for establishment of a Palestinian state and arrests last of the Jewish “oligarchs” who bought state industries for pennies on the dollar under Yeltsin.  Arab and other nations repeatedly ask that Israel nuclear facilities come under international inspections. So does the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed el-Baradei. United Nations General Assembly passes resolution that Israel join the nonproliferation treaty by a vote of 164-4. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tells Israeli newspaper that Israel will not dismantle its “special measures” because the U.S. will not remain in the Middle East forever.
    2004: Israel buys two more German submarines for delivering nuclear tipped cruise missiles, making a total of five.  Mordechai Vanunu’s prison term ending spring 2004….”

    Reply

  34. Susan Kidder says:

    Steve: Another very nice piece, and one that contains the kind of useful information that was formerly called investigative journalism. With the notable exceptions of Greg Palast and Seymour Hersch – an once again, praise the Lord, the Washington Post, this once seemed headed for extinction along with the polar bear. I’m increasingly optimistic that the genre might just be staging a comeback. 🙂

    Reply

  35. Sandy says:

    “…Israel is currently lobbying the United States to launch aerial strikes on Iran, despite the debacle in Lebanon.  Israel’s iron determination to forcibly prevent a nuclear Iran makes it probable that before the end of the Bush administration an attack on Iran will take place.  The efforts to halt nuclear development through diplomatic means have failed.  It does not matter that Iran poses no threat to the United States.  It does not matter that it does not even pose a threat to Israel, which has several hundred nuclear weapons in its arsenal.  It matters only that Israel demands total military domination of the Middle East. 
    The alliance between Israel and the United States has culminated after 50 years in direct U.S. military involvement in the Middle East.  This involvement, which is not furthering American interests, is unleashing a geopolitical nightmare. 
    American soldiers and Marines are dying in droves in a useless war. 
    The impotence of the United States in the face of Israeli pressure is complete. 
    The White House and the Congress have become, for perhaps the first time, a direct extension of Israeli interests. 
    There is no longer any debate within the United States. 
    This is evidenced by the obsequious nods to Israel by all the current presidential candidates with the exception of Dennis Kucinich. 
    The political cost for those who challenge Israel is too high. 
    This means there will be no peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 
    It means the incidents of Islamic terrorism against the U.S. and Israel will grow. 
    It means that American power and prestige are on a steep, irreversible decline.
      And I fear it also means the ultimate end of the Jewish experiment in the Middle East. 
    The weakening of the United States, economically and militarily, is giving rise to new centers of power. 
    The U.S. economy, mismanaged and drained by the Iraq war, is increasingly dependent on Chinese trade imports and on Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasury securities.  China holds dollar reserves worth $825 billion.  If Beijing decides to abandon the U.S. bond market, even in part, it would cause a free fall by the dollar.  It would lead to the collapse of the $7-trillion U.S. real estate market.  There would be a wave of U.S. bank failures and huge unemployment.  The growing dependence on China has been accompanied by aggressive work by the Chinese to build alliances with many of the world’s major exporters of oil, such as Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and Venezuela.  The Chinese are preparing for the looming worldwide clash over dwindling resources. 
    The future is ominous. 
    Not only do Israel’s foreign policy objectives not coincide with American interests, they actively hurt them. 
    The growing belligerence in the Middle East, THE CALLS FOR AN ATTACK AGAINST IRAN, the collapse of the imperial project in Iraq have all given an opening, where there was none before, to America’s rivals.
      It is not in Israel’s interests to ignite a regional conflict.  It is not in ours. 
    But those who have their hands on the wheel seem determined, in the name of freedom and democracy, to keep the American ship of state headed at breakneck speed into the cliffs before us.” 
    http://tinyurl.com/2v5oln

    Reply

  36. Sandy says:

    Neo-conned again, eh? Buying into the obvious propaganda ….just like the lies spewed forth during the run-up to the War on Iraq! They are beating the war drums…. MORE WAR….WAR…WAR…. Who is it who would be…..who is….foolish enough to listen….and buy into it….AGAIN?
    You must truly not understand the depth of the Bush-Cheney crimes to be sucked into it…..AGAIN!!!
    http://tinyurl.com/36doj9
    “…The latest official effort to blame-blame Iran so that perhaps we can bomb-bomb Iran revolves around new claims by Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner that the deaths of five American soldiers in Karbala in January were actually plotted by Iranian militants. Gordon’s breathless article first appeared on the Times’ site yesterday with absolutely no caveats – revealing his true motives and standards. ‘In effect, American officials are charging that Iran has been engaged in a proxy war against American forces for years,’ Gordon declared.
    Perhaps even his editors were concerned or embarrassed. The same story suddenly gained a couple of qualifiers, though not nearly enough, later yesterday (first spotted by Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald), and then got enlarged somewhat today, and with the byline of John F. Burns added to Gordon’s.
    …The story even has a lead character reminiscent of “Curveball” and “Baseball Cap Guy” from Judy Miller’s reporting on Iraq in 2003.
    Our new star informer is a Lebanese citizen named Ali Musa Daqdug aka “Hamid the Mute” who supposedly (this is all coming from Gen. Bergner) has a “24-year history in Hezbollah….
    The Times article contains a number of howlers delivered with all seriousness. Here’s one: “General Bergner, seemingly keen to avoid a renewal of the criticism that the American command has used the allegations of Iranian interference here to lend momentum to the Bush administration’s war policy, declined to draw any broader political implications….”
    That’s topped by this, in explaining that “Hamid the Mute” had suddenly started talking:
    And WHO IS GEN. BERGNER? He arrived in Iraq just a few weeks ago from his previous job, as SPECIAL ASSISTANT — to PRESIDENT BUSH IN THE WHITE HOUSE….”
    Aluminum tubes, mushroom clouds, WMD — CURVEBALL….
    Judy Miller…..Michael Gordon….
    What is it now? 3,600 soldiers and marines DEAD?
    Maybe they can begin their SIXTH tour of duty …..so they can provide the targets (on their backs) in Iraq…..when Iran retaliates …..for the NUCLEAR BOMBING OF IRAN….
    that Joe Lieberman, Israel’s radicals and ours: BUSH AND CHENEY….are itching to do.
    Then it’ll be HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF AMERICAN KIDS DEAD
    FOR THESE CRIMINALLY INSANE MADMEN!
    PLEASE!

    Reply

  37. PissedOffAmerican says:

    There Is A Revolution Coming
    A. Alexander, July 4th, 2007
    The woman wore her hair short, professionally styled and highlighted; the nails on her hands were expertly manicured; and the frames of her designer glasses perfectly complimented both the tint of her hair and the tone of her skin. Still, the color coordinated medical scrubs she wore and her new Toyota SUV aside, the woman was obviously some kind of left-wing radical.
    Actually, she was the furthest thing from any wing at all. The woman was the smack-dab center of Middle America, but that isn’t how she would have been presented by big business interests, America’s corporate-owned media, the Republican Party and its associated radio propagandists. I know how she would have been labeled because when she overheard me mention Michael Moore’s new movie, “SiCKO,” she said, “Oh, is it playing here? Where? I want to go see it.” And, there was more.
    This woman, this medical professional and Toyota SUV-driving middle-aged woman, immediately upon expressing her desire to see “SiCKO,” furled her brow and said, “My son called the other night. Boy, he was really upset. Did you know they plan on opening the highway from Mexico to the Canadian border, so that Mexican-owned trucks can haul products through our country? Many of those trucks aren’t safe, but our government doesn’t care about what’s safe or what might injure or kill us. All they care about is maximizing corporate profits.
    “Know what else about it upsets me? It was never mentioned on the news.”
    “Of course,” I said, “the corporate-owned media ignores a lot of things that might reflect poorly upon big business’ image or things that could hurt profit share.”
    “You got that right,” the woman fired back. “I’m just so sick of it!”
    An hour later, as I sat in the movie theater watching Moore’s “SiCKO” and listened to the angry whispers, tearful sniffles, deep sighs, nervous laughter, and occasional expression of outright outrage, it dawned on me: There’s a revolution coming!
    America’s corporate boardrooms, Wall Street insiders, K-Street’s lobbyists, and bought-n-paid-for inside-the-beltway career politicians in both parties are clueless as they are blind, but there is a revolution coming.
    Something is happening in America. It is as though the old spiritual has come to pass: “I once was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind, but now I see.” Perhaps, it was the corporate-owned media and government’s shameless exploitation of 9/11; or the lies told to sell the Iraq War; or having to watch as power-mad men used every hyped moment of fear as an excuse to take away one more liberty; or being told the economy was great, while homes were being foreclosed; or maybe it was an accumulation of everything? Whatever “IT” was, “IT” has conspired to create not “A” single “I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore,” Howard Beale, but rather an entire nation of Howard Beales that are on the verge of … on the cusp of … on the brink of … REVOLUTION!
    One suspects that during the post-9/11 terror-scare campaigns and in the selling of the Iraq War; the Bush administration, Republican Party, big business, and the corporate-owned media overplayed their hands. They had become so certain in their ability to con the people into buying whatever myth and fantasy they were selling that the great magicians stopped trying to hide their slight of hand and instead, overplayed it.
    Whatever it was exactly, only history will tell. What is certain, however, is that the American people have figured out that there is no pea under any of the shells being moved about upon the table. Whatever big business, corporate-owned media and the political parties hope to sell, nobody is buying. The people have caught onto the swindle. There is a revolution coming.
    The only question now, is whether or not the revolution takes place at the ballot box or with bullets and blood in the streets? The answer will depend upon the choices made by big business, the corporate-owned media, and inside-the-beltway bought-n-paid-for politicians. One thing is dead certain though, there is a revolution coming.
    Don’t believe me … don’t take my word for it: The woman wore her hair short, professionally styled and highlighted; the nails on her hands were expertly manicured; and the frames of her designer glasses perfectly complimented both the tint of her hair and the tone of her skin. She was the smack-dab center of Middle America and she was mad as Hell. And, as her color-coordinated medical scrubs disappeared behind the door of her new Toyota SUV, I knew there was a revolution coming.
    Only delusional fools lost in a denial born of arrogance, would dare to pass her off as some kind of radical. There is a revolution coming.
    http://progressivedailybeacon.com/more.php?page=opinion&id=1596

    Reply

  38. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Everytime I sign off from here nowadays, I have an aftertaste of Kool-Aid.
    It amazes me that anyone can actually present foreign policy ideas, or hypothesis about world events and how they are affecting America, while completely ignoring the depth of corruption that has infected Washington. NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, that comes out of Washington these days is to be believed. Motives are lied about, misrepresented. Intelligence is lied about, manipulated. Tranlations are purposely perverted. Criminality and corruption is rewarded. the Law is oipenly shat upon. The constitution ignored. Honesty and conviction belittled and swiftboated. Washington is a fucking mess, a writhing mass of posturing lying self serving treasonous snakes.
    I never thought I’d say it, but I no longer give a flying fuck about Iran, or about any other so called hot international issue. This country is in deep shit. Not in Iran, but in Washington DC. And if we don’t do something about DC, it simply isn’t going to matter what we do elsewhere, because this nation, this so called Democracy, is going right down the crapper. And the only “security” is going to be for these elitist scumbag bastards selling us down the river.

    Reply

  39. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Maybe the Iaranians just got sick of their nuclear anbitions being lied about, Ahmadenijad’s public pronouncements being misquoted because of purposely inaccurate translations, and the constant litany of threats issuing forth from Israel and the United States.
    Ya think?
    Maybe we should just stop letting Israel determine who the good guys and the bad guys are, and let them solve their own self-made problems, sans our dime and our killing machines.
    Maybe it would be a good idea if Iran DID get nukes, because it would discourage these monsters in the leadership posts of Israel and Washington from being so loose and fancyfree with their threats and meddling.
    Maybe if theres really a terrorist threat we should secure our borders and spend the money HERE instead of on Bush’s treasonous military adventures in the Middle East.
    Maybe this country has gone to Fascism, and it doesn’t matter what we the people think.

    Reply

  40. daCascadian says:

    Thanks Steve for the interesting information
    I`m wondering, in that picture, if he is using his head piece to hide his horns…
    Happy Declaration Day to all those in favor of real liberty for all
    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

    Reply

  41. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The Media…
    “BOO!!!!! Look over there, its the nasty Muslimonsters!!!!”
    Our Leaders…
    “Quick Dick, fuck the people again, while we got ’em distracted.”
    Crime and Non-Punishment
    Libby pardon sends a message – and it isn’t pretty…
    by Justin Raimondo
    In commuting Scooter Libby’s sentence so that the vice president’s former chief of staff won’t spend a minute in jail, the president is sending a message, one that, while going out to multiple recipients, consists of a sentiment succinctly summed up in two words: Screw you!
    The first recipient is the general public, which is being disabused of the notion that America is a country without an aristocracy. As chief prosecutor Patrick J. “Bulldog” Fitzgerald averred: “It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals.” Yet the commutation – and the Bushies still haven’t ruled out a total pardon – tells a different story, one that presents a much more realistic picture of what life in post-9/11 America is all about.
    While the rest of us – the serfs – are at the mercy of such laws as the PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act [.pdf], and the extensive surveillance and snooping authorized by a Congress that has betrayed its constitutional mandate, our rulers – and especially the philosopher-kings of the neoconservative sect – are exempt. The president’s action merely confirms the neocons’ worldview, which, according to their guru, the philosopher-cult figure Leo Strauss, places a few “enlightened” souls far above us common everyday folk. According to Straussian doctrine, these Wise Men – our leaders – are the possessors of a secret knowledge, which is dangerous for ordinary men, but in their hands is a Force for Good. Their wisdom is so potentially subversive that they are forced to speak in code. When Scooter’s “turning aspens” missive to Judy Miller showed up, John Dickerson, writing at Slate.com, reported:
    “Scooter may have been playing with coded meanings that most of us are too dull to see. This suspicion arises naturally because of Libby’s connection with Straussianism. Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish political philosopher, is seen by many as one of the intellectual fathers of neoconservatism. Wolfowitz, Libby’s teacher at Yale, was a graduate student at the University of Chicago during Strauss’ ascendancy, and Libby won membership into that conservative club via Wolfowitz. Part of Strauss’ teaching is that ancient philosophers wrote on two levels: for the mumbling masses, but also, and often in contradiction of the literal message, on an ‘esoteric’ level that only initiates could make out.”
    This explains the downright weird arguments being made by Scooter’s defenders, who must be writing in some obscure Bizarro World code, where the meaning of commonly accepted ideas and even words is inverted. Take, for instance, the president, who writes,
    “I have said throughout this process that it would not be appropriate to comment or intervene in this case until Mr. Libby’s appeals have been exhausted. But with the denial of bail being upheld and incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react to that decision.”
    Translation: I lied.
    Telling a lie isn’t a sin, in the Straussian handbook: told by the Right People, for the “right” self-serving reasons, deception is a virtue. The unwashed masses, you see, can’t handle the Truth.
    Continuing with the president’s coded message:
    “From the very beginning of the investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name, I made it clear to the White House staff and anyone serving in my administration that I expected full cooperation with the Justice Department. Dozens of White House staff and administration officials dutifully cooperated.”
    Except for Scooter Libby. Instead of cooperating, Libby lied: he “threw sand in the faces” of investigators, as Fitzgerald put it, and consequently, their view of the conspiracy to “out” CIA covert agent Valerie Plame was obscured. George W. Bush, you’ll recall, vowed to fire anyone who failed to cooperate. Now he’s rewarded Libby for his lies.
    Surely this presidential missive is written in Straussian code, or else what do we make of the following?
    “After the investigation was under way, the Justice Department appointed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a Special Counsel in charge of the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is a highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged.”
    Translation: Fitz, you did a good job – and now I’m going to undo it.
    The president then goes into a “on the one hand, critics say, on the other hand, Scooter’s defenders say” routine, in which he manages to repeat most of the neocons’ talking points – it was Richard Armitage who was the “real” leaker, Plame wasn’t covert, etc. – which I won’t bother refuting here, except via hyperlinks. The meat of Bush’s argument, however, is another Straussian enigma, wrapped in a riddle: “Our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth, and if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable.” In spite of all this, and although “I respect the jury’s verdict,”
    “I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.”
    Translation: I have utter contempt for the jury, the judge, the entire legal system that puts Libby – one of My Guys – on the same level as all the rest of you plebeians.
    It’s funny, but Scooter and his legal team didn’t seem like one of Bush’s guys in the earlier stages of the trial. Back then, you’ll remember, they were threatening [.pdf] to call Dick Cheney and a whole platoon of administration insiders to the stand and force them to testify under oath, which – given that Scooter was covering up for one or more of them – opened up the possibility of more prosecutions. Initial sessions of the trial underscored the rising tensions between the White House and the office of the vice president, starting with the defense’s opening statement, which blamed Libby’s legal predicament on… Karl Rove!
    Then, all of a sudden, the Libby legal team changed course, quieted down, and delivered what can only be described as a perfunctory effort to defend their client. In retrospect, it looks like their strategy, which might be described as the Samson option, worked: promise us a pardon, and Scooter will take the rap.
    Faced with two-and-a-half years of hard time, would Scooter have talked? This, of course, is why prosecutors seek maximum jail terms: it helps persuade convicted felons that their best interests would be served by spilling the beans. And what a story Scooter would have told, or, rather, might have told – if only the president hadn’t intervened.
    That’s one scenario, and not a totally incredible one.
    Oh yes, before I forget: the second recipient of Bush’s message-in-a-commutation-bottle is the GOP, the fate of which Bush couldn’t care less about. With the issuing of this de facto pardon, he’s basically telling his putative Republican successors to go take a hike. Naturally, the Democrats are competing with each other in their eagerness to condemn the president’s action and pin it on his party. This has its comic aspects, such as Hillary getting up on her high horse and issuing a blast of self-righteous rage – to which the only proper response is: Marc Rich.
    Rich’s lawyer, you probably don’t remember, was Scooter Libby. Yes, the aspens do indeed turn in clusters.

    Reply

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