John Bolton at it again

Former U.N. envoy John Bolton is making the rounds of the talk shows — including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart — making deeply dishonest statements that include the whopper that President Bush never made the case that Iraq was an imminent threat. He’s also out charging that regime change is necessary in Iran and boasting that the U.S. delayed the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah last year because it hoped the Jewish state would defeat the Shi’ite militant group.
Who let this guy out of his cave?
He must have a book to sell, because I thought he had slunk off into ignoble obscurity after his term at the U.N. expired and it was made clear to Bush that his re-appointment would not be approved. Apparently not.
His first statement, today, on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, was the one that Bush never made the case that Iraq was an “imminent threat.” This is an old one, and one easily disproved, for while Bush may not have uttered the words, “imminent,” “threat” and “Iraq” in the same sentence, the “first result”:http://www.ph.ucla.edu/EPI/bioter/iraqimminent.html on “Google”:http://news.google.com/news?q=bush%20iraq%20imminent%20threat&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&um=1&sa=N&tab=wn reveals a _Los Angeles Times” story after his 2003 State of the Union Address headlined, “Bush Calls Iraq Imminent Threat.”
The Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank, has assembled a “collection of quotes”:http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/kfiles/b24970.html from administration officials who affirmed that Iraq was, indeed, an “imminent threat.”
For example:

“The world is also uniting to answer the *unique and urgent threat* posed by Iraq whose dictator has already used weapons of mass destruction to kill thousands.”

— President Bush, 11/23/02

“The Iraqi regime is a *serious and growing threat* to peace.”

— President Bush, 10/16/02

“The Iraqi regime is a threat of *unique urgency*.”

— President Bush, 10/2/02

There are others, from such Bush administration luminaries such as Donald Rumsfeld — “Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent … I would not be so certain” (9/18/02) — and official spokesman, Scott McClellan — “This is about imminent threat” (2/10/03).
So, once again, Bolton is just wrong: deeply, profoundly wrong. And so was I. From my perch outside the United States — I’ve been away for several years now — I had the impression that the neo-cons were diminished or on the run, that the right-wing noise machine was winding down and that American television journalism had developed a least a modicum of skepticism toward the Bush administration. (Thankfully Jon Stewart’s interview with Bolton — while gracious — was at least more hard hitting.)
Turning to Iran, he again goes on to say regime change is necessary and wanted by Iranians. “In an interview”:http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3380195,00.html with Ynetnews.com, he says:

“I think there are a lot of Iranians that are unsatisfied with the regime, I think that there is more unrest there than what people believe, I think that the government is constrained because of the fall of oil prices and there is mismanagement of the oil sector of Iran’s economy, they’ve got fewer resources to spread around to keep the populous happy.
“There’s a large Iranian diaspora that know what the situation is. So, I think that there are a lot of possibilities. It won’t necessarily be easy or quick, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t be pursuing it.
“In think it’s very close to the point where Iran will have completely indigenous mastery over the fuel sites, that is to say the point in which stopping the things from the outside will not be sufficient, so I don’t think we have much time. That’s why all these negotiations with the Europeans have played to Iran’s advantage, because time is on their side, time is not on our side.”
How can the Iranian regime be toppled?
“Well, I wish we had started four years ago, but I think through internal dissent and outside pressure, those in general terms are what we have to do.” (Emphasis added)

Are people in Washington still talking about changing the regime change in Iran? I mean, honestly? And listening to the Iranian diaspora? That worked so well with the Iraqi diaspora, as led by Ahmad Chalabi.
And finally, Bolton admits to what everyone in Lebanon already knew: That the U.S. dragged its feet in calling for a cease-fire — allowing Lebanese civilians to be slaughtered — so that Israel might have some more time to finish off Hezbollah.
As reported by the BBC, an early cease-fire, he said, would be “dangerous and misguided.”
It was only when it was obvious that the Shi’ite group would be a tougher enemy to beat that initially thought did America sign on to a cessation of hostilities.
Thank goodness his time is up.

Moral Shame and Humiliation

George Packer has another great and heartbreaking story out in this week’s _New Yorker_. It’s about the Iraqi translators and workers who signed up for the American rebuilding project in Iraq but who are now being thrown to the wolves by the United States. I mentioned this “a couple of posts back”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2007/03/language_in_iraq_on_the_radar.php, but George’s “full story is worth a full and thoughtful read”:http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/26/070326fa_fact_packer?printable=true.
As he puts it:

Between October, 2005, and September, 2006, the United States admitted two hundred and two Iraqis as refugees, most of them from the years under Saddam. Last year, the Bush Administration increased the allotment to five hundred. By the end of 2006, there were almost two million Iraqis living as refugees outside their country — most of them in Syria and Jordan. American policy held that these Iraqis were not refugees, that they would go back to their country as soon as it was stabilized. The U.S. Embassies in Damascus and Amman continued to turn down almost all visa applications from Iraqis. So the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world remained hidden, receiving little attention other than in a few reports from organizations like Human Rights Watch and Refugees International.

Of course, the reason the Iraqis are being treated like this is because the Bush administration refuses to admit that Iraq isn’t a abattoir of its making. And there is insult to the injury the Iraqis are facing. At least one Iraqi employee of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was refused entry to the U.S. because he had paid a ransom to kidnappers, violating the “material support” clause of the Patriot Act.
One of the heroes of the story is a USAID worker named Kirk Johnson, who grew disillusioned with life in the Green Zone and asked to be transferred to Fallujah. I think I met Johnson when “I was in Fallujah in Nov. 2005”:http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1126748,00.html, but I’m not sure. Regardless, he has been a driving force in getting the U.S. to open its doors more to Iraqi refugees, with the highest priority given to those who worked for the U.S. and are now in the most danger.
“This is the brink right now, where our partners over there are running for their lives,” he said to George. “I defy anyone to give me the counter-argument for why we shouldn’t let these people in.” He then quoted something President Gerald Ford once said regarding his decision to admit a hundred and thirty thousand Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon: “To do less would have added moral shame to humiliation.”

l’Affaire Sayyed?

BEIRUT — In the “boy, that’s chutzpah” category, former director of the Lebanese Surete Generale (General Security), Jamil Sayyed, has made a new appeal for his release by calling for a “Lebanese Emile Zola” to stand up for him. If you’re not familiar with that reference, Zola was the writer who defended the falsely accused Alfred Dreyfuss in the ugly “l’Affaire Dreyfuss” in France in the late 19th century, which saw the Jewish French Army captain wrongly imprisoned for treason.

It occurred in a time of virulent anti-Jewish sentiment in France at the time — as was common in most of Europe, frankly — and while it wasn’t the whole reason for Dreyfuss’ problems, his being from a wealthy and old Jewish family didn’t help matters.

Zola’s role in this was to publish his famous open letter — the J’Accuse! letter — in the hopes of sparking a libel trial and getting the facts out on Dreyfuss. It worked, and Dreyfuss was eventually acquitted, released and went on to become a knight in the Legion d’Honneur and fight for France in World War I.

Sayyed, on the other hand, was a much-feared individual before the end of the Syrian occupation in 2005, and ran one of the more powerful and fearsome security services in the country. Many, many Lebanese dissidents were thrown in jail and tortured under his watch. A lot of them died.

That he is now comparing himself to Dreyfuss must be one of the more ironic developments in Lebanon, a country largely lacking in ability to perceive irony. If there’s any hope of justice in the world, l’Affaire Sayyed will have a markedly different ending from the one 109 years ago — and one worth remembering, too.

Failure to Communicate

A former translator in Iraq, Dustin Langan, wrote me today to tip me off about an interesting read in Radar, about the lack of good translators in Iraq. He was recruited by MZM Inc., one of the companies connected with the “Duke” Cunningham corruption scandal, to work in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, and he has some good points to make.

One that is personally dear to me is the treatment of the Iraqi translators. As he says:

[Iraqi translators] have been treated terribly. They’ve been killed. They have not been protected. They have not received visas or anything. They’re being killed at very high rates. The result is many people now in Iraq think if you work with the coalition you’re an idiot, because you’re working with someone who doesn’t care about you, and then you’re killed.

I’ve known a few ‘terps, as they’re called, and my friend George Packer has made this one of his major concerns. It should be one that makes every feeling American — whether you supported the war or not — ashamed at how we’re treating these people.

Anyway, it’s a good interview. Thanks for the tip, Dustin!