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.

Jumblatt shoots his mouth off

BEIRUT — Well, this is just great. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said that reconciliation with Hezbollah was “impossible” because the Shi’ite militant group wants to replace the current pluralist state and society of Lebanon.
This is bunk. I have my criticisms of Hezbollah, but they don’t want to take over the whole country. For one, they don’t want the responsibility. They want to be a resistance movement fighting the Israelis; they don’t want to be in charge of filling potholes in Tariq el-Jdeide. They want enough power within the current system to guarantee the south remains theirs, so they can move freely in and out of it and keep their weapons, which is the real base of their power. Does anyone think Iran and Syria would continue to finance them if they weren’t such an effective tool against Israel? If Hezbollah had no weapons, then they have no money. If they have no money, they have no ability to support their social services, which are a strong draw to Lebanon’s poorer Shi’ite population. Without that loyalty, they’re nothing — and Hezbollah knows it. As Hezbollah sees it, they _have_ to protect their weapons if they want to remain politically viable.
But back to Jumblatt (or “Jumbo” as he’s affectionately know to local journalists). He’s long had a reputation as a dial-a-quote politician/warlord, but he represents one of the smallest communities in Lebanon. (Druze make up maybe 5 percent of the population.)
What’s dangerous about his comments, however, is that he’s listened to by the rank and file of March 14, and his comments can harden attitudes to any kind of compromise — which is sorely needed these days. Hezbollah ain’t going away, and it has to be integrated into the Lebanese political system somehow — fully and nonviolently. Jumblatt’s comments make that more difficult.
At any rate, his comments came in the wake of the disturbing discovery of two caches of explosives and detonation fuses scattered around Beirut and the rest of the country. Perhaps someone was just trying to dump them, but it’s set the place on edge. Careless comments from political leaders are not the best way to calm the situation.

A response to the Jerusalem Post

BEIRUT — A response is in order to the Jeruasalem Post‘s story today, in which Michael Totten is interviewed and my name comes up in the article.
The _Post_ says, “Chris Allbritton, who sometimes works for Time Magazine, briefly mentioned on his blog during the war that several journalists he knows were threatened by Hizbullah because of what they were writing.”
Let’s look at what I “actually wrote”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2006/07/tales_from_the_south_sort_of.php:

To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loathe to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one.

In a “follow-up post”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2006/08/silence.php, I expanded on this, as this one comment was taken completely the wrong way by many, many right-wing blogs and publications (Such as Totten’s and the JPost.)
The beginning of my response was this:

Let’s set aside that the Lebanese Internal Security also has photocopies of our passports. The reason for the hassling and the threat was that a reporter had filmed or described either a launching site or Hezbollah positions. (I’m not sure which.) To the best of my knowledge, that’s been the extent of the hassling. I’m going to get in trouble for this, but I think it’s a reasonable restriction. This is the exact same restrictions placed on journalists by the Israeli army and by the Americans in Iraq. I don’t think threatening journalists is cool at all, and it certainly doesn’t endear me to them, but that has been the extent of Hezbollah’s interference in our coverage.

You can read the rest of it, and I hope you do, “here”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2006/08/silence.php.

Why didn’t you say so?

A retired general who resigned in protest of the war speaks up! … three years too late.

TIME Magazine is running what it calls a “full-throated” critique of the Iraq war by Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold (Ret.) He’s one of two generals who opposed the plans before the war, calling the Iraq war “unnecessary” and a distraction from Afghanistan. As he says, “I would gladly have traded my general’s stars for a captain’s bars to lead our troops into Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”
So opposed was he that he resigned his position as director of operations for the Join Chiefs four months before the war … and then kept his mouth shut until now.

I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice.

Well, gee, forgive me if I don’t think he should be given a lot of credit. If he was so opposed to the war, why did he stay silent? Why did he sit by for three years while others “paid in blood” for what he feels is a flawed policy? It’s easy to be opposed to the war now. Why come out now? A clue is here:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent statement that “we” made the “right strategic decisions” but made thousands of “tactical errors” is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.

It’s a valiant sentiment to support the men and women fighting the war, and his critiques of Condi’s statement and Rumsfeld’s micromanaging is dead on. But we’ve heard all this before. Anyone following the war can see it’s being run poorly from the big office at the Pentagon and that the civilian leadership has done everything to push blame elsewhere. Again, why now? Why didn’t you say something earlier, Lt. Gen. Newbold, once you were *retired* and could without fear of retaliation? You blame others for timidity or thick-headedness. “A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent.”
And, incredibly, you go on to blame Congress and the the media.

Members of Congress — from both parties — defaulted in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility for oversight. Many in the media saw the warning signs and heard cautionary tales before the invasion from wise observers like former Central Command chiefs Joe Hoar and Tony Zinni but gave insufficient weight to their views. These are the same news organizations that now downplay both the heroic and the constructive in Iraq.

Nice, cheap shots. Republicans controlled Congress and were in lockstep with the Bushies. The Dems, as minorities, have almost no power to exercise oversight. A high-profile resignation of — oh, I don’t know — maybe the Joint Chiefs’ director of operations might have provided them some political cover to get something done. And, gee, maybe it might have gotten some attention from the media, who then might have given Zinni and others’ more weight. And now you say we downplay the heroic and the constructive. “Is this the kind of heroism you mean?”:http://www.time.com/time/archive/printout/0,23657,1174682,00.html
Don’t lecture us about heroism and constructive roles to play, Lt. Gen. Newbold *(Ret.)* You could have done something then, and you didn’t. You could have been a powerful symbol, even if you would have taken a lot of flak from your old bosses. You say officers swore an oath to the Constitution, not the men appointed above them, yet you betrayed it with your three-year silence. It’s been said that for evil to triumph, all it takes is for good men to do nothing. Well, you did nothing. You don’t get to be considered good now.