Helen thomas savages Ari Fleischer

Pow! Blammo! Sock-o! Helen Thomas proves herself the Mighty Fightin’ Journo as she body slams Ari “The Assassin” Fleischer in this exchange during a Jan. 6 White House press briefing. Ari never laid a glove on her.

fleischer.jpgAri Fleischer took a savage beating from the feisty dean of the Washington press corps, Helen Thomas. Be sure and dig Ari’s spinning, and the insidious idea that the Iraqis are somehow respsonsible for Saddam Hussein. Comments by me in italics.
January 6, 2003
12:35 P.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon and happy New Year to everybody. The President began his day with an intelligence briefing, followed by an FBI briefing. Then he had a series of policy briefings. And this afternoon, the President will look forward to a Cabinet meeting where the President will discuss with members of his Cabinet his agenda for the year. The President is going to focus on economic growth, making America a more compassionate country, and providing for the security of our nation abroad and on the homefront.
And with that, I’m more than happy to take your questions. Helen.
Q At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up.
Here’s the setup.
MR. FLEISCHER: I refer specifically to a horrible terrorist attack on Tel Aviv that killed scores and wounded hundreds. And the President, as he said in his statement yesterday, deplores in the strongest terms the taking of those lives and the wounding of those people, innocents in Israel.
Q My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?
Pow. He really should have seen this one coming.
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends —
Q They’re not attacking you.
MR. FLEISCHER: — from a country —
Q Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?
MR. FLEISCHER: I guess you have forgotten about the Americans who were killed in the first Gulf War as a result of Saddam Hussein’s aggression then.
I guess Ari is forgetting that of the 148 Americans who died in the first Gulf War, 35 were killed by “friendly fire,” more than 10 times the rate in other 20th century wars. And what about those Canadian troops who died in Afghanistan after a U.S. pilot bombed them?
Q Is this revenge, 11 years of revenge?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I think you know very well that the President’s position is that he wants to avert war, and that the President has asked the United Nations to go into Iraq to help with the purpose of averting war.
Actually, he’s asked the U.N. to go in to find reasons to justify war.
Q Would the President attack innocent Iraqi lives?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants to make certain that he can defend our country, defend our interests, defend the region, and make certain that American lives are not lost.
Q And he thinks they are a threat to us?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question that the President thinks that Iraq is a threat to the United States.
Q The Iraqi people?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Iraqi people are represented by their government. If there was regime change, the Iraqi —
OK. So the Iraqis are now responsible for Saddam Hussein, since he was “elected” in a farce ballot back in October.
Q So they will be vulnerable?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, the President has made it very clear that he has no dispute with the people of Iraq. That’s why the American policy remains a policy of regime change. There is no question the people of Iraq —
Oops! Now they’re not represented by Saddam Hussein, who is evil. EVIL we tell you.
Q That’s a decision for them to make, isn’t it? It’s their country.
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don’t think that has been what history has shown.
Helen, when it comes to being in a position to dictate who dictates in a country, that’s the United States’ job, you hippie freak
Q I think many countries don’t have — people don’t have the decision — including us.
I was thinking the same thing.

Bush to meet with Iraqi opposition; Saddam’s survival and U.S. politics

Russian President Vladimir Putin has twice put the brakes on Russian military-backed coup plans to remove Saddam Hussein and avert a war, which would be contrary to Russia’s interests in the region. U.N. inspectors are finding “no smoking gun” and the United States’ war plans are becoming murky indeed.
If Saddam manages to last through 2003, he will become a factor in U.S. presidential politics — to George W. Bush’s detriment.

Stratfor is reporting that Bush is set to meet with Iraqi opposition groups such as the Iraqi National Congress to discuss plans for a post-Saddam Iraq. There are, as yet, no further details.
Stratfor is also reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin has twice put the brakes on Russian military-backed coup plans to remove Saddam Hussein and avert a war, which would be contrary to Russia’s interests in the region:

In an interview published Jan. 9, Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, told the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets that the United States should “remove” Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein instead of launching a massive attack that would lead to civilian casualties. “I often tell the American military, ‘You call Iraq and North Korea rogue nations. You don’t like Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il or somebody else,'” he said. “‘But what people have to do with that? Isn’t it simpler to remove one person instead of pouncing upon innocent people with all military might?'”

The Russian military is understandibly upset with Putin about this, but he was worried because the candidates to replace Saddam were not pro-U.S. enough for Washington’s tastes. Putin is caught between his military, which hopes to keep Russian influence strong in a region where it has traditionally had deep ties, and his desire to be seen as a pro-Western ally. I reported on this here on Dec. 1, 2002.
Of course, all of this is taking place in the context of United Nations arms inspectors faulting Baghdad for its half-assed cooperation while at the same time saying they have found no “smoking gun” indicating that they think Baghdad is lying about something. (There have also been some reports that Iraq has transferred its nuke/bio/chem arsenal to Syria, but I find this doubtful.) This delay of game sheme is no doubt Saddam’s plan: Appear to cooperate just enough to keep the sympathy of U.N. Security Council allies France and Russia and stall for time in an effort to drive a wedge between the Anglo-American Axis and everyone else. If Saddam can keep the U.N. from greenlighting an invasion in February or March 2003, it’s likely he could see the end of this year in the same position as he is now: On a knife’s edge, but still in power.
Of course, by the end of 2003, the presidential election will be in full force. While Saddam may not be able to forestall a U.S. invasion forever, he would relish the idea of his presence becoming a major factor in U.S. presidential politics. Were Saddam to still be loitering about at the start of 2004, Bush would appear weakened and vulnerable. After a year of saber-rattling, I predict the American people will not be kind to Bush II, who might suffer the same fate as his father.
This would be a delicious irony for Saddam. After two years of threats from the United States, it would be the son of his nemesis who left the battlefield not him. It is this thought that makes it imperative for Bush to act sooner rather than later. The last thing Bush wants is to turn Saddam in to the Castro of the Middle East (which he’s well on his way to doing on his own.) I think we’ll see a sorta-kinda declaration of war in Bush’s Jan. 28 State of the Union speech, which falls a day after Hans Blix, chief U.N. arms inspector, is to deliver his report on Baghdad’s weapons program. Whether the rest of the world will get behind America in the absence of a “smoking gun” remains to be seen. I predict this will get a lot murkier before the end game becomes clear.

My absence

My apologies for my lack of posting for the last two weeks or so. I’ve been tied up with the Christmas holidays, other freelancing assignments and the 2003 CES show in Las Vegas. I will return to New York (and a “normal” life) on Saturday and will begin a more robust posting schedule.

My apologies for my lack of posting for the last two weeks or so. While there has been a lot of news on three fronts (domestic civil rights, Iraq and North Korea), I’ve been tied up with the Christmas holidays, other freelancing assignments and the 2003 CES show in Las Vegas. I will return to New York (and a “normal” life) on Saturday and will begin a more robust posting schedule.
Thank you all for your continued reading, and I will give you more stuff in the coming days.