An Ideological Purge By Angry Right Bloggers

Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) trails his Club for Growth-sponsored, sure-loser primary challenger Steve Laffey by 51-34. Unlike the Lieberman race this ideological purge actually will have the effect of changing the party affiliation of that seat, assuming that the CT for Lieberman party keeps its promise to caucus with Dems. The self-destructive pathology behind this purge adds that extra layer of meaning which should bump this up to a top-tier news story right? Um, no.

Some days I wonder whether many in the news media personally identify with Lieberman, so that his defeat is theirs. They certainly seem to overlap in perspective on the Iraq war (count the war critics on major Sunday chat shows, 2002 until today. you might need both hands). That would explain why they follow some primary races with a consuming passion and ignore others, even though the basic narrative is more or less the same.

(*) The actual role of bloggers in the Laffey challenge is minimal. But so was their role in Lieberman’s loss, as is shown by the many blogger-backed challenges that have gone nowhere. That hardly stopped major outlets from presenting the blogs as an inflexible ideological ratchet that singlehandedly drives moderates out of the party, a description that interestingly enough fits the Club for Growth to a T.








Thursday Open Thread








The Mobile Germ Labs That Never Were

The story of Saddam’s phantom mobile biolabs is a useful primer for anybody who wondered what the British meant when they said that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy (1,2,3, via Armchair Generalist).

It may be that we can trace back the idea of a mobile BW laboratory to Scott Ritter during his tour of duty in Iraq in 1998 with UNSCOM. Ritter was trying to obtain information from the Iraqi National Congress, specifically on Iraq’s intelligence agencies and WMD program. In 1998, he talked to Ahmed Chalabi about his suspicion that Saddam may have had mobile chemical or biological weapons labs, which would explain the UNSCOM’s lack of success in finding any evidence. In late 1999-2000, Curveball – the brother of a top lieutenant to Ahmed Chalabi – starts talking to the German intelligence about mobile Iraqi BW labs, who forwards this information to the CIA. At the same time, Chalabi is talking to Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith about the danger of Iraq’s “WMD program.”

So here we have a rumor started by a former U.S. marine supporting a UN inspection team, where he passes the idea to Chalabi, who passes it to German intel and U.S. defense officials, both of whom pass the story to the CIA. The agency develops graphics drawn by a U.S. contractor based on Curveball’s story and might have known of the mock-up BW lab built for SOCOM, both of which “confirms” the concept that Iraqi mobile BW labs exist, which leads to SecState Powell’s speech at the UN in February 2003 and the media’s echo chamber agreeing with the president that there’s enough evidence to go to war against Iraq.

Just how cynical do you have to be to stay ahead of these guys? Really.








A Dated Mindset

By now most have heard about Donald Rumsfeld’s latest Nazification of the war on terror, and the appropriate response from Keith Olbermann. Of course there is the unhealthy attachment that this administration and friends have for their Nazi analogies, but one thing struck me in particular about this new-old line of political damage control. The war against fascism ended over sixty years ago. If we want to bemoan pre-9/11 thinking then it seems appropriate to point out that we have leaders who can’t get themselves past the Eisenhower era.

Lest anybody think that I am joking, I mean that literally. Since the end of WWII America has experienced a series of wars that have not infrequently demonstrated the undesirability of war as an instrument of foreign policy. These people genuinely don’t get that. Our current leaders, from Cheney and Rumsfeld down through the neoconservatives come from that small band who still think we could have won Vietnam. To illustrate what I mean, recall that back in early 2001 the new administration thoroughly neglected non-state threats in order to focus on armed states like Iraq. That made no sense when al Qaeda had repeatedly attacked us and Iraq had not. At least it made no sense to people like Richard Clarke with contemporary experience in national security.

Where was the current Bush administration during the rise of international terror? In government exile and obsessing about the past, Vietnam and Iraq. In the 2000 election only one party’s platform mentioned al Qaeda at all. The other, unsurprisingly, mentioned Iraq (guess which). It takes a pre-1946 mindset to think that America’s enemies can be wrapped into a discernible border and bombed into submission, yet that exact theory has driven administration policy both before 9/11 and afterwards.

Rumsfeld’s inflammatory comments and doubtless those to come from Cheney and other administration attack dogs show a dangerous lack of appreciation for the distinct problems of security in the twenty-first century. We should expect better leadership than a band of retro thinkers who look at every threat and see Hitler.

***Update***

For example, Matt Yglesias makes a brief but significant point.

***Update***

It is worth pointing out that the same criticism applies to the administration’s space policy. Why has nobody gotten fired up about a Kennedy-era race to Mars? Maybe because the only contestant is us. If we want to demonstrate America’s unstoppable betterness in industry and engineering, maybe we should shoot for energy independence.








Yes Virginia, The Dixiecrats Are Still Around

These days they call themselves Republicans.

Everybody who didn’t see this story coming ten miles away, please turn in your pundit card*. Given George Allen’s fetishistic displays of the confederate flag at a time when doing so in southern California indicated pretty clearly how one felt about civil rights, a history of racist graffiti, the unexplained noose and of course the famous French slur it seems like Allen has done a piss-poor job of keeping his inner klansman on the inside. Chalk up one more guy who never will be president, and probably won’t remain a Senator either.

(*) Ha ha just kidding, the pundit card only gets revoked if you are right. See: critics, Iraq war.








Breaking News!

If, in the future, anyone ever simply comments ‘Who cares? Talk about something important!’ I will simply direct you to this post.