John Ashcroft

Bush loses lead in polls; Ashcroft raises spectre of terrorism

John Ashcroft emerged from his hidey-hole again yesterday to tout the indictment of another terrorist. Big deal — the terrorist has been in jail for almost a year!

A curious thing happened this summer as the Bush re-election campaign swung into high gear — all the lightning rods of the administration quietly faded away: Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Condi Rice.

Coincidence? Rarely in the Bush administration does anything happen by coincidence. No, this was clearly a deliberate strategy to reduce the visibility of administration members who most unnerve moderates and liberals in both parties. (Recognizing, of course, that moderates and liberals in the Republican party are an endangered species.) If they just stayed in the background, Karl Rove must have reasoned, we might just be taken in again by the Bush compassionate conservative charade.

And it almost worked. Since the Republican convention — Think carefully: Did you see Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, or Rice at the convention? — Bush regained his lead over Kerry in the polls.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the cakewalk: John Kerry soundly trounced Bush in the first presidential debate and chaos in Iraq has escalated. Once again the polls had the presidential contest a statistical dead heat.

Sajid Mohammad Badat
Sajid Mhammad Badat

Time to ratchet up the fear factor! There was Ashcroft announcing the indictment of Sajid Mohammad Badat, a British citizen, as a co-conspirator with Richard Reid, better known as the "shoe bomber." All the cable news channels cut away to broadcast Ashcroft's remarks live from the Justice Department.

This was hardly breaking news — Badat has been in jail in Britain since last November!

On Sunday,Condi Rice was all over the news talk shows insisting that it was right to go to war in Iraq because Saddam was a threat to the US, notwithstanding that the New York Times had published that very morning the revelation (see excerpt below) that the administration had suppressed the findings of top experts that the much bruited aluminum tubes (supposedly evidence Saddam was reconstituting his nuclear program) were unsuited for use in the production of nuclear materials and that this was known long before Rice, Cheney and others went about dropping ominous hints about mushroom clouds and before Colin Powell made his presentation to the United Nations.

According to polls, the one clear advantage that Bush has over Kerry is a perception that Bush would do a better job at the war on terrorism. Myself, I find this totally inexplicable, but that's what the polls show. W's best chance of being re-elected lies in keeping us scared silly until after we have dropped our ballots in the box.

Thus Ashcroft announces the indictment of someone who's been in jail for almost a year and just happens to mention that this is another fine "example of successful cooperation between American law enforement and its counterparts around the world" and an example of the benefits of the "prosecutorial tools" of the Patriot Act.

If you're not scared yet, you're not paying attention!

Excerpt from the NY Times

How the White House Embraced Disputed Arms Intelligence
Published: October 3, 2004

In 2002, at a crucial juncture on the path to war, senior members of the Bush administration gave a series of speeches and interviews in which they asserted that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding his nuclear weapons program. Speaking to a group of Wyoming Republicans in September, Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States now had "irrefutable evidence" - thousands of tubes made of high-strength aluminum, tubes that the Bush administration said were destined for clandestine Iraqi uranium centrifuges, before some were seized at the behest of the United States.

Those tubes became a critical exhibit in the administration's brief against Iraq. As the only physical evidence the United States could brandish of Mr. Hussein's revived nuclear ambitions, they gave credibility to the apocalyptic imagery invoked by President Bush and his advisers. The tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, explained on CNN on Sept. 8, 2002. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

But almost a year before, Ms. Rice's staff had been told that the government's foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons, according to four officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and two senior administration officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. The experts, at the Energy Department, believed the tubes were likely intended for small artillery rockets.

The White House, though, embraced the disputed theory that the tubes were for nuclear centrifuges, an idea first championed in April 2001 by a junior analyst at the C.I.A. Senior nuclear scientists considered that notion implausible, yet in the months after 9/11, as the administration built a case for confronting Iraq, the centrifuge theory gained currency as it rose to the top of the government.

Senior administration officials repeatedly failed to fully disclose the contrary views of America's leading nuclear scientists, an examination by The New York Times has found. They sometimes overstated even the most dire intelligence assessments of the tubes, yet minimized or rejected the strong doubts of nuclear experts. They worried privately that the nuclear case was weak, but expressed sober certitude in public.

One result was a largely one-sided presentation to the public that did not convey the depth of evidence and argument against the administration's most tangible proof of a revived nuclear weapons program in Iraq.