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Monday Sep 11, 2006

The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown

Once again, it's impossible to avoid politics as we remember the lives taken on this day.

Families of those who were lost deserve better.

Sadly, the day was politicized, and the day's surrounding facts twisted, by Republicans long ago. And it continues to be.

Truth cannot be served without responding.

Dick Cheney and Condi Rice sought to cap off a week of Dubya's speechifying by flooding the Sunday shows.

But they failed to follow-through on Bush's attempt to shift focus away from the mess in Iraq by elevating talk of terrorism and arguments for unfettered executive power.

Instead, they both got testy and defensive when forced to respond to the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the new Senate report that further debunks their misleading comments about pre-war Iraq.

All day, Condi and Cheney continued to use the Zarqawi example as proof Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda -- as they try to make a last-ditch distinction between direct support for 9/11 and links to the organization -- despite the latest evidence that Saddam and Zarqawi didn't get along.

When challenged on CNN's Late Edition, all Condi could do was flounder, and lie.

WOLF BLITZER: Let me read to you from the Senate intelligence committee report that came out this week[:]

"Postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted unsuccessfully to locate and capture Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi."

The report goes on to say: "According to debriefs of multiple detainees, including Saddam Hussein and former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and captured documents, Saddam did not trust Al Qaida or any other radical Islamist group and did not want to cooperate with them."

This is in stark contrast to some of your statements and presidential statements in recent weeks, months and years.

RICE: You started out with a very important modifier, "postwar intelligence says."

Do we have better access now to understand what Saddam Hussein may have been doing so we can question Saddam Hussein, question Tariq Aziz, question his intelligence officers? Of course.

But did we have the ability to get that kind of information before he was brought down?

The fact is, nonetheless, before [Saddam] was brought down, Iraq had been designated a state sponsor of terror going back into the '90s ... We know that Zarqawi ran a poisons network in Iraq.

...

BLITZER: The Senate intelligence committee report says flatly, he had no relations with Zarqawi.

In fact, he saw Zarqawi as an enemy of the Iraqi regime.

RICE: The information ..., of which the president is talking, is that Iraq was a state sponsor of terror. That we know. That Zarqawi operated a terrorist network in Iraq, that we know. That he ordered the killing of an American diplomat from Iraq, and indeed had money come to him in order to do that, that we know. Are we getting a more...

BLITZER: This is Zarqawi you're talking about.

RICE: This is Zarqawi that we're talking about.

BLITZER: But Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein were in a battle.

RICE: I don't think -- well, first of all, let's take with a grain of salt the notion that somehow Zarqawi and Saddam were in some kind of pitched battle.

BLITZER: That's what the report concludes.

RICE: No, what the report concludes is that some have testified that Saddam Hussein did not trust Zarqawi and that he was trying to find him.

Actually, what the report said was that the groups Zarqawi was affiliated with were deemed "a threat to [Saddam Hussien's] regime, and the Iraqi government attempted intelligence collection operations against them ... [A] captured former Iraqi regime official ... claimed that the government of Iraq 'considered al-Zarqawi an outlaw and blamed [affiliated group] Ansar al-Islam for two bombings in Baghdad.'"

It'd be one thing for Condi to say, because this is postwar info, that they made a mistake previously.

But she's at once saying it's new postwar info, while continuing to repeat the unequivocally wrong, old, prewar talking points.

Rice even got beat up on Fox News Sunday, for pushing a WMD link between Saddam and Osama, when the Defense Intelligence Agency disputed that back in 2002:

CHRIS WALLACE: ...in March 2003, just before the invasion, you said, talking about Iraq, "and a very strong link to training Al Qaeda in chemical and biological techniques."

But, Secretary Rice, a Senate committee has just revealed that in February of 2002 ... more than a year ... before you spoke, that the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded this[:]

"Iraq is unlikely to have provided bin Laden any useful CB" -- that's chemical or biological -- "knowledge or assistance."

Didn't you and the president ignore intelligence that contradicted your case?

RICE: What the president and I and other administration officials relied on [was] the central intelligence.

The director of central intelligence, George Tenet, gave that very testimony, that, in fact, there were ties going on between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime going back for a decade...

...We know that Zarqawi was running a poisons network in Iraq. ... There were ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Now, are we learning more now that we have access to people like Saddam Hussein's intelligence services? Of course we're going to learn more...

WALLACE: But, Secretary Rice, this report, if I may, this report wasn't now. This isn't after the fact. This was a Defense Intelligence Agency report in 2002.

While Condi tried to lean on Tenet's testimony as a defense, the AP reported Saturday that Tenet admitted he was pressured to give testimony that would fit the party line:

Democrats singled out CIA Director George Tenet, saying that during a private meeting in July Tenet told the panel that the White House pressured him and that he agreed to back up the administration's case for war despite his own agents' doubts about the intelligence it was based on.

"Tenet admitted to the Intelligence Committee that the policymakers wanted him to 'say something about not being inconsistent with what the president had said,'" Intelligence Committee member Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters Friday.

Tenet also told the committee that complying had been "the wrong thing to do," according to Levin.

"Well, it was much more than that," Levin said. "It was a shocking abdication of a CIA director's duty not to act as a shill for any administration or its policy."

Over on Meet The Press, Cheney had a rough go on several fronts -- for example, he had no choice but to finally abandon his "insurgency in the last throes" line.

But most notable was his defensive, disingenuous attitude when discussing Afghanistan and Osama:

RUSSERT: ... the front page of The Washington Post today, bin Laden, the trail is stone cold, according to intelligence officials. Do you agree with that?

CHENEY: I don't. I haven't read the article ... is the U.S. really serious about bin Laden? We are serious, we've stayed actively and aggressively involved in the hunt for bin Laden from the very beginning...

RUSSERT: ...This article says that in 2002, the U.S. pulled its Special Operation forces out of Afghanistan and really did lower down the volume ... in going after Osama, which is at the exact time that President Bush said, "I don’t spend much time on him," talking about bin Laden.

CHENEY: He's not the only source of the problem, obviously, Tim. If you killed him tomorrow, you'd still have a problem with al-Qaeda, with Zawahiri and the others.

But bin Laden has been a top priority for us from the very beginning, he continues to be a top priority today.

That hasn't changed. The president and I get periodic reports on our efforts in that regard...

RUSSERT: Pakistan has now a peace pact with the terrorists in the area where we think bin Laden is, creating what Richard Clarke, the former White House adviser on terrorism, calls a "sanctuary." ...

...If the Pakistanis aren't willing to seek bin Laden, and have a peace pact with the terrorists, where are we?

CHENEY: I don't buy the premise of the question, Tim. I think it's wrong and I think the sources you've quoted are wrong...

Of course, the peace pact has been openly discussed by the Pakistan president. And according to McClatchy Newspapers, the deal was encouraged by the Bushies.

Five years after 9/11, five years of Bush foreign policy, and Osama is free, Al Qaeda ideology has spread widely, Afghanistan is backsliding and Iraq remains a debacle.

That's making harder for Republicans to keep exploiting the attacks in service of their foreign policy and electoral agendas.

They certainly couldn't yesterday.

Posted by Bill Scher on Sep 11, 2006 email post email Spotlight / / You are in Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
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