Monday, October 31, 2005

Alito and Originalism

Andis Kaulins at Lawpundit parses some of the legal wrangling over Supreme Court nominees. The post is keyed to Miers, but most of it is as relevant to Alito as to the previous nominee.

Some of the bases Kaulins touches that are important to me include:

  • Supreme Court justices primarily are in the business of judging the constitutionality of laws. Whether the laws are fair, or redress the wrong they were intended to cure, is obiter dictum. Deviations from this, as in the case of Brown vs. Board of Ed., are usually bad judicial behavior and have unpredictable consequences (is the education presented to black children better in America overall than it was in 1955?). The bench is the wrong tool to write or enforce laws.

  • "Dogmatic originalists" are bad for the country and just as dangerous as judicial activists, in part because in many cases no one knows what the Founders would have thought about important modern issues. Prayer in schools? They knew what prayer was. Prayer wasn't a problem to them. But a state-controled and mandatory network of education -- that would have made their powdered wigs spin around. Originalists risk falling into the Potter Stewart obscenity trap: "they know it when they see it." But we don't all see alike.

    It is also important to distinguish originalist dogma-oriented Justices - where dogmatic thinking is always a sign of intellectual weakness - from Justices who see their job as "deciding cases" and who are not interested in being activist pseudo-legislators. Being liberal or conservative as a judge is never synonymous with "judicial activism" per se, where the latter term applies to judges who decide cases by circling around the existing precedents to suit their own politics.

  • I'd like to think that Supreme Court justices represent all Americans, and are able to interpret the law without jockeying for the special interests of a class, race, gender, whole-wheat-vs.-rye, whatever. But we've arrived at a point where more and more of the nine seats seem to be treated as the rightful property of one faction or another. I hate this deliberate balkanization of America, and its expression on the top court. If we worked so hard to tear down the wall between black and white, why have we been so busy since then dividing up the country on other lines?

  • And nine is far too small a number to play quotas with. You can't distill America's complexity into nine compartments, without serious overlap. Then you're into a "Readers Digest" puzzle that will end in a quest for the most qualified lesbian Native American or Alaskan Islander judge under 50 of moderate conservative leanings.

Kaulins' post is particularly perceptive on the connection between abortion and originalism.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lost in Translation

My dialogue with Indonesians often became surreal. "Is there grass in Texas?" I was regularly asked of my home state. Obviously Indonesians — having seen far too many old Westerns — supposed that Texas, with some of the most heavily populated urban areas in America, was a veritable wasteland of sagebrush and dust. Indonesians also seemed obsessed with the prevalence of what they called "free sex" in America. Someone finally explained to me that they meant the tendency of Americans to engage in sex before marriage or after divorce — whereas in Indonesia such activity is forbidden, in theory if not in practice. And since many Indonesians in my audiences had seen Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, they were convinced that students in American high schools were heavily armed, just waiting for the opportunity to open fire.

But it was their questions about Moore himself that left me truly befuddled. I was asked continually if the Bush administration had subsidized Moore's movies, including Fahrenheit 9/11. Eventually I realized that such a question revealed an entirely different set of ideas about the relationship between government and culture. Since Indonesians believed that movies, plays, and novels could scarcely exist without the political and financial support of the state, it was hard for them to imagine the existence of a "private" sector in the arts, or the absence of an American ministry of culture.

Fascinating stuff.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Withdraws

Feudalpundit says:

Proppes to the Democrattes lederschippe, for that they have hem leorned, for the nones, that whan thy opponent hath entangled himselfe in a messe of his own makyng, and is yshooting himselfe in the foote and ysticking it in his mouthe at ye same tyme, it acordath to resoun to stande aback, say but littel, and seemeth resounable.

An Answer

From a debate in another place.

I don’t expect you to accept this answer, but it is nonetheless an honest one. You ask why war is a possible path to social change, and I’ll tell you why, in some situations, I think it is — though it always is a tragedy.

If you look at it historically, going to war seems like going down a rat hole. You go in one place, and no matter what you intend, you always come out somewhere else.

A quibble with the Mother Country over a petty tax of three pence a pound on tea becomes the birth of a nation. A boundary dispute with Mexico over a few square miles of Texas scrub becomes a land-grab of a third of a continent and keeps the valuable port of San Francisco from defaulting to British hands. A dispute with Germany over unrestricted submarine warfare and spies in Mexico becomes “making the world safe for democracy.”

But in each case, the goals got bigger, and broader. Sometimes it was military necessity that forced the American leaders to take the higher ground — Lincoln and Wilson. Nonetheless, once they were driven up to it, they made a stand for it, imperfectly.

It’s also true that the shock of a war can unleash pent up forces in a society. As it has in Iraq, and, in ripples, across the Islamic world. Some of them very destructive, but some of them potentially great.

To shift metaphors, going to war is like the break shot that opens a pool game. You can't entirely foresee the outcome, but some vectors are predictable.

This also, incidentally, is one reason I care very little why George W. Bush went to war. I am sure his mix of motives was different than mine, and included some unsavory elements. But once the battles begin, it’s out of his hands, too. He’s as much forced by circumstances as any of the rest of us. And if it drives him out of selfish isolationism and towards nation-building and democracy promotion, I say great!

What seems, after the fact, to be the great justification for a war turns out to be something that did not figure among the stated reasons for starting it. Study World War II today and you’ll get a big unit on the Holocaust. How odd, then, to discover it played no part in the justification for the war at the time. Lincoln freed the slaves. But the American Civil War began as an constitutional chess match and an attempt to enforce U.S. authority in certain forts and arsenals, and to collect the tariff in Southern ports. Lincoln publicly disavowed any intention to free a single slave.

Now of course, all these ultimate outcomes were in the minds of somebody somewhere at the time the wars began. There are some crafty pool players out there. Many abolitionists, even among the pacifist Quakers, let Lincoln go on with his rhetoric about not wanting to free blacks and intending to protect slavery where it existed. They understood — and I have read their letters — that once the tug of war began, the only way out for the administration was to end slavery and subvert the South by stealing its labor force.

Certainly, too, the more radical American revolutionaries were angling for independence from the first bullet. But to draw the bulk of the country they needed to hold John Dickinson and the other moderates on the platform by making a general appeal to the rights of British citizens (as most Americans still felt themselves to be).

It’s an awful risk, and a terrible price to pay, whether it turns out well or not. It ought to be a tool of last resort, a crappy choice among crappier alternatives. You can argue whether the U.N. options had been exhausted with reference to Iraq in 2003 (though, for me, that was decided when the French rejected an American compromise proposal before Saddam did, and has been bolstered by subsequent oil-for-food revelations).

You may call that a hideous sort of optimism. For me, I’ll agree with Churchill; yes, I am an optimist, "it does not seem to be much use being anything else.”

UPDATE: And here's the response it got:

Typical pro-war reponse. You never have a figure as to how many are dead, it’s always just “not that many.” This study says 100,000. If its several tens of thousands instead, then that’s still an atrocity.
We could have threatened to reduce our oil imports from them unless Saddam changed his ways. We could have demanded that human rights inspectors be given access. We could have sent food and medicine to help prevent unnecessary deaths. We could have raised it as an issue at all, but we didn’t.
Get real? Stop acting like people aren’t getting tortured and killed right now, and then tell me to get real. And especially stop talking about people getting fed to tigers.

I've ended the conversation on that note.

UPDATE: See additional information in comments.

Carnival of the Etymologies

A regular Thursday feature of "Done With Mirrors."

Perhaps by the time you read this, the indictments will have been handed down in the CIA leak probe case.

Indict is an odd verb, in that it retained its French pronunciation in English even after pedants in Shakespeare's day restored its proper Latin spelling.

The word first appeared in English about 1278, in Anglo-French legal documents, as enditer, meaning "accuse, indict." It comes from Old French enditer, which meant "to dictate or inform," which in turn is from Medieval Latin indictare "to declare, proclaim in writing," a compound from Latin in- "in" and dictare "to say, say often, prescribe, compose in words."

Dictare is a frequentive form of dicere, a basic Latin verb for "to tell, to speak, to say." It is related to dicare "to proclaim, to dedicate," and their common Proto-Indo-European ancestor is the reconstructed base *deik-, which meant "to show, to pronounce solemnly," and in derivatives "to point out, to direct (words or objects)."

This Latin word group turns up in a whole range of modern English words, including addict, ditty, condition, contradict, edict, jurisdiction, predict, dictator, and one that perhaps will be in the news at the end of the CIA leak investigation, verdict.

Dictare retains the oral sense of the root, but a more physical sense is preserved in Latin digitus "finger," literally "that which points, indicator."

The Proto-Indo-European root has branches in other language families, such as Sanskrit dic- "point out, show;" Greek deiknynai "to prove;" and German zeigen "to show." Its native cousins in English are teach (Old English tæcan "to teach, instruct," but mostly "to show"), token (Old English tacn "sign, mark"), and Old English teon "to accuse," a word which, had it survived and had English remained unsullied by Latinisms, might have formed the modern word for what we now call an indictment. We might instead be reading headlines that say "Rove beteed by special prosecutor." Not that I think that's going to happen or anything.

One of the charges someone is most likely to face in this probe is perjury.

Perjury, meaning "the act of swearing to a statement known to be false," entered English as Anglo-French parjurie (1292), from Old French parjurie, from Latin perjurare "swear falsely."

This was a compound of the Latin prefix per- meaning "away, entirely" ad the verb jurare "to swear." This is the verb form of the Latin noun jus or ius (genitive juris) "law."

The reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root of this looks like *yewes- and among its relations are Irish huisse "just." Though the root later meant "law," probably it originally was a term of religious cult, perhaps meaning "sacred formula" (cf. Latin iurare "to pronounce a ritual formula," Vedic yos "health," Avestan yaoz-da- "make ritually pure"). In language, if not in life, law and religion are blood brothers.

Again, the Latin word has been productive in English, yielding also the judge and the grand jury that are considering the crimes, if any, associated with the CIA leak (and somehow managing to leak their work at the same time, in a delicious irony).

Grand jury is first attested in English in 1433, in the Anglo-French form le graund Jurre. Jury by itself is somewhat older. It comes from Medieval Latin jurata "an oath, an inquest," the feminine past participle of Latin jurare "to swear." The defining fact of a jury is a body of persons who have been sworn to some purpose.

As for judge, it, too, goes back through Latin to an ancient, pre-Latin compound *yewes-dik-, the second element of which is our recent friend *deik- "to point out," the source of indict. Thus a judge is, etymologically, "one who shows (or perhaps 'pronounces') the law."

The Old English word for a judge was domere, which is related the the important Old English word that has come down as doom (a Christian usage; the judging sense is better preserved in related deem). Bad enough to be beteed by a grand jury. Then you have to face the doomer.

Though they've been around for a while now in White Power circles, Prussian Blue seems only to have come to media attention recently.

Known as "Prussian Blue" — a nod to their German heritage and bright blue eyes — the girls from Bakersfield, Calif., have been performing songs about white nationalism before all-white crowds since they were nine.

The fact that they happen to look like a less skanky version of the Olsen Twins can't have anything to do with the media's abhorred fascination with them, of course.

There's a third reference in Prussian Blue, which perhaps the singers and their family are as unaware of as ABC seems to be. Prussian Blue, the pigment, was the original source of the deadly poison cyanide.

Cyanide, in fact, was coined in 1826 from Greek kyanos "dark blue enamel, lapis lazuli" because it first had been obtained by heating the dye pigment powder known as Prussian blue.

Like most images of racial purity, Prussia falls apart when you hold it up to the light of history. The word comes from Medieval Latin Borussi, Prusi, Latinized forms of the native name of the Lithuanian people who lived amid the dreary swamps and lakes of the former East Prussia (now divided between Poland and Russia). The Prussians were conquered in the 12th century and exterminated by German crusaders, who replaced them in that land and took their name.

The Lithuanians, deeper in the woods ands separated from the Germans by particularly impassable terrain, survived. Like the ancient Prussians, they, too would have been Indo-Europeans -- Aryans -- but hardly Germanic, and much closer to the Russians and Poles.

In fact, some linguists believe the name Prussia derives from Slavic *po-Rus "(The Land) Near the Rusi" (Russians).

Prussian blue (French bleu de Prusse) was so called for being discovered in Berlin, the Prussian capital, in 1704 by color-maker Heinrich Diesbach. Prussic acid (French acide prussique) was discovered in the late 18th century and named in reference to the Prussian blue pigment, to which it is chemically related.

Another Prussian reference in English is in the tree name spruce, which originally was an adjective, spruse (1412) "made of spruce wood," literally "from Prussia." This comes from Spruce or Sprws (1378), unexplained alterations of Pruce, the old form of the land-name Prussia (via French). Spruce seems to have been a generic term for commodities brought to England by Hanseatic merchants (beer, boards, leather), and the spruce tree was believed to have been native to Prussia.

The verb spruce has the same origin; it came from an earlier adjective meaning "to make trim or neat," which was abstracted from spruce leather (1466), which was used to make a popular style of jerkins in the 1400s that was considered smart-looking.

From Prussian Blue to Rosa Parks, who died this week. Parks was most famous for her role in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Bus is a curious word; it contains nothing of its root, but instead is a Latin grammatical tag that has come to life all on its own, like a dog's tail hanging in the air without the dog.

It is an 1832 abbreviation of the earlier omnibus (1829), "four-wheeled public vehicle with seats for passengers," which the English got from French (voiture) omnibus "(carriage) for all, common (conveyance)," from Lain omnibus "for all," the dative plural of omnis "all."

The first publiuc buses were introduced by Laffitte in Paris, in 1820, and they were an important part of the public transportation revolution of the 1820s. Soon the Compagnie des Omnibus had 100 horse-drawn buses in its fleet. In 1829, an Englishman named Shillibeer who had been in Paris helping to build the omnibuses decided to set up a similar network in London (based on a smaller bus capable of navigating London's notorious traffic). The bus lines were a great boon to the poor and middling folk in both cites. Leigh Hunt wrote:

By the invention of the omnibus, all the world keeps its own coach, and with what cheapness! No plague with servants, no expense for liveries, n coachmakers' and horsedoctors' bills, no keeping one's fellow creatures waiting for us in the cold nighttime and rain, while the dance is going down the room or another hour is spent bidding goodbye and lingering over the comfortable fire. We have no occasion to think of it at all until we want it, and then it either comes to your own door, or you sally forth, and in a few minutes see it hulling up the street.

The English word bus, then, is simply a Latin dative plural ending. Thanks to the Civil Rights movement, bus also acquired a verbal sense of "transport students for the sake of integrating public schools" (first recorded 1961), but the verb sense "clear tables in a restaurant" is older, first attested 1913, and probably is derived from the four-wheeled cart used to carry dishes.

There are buses, and there are busses, and often the twain are confused. In fact a Google search for Rosa Parks buss turns up more than 40,000 hits (though, in fairness, many of them are on non-English sites).

Buss "a kiss" is the much older word, attested from 1570, and like Welsh and Gaelic bus "kiss, lip," French baiser "kiss" (from Latin basiare), Spanish buz, German dialect buss it is probably of imitative origin.

Though it now is regarded as a synonym for kiss, it seems buss once had a slightly more nuanced sense, at least if Robert Herrick is to be believed:

Kissing and bussing differ both in this,
We busse our wantons, but our wives we kisse.

["Hesperides," 1648]

As for boycott, it entered the language in 1880, in reference to the Irish Land League ostracism of Capt. Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897), land agent of Lough-Mask in County Mayo, who refused to lower rents for his tenant farmers. It quickly was adopted by newspapers in languages as far afield as Japanese (boikotto). The family name is from a place in England.

Syria is in hot water with the U.N. for its role in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon. And, typically, the hot water is draining out of the U.N. as fast as you can say Kofi Annan, who, no surprise here, seems to have edited the U.N. report on the crime to please the Syrians.

Ah well, assassination and Syria belong together, historically. Assassin, before it became a general term, referred specifically to a member of a feared militant Muslim sect that dispatched suicide commandos to kill public figures and terrorize private citizens. Sound familiar?

Founded in 1090 by Hasan Ibn al-Sabbah, a cultured and brilliant man of scientific and poetic inclinations (legend says he was a companion of the young Omar Khayyam) born in Persia, who had watched the Sunni dynasty of the Seljuk Turks establish its power over formerly Shi'ite lands in the Middle East. He was an adherent of the newly persecuted doctrine, and he was indignant at the new state of affairs.

He moved to Egypt, then the last bastion of Shi'ite power, but he found the government corrupt and he fell in among fellow Muslim fundamentalists in Cairo and soon they formed a movement to restore Shi'ite political power. As part of their plan, Hasan returned to Persia, where he had the spectacular success (and luck) to capture an all but impregnable fortress called Alamut in the Elbruz Mountains on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. From there, he established and led a Islamic terrorist organization of unrivaled power that struck fear in the hearts of Muslim rulers.

The organization was strictly hierarchical, and married religious indoctrination with militaristic rigor. Members were sent out to kill some chosen victim, usually a prominent person in the Muslim world who was felt to disrespect the purity of the faith or the power of the sect. The killer was to blend in to the local culture, study his victim's ways and habits, then strike him down, but not in secret. The goal instead was to make the killing as public as possible, to spread the terror of the cult, which lesson was enforced by the glad martyrdom of the killer, who was usually himself cut down on the spot after striking his blow.

These killers were called fida'i, which essentially means "suicide commando," and the plural form of the word, fida'in or fedayeen was one of the names given to commandos in Saddam's Iraq during the war of 2003.

The willingness and serenity of the fida'in as they struck a death-blow, and accepted death in return, led observers to conclude they were under the influence of powerful narcotic drugs, hence they were called in Arabic hashishiyyin "hashish-users," plural of hashishiyy "powdered hemp," literally "dry herb," from hashsha "it became dry, it dried up." No one now knows whether it was true or not, but that's what people believed.

Within two years they had "assassinated" key leaders in the Seljuk dynasty and brought it to the point of disintegration. The rest of the planned Shi'ite uprising, however, had been thwarted and Hasan found himself alone. He looked to expand his power base, and Syria, which was then a contested land of shifting powers, beckoned. He sent clerics into Syria, who drew adherents and soon they formed cells, long before Lenin or Osama hit on the notion. They played one power against another, and did dirty work for the Seljuks to keep them at a distance. Soon they were in effective control of Aleppo, the big city in Syria, as well as Damascus, which later was ruled by their militia.

The purists Assassins, however, made common cause with the Crusaders, finding that they and the Christian intruders had the same enemies. The other Muslims, even the Shi'ites, called the hypocrites. The Syrian people and leaders turned on them in huge massacres in 1113, and the sect returned to secrecy and stealth. Hasan, known to European chroniclers as "Old Man of the Mountains" (translating Arabic shaik-al-jibal), died in 1124, but the sect continued, killing those who resisted or offended them and generally terrorizing the Muslim world for years.

The terrorist sect's name, and its fearsome reputation, returned to Europe with the surviving Crusaders, and as early as c.1237 the word appears in Anglo-Latin documents

Hos tam Saraceni, quam Christiani Assisinos appellant ...

The word came to English via French and/or Italian, where it lost its initial H- sound. The plural suffix -in (as in Bedouin) was mistaken in Europe for part of the word and retained, even when reference was to a single person. Hashish itself entered English as a word about 1598.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

On a Roll

American Future has been on such a tear that it's almost enough to make you wish for more Florida hurricane's (Mark lives near Naples).

He digs up this brutal account of a grieving military family in Dallas that was lured to a candlelight vigil, a "Service of Mourning & Remembrance for 1,000 U.S. military war dead in Iraq," supposedly a non-political event. The family in question was that of the young man somehow identified as the 1,000th casualty.

[Then as now, the anti-war groups, abeted by the media, were salivating after that big round number of dead Americans. This media fetish for round numbers might have a modicum of relevance in anniversaries, when the round toll of years offers a chance to measure distances and changes. With battlefield deaths, it's purely an excuse to get exercised and indignant. Two thousand deaths in 31 months in Iraq. Compared to what? More than 2,000 a month KIA from the North alone averaged over the Civil War? Each death is a tragedy. As the dead soldier's sister says, "It wouldn't matter if he was number six or 2,000. He was over there fighting for you and me."]

A glance at some of the organizers' affiliations in the Dallas vigil ought to give you sufficient clue to where this is going:,, Military Families Speak Out, the Dallas Peace Center's "End the Occupation of Iraq Committee."

The event ended in "a screaming confrontation between the family of a fallen soldier and members of the Dallas Peace Center."

"We got tricked," says Kathy Herriage, a family friend of the soldier.

About 20 of Drake's relatives arrived at Dallas City Hall just before 7 p.m. When the family arrived, only a handful of people were there, Herriage says, though they could hear drums. "I thought there was a band. Then it just didn't feel right. I could tell it wasn't like a marching band."

Herriage says a woman approached them and asked if they were there for the vigil. Mrs. Drake introduced herself and asked about the drums. "If this is some kind of protest," Mrs. Drake said, "I'm not going to participate."

Bollenbacher introduced herself and reassured her: "Oh, no, we're just here to comfort you in your grief."

Mrs. Drake saw a man with a basket full of fliers accusing Bush of war crimes. Bollenbacher again reassured her.

"I had told him he couldn't hand those out," Bollenbacher says, but she allowed a banner that read "Vets for Peace."

The Drakes saw that banner and then realized the drummer was wearing a T-shirt that said "Drums Not Guns." Believing it was an anti-war protest, Mrs. Drake burst into tears. She started screaming, "Somebody has lied to me."

Herriage says the situation turned even uglier when another woman walked over, grabbed the weeping Mrs. Drake and shook her. "She said, 'Shut up and I'll explain our cause to you,'" Herriage says. "That's when Ginger went ballistic."

It's a sad story, but there's a comic undertone to the peace protesters' protestations of innocense in the whole affair. I don't know which is most rich. You could pick the insistence by Hadi Jawad, coordinator of the "End the Occupation of Iraq Committee," that the drums were merely supposed to symbolize heartbeats, and that the bullhorns were simply to help people hear some elderly ministers speaking.

Or you could pick the Peace Center woman's shock -- shock! that political activists showed up, even though, "I had invited people to come who I know through We really were trying to make it a space where we could come together and put aside all our differences and honor all the lives that have been lost."

Suuuuuuure, lady.

"Grim Milestone"

Amazing, isn't it, hope they all had the same idea at the same time:







I found the same phrase, or a variation of it (including "Somber Milestone," "Grisly Milestone," "Grim Landmark," "Grim Marker," and "Wrenching Milestone") in the big boldface front-page headlines of at least 32 major U.S. newspapers today. Among those using the exact phrase, in addition to the papers pictured above, were the Oakland Tribune; the Santa Rosa, Calif., Press-Democrat; the Sacramento Bee; the Clarksville, Tenn., Leaf-Chronicle; and the Greensboro, N.C., News & Record.

The L.A. Daily News devoted its entire front pages to the 2,000 figure.

Among the most defeatist headlines of the day were the Aurora Daily Sun's "Deaths of an Army sergeant and two Marines pushes [sic] count amid growing doubts among public about conflict launched in March 2003 to find weapons that have never been found."

It's getting harder and harder to tell the reality --


from the cartoon parody --


[World War II Disney image courtesy of Lileks]


Fried Rice

doctored rice

What to make of this? Florida Cracker reports that the photo on the left was the original as moved by the Associated Press, and the version on the right, with the ghoulish eyes, was the doctored version that appeared in USA Today.

By the time this was called to my attention, USA Today had taken down the doctored version and attached this note:

Editor's note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY's editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice's face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.

At first, I was inclined to give the USA Today editors the benefit of the doubt. From the small version Florida Cracker posted, the original photo looked a bit fuzzy. Perhaps they just did a burn on her face, and upped the contrast, to make the image more sharp.

But then I logged on to the AP photo wire art work and saw the original picture. It's just as sharp as can be. It was perfectly usable as it was. There was no need to monkey with it.

What really turned my thinking on this, though, was the search I used to find the picture. It called up all 178 "Condoleezza Rice" images that USA Today had the option of using to illustrate its article. In most of them, she's smiling, she looks radiant and warm. But USA Today chose by far the grimmest picture of her that was then available.

Even worse, they chose a picture that had no connection to the story they were running. The story is datelined Washington, and has quotes from Rice as she appears before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, fielding "pointed" questions. And boy, does she look unhappy about it, right?

Except the AP photo's caption (not available on the USA Today article) identifies this picture this way: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looks on during a joint news conference with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after their meeting in Moscow, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005."

Now check the date of the USA Today article: Oct. 19. They dug up a four day old stale picture of Condi, and they slapped it into their story.

But not before they altered it to make her look like an extra from the "Thriller" video.

Strike three? I think so. Probably strike four, but I lost count.

[Hat tip, Marc]

UPDATE: Lol; Florida Cracker now has a "Thriller" screen grab up, for comparison's sake. Damn, I was righter than I realized.


In 2003, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney wanted to put the U.S. military to work to overthrow Saddam Hussein. So did I. That's about as far as the resemblance goes. Yet I feel as though anti-war people keep asking me to bend over to take punishment for what Bush said about going to war, and keep steering me toward the position that the WMD case was the only case ever seriously made, therefore the only grounds on which I must make my stand to defend my support of this particular military action.

Frankly, Bush never convinced me about the war. Tony Blair did. Even the hostile "Guardian" could sum up his position in an appealing way, as it did in this leader from 3/31/03:

Mr Blair has invaded Iraq for different reasons from Mr Rumsfeld. In Mr Blair's world, Saddam is a moral outrage, both for the way that he treats his own people and for the threat that he poses to others, especially if he were to use weapons of mass destruction or to put them into the hands of terrorists. Putting Iraq to rights, in Mr Blair's view, should be the whole world's business. The more that all the nations make common cause to do this, the better. The less this happens, the more vital it is to balance any absence of common cause with a series of equitable and humanitarian initiatives - on the Middle East and on reconstruction in particular - which can help to establish what Disraeli, seeking to justify the British invasion of Abyssinia in 1867, called "the purity of our purpose".

In addition to my own reasoning, I was convinced by the words of leftists like Johann Hari:

Who are the real imperialists here: those who want to carry out the wishes of the Iraqi people, or those who want to ignore them in the name of a non-existent peace? And, yes, it was non-existent. There is no peace if, at any time, people can be captured, tortured, burned or raped. Read the Amnesty reports. This was the everyday reality of Saddam's Iraq. Only the dishonest can say that British and American soldiers are interrupting "peace"; they are interrupting a decades-long war, waged by Saddam against the Iraqi people, to bring it to an end. Do not weep that this happening; be proud.

...It might seem perverse to seek to spread peace at the barrel of a gun; but the peace we enjoy here in Europe exists only because we (along with the Americans) acted with weaponry to banish tyrants. The Iraqi people want and deserve the same. If their wishes -– as reported unambiguously by Kenneth Joseph and many more like him –- are not compatible with international law, then an urgent priority once this war is over must be to reconstruct international law to make it encourage, not hinder, the overthrow of tyranny. ["The Independent," March 26, 2003]

I was convinced by the likes of the French philosopher André Glucksmann:

Nobody wants war, me included. The question is, is there something worse than war? I have been answering "yes" for years. One thing that is worse than war is genocide –- that is, the extinction of a whole people. Many people said this before Auschwitz. In Greek tragedy, it is revealed in the destruction of Troy. This is indeed the horizon of western history. That is why I don’t believe that the refusal to take part in a war against Saddam should be seen as an expression of humanism, but of a blindness that exists not only in Europe, but in all civilisations. We all want to live peacefully, oblivious and happy. That wish already existed in ancient Athens, and there is nothing wrong with it as such, except that it is not very realistic.

Interviewer: Do you think France will stick to its opposition against the US?

Longer than in Germany. Here in our country, the rivalry with America is more prominent. But at the moment, the people in the street are only asking themselves, how can we stand up against Bush? Saddam Hussein doesn’t come into the equation, and that is where my whole objection lies. Because the issue here is actually Saddam.

Bush is a challenge for American democracy; Aznar, the challenge for Spanish democracy. Why are there fewer protestors in France than in Spain, England or Italy? Because in Italy they fight Berlusconi, in Britain they fight Blair –- and in France they fight nobody.

But the overriding question remains: what about Saddam Hussein? If I may be a little moralistic here: I could not look at myself in the mirror if Saddam Hussein were still in power because I have been to a demonstration against Bush, and as a result, the people in Iraq had to live in this totalitarian regime for another twenty years.

And by another exquisite "Guardian" columnist (now former columnist), David Aaronovitch:

This war for me has always been a fine judgment call, a choice between deeply shitty alternatives (my big argument with some in the anti-war campaign has been their belief that there are -- or were -- No-Die options in Iraq). Agnostic on the threat of weapons of mass destruction (though believing that Saddam would develop them if permitted to), sceptical on alleged Iraqi links with new Osama bin Laden-type groups, it finally came down to the lesser of these three evils: Saddam unchained; a "contained" Saddam plus sanctions and endless inspections; invasion and no Saddam. In the end, I chose the latter.

Even so, there has always been the possibility of a war that was worse even than another 20 years of Saddam, Uday, Qusay, Chemical Ali and Dr Germ. And there have been moments in the past few days when I have wondered whether we aren't fighting it.

... Kosovo was, most of us agree, "worth it." Worth it even though we hit the train on the bridge at Leskovac, killing 10, and the refugee convoy at Prizren in Kosovo which slaughtered more than 70. "Worth it" to both Robin Cook (then foreign secretary) and me. As was the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999 or, in Afghanistan, the infamous missile attack on the gun-toting wedding party.

If this sounds callous, my answer is that we make choices like this all the time. Except no one rushes to the scene of motorway crashes to report on how an ill-timed phone-call, speeding, or pre-drive joint has left body parts scattered along the fast lane of the M6. We know it, but you still couldn't get 500 people to London to call for the end of the motor car. In Kosovo the scenes from the border justified our actions to us at a time when the action seemed most pointless and brutal. Right now, there are no pictures from Baghdad of the summary executions and the beheadings; Rageh Omar has not been taken to see those. Yet. But if we could see inside those buildings and speak to some of the families of victims, the calculation might change.

Or by the American journalist Michael Kelly, who died in April 2003 covering the war in Iraq:

I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as a liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realised. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot? ["New Republic," Feb. 26, 2003]

Or by our friend Michael J. Totten:

It’s true that many people are dead in Iraq because of what we did. It’s equally true that a larger number are alive because of what we did. The well-being of Iraqis isn’t even remotely what’s at issue to Mr. Savoy. He only cares that we are morally pure. Tyranny, barbarism, and genocide are fine with him in a lesser-evil sort of way as long as we can sit safe and sound on our side of the ocean and not have to dirty ourselves by messing with it.

Not only is this morally reprehensible, it isn’t even logical. We do not sit safe and sound on this side of the ocean as the terrorism on September 11, preceded by Al Qaeda’s genocidal death warrant, has already shown. The political culture of the Middle East absolutely is our business. Middle Eastern political science topples buildings and kills thousands in our own cities.

Paul Savoy is a September 10th person. He doesn’t understand that we’re war whether we’re happy about it or not.

Or by José Ramos-Horta, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work in East Timor:

Perhaps the French have forgotten how they, too, toppled one of the worst human-rights violators without U.N. approval. I applauded in the early '80s when French paratroopers landed in the dilapidated capital of the then Central African Empire and deposed "Emperor" Jean Bedel Bokassa, renowned for cannibalism. Almost two decades later, I applauded again as NATO intervened--without a U.N. mandate--to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and liberate an oppressed European Muslim community from Serbian tyranny. And I rejoiced once more in 2001 after the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban liberated Afghanistan from one of the world's most barbaric regimes.

So why do some think Iraq should be any different? Only a year after his overthrow, they seem to have forgotten how hundreds of thousands perished during Saddam Hussein's tyranny, under a regime whose hallmark was terror, summary execution, torture and rape. Forgotten too is how the Kurds and Iraq's neighbors lived each day in fear, so long as Saddam remained in power.

... In almost 30 years of political life, I have supported the use of force on several occasions and sometimes wonder whether I am a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace prize. Certainly I am not in the same category as Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu or Nelson Mandela. But Mr. Mandela, too, recognized the need to resort to violence in the struggle against white oppression. The consequences of doing nothing in the face of evil were demonstrated when the world did not stop the Rwandan genocide that killed almost a million people in 1994. Where were the peace protesters then? They were just as silent as they are today in the face of the barbaric behavior of religious fanatics.

Or the "anti-totalitarian justification" argument of Adam Michnik, the leading force in the Solidarity trade union movement who founded and edits Poland's largest daily newspaper:

We take this position because we know what dictatorship is. And in the conflict between totalitarian regimes and democracy you must not hesitate to declare which side you are on. Even if a dictatorship is not an ideal typical one, and even if the democratic countries are ruled by people whom you do not like. I think you can be an enemy of Saddam Hussein even if Donald Rumsfield is also an enemy of Saddam Hussein.


It's simply that life has taught me that if someone is being whipped and someone is whipping this person, I am always on the side of those who are being whipped. I've always criticized U.S. foreign policy for forgetting that the United States should defend those who need to be defended. I would object to U.S. policy if it supported Saddam Hussein, and I have always criticized the United States for supporting military regimes in Latin America.


Well, who was worse, Ronald Reagan or Leonid Brezhnev? If I were American I would never have voted for Reagan, but as a Pole, I liked the tough position of Reagan toward Brezhnev. Perhaps Reagan did not quite understand what he was doing, and maybe Bush doesn't understand either. But the facts are that, suddenly, Libya has begun to speak a different language. Syria has begun to speak a different language. Even North Korea has started to speak a different language. This is not to say that Bush is always right. Of course not. But you must see the hierarchy of threats, of dangers. I asked my French and German friends, Are you afraid that tomorrow Bush will bomb Paris? And can you really be sure that terrorists and fundamentalists will not attack the Louvre? So which side are you on?

So, if you want to discuss my thoughts about making war on Saddam, start with those references and not with an assumption of ideological lock-step identification with the White House.

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Of Miers and Men

In answer to a request from one meta-blog, "I oppose the Miers nomination," not for any one reason, but for the convergence of inexperience and cronyism -- neither of them alone a sufficient reason to reject -- and for the growing suspicion that there is something stealthy about this nomination. Not that any secret deal has been cut, but that Miers is so closely aligned to Bush, and so devoted to him, that Bush would be in effect appointing himself to the court.

That being said, I looked back last night to another president who re-shaped the Supreme Court in a few months. That would be Abe Lincoln, who appointed a total of five Supreme Court justices, three in rapid succession.

Now as Lincoln is held up as a great American president, an exemplar of political maturity and statesmanship -- in short, everything George W. Bush's critics say he lacks -- you'd think his Supreme Court appointments would look nothing like Bush's current fiasco.

You'd be wrong. The only difference is, Lincoln didn't have the howling opposition Bush has, both from his base and his enemies, when they are displeased. But then, in these matters, Lincoln went out of his way not to displease his friends, and his enemies were safely out of the union and could do him no harm.

One other difference between now and then was that Supreme Court justices had more direct authority over the circuit courts they oversaw. They didn't just accept petitions, they went out personally and heard cases. They were expected to know the nuances of the state laws -- which in those days were not entirely overridden by federal law.

Consequently, by tradition, the Supreme Court justice who oversaw a circuit was a man from it (the chief justice, obviously was an exception). That encouraged the habit of treating Supreme Court judgeships as political plums, and as reward to politicians in states that had been particularly helpful in getting a president elected.

The top court already had a vacancy when Lincoln was elected. Justice Peter V. Daniel had died on May 31, 1860. The seat traditionally went to a Southerner (Daniel was from Virginia), but Buchanan held off naming a replacement, probably figuring, correctly, that to do so would pour more sectarian fuel on the nation's raging political fire during a desperate election campaign.

But Buchanan delayed too long, even after the results of the election were known. As Southern states seceded from the union in reaction to Lincoln's win, they took their senators with them, and the majority in that chamber shifted to the Buchanan-hating Republicans. Buchanan finally nominated his attorney general, Jeremiah S. Black, but the Senate rejected him.

Black was an able legal mind, a union loyalist who later served in the Lincoln Administration, and judging by modern standards he would have been a far more capable appointment to the court than any of the men Lincoln subsequently put forth. But politics denied him the job.

Lincoln, distracted by the collapse of the union, did not immediately act to fill the gap on the top court. Two others quickly followed. Elderly Justice John McLean of Ohio (he had been appointed by Andrew Jackson) died April 4, 1861, after a long illness, and at the and of the month Justice John A. Campbell of Alabama resigned to join the Confederacy.

[Campbell was a moderate and a union man; he had liberated his own slaves, and in December 1860 he tried to prevent Alabama from seceding. However, once the Confederacy was an accomplished fact, and seeing the behavior of the Lincoln Administration toward it, Campbell went to serve his section and his state, to try to guide them through the folly, as he saw it, of their ways.]

When Lincoln did get around to nominating replacements, he took politics into consideration. But he also looked for men who would support the decisions he already was making -- many of them blatantly unconstitutional, to defeat the Southern rebellion. He looked for justices who would uphold his questionable policies, made in the name of a questionable war.

David M. Silver, in "Lincoln's Supreme Court," wrote, "Two main factors controlled the administration's appointments to the Court: Lincoln's demand that the selectees have sound views toward the great political issues of the Civil War, and the political forces that guided his selections. Lincoln did not regard legal training and judicial experience as primary requirements."

In fact, only two of the five men he raised to the bench had previous experience as judges. "President Lincoln demanded sound views on the war rather than extensive service in the state courts or the lower federal courts. Lincoln sought men who were trustworthy thinkers on problems of the war and men who were prominent in the professions of law. But he sought men whose selection would be good politics, as well."


The first was Noah H. Swayne of Ohio, a corporate lawyer with no office-holding experience. He was so little known outside the state that the big Eastern newspapers consistently misspelled his name ("Swain") for days after his nomination was announced. But the choice satisfied the powerful Ohio Republican party, as well as the big business interests in the national party.

Swayne also held sound views on slavery and secession. As Silver judiciously put it, "Justice Swayne firmly upheld the policies Lincoln deemed necessary to save the Union."

Swayne, like all Lincoln's appointees, continued to play politics, solocit favors, and canvass for pet causes after his elevation to the bench.


Lincoln's next appointment was Samuel F. Miller of Iowa, a powerful anti-slavery lawyer and politician. Lincoln chose him after a flood of pressure from Iowa political leaders, whose letters to Lincoln included some curious reasons. One said that, "as a jurist, [Miller] has no superior in the State," even though Miller had never been a judge. Another urged him as an "Earnest Patriot and conscientious Republican," and added emphatically that Miller "has never held a public office."

Once again the Eastern newspapers had no idea who he was, and for months they sometimes confused him with another Miller of Iowa, a former Whig Congressman.

Silver summed him up: "Despite the critical statement that Miller's 'preponderant qualification was that he was chairman of the Republican district committee at Keokuk,' selection of Miller was not out of harmony with Lincoln's concept of what qualified a man for elevation to the Supreme Court."


Four candidates lobbied hard for the third vacancy. The man who took the prize was the ultimate crony, if ever there was one: David Davis. Davis was a state judge in Illinois in whose courtroom lawyer Lincoln once had practiced. The two grew close, and worked together politically. Davis exerted himself mightily in Lincoln's 1858 Senatorial campaign and at the 1860 Republican convention, he led the stampede for Lincoln's presidential nomination.

When state election results came in in 1860, and showed the door was open for Lincoln to win the White House, Judge Davis was trying an important criminal case, but when he heard the good news he burst into jubilation right in the courtroom, kicked over a clerk's desk, turned a double somersault and adjourned the court until after the presidential election.

The letter-writing campaign on Davis' behalf frankly mentioned the political debt the president owed him. One asked why Davis should not be appointed, "especially when he was so instrumental in giving position to him who now holds the matter in the hollow of his hand?" Another wrote that the appointment of Davis would be pleasing "especially to the circle of your old personal friends." A third asked, "Now should not a man in power remember those men, and discriminate in favor of those men, who throughout life have been as true as steel to him. Is this not common justice[?]"

Lincoln must have thought so. He chose Davis.

Lincoln didn't always get his way from the Supreme Court, but on essential matters he did. And the generation that followed these appointments is reckoned one of the weakest in the history of the court.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And Tomorrow's Big Headline Is ...

... wait for it ...


Anybody looking for an early-in-the-day drinking game, take a shot every time you encounter the phrase "grim milestone" on the front page of one of the nation's major newspapers. It's the AP's buzzword.


2,000 Dead

What They Died For

The kind of thing my newspaper won't bother telling you.

I asked Marines all across Al Anbar province two questions:

1. If something goes bad and you die here. What would you think of people who used your death to protest the war.

2. After being here, and knowing what you know, would you still join the Marines/volunteer for this deployment?

The answers were invariably the same.

They did not want their death to be used as a prop and they would make the same decision all over again. These young Lance Corporals and Non-Commissioned Officers volunteered to join the Marines, many with the intent of coming to Iraq. And while few would say they like war, they all recognize the necessity of it.

The Marines and soldiers who fight in Iraq are not numbers, but the media and certain groups are treating them as if they were. Number 2,000 was a national treasure, just as number 1,435 was and number 2,038 will be. For what is the value of a man who will fight a war for others who despise him?

But for those who are willing to take action, there would be no wall at all hold back evil and those men and women on the wall deserve more than a number.

Unrelated, but entirely related, are two posts from Greyhawk, one on Iraqi women picking up guns to fight the "insurgents" Some of the women -- before now -- had fit into Western stereotypes:

"Before I got into this, I was like a normal female; when I heard bullets, I would hide," said Muna, a stocky young woman in a black T-shirt and black pants.

"Now, I feel like a man. When I hear a bullet, I want to know where it came from," she said, sitting comfortably with an AK-47 assault rifle across her legs, red toenails poking out from a pair of stacked sandals. "Now I feel equal to my husband."

Others, assuredly, do not:

"I used to watch action movies when I was a kid, I loved them," laughed Xena, a conservative Muslim who chose her pseudonym from the film character, Xena the Warrior Princess. "My favorite actor is [Jean-Claude] Van Damme."

Equality comes in many forms.

The other post ponders the 80% re-enlistment rate among the Utah National Guard troops (home of our friend and inspiration Chief Wiggles) and their stated reasons for re-enlisting (or not).

Among the "fors" is a gem of a quote from 1st Lieut. Bruce Bishop, a Salt Lake County firefighter and Afghanistan veteran:

..."because as I look around at the state of this nation and see all of the weak little pampered candy-asses that are whining about this or protesting that, I'd be afraid to leave the fate of this nation entirely up to them."

Finally, but far from finally, if you want an antidote to the "2000 Dead Americans" fireworks bursting above your head and around your ears in the media (my newspaper will be running a full package tomorrow), read Michael Yon's latest.

I was in Baquba during the January elections. I’d hitched a ride with the US Army to a polling site. There were bombs exploding, mortars falling, and hot machine guns. The fact that the voting was going great despite the violence was something few people expected. When the soldiers dropped me off along with a CNN crew, they couldn’t believe we were willing to go alone. Neither could I.

Until that day, I’d been skeptical about Iraq. Not fashionably cynical, merely skeptical. We could all hear what the US President, the UK Prime Minister, and other elected leaders were saying, but they are politicians. We also could hear the end-of-the-Iraqi-world predictions by so many others who were counting the Iraqis out. But nobody really knew what the Iraqi people had in mind, and the Iraqis were the people who counted most.

The millions who voted sent a clear message: serpentine lines of ebullient Iraqis risked their lives—many died—to have a say in their futures. People voted by dipping their right index fingers into purple ink and casting their lot. The image of Iraqi voters proudly holding their stained fingers aloft became a symbol for the success of the election. In Baquba, many voters asked me to photograph them as they left the polling places, all smiles and purple fingers.

The courage of the Iraqi people that January day planted a seed of confidence in my mind. These were not timid or cowering souls. There I was: an American in a dangerous Iraqi city, at the very polling site that soldiers were wagering would be bombed. I was weaponless and alone. One after another, Iraqis came and shook my hand, showing me their children, laughing, smiling, saying over and over,
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I felt like an honored guest, and I felt a twinge of shame that I’d held less confidence in the Iraqis than they’d mustered for themselves.

The American soldiers came back to get us after the polls closed, we got into a firefight at a police station, and that was it. The voice of the Iraqi people had risen above the clamor of insurgent violence.

Then came reports that insurgents were targeting people with purple fingers. Since then terrorists have murdered thousands more Iraqis, and hundreds of Coalition members. After all these months, I still wondered which was stronger: the terror, or the hope. Would the Iraqi people speak with softer and more tentative voices now after the slaughter of thousands?

Hard questions. No simple answers. You want simple answers? Go talk to Cindy Sheehan. I hear she's real easy to find these days.

Niger Uranium, Some Background II

Report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (March 31, 2005, pp. 75-79)

The Intelligence Community failed to authenticate in a timely fashion transparently forged documents purporting to show that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from Niger.

As mentioned above, DOE’s position rested in part on a piece of evidence not relied upon by any of the other intelligence agencies in the NIE—that of Iraq’s attempts to procure uranium from Niger. This evidence was unconfirmed at the time of the NIE and subsequently shelved because of severe doubts about its veracity. As will be shown in the next section, the Intelligence Community was right to have its doubts about this story, and DOE was wrong to rely on it as an alternative piece of evidence confirming Iraq’s interest in reconstitution. Intelligence Community agencies did not effectively authenticate the documents regarding an alleged agreement for the sale of uranium yellowcake from Niger to Iraq. The President referred to this alleged agreement in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003— evidence for which the Intelligence Community later concluded was based on forged documents.

To illustrate the failures involved in vetting this information, some details about its collection require elaboration. The October 2002 NIE included the statement that Iraq was “trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake” and that “a foreign government service” had reported that “Niger planned to send several tons” of yellowcake to Iraq. The statement about Niger was based primarily on three reports provided by a liaison intelligence service to CIA in late 2001 and early 2002. One of these reports explained that, as of early 1999, the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican planned to visit Niger on an official mission. The report noted that subsequently, during meetings on July 5-6, 2000, Niger and Iraq had signed an agreement for the sale of 500 tons of uranium. This report stated that it was providing the “verbatim text” of the agreement. The information was consistent with reporting from 1999 showing that a visit to Niger was being arranged for the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican.

Subsequently, Vice President Cheney requested follow-up information from CIA on this alleged deal. CIA decided to contact the former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had been posted to Niger early in his career and maintained contacts there, to see if he would be amenable to traveling to Niger. Ambassador Wilson agreed to do so and, armed with CIA talking points, traveled to Niger in late February 2002 and met with former Nigerien officials.

Following the trip, CIA disseminated an intelligence report in March 2002 based on its debriefing of Ambassador Wilson.198 The report carried the caveat that the individuals from whom the Ambassador obtained the information were aware that their remarks could reach the U.S. government and “may have intended to influence as well as to inform.” According to this report, the former Prime Minister of Niger said that he was not aware of any contracts for uranium that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states. He noted that if there had been such an agreement, he would have been aware of it. He said, however, that in June 1999 he met with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq, which the Prime Minister interpreted as meaning the delegation wanted to discuss yellowcake sales. The Prime Minister let the matter drop, however, because of the United Nations sanctions on Iraq.

The British Government weighed in officially on the Niger subject on September 24, 2002, when it disseminated a white paper on Iraq’s WMD programs stating that “there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

The story grew more complicated when, on October 9, 2002, several days after the NIE was published, an Italian journalist provided a package of documents to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, including documents related to the alleged agreement for the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq. The State Department passed these documents on to elements of the CIA. Although the documents provided to the Embassy by the Italian journalist related to the purported agreement, these elements of the CIA did not retain copies of the documents or forward them to CIA Headquarters because they had been forwarded through Embassy channels to the State Department.

WINPAC analysts, for their part, only requested and obtained copies of the documents several months later—after State’s INR had alerted the Intelligence Community in October 2002 that it had serious doubts about the authenticity of the documents. And, even after this point, CIA continued to respond to policymakers’ requests for follow-up on the uranium deal with its established line of analysis, without attempting to authenticate the documents and without noting INR’s doubts about the authenticity of the information— despite not having looked at the documents with a critical eye.

For example, in mid-January 2003, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested information — other than information about the aluminum tubes — about why analysts thought Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. In response, WINPAC published a current intelligence paper pointing to Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from several African countries, citing “fragmentary reporting,” and making no reference to questions about the authenticity of the source documents. Shortly thereafter, the National Security Council and Office of the Secretary of Defense requested information from the NIO for Strategic and Nuclear Programs and from DIA, respectively, on the uranium deal. The responses included information based on the original reporting, without any mention of the questions about the authenticity of the information.

The CIA had still not evaluated the authenticity of the documents when it coordinated on the State of the Union address, in which the President noted that the “British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Although there is some disagreement about the details of the coordination process, no one in the Intelligence Community had asked that the line be removed. At the time of the State of the Union speech, CIA analysts continued to believe that Iraq probably was seeking uranium from Africa, although there was growing concern among some CIA analysts that there were problems with the reporting.

The IAEA, after receiving copies of the documents from the United States, reviewed them and immediately concluded that they were forgeries. As the IAEA found, the documents contained numerous indications of forgery — flaws in the letterhead, forged signatures, misspelled words, incorrect titles for individuals and government entities, and anomalies in the documents’ stamps. The documents also contained serious errors in content. For example, the document describing the agreement made reference to the legal authority for the agreement, but referenced an out-of-date statutory provision. The document also referred to a meeting that took place on “Wednesday, July 7, 2000” even though July 7, 2000 was a Friday.

When it finally got around to reviewing the documents during the same time period, the CIA agreed that they were not authentic. Moreover, the CIA concluded that the original reporting was based on the forged documents and was thus itself unreliable. CIA subsequently issued a recall notice at the beginning of April, 2003 for the three original reports, noting that “the foreign government service may have been provided with fraudulent reporting.” On June 17, 2003, CIA produced a memorandum for the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) stating that “since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based on false documents earlier this spring we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad.” The NIO for Strategic and Nuclear Programs also briefed the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, on June 18 and 19, respectively, on the CIA’s conclusions in this regard.

Given that there were already doubts about the reliability of the reporting on the uranium deal, the Intelligence Community should have reviewed the documents to evaluate their authenticity as soon as they were made available in early October 2002, rather than waiting over six months to do so. The failure to review these documents caused the Intelligence Community to rely on dubious information when providing highly important assessments to policymakers about the likelihood that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. The Community’s failure to undertake a real review of the documents—even though their validity was the subject of serious doubts—was a major failure of the intelligence system.

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Niger Uranium, Some Background III

The Privy Counsellors’ Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (the “Lord Butler Report,” July 14, 2004, pp. 121-5)


490. There has been significant controversy surrounding the reliability of Government statements about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa. We have therefore studied this issue in detail.

491. Natural uranium is the necessary starting point for all nuclear developments (whether for weapons or civil power). In the late 1970s, Iraq obtained large quantities of uranium ore from Niger, Portugal and Brazil. By the mid-1980s, however, Iraq had become selfsufficient in uranium ore, which was a by-product of indigenous phosphate mines at Akashat and purifying plants at Al Qaim and Al Jazira which extracted and purified the
uranium ore for subsequent use in nuclear enrichment processes.

492. In the course of the first Gulf war, the facilities involved in this indigenous route were severely damaged. Subsequently, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervised the dismantlement of all the facilities that Iraq had built to process, enrich and fabricate uranium, and removed all potentially fissile material. Some unprocessed uranium ore was left in country, but under IAEA safeguards and subject to regular inspections. Iraq would therefore have had to seek imports of uranium or uranium ore if it wished to restart its nuclear programme covertly.

493. In early 1999, Iraqi officials visited a number of African countries, including Niger. The visit[*] was detected by intelligence, and some details were subsequently confirmed by Iraq. The purpose of the visit was not immediately known. But uranium ore accounts for almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports. Putting this together with past Iraqi purchases of uranium ore from Niger, the limitations faced by the Iraq regime on access to indigenous uranium ore and other evidence of Iraq seeking to restart its nuclear programme, the JIC judged that Iraqi purchase of uranium ore could have been the subject of discussions and noted in an assessment in December 2000 that:

. . . unconfirmed intelligence indicates Iraqi interest in acquiring uranium.
[JIC, 1 December 2000]

494. There was further and separate intelligence that in 1999 the Iraqi regime had also made inquiries about the purchase of uranium ore in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this case, there was some evidence that by 2002 an agreement for a sale had been reached.

495. During 2002, the UK received further intelligence from additional sources which identified the purpose of the visit to Niger as having been to negotiate the purchase of uranium ore, though there was disagreement as to whether a sale had been agreed and uranium shipped.

496. This evidence underlay the statement in the Executive Summary of the Government’s dossier of September 2002 that:

As a result of the intelligence we judge that Iraq has:

. . .

- tried covertly to acquire technology and materials which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons;

- sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it . . .

and in Chapter 3 of Part 1 of the Government’s dossier that:

The main conclusions are that:

. . .

- Saddam continues to attach great importance to the possession of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles which he regards as being the basis for Iraq’s regional power. He is determined to retain these capabilities;

. . .

- Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons, in breach of its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and in breach of UNSCR 687. Uranium has been sought from Africa that has no civil nuclear application in Iraq.


Iraq’s known holdings of processed uranium are under IAEA supervision. But there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme or nuclear power plants and therefore has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium.

497. In preparing the dossier, the UK consulted the US. The CIA advised caution about any suggestion that Iraq had succeeded in acquiring uranium from Africa, but agreed that there was evidence that it had been sought.

498. The range of evidence described above underlay the relevant passage in the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons on 24 September 2002 that:

In addition,we know that Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa, although we do not know whether he has been successful.

499. We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:

The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

was well-founded.

500. We also note that, because the intelligence evidence was inconclusive, neither the Government’s dossier nor the Prime Minister went on to say that a deal between the Governments of Iraq and Niger for the supply of uranium had been signed, or uranium shipped.

501. We have been told that it was not until early 2003 that the British Government became aware that the US (and other states) had received from a journalistic source a number of documents alleged to cover the Iraqi procurement of uranium from Niger. Those documents were passed to the IAEA, which in its update report to the United Nations Security Council in March 2003 determined that the papers were forgeries:

The investigation was centred on documents provided by a number of States that pointed to an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of uranium to Iraq between 1999 and 2001. The IAEA has discussed these reports with the Governments of Iraq and Niger, both of which have denied that any such activity took place. For its part, Iraq has provided the IAEA with a comprehensive explanation of its relations with Niger, and has described a visit by an Iraqi official to a number of African countries, including Niger, in February 1999, which Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports. The IAEA was able to review correspondence coming from various bodies of the Government of Niger, and to compare the form, format, contents and signatures of that correspondence with those of the alleged procurement-related documentation. Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts,that these documents, which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger, are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded.
[IAEA GOV/INF/2003/10 Annex of 7 March 2003]

502. We have asked the IAEA what were their grounds for concluding that the visit paid by an Iraqi official to Africa was not for the purpose of acquiring uranium. The IAEA said:

. . . the Director General explained in his report dated 7 March 2004 [sic] to the UN Security Council that Iraq ”described the visit by an Iraqi official to a number of African countries, including Niger, in February 1999,which Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports”. On a number of occasions in early 2003, including in a letter dated 1 February 2003,the IAEA requested Iraq to provide details of all meetings held between Iraqi officials and officials from Niger around the year 2000.

The Director of Iraq’s National Monitoring Directorate responded in a letter of 7 February 2003 to the Director of the IAEA’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office. (It should be noted that at the time of Iraq’s response Iraq had not been provided by the IAEA with any details contained in documents alleging the existence of a uranium contract.)

The Iraqi response referred to above explained that,on 8 February 1999,Mr. Wissam Al Zahawie, Iraq’s then Ambassador to the Holy See, as part of a trip to four African countries, visited Niger as an envoy of the then President of Iraq to Mr. Ibrahim Bare, the then President of Niger, in order to deliver an official invitation for a visit to Iraq, planned for 20 to 30 April 1999. (N.B. Mr. Bare passed away on 9 April 1999.) According to the Iraqi information,no such presidential visit from Niger to Iraq took place before 2003.

The Iraqi authorities provided the IAEA with excerpts from Mr. Al Zahawie’s travel report to Niger. These excerpts support the above explanation by the Ambassador regarding the purpose of his visit to Niger and do not contain any references to discussions about uranium supply from Niger.

In order to further clarify the matter,the IAEA interviewed Mr. Al Zahawie on 12 February 2003. The information provided by the Ambassador about details about his 1999 trip to Africa also supported the information obtained previously by the Agency on this visit. The demeanour of the Ambassador and the general tone of the interview did not suggest that he was under particular pressure to hide or fabricate information.

Notwithstanding the information summarized above,and in view of the fact that the IAEA so far has not obtained any other related information than the forged documents,the IAEA is not in the position to demonstrate that Iraq never sought to import uranium in the past. This is the reason why the IAEA only concluded that it had ”no indication that Iraq attempted to import uranium since 1990” but it would ”follow up any additional evidence,if it emerges, relevant to efforts by Iraq to illicitly import nuclear materials”. So far no such additional information has been obtained by the Agency.

503. From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.

c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.

d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.

* This visit was separate from the Iraqi-Nigerien discussions, in the margins of the mid-1999 Organisation of African Unity meeting in Algiers, attested to by Ambassador Wilson in his book “The Politics of Truth” (Carroll & Graf, NY 2004, p28).

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Choreographed Outrage

Not only was the massive Associated Press story-and-photo package to celebrate the 2,000th American death in Iraq written, edited, and shipped more than a week in advance, it seems the reaction to it has been pre-packaged as well.

Today, I was asked again to fill in the letters to the editor pages for tomorrow. I was told especially to find a prominent place for this letter, which has been sitting in the system for several days now, awaiting that 2,000th dead American:

Today there are 2,000 fewer U.S. soldiers to support, and thousands fewer Iraqis to "liberate." But let us not callously throw around numbers; for every casualty there is a story, an empty bed, and a grieving family. This is the human cost of war. It is the costliest of all human endeavors. If war is a necessary evil, then there must be a litmus test for its use, and this war does not pass by any standard.

And so forth, on through "the Bush administration is engulfed in scandal ... 'cook up' intelligence that supported invasion ... a crisis in democracy ... cabal in the highest levels of leadership ... their morale continues to drop as they find themselves to be occupiers rather than liberators, as they realize this war was never about freedom, but about oil and empire ... rein in a rogue government ... working to bring [the soldiers] home." More shibboleths than you can shake a stick at, if that's your idea of a good time. It concludes with this pitch:

I invite you to join us at 7:30 p.m. [fill in date to be one day after 2,000th dead American] at the Old Courthouse steps ... to mourn the fallen and stand for a different national and foreign policy.

It's signed by the head of the local "Coalition for Peace & Justice."

Nice to know who we're shilling for, and how far we'll bend over to accomodate them. Of course, since several prominent staff members are prominent members of that organization, this hardly is surprising.

Rosa Parks, 1913-2005

She was, and always will be, the "simple seamstress" who just didn't feel like giving up her bus seat on that day in 1955. She was, and always will be, the "solitary figure" whose spontaneous defiance and tired feet after a hard day's work helped launch the civil rights movement.

We need her fable in America's story book, like we need George Washington's cherry tree and Paul Revere's ride. It's a story of one woman's courage, and a lesson in the power of one citizen, armed with resolve, to change a nation's erring ways.

Yet the Rosa Parks story everyone knows is as much fable as fact.

The myth is no disgrace to the reality beneath it. But that reality should be remembered, too, because it is a deeper, more mature, American story.

Rosa Parks was neither simple nor solitary. Raised during the dark days of lynching, she was taught by her family to be fearless. She graduated from Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, one of the black-run institutions that rigorously drilled self-sufficiency into black youth in segregated America.

She joined the NAACP in 1943, and worked closely with E.D. Nixon, "the most powerful black man in town," who rose to be head of the Montgomery NAACP. When Nixon became president of the state chapter, Parks served as its secretary. Together they assembled protest marches and organized voter registration drives. Parks attended leadership conferences and Highlander School in Tennessee, a veritable boot camp for civil rights leaders.

Blacks in Montgomery had been testing and defying Jim Crow rules, especially on the buses, since the 1940s; Rosa Parks was among the most persistent (it was said some bus drivers, if they saw her waiting at a stop, simply kept driving).

But when the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in 1954, the black leaders of Montgomery realized the time had come to shift gears from individual acts of defiance to organized action.

They approached the city mayor and warned that a bus boycott loomed. The mayor did nothing. Individual black riders began to flout the Jim Crow rules, and in at least three incidents in 1955 they were arrested for it. But the local NAACP was looking for the perfect case to serve as a base for its challenge. They got it on Thursday, Dec. 1, 1955.

Parks boarded the bus at Court Square about 5:30 p.m. She sat down deliberately in the first row of the colored section. Rush hour riders filled the white seats. When the next white man got on and there was no seat for him, the bus driver asked the first row of black passengers to do what the company rules and Chapter 6, Section 10 of the Montgomery City Code required: give up their seats.

He had to ask twice, the second time with a threat. Three got up and moved to the back of the bus. Rosa Parks stayed put.

Parks, the quiet, middle-aged, diminutive hard-working woman in the cloth coat and eyeglasses, with her hair up in a neat bun, was shouted at and arrested for refusing to give up her seat to an able-bodied white man.

And just like that, the NAACP had its case. Not only would it galvanize Montgomery's black population and moderate whites against Jim Crow injustice, it would subvert the sympathies of the Old South culture by appealing to its respect for courage and courtesy. Presenting Parks' defiance as one woman's spontaneous action banished the cloud of an organized insurgency goaded along by outsiders.

NAACP leaders carefully manipulated her image in the media, creating the "simple seamstress" legend from the start. Parks played her part perfectly. The resulting year-long protest not only brought Martin Luther King Jr. to the forefront of the civil rights movement, it gave us Rosa Parks as an inspiring example of fierce, but nonviolent, resistance.

Soon other black Americans began to adopt her tactics -- truly spontaneously this time -- in the lunch counter sit-ins of 1960. Perhaps no other people in modern history has freed itself from repression with less violence and more respect.

We owe that to Rosa Parks, both the myth and the reality.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Between a Hard Place and Iraq

Lately, I keep running into Iran when I least expect it.

The Chomsky-Michael Moore tinged people I live among, in this political purgatory, pull out Iran at the oddest times, as some sort of holy hand grenade of argument. It has been used to prove: 1. Americans don't really care about democracy in the Muslim world because they overthrew a pure democracy in Iran in 1953, and 2. contemporary terrorism against Americans is just a natural, and excusable, outgrowth of whatever it was we did in Iran in 1953.

All this seems to be based on a false presumption of pre-coup Iran as a sort of paradise of freedom and democracy, and on American action there as darkly evil and motivated entirely by oil greed.

The reality was a good deal more complex, with tragic misunderstandings all around. The Americans got involved reluctantly in a feud between Iran and Britain, and spent years trying to bring it to peaceful resolution before losing patience in the face of Cold War fears.

The account that follows is going to attempt to be dispassionate look at the situation. It steers in some directions specifically to refute common misconceptions on the America-hating side, but it doesn't attempt to justify American actions. The CIA almost certainly took the leading role in overthrowing the existing Iranian government and giving the shah almost tyrannical powers. It did so based on a Cold War definition of self-interest and political necessity. It did so in a classic case of failure to distinguish a nationalist and a reformer from a communist tool. It was a bad bit of work, if you don't like coups, but it wasn't the root of all terrorism, nor was it a disruption of a Persian paradise.

Iran was a constitutional monarchy, but with an unsettled relationship between the parliament (Majles) and the shah, more like Britain under the Georges than a modern limited monarchy. Politics were in the hands of the elite, especially the large landowners. They dueled for power with the shah, who not only reigned, but ruled, and at times was able to rule as an autocrat. But when popular anger united behind the Majles, it could successfully challenge the shah.

Britain and Russia unilaterally occupied Iran in August 1941, and they overthrew the German-sympathizing Reza Shah and installed his son on the throne. The country was used as a crucial supply route for the Soviet Union. After America got into the war, it, too, participated in the transportation lifeline. But as the war drew to an end, the Truman Administration took pains to insure that the invaders left Iran within six months of the final Axis surrender.

Stalin seemed inclined to test American commitment on this and to discover if he could get anything out of the Iran occupation -- a toehold in the northern region, or even a full-blown Soviet satellite state, or at least an oil concession. He also had used the occupation to ensure the Iranian communist party, the Tudeh, followed his will.

Politics in Iran at the time were typically turbulent. The autumn 1944 Majles elections was crudely rigged by the shah. Popular outrage at this galvanized an opposition front all across the political spectrum.

As the war wound down, the Soviets encouraged break-away people's republics in Iran's Azeri and Kurdish regions, and they actually increased their troop presence rather than withdrawing. Their propaganda appeared to be ginning up the image of popular support for a Soviet Iran. The Tudeh began labor strikes and street disturbances. The Soviets cut off the flow of food from the north -- Iran's breadbasket -- to the rest of the country. The Iranian government appealed for help to the United Nations, which did nothing. By 1946, Iran threatened to become the first Cold War crisis.

Truman responded with a firm hand. He put three American divisions in Austria, then preparing to return home, on alert for Iranian duty. At the same time a new prime minister in Iran, Ahmad Qavam, began direct negotiations with the Soviets. He may have played them royally, or he may genuinely have been the useful idiot Stalin perhaps thought he was, but some combination of Qavam's negotiation and Truman's stalwartness convinced Stalin to back down. By May 1946, Soviet forces were withdrawing from Iran.

Iran emerged from the war poor, backwards, and more fearful than ever of the power of the USSR. Iranians were hardly less suspicious of the British, with whom they had long and unpleasant experience. In fact, the country had suffered long in the Great Game, and Iranians traditionally looked for a third-nation savior to ride to the rescue and extricate the country from its squeeze. That was one reason Reza Shah was drawn to the rising power of Hitler. After the war, Iran looked to the United States as a counterbalance. At first, however, the U.S. had little interest, and Washington responded to the shah's request for military aid by telling him to concentrate on political and economic reform instead.

Iran's oil exports had grown from less than 300,000 tons in 1914 to 16.5 million tons in 1945. But a raw deal in the concession treaty with the British company that controlled the oil fields, compounded by British cheating, meant that Iran got less than 14 percent of the oil revenues from its natural resource. In addition to swindling Iran out of billions of dollars, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (the British government was the chief shareholder), treated its Iranian workers like slaves.

A general strike against the company in July 1946 provoked an old-fashioned imperialist response. The British sent warships to threaten the main refinery, at Abadan, and recruited local Arab tribes to attack the strikers. The British agreed to some concessions to get the workers back on the job (such as observing Iranian labor laws), but they ignored them once the strike was over. Averell Harriman reported that the British had "a completely nineteenth century colonial attitude toward Iran."

The war also had weakened the Iranian throne against the Majles, but with the end of the Axis, the winds began to blow the other way. Qavam held power into 1946 by fixing the election, but his coalition then fell apart. The shah rebuilt his power base in the army, and in late 1947 he ousted Qavam and installed his own choice as prime minister.

A February 1949 assassination attempt gave the shah the pretext to grasp even more power. The would-be killer seemed to have ties to both the communists and the Islamic clergy, which opened the door for the shah to crack down on two of his most powerful opposition groups. He declared martial law, changed the Constitution to bolster his power over the Majles, banned the Tudeh, and deported many leading clergy. But he squandered his political advantage by trying, again, to rig the elections in July, and he suffered a popular backlash.

The National Front organized October 1949 to oppose both the shah and the British. It was a broad coalition, ranging from the liberals to the middle class to the religious fundamentalists. And it naturally gathered around elder statesman Mohammad Mosaddeq, who had made his mark opposing both the shah and the foreign oil companies.

The shah's tainted elections were overturned, and new elections held in late fall 1949 were among the most free ever in Iran. Candidates sympathetic to the National Front (including a revived Tudeh) swept into the Majles.

One of the first acts of the new administration was to demand a renegotiation of the British oil concession. But postwar Britain had fallen on hard times, too, and could hardly afford to sacrifice AIOC for humanitarian reasons. The British government drew $142 million in annual taxes from the firm, in addition to drawing off about 60 percent of its $93 million annual profits via stock shares.

The Americans had set the example by negotiating a fifty-fifty profits split with Venezuela for oil drilling rights, and the U.S. soon reached a similar deal with Saudi Arabia. Iran sought the same from Britain. AIOC flatly refused, and its counter officer was frankly insulting. The shah, however, fearing the British would overthrow him, recommended the Majles accept. Instead, it moved to nationalize the oil fields.

The whole blow-up made the Truman administration enormously unhappy. Their ire was directed at the British and the AIOC, and their sympathies were with Mosaddeq and the Iranian nationalists. They believed that the era when colonial powers could bully smaller states was ending, and they feared British greed and inflexibility would drive Iran into the communist sphere. Nobody wanted to "lose" Iran.

Things got worse in 1950 after the Korean War began. Containment of communism rose to the top of the U.S. global agenda. The U.S. and Iran signed a mutual defense agreement in May and Washington turned up the heat on the British to compromise on the oil concession and accept a 50-50 split.

The British had other ideas. They strong-armed the shah to replace the current prime minister with Gen. 'Ali Razmara, whom they thought would do their will. Many Iranians wrongly assumed the Americans were behind this sudden move.

But the Majles was in no mood to back down, and it kept insisting on a 50-50 split of oil revenues, which the British constistently rejected. The pressure for nationalization of the oil fields rose. Razmara blocked it, but he was assassinated by a Muslim extremist with some ties to the National Front. That cleared the deck; Mosaddeq became prime minister and on April 30, 1951, the Majles voted to nationalize all Iran's oil fields. The shah, with no recourse, signed the bill.

The British government planned an unrestrained response. It drew up plans for an invasion of Iran by land and sea, involving 70,000 troops, codenamed "Buccaneer." London moved warships to the Persian gulf and a paratroop brigade to Cyprus. The AIOC, meanwhile, shut down the oil fields, fired 20,000 Iranian workers, and organized an international boycott of Iranian oil to discourage other governments from nationalization. The British Navy enforced the boycott.

Both sides looked to the United States. The Truman Administration had been watching with dismay. They were convinced Mossadeq was a popular national leader, a strong anti-communist, and someone who could be reasoned with. They didn't want a row with the British over Iran, yet they didn't want to drive Iran closer to the Soviet Union. If the British invaded southern Iran, they feared, the Russians might move in from the north.

Both Truman and Dean Acheson private pressured the British to drop their invasion plans, while the State Department publicly pushed for a negotiated settlement and made statements sympathetic to Iranian rights. Truman sent Harriman to Tehran in July 1951 and he eventually convinced Mossadeq to meet again with the British. The U.S. ambassador told the Wall Street Journal, "Since nationalization is an accomplished fact, it would be wise for Britain to adopt a conciliatory attitude. Mossadegh's National Front party is the closest thing to a moderate and stable political element in the national parliament."

British PM Clement Atlee was furious that the Americans were backing Tehran, but the U.S. pressure forced Britain to scrap its invasion plan. London continued to work for regime change in Iran, however. It merely switched to covert action. The British-Iranian meetings arranged by Harriman came to nothing because the British would not accept the nationalization.

Meanwhile Mossadeq's government was revealing the strident nationalism that was, and is, such a feature of Iranian relations with the West. Washington's pro-Iran tilt, so far from being appreciated, was protested in Iran as interference in internal affairs. At the same time, Mossadeq was bitterly disappointed that the Americans did not leap to Iran's defense against the British.

In part due to British covert action, Mossadeq's party had begun to crack before the spring 1952 Majles election. A coalition based on opposing certain things is difficult to maintain when the threats retreat. And the natural differences in the coalition members began to reassert themselves; in particular the conflict between secular Mossadeq and Ayatollah Kashani. But even more important in fracturing the National Front was the economic pinch of the British embargo, which cost tens of thousands of oil workers jobs.

It's unlikely that Mossadeq's coalition would have lasted, even without foreign pressure. But that proposition can't be tested now, because the outside pressure was intense. Mossadeq, a scrupulous constitutionalist through most of his career, reacted by stretching the boundaries of the law to hold power, and ended up standing entirely outside them.

Mossadeq set out to insure his continuance in power by gerrymandering voting districts and sequencing the election. But early results did not give him the support he needed and it became clear the National Front was going down to defeat. Mossadeq then called an emergency session of the cabinet and convinced it to halt the elections, using the pretext that they were corrupted by foreign agents. Certainly there was some truth to this, but it remains unclear to what degree, and whether it materially affected the outcome.

Mossadeq's next step was to challenge the shah by attempting to take from him the customary perogative of appointing the minister of war. The shah refused and Mossadeq resigned. The British somehow got the shah to appoint Qavam in his place. But when Qavam announced he was going to reverse many of Mossadeq's policies and arrest those who opposed, the people rose up in mass demonstrations. The situation rapidly spiralled into bloodshed and troop mutiny, and four days later the shah asked Qavam to step down and recalled Mossadeq.

Mossadeq now was effective dictator of Iran. Even the shah was powerless before him. Mossadeq first shuffled the army, to weaken a traditional power base of the shah, then he declared martial law. Then he turned to the rump Majles and got it to grant him emergency powers for six months to "decree any law he felt necessary for obtaining not only financial solvency, but also electoral, judicial, and educational reform."

[To be continued, eventually]