Two Hail Marys.

A mostly political Weblog.
March 17 2003 5:56 AM

Two Hail Marys

Plus: WaPo wobbles, sort of, maybe.

Mo' Blix Trix: More evidence that inspections might have come up with something -- but the U.S. was holding back its intelligence -- comes from Pincus and Woodward on Page A17 in Sunday's WaPo. CIA director Tenet's assertion that we've given "detailed information on all of the high-value ... sites" to inspectors is counterposed against the following blind-sourcery:

These [senior intelligence] officials said the administration is withholding some of the best intelligence on suspected Iraqi weapons -- uncertain as it is -- from U.N. weapons inspectors in anticipation of war. ...

A CIA spokesman refused to discuss the matter. But some officials charge the administration is not interested in helping the inspectors discover weapons because a discovery could bolster supporters in the U.N. Security Council of continued inspections and undermine the administration's case for war.

"We don't want to have a smoking gun," a ranking administration official said recently. He added, "I don't know whether the point is to embarrass Blix or embarrass Saddam Hussein."

Another official familiar with the intelligence said, "Not all the top sites have been passed to the inspectors."

Again, if this was the administration's policy, I don't understand it, even accepting that what we wanted was a war and not ongoing inspections. The discovery of a smoking gun or two would seem, on balance, to have strengthened the U.S. case for disarmament through war, by providing irrefutable proof that Saddam was not only failing to cooperate but also hiding banned terror weapons. And it would have made the invasion now underway more acceptable to the world. It's not as if the failure of inspections won us a lot of Security Council support, is it? .... 4:37 P.M.

WaPo Wobbles: The hawkish WaPo editorial board isn't exactly balking, but it appears to have  joined the He's-Botching-It Hawk contingent. ... Sunday's editorial seemed (in wafflish, N.Y. Timesian fashion) to favor a "30-to 45-day postponement of any military campaign." The goal wouldn't be to avoid a French veto -- the Post says the French "oppose meaningful action against Saddam Hussein no matter what." Rather, the goal would be to win "the backing of long-standing friends such as Turkey, Mexico and Chile." But is it really worth a 45-day delay just to get Turkey, Mexico and Chile (while still not getting U.N. authorization)? ...

Hail Mary II: Isn't the bold move precisely to put France on the spot? Chirac has already shown he's sensitive to the impression that he's being unreasonable -- witness his vague, last minute "30-day" proposal. Why not, if only for global P.R. purposes (which are not trivial at this point), make Chirac a final offer he looks stupid refusing: a substantial (4-month?) delay, massive inspections with U.S. intelligence guidance and onerous anti-Saddam conditions, plus automatic war if either a) disarmament benchmarks are violated or b) a forbidden weapon is found (i.e. the French promise not to react with the predictable "inspections are working" gambit). Make it clear that a French veto will mean the U.S. abandons the U.N. and immediately starts the attack it seems about to start. In other words, make the French vote for war (or at least make it look like that's what they are doing when they turn down a reasonable war-postponing alternative). ... 2:24 A.M. 

Hail Mary I: Newsweek's Jonathan Alter has a highly creative suggestion for avoiding war -- send in, not teams of unarmed inspectors, but teams of unarmed administrators to start running Saddam's government, in a form of U.N. trusteeship. Tell Saddam if he stops them the war is on ... Alter says he's not in favor of his own idea, of course. (He's still "not a dove.") And there are some obvious problems: a) What does happen to Saddam's secret police when he's sulking in his palaces? (Maybe the genius of the plan is that they're free to foment plots against Saddam. But what if they, you know, start killing people?) b) Wouldn't this plan just provide Saddam with several hundred handy U.N. hostages? ... Still, a month ago this might have been a suggestion that made a difference... 1:54 A.M.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Kerry's Biggest Secret: The laptop computer of John Kerry aide Chris Lehane, containing "sensitive campaign information," was stolen on Saturday. The theft raises the disturbing possibility that one of the rival campaigns has illicitly discovered Kerry's most vital secret -- his position on the war! ... 9:29 P.M.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Mediaweek's Lewis Grossberger (who calls himself Media Person) is on to Radar editor Maer Roshan:

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