Saturday, March 06, 2004

Bush admin treated view of Iraq WMDs "like a religion"

Buried inside Saturday's NY Times is the following story - U.S., Certain That Iraq Had Illicit Arms, Reportedly Ignored Contrary Reports which sums up much of what I find most egregious about the Bush administration.

"In the two years before the war in Iraq, American intelligence agencies reviewed but ultimately dismissed reports from Iraqi scientists, defectors and other informants who said Saddam Hussein's government did not possess illicit weapons, according to government officials.

"The reports, which ran contrary to the conclusions of the intelligence agencies and the Bush administration, were not acknowledged publicly by top government officials before the invasion last March. In public statements, the agencies and the administration cited only reports from informants who supported the view that Iraq possessed so-called weapons of mass destruction, which the administration cited as a main justification for going to war.

"...government officials said they knew of several occasions from 2001 to 2003 when Iraqi scientists, defectors and others had told American intelligence officers, their foreign partners or other intelligence agents that Iraq did not possess illicit weapons.

"The officials said they believed that intelligence agencies had dismissed the reports because they did not conform to a view, held widely within the administration and among intelligence analysts, that Iraq was hiding an illicit arsenal.

"It appears that the human intelligence wasn't deemed interesting or useful if it was exculpatory of Iraq," said one senior government official with detailed knowledge of the prewar intelligence.

"A second senior government official, who confirmed that account, said the view that Iraq possessed illicit weapons had been "treated like a religion" within American intelligence agencies, with alternative views never given serious attention.

The view that Iraq possessed illicit weapons had been "treated like a religion." That says a lot right there. That pretty much sums up what is wrong with this administration. Bush is essentially a religious fundamentalist. A right-wing Christian hard-liner who refuses to accept or even consider evidence that is contrary to the preconceived conclusions dictated by his narrow and rigid ideology.

This is why we are bogged down in Iraq hunting for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction while 500-plus U.S. troops lie dead and many thousands more are seriously injured.

This is why we have an "economic recovery" that isn't producing enough jobs to even keep up with normal growth. Bush's only answer for the loss of jobs is to cut taxes for the rich even though doing so twice in three years has failed to turn the employment situation around.

This is why we now have record deficits when we started the Bush era with record surpluses. Bush adheres to the supply side nonsense that cutting taxes will produce more revenue for the government even though it failed to work for Reagan and hasn't worked for him.

You cannot reason with somebody who starts out with a preconceived notion and then demands that everything must fit into that scheme or be discarded. We might as well just disband our intelligence agencies right now since it does not matter what evidence they dig up - the only items that will be believed will be the ones that Bush wants to believe and nothing else.

The NYT article goes on to note that while intelligence reports stating that Iraq had no WMDs were being discarded (and hidden from the public) the administration was basing its arguments for the war on the testimony of an Iraqi defector who had been determined to be a fabricator by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"In the past month, some senior intelligence officials have acknowledged that some information from human sources on Iraq was mishandled, including reports based on interviews in early 2002 with an Iraqi defector who later that year was labeled a fabricator by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"The information the defector provided was nevertheless included in the administration's statements, including the October 2002 intelligence assessment and Mr. Powell's speech."

It didn't matter that the man was a liar and a con artist. The only thing that mattered was that he was saying what the administration wanted to hear.

I'm sorry, but foreign policy should not be treated like a religion and the power of the presidency should not be wielded by someone who refuses to consider evidence "contrary to the conclusions" they start out with.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Oscar Shocker!

Everyone who was supposed to win..... won!!! I don’t think this has ever happened before in the history of the Oscars! No upsets! No surprises! No dark horse victories!
The one thing everyone is always sure about around Oscar time is that at least one of the presumed victors will be upset by someone who comes out of left field at the last minute. This year that could have been Johnny Depp who surprised everyone by winning the Screen Actors Guild award for best actor just a few weeks ago. Or it could have been Keisha Castle-Hughes, the cute little 13-year-old from Whale Rider for best actress. Or it could have been Shohreh Aghdashloo swiping a sure thing away from Renee Zellwegger in the best supporting actress category. It could have been any number of films coming from behind to overtake front-runner Lord of the Rings in its nearly a dozen categories. Some people thought Rings might fold just like Howard Dean in the Iowa caucuses.

But none of that happened and that may have been the biggest surprise of all.
The Lord of the Rings romped to a record 11 victories (tied with Ben-Hur and Titanic) leaving very little Oscar gold to be split between the other contenders.
Master and Commander picked up two Oscars in the only two technical categories where Rings wasn’t nominated. Mystic River won two acting awards. Lost in Translation got a single Oscar for original screenplay and Seabiscuit was shut out. Finding Nemo, of course, won for animated feature. The only other films to garner a trophy were Cold Mountain and Monster in the other two acting categories.

TV Pundits are declaring this year’s Oscar ceremony as “boring” due to the lack of controversy and scandal. No left-wing political rants! No sudden flash of nudity! No fistfights or brawls! What is the world coming to??
Frankly, I quite enjoyed the show. I thought Billy Crystal was funny and none of the tributes - Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn, Blake Edwards, Gregory Peck - were too drawn out. The musical performances where also good.
It’s no surprise that I am thrilled with the results. I still think that Rings should have gotten at least one acting nomination - they won the ensemble acting award at the SAGs - but I can’t complain about an 11-Oscar sweep. This was obviously pay-back from the Academy for having passed over LOTR the first two go arounds.

As for predicting the Oscars this year, I did surprisingly well. I entered at least two online contests and predicted a LOTR sweep and all of the acting noms. I went 21 for 24 missing only the cinematography, animated short and documentary short categories. Still don’t know if I won anything.