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July 17, 2005 - One Man's News Is Another Man's Tedium. Did Things Just Heat Up?

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Our columnist Bob Patterson and I have been disputing what is the most underreported story of July 7, the day of the bombings in London.  Both of us caught Harry Shearer's Sunday morning radio show from Santa Monica (syndicated nationally), Le Show, where he commented on the July 7 item in the Asia Times about Saudi Arabia's ongoing efforts to build nuclear weapons with the help of Pakistan.  As Shearer comments:


Now comes a story, courtesy of the Asia Times, that would seem to cast a fine, evil backlight on the mushroom cloud alarmism of the pre-Iraq War Administration statements. The report suggests that Saudi Arabia, which reputedly has been trying to go nuclear since 1975 (!!), has purchased nuclear materials from our other close friend, Pakistan (the father of whose bomb, A.Q. Khan, has previously been revealed to have sold nuclear goodies to North Korea, Iran, and Libya, among other good citizens of the world). The report also indicates that said Saud kingdom also paid a certain Middle East figure to develop a nuclear capability - none other than Saddam Hussein.

Maybe it's the head-spinning quality of this reporting that explains why it's been followed up, or refuted, nowhere inside the American media bubble. Our ace journalists used to follow up the merest tidbit of Clintonian scandal unearthed by Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh daily, but apparently the Asia Times' story of nuclear proliferation by our closest allies would involve lifting that's just a bit too heavy.


Yep.  That's pretty amazing.  And not a peep in the press.  So what are we doing about nonproliferation in the Middle East?

Ah maybe it's not true, and if not true, it would be nice to see a denial from the Saudis.  Maybe it is true.  The Saudi's - friends of the Bush family and the Carlyle Group but having a large segment of their population enamored with fundamentalists who really don't like us much, and do like jihad - were they do go nuclear, would pose an interesting new dynamic in the mix.  Israel has long had nuclear weapons.  If the Saudi's get their own nukes?  That would be tense. On the other hand, Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons aimed at each other and no one has pulled the trigger yet.  Why worry?  And the Saudis are the guys with the oil.  They've spent billions on the Bush family businesses and kept Halliburton and Enron afloat for forever (well, Enron didn't work out) - so how bad could it be for them to have a few nukes?  They're like family – depending, of course, on just who is your family.

We should worry about North Korea, if Nicholas Kristof is no just making things up in the July 12 New York Times with this


Senior North Korean officials here say the country has just resumed the construction of two major nuclear reactors that it stopped work on back in 1994. Before construction resumed, the C.I.A. estimated that it would take "several years" to complete the two reactors, but that they would then produce enough plutonium to make about 50 nuclear weapons each year.

This is the most regimented, militarized and oppressive country in the world, but the government seems very firmly in control. And this new reactor construction, if it is sustained, is both scary and another sign that U.S. policy toward North Korea has utterly failed.

... The Bush administration has refused to negotiate with North Korea one on one, or to offer a clear and substantial package to coax Mr. Kim away from his nuclear arsenal. Instead, Mr. Bush has focused on enticing North Korea into six-party talks. The North finally agreed on Saturday to end a yearlong stalemate and join another round of those talks.

Mr. Bush is being suckered. Those talks are unlikely to get anywhere, and they simply give the North time to add to its nuclear capacity.


Fifty bombs a year?  Yeah, we're fulminating about Iran's efforts, and we let this one slide.  And the Saudis nuke up too, to begin to match Israel.

Well, Israel is being sensible, right?  They're not stirring this up, unless you think the Middle East expert Juan Cole is right when he says this about the final decision about their big wall:


The Ariel Sharon government in Israel has announced that it will build a huge wall on someone else's land through Jerusalem, cutting off 55,000 Arabs from the city (they'll have to go through nasty Israeli checkpoints every day to get into their own city!)

This is land theft on a massive scale. Worse, it is theft on a stage of sacred space that affects the sentiments of over a billion people. Whether Westerners like it or not, Jerusalem is considered by Muslims their third holiest city, and Israeli theft of the whole thing drives a lot of them up the wall. A partitioned Jerusalem where the Arab east is connected to the West Bank is the only route to peace. Sharon in his usual aggressive, grabby way, is trying to make that forever an impossibility.

And, folks, this sort of thing, which the Washington Post didn't even notice, may very well get you and me killed. I think what Sharon is doing is morally and politically wrong to begin with. But I sure as hell resent the possibility that I or my family is going to get blown up because of it.


Well, there may be a few more terrorist attacks, but no one, no even the Saudis, has a real bomb, this week.  Still, the size of the bomb doesn't matter much to the person bombed, does it?

In any event, after his long discussion of the historical roots of terrorism in that reason, Cole claim this one is underreported too –


... our press and politicians do us an enormous disservice by not putting the Israeli announcement about the Jerusalem Barrier on the front page. This sort of action is a big part of what is driving the terrorists (and of course Sharon himself is a sort of state-backed terrorist anyway). The newspapers and television news departments should be telling us when we are about to be in the cross-fire between the aggressive, expansionist, proto-fascist Likud Coalition and the paranoid, murderous, violent al-Qaeda and its offshoots.

Eisenhower called up DeGaulle and told him to get the hell out of Algeria, on a short timetable, or else. I wish Bush had Eisenhower's spine when it came to dealing with Ariel Sharon.


It's pretty clear that these days Eisenhower these days would be called a cowardly liberal wimp - what with all that talk about containing the military-industrial complex, his belief the UN was useful, his reliance on diplomacy - not to mention his socialist big-government taxpayer-funded projects like the Interstate Highway System.  Karl Rove would eat his lunch.

But all that is drifting away from the other competing underreported news story the no one noticed as there were those bombs in London. No one seems to be commenting on our new puppet government in Iraq entering into an agreement with Iran - for troop training.  See BBC July 7 for this odd item


Former enemies Iran and Iraq say they will launch broad military co-operation including training Iraqi armed forces.

"It's a new chapter in our relations with Iraq," said Iranian Defence Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani." ...


Wait, wait, wait.  Iran is one of the members of the Axis of Evil, and we're almost ready to do something like bombing the hell out of them if the continue trying to finish up a nuclear bomb or two.

What's up with this?  We liberate Iraq to bring them western-style free-market capitalism and some form of democracy, and they start off with a military pact with the worst of the bad guys?

We fought this war for what?  Wasn't the WMD (oops), and the flypaper-will-keep-us-safe thing is looking shakier by the day (but is was London, after all, and not Chicago, or even Peoria), and it seems spreading democracy will have to wait until the constant suicide and remote-controlled bombings stop.  (Think about that - we created a battlefield over there so we wouldn't have one here, but at the same time we saying we're bringing the folks there peace and security so the place will no longer be a battlefield - so you can do both at the same time?)

Anyway, did we fight this war to install a government there that will join up with Iran in all sorts of military agreements?  We're not doing that well at rebuilding the infrastructure there that we kind of messed up with that shock and awe business, and too, the somewhat understaffed and not-well-thought-out occupation has had its problems.  The new government is turning elsewhere?  To Iran?  We created, possibly, a new client state of the worst-of-the worst, Iran?

This too was underreported.

What was reported on Monday the 11th was amusing however.

One Associated Press item opened this way: "For two years, the White House has insisted that presidential adviser Karl Rove had nothing to do with the leak of a CIA officer's identity.  And President Bush said the leaker would be fired."

A less punchy AP version (Pete Yost) goes like this –


For the better part of two years, the word coming out of the Bush White House was that presidential adviser Karl Rove had nothing to do with the leak of a female CIA officer's identity and that whoever did would be fired.

But Bush spokesman Scott McClellan wouldn't repeat those claims Monday in the face of Rove's own lawyer, Robert Luskin, acknowledging the political operative spoke to Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, one of the reporters who disclosed Valerie Plame's name.

McClellan repeatedly said he couldn't comment because the matter is under investigation. When it was pointed out he had commented previously even though the investigation was ongoing, he responded: "I've really said all I'm going to say on it."

Democrats jumped on the issue, calling for the administration to fire Rove, or at least to yank his security clearance. One Democrat pushed for Republicans to hold a congressional hearing in which Rove would testify.

"The White House promised if anyone was involved in the Valerie Plame affair, they would no longer be in this administration," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "I trust they will follow through on this pledge. If these allegations are true, this rises above politics and is about our national security."


Ah, conflict is good for news.  Judith Miller of the New York Times goes to jail for not revealing her sources, and the Cooper fellow from Time doesn't go as the magazine gives up his source stuff against his wishes and his sources say just testify - and Robert Novak, the columnist who actually exposed the CIA agent, helping someone or other at the White House commit what seems to be a felony doing great damage to our country's espionage work, smiles on CNN and draws his big salary, continues his column for the Chicago Sun Times and just sneers at the suckers who are in trouble.  Then Newsweek prints the email showing Rove was in on this.

Great drama.  And now the reporters turn on the president's press secretary and bat him around


QUESTION: You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation? Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn't he?

MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

QUESTION: Do you think people will accept that, what you're saying today?

MCCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question.

QUESTION: You're in a bad spot here, Scott... (LAUGHTER) ... because after the investigation began - after the criminal investigation was under way - you said, October 10th, 2003, "I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this," from that podium. That's after the criminal investigation began. Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?



And AP lists a few more dramatic moments late in the day:

- Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said it is "disturbing that this high ranking Bush adviser is not only still working in the White House, but now has a significant role in setting our national security policy."

- Sen. Frank Lautenberg D-N.J., and a private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called on Bush to suspend Roves security clearances, shutting him out of classified meetings.

- Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., asked the Republican chairman of the House Government Reform Committee to hold a hearing where Rove would testify.

- Rove should resign or the president should fire him, said Tom Matzzie, Washington director of the liberal advocacy group, MoveOn PAC.

- Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., asked Rove to detail any conversations he had about Plame before her name surfaced publicly in Novak's column.

Neat.  No dull stuff about the Saudi bomb or Iraq hooking up with Iran.  This is high drama.  It's not another missing attractive white woman, or a hurricane or shark attacks, but it'll do.

Kevin Drum here


The press corps is finally seriously pissed off that Karl Rove has been implicated in Plamegate. Thorough coverage is pretty much everywhere (head over to Atrios, Josh, or Billmon depending on your taste in blogs), but I think Garance Franke-Ruta has the best take on why the press corps finally woke up:

If there is one thing that reporters hate, it's being played for patsies. McClellan has publicly humiliated some of the most prominent reporters in the country by persistently feeding them information that has now been revealed to be false, and I'm pretty darn sure that they are not going to grant him any favors and extend him the benefit of the doubt in the future.

We can hope, can't we? Sunday's Newsweek story combined with the subsequent non-denial of Rove's lawyer is the smoking gun that's done it, and I suspect Bush and Rove are now going to get the treatment Bill Clinton got in 1998. The Washington press corps was never Clinton's friend, but they really turned on him after they felt he had personally lied to them over Monica - and with any luck the same thing is now going to happen to Rove. Expect him to discover an urgent need to spend more time with his family soon.


Well, we'll see about that.

Over at Martini Republic ("Lead, Follow, or Have a Drink") you get some harsh words: "Rove is the leak who busted Plame's cover, beyond any doubt. The only question is whether semantic quibbles and shystering can lessen a potential felony to a level of merely stupid meanspiritedness which did harm to our national interests."

Ah, this is all in the world of blogs.

On SLATE.COM - recently sold by Microsoft and MSNBC to the Washington Post Group, and which supplies content to National Public Radio's noon on-air news magazine "Day to Day" - Tim Noah just says 'Turdblossom Must Go'.

But Keith Olbermann at MSNBC saying this


Karl Rove is a liability in the war on terror.

Rove - Newsweek's new article quotes the very emails - told a Time reporter that Ambassador Joe Wilson's trip to investigate of the Niger uranium claim was at the behest of Wilson's CIA wife.

To paraphrase Mr. Rove, liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers; conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared to ruin the career of one of the country's spies tracking terrorist efforts to gain weapons of mass destruction - for political gain.

Politics first, counter-terrorism second - it's as simple as that.

In his 'story guidance' to Matthew Cooper of Time, Rove did more damage to your safety than the most thumb-sucking liberal or guard at Abu Ghraib. He destroyed an intelligence asset like Valerie Plame merely to deflect criticism of a politician. We have all the damned politicians, of every stripe, that we need. The best of them isn't worth half a Valerie Plame. And if the particular politician for whom Rove was deflecting, President Bush, is more than just all hat and no cattle on terrorism, he needs to banish Rove - and loudly.


Well, that will never happen.  The White House will counter attack in some way.  There'll be another London.

But for the moment it's hot news.  Lies!  Revenge gone wrong!  Cover-ups!  Betrayals!  Reporters off to jail!  Investigations!

It's a lot more interesting than the Saudis getting the bomb or the new Iraq getting in bed with the unreformed Iran, or the wall in Israel that will inflame those who are already disposed to feeling powerless, betrayed, scorned, and very, very angry - and ready to strike out against these perceived wrongs.

It's a lot more interesting.  Not really as important.  But news is what's dramatic, not what can get us all killed and turn the current war even more pointless.  That's for policy wonks. 


Underreported news?  Flurries of concern for almost two weeks on the right side of things about the proposed sale of Unocal, the giant oil company based right out here in El Segundo, just next to LAX, to the Chinese - the wrong ones on the mainland, the communists, not the good ones on the island, the free-market capitalists.  The president has been curiously silent.  Then the Washington Post reports - 12 July - that James C. Langdon Jr., chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a major Bush fundraiser, met last winter with investment bankers in China to help secure his law firm's role in lobbying for a state-run Chinese energy firm and its bid for Unocal.


Bush Adviser Helped Law Firm Land Job Lobbying for CNOOC
Jonathan Weisman, Tuesday, July 12, 2005; Page D01


Newsworthy?  Probably not.  The anti-Communist patriots on the right, still fighting the Cold War fifty years too late (Hey, we WON, guys!) may squirm a bit at this.  But they can always shift to the "the business of America is business" line as a fallback position.  There are more important things than ideology.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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