July 29, 2004

Marshall Metamorphosizes into Moronic Mooreian

Have you ever heard of "Foopie," "Fupi'' or "Ahmed the Tanzanian"?

Neither had I until tonight (or newer fish like Zarqawi had, blissfully, crowded him out of my consciousness). He is an al-Qaeda terrorist who was allegedly behind the Tanzania and Kenya U.S. Embassy bombings back in the late '90s.

It appears he was arrested last Sunday by Pakistani authorities in a major firefight. His arrest has been made public today by the Pakistani authorities. The FBI has made no comment--and haven't yet been officially informed by the Pakistani authorities. In due course, reportedly, the suspect will be turned over to American authorities.

Enter Josh Marshall--all, adolescent-style, hotted up and breathless:

I'm not going to be able to watch the television coverage of this throughout the day. But many of you will. So I'd be very, very curious to hear whether when, oh say, CNN goes on about how this al Qaida guy has been hauled in they will mention at all, or with any consistency, that one of the most respected political magazines in the United States reported just weeks ago on the pressure the administration has been placing on the Pakistanis to serve up an al Qaida bad guy on this day.

Will they make the obvious connection? Or will they just ignore it?

This is just the latest, but perhaps the most blatant, example of how this administration has placed politics and, really, political dirty tricks above national security itself, and along the way persisted in defining political deviance down until tactics we used to associate with banana republics start to seem commonplace here.

And while we're at it, this is yet another example of how truly important it is that we democratize the Middle East. Because once we have, some of them will be able to come back here and redemocratize us.

Are you, like, kidding me? Please.

Ignore the descent into what Martin Amis would call the "moronic inferno" in Marshall's last graf (the inane musings about 'redemocratization'). Concentrate instead on the incendiary, and grossly unfounded, charges in his penultimate graf.

Let's begin by predicating that, to get anywhere near bouncing Kerry's speech off the networks, the HVT in question would need a lot more H in the VT, so to speak. All told, it would have to be UBL himself.

And did Josh read this part of the NYT article linked above?

His arrest appears to be the first high-level detention that has resulted from a series of Pakistani military operations launched in the country's remote northwestern tribal areas five months ago.

Did 'dirty tricks' Dick Cheney know it would take five months to get a second-tier HVT delivered up by Islamabad after a gunbattle this past Sunday? Just, er, to crowd out Kerry from the Boston podium action?

Friends, this is flatly risible fare isn't it? Or I am some buffoonish naif from an innocent and so-far-away pre-Watergate era?

Either way, let me issue a challenge to Josh Marshall. Since he's ostensibly an investigative reporter (tectonic-plates a shiftin' under le tout Washington), I'd urge him to support his musings about how the Bush Administration has put "political dirty tricks above national security itself."

I'd ask TPM to provide concrete evidence (no anonymous sources, please!) about how the Bush Administration, at any time in, say, the past 6-12 months, asked the Pakistani authorities to either delay searching for an HVT or, alternately, asked the Pakistani authorities to delay announcing the capture of an HVT (until the Democratic Convention) they had already apprehended.

If he can produce such a story (one that passes a preponderance of the evidence smell test)--I'll eat the New Republic issue where that meme was first aired (or at least the pages where the article in question appeared!).

Show me the money, Josh. Or, even better, quit sliming senior policymakers throughout the Bush Administration with your ad hoc, gratuitous attacks.

UPDATE: From the old TNR article:

The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Yo, what gives? It's the 29th of July today, right? We wanted the ISI to turn UBL over on the first three days of the convention--not the last--the better to get the full news cycle...what happened?

MORE: Some common sense from Will Baude: "coincidences happen, and...capturing terrorists is good."

And Tom Maguire wonders whether Josh Marshall feels the capture of HVTs is a bad thing.

Question: How many on the Left would be sad if UBL were genuinely captured, all dirty-tricks aside and purely coincidentally, at 10:01 PM tonight? I'd like to think few, if any--but still, just asking...


By the way, the argument that the U.S. simply froze its activities regarding hunting down UBL during 2002 and 2003 is simply false.

Just do some Googling. You'll find stuff like this from '02.

Note this gun-battle (two years before the Convention almost to the day!) served as the first "confirmation of the presence of Al-Qaeda militants in tribal areas of Pakistan."

Or how about 2003--when, according to the Richard Clarke crowd--the entire world stopped but for ill-advised military operations around Tikrit and Fallujah.

Nope, military activities continued in Afghanistan that year too (this Carlotta Gall article is from February of 2003)

There has been an increase in recent weeks in cross-border activity from Pakistan by militants opposed to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, particularly in southern Afghanistan where a group of rebels set up base in mountain caves near the border with Pakistan. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers battled with the rebels last week and have spent days since sweeping the mountains and caves to clear the area. Afghan officials complain that Pakistan is doing nothing to apprehend Al Qaeda and Taliban troublemakers and is actively encouraging them. U.S. military officials have also expressed frustration at Pakistan's failure to contain the cross-border activity.

Khalizad also showed a rare sign of impatience with the Afghan government Monday, saying it needed to do "more and better" in its part in the reform and reconstruction of the country. He reinforced the U.S. commitment to assist Afghanistan even if there is a war in Iraq. "The U.S. is capable of doing more than one thing at the same time," he said, "and resources required for Afghanistan, in its entirety, we are able to deliver on and we are committed to delivering on no matter what happens in Iraq."

These subtleties and nettlesome facts don't fit the Spence Ackerman and Josh Marshall's of the world narrative. When you run a blog whose basic premise is that Iraq is inexorably going to hell (Ackerman) or that this administration is worse than Nixon's in its manifold dirty tricks chicanery (Marshall)--well, the spin just keeps coming--facts (quite often) be damned.

Posted by Gregory Djerejian at July 29, 2004 11:26 PM
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