July 08, 2004

This is TNR-Worthy?

Is Marty Peretz minding the store?

My BS detector is going off--big time.

Actually, it's flat out booming.

"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.

Come again?

Can anyone seriously, without blushing, buy this stuff?

I mean, why wait until the Convention?

I'm surprised they didn't instruct Musharraf and Co. to spring UBL the day Kerry picked Edwards!

Then this:

But Powell conspicuously did not commit the United States to selling F-16s to Pakistan, which it desperately wants in order to tilt the regional balance of power against India. And the Pakistanis fear that, if they don't produce an HVT, they won't get the planes.

"Conspicuously"? What a laugh!

Pakistan (Musharraf aside) has been hankering for F-16s for years.

Check this story out:

In December of 1988, Pakistan ordered 11 additional F-16A/B Block 15 OCU (Operational Capability Upgrade) aircraft, and in September of 1989, plans were announced for Pakistan to acquire 60 more F-16A/Bs. A down payment of $685 M was received, and work on the planes began.

The F-16 deal got unwound because Pakistan got itself involved in a controversy with the United States over its suspected nuclear weapons capability.

It's been a major item on the bilateral agenda between Washington and Islamabad for decades now.

And, apart from the now moot nuclear capability issue, India, you know, has had some thoughts on all this too.

Check out this PakNews story from 9/11/02 for more background.

So that's just a year after 9/11.

Was the reason we weren't approving the F-16 sales then simply because UBL hadn't been handed-over in cuffs to CIA agents by the ISI?

Of course not.

Here's about a year later when Belgium was hankering to do a third country sale of F-16s to Pakistan and we were telling Brussels to cool it?

Hey, they were just holding this carrot in reserve again!

Dastardly UBL hadn't yet been handed over.

Then this:

Equally, they fear that, if they don't deliver, either Bush or a prospective Kerry administration would turn its attention to the apparent role of Pakistan's security establishment in facilitating Khan's illicit proliferation network. One Pakistani general recently in Washington confided in a journalist, "If we don't find these guys by the election, they are going to stick this whole nuclear mess up our asshole."

Ah, this wouldn't be such a whopper without some recycled Sy Hersh.

Who is this unnamed ISI official who works under ISI director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq--Mssrs. Judis, Ackerman and Ansari? (All three sources, of course, are anonymous. TNR, perhaps a bit insecure on this point, clues us in as to why: "Under Pakistan's Official Secrets Act, an official leaking information to the press can be imprisoned for up to ten years") [ed. note: Heh, you think?]

Anyway, this ISI official (ostensibly a General, Colonel--we aren't told?), he of the so colorful language, kind of sounds like Robert Duvall in the Great Santini.

I suspect his credibility is, at very best, highly debatable.

You know, these are such damning charges, when you really stop and think about it.

It's despicable to insinuate POTUS would purposefully calibrate the ideal dates by which to haul UBL to justice--a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans-- simply to fit electoral demands.

Especially as, while he's still at large (assuming he's a) still alive and b) exerts some command and control over al-Q), he can contribute to the killing of more U.S. citizens.

As we all recall, of course, the Democratic Georgetown drawing-rooms are all atitter with such talk (think Madeline Albright and Co.) of an October (sorry, late July!) surprise.

I expect such chit-chat after Gin & Tonic No. 3 chez Madeline.

But it's still a canard that's deeply offensive.

So one should be very careful peddling it around outside of the cocktail parlors, in print, especially in top-tier publications.

And, I've got to say, I think three excellent journalists have let their partisan nature, in the heat of an election year, get the better of them on this story.

Not TNR's proudest day, in my view. Not by a long shot.

I mean, at the very least, even if they think their sources are of the utmost reliability--couldn't Ackerman and Judis mention the long history of the U.S. having real issues allowing the Pakistanis to get F--16s?

You know, just to put things in some perspective?

But why should they?

Painting the Bushies in sinister, cynical Mooreian colors might tilt a few more votes to the good guys, right?

Such pieces, heavy on speculation and anonymous sources; light on facts--well, they're really just for the good of the country!

Chill out, already!

UPDATE: I gotta say, it's nice to have commenters watching your back like this and this.

Thanks guys.

Posted by Gregory at July 8, 2004 02:56 PM

Nice work. The left is truly desparate.

Posted by: Chris at July 8, 2004 03:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So, the story isn't true because the allegation is of extreme misconduct? Is it really so unthinkable that the Bush administration would push Pakistan to capture an HVT, given that his election may very well depend on such an occurrence?

Posted by: Geek, Esq. at July 8, 2004 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ya weighs the evidence, Geeko, my lad.

Sure, Bush would like the heads of certain HVTs on pikes really soon, but as Mr. Djerejian ably points out, the TNR fantasy goes awry Š begins to smell Š when it implies that the F-16s are being held hostage only because the Mush-man and crew canÕt come up with the needed heads. The facts donÕt support TNRÕs allegation and your insinuation.

I hope you don't try this tack in court...

Posted by: The Kid at July 8, 2004 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Geek, Esquire: It isn't that the story is false because the allegation is of extreme misconduct--that would be a stupid principle--but that the burden of proof on those making the allegation is very high. And the evidence they offer doesn't even amount to the allegations being prima facie credible.

No doubt the US is pushing Pakistan to deliver on Bin Laden (as well as looking for him with US/Afghani forces). The issues are whether the US is: [1] holding Bin Laden now and planning to announce his capture to upstage the Dems; [2] is pushing for HVT capture solely for political ends and apart from a capture's real strategic value; [3] is making arms sales contingent on delivery of said HVTs.

Djerejian says that such claims are morally offensive because [4] those journalists adduce no credible evidence for the claims though they have the burden of proof and [5] the balance of credible evidence is indeed against those claims.

Posted by: Ajay Chandra at July 8, 2004 04:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There has been a clear pattern of the administration playing fast and loose with national security for partisan gain.

When you add WMD to the aircraft carrier speech to the botched post-war planning and lies about the cost and scope of war to Valerie Plame to the Lisa Meyer's (no lib symp she) report on waved-off pre-war strikes on Zarqawi (and BTW, ask Jacob Levy and Dan Drezner if those charges were too despicable to take seriously) to Ashcroft's terror announcements (including the Columbus mall bomb plot) to the fact that Pakistan has in the past tried to play the administration (remember, this past spring when they "almost" got Zawahiri a day after Powell's visit) and the fact that TNR is one of the staunchest supporters of victory in the war on terror does not sum to a charge that can be dismissed by incredulity.

The New Republic is a serious magazine, just the type of source that would be interested in and a credible source of allegations like these. Michael Moore's newfound status as a conservative talisman of Godwin's Law proportions is a propos of exactly nothing here.

Posted by: SamAm at July 8, 2004 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Geek, you're talking like a lawyer. Gregory didn't say that the story is *untrue* because it involves extreme misconduct; he said that the story is *poorly supported* and that making poorly supported allegations is especially bad when they involve extreme misconduct. And Gregory didn't say it's "so unthinkable" that the Bush Administration would push Pakistan to capture HVTs. (Presumably the Administration has been doing just that for years.) What he said was that the story's claim of specific timing demands was poorly supported, and what he implied (with respect to your proposed "thinkable" test of journalistic ethics) was that "hey, it could happen" is not a sufficient justification for a major publication to make a poorly supported allegation of serious misconduct.

Posted by: Patrick at July 8, 2004 04:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can't help but think that they're accusing the Adminstration of trying to do their jobs. Unless they actually think that this means "don't capture anybody until [dates X or Y]." Given prior practice, - Khalid Sheik Mohammed, for instance - I would be astonished if the hypothetical order wouldn't be "don't publicize [capture Z] until [dates X or Y]".

Posted by: Mitch H. at July 8, 2004 04:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Recall that Omar Sheikh, executioner of Daniel Pearl, also made claims that the Pearl would be killed unless the United States starting selling F/16 aircraft to Pakistan again. Or, shall I mention that Indian intelligence says Omar Sheikh was the ISI informant linked to Dubai financiers of Salafi movements in addition to a close personal friend of UBL.

Pak journalists still refer to UBL as Musharraf's 'best friend'. With the Khan, ISI nuclear market out in the open the only trump card left for the Pakistanis is the Al Qaida concern.

Posted by: Brennan Stout at July 8, 2004 04:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So the Democrats have July and October covered, I guess we should look now for speculations that OBL will be caught in August, September, or even very early November... that way, should OBL be caught and/or killed, the Bushies will immediately be discredited...

Posted by: Ace Whiplash at July 8, 2004 04:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Pakistanis' desire for the F-16's has been well-documented, and that part of the article may not be its strongest piece of evidence.

But, F-16's are not the only form of leverage the US has on Pakistan. Having an administration that is known for punishing those who have displeased it pissed at him is not something Musharraf wants.

The central thesis, not really disputed vigorously here, is that these three journalists spoke to high-ranking officials within the Pakistani government who say that the Bush admin's pressure has correlated to the election cycle.

The innuendo that "anonymous" sources can't be trusted is a canard--just ask Deep Throat.

Posted by: Geek, Esq. at July 8, 2004 04:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Here's a theory:

The US have told Pakistan "give us UBL and we'll talk about F16's"

Pakistan are concerned that a Kerry admin will not honor that commitment.

Senior Pakistanis told their ISI grunts that they need to find OBL while Bush is still around (to honor the F16 payback).

The grunts indulged in some beyond-the-paygrade speculation with some credulous American journalists.

Posted by: am at July 8, 2004 05:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Another possiblity is that this is simply the ISI screwing around with American politics. Anonymouos sources often have their own agenda.

The idea that they can time the capture of OBL to specific days is loopy. On the other hand, spring and summer are the traditional campaigning seasons in Afghanistan. Both sides step up the tempo because the weather is good.

Posted by: Enrst Blofeld at July 8, 2004 05:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Having an administration that is known for punishing those who have displeased it pissed at him is not something Musharraf wants."

If only the gathered ire of the Bush admin could so dramatically influence state actions!

Posted by: Rus Steel at July 8, 2004 06:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's nice to think that we are so powerful that we could set a date for things to happen. How refreshing! I hope UBL obliged to be captured to prove once and for all how evil Bush was.

Posted by: ic at July 8, 2004 07:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This story comes from the ISI; the same agency whose officers like Col. Imam, (re Coll's Afghan
Wars) were responsible for supporting Hekmatyar
than the Taliban; who besides Saudi General
Intelligence; is most responsible for the rise of
Al Queda's component networks. How can they
be this dense

Posted by: narciso at July 8, 2004 07:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Come on people this is a smoke screen. So if UBL is capped between and the late July, they can say hey we had him all along and it was being kept quiet till election time.

And some people will fall for it. Let's be honest if UBL is capped at any time before Nov 3, than Bush gets re-elected. The Dems will not have a leg to stand on. Economy doing well, Iraq did not deter war on terror.

What else is in their grab bag at this point.

Posted by: James Stephenson at July 8, 2004 08:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Somebody please explain to me why Pakistan would need to be prodded to offer up O/Usama Ben/Bin Laden. Giving the US a nice fat present like that would be a diplomatic bonanza. Pakistan could coast on that for a long, long time.

The Paks won't move a muscle for him now, but give'em some outmoded F-16s and we've got a deal? Sure, my friend. I make for you, extra special.

Posted by: Mr Duh at July 9, 2004 12:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Quite easy for anyone to spin a story out of thin air. But hey, TNR staff has to eat too :)

Posted by: daniel at July 9, 2004 02:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Count me as JOE SIXPACK. And proud of it. Here's my thought whenever I come to good blog discussions like this one is:

If you all could set the details of any given argument aside, would you take the time to notice that most of the comments from people who hate GWB and this war, reveal only one thing (so far): how stupid they think I am. They seem to think that I will swallow anything. Folks, there's a LOT of info out there, and it's painfully obvious to anyone who surfs worldwide, that libs/left/rad-left are really straining to find/create bad stuff to support their POV. I mean, there's 15,000 NEW blogs EVERY day! What does that say about those of us who read them?

Not that I think saying this will help any, but really folks, give us something subsantial and verifiable and not already debunked by reliable sources, would you please? Or at least take a glance at blogs like IraqThe Model, and get some perspective. You'd have a lot more to offer to dicussions like this.

Colorado USA

Posted by: nitronora at July 9, 2004 02:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Capturing UBL in July could just as easily hurt Bush. Way too many people want to think the WOT is over and UBL's capture would just encourage that wishful thinking.

Posted by: kyost at July 9, 2004 08:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ah, the ISI. The Most Honest And Reliable, Sure, You Bet, Intelligence Agency In The World. Who'd as soon knife Musharraf as do what he asks. So I'm sure they'll totally deliver whatever the Bush admin would ask . . . and like the Bush admin would ask this (in the political sense being insinuated, and with such precision - because precision and Pakistan definitely go together). However, obviously, people are willing to believe this.

The really weird thing here is that this is coming from TNR. Such fevered stuff. I think everyone to the left of George Pataki is getting Michael Moore fever.

Posted by: Meg Q at July 9, 2004 05:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And that Meg Q is probably the most significant insight on this thread.

When did the fevered swamps full of tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorists become legitimate sources for the left to tap for inspiration?

This smacks of desperation of such a serious level that only the risk of absolute destruction of one's beliefs could possibly explain it. Don't the liberals see the damage they are doing to themselves? By reacting to Bush in this manner they have marginalized themselves.

Posted by: Mahatma at July 9, 2004 09:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The really weird thing here is that this is coming from TNR. Such fevered stuff. I think everyone to the left of George Pataki is getting Michael Moore fever."

Given that the Bushies outed a covert CIA agent to score political points, their own actions lend credibility to such charges.

They've stooped to treacherous behavior in the past. Who knows what they're capable of?

Posted by: Jon H at July 10, 2004 02:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Given that the Bushies outed a covert CIA agent to score political points, their own actions lend credibility to such charges.

They've stooped to treacherous behavior in the past. Who knows what they're capable of?


Posted by: Bob at July 10, 2004 04:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What a surprise: a high value Al-Qaeda target captured "a few days back" is announced on the day Kerry's supposed to accept the nomination.



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