Monday, October 25, 2004

OCTOBER SURPRISE. Of all the arguments in favor of the war in Iraq, one of the strangest is that it's better to fight them over there than over here. Republicans, and George W. Bush himself, have used that line repeatedly. Never, though, do they explain why the turmoil in Iraq somehow renders Al Qaeda incapable of carrying out operations in the United States. Indeed, the chaos we've created is exactly the sort of environment in which terrorists thrive, making it easier for them to hop on a plane to the US rather than harder.

Thus the front page of today's New York Times is filled with the sort of dark, frightening news that points out precisely why the Bush presidency has been such an unmitigated disaster. Fifty Iraqi police recruits have been killed, execution-style. The Zarqawi organization, which now calls itself Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, has claimed responsibility, suggesting that the terrorists are growing stronger by the day.

Far, far worse is the news that 380 tons of incredibly dangerous explosives disappeared in Iraq in the aftermath of the American-British invasion. The explosives are of the sort that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, and are also useful for triggering a nuclear bomb. Saddam Hussein may not have had weapons of mass destruction, but this stuff is horrifying nevertheless.

What happened? The Times report says:

Officials in Washington said they had no answers to that question. One senior official noted that the Qaqaa complex where the explosives were stored was listed as a "medium priority" site on the Central Intelligence Agency's list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. "Should we have gone there? Definitely," said one senior administration official.

In the chaos that followed the invasion, however, many of those sites, even some considered a higher priority, were never secured.

Josh Marshall has a ton of supplementary material, drawing mainly from a newsletter called the Nelson Report. Apparently this story has been the subject of rumors in Washington for weeks. Think carefully about Marshall's two key observations, both backed up by evidence:

1. The White House has known about the missing explosives for many months - possibly for a year and a half - and has covered it up all this time, keeping the information not only from the American people but from the International Atomic Energy Agency as well. No doubt it desperately wanted this story not to come out until November 3.

2. The evidence suggests that these very same explosives have already been used against our troops in the form of suicide and terrorist bombings in Iraq.

We've known at least since early summer 2003 that the invasion was poorly planned and sloppily executed. Now we have the first indication that the bungling has cost Americans their lives - eight days before the election.

THE HERALD APOLOGIZES II. Here is the Boston Herald's published apology as it appeared in Saturday's editions.

SLITHERING BELOW GAYDAR. Susan Ryan-Vollmar's got a roundup of how the Bush-Cheney campaign hopes to squeak out a victory by demonizing gay and lesbian voters. You already knew that, but she's got details.

ANONYMOUS SOURCES SAY ... I'm glad that the number of people posting comments to Media Log has been increasing (guess I should whack Jon Stewart more often!), but it has exposed a flaw in's software.

Here's how it works. If you're a registered member of, you can post a comment under your user name or anonymously. But if you're not a registered member (and most people aren't), you can only post anonymously.

A few people have gotten around this by making their name part of their comment. For the most part, though, the comments section is just a sea of anonymous observations, which can be somewhat problematic.

I don't want to turn off the comments feature, but I am pondering the value of all this anonymity.


Anonymous said...

Dan, this is the first time I post in your blog. I read your blog almost every day. I found your blog by starting from reading your writings in Phoenix on paper or online. I like most of the things you have to say - good analysis and informative. And now I have bookmarked your blog.

I think that anonymous posts are more close to the truth from the view point of the posting person. People may not want to say certain things (hopefully not NR-17 words) if identified. Although at times you might get nasty posts that hurt your feelings, but still I think that that is just part of the game for being a public figure and that letting people post anonymously would make your blog more colorful, diversifying and attractive to a wide range of readers. So if I were you, I would not shut down that anonymous option.

A fan in Boston

Dan Kennedy said...

Dear Anonymous (!) --

I appreciate your comments. Believe me, my feelings are the least of my concerns. It's a matter of standards. If you write a letter to the editor, most publications (including the Phoenix) will insist on knowing who you are, even if you have asked that your name not be used.

There are good reasons for this. A comment is more credible if there's a name attached to it. And even if there isn't, the policy signals to readers that the paper is taking care to make sure that the letters it chooses to publish have been vetted for authenticity.

I realize it's different online. Even if I did require names, there would be no guarantee that those names were accurate, or any more than just an impenetrable nickname. So you may be right -- it's possible there's nothing I can or should do about this.

But I'm thinking ...

Phil Gallagher said...

Danny boy!!! how bout those Sox???? Don't shut off the comments section! Where could nuts like me vent?
The war as an away game talk was validated by Kerry when he said militants were flocking to Iraq to sign up with the insurgents. Let them sign up and fight in a place where we have 140k top troops, special forces and overwhelming air power. My bet is they have a lot more difficult time dealing with those guys than they have when they blow up women and children.

The ammo dump story was worthy of mention in your fine MediaLog however just as worthy was the Washington Times story on Kerry's fake assertion that he met with UN security council members.

Anonymous said...

Deeeekaaay, Deeeekaaay, Deeeekaaay...

I just don't want to sign up for one of them Blogger account thingimajingies in order to post comments. So if you do cut off anonymous commenting, maybe I'll just have to comment on your blog postings on my own blog. How would that further civilization?

Who's your Anon? Who's your Anon? Who's your Anon?

Anonymous said...

Deeeekaaay, Deeeekaaay, Deeeekaaay...

I just don't want to sign up for one of them Blogger account thingimajingies in order to post comments. So if you do cut off anonymous commenting, maybe I'll just have to comment on your blog postings on my own blog. How would that further civilization?

Who's your Anon? Who's your Anon? Who's your Anon?

Anonymous said...

I don't think anonymity is a big deal in this situation. As you say, you don't know who it is anyway, even with a name. Judge the comment by the content.

Anonymous said...

anonymous posting, as i've seen it in some cases here, has, in many cases, opened the door for wimps to vent their cowardly musings without taking responsibility for their posts. it's a shot in the back of the head, and nothing more. no blogger account, but my name is megan schneider.

Anonymous said...

One thing I find interesting is that while I have heard politicians (and pundits) repeatedly say, "We're fighting the War on Terror over there, so we don't have to fight it in our own country", I've never seen them question the effect on Iraq's citizenry. While Bush administration officials often cite Saddam's horrible history of abuse, and the Iraqi people's wishes for freedom, I've never seen an Iraqi say, "Thank Goodness the war on terror has been brought to my home so the American people can be spared."

Obviously, that's a bit hyperbolic, but the point's still the same. Yes, I'm glad Cantabrigians aren't being beheaded left and right, and I'm glad that my home in Brookline isn't being shelled nightly. But I rarely see regret or compassion towards the citizens of Iraq, when it's not used in the context of, "Look what those awful terrorists have done. This validates our actions here, and we are grateful the war is being fought on their turf and not ours." The problem being that we created the situation in Iraq allowing these terrorists to thrive. It's our responsibility now.
- Another Anonymous Coward