Friday, November 07, 2003

More on that so-called Iraqi peace offer. New York Times reporter James Risen and Iraq expert Ken Pollack were on CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown last night, chewing over Risen's story on a last-minute peace overture that appeared to have Saddam Hussein's blessing.

Maybe there's more to tell, but it sounds like this is going nowhere. Pollack -- a prowar ex-Clinton official -- was dubious in the extreme, saying, "There is no reason to believe that Iraqi intelligence had any intention of delivering on any of the promises that they were dangling in front of the United States. Far more likely what they were trying to do was to derail the US war effort without actually giving up anything."

And Risen himself made no great claims for his story, other than to assert that it was accurate. For instance:

I think, as Ken said, you know, you can't get into the mind of Saddam Hussein very easily. It's quite possible this was all, that he wasn't really serious about this. All I'm saying in my reporting is that this happened. This channel happened....

So, I'm convinced that Habbush met with Hage, that Hage then met with Richard Perle, that Perle then talked to the CIA. I'm not trying to say that this was real or that Saddam Hussein was serious. I'm just saying this channel happened.

Josh Marshall has a different take on the whole thing, arguing that the story was a setup by the neocons to help one of their own -- Michael Maloof, who also figures in the story, and who lost his security clearance earlier this year.

Marshall is very astute, but also a bit too cynical for Media Log's tastes, given that he seems to think that if you can speculate on the motive, you can dismiss the story.

On the other hand, Pollack's and Risen's comments were pretty convincing that there is a wisp of smoke here, but no fire.

Divide and conquer. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman today reminds us of how the Republicans have used the Confederate flag to advance their interests in the South.

And the Boston Globe's Mary Leonard reports that the GOP is salivating over the prospect of making same-sex marriage an issue in the 2004 campaign.

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