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 Blogger.com's software.
Here's how it works. If you're a registered member of Blogger.com, 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.