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March 31, 2004

Iraq and Terrorism, Part 1

From the March 23, 2004 hearing before the 9/11 Commission, there are (1) links between the 1993 WTC bombing plotters, Al Qaeda and Iraq, (2) the presence of Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas in Iraq, and (3) links between Al Qaeda, Iraq and the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that the Clinton administration struck in 1998 after the African embassy bombings:

LEHMAN: Well, specifically on the '93 attack on the World Trade Center, we have been told by some very senior officials that the complete picture, the evidence of the Al Qaida links of the perpetrators, were really not made known until after -- shared within the government until after the trial of the blind sheik. And the links of Abdel Rahman Yasin, for instance, were not widely known within the government.

When did you, if you could think back, become aware of the close and many links between the '93 plotters and Al Qaida?

ALBRIGHT: I can't remember exactly. I mean, I think that, you know, we began to know more about Al Qaida sometime in '96, '97. We knew bin Laden was a financier that was involved in a variety of activities. But I honestly can't tell you exactly when I became aware of the various linkages.

LEHMAN: Did you know about Abdel Rahman Yasin and his fleeing to Baghdad and his support and cooperation with Saddam's intelligence service? Did you see any significance in that? He being, of course, one of the main plotters of the '93 bombing.

ALBRIGHT: I can't say that I remember that.

LEHMAN: Just on that theme, the fact that Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas were there along with Yasin, would this have been a reason to begin to look a bit at what the Iraqi secret service was doing with Al Qaida, with or without Saddam's knowledge?

ALBRIGHT: Again, my sense of all of this was that there were shadowy connections among a variety of groups. But in terms of this kind of specificity, frankly, that was not something that as secretary of state I would have been looking into.

* * *

COHEN: Senator Gorton, let me give you a real case involving actionable intelligence, the so-called pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. I want to use that as an example because there we were given information that bin Laden, following the bombings of the embassies in East Africa, was seeking to get his hands on chemical and biological weapons to kill as many people as he could.

We were real concerned about that. I was very concerned about that.

COHEN: Intelligence started to come in about this particular plant. They had been gathering information on it, and I think I point this out in my written testimony, but, frankly, I apologize for not getting it to you much sooner. I was still working on it as of yesterday, last night.

But to give you an example, this particular facility, according to the intelligence we had at that time, had been constructed under extraordinary security circumstances, even with some surface-to-air missile capability or defense capabilities.

That the plant itself had been constructed under the security measures, that the plant had been funded, in part, by the so-called military industrial corporation, that bin Laden had been living there, that he had in fact money that he had put into this military industrial corporation, that the owner of the plant had traveled to Baghdad to meet with the father of the VX program, and that the CIA had found traces of EMTA nearby the facility itself.

According to all the intelligence, there was no other known use for EMTA at that time other than as a precursor to VX.

Under those circumstances, I said, that's actionable enough for me -- that that plant could in fact be producing not baby aspirin or some other pharmaceutical for the benefit of the people, but it was enough for me to say we should take it out -- and I recommended that.

Now, I was criticized for that, saying, you didn't have enough. And I put myself in the position of coming before you and having someone like you say to me, "Let me get this straight, Mr. Secretary, we've just had a chemical weapons attack upon our cities or our troops and we've lost several hundred or several thousand. And this is the information which you had at your fingertips. You had a plant that was built under the following circumstances, had you manager that went to Baghdad, you had Osama bin Laden who had funded at least the corporation, and you had traces of EMTA and did you what? You did nothing? Is that a responsible activity on the part of the Secretary of Defense?"

And the answer is pretty clear.

So I was satisfied, even though that still is pointed as a mistake, that it was the right thing to do then. I would do it again, based on that kind of intelligence.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 10:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Liberal Talk Radio

Oh boy! Don't miss the debut today of the new liberal talk radio network, "Air America Radio." Here's a note on the programming:

As a result the network's 17-hour weekday lineup has as much if not more in common with "Saturday Night Live" than with National Public Radio. For example, its midmorning show, which begins tomorrow at 9, will have as its hosts Lizz Winstead, a comedian and a creator of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, and Chuck D, the frontman for the rap group Public Enemy.

They will be followed at noon by Mr. Franken, the "Saturday Night Live" alumnus who has evolved into a satirist, and whose co-host is Katherine Lanpher from Minnesota Public Radio. Martin Kaplan, a communications professor at the University of Southern California, will be the host of a one-hour show about the news media in the early evening.

He will be followed, from 8 to 11 p.m., by Ms. Garofalo, whose main experience in radio was playing the role of a talk-show host for pet owners in the 1996 film "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," and by Mr. Seder, who has worked as a comedian, screenwriter and filmmaker.

Personally, I would have preferred Flavor Flave ("Yo Chuck, tell 'em what time it is, boyeeee!") to Chuck D. You can hear Air America Radio initially on the following stations: WLIB-AM (1190), New York; WNTD-AM (950) , Chicago; KBLA-AM (1580) , Los Angeles; KCAA-AM (1050) , Riverside and San Bernadino, Calif.; KPOJ-AM (620), Portland, Ore.; and Channel 167 on XM Satellite Radio.

It looks like it's a full court press from the left, as The New York Observer is reporting that Al Gore and his Dem business partner, Joel Hyatt, are going to acquire a digital cable-TV channel from Vivendi this week for a cool $70 million:

"Fabulous!" Mr. Franken said. "I think it’s a good thing. I think Al Gore’s a good guy." He started laughing with pleasure just thinking about it. "And I think Al Gore is a smart guy who has tremendous curiosity, and I think he’s a person who likes ideas," he continued. "And I think, you know, from all I know from the people I’ve met in media, he’d be a good choice as someone to have a piece of it. I’m much more comfortable in his hands than a lot of people."

As far as the dovetailing between Air America Radio and Mr. Gore’s project, Mr. Franken said, "It’s all part of the same thing. It’s fighting back …. I think that the country—there’s an odd idea that the mainstream media is liberal, and it just isn’t. And I think the mainstream media has become scared of its own shadow. Basically, their testicles have been sucked up into their body cavity with a slurping sound."

Hmmm . . . . And it gets better:

It wasn’t easy for Mr. Gore to get his hands on NWI. According to two sources familiar with the situation, Mr. Gore went so far as to seek the influence of French President Jacques Chirac in buying the channel, hoping that Mr. Chirac would aid him in landing a sweetened deal with Vivendi chief executive Jean-René Fourtou—and quick. That request resulted in a meeting last summer with executives of Universal Television Group and Vivendi’s chief operating officer, Jean-Bernard Levy. At the time, however, Vivendi was preparing to sell its cable properties to NBC, which temporarily stalled Mr. Gore’s media ambitions.

Who would have thunk it? Well, whatever. The former Vice President is just using his contacts in an attempt to level the playing field, right? Indeed:

Mr. Franken agreed that the left had been lax during the techno-revolution while the right "felt a certain urgency, to their credit, and they had a lot of right-wing financiers who saw this as a need. A lot of them were trust-fund babies who inherited a lot of money and wanted to keep it and now have bought their way into the Congress and the Bush administration, and you have a lot of wealth trying to keep a lot of wealth and a very stacked deck in this country right now."

Let me get this straight: People with property trying to keep their property. In America no less. That does sound wildly unfair -- a very stacked deck.

UPDATE: Two right-wing media types offer the following prediction in today's L.A. Times:

Air America requires a mass ideological movement to sustain it, and if a robust liberal movement exists today, it can teach the Air Force something about stealth. Calling its potential audience "progressive" — rather than "liberal" — fools no one. And the network shouldn't confuse the battles between Democrats and Republicans with building a movement. Partisan fervor lasts for four years max; a movement, as we said, requires decades.

The latest news for liberals in this regard is dismal. Hal Malchow, a leading fundraiser for the Democratic Party, told us: "The size of the donor list on the liberal side has been shrinking. A lot. The basic liberal universe that's available to the DNC [Democratic National Committee] right now is probably around a half-million to 600,000 unique names that we don't have yet as donors. Ten years ago it would have been a million, million-and-a-half names." By way of comparison, the Republican Party solicits new donors from conservative lists totaling 5 million or more names.

Fear of black-and-white positions. Short-term myopia. Inadequate capitalization. A shrinking audience. It doesn't look good for Air America. But if Air America fails, liberals shouldn't despair. Rupert Murdoch may come to their rescue.

You read that right. Murdoch is a capitalist, after all, not an ideologue. He will go where the money is, and a recent venture is the Fox News Radio Service. One of its first stars is Alan Colmes, the liberal foil to Sean Hannity on Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes."

Posted by Old Benjamin at 01:28 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 30, 2004

The French Love McDonald's

Really, they do:

Call the French snooty, or just demanding, for their attention to good food, good wine, good atmosphere in their restaurants, for lingering over their meals. But the French have a dirty little secret: Of all the people in Europe, they like McDonald's more than anyone else does.

Pound for quarter-pound, they eat more of it, more often, than any other nationality on the continent, and the nay-sayers here who predicted the French would give up their beloved aged cheese before adopting the quick-fry meat patties so often seen as emblematic of America's bad taste, have been proven as wrong as red wine with white fish. . . .

France has 1,008 McDonald's restaurants, second in Europe only to the 1,235 in Britain and the 1,244 in Germany, and though each country's total sales are a closely held company secret, France is leading them both. . . .

A Big Mac in the heart of Paris goes for $3.65, a fish sandwich sells for $3.40, large fries for $2.40 and the Royal Cheese -- which would be called a quarter pounder, except for the metric system -- goes for $3.85.

(Via Dan Drezner.)

Posted by Old Benjamin at 01:37 PM | Permalink | TrackBack