Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Private Contractor Talks

In today's Guardian, a British private security contractor writes about what it's like to work on a security detail in Baghdad.

The anonymous contractor, who describes the firm he works for as "basically a taxi service with guns," is part of a team that protects individuals moving through Iraq to various reconstruction projects.

After detailing his daily routine and telling what he makes (about £90,000 [$175,000], tax free, for eight months of work), he writes,

I will probably bin [trash] it fairly soon. I think the writing is on the wall for Baghdad. I think it is about to go ballistic. The Baghdad security plan is not going to work. Other people will no doubt stay because they want the money but I think there comes a time when you need to ask, is this sustainable?

You can find the entire account here.

"Nothing of Substance Has Changed"

Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international politics at Boston University and author of The New American Militarism, one of the best books on foreign policy I've read in the last several of years, lost his son, 1st Lt. Andrew J. Bacevich, in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq on May 13. This past Sunday, Professor Bacevich wrote about that loss and about the war he has long opposed. His essay contains an important message for both Democrats and Republicans.

Read it here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Khartoum Karl

"I am the man with the toughest job in the world."

So said John Ukec Lueth Ukec, the Sudanese ambassador to the United States, toward the end of an hour-long diatribe at the National Press Club in Washington, D. C. today.

Apparently the ambassador, whom the Washington Post's Dana Milbank is calling "Khartoum Karl" in homage to Iraqi propagandist "Baghdad Bob," doesn't think the difficulty of his job has anything to do with the policies of the government he represents: "See how many people are dying in Darfur: None."

The ambassador has apparently been in Washington long enough to learn a trick from another propagandist named Karl: When the truth won't work, blame the Democrats. His explanation for President Bush's decision to impose new economic sanction's on Sudan? Pressure from Democrats in Congress. "The Democrats do not want Bush to go through with the success he has made in Sudan."

So what exactly is going on in Darfur? According to Khartoum Karl, the situation there bears some resemblance to the range wars in the Old West: "The farmers are being squeezed by the herders, just like you had here in the 18-something, when the cowboys were fighting . . . with the farmers over land for grazing."

Grasping at straws--or at least a bottle of Coke--Khartoum Karl issued a threat that was unprecedented in the history of diplomacy: He threatened to bring Coca Cola to its knees by cutting off Sudan's exports of gum arabic, a key ingredient in soft drinks. I'd like to say there was an audible gasp from the reporters in the room, but it was probably just the sound of the Coke bottle being opened.

Read Milbank's account of Ambassador Ukec's performance. He subjects it to the ridicule it deserves.

[Update: Milbank has video here.]

Educing Information

Educing Information is the title of a new report commissioned by the Defense Department's Intelligence Science Board. The report argues, in the words of the New York Times story on the report, that "the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable."

The report--along with a recent speech by Philip Zelikow (available here as a .pdf file), former adviser to Secretary of State Rice, that harshly criticized some CIA and Defense Department interrogation methods--comes at an important time. The Times story continues:

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual.

President Bush has insisted that those secret "enhanced" techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone. The notion that turning up pressure and pain on a prisoner will produce valuable intelligence is a staple of popular culture from the television series "24" to the recent Republican presidential debate, where some candidates tried to outdo one another in vowing to get tough on captured terrorists. A 2005 Harvard study supported the selective use of "highly coercive" techniques.

Three years after the Abu Ghraib photos revealed to the world the serious problems with American interrogation methods--problems that have risen to the level of torture in many instances--the Bush Administration still can't get it right. Nor can the American citizens who continue to applaud politicians promising even more in the way of "harsh interrogations."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

James Carroll, in a column published yesterday in the Boston Globe, reflects on the meaning of another Memorial Day with the nation at war in Iraq:

"If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted," the Vietnam novelist Tim O'Brien wrote, "or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie." O'Brien says that the hallmarks of truth, when it comes to war stories, are obscenity and evil. "You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you."

Such dark notes are struck by the chroniclers of every war, going back to Homer, but they seem especially apt when those being mourned have fallen in a war that, even before its end, has already shown itself to have been mistaken from its first trumpet.

Carroll concludes, "The proper memorial to the war in Iraq is its immediate end."

"Into the Shadows"

"This may be a victory for the Blackwater legal team but it is a defeat for the principle of transparency. This means that the shadow army will slip even further into the shadows."

--Eugene Fidell, President of the National Institute of Military Justice, commenting on a federal judge's decision to end the lawsuit against Blackwater Security Consulting by moving the case into arbitration [via Reuters]

Friday, May 25, 2007

Another Year

Reports out of Myanmar indicate that the military junta there has extended Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest for another year. Suu Kyi, recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been under house arrest continuously for four years and for twelve of the last seventeen years.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pirates (No, Really)

With Pirates of the Caribbean returning to the big screen today, it might be a good time to see what's happening in the world of modern-day maritime piracy. (There was a time when the modifier "maritime" would have been considered redundant, but video, audio, and software piracy have become so common that many people now think of those crimes first--or at least they did before Johnny Depp came along and put a face on the old-fashioned form.)

Fortunately for those of us interested in such things, statistics compiled by the International Maritime Organization give us a pretty good look at what modern-day Jack Sparrows are doing on the high seas. Last month, the IMO published its annual Reports on Acts of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships (available here as a .pdf file). Here are a few bits of data gleaned from the Reports:

  • There were 241 "acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships" reported to the IMO in 2006, 25 fewer than in 2005.
  • The South China Sea, where there were 66 "incidents," was the most dangerous part of the world (although the Malacca Strait, with 22 "incidents," probably had the most attacks per square mile.
  • Ten ships were hijacked. Four of the ten hijackings occurred in the waters off East Africa.
  • Thirteen crew members died at the hands of pirates; another 112 were injured.
  • There were 180 crew members kidnapped or taken hostage, of which 37 remain unaccounted for.
  • The peak month for piracy was April. Like Congress, pirates seem to go into recess in August.

The Via Francigena

Eric Sylvers, who is based in Milan and writes for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times, is walking the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route from the Alps in Switzerland down to Rome. Why does this merit a mention here? Well, Sylvers' web site and blog (in English and Italian) are exceptionally well done, but beyond that I want to put this out there in hopes that someone I know will organize a similar trip--and invite me to come along, of course.

An Update from Zambia

Caitlin Dunn, a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia's Northwestern Province whom I wrote about recently, has an idea. You can check out her blog here to see what it is (and how you can help), but I'll tell you briefly that it involves establishing a library in the community where she lives.

Monday, May 21, 2007

More on Obiang

The Independent (London) reports today on President Teodoro Obiang's corruption and brutality (including his reputation for cannibalism).

Little Teodoro's place in Malibu gets a mention, along with the role of major oil companies in facilitating the Obiang family's exploitation of Equatorial Guinea's wealth:

When he wants to travel, the president has a choice of six personal planes, the most recent of which has a king-size bed and a bathroom with gold-plated taps. Destinations include the mansion in Maryland or the holiday home in Cape Town. Meanwhile his son, Teodorin, has managed to build an impressive fleet of Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Bentleys, despite claiming to earn an official salary of only £30,000 a year. Many are in Paris, where he lives in a luxury hotel.

And if Paris or Cape Town become too dull, Little Teodoro, as some in Equatorial Guinea call him (although possibly not to his face), can always retire to his $35m Malibu mansion, where his neighbours include Britney Spears and Mel Gibson.

According to US investigators, much of the wealth was funnelled from American oil majors to Obiang's family through a once-prestigious US bank, Riggs. A Senate inquiry found that $700m had been deposited with Riggs, and that the oil companies were fully aware that the money was going to Obiang's private bank accounts. In one case, $450,000 in rental fees for office space was paid to a 14-year-old relative of Obiang.

Is this guy really only the tenth worst dictator in the world?

To Arbitration

A federal judge in North Carolina last week ordered the wrongful death lawsuit pending against Blackwater into binding arbitration.

The Virginian-Pilot reports:

After appealing unsuccessfully all the way to the Supreme Court, Blackwater now appears to have found another way to derail what promised to be a landmark lawsuit brought by the families of four security contractors killed in a convoy ambush in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.

This week, on orders of a federal judge, the dispute is scheduled to be taken up out of court by a three-man panel of arbitrators.

By steering the case into arbitration, Blackwater has shifted a legal showdown over issues of battlefield accountability and presidential authority into a non judicial arena where the proceedings occur behind closed doors and the outcome is confidential.

One of the three arbitrators is William Webster, a Reagan-era director of the FBI and CIA with personal and business ties to several Blackwater lawyers.

See the full story here.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

On Patriotism

Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.

--James Bryce

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Contractor Casualties

The New York Times reports today that at least 146 private contractors died in Iraq during the first quarter of 2007. The total death toll for contractors in Iraq is now at least 917; another 12,000 have been injured or wounded.

According to the Times, this is the first time that specific figures--based on claims filed with the Labor Department and on interviews with insurers and others--have been reported. Private military firms (PMFs) are, of course, not eager to talk about employee casualties. As the Times notes, "Companies that have lost workers in Iraq were generally unresponsive to questions about the numbers of deaths and the circumstances that led to casualties."

The extent of the U.S. military's dependence on PMFs in Iraq is staggering:

Nearly 300 companies from the United States and around the world supply workers who are a shadow force in Iraq almost as large as the uniformed military. About 126,000 men and women working for contractors serve alongside about 150,000 American troops, the Pentagon has reported. Never before has the United States gone to war with so many civilians on the battlefield doing jobs--armed guards, military trainers, translators, interrogators, cooks and maintenance workers--once done only by those in uniform.

In the Persian Gulf war of 1991, for example, only 9,200 contractors--mostly operating advanced weapons systems--served alongside 540,000 military personnel. But at the end of the cold war, Congress and the Pentagon were eager to seize on the so-called peace dividend and drastically scale back the standing Army. The Bush administration expanded the outsourcing strategy to unprecedented levels after the invasion of Iraq.

Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA), chairman of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, has announced that he will schedule hearings on the use of PMFs this fall. Meanwhile, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) (a former Duke University political science professor) have introduced legislation to require the government to provide information on private contractors in Iraq. (The House passed their legislation in the form of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday.) At present, "unless there is something specifically stated in the contract about accounting for personnel, there is no requirement for the U.S. government to track these numbers," as military spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph M. Yoswa notes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Blackwater: "It's Classified"

Blackwater is suing a former employee for allegedly passing trade secrets to a startup private security firm based in Northern Virginia. More interesting than the late-night police raid in which a computer and some papers were seized from the defendant's home in Virginia Beach is this excerpt from a deposition related to the case in which Blackwater executive vice president William Matthews is being questioned about a former Blackwater employee:

Q: Okay. And what was Mr. Mullis' position when he became an employee for Blackwater?
A: He was the program manager for I think OGA programs.
Q: And OGA programs stands for what?
A: Other government agency.
Q: What does that include?
A: I don't know, or if I do know, it's classified.
Q: Okay. So was he working on classified, without giving me the content of any classified information, was Mr. Mullis working on classified projects at that time?
A: I don't know, or if I do know, it's classified.
Q: I've got to know which is which, I think. Do you not know or is it classified?
A: I don't know, or if I do know, it's classified.
Q: Okay. If that's your answer, we'll see where it goes. Okay. What were Mr. Mullis' duties and responsibilities as program manager for the OGA programs?
A: He would have overall responsibility and oversight for anything in his purview.
Q: And what was in his purview?
A: I don't know, or if I do know, it's classified.


It's time for Congress to assert control over private military firms. Blackwater's executives appear to believe that the normal rules don't apply to them.


Historian Robert Dallek describes the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam in this astute essay in the Washington Post. Here's a brief sample:

Like Johnson and Nixon, President Bush is hoping that adding troops will turn a civil war around, is relying on local, U.S.-trained forces to stave off defeat, and is worried that failure will undermine America's international credibility. Bush also disdains antiwar voices and is determined to prove them wrong in the long view of history. But unlike Johnson and Nixon, he doesn't seem to realize that his war is lost. Instead of learning from his predecessors, Bush seems to be replicating their mistakes.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Image Makeovers

It's time to check in on the Obiang family again.

A recent article by Joshua Kurlantzik in Mother Jones on the use of American public relations firms by dictators reports that Equatorial Guinea has been paying the high-powered Washington lobbying firm of Cassidy & Associates at least $120,000 per month since 2004 to improve its image in the United States. A brief look at available Department of Justice reports on foreign agent registrations suggestts that Kurlantzik has understated Equatorial Guinea's spending on PR--at least for 2005.

Over the course of six months in 2005, Equatorial Guinea paid C/R International, L.L.C. $154,469.37, Cassidy & Associates, Inc. $1,020,000.00, Farragut Advisors (E.G.), LLC, $57,735.00, JWI, L.L.C. $22,500, and Sidley Austin LLP $139,577.27, for a grand total of $1,394,281.64, or $232,380.27 per month. (Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act records are not up to date on the Department's website, perhaps due to a congressional mandate that will result in a searchable online database soon.) There were foreign governments that spent more than Equatorial Guinea did on lobbying and PR services (for example, Saudi Arabia more than quadrupled Equatorial Guinea's spending), but not many.

Has the spending paid off? Perhaps. President Teodoro Obiang was warmly welcomed to Washington by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in April 2006. More importantly, the Bush Administration continues to ignore its own anti-kleptocracy initiative and to encourage American investment in Equatorial Guinea's oil and natural gas industry.

Incidentally, the Cassidy & Associates website claims the company helps "foreign governments to design and implement comprehensive campaigns to ensure successful relations with the U.S. government." Indeed. Like Los Angeles realtors, Washington lobbyists don't mind doing business with dictators.

It may be time for me to watch Thank You for Smoking again so I can hear Nick Naylor say, "My job requires a certain . . . moral flexibility."

Globalization, Development and . . . Baseball

There is daily evidence of the world's impact on "America's pastime"--think of Ortiz, Matsuzaka, Sosa, Ramirez, Suzuki, and many others. Those who, conversely, like to think about baseball's impact on the world should take a look at this post by Peter Howard over at The Duck of Minerva.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell (1933-2007)

What if Ann Coulter, the mistress of hate-filled invective, carried with her whatever credibility comes from being the minister of a suburban mega-church?

Jerry Falwell, founder of the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia and of the Moral Majority, died yesterday in his office at Liberty University. In death as in life, Falwell was a polarizing figure. In fact, I've read comments that can only be described as "fighting words" from pacifists who have felt compelled to respond to the news of Falwell's death.

But why is Falwell's passing being noted here--on an IR blog?

I could point to Falwell's support for the repressive right-wing government in El Salvador during the 1980s or his opposition to sanctions against the South African apartheid regime. I could also point to his noxious comments in the aftermath of 9/11. Instead, I want to focus on his attitude toward women and its impact on U.S. human rights policy.

Let's start with an instructive contrast: Two Southern Baptists--Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Carter--came to prominence in the United States at about the same time. The two men differed on almost everything--including women's rights.

President Carter supported the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. His administration signed the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). He appointed more women and minorities to federal courts than all of the presidents who preceded him combined.

Falwell, on the other hand, was a misogynist.

In 1989, Falwell said,

I listen to feminists and all these radical gals. . . . These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men; that's their problem.

Truly a Coulter-esque comment.

Falwell was a consistent opponent of equal rights for women. Key Republican leaders, including Senator Jesse Helms, later the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were encouraged by the support they received from Falwell's Moral Majority to steadfastly oppose ratification of CEDAW.

It would be a gross over-simplification to say that Falwell was responsible for the failure--right down to the present day--of the United States to ratify CEDAW, but religiously based opposition to feminism in all its forms (including the very basic form of support for gender equality) is part of what he has left us. James Dobson and Focus on the Family (along with its political arm, the Family Research Council) carry Falwell's misogynistic mantle today. Falwell may no longer have the ear of Republican senators and presidents, but Dobson does and he follow's Falwell's script.

It will be difficult for the United States to reclaim a position of leadership on human rights until CEDAW and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are ratified. And it will be difficult for that to happen until the Christian Right understands that Falwell and his successors have been wrong about women's rights.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Going Blackwater"

Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on Thursday. The text of his remarks is available here.

In his testimony, Scahill noted that private contractors in Iraq sometimes make in a month what an active-duty soldier makes in year. This, of course, creates resentment and envy. It also creates an incentive for experienced military professionals to leave the armed forces of the United States in order to go to work for private contractors. Scahill stated, "There is slang in Iraq now for this jump. It is called 'Going Blackwater.' To put it bluntly, these private forces create a system where national duty is outbid by profits."

Read the entire statement.

The Inner Voice

"Great leadership often involves putting aside self-doubt, bucking conventional wisdom, and listening only to an inner voice that tells you the right thing to do. That is the essence of strong character. The problem is that bad leadership can also flow from these same characteristics: steely determination can become stubbornness; the willingness to flout conventional wisdom can amount to a lack of common sense; the inner voice can become delusional."

--Francis Fukuyama, America at the Crossroads, 60-61

Mao Attacked

Visitors were temporarily cleared out of Tienanmen Square in Beijing today after a vandal threw a burning object at the oversized portrait of Mao Zedong that adorns the Forbidden City. An unemployed man from the Xinjiang region was detained by police.

A Chinese journalist who threw paint-filled eggs at the portrait during the 1989 Tienanmen Square protest was imprisoned for over sixteen years and was mentally ill when released last year.

For more, see the Reuters story here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The End of the Blair Era

Tony Blair is returning to the place where he announced his campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party in 1994 to announce that he is stepping down. Before ceding his post as prime minister, Blair is expected to push for international agreements on climate change and aid to Africa.

The Guardian has more here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Out of Sight

On May 22, 1949, former defense secretary James Forrestal committed suicide by jumping out of a sixteenth-floor window at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. How does his tragic death relate to treatment of the more than 26,000 Americans who have been wounded in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan? James Carroll has the answer in a provocative column published in yesterday's Boston Globe.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Triumph of Good

There is no reason good cannot triumph over evil, if only angels will get organized along the lines of the Mafia.

--Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), A Man Without a Country

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Twenty-one Problems; Solutions Included

Foreign Policy has asked twenty-one experts to suggest one thing that would make the world a better place. In response, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. addresses anti-Americanism, Jeffrey D. Sachs considers global poverty, and Lt. Gen. William E. Odom takes on nuclear proliferation--to name just a seventh of the experts and their issues.

See the complete collection here.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Japan and the ICC

The Japanese Diet approved legislation on April 27 that will pave the way for Japan to join the International Criminal Court. Final accession to the Rome Statute is expected in October.

Barring an earlier entrant, Japan will become the 105th state to join the ICC. It will also become the largest financial contributor to the Court with a share of the ICC's budget that is expected to be approximately 16 percent.

For more on Japan's accession, see this Amnesty International press release, this Reuters news story, and two posts--here and here--by Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris. The ICC's web site is located here.

A Disturbing Survey

This, on the front page of today's Washington Post, is disturbing:

More than one-third of U.S. soldiers in Iraq surveyed by the Army said they believe torture should be allowed if it helps gather important information about insurgents, the Pentagon disclosed yesterday. Four in 10 said they approve of such illegal abuse if it would save the life of a fellow soldier.

In addition, about two-thirds of Marines and half the Army troops surveyed said they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily. "Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect," the Army report stated.

The Post reports that the Army has responded by changing its training to place more emphasis on battlefield ethics.

[Update: A redacted version of the report is available here.]

Friday, May 04, 2007

Climate Change and National Security

This week the House Intelligence Committee provided a dramatic illustration of the difference between what Dan Caldwell and I called the "new paradigm" and the "traditional paradigm" in security studies as Democrats and Republicans clashed over whether the American intelligence community should be asked to assess the security implications of climate change.

Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), who led the majority in approving a requirement for a formal National Intelligence Estimate on environmental impacts on security, said, "Climate change can have a serious impact on military operations and exacerbate global tensions." In contrast, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) stated, "Our government should not commit expensive spy satellites and human intelligence sources to target something as undefined as the environment."

What do those who work in the intelligence community think? According to CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano, "The intelligence community has for a long time studied the impact that environmental factors--things like scarce resources and natural disasters--can have on global security. Those are real issues."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

AIDS and Abstinence Education

Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague and a leading expert on the security implications of disease, published an excellent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times yesterday on the Bush Administration's preference for sexual abstinence programs in its anti-HIV/AIDS program funding. The entire essay is worth reading, but here is the conclusion for those wanting the bottom line only:

Designing foreign policy to stamp out sexual activity among consenting adults is a fool's errand and a waste of taxpayers' money. When it comes to AIDS policy, we should stop pushing a moral idea about the circumstances in which sex should occur and instead push what works: condoms, clean needles, sex education and making sure that women have equal power to say no, or yes, to sex.

After all, we know we can slow the spread of HIV and maybe even stop it. We'll never end extramarital sex, prostitution or even "escort services." Just ask the "D.C. Madam" and her clients.

Read the whole thing here.

Against the World

Sometimes I get the feeling the whole world is against me, but deep down I know that's not true. Some smaller countries are neutral.

--Robert Orben

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

GITMO, Still

This Los Angeles Times editorial today urges both the White House and Congress to take the steps necessary to end Guantanamo's long-running status as a "legal black hole." The Times particularly urges Congress to pass the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA).

It's time.

"At Sea Off the Coast of San Diego"

The "Mission Accomplished" banner that provided the backdrop for President Bush's remarks aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln four years ago today is what most people usually remember of that Karl Rove-inspired photo op. It is an image that epitomizes the hubris and miscalculation of the Bush Administration. But some of the President's words on May 1, 2003, are also worth recalling on this anniversary:

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

If only that were true.

President Bush took advantage of the opportunity to repeat one of the war's false pretenses:

The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report (see page 66), there was "no evidence" that contacts between Iraqi officials and representatives of al Qaeda "ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence," the Commission continued, "indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States." Since the "liberation of Iraq," that country has become what Afghanistan was in the 1980s--a training ground for terrorists.

In most respects, President Bush and his advisers were clearly "at sea"--and even adrift--"off the coast of San Diego," as the transcript of the speech notes. But on one important point President Bush's words were prophetic: "Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home."