Missing Words

| Tue Sep. 30, 2003 2:00 AM EDT


Tom's tips on reading the New York Times (and possibly other elite newspapers): Just a hint for those days when you're in a rush and want only the crucial nuggets from the New York Times. It's natural to assume that the need-to-know news in any piece is in those first paragraphs - who, what, when, where, why etc. - that every piece winds from the large to the small, from the important lead to insignificant final paragraphs. And it's true that if you scan those first paragraphs, the ones on the front page in particular, you do get what passes for all the news fit to print in our world (and every now and then a little more as well); that is, what everyone who matters agrees is the news of the day, what you'll also be able to check out at CNN and on the prime-time news casts, what the pundits will then discuss on Crossfire or Charlie Rose or Nightline.

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But just for an experiment one day when you're in a hurry, you might try reading the Times in the opposite direction, inside out and bottom to top. Start each piece not with the first paragraphs but with the last ones because the way the Times actually works, if the news everyone can agree on is in the lead and the middle paragraphs of the day's major stories tend to fill in on or offer acceptable background material for the lead paragraphs, it's only at the end that can a reporter can slip in the embarrassing quote, the fact that doesn't fit, the interpretation that really matters. Squirreled away in the throwaway third of the story, are sometimes the most fascinating bits and pieces of the day, meant only for news junkies, the relatively small number of people who read the paper beginning to end. Here are two almost random examples from last week's Times:

Patrick Tyler, a good reporter, now in Iraq, did a long front-page piece Saturday, Iraq Leaders Seek Greater Role Now in Running Nation, on growing Iraqi unease with the occupation, especially among those appointed by the Americans to the Governing Council. The first paragraphs offer the official explanation for not quickly turning over power to our own appointed Iraqis. They are, Tyler writes clearly paraphrasing unnamed "American officials," "not ready to take control of an unstable and still violent country." But if you read all the way through the first 28 paragraphs, at paragraph 29, you suddenly arrive at something quite different -- "other unspoken [and so unquotable] concerns." Here is what Tyler put in the final three paragraphs:

"Some senior American and British officials say privately that they are concerned that if an election was held today, a Shiite muslim cleric might well dominate the polling on the strength of the 60 percent Shiite share of the population.

"Many Iraqis today say such concerns are exaggerated, that Shiites are divided along secular and religious lines and are unlikely to vote as a bloc unless they perceive a threat that they will be disenfranchised as they were in 1932, when the British withdrawal and Sunni duplicity excluded them from political power.

"Still, senior American officials say they are hoping that six months to a year of constitution writing and preparations for national elections will provide a process from which a moderate and secular Shiite leader will emerge to head the first democratic government here, one that would have the independence and self-assurance to avoid tilting toward the conservative Islamists of Iran."

And there you have a deeper interpretation of events. That's the news, really. We want "democracy," but also a government in power that is responsive to us, not the Iranians (or perhaps the Iraqis themselves).

Or take Steven R. Weisman's piece, Powell Gives Iraq 6 Months to Write New Constitution, from the Friday paper, largely based on a meeting Secretary of State Colin Powell had at the Times. Weisman's front-page article was - like Tyler's - a response to international pressure to turn over power in Iraq and quickly end the occupation. Powell's first quote, in the third paragraph, is this: "'We would like to put a deadline on them,' he said in an interview with editorial writers, editors and reporters for The Times, referring to the Iraqi task of writing a constitution. 'They've got six months. It'll be a difficult deadline to meet, but we've got to get them going.'"

Now, this is important, of course. When Powell says it, It's news, and as I read it I was immediately doing month-math on my knuckles and so came up with a constitution in February, which makes it easy to imagine elections being scheduled by the summer and so, if things get ever worse, an "exit strategy" before the November elections. (Of course, though no one says it, this may all be so much fantasy thinking.) Still, you could have heard or read similar things anywhere. What you couldn't have read elsewhere was this classic little quote, buried in paragraphs 21 and 22 of a 28 paragraph piece, from a possibly irritated Powell, nonetheless admitting a certain surprise that no weapons of mass destruction have yet turned up,

"In other comments, Mr. Powell said that he had expected that illegal weapons would have turned up by now, but that even if the weapons themselves were not found, the war against Iraq was justified because Mr. Hussein had the capacity to make the weapons and a record of using them.

"'I would have expected something [in the way of WMD] to be found,' he said. 'But it's not clear to me yet that we won't find the evidence we're looking for that would, once and for all, make the case incontrovertible.'

"'I think the war will be seen by history to be justified because we removed a regime that did have these weapons and gave us no reason to believe that they had eliminated them,' Mr. Powell said. 'If you want to believe the claims of Saddam Hussein, be my guest.'"

And what if we became his guest? What would it say about the Bush administration if Saddam's claims proved closer to the truth than theirs?

Missing words, taboo comparisons:

Among missing words in the American media vocabulary, one is certainly "nationalism," at least when applied to us. Americans are perhaps "patriotic." They can even be "superpatriots." But there is evidently no such a thing as American nationalism. Palestinians are "nationalistic." The Chinese, when they got all het up over that spy plane incident, were nationalistic or rather it was said that China's leaders were facing, or pandering to, a dangerous wave of Chinese nationalism. Foreigners of a restless nature can be nationalistic, for nationalism now skirts the edge of curse-word territory. It implies blind passions directed to your homeland, but calling a new composite internal security agency, the "Department of Homeland Security" or using "homeland" in your speeches isn't nationalistic - not if, at least Americans, do it. The only intelligent discussion of American nationalism I've seen in the last year of intense American "superpatriotism," came from a canny British writer, Anatol Lieven, and of course wasn't in the American press but in the London Review of Books.

I thought about this today because Eric Margolis of the Toronto Sun used an even stronger, thoroughly forbidden word, the sort you might only identify with a country like China, to describe post 9-11 America in his Sunday column ("Bush's blinkered core supporters in middle America simply don't understand or don't care what the rest of the world thinks of their nation, which, since 9/11, has wrapped itself in a cocoon of xenophobia and self-righteous rage. "). Here's what I think is true: many Americans and much of our media and most of our pundits don't, at a gut level, believe we're in the same world with everybody us - we are, after all, the last superpower, hyperpower, force for good - and so they simply don't imagine that words apply to us that we would naturally apply descriptively elsewhere.

The same goes for comparisons. I was struck as well by a Margolis comparison in the same column (included below):

"No wonder so few Americans understand what is going on abroad, how the outside world really sees them, or why America has so many enemies overseas. Small wonder many Americans are turning for balanced news to the CBC, BBC and the Internet. Citizens of the old Soviet Union suffered the same information isolation. Like Americans since 9/11, they were force-fed agitprop and patriotic pap disguised as news, and deprived of all knowledge of the real world around them."

There is a truly forbidden thought. No American can imagine us compared in any way to the old Soviet Union. After all, no purges, no peasants, no murdered millions, (almost) no gulag. And the truth is the American system of - here's another verboten word - propaganda is so much more sophisticated than the Soviet one. Its practitioners don't even imagine they're a part of it. How sophisticated can you get? Still, that 69% of Americans convinced Saddam practically flew a plane into one of the World Trade Center towers should tell us something, shouldn't it?

Or let me put it another way: Try to imagine for a second how this administration and our media generally would describe our little gulag in Guantanamo if it were run by the Iranians or the Chinese. Anyone who has watched mainstream TV reports or read press accounts of it - with those nice sketches of volley ball courts and the like - should know that the administration has gotten something like a free ride on this one. We just don't use the language we'd automatically apply to others for ourselves - that may be one of the most basic rules of American journalism, and anyone who did would quickly find him or herself writing for a Canadian paper or no paper at all.

Finally, if you think about it again, it's remarkable how few non-Americans we ever see or hear from - or do I just mean residents of the largely non-white world. There are, for example, a couple of Arabs like Fouad Ajami who stand in for all Arabs on TV, but generally we speak of and for the rest of the world pretty consistently. I've included below a piece that appeared in the Guardian by an Iraqi exile who recently returned to Baghdad just to give you a sense of what an Iraqi voice might sound like in our press. ("One of the popular sayings I repeatedly heard in Baghdad, describing the relations between the US and Saddam's regime, is "Rah el sani', ija el ussta" - "gone is the apprentice, in comes the master.") We certainly never hear from Iraqis reporting from Iraq on Iraq. In fact, take a look at the figures Margolis marshals in his column below on the sorts of experts who regularly told us about the onrushing second Iraq war and you'll have a sense of how things work.

Speaking in tongues:

I noted that L. Paul Bremmer, our man in Baghdad, was quoted this way in the Sydney Morning Herald recently on the $20 billion in "reconstruction" funds in the $87 billion administration request to Congress (US won't pay for Iraq's long-term reconstruction: Bremer) :

"What we're focused on in the 20 billion is the urgent and essential things. There are things that are probably nice to have in the 60 billion to 70 billion (dollars), and that's something the Iraqi government will have to figure out how to do."

Maureen Dowd in her Sunday New York Times column, Drunk on Rummy) toted up some of the "essential things" we mean to pay for this way:

"I guess Wolfie [Paul Wolfowitz] never calculated the division in America his omissions would cause when we finally got a load of the bill - including $100 million to hide the families of 100 Iraqis in the witness protection program, $19 million for post office Wi-Fi, $50 million for traffic cops and $9 million for ZIP codes. At these prices, the Baghdad ZIP better be 90210."

But the "essential thing" I found most intriguing I heard reported on ABC nightly news at the end of last week -- $30 million earmarked to teach English as a second language.

One of the things I found most striking about our arrival in Baghdad was that, despite the thousands of Iraqi exiles in the United States, our new occupation administrators landed with essentially no Iraqis in tow, no way, in fact, to communicate with the country they were planning to rehabilitate. This was truly imperial hubris - and not unsurprisingly, a catastrophe - and, not unsurprisingly, one of those Vietnam "lessons" we were supposed to have absorbed. (Practically nobody we sent there ever knew the language(s) or a thing about Vietnamese history or culture.)

On the Los Angeles Times Sunday Opinion page, Frank Gibney, a neocon, who learned Japanese in a World War II crash program, wrote about this in Lost in Translation. After pointing out that, in a letter to Donald Rumsfeld, he had suggested such a World War II-style crash language program for Americans going to Iraq (yes, they all knew what was coming way back then) and got a reply from one of his assistants six months later, telling him, in essence, not to worry his little head about it, he says in part:

"[E]veryone agrees that very few of the more than 130,000 U.S. soldiers on duty in Iraq are in any sense Arabic-speaking, far fewer certainly than the 850 originally planned. There is a similar shortage of Iraqi Americans working with the U.S.-led occupation. Senior U.S. administrators in Iraq are frantically seeking more. Yet according to a 2002 General Accounting Office report, almost half the Defense Department positions for speakers of difficult languages (Korean, Chinese, Persian and Russian, along with Arabic) still remained unfilled.

"The State Department has barely 40 competent Arabists - not all of them are in Iraq - and perhaps 50 learning the languageÉ As things now stand in Iraq, occupation forces rely on a patchwork of outsourcing contracts with various private translation agencies, local Iraqis who speak English (beware of the superficially smiling interpreter) and, worst of all, machine translators capable (one hopes) of repeating preselected English phrases in Arabic, or vice versa."

Let me try to sum this up then. Our dreamy conquering neocons and militarists were so sure of themselves they didn't even imagine there was a need to plan for the most basic of needs -- the need to communicate with the people of the country being occupied. Universal goodwill over the fall of Saddam, our awesome (or shocksome) power, and perhaps rudimentary Esperanto were evidently considered plenty to overcome all obstacles. Now, belatedly aware of the need to communicate, they are evidently offering the linguistic equivalent of a Microsoft downloadable patch after the worm's already made it through the portal into your computer. But the same imperial hubris seems to lurk behind it, for the problem is solved in a fascinating way - by the command, "Let them speak English," to the tune of $30 million dollars. Undoubtedly there will be a contract to be "bid" out, surely to that great educational institution, Halliburton, to provide ESL teachers from the U.S. at wartime salaries. Way to go, L. Paul! I say bring in the powerful ESL lobby to work Congress. Nothing "nationalistic" or "xenophobic" about all this, just the last empire getting by in a confusingly disobedient world.

Oh and as for voting those funds, good news for the administration (finally) lurks one of those Vietnam analogies. For once, they should hope history repeats itself. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, former Vietnam correspondent and historian Stanley Karnow (Vietnam's Shadow Lies Across Iraq) wrote:

"Today, as I listen to Bush and his spokesmen deliver euphoric accounts of the headway being made in Iraq, they remind me of the bulletins from Vietnam that reassured us that 'victory is just around the corner' and that 'we see the light at the end of the tunnel.' As the war escalated in Vietnam, members of Congress privately began to oppose what increasingly seemed to be a futile enterprise. But they never failed to vote funds for the venture on the grounds that 'we can't let down our boys.' For the same reason, they will grant Bush the $87 billion he has requested."

And while we're on language, if that's where we still are, you might check out the clever Harpers Magazine article that's actually a compilation of lines from Bush administration statements, The Revision Thing by Sam Smith:):

"The fundamental question was, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer was, absolutely. His regime had large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons--including VX, sarin, cyclosarin, and mustard gas, anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox. Our conservative estimate was that Iraq then had a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical-weapons agent. That was enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets. We had sources that told us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons--the very weapons the dictator told the world he did not have. And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as forty-five minutes after the orders were given. There could be no doubt that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more."

Legacy corporations:

"For Sale: A fertile, wealthy country with a population of around 25 millionÉ plus around 150,000 foreign troops, and a handful of puppets. Conditions of sale: should be either an American or British corporation (forget it if you're French)É preferably affiliated with Halliburton. Please contact one of the members of the Governing Council in Baghdad, Iraq for more information."

So the "girl blogger" of Baghdad begins her September 24th entry (Baghdad Burning).

And here's a sample of the real thing:

"New Bridge Strategies, LLC is a unique company that was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Its activities will seek to expedite the creation of free and fair markets and new economic growth in Iraq, consistent with the policies of the Bush Administration. The opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C. and on the ground in Iraq."

And who exactly is so uniquely helping "clientsÉ take advantageÉ consistent with the policies of the Bush Administration." As they describe themselves:

"New Bridge Strategies principals have years of public policy experience, have held positions in the Reagan Administration and both Bush Administrations and are particularly well suited to working with international agencies in the Executive Branch, Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the American rebuilding apparatus and establishing early links to Congress. Also, because of their long history of work in the Middle East and Iraq, they possess Arabic-language skills and business expertise in fields such as: telecommunications; real estate; food and beverages; energy; oil and gas; manufacturing; high-technology and distribution. Someone, of course, who helped make those policies."

As Josh Marshall of the talkingpointsmemo.com website explains it):

"Who's the Chairman and Director of New Bridge? That would be Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's longtime right-hand-man and until about six months ago his head of FEMA. Before that of course he was the president's chief of staff when he was governor of Texas and campaign manager for Bush-Cheney 2000.

"Allbaugh was part of the president's so-called 'Iron Triangle' -- the other two being Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. And now Allbaugh's running an outfit that helps your company get the sweetest contracts in Iraq? That sound right to you? Think he'll have any special pull?... It's James Fisk and Jay Gould of Arabia. Unbelievable ..."

Or take a look at the site of the Iraqi International Law Group founded by Salem Chalabi (does the Chalabi name ring any bells?):

"We at IILG are proud of the fact that we are the first international law firm in Iraq. Many firms outside the country purport to counsel companies about doing business in Iraq. The simple fact is: you cannot adequately advise about Iraq unless you are here day in and day out, working closely with officials at the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority), the newly constituted Governing Council and the few functioning civilian ministries (Oil, Labor and Social Welfare, etc.). At IILG we don't talk about coming to Iraq -- WE ARE IN IRAQ. Moreover, we are not transplanted foreigners seeking to advise about a country that gives real meaning to the word "Byzantine." That would be like the blind leading the blind. We are Westerners and Iraqis working together under one roof, spurred on by the same vision and the same dream: to bring about the rebirth of a vital and prosperous Iraq in the Middle East."

And keep in mind, we're still talking about the small fry. You want to move up a step, check out the new "senior adviser" to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, Houston's Robert E. McKee III, a former ConocoPhillips executive -- he retired this April -- who took home $26.2 million in total compensation last year, according to the Houston Chronicle, and so ranks second in that paper's local list of "the 100 highest-paid executives." He replaces Philip J. Carroll, former head of Shell Oil Co. But, as the Chronicle reports, and the Cat in the Hat always liked to say, "that is not all, oh no, that is not all." (David Ivanovich, Houston exec gets top Iraq energy post):

"His selection as the Bush administration's energy czar in Iraq already is drawing fire from Capitol Hill because of his ties to the prime contractor in the Iraqi oil fields, Houston-based Halliburton Co. He's the chairman of a venture partitioned by the giant Houston oil well service and engineering firmÉ. McKee's appointment already is coming under scrutiny because of his role as chairman of Houston-based Enventure Global Technology, an oil-field joint venture owned by Shell and HalliburtonÉ

"'The administration continues to create the impression that the fox is in charge of the hen house,' said Rep. Henry Waxman of California, ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee and a persistent critic of the Halliburton contract.

"'Given Mr. McKee's close relationship with Halliburton, he's an odd choice to hold them accountable for the billions of dollars they are charging American taxpayers.'"

And the mention of Halliburton, of course, leads us back toÉ who else but dear Dick, tricky Dick (as Richard Nixon used to be known). I watched Dick's wife Lynn on CNN Sunday explaining to an impeccably unchallenging Judy Woodruff exactly how the money Cheney is now getting from Halliburton isn't compensation and why taking out an insurance policy on that money was the sort of thing Mother Teresa herself might have done, if only she had been Halliburton's CEO.

Matt Blivens at his The Daily Outrage blog at the Nation website puts all this in context):

"The Washington Post reports: 'The practice of delegating a vast array of [Pentagon] logistics operations to a single contractor dates to the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and a study commissioned by Cheney, then defense secretary, on military outsourcing. The Pentagon chose Brown and Root to carry out the study and subsequently selected the company to implement its own plan. Cheney served as chief executive of Brown and Root's parent company, Halliburton, from 1995 to 2000, when he resigned to run for the vice presidency.'

"He's in government, and he hires Halliburton to study whether to feed more money to Halliburton. Then, as the Pentagon money rolls into Halliburton, Cheney leaves government to take over as top dog at Halliburton. A few years later, Cheney returns to government -- with a monster severance check from Halliburton -- and lo and behold! His government starts feeding monster contracts to Halliburton. It stinks."

This really is the Enronization of Iraq. No matter what happens, the place becomes a giant Ponzi scheme for the enrichment of what used to be called the military-industrial complex but now is far closer to the Bush/Cheney-industrial complex. As George was a "legacy student" at Yale (and now regularly denounces affirmative action), so Halliburton and its confreres are legacy corporations in a political world that somehow manages to call the New Iraq a free market. (Freebie market would be far more like it.)

Halliburton is just the corporate poster child for a whole universe of similar corporate feeders -- and just about none of this is written up or reported on coherently in our media. The single best piece I've seen on the whole array of war profiteers -- there would be a Congressional investigation worth its salt - is The Price of Freedom in Iraq and Power in Washington by Ceara Donnelley and William D. Hartung of the World Policy Institute). It's a must-read overview of the full range of profiteers from this war and occupation, but it can only be found, of course, at the most obscure of websites. Here's but a paragraph, on the reconstruction of the Iraqi oil industry, to give you a taste:

"The U.S. has just recently lined up long-term oil deals with 12 companies around the world in a hastened effort to gain revenue to pay for reconstruction. According to its senior American advisor, Philip Carroll, a former executive of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization, plans to supply an average of 725,000 to 750,000 barrels of oil a day to U.S. firms like ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhilipps, Marathon and Valero Energy; as well as European giants like Shell, BP, Total, Repsol YPF; the Chinese firm Sinochem; Switzerland-based oil dealer Vitol and Japan's Mitsubishi. (23) The choices of oil contractors seem to be entirely political, with Carroll's former company on the list, along with National Se curity Advisor Condoleeza Rice's former firm, Chevron. The contract with BP is may be a partial payback for the United Kingdom's commitment of combat troops to the U.S.-led war against Hussein's regime; and the Japanese deal has been discussed as "bait" to lure the Japanese government into supplying personnel for security and policing functions in occupied Iraq. And, of course, while Washington's man from Royal Dutch Shell exercises veto power over the decisions of the new Iraqi oil ministry, the money for rebuilding Iraq's devastated oil producing infrastructure goes to Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, on a cost-plus basis."

I tell you, though, it's only the best for the Iraqis all the way, and the whole coalition seems to be pitching in. Check out, for instance, the Australian version of all this - more than 50,000 sheep floating at sea, an unknown number with "scabby mouth disease," a shipment previously rejected by the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan despite the urge for a post-Ramadan splurge of feasting. They were then evidently going to be unloaded on the Iraqis as an act of semi-charity. ("Wishing you and your scabby-mouthed sheep a happy Ramadan!") A hubbub over this has led the Aussie government to back off, and so the 50,000 sheep, a kind of barnyard ship (or is it sheep?) of fools, floats on. (Sheep docking? Not yet, Sydney Morning Herald, ) What's the word for all this that you won't find in your papers? How about "venal," for a start. Or "feral." OrÉ well, I'm sure others will come to mind.

Keeping the pot boiling in Washington:

The Washington Redskins are starting their new season with a surprising 3-1 record; the Bush administration looks like it's doing less well at the start of the fall political season. Over the weekend, the Washington Post kicked up a small, inside-the-beltway storm by "obtaining" a copy of a letter sent to CIA director George Tenet (still hanging in there, amazingly enough) by Republican chairman Porter J. Goss (himself a former CIA agent) and his Democratic counterpart on the House Intelligence committee. It attacked the intelligence community for using largely outdated "fragmentary" and "circumstantial" intelligence in putting together a crucial document, the National Intelligence Estimate, which played a significant part in Congressional approval of Bush's war resolution. (Dana Priest, House Probers Conclude Iraq War Data Was Weak)

The undermining of administration "credibility" continues apace. This weekend Mike Allen and Dana Priest of the Post wrote a scorching insider piece about the administration's outing of ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife as a CIA agent after Wilson had sunk the administration's Niger uranium story. This uproar seems to have been fomented by Tenet, who wrote a letter to the Justice Department requesting an investigation.

Here are the crucial paragraphs:

"Administration officials said Tenet sent a memo to the Justice Department raising a series of questions about whether a leaker had broken federal law by disclosing the identity of an undercover officer. The CIA request was reported Friday night by MSNBC.com. Administration sources familiar with the matter said the Justice Department is determining whether a formal investigation is warranted.

"An intelligence official said Tenet 'doesn't like leaks.'

"The CIA request could reopen the rift between the White House and the intelligence community that emerged this summer when Bush and his senior aides blamed Tenet for the inclusion of the now-discredited uranium claim -- the so-called '16 words' -- in the State of the Union address in January."

But the most important part of the story -- the most mysterious part -- was that the outing of Wilson's wife by two "top White House officials" in a Robert Novak column was confirmed byÉ an unidentified "senior White House official." Here are the two key, and thoroughly mysterious, sentences that already have the political jockeys talking:

"Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wifeÉ It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another."

Wilson himself offered the following comment (Andrew Buncombe, Bush officials who leaked name of US spy 'for revenge' could face jail, the Independent,)

"'I have always said that the desire to implicate my wife in this was intended to intimidate others from coming forward. The idea that someone would do this is an anathema to me and should be an anathema to a president who came to office promising to restore honour to the White House.' Naming an undercover operative is a federal offence which carries penalties of $50,000 and up to 10 years jail."

And here, in a paragraph found by Josh Marshall (who has been following the Wilson affair closely indeed) is what George H. W. Bush, the father of our president, himself a former CIA director, had to say about such acts in an April 16, 1999 dedication speech for the George Bush Center for Intelligence:

"We need more human intelligence. That means we need more protection for the methods we use to gather intelligence and more protection for our sources, particularly our human sources, people that are risking their lives for their country. Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors."

This quote, in turn, can be found quoted in part in today's Washington Post piece on the matter (Will Allen, Bush Aides Say They'll Cooperate With Probe Into Intelligence Leak). Where? In the last paragraph, of course.

The New York Times this morning -- it's been consistently one to two days behind the Post on such stories -- had this front page comment: "The very fact that Mr. Tenet referred the matter to the Justice Department comes as a major political embarrassment to a White House that is famously tight-lipped, and a president who has repeatedly vowed that his administration would never leak classified information." (Carl Hulse and David E. Sanger, "New Criticism on Prewar Use of Intelligence")

It's hard for any administration to live long and prosper when the knives come out, the repressed return, and White House "senior officials" start to go after each other.

And let's remember, they're already doing major "damage control" and so far, we're only really talking modest, reasonably low-level resistance in Iraq, and the collapse of the "road map" in Israel and the Occupied Territories. What if something else happens? What if another piece falls out of the puzzle? What if some other regime -- say, the North Koreans -- realizes that the coming months might be an opportune moment to light a fire of its own. Think for a minute about that. Honestly, these guys thought they controlled the world. Now they only think they know what being out of control feels like. This could get truly ugly.

I include below, by the way, the latest chilling piece by John Dean, of Watergate fame, on the Ashcroft Justice Department's attempt to create an unofficial secrets act and go after anti-administration leakers. This is something that, given the matter of Wilson's wife, could come back to bite them in theÉ

And here are a few of the things I couldn't even deal with today: The new poll showing the presidential approval rating slipping to 49%; the new British poll showing that half of the English think Tony Blair should resign; the rising poverty rate in jobless America, also known as the war at home ("Moreover, the poverty increases were particularly concentrated last year in politically sensitive populations: African Americans, suburban residents and Midwesterners. Poverty levels rose precisely in many of the states that are likely to determine the next president: Arkansas, Florida, Illinois and Michigan, as well as Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah."); the modest return of the first antiwar demonstrators to the streets of the globe ("Fernando Suarez, whose 20-year-old son, Jesus, was one of the first fatalities, said: 'My son died because Bush lied.' Mr Suarez, from Escondido, California, speaking at a press conference to publicise tomorrow's anti-war demonstrations in eight US cities, said that about 1,300 parents of troops stationed in Iraq were involved in a movement against the occupation.") and much else. Tom

Additional contributions from Tom Engelhardt can be found throughout the week at TomDispatch.com, a weblog of The Nation Institute.