Re: The One Percent Doctrine
July 19, 2006
Re: The One Percent Doctrine.
From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine is not a good book. It’s a Washington book. There’s a big difference.
Washington books are a genre that started, I think, about 50 years ago with Alan Drury’s Advise And Consent. Drury’s work was a novel and, if memory serves, some other novels followed in its train. Then, in the 1970s and ’80s, the Washington book morphed into the kind of works written by Bob Woodward, books that tell you in excruciating dull detail more about everything than you want to know about anything. Washington books became a kind of who shot John work detailing that at 9 a.m. Ted told X to Paul, who at 9:15 relayed it to Sam but changed it slightly when doing so, with Sam then telling the undersecretary who immediately ordered an airplane to fuel up and then got on the plane with General Smashskull, who was for taking out Mr. Z as soon as possible, but the plane returned to the tarmac before taking off because the Secretary herself had heard incorrectly that General Smashskull was a good friend of Z’s and would protect him, and by the time all this was straightened out Z had escaped to Swaziland, where a green 1993 Land Rover was waiting to take him to the molybdenum mine where he secretly met with Ted’s undercover agent Yabbadabba, who later took a slow freighter back to Baltimore where Sam, having uncovered Ted’s duplicity, had three counter-counter agents waiting to -- well, you get the point.
Being a Washington book, the points Suskind wishes to make are not always crystalline, because they are spread here and there in the book and the writing is sometimes sort of wiseacreish or smart mouthed or patois-like rather than straight on. (I really don’t know how to accurately describe the style of writing: wiseacreish and smart mouthed and patois-like are not exactly accurate but are the best I can do.) And sometimes, as best I can tell, Suskind seems to be discussing the same events hundreds of pages apart without being entirely clear that they are the same events. Even so, however, he does make many points that I wish to summarize here because this writer finds them particularly important, or because they are new, or because they seem to be at risk of being overlooked in all the other “noise” that permeates Suskind’s pages, or because they confirm somewhat unusual thoughts this writer himself has put forth from time to time. (Scores or hundreds of other points are not summarized here, sometimes because they have been extensively discussed elsewhere (e.g., the failure of cooperation between the FBI and CIA).)
1. Suskind repeatedly says that a governing principle of the Bush administration, a principle pushed extensively by Cheney, is that if there is a one percent chance that terrorists or enemies may try something, then we must act as if it is a certainty. (Pp. 62, 81, 166, 170, 214.) This frees Bush et al. from having to assess competing evidence. It frees them indeed from even having to act on evidence as opposed to suspicion or hunch, since there is always a one percent chance of almost anything. This freedom from evidence is a freedom Bush seeks. (Pp. 62, 81, 170, 214, 225-226, 308.) As well, it helps elide a major Bush weakness -- ineptitude at analysis (sometimes called stupidity by mean people like this writer) -- and enables Bush to act on the basis of his gut and the (religion inspired) attitude with which he is comfortable. (P. 308.) Persons who are old fashioned, i.e., who believe in analyzing competing pieces of evidence, and in acting on evidence as opposed to emotion (like the CIA), find that their reports are not read, that their oral views are ignored, and that they are excluded from the inner circle. (P. 308.) Although lots of evidence-oriented people in government haven’t understood the point, Bush doesn’t want to hear rational analysis of competing pieces of evidence, because this just confuses him and undercuts the certitude with which he wishes to act.
We are, one would say, in the hands of people whose thinking is preenlightenment, is a throwback to medieval religious certitude instead of being evidence-based. This does not, of course, distinguish us from enemies like Islamic fundamentalists -- the bin Ladens, Imams, and Wahabists.
2. In personal intercourse Bush assesses people not on the basis of what they say, but visually -- on their body English, on whether they appear certain of what they say. (In this respect he looks for the certainty that lawyers display even when they don’t know what they are talking about, which is not uncommon.) This is a real problem when someone with important views is not a person who has a highly confident, good ol’ boy, “it’s a slam dunk” type of physical presentation. Bush’s failure or inability to judge what people are actually saying, as opposed to their physical presentation, can create real trouble. For instance, Bush not only got the famous memo of August 6, 2001 warning of possible al Qaeda attacks, but was briefed orally on the problem by someone from the CIA. As I understand what Suskind is saying, one reason Bush ignored what this CIA person had to say was that the guy did not have the confident, “I am certain of everything,” type of persona that Bush looks for. (Pp. 1-2.) (It should be noted that Suskind’s book seems very pro CIA. He feels, I think, that the CIA tries to look for, and advise and act on the basis of, evidence, including careful analysis of competing evidence. This, not the administration’s evidence-free method of acting, is what Suskind admires.)
3. As I understand it, another reason Bush ignored what the CIA briefer had to say was that he (Bush) was fixated on getting Saddam Hussein, and was paying no attention to al Qaeda. Bush came into office with a strong desire to take out Saddam, and intended to do so from day one. Only Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld knew that this was the plan. (Pp. 22-23, 25-26, 296, 306.)
4. Bush, Franks and other top officials were warned that, although bin Laden was surrounded on three sides in Tora Bora, the fourth side, the back door, was open. They were advised -- maybe “begged” would be an even more apt word -- to send marines to close off the fourth side. They refused. Bin Laden escaped. (Pp. 58-59.)
5. The CIA strongly believes that there are about a hundred or so suitcase sized nuclear weapons produced by the Soviet Union that are unaccounted for. (P. 6.) Bin Laden and other terrorists are eager to obtain such a weapon. (Ibid.) We also learned that al Qaeda was able to make very high quality, very deadly anthrax (pp. 212, 251-252), and that it had created a device, sort of like two paint cans, that could be used to create and release hydrogen cyanide, a deadly poison gas. (Pp. 194-195.) (Zyklon B, used by the Germans in the holocaust gas ovens, is a form of hydrogen cyanide.) (P. 195.) The government also found high quality al Qaeda reports with drawings, maps, etc., of buildings, banks, hotels, and other American targets which al Qaeda had cased. (P. 252.)
As one might expect from all this, our government was terrified of what might happen. It considered that the homeland is, in reality, unprotectable. (Pp. 186, 212, 270.)
6. We have had at least one, and I think Suskind is discussing two, high level al Qaeda informants who gave us information and, in one case, enabled us to catch a major al Qaeda fugitive, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. (Pp. 204-206.) For doing this the informant and his family were put in what seems to be the equivalent of a witness protection plan in the U.S. and the informant collected 25 million dollars plus other financial benefits. (Pp. 204-206.) (This was before an informant gave us Zarqawi, for which he is doubtlessly collecting 25 million also (unless -- and this is my own speculation -- al Qaeda possibly wanted Zarqawi dead because he was causing too much trouble for it by killing Muslims in Iraq and was a threat to the leadership of bin Laden).)
7. Bush knew very well that the rapprochement (if one can call it that) with Gadhafi was not due to the invasion of Iraq, but to Gadhafi’s longstanding desire to be accepted in and a player among the family of nations. Yet Bush lied by telling the public that the rapprochement was due to the invasion. (Pp. 221-223, 264-271.)
8. Bush and other high officials knew very well that top al Qaeda guys were being tortured. Bush had made clear that he wanted this done, and even asked the CIA whether the horrible methods it was using were getting any information. (Pp. 75-76, 152, see 164.) Those methods did not in fact get much worthwhile information, if I understand Suskind aright. (Pp. 228-229.) The torturers even threatened one top al Qaeda leader, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, that they would kill his wife and children unless he talked, but not even this worked. (He said that, if the CIA did so, they would simply be in a better place earlier.) (P. 230.)
One guy we tortured, Abu Zubaydah, was paraded to the American public by Bush as a top operational guy and, indeed, was paraded as possibly the number three guy in al Qaeda. In fact, we knew by then that he was not a top guy. We knew that, apparently because of a severe head wound suffered in fighting the Russians earlier on, Zubaydah was a schizoid -- he had a three-part personality (p. 95). As a CIA man on the case said, ‘“This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality,’” (p. 100.), and we knew he was merely “a logistics man, a fixer, mostly for a niggling array of personal items, like the guy you call who handles the company health plan, or benefits, or the people in human resources. There was almost nothing ‘operational’ in his portfolio. That was handled by the management team. He wasn’t one of them.” (P. 95.)
When we first caught Abu Zubaydah, he could not be interrogated because he had been very badly wounded in several places when captured. So the CIA secretly descended on some of the top doctors in the country -- Suskind does not give even a hint as to who they are -- and transported them to Pakistan to provide care to Zubaydah. They nursed him back to health, so that we could then torture him to try to get information (‘“He received the finest medical attention on the planet,’ said one CIA official. ‘We got him in very good health, so we could start to torture him.’” (P. 100.) He gave little information of any value (except for the name of Jose Padilla), but when he said al Qaeda planned to blow up banks or supermarkets, our government would go into panic mode. (Pp. 115-116.) As Suskind put it, “the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.” (P. 111.)
9. Bush could make false statements to the public about Zubaydah and other matters because the government kept everything very secret, so nobody had any facts with which to contest the lies that Bush and his administration were putting out. (Pp. 99, 226, 293.) (“[K]nowledge of Zubaydah’s limited role in al Qaeda, and apparent insanity, was closely held and deeply classified.” (P. 169.)) (The general secrecy that prevented people from having information with which to contest lies is very much like the situation regarding Bush’s initial claims of WMDs back in 2002-3, isn’t it? And were it not for revelations in the news media in the last few years about everything from horrendous legal memos to torture to rendition to electronic spying to killing civilians, nothing would have changed.)
10. The Bush administration, as we all know, is accusing The New York Times of treason. My view is that this fundamentally is because The Times has been the main engine of blowing the whistle on so many of the administration’s misdeeds. (The Washington Post has been up there too.) Most recently, The Times, The Journal and the LA Times blew the whistle on electronic financial tracking. But al Qaeda realized a long time ago that its members were being caught because of financial tracking of one kind or another. So it stopped moving money and messages in the ordinary ways (e.g., emails, cell phone calls, wire transfers, Western Union transfers), and started sending messages by courier and money by halawas -- a type of pervasive, Islamic-world storefront bank, I gather. (Pp. 277-279.) As Suskind puts it, “Eventually, and not surprisingly, our opponents figured it out. It was a matter, really, of deduction. Enough people get caught and a view of which activities they had in common provides clues as to how they may have been identified and apprehended. ‘We were surprised it took them so long, said one senior intelligence official.”’ (P. 279.)
11. Knowing that the homeland is indefensible, Bush and his cohorts wanted to draw terrorists into Iraq, so that they would all be in one place, where our powerful conventional army could fight them all. (Pp. 273-274.) Many Muslims have gone to Iraq to fight us, so, in that sense, Bush has himself created a link between Iraq and terrorism. (Unhappily though, there seem to be even more terrorists, both in Iraq and elsewhere, being produced by the war in Iraq. And lots of them, it is widely felt, are getting excellent training in Iraq for action elsewhere.)
In addition Bush felt that Iraq could serve as an object lesson to other countries that they had better not act contrary to the interests of the United States. (Pp. 214, 264.) (This seems to be somewhat like Nixon’s view that it would be helpful if the North Viet Namese thought he was a madman, because this would cause them to seek peace.) Bush lied to the public in this connection by telling it that because of Iraq, Gadhafi of Libya gave up on seeking WMDs. The truth, as mentioned above, and as the administration knew, was that the reason Gadhafi did so was because for years he had wanted to be accepted by and a player in the international community. But because everything in the administration was so secretive, Bush could lie about this with impunity. (Pp. 221-223, 264-271.)
12. The American shelling of Al Jazeera’s offices in Baghdad was intentional. (Pp. 137-138.) It was not the accident or mistake we pretended it was. Rather we had deliberately sent Al Jazeera a message. (Recently, I note, an official memo got leaked in Britain which said that Bush had (shockingly) suggested to Tony Blair that Al Jazeera should be bombed. This has not received much attention in the U.S.)
13. The intelligence services of the western world have a meeting once a year to discuss matters, to coordinate efforts, and to foster cooperation. (Pp. 82-87.) Each (or lots) of these services engage in electronic spying on other country’s citizens. But there are laws which prevent them from spying on their own citizens. What they do, therefore, if I understand Suskind rightly, is that they spy on each other’s citizens and then exchange information, thus evading their own countries’ bans against spying on their own citizens. (Pp. 85-86.)
This matter, it seems to me, is of obvious relevance to the scandals in our country about the NSA spying on U.S. citizens. Even if that were stopped, the U.S. government could -- and does? -- have other countries spy on American citizens for it.
14. The guy who planned the 2005 London subway bombings, Mohammed Sidique Khan, was under deep suspicion a few years earlier -- in 2003 I gather, although the date is not perfectly clear. We received word that he was coming to the U.S. We could have let him come here, and then followed him closely every minute of every day. He doubtlessly would have led us to others in America who were involved in terrorism. Instead, after several days of dithering about what to do, we put him on a no fly list, so that when he got to Heathrow he was told he could not go to the United States. Thus alerted that he was under suspicion, he knew not to do anything that would arouse suspicion, not to send incriminating emails or make incriminating phone calls. Instead he worked very quietly until he masterminded the 2005 subway bombings. (Pp. 200-203.)
15. In late 2004 DICK Cheney wanted the CIA to release a small part of a classified report that would lead one to the conclusion that the war in Iraq was aiding in the battle against jihadists. The report as a whole “concluded nothing of the sort. Many of its conclusions flowed in the opposite direction. To release that small segment would be willfully misleading.” (P. 340.) So a high CIA official declined Cheney’s request. DICK then expressed outrage to George’s man Porter Goss, who put pressure on the official. She still refused. “A few weeks after that, she was gone.” (P. 341.) We now know of course, due to revelations connected to the Plame/Wilson business, that misleading partial declassification is par for the pack of liars who are the administration.
16. A person “tied tightly into al Qaeda management” had somehow become a source for us. (He thought bin Laden may have made a major mistake in attacking us on 9/11, a subject which was a subject of debate in al Qaeda in early 2003.) In early 2003 he told us that a figure in al Qaeda had planned a major hydrogen cyanide attack in the New York City subway, which had been thoroughly cased by members of the attacking cell. There were only 45 days left before the attack when al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al Zawahiri, whom our government wants to catch or kill as much as Bin Laden, “had called off the attacks.” (P. 218, emphasis in original.) The informant did not know why Zawahiri had called them off. Much time was spent speculating, by Bush, Cheney, the CIA, etc., but there was no answer. (Pp. 216-220.)
About a year and a half later, on October 29, 2004, just a few days before the presidential election, bin Laden, who “hadn’t shown himself in nearly a year” (p. 335), made a surprise broadcast. He assailed Bush, talked about Michael Moore’s movie, said Bush was stupid, deceptive, a tool of big oil and big business, etc. (P. 335.) The pols, if I interpret Suskind correctly, blasted what they said was an attempt to swing the election to Kerry. The CIA’s view was different. Its people had spent years parsing the words of bin Laden and knew he spoke “only for strategic reasons.” (P. 336.) Knowing this, the CIA’s leadership believed bin Laden spoke as and when he did because he was aware that such a speech would help Bush get reelected. One official recalled “why the Soviets liked certain leaders, such as Nixon: because they were consistent and predictable.” (P. 336.) Another “talked about how bin Laden -- being challenged by Zarqawi’s rise -- clearly understands how his primacy as al Qaeda’s leader was supported by the continuation of his eye-to-eye struggle with Bush. ‘Certainly,’ she offered, ‘he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.’” (P. 336.) Bush, says Suskind, “is an ambitious man, atop a nation of ambitious and complex desires, who knows that when the al Qaeda leader displays his forceful presence, his own approval ratings rise, and vice versa.” (P. 337.)
I would add another possible reason why bin Laden would want Bush reelected, a reason Suskind discusses in part elsewhere. If I were bin Laden, then, as one CIA official said, I would have wanted and would still want Bush to remain in power. Bush’s stupid, malevolent and evil decisions were, and are, turning more and more of the Middle East against us. They were, and are, creating more and more jihadists. They were making Americans sicker and sicker of this war and less and less likely to support it. They were making it more and more likely that the west would ultimately be thrown out of, or would leave, the Middle East, which is exactly what bin Laden wants and has always been after. They are helping to create an increasingly Muslim fundamentalist Middle East, which also is what bin Laden wants. They are, doubtlessly, contributing to the growing rise and increasing acceptance of Hamas and Hezbollah. And they have given jihadists a wonderful chance, which they have seized by bombings in Spain, London and elsewhere, to cause European allies to wish to separate themselves from the United States -- whereas a mass killing by hydrogen cyanide in the New York City subway system, the project called off by Zawahiri in 2003, would have created renewed sympathy for the United States and perhaps renewed support for a very hard line by both the U.S. and Israel. Could bin Laden rely on John Kerry to take Bushian actions which would be so amazingly helpful to bin Laden’s goals? Doubtlessly not. As inept as he is, and in part because he is inept, there was not a ghost of a chance that Kerry would help bin Laden achieve his goals by taking the same kind of actions that Bush was and is. No, for bin Laden, Bush was Old Reliable, No. 99, the man who could be depended on to score touchdowns every time -- for bin Laden. Of course, bin Laden would have wanted Bush to win in 2004. He would want him to win again in 2008 too if this weren’t barred by law. Maybe he is even hoping against hope for DICK in 2008, although he must know this can’t happen. When he made his October 29th speech, apparently called the ‘“October Surprise’” (p. 335), it is highly likely that bin Laden was cleverly taking advantage of the ignorance, rabid conservatism and just plain stupidity of so many American voters. And, one has to say, it worked.*
* This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.
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----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, July 14, 2006 10:41 PM
Subject: Only Fools and Horses
Over here in the UK, one of the most popular (and long-running) TV comedies of all time was a show called "Only Fools and Horses", about two brothers called Derek ("Del Boy") and Rodney. Curiously, despite the common practice of US Networks buying-up UK comedies and remaking them as American versions (with varying degrees of success - "Til Death do Us Part" translated well into "All in the Family", but "Steptoe and Son" fell flat as Bill Cosby's "Sandford and Son") this comedy gem has largely been ignored by US Networks - although I doubt many of them will have truly worked out WHY they don't like it. The Show is set in SE London (but actually filmed near where I live, in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare.) It features nobody with a recognisable American accent, it seldom mentions America. Yet... it manages to be "about America". Rodney and DelBoy are street-maket traders, always looking for the "business opportunity" that gives rise to their catchphrase: "This time next year, we're going to be MILLIONAIRES!" The "business opportunity" always turns out to have a catch - many of the deals are barely legal - like the several gross of dolls that Derek buys turn out to be self-inflating sex-toys, not "Barbie" and "Cindy" as he'd imagined. Del's a minnow who fancies himself to be a shark. But he's a minnow who has swallowed "the American Dream" horse foot and artillery. For years, he'd demonstrate his unshakable faith in his destiny to be rich, his absurd pretentions... his faith in the American Dream.... and UK audiences would laugh and laugh at the absurdity of the idea. You can see why US Networks might not see this as translating into a potential hit American show....
The shows are available for rent or purchase on DVD. You can find them via Amazon.com, Ebay or possibly even your preferred peer-to-peer network. They're more closely described at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081912/ or at the BBC's own website http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/onlyfools/index.shtml Note that a recent BBC poll made "Only Fools and Horses" the UK's most popular sitcom... ever. Ahead of Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Monty Python.... Seems that Brits find "the American Dream" truly hilarious. It also makes one wonder about Tony Blair's declaration that "American values are OUR values".
Ron Walker (snr)