the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

August 6, 2005

The “Arm Osama” Amendment


On this 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, it seems appropriate to consider what we’re doing to prevent nuclear bombs going off in cities in the future. We already know that the president isn’t particularly concerned about what’s happening with nuclear materials and has recently promoted a guy who’s sabotaged attempts to control their spread. But how about the Congress?

Billmon at Whiskey Bar points out a Washington Post article about a provision in the recently passed energy bill (see also Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings). North Carolina senator Richard Burr (R) managed to slip in a passage relaxing restrictions on export of weapons-grade uranium. The “Arm Osama Amendment”, as Billmon calls it, was apparently inserted to help a Canadian producer of medical isotopes, one that “already has enough highly enriched uranium to make one or two Hiroshima-size bombs” but doesn’t have the security requirements of US weapons facilities. Billmon continues:

… I strongly urge everyone to read the entire Washington Post article and read it carefully. That way, when the day comes for you lean out your bathroom window and wonder: “How did that funny shaped cloud get there?” you’ll already know the answer. And as you watch the bones in your hand become visible through your skin, and marvel at the sight of your child’s hair instantly catching on fire, you can, in the brief moment before the shock wave hits, thank the good people at the Council on Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals for helping make such wonders possible….

Unfortunately, putting campaign donations above the security of the American people isn’t limited to Republicans. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat from Arkansas, cosponsored the amendment.

The insane way bills are put together and passed — thousands of pages put out only hours before the vote, full of irrelevant provisions, with no chance for review — may one day lead to worse than the usual wasting of billions of dollars. Congress has got to get the process under control, but it’s hard to imagine how that will happen.

July 15, 2005

Politics Above Security in the White House: Did London Pay the Price?


The White House’s destruction of Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative (one investigating weapons of mass destruction) to punish her husband, Joe Wilson, for saying things the administration didn’t like is hardly the only time the Bush administration has weighed political advantage as more important than national security. Probably the worst example is Bush & Co.’s use of the September 11 attacks to divide the country for political purposes and alienate the rest of the world — squandering a unique opportunity to unite the country and make use of the sympathy from the global community to make us all safer.

For a more specific example, think back to the time of last year’s Democratic convention. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge raised the alert level to orange for some cities and financial institutions, and he politicized his alert by including the statement “the kind of information available to us today is the result of the President’s leadership in the war against terror.” When people were skeptical about the alert (which was based on three-year-old information), the administration — apparently desparate to show that the threat was real — revealed the name of a captured Al Qaeda member who was the source. Unfortunately, the informant, Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, was cooperating and acting as a mole at the time (other Al Qaeda members didn’t know he’d been captured), and after his name was revealed his usefulness was ended. Undercover agents within Al Qaeda aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, but the Bush campaign/administration destroyed one to reduce a political embarrassment.

I bring this up now because Americablog has a long post detailing the connection between the Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan incident and last week’s London bombings (Juan Cole has more). It’s possible that if Khan had been able to continue as a mole the network responsible for the bombings could have been unraveled before they were able to kill scores of people. But that would have required the Bush folks to value something above scoring political points.

July 10, 2005

Where Is Home?


Okay, ridiculing over-the-top right-wingers who are already self-parodies may not be productive or morally upright, but it can be fun to take an occasional break from seriousness. The Poor Man’s newest parody of Power Line explains why the London bombings aren’t actually a refutation of Bush’s “flypaper” strategy (and what that means for those of us in DC):


Mewling, traitorous liberals won’t even wait until the bodies from the London terrorist bombings are cold before using them as props in their endless propaganda war against Bush and America. According to these liberals, the bombings are somehow evidence that Bush’s masterful “flypaper strategy” isn’t working. Come again? The whole genius of the flypaper strategy is that by invading Iraq, we can fight the terrorists abroad instead of at home. Last time I checked, my home wasn’t in London, nor was it the home of any self-respecting American. I would much rather fight the terrorists in Baghdad, Kabul, London, and have daily terrorist attacks in hundreds of cities and towns all over the world — provided that none of these places are in America — than have to fight them at home.

But what these rabid Bush-haters don’t understand — or pretend not to understand — is that the flypaper strategy has been in effect since Bush’s first day in office, and has been an unqualified success since day 1. While Clinton spent 8 years cribbing his anti-terror strategy directly from the Neville Chamberlin playbook, the worst domestic terrorist attack in American history occured in the center of America’s heartland, Oklahoma City. However, under the Bush strategy, the worst terrorist attack in human history occured in New York City and Washington DC, a thousand miles away from America’s heartland! Think about it: wouldn’t you rather fight the terrorists in NYC and Washington — coastal enclaves from where the decadent Left form what amounts to a fifth column — than at home? The choice for patriotic Americans is obvious.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

July 9, 2005

Your FBI at Work


This American Life devotes its entire hour this weekend (the archived audio won’t be available till next week) to the bizarre case of Hemant Lakhani, a 70-year-old Indian small-time salesman and braggart who the FBI decided was a major arms trafficker worth hundreds of millions of dollars — thanks to the work of an unreliable informant. The FBI informant, pretending to represent a terrorist organization, approached Lakhani and asked him to procure weapons. Lakhani assured him he could get whatever he wanted — armored personnel carriers, submarines, plutonium — but they settled on acquiring a single shoulder-launched antiaircraft missile to start with.

After more than a year and a half of Lakhani’s being unable to get anything — and accidentally alerting Russian authorities during his bumbling attempts — the FBI became impatient and eventually cooperated with the Russians to supply Lakhani with a fake missile, then arrested him when he delivered it. The August 2003 arrest was trumpeted as a great victory in the war on terrorism by US Attorney Christopher Christie, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and of course the president:

“We are doing everything possible to protect the homeland,” said Mr. Bush. “And the fact we are able to sting this guy is a pretty good example of what we are doing in order to protect the American people.”

I have little sympathy for Lakhani, who did after all think that he was supplying a missile that would be used to blow up a civilian airliner, but I really hope that Bush is wrong and that this farce was not “a pretty good example” of what’s being done to protect us.

Note what happened. This was not a case where a fake terrorist approached real arms smugglers and made it possible to round up a gang of people who might supply weapons to real terrorists. Nor was it a fake arms smuggler approaching real terrorists and thus allowing the arrest of a dangerous terrorist cell. This was the resources of the American and Russian governments being used to have a fake terrorist get a fake missile from fake arms smugglers, through a real middleman recruited more or less at random — someone who had no previous connections with terrorists. No real terrorists or real weapons were involved, and no crime would have taken place if the FBI hadn’t made one happen through the use of untold amounts of money and agent time.

I realize that mistakes happen, but I hope that the other people among the few dozen “terrorists” actually convicted in law enforcement’s part of the war on terrorism are a bit more of a threat to the United States than this schmuck.

Update (7 Jul 2006): Here’s the link to the archive.

July 7, 2005

London, July 7


UK Flag

On September 11, 2001, I was in England — in Salisbury at the time of the attacks (having just seen Stonehenge) and going back to London later — and I still remember the kindness of the British people to a party of Americans at that terrible time. A few days later I was in Covent Garden as the whole street full of people paused for three minutes of silence to commemorate those killed. So this morning my thoughts are in London, and especially with any British people feeling lost and alone in the US.


DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

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