Thursday, June 12, 2003
This morning’s New York Times reported 4,000 US soldiers are presently engaged in the largest military operation conducted in Iraq since President Bush declared victory on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Operation Peninsula Strike
That field commanders can feel political heat from Washington is reflected in these concluding sentences:
Gauging the intensity of the surge in attacks has been difficult. American military officials disclose the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq but do not routinely publicize every attack on American forces. Military officials declined a request this week to produce figures totaling the number of attacks on Americans forces over the last six weeks. Conversations with soldiers in the area, where the Tigris creates an island of green in a bleak brown desert, suggested that the level of attacks north of Baghdad had been intense. Soldiers said convoys were routinely fired on in the area at night, with bullets striking the first and last vehicles and rocket propelled grenades whizzing over gunners' heads and between jeeps. "We are just lucky they are bad shots," said Staff Sgt. John Williams, who was involved in the operation.
Meanwhile, down the coast at the Washington Post, the plot thickens over the forged Niger uranium documents umbrella’ed into what the Brits are calling, in the fashion of Erle Stanley Gardner, the “Dodgy Dossier”.
Straightforwardly, according to the Independent, the Brits cut to the chase in the annual report of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee:
The report portrays a government willing to spice official intelligence with uncorroborated material, while ministers remain badly informed and "not sufficiently engaged" in the fight against groups such as alQaeda. It maintains that senior ministers did not read all the espionage material available to them, including vital intelligence in tackling weapons of mass destruction.
The Vice President
Was the CIA cart or horse in the murkier American drama and is that Dick Cheney tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at our Langley’s door?
In the inverted, inverted lead so popular with today’s press, the last few graphs of Mr. Pincus’ story bear tantalizing fruit:
The CIA's decision to send an emissary to Niger was triggered by questions raised by an aide to Vice President Cheney during an agency briefing on intelligence circulating about the purported Iraqi efforts to acquire the uranium, according to the senior officials. Cheney's staff was not told at the time that its concerns had been the impetus for a CIA mission and did not learn it occurred or its specific results. Cheney and his staff continued to get intelligence on the matter, but the vice president, unlike other senior administration officials, never mentioned it in a public speech.
Unlike those British ministers, I don’t think anyone, left or right, could begin to imagine our Vice President not reading every word of even the dodgiest dossier presented to him.
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Apologies: Edgar Allen Poe