Hard News by Russell Brown

Alternative Reality News

Donald Rumsfeld says he has not seen "any strong, hard evidence" linking the old Iraqi regime and al Qaeda. Hardly surprising: no one has. Then he has to rush out a damage-control statement in which he claims to have been "regrettably misunderstood." Heh.

Two years ago, Rumsfeld was, of course, saying that American intelligence had "bulletproof" evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam's government. In the same week, Bush was warning of the danger "that Al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam‘s madness."

Rumsfeld's unfortunate veracity attack comes at an unfortunate time - that is, on the day of the vice-presidential debate, in which Dick Cheney will face John Edwards. A year ago, Cheney was claiming in an interview that "[Iraq is] the geographical base of the terrorists who had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9-11."

But even if Pretty-Boy Edwards, the trial lawyer, uses the Rumsfeld opening to rain blows on Cheney (I’m thinking a Sonny Liston figure here), the judges may already have totted up their scores.

A new USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll has found that 42% of those surveyed thought Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. And 32% said they thought Saddam had personally planned those attacks. For all that democracy's blessings should be showered without favour, it is hard to suppress the feeling that some of these people are too fucking stupid to be allowed to vote.

In other alternative-reality news, the former US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, has said in a speech that the US government ignored his pleas for more troops on the ground in Iraq ("we never had enough"), and failed to provide adequate security after Saddam was ousted. The White House declined to answer questions on Bremer's claims. Christian Science Monitor has a wrap-up of the day's embarrassments.

Today also happens to be launch day for the DVD version of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 and two new books by Moore: Will They Ever Trust Us Again? and The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader. The former is a collection of letters to Moore from soldiers, veterans and their families in response to Fahrenheit 9/11. The Guardian has excerpted some letters from the book, including this one:

From: Andrew Balthazor
Sent: Friday August 27 2004 1.53pm
Subject: Iraqi war vet - makes me sound so old

Mr Moore, I am an ex-military intelligence officer who served 10 months in Baghdad; I was the senior intelligence officer for the area of Baghdad that included the UN HQ and Sadr City.

Since Bush exposed my person and my friends, peers, and subordinates to unnecessary danger in a war apparently designed to generate income for a select few in the upper echelon of America, I have become wholeheartedly anti-Bush, to the chagrin of much of my pro-Republican family.

As a "foot soldier" in the "war on terror" I can personally testify that Bush's administration has failed to effectively fight terrorists or the root causes of terror. The White House and the DoD failed to plan for reconstruction of Iraq. Contracts weren't tendered until Feb-Mar of 2003, and the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (the original CPA) didn't even come into existence until January 2003. This failure to plan for the "peace" is a direct cause for the insecurity of Iraq today.

Immediately after the "war" portion of the fighting (which really ended around April 9 2003), we should have been prepared to send in a massive reconstruction effort. Right away we needed engineers to diagnose problems, we needed contractors repairing problems, we needed immediate food, water, shelter, and fuel for the Iraqi people, and we needed more security for all of this to work - which we did not have because we did not have enough troops on the ground, and CPA decided to disband the Iraqi army. The former Iraqi police were engaged far too late; a plan should have existed to bring them into the fold right away.

I've left the military. If there is anything I can do to help get Bush out of office, let me know.

Of course, if that's not your thing - perhaps you prefer truly deranged mendacity - there's always Ann Coulter's fourth book,

How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)

- and the paperback reprint of her last one, Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism.

Richard Llewellyn pointed me to

a nice column by Leonard Pitts

in the Miami Sun-Herald which concludes that there must be "two Iraqs".

Jamie noted

this analysis

of the present attempt by the Republican majority in Congress to legalise "extraordinary rendition" - them's fancy words for torture.

Aaron Hadfield noted by email that German intelligence documents

obtained by Newsweek well over a year ago

seemed to undercut claims that the Jordanian terrorist Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi, currently merrily shredding bodies in Iraq was in fact an al-Qaeda associate. Aaron says:

Certainly, as an interviewee on 60 Minutes last night stated, Osama seems to have trained al Tawhid operatives and bankrolled some of their operations, but according to the Germans there was later a clear falling out between the two. (To compare a similar relationship, you don't often see the press stating that bin Laden had 'links' to the CIA.)

Al-Zarqawi's actions are certainly repugnant, but it is irresponsible of the press to constantly slap the al Qaeda label on him. Of course, the label almost certainly emanates from US intelligence sources, given that al Zarqawi was the shady al Qaeda operative Bush also 'linked' to 'Iraq' before the war. Golly gee whiz, I guess now that we got Saddam we need someone else 'linked' to al-Qaeda to make the carnage worthwhile.

Anyway, that's enough for now. I've got to prepare for today's Wire show on 95bFM. Our guests are: David Rees of

Get Your War On

around 12.20pm (cool!), Suzanne Chetwin on the Herald on Sunday's first outing, about 12.40 pm, and new Sunday News editor Chris Baldock at 1.10pm. Should be good. You can listen