PUTIN CAMPAIGNS FOR BUSH'S REELECTION
Russia gave the Bush administration intelligence after the September 11 attacks that suggested Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was preparing attacks in the United States, President Vladimir Putin said Friday....
"After Sept. 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, the Russian special services, the intelligence service, received information that officials from Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States and outside it against the U.S. military and other interests," Putin said....
Gosh, and yet nothing was said about this -- not in the 2003 State of the Union address, not in Powell's U.N. show-and-tell, not by Cheney or Condi in their stubbornly defiant talk-show interviews, then or since. With all the documents that have been declassified by the Bush administration, nothing about this report has seen the light of day. Curious.
Look, either this report was so laughably implausible that even Tenet and Cheney didn't believe it or it never existed at all, and Putin is just lying to help Bush get reelected.
And really, why wouldn't he? He has to suspect that President Kerry might internationalize the Iraq problem in a way that would put pressure on Russia to help -- whereas Bush's reelection would mean the U.S. would essentially keep its quagmire to itself. It's Realpolitik, and maybe it's revenge -- surely Putin wouldn't mind seeing the U.S. weakened for a few years longer in Iraq, perhaps just as payback for U.S. efforts to bog the Soviet Union down in Afghanistan.
It won't happen, but reporters should press the Bush administration to reveal what this report said in detail. There's no national-security reason to keep it secret with Saddam in jail, so let's hear it -- what exactly did Putin say, and when? If he said anything at all?
UPDATE: The Mahablog has a somewhat different take:
One wonders what quid pro quo was agreed to. We may have a hint in today's Washington Post. In "Veering from Reagan," a fellow at the Hoover Institution writes,
Bush praises Putin as an ally in the fight against terrorism and a man with a vision for Russia "in which democracy and freedom and the rule of law thrive." Rather than speak the truth about Russia's autocratic drift, Bush seems content to maintain his personal relationship with Putin, even if it comes at the expense of his principles -- not exactly Reagan's approach to foreign policy.
We don't know if today's fib was just Putin returning a favor or if more substantial exchanges were made behind closed doors. But this stinks, people. It stinks out loud.
UPDATE: A commenter at Daily Kos quotes this from a March 20, 2003, article about a Putin speech:
The Russian leader told Washington that he had seen no evidence to support US allegations that Iraq was linked to international terror groups, and said the White House's declared intention of removing President Saddam was illegal.
"What's more, up until the start of (military) operation, Iraq did not represent any danger to its neighbours, or to other countries or regions of the world," he said....
The source seems to be "Russia Berates US for Attacks" by Dan McLaughlin and Derek Smally, Irish Times, 3/20/03.