I see that the rollout of the Mega-Super-Secret Saddam Tapes!!! is not exactly going according to plan.
First we (or at least readers of Lucianne.com and like-minded sites, which have been flogging the tapes for weeks) were promised proof that Saddam had WMDs just before the war:
Reportedly armed with 12 hours of Saddam Hussein's audio recordings, the organizers of an upcoming "Intelligence Summit" are describing the tapes as the "smoking gun evidence" that the Iraqi dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction in the period leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq....
Right-wingers were slavering for the tapes and counting the minutes until some of them would be aired on ABC's Nightline. Well, that happened last night, and the tapes weren't exactly as advertised:
ABC News has obtained 12 hours of tape recordings of Saddam Hussein meeting with top aides during the 1990s, tapes apparently recorded in Baghdad's version of the Oval Office....
"During the 1990s" meant "during the mid-1990s." Unless Saddam could see into the future, it's a bit hard to know how discussions in his office ten or eleven years ago could prove that he still had WMDs three years ago. And, remarkably, even the Bushies admit this:
A spokeswoman for John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, said information contained in the transcriptions of the tapes was already known to intelligence officials.
"Intelligence community analysts from the CIA, and the DIA reviewed the translations and found that, while fascinating, from a historical perspective the tapes do not reveal anything that changes their post-war analysis of Iraq's weapons programs nor do they change the findings contained in the comprehensive Iraq Survey group report," she said in a statement.
Yes, Saddam (according to one transcript) predicts that "terrorism is coming" to America at some time in the future -- but the point of the conversation is that it won't come from Iraq because any damnfool can commit an act of terrorism:
...UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sir, the germ, any biologists can make a bottle at home.
SADDAM: This is coming, this story is coming but not from Iraq.
[TARIQ] AZIZ: Sir, the biological is very easy to make. It's so simple that any biologist can make a germ bottle and drop it into a septic tank and kill 100,000. This is not done by a state, no need to accuse a state, an individual can do it. Even an American in a house, close to the White House, I mean, they don't have a logical argument.
In the other transcript presented by ABC, Hussein Kamel -- Saddam's son-in-law and head of his WMD program at the time -- acknowledges deceiving the UN on WMDs. News? Nope. Kamel defected not long afterward and revealed much about Saddam's WMD program and the deceptions that concealed it. But he also revealed that the WMD stockpiles were destroyed in 1995 -- a fact that was ignored in the run-up to the Iraq War. (Kamel returned to Iraq and was killed there in 1996.)
Now, here's where the story of the tapes gets weird:
CAIRO, Egypt -- Two former CIA directors have resigned from the board of the organization planning tomorrow to make public secret recordings of Saddam Hussein and his advisers.
In the last week both John Deutch and James Woolsey abruptly left their positions at Intelligence Summit, according to its president, John Loftus, who said their departure is part of a campaign by the directorate of national intelligence to punish him for releasing the recordings.
The reason both men gave for their resignations was new information they received regarding one of the summit's biggest donors, Michael Cherney, an Israeli citizen who has been denied a visa to enter America because of his alleged ties to the Russian mafia....
What?! The Russian mafia? I don't know what the hell's going on here.
OK, let me backtrack: I think these tapes are coming out now because Karl Rove wants the Republicans to run on fear and terrorism in '06, so he's asked everyone on the GOP side to dredge up anything that will fire up the Saddam/WMD/9-11 synapses in the public's mind. It doesn't matter whether any of it actually changes the no-WMDs-in-2003 story -- all that matters is that it hits voters' fear buttons.
But if so, why is the administration downplaying these tapes? I'm confused.
And why are Deutch and Woolsey protesting their use at the Intelligence Summit? Woolsey, in particular, is a guy you'd think would want to demonize Saddam by any means necessary -- when a book by Laurie Mylroie arguing that Saddam was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was reissued after 9-11, Woolsey wrote a new foreword for it, calling Mylroie's work "brilliant and brave." So why this little tiff?
And is there a Chalabi connection? Woolsey and Chalabi, of course, go way back:
[Woolsey] is also a well-known champion of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group run by Ahmed Chalabi.... And Woolsey's law firm, Shea & Gardner, is a registered agent for the INC, though Woolsey says he does not participate in his firm's work on behalf of the group.
And the article about the tiff is by The New York Sun's Eli Lake, Mr. Chalabi-on-Speed-Dial. Does the Chalabi/neocon crowd not want these tapes released? And if not, why not?
All rather mysterious...
UPDATE: OK, I think I understand now. Byron York explains in a National Review blog post on John Loftus, the source of these tapes:
... In January 2004, [The New York Sun] published an article on those notorious MoveOn.org ad submissions that compared George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler. The story included a quote from Loftus, who said the ads were basically accurate. "The Bushes played a significant role in bringing money into the Third Reich," Loftus told the paper. "They literally financed Hitler. It was all about the money. It wasn't about the ideology."
Loftus's Web site confirms that this is a subject of more than passing interest to him. But wait -- there's more:
... A visit to his website finds, among other things, a May, 2002 article by him entitled "What Congress Does Not Know About Enron and 9/11." In the article, Loftus reports that the now-defunct energy company had a contract with the Taliban to build a pipeline, and that Vice President Dick Cheney, determined to help out Enron, forbade U.S. intelligence sources from investigating the Enron/Taliban/al Qaeda connection in the months leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks....
So I guess what happened is this: Rove asked all Republicans to dredge up whatever they could that would reinspire WMD fear. Congressman Peter Hoekstra hooked up with this Loftus character. But Loftus is deeply offensive to Bush and Cheney -- plus, his big find isn't worth a damn. So he must be shunned. Anyone have a better explanation?