Monday, October 04, 2004

Kinder Surprise 

Considering the disinclination of the administration thus far to commit any time or effort to the war in Afghanistan, I find myself agreeing with this Time article -- the bin Laden October Surprise is an increasingly unlikely possibility.

But a seven-month-long Pakistani offensive designed to flush bin Laden from Waziristan has come up empty. The Pakistanis say bin Laden is hiding in Afghanistan, while the Afghans agree with the Americans that he's on the Pakistan side. Says Lieut. General David Barno, U.S. commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan: "They probably feel more protected by their foreign fighters in remote areas inside Pakistan."

The U.S. has shifted its search strategy. Out of an estimated 18,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, some 5,000 are scrambling through the impossible terrain in places where bin Laden might be hiding. That area is a saw-bladed mountain range 1,500 miles long. But most troops aren't just looking for him specifically. Instead, they are patrolling the border against incursions by Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

This AP article doesn't add much to the debate, except to call democrats conspiracy theorists and nutcases for actually thinking the people in charge might be capable of trying to influence an election through illegal or immoral means.

Gee, not the Bush administration. Of course, given this piece's "history" of October Surprises, one would have to draw the conclusion that such talk is nonsense.

Bush is no stranger to October surprises; his family has been on the receiving end.

The revelation of Bush's drunken-driving arrest as a young man came right before the 2000 election.

The Friday before the 1992 election, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who served in the Reagan and first Bush administration, was indicted in the Democratic-inspired investigation of the Iran-Contra affair. That posed yet another worry for the elder Bush's re-election bid, which failed.

Usually speculated-upon October surprises fail to materialize. There was talk that the Carter administration would produce a deal in 1980 to free the U.S. hostages in Iran. In 1968 and again in 1972 came speculation that a deal to end the war in Vietnam might be at hand.

Yet the Suez Canal crisis in the fall of 1956 contributed to Dwight Eisenhower's re-election landslide, historians suggest.

That's right: October Surprises are actions by Democrats against Bushes. Interesting that all of their examples are against Republicans. It would be fruitless to point out, of course, that Bush's DUI records were discovered by an independent reporter (working for a Fox Affiliate), and the investigations into Iran-Contra were investigations into a suspected October Surprise attempt by Reagan's campaign which led to well-documented illegal activities very worthy of indictment.

The AP piece doesn't bother to mention that after the term gained prominence as a theorized tactic by the supposedly desperate Carter, former CIA head George H. W. Bush (allegedly) went to Iran to strongly encourage them not to release the Hostages until it was politically expedient for rising star and famed half-wit Ronald Reagan. Inexchange for future arms sales. The money from which was funneled to terrorists. While we publicly supported Saddam Hussein. And secretly supported Iran too. I was only three when the Reagan years ended, so I don't pretend to understand it either.

Then we have Henry Kissinger's 1972 declaration that "Peace is at hand."

Kissinger again in 1968 (quoting Christopher Hitchens in the February 2001 Harper's):
In the fall of 1968, Richard Nixon and some of his emissaries and underlings set out to sabotage the Paris peace negotiations on Vietnam. The means they chose were simple: they privately assured the South Vietnamese military rulers that an incoming Republican regime would offer them a better deal than would a Democratic one. In this way, they undercut both the talks themselves and the electoral strategy of Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The tactic "worked," in that the South Vietnamese junta withdrew from the talks on the eve of the election, thereby destroying the peace initiative on which the Democrats had based their campaign. In another way, it did not "work," because four years later the Nixon Administration tried to conclude the war on the same terms that had been on offer in Paris.

To be fair, the worst examples of Republican electoral dirty tricks occur when they're out of office, which does make the next couple weeks look a little less ominous, but it's times like these that we have to rely on the incredibly cynical nature of the elctorate. After all, does anyone remember or care about this still?

(CBS/AP) A Somali native living in Ohio has been charged with plotting with other al Qaeda operatives to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall, according to an indictment unsealed Monday.

It had all the makings of a brilliant October Surprise -- swing state, all-American Mall in danger, swarthy foreigner to string up -- and it just fell off the radar in days. Nice try, John. You blew your load a few months early.

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