Though Al Gore's latest "major policy address" was delivered at a slightly lower volume than his screaming rants from earlier in the year, the pitch was no less fevered. Among other things, he accused the Bush administration of working with "a network of 'rapid response' digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for 'undermining support for our troops.'"
How odd that Gore, who endorsed Howard Dean, should object so strongly to Internet political activism. Perhaps he's simply offended that his ideological opponents would dare to use this technology that he took the initiative in creating.
And "Brown Shirts"? Perhaps when valuable parts of Iraq (oilfields, the port of Umm Qasr) are annexed; when all the good farmland in the Tigris-Euphrates valley is appropriated and repopulated with unemployed Americans of good breeding stock who are paid bonuses above market rates and rewarded for each baby they birth; when Iraq's treasuries are looted and large tracts of property are granted to generals and politically connected members of the Washington elite; when members of the Sunni minority are moved to ghettos and later to death camps; when, in short, Bush treats Iraq as Hitler treated Poland, then the Nazi metaphors will become perfectly apt.
As of now, not so much.
(As much as I'd like to take full credit for that observation, I must note that blogger Stephen Green made it over a year ago.)
Perhaps even stranger is Gore's assertion that linking al Qaeda and Saddam proves that the administration is either "too dishonest or too gullible" to govern.
It is true that there have been strong assertions of a Saddam-al Qaeda link. Here's a typical example:
Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.
A complication, from Gore's point of view: This comes from the 1998 Justice Department indictment of Osama bin Laden. It was the position of the administration in which Gore served. Stephen F. Hayes (from whose new book, The Connection, much of the following is derived) was told by an official familiar with the Clinton Justice Department's deliberations over the indictment that this line was "not an afterthought," and that it "couldn't have gotten into the indictment unless someone was willing to testify to it under oath."
It was 1998 when the Clinton administration, in retaliation for the Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, struck an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan. Though it remains controversial to this day, the al Shifa plant was thought, based on a soil sample, to have been producing VX nerve gas; many Clinton administration officials defend the strike to this day, and many Bush administration officials agree with their predecessors.
The al Shifa plant was thought to be connected to the Iraqi government's chemical weapons programs, and the Sudanese government was deeply connected to al Qaeda at the time. Though it's not clear whether either al Qaeda knew where the chemical weapon technology was coming from, or that Iraq knew that the Sudanese would pass the weaponry to al Qaeda, that would seem to be a secondary question to the risk of chemical weapons changing hands this way. In all, six senior Clinton administration national security officials are on record defending the strike on al Shifa citing an Iraqi connection.
Indeed, the Clinton administration's experiences with Saddam's penchant for terrorism go all the way back to Clinton's first term, when it was confirmed that the Iraqi Intelligence Service had attempted an assassination of former President George H.W. Bush. Clinton ordered a missile strike on the IIS headquarters in June, 1993, in retaliation.
"The suffering inside Iraq can come to an end when Saddam Hussein's regime is replaced," said a top Clinton administration official at the time. "And I hope -- and most of the world community hopes -- that this regime based on terrorism and atrocities against his own people will be replaced. Over time, we hope to achieve that result."
The official? Al Gore.