The biggest development in the Iraq debate since the president's Monday-night speech comes from the CIA's recent briefing to the Senate intelligence committee, portions of which were made public Tuesday evening. According to the Washington Post, while the CIA offered new evidence of ties going back a decade between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, they concluded that "unprovoked by a U.S. military campaign, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States." However, if an American attack were imminent, the CIA suggested that Hussein might "decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a WMD [weapons of mass destruction] attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him." In other words, attack at your own risk.
All those who trust the CIA's intelligence-gathering skills may raise their hands now.
Meanwhile, it seems likely that the Senate will pass a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq by an overwhelming margin. When the measure will be passed, however, remains in question, since opponents of the administration — led by the (very) senior senator from West Virginia, Democrat Robert Byrd — intend to use parliamentary tactics to delay a vote until at least next week.
The West Virginian's leadership role in the opposition produced this amusing line, from the AP report: "Byrd, widely respected for his deep knowledge of the Senate rules, has emerged as the primary Senate opponent to the president's war resolution." Now, doesn't this say something about Byrd's accomplishments as a senator — which consist of naming practically every rock in West Virginia after himself — that he is "respected for his deep knowledge of the Senate rules?" The man has been in the Senate since 1958 — is it any surprise that he knows all the rules by now? And can you imagine this being said about someone in another profession? Raul Mondesi hit .230 this year, but he is respected for his deep knowledge of baseball's rules . . . Joe Smith is an unproductive employee, but he is respected for his deep knowledge of the company's rulebook . . .
Next time, the AP should just come out and tell the truth — that Byrd is a tiresome gasbag who has been in the Senate long enough to know all the tricks that can be used to keep other people off the floor.
Finally, in a piece of news from the heartland, it seems that the antiwar movement has a new spokesman. First Al Gore, then Teddy Kennedy, and now . . . Louis Farrakhan. According to the Detroit Free Press, the outspoken Nation of Islam leader "kicked off a three-day, antiwar campaign in metro Detroit on Tuesday by calling President George W. Bush a greater threat to world peace than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein." (Amazing — he sounds just like a left-wing French journalist!) The Free Press adds that his remarks, addressed to supporters "were interrupted with shouts of 'Go ahead!' and 'Yes, sir!'"
In the Nation of Islam, apparently, even the spontaneous cheers sound like they belong in a paramilitary boot camp.