Unity Only Goes So Far

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washigtonpost.com
Friday, July 8, 2005; 1:54 PM

In the wake of yesterday's bombings in London, the world leaders meeting in Scotland quickly came together to express a shared outrage over the attacks, a shared resolve not to give in to terrorism, and a shared determination to bring those who did it to justice.

Then this morning, in what they described as "an alternative to hatred," they jointly announced aid packages for the Palestinian Authority and Africa.

But there's one big thing the world leaders do not share: support for President Bush's method of fighting terror.

While Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair continue to insist that the war in Iraq is making the world safer from terrorism, they are increasingly alone -- and face mounting evidence that Iraq is turning into a formidable terrorist training ground and recruiting tool.

There was no disagreement in public between the world leaders on Iraq at the G-8 summit. And the leaders' joint statement on terrorism conspicuously didn't mention Iraq at all.

But yesterday's bombings will likely lead to a spirited global debate about different ways of responding to a terror attack. Do you feed your nation's fears or refuse to be terrorized? Do you erode your citizens' freedoms or aspire to greater acts of altruism? Do you lash out at people who had nothing to do with it, or hunt down and destroy the thugs who are responsible? And what, when all is said and done, makes you safer?

War on Terror Update

Steve Coll and Susan B. Glasser write in The Washington Post: "Now more a brand than a tight-knit group, al Qaeda has responded to four years of intense pressure from the United States and its allies by dispersing its surviving operatives, distributing its ideology and techniques for mass-casualty attacks to a wide audience on the Internet, and encouraging new adherents to act spontaneously in its name.

"Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, terrorism experts in and out of government have warned that the movement has appeared to gain ground, particularly in Europe, where a large, mobile, technology-savvy and well-educated Muslim population includes some angry and alienated young people attracted to the call of holy war against the West. . . .

"Bin Laden believes that he and his followers helped destroy the Soviet Union by tying its 40th Army down in a long, costly war in Afghanistan during the 1980s. These days bin Laden says again and again that he intends to do the same to the United States and its allies in Iraq."

Sebastian Rotella, Greg Miller and Alissa J. Rubin write in the Los Angeles Times: "If Al Qaeda or its allies carried out the bombings in London, as many investigators suspect, Islamic extremists would have succeeded in striking their top European target as terrorist networks are gaining combat experience and inspiration from the conflict in Iraq, officials said Thursday. . . .

"Before Thursday's attacks, investigators say, they had been concerned by the increasing presence in Europe of veterans of the Iraq conflict. During the last six months, Western intelligence reports described a 'redeployment' onto the continent of operatives of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The operatives were thought to be planning attacks, a senior European police official said. . . .

"Iraq could replace Russia's Chechnya republic, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan as the breeding ground for terrorists who could unleash their new experience, skills and fervor on the West, European officials say. The CIA issued a classified report in May warning that Iraq had become a more effective training ground than Afghanistan for terrorists, and that the threat would spread as foreign fighters left Iraq and returned to their home countries or migrated elsewhere."

John D. McKinnon and Neil King Jr. write in the Wall Street Journal: "The bombings in London give President Bush an opening to rally anew support for his aggressive approach to fighting terror at a time when support appears to have flagged.

"Yesterday's attacks appear to validate Mr. Bush's repeated warnings that the war on terror will be broad and long-lasting. Among America's allies in Europe, that may bring Mr. Bush at least some renewed backing in the short run.

"But the bombings also are likely to fuel the debate over whether the president's approach has lessened the terrorist threat or perhaps worsened it by stirring up new animosities. In Europe in particular, the bombings suggest for many a continuing risk of allying with the U.S. in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the United Kingdom has."

Guy Dinmore and Demetri Sevastopulo write in the Financial Times: "A constant theme of the Bush administration is that America and the world are safer because of the US invasion of Iraq and its anti-terror strategy.

"That argument prevailed during the US presidential election campaign last year, despite even official US evidence to the contrary, but may have been finally buried by Thursday's bombings in London.

"Experts in Washington said following the blasts that it was time for the Bush administration to re-evaluate its strategy."

Did the topic come up in the G-8 sessions?

Richard W. Stevenson writes in the New York Times: "During the day, Mr. Bush held informal conversations with some of his counterparts from other nations, and although his aides declined to be specific about what they talked about, they said it would have been natural for him to raise the issue of combating terrorism. . . .

"The display of unity may have masked what is sure to be a debate in Britain and elsewhere over whether Britain was attacked because of Mr. Blair's strong support for the invasion of Iraq. And there was little public talk here about the adequacy of international counterterrorism efforts nearly four years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon."

And what will be the domestic impact of the attacks?

Thomas M. DeFrank writes in the New York Daily News: "The horror of London's terror tragedy catapults President Bush's strong suit back onto the global front burner, but the political bounce is probably only temporary -- and more attacks might actually damage his standing.

" 'This helps him, but it has a short shelf life,' a Republican political consultant closely allied with the White House said yesterday. 'His numbers will go up this week but will drop back by next week.' "

Bush is on his way back from Scotland, and will sign the condolence book at the British Embassy after returning to Washington in the afternoon.

How Things Have Changed

Terrorists are still out there, but Bush's responsiveness is much improved.

Ron Hutcheson writes for Knight Ridder Newspapers: "Like a scene out of a James Bond movie, President Bush turned briefly aside from an international summit in Scotland to enter a specially equipped hotel suite, where he conducted a secure video conference with his national security advisers back home. . . .

"The fast response showed how much has changed in the almost four years since the Sept. 11 attacks, but no one claimed that the precautions offered anything close to full protection from terrorists. . . .

"The well-coordinated federal response contrasted with the confusion that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, when a noticeably shaken Bush sat with a group of schoolchildren after being told that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. After leaving the Florida school, the president boarded Air Force One for a meandering flight to military bases in Louisiana and Nebraska before returning to Washington that evening."

Valerie Plame and Karl Rove

Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post: "The jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller on Wednesday put the issue of press freedom and the confidentiality of sources on front pages across the country, but the heart of the case remains what it has been from the outset: whether senior Bush officials broke the law in the disclosure of a CIA covert operative's identity. . . .

"Now, a fast-moving series of decisions over the past week involving Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper have brought a renewed public focus on what role White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove may have played in disclosing the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame."

What about all those public denials that Rove was involved? Could Rove's lawyer and White House spokesmen have just been playing word games? Balz raises that possibility.

"In an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday, Luskin denied that Cooper had received a call from Rove releasing him from his confidentiality pledge. Yesterday, however, Luskin declined to comment on a New York Times report that the release came as a result of negotiations involving Rove's and Cooper's attorneys, nor would he speculate that Cooper was released from his pledge in some other fashion than a direct conversation with Rove. 'I'm not going to comment any further,' Luskin said.

"The admission that Rove had spoken to Cooper appeared at odds with previous White House statements. In retrospect, however, these statements -- which some interpreted as emphatic denials -- were in fact carefully worded."

David Corn weighed in on the issue twice yesterday. In the Nation, he adds this "intriguing wrinkle" to Cooper's last-minute release from confidentiality. "Cooper's source only granted him a waiver to speak before the grand jury. He is not free, Cooper told me after the hearing, to discuss in public this source and the contents of his conversation with this source. In essence, the source made sure that Cooper -- if he were going to cooperate with [special prosecutor Partrick] Fitzgerald--would not be able to ID him (or her) in public."

And on Tompaine.com, Corn baldly speculates about what Fitzgerald and Rove are up to.

Meanwhile, press blogger Jay Rosen thinks columnist Robert Novak should be shunned until he comes clean.

Supreme Court Watch

Peter Baker writes in The Washington Post: "A week after Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, the White House and its allies are preparing for the possibility that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist might soon follow suit, opening up a second vacancy to fill and scrambling the politics of this summer's brewing nomination battle. . . .

"Advisers inside and outside the White House are discussing how to select two potential nominees, how they might match or balance each other and how to sequence their confirmation hearings. . . .

"Twin vacancies would present Bush with an intriguing choice: Does he use the opportunity to appoint two reliable conservatives who would shift the court away from what he sees as improper judicial activism on divisive issues such as abortion, religion in public life and gay rights? Or does he try to balance competing impulses by filling one seat with a conservative who would strictly interpret the Constitution and the other with his friend Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who is less favored by the right but would be the first Hispanic on the nation's highest court?"

Jim Hughes of the Denver Post caught up with Gonzales.

" 'This is an important decision, and I understand there's a lot of pent-up anticipation,' Gonzales said in an interview after meeting with Justice Department officials in Denver. 'People have been waiting for 11 years, and so people have very strong views about this. This is America, and people have the right to speak their mind. It's all part of the process, as far as I'm concerned.'

"A longtime friend and adviser to the president, Gonzales has been answering questions about the Supreme Court for years, he said. And though he would not rule out the possibility of being nominated, saying that was up to Bush, his answer now is the same it's always been, he said.

" 'I've been asked since 2001 whether or not I'd consider going on the court, and I've consistently said, 'I'm not a candidate for the Supreme Court' -- and that remains true today,' Gonzales said. 'I love being attorney general. My job, currently, is to help the president make this decision.' "

Gillespie Watch

Thomas B. Edsall writes in The Washington Post: "Ed Gillespie, who will help promote President Bush's future nominee to a vacancy on the Supreme Court, is a top-tier lobbyist who represents a host of clients with direct and indirect interests in the outcome of Supreme Court decisions. . . .

"The designation of a full-time campaign manager for the as-yet-to-be-named nominee reflects a White House decision to aggressively challenge a major liberal campaign already underway to defeat any of the nominees described as having a place on Bush's 'short list' of candidates. The Gillespie pick marks the first full-scale bid to mobilize the political muscle of the Republican Party and its allied networks of constituent groups in the business and religious communities.

"Gillespie's assignment will be to use the tools and techniques of a presidential campaign to put together a conservative political machine equipped to take on the alliance of groups on the political left that defeated the 1987 nomination of Robert H. Bork and nearly defeated Clarence Thomas, who won Senate confirmation by a close 52 to 48 vote in 1991."

The White House formally announced today that Gillespie is coming on board, in an unpaid position.

G-8 Update

Jim VandeHei writes for washingtonpost.com: "President Bush and seven other world leaders pledged Friday to double African aid and spend $3 billion to facilitate peace talks between Israel and Palestine, wrapping up an economic summit in what British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the 'shadow of terrorism.' . . .

"Blair, who triumphed in his campaign for more Africa aid, failed to convince Bush to embrace mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions and settled for a watered-down pledge by leaders of eight industrial nations to take other steps to combat global warming. . . .

"Blair did not convince Bush and others to spend 0.7 percent of each country's Gross Domestic Product on Africa by 2015. The United States provides more money than any other nation to Africa, but when measured against U.S. wealth, it ranks near the bottom of industrialized nations."

Juliet Eilperin got a copy of the joint statement on climate change yesterday, and wrote in this morning's Washington Post: "Leaders of the world's eight major industrial nations have agreed to take immediate steps to curb global warming as part of this week's Group of Eight summit, though they will not set concrete heat-trapping gas reductions or specify how much money they will spend.

"The leaders' joint statement, which was obtained by The Washington Post and will be released today, represents a qualified political victory for the White House. Bush officials resisted calls from allies to adopt a more ambitious framework for addressing climate change; foreign leaders managed to include a limited endorsement of mandatory carbon-emissions cuts and language linking global warming to human activity. . . .

"U.S. officials managed to excise swaths of text that called for 'ambitious' greenhouse gas reductions and committed G-8 countries to spending a specific amount on environmentally friendly projects. They managed to eliminate the opening sentence, 'Our world is warming,' as well as lengthy descriptions of how melting glaciers and rising sea levels reflect recent climate change."

Fiona Harvey and Caroline Daniel write in the Financial Times: "The developing nations attending the summit of the Group of Eight leading economies sent a strong rebuff to the US on climate change yesterday.

"They strongly endorsed the Kyoto protocol on climate change, which the US has rejected, and called on developed nations to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, in a joint statement ahead of the G8's expected communiqué on climate change."

Here's a White House photo of the G-8 leaders, six of them shirt-sleeved, sitting around a table yesterday.

The White House "fact sheet" on the summit's accomplishments declares: "Today the President, with his G-8 partners, brought the Summit to a successful conclusion, with respect for the victims of yesterday's savage attacks and in defiance of the perpetrators. The leaders took significant steps to make the world better and safer and improve human life, in contrast to the terrorists who seek to destroy it."

Oval Office Visit Update

Reuters reports: "A Venezuelan opposition figure who was received by President Bush will go on trial with three colleagues accused of conspiring to change the government using U.S. funds, a judge ruled on Thursday.

"Maria Corina Machado and three other members of her Sumate group, which helped organize a referendum against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez nearly a year ago, are being charged with 'conspiracy to change Venezuela's republican system.' "

Cheney's Heart

The Associated Press reports: "Vice President Dick Cheney will undergo a routine exam Friday to check the condition of a high-tech pacemaker that was placed in his chest in June 2001.

"Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said the tests at George Washington University Medical Center would include a physical exam, an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram and a stress test. The vice president planned to be back at work later in the day, she said."

Late Night Humor

Jay Leno on NBC's "Tonight Show": "What does a bicycle have in common with the war in Iraq? President Bush doesn't know how to stop either one of them."

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