(1) The Tightening Noose:
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove spoke with at least one reporter about Valerie Plame's role at the CIA before she was identified as a covert agent in a newspaper column two years ago, but Rove's lawyer said yesterday that his client did not identify her by name.This, as Josh Marshall says, is not the kind of defense you want to go to court on. And the story has moved quickly from "Rove didn't say anything" to "Rove only identified Joe Wilson's spouse, which really isn't so bad." Non-lawyers will chew on the distinction that isn't there, but if this is what Rove's lawyer is authorized to say, imagine what's going unsaid.
(2) Ready or not, here we go
The United States and Britain are drawing up plans to withdraw the majority of their troops from Iraq by the middle of next year, according to a secret memo written for British Prime Minister Tony Blair by Defense Secretary John Reid.And yes, there is a division of opinion between Washington and Iraq: whether to get the hell out quickly, or slowly.
The paper, which is marked "Secret -- UK Eyes Only," said "emerging U.S. plans assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006," allowing a reduction in overall U.S.-led forces in Iraq to 66,000 troops. The troop level is now at about 160,000, including 138,000 American troops, according to a military spokesman in Baghdad.
The memo, posted on the newspaper's Web site, notes a debate between U.S. officials at the Pentagon and military leaders in Iraq, saying that officials in Washington favor "a relatively bold reduction in force numbers," differing with battlefield commanders, "whose approach is more cautious."And of course there is the standard Pentagon disclaimer that they always have contingency plans in the works. But when you share those with your allies, they are no longer thought-experiments. The timetable, too, has a lot of plausibility:
British commanders hope to hand over control of two provinces to Iraqi forces by October 2005, according to the memo, and to hand over control of two more provinces by April 2006.I'm guessing no helicopters will be involved this time.