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July 30, 2003

Give 'em the boot!

Since it was possibly the most insane idea to come from the military in a long time, you've probably heard about the demise of the futures market on terrorism. Andrew Raff rounded up some of the coverage yesterday, and it's all over the place. Salon's Scott Rosenberg explains just a few of the reasons the idea was so whack, and politicians seem to be falling all over themselves and each other to condemn the terror futures market. But the best news I've seen on the issue is that Barbara Boxer is calling for the ouster of the freaks responsible for the idea. Boxer said:

"There is something very sick about it," Boxer told Wolfowitz at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iraq. "If it's going to end, I think you would end the careers of whoever it was who thought that up, because terrorists, knowing they were planning an attack, could have bet on the attack and collected a lot of money. It is a sick idea."

And perhaps even better, today the NY Times editors send a clear message to the Pentagon: Fire John Poindexter!

The "Policy Analysis Market" would actually have opened for business on Oct. 1 had Senators Ron Wyden and Byron Dorgan not blown the whistle. Despite Mr. Wolfowitz's pledge to kill it, however, the problem of Mr. Poindexter remains. He is a man of dubious background and dubious ideas. A retired rear admiral, he served as Ronald Reagan's national security adviser and helped devise the plan to sell arms to Iran and illegally divert the proceeds to the rebels in Nicaragua. He was sentenced to six months in jail for lying to Congress, a conviction overturned on appeal. He resurfaced under the Bush administration at the Pentagon. His first big brainstorm post-9/11 was a program known as Total Information Awareness, designed to identify potential terrorists by compiling a detailed electronic dossier on millions of Americans.

Congress agreed earlier this year to subject that program to strict oversight and prohibit it from being used against Americans. In light of the revelations about the latest Poindexter scheme, Congress obviously did not go far enough. It should close his operation for good. The Senate recently agreed to do just that, adding an amendment to a Defense Department appropriations bill that would terminate funds for the program. The House must now follow suit.

And the Boston Globe agrees wholeheartedly:

Poindexter's past performances suggest a pattern. An intelligence analyst scrutinizing Poindexter's record - or for that matter a sharp gambler looking for a sound betting proposition - would be tempted to guess that the admiral has been functioning as a mole sent by some foreign power to embarrass the United States.

The Defense Department should sever its ties with Poindexter before he can humiliate Americans again. Indeed, President Bush should have dismissed him last year and owes the nation an explanation of how his administration nearly implemented such a bizarre proposal. This distortion of a fashionable faith in pure market forces betrays a radical detachment from reality.

Perhaps we need a futures market for Poindexter's job. Oh, but never mind: This is the Pentagon under the Bush Administration where it's become common practice to admit someone is incompetent, then in the next breath assure us that we should have complete confidence in that incompetent person. Whatever.

Posted July 30, 2003 07:55 AM | general politics

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